Hearing aids allow Carolyn to live a life full of sound and connection

"It's a real gift to be able to hear," Carolyn T. says. In 2006, Carolyn was diagnosed with hearing loss and fitted for hearing aids by Austin Regional Clinic's audiologist, Laura Lane.

Today, Carolyn "cannot stand" to be without her hearing aids. "I take them out only to sleep and to shower," she says. "If I could, I would sleep in them." Sometimes, during severe storms, Carolyn does sleep wearing her hearing aids as a safety measure.

Carolyn describes her hearing loss as a gradual process that began when she was a child and worsened over many years. When she was in her 50's, it began to affect her life.

At work, Carolyn could not hear well at group meetings and while talking with several colleagues at once. "Too many sounds around me became indistinguishable from each other," Carolyn says.

During one-on-one conversations, she compensated for her hearing loss by reading lips and strategically positioning herself. "I could hear better out of my left ear so I would position myself accordingly," Carolyn explains. "But I didn't realize how often I was doing that."

Carolyn began turning down invitations to large social functions. "Events where many people were talking at the same time were frustrating because people would talk to me and I couldn't make out what they were saying." she explains. "I felt I couldn't communicate in large groups and in noisy situations. I started to become somewhat reclusive."

Family time was also a challenge. Carolyn remembers feeling left out of conversations on a trip to California. "Everyone was taking a walk and talking about hearing owls. My son asked if I could hear them and I couldn't. It was then that I started to understand how much I was missing."

A talk with her son and daughter-in law led Carolyn to schedule a hearing test at ARC. The test revealed that her hearing loss was more severe than she expected. Still, Carolyn hesitated to get hearing aids.

"I worried about the stigma attached to hearing aids. People see hearing aids and they think you're old. I didn't feel old!" she explains.

After a few months and a second hearing test, Carolyn decided to get hearing aids and they immediately changed her life.

"I didn't even realize that there were so many sounds I was missing," Carolyn remembers. At first, everyday noises, like the sound of the icemaker in her refrigerator, surprised her. She remembers being in her car with her brother. "I asked him 'What's that sound?'" He told her she was hearing the ordinary rattles that a car makes.

In nature, Carolyn rejoiced in subtle sounds like the wind rustling the trees. "I remember being in awe when I heard birds singing in my garden for the first time. To think that I was missing that sound for so long . . . "

Three years after Carolyn got her hearing aids, her youngest grandson was born. "The day they brought him back from the hospital, I held him against my chest and he fell asleep. I listened to his breathing and his soft murmurs," she remembers. "There is nothing else like that sound of new life."

Carolyn visits Austin Regional Clinic at Far West about once a year for a check-up and to get maintenance on her hearing aids. In addition to Lane, Carolyn sees Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist, Dr. Kevin J. Kriesel.

"My experiences at ARC are always very positive," Carolyn says. "The doctors and the staff are informative and kind. The doctors take their time and answer all of my questions. They are also very gentle, which is important when they take wax out of my ear."

Carolyn wants to urge other people who suffer hearing loss to take action. "In my age group, many people with hearing loss refuse to wear hearing aids because of a perceived stigma," she says. "I want to tell them—'Let go of the stigma. You are missing out!'"

"Before the hearing aids, I was missing all of the soft sounds and so much of what life is about," Carolyn says. She is grateful that now she can hear her son's "smart, funny" comments and come back with a quick retort. And, best of all, she can hear her 7-year old grandson say, "Nana, will you come play with me?"

Tags: None