Around five years ago, I met a lovely farming couple from the Wheatbelt — let’s call them Stan and Pat (not their real names).
Stan had been subjected to noisy machinery for more than 30 years, wearing hearing protection for only the past 15, and then only half of the time.
Pat had been suffering from the effects of a loved one whose partner would not acknowledge his hearing loss, not always in silence. Pat finally convinced Stan to come in for a hearing test and was obviously much more motivated than her husband to have his hearing loss treated. Stan was late in arriving and Pat opened up to me, somewhat tearfully. She described the “old Stan” as her mate and best friend, a chirpy, bright and sociable family man who was well liked in their community.
She painted a picture of Stan now, his loss of confidence, choosing to stay home instead of socialising, clearly existing without a customary spring in his step. He had essentially turned into an uncommunicative, unhappy and somewhat reluc...
For some, dinner parties are torture. Someone at the end of the table tells a funny story. Another person jumps in to share a related comment. The fast pace, the continual interruptions, the background noise. People covering their mouths when they speak, sometimes speaking in the opposite direction. Everyone seems to keep up, to be enjoying themselves, laughing and smiling at the appropriate times, relishing the connectedness with old and new friends. Everyone except those with hearing loss.
Overwhelmed by the layers of chatter and only catching bits and pieces of the conversation can make people with hearing loss feel alone and isolated in this situation. And because it’s been an awkward and embarrassing experience, some will decline the next dinner party invitation with friends. We’re only just beginning to appreciate the importance of hearing and the true cost of ignoring a loss to what is arguably our most undervalued sense.