Just Try to Live With It
New South Wales Central Coast couple, Jenni and Malcolm, have been married for 32 years. Very active and looking much younger than his 72 years, Malcolm works full-time as an employment consultant in the not for profit sector. Still in her 50s, Jenni is an English teacher at a Central Coast secondary school. Malcolm has suffered hearing difficulties for more than a decade but has not yet sought any treatment for his problem.
Misses Parts of Conversations
As far as hearing impairment goes, Malcolm and Jenni's story is not unusual. Malcolm first experienced hearing difficulties in his late 50s to early 60s. He says his main problems, both then and now, are in noisy group situations where he misses parts of conversations and when travelling in cars.
Although his wife agrees, she also describes his hearing problems as being more extensive. “He either guesses what's being said and gets it wrong, or doesn't catch what's said at all,” she says.
Today, Malcolm only manages his hearing loss with difficulty. Describing himself as “stubborn and bull-headed”, he now wishes he'd chosen to seek help sooner. So too does his wife.
Difficult for Jenni
More than a decade of excuses about his hearing difficulties have left Jenni feeling annoyed that he hasn't yet investigated possible solutions. For while Malcolm chose not to act, Jenni was forced to adapt to deal with his disability.
Generally, when speaking to her husband, Jenni has to face him and speak more loudly than normal in order to improve his chances of hearing. Even then there's no guarantee that Malcolm will hear her the first time.
So how has Jenni learnt to deal with the problem? “Patience and tolerance,” she says.
Hardest on Car Trips
Even so, Malcolm's hearing difficulties have impacted on their relationship – nowhere more so than on car trips.
“When we're in the car, I can't chat to him because he can't hear me,” Jenni says. “This is a real shame, especially when we're on long trips.”
It's only as a result of them both being interviewed about his hearing loss that Malcolm now more fully accepts the impact his problem has had on his wife.
Need to fix things
“Although it affected every facet of my life, rather than doing something about it, I just tried to live with it,” he says. “Now, I really need to make a move to fix things. For while it's been frustrating for me, it's been even more so for my wife.”
In retrospect, Malcolm's advice to others with hearing problems is to seek treatment quickly.
“Once I act, I anticipate that the biggest improvement in my hearing will be on car trips,” he says. “At the moment I really can't hear much at all over the general road noise. “It would be wonderful to be able to have conversations again while we're travelling.”
Asked what his favourite sounds are, Malcolm nominated music and bird song.
If he follows through on his new-found conviction to seek help for his hearing loss, these will be just some of life's many melodies that will sound a whole lot clearer.
Marion Newall, August 2011. Nothing gives Marion more pleasure than listening to and writing about people's stories, especially in relation to their health and well-being.