The costs of living with hearing loss
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It's that time of year when many of us will have gleefully unwrapped a new music player or stereo for Christmas.
They'll be happily listening to their favourite tunes at home, with friends, on the school bus, or during the car trip to the family summer holiday destination.
Music is great for passing time or chilling out, but far too many people listen to it with the volume too loud. It may sound like being at a rock concert but over time, exposure to high volumes can take its toll on your hearing.
I'm 21, studying, and I've worn a hearing aid in my left ear for the last seven years. I have a moderate to severe hearing loss in that ear, and mild to moderate loss in my right ear.
My hearing loss was congenital and it got worse through childhood as ear infections took their toll.
Living with hearing loss is a constant, never-ending challenge. Throughout primary school, I struggled to hear the teacher and I missed out on the funny jokes during class.
In high school, even after getting a hearing aid, teachers with accents were a nightmare to deal with. School assemblies and church services weren't any better.
Part-time jobs I had in a noisy restaurant kitchen and a fish and chip shop for a couple of years had me frustrating customers and staff by asking for things to be repeated, often several times.
In my tertiary study, large classrooms and lecture theatres with many more students meant I had to rely on friends around me to write notes and repeat what the lecturer said.
I couldn't write my own notes because I had to focus on the lecturer and try to lip-read what they were saying - that became impossible if they walked around the room or faced the projector or whiteboard.
I'm limited to the use of my right ear when talking on the phone or wearing a gaming headset with my Xbox, because I cannot hear when I put them to my left ear.
If someone is calling my name, my hearing loss means I can't accurately place the location and direction of the sound, or any other sounds I hear.
I frequently mistake words and entire sentences for something completely different.
And then there's the TV volume I require, which is the subject of constant complaints from my family. The list goes on and on.
My social life was affected from an early age.
When walking together with friends, I have to walk on the left otherwise I miss the entire conversation.
When I'm in bed with my girlfriend I have to lie on the left side of the bed so I can hear what she's saying.
I never go to town or to parties because it's too noisy, and I have no hope of understanding what anyone is saying.
My hearing loss has already cost me when it comes to picking a career path. My application to join the Air Force to specialise in communications was instantly turned down, citing the need for good hearing.
I may not become a pilot for the same reason. My dream job of working as an air traffic controller will probably never become a reality thanks to the stringent hearing requirements. A job in a call centre is definitely out of the question.
I mentioned music because listening to loud music either with or without headphones is repeatedly cited in various studies and articles as being a heavy contributor to hearing loss among young people.
I'm not asking for sympathy or compassion for my situation, that's not the point of this article.
My hearing loss wasn't caused by any decisions I, or anyone else, made. I've never known what it's like to hear with perfect hearing and I probably never will.
Every other young person who was born with good hearing can make choices about how they look after it. They can choose to listen to their music with the volume turned up to the maximum level and suffer the consequences later in life, or they can be a bit more sensible and ensure they look after their hearing so it is there for when they need it later on.
Take it from me - there is nothing fun about living with hearing loss and wearing a hearing aid in the prime of your life.
If you know of someone who listens to their music too loudly, or doesn't protect their ears in loud environments, then
I urge you to speak to them about it, before they have to ask you to repeat what you said.
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