THE MAGIC OF HEARING
During our working day we make many home visits to people needing our Ear Wax Removal, Hearing Assessment and Hearing Aid Services and whilst we nearly always leave with an enormous sense of satisfaction, some customers have such a strong impact that we can’t help but be reminded why it is that we choose to do the work we do.
I visited one such lady recently who inspired me to write this blog as a reminder to myself why the work we do as Audiologists is so important and just how transformative it can be to the lives of the people we are helping.
We were called out to see Mrs Mary T, who lives with mobility issues, Parkinson’s disease and whose needs are cared for by her son. Mary’s son had contacted a major high street hearing aid retailer to arrange a home visit for ear wax removal but was unable to secure an appointment. He was informed to have the wax removed elsewhere before they could seek to help Mary with a hearing assessment and hearing aids.
Mary was struggling to hear and needed help. Her family were having difficulty communicating effectively with her and this was causing a great deal of stress for Mary, her son and the rest of her family. Those around Mary were having to shout to be heard and Mary was unable to hear her daughter over the phone which was important as her daughter lives some distance from her. Mary’s speech was not always coherent, and she tended to drawl her sentences. The tensions surrounding Mary’s hearing issues had built anxiety into the family dynamic.
We were pleased to receive a call from Mary’s son and arranged a home visit within a couple of days. Mary had built up considerable amounts of wax in both ears and this was compounding her hearing problems. As Mary has Parkinson’s disease, removing the wax was slightly trickier due to the shaking and involuntary head movements. However, we were able to successfully remove the ear wax from both sides using irrigation. Mary and her son were delighted with the before and after, high resolution photos of Mary’s ears. Following the removal of the ear wax we then performed a comprehensive hearing test which showed a moderate to severe hearing loss in both sides. We programmed a pair of Phonak Paradise hearing aids to Mary’s hearing test results and fitted them accordingly.
The difference to Mary’s hearing whilst wearing the hearing aids was remarkable. It was as if Mary had been 'switched on'; her eyes widened, she sat up straighter and a large infectious grin appeared across her face. Mary’s son was visibly moved by her alertness and eagerness to start a conversation. It was a real awakening! Watching Mary engage with her son and seeing his reaction to his mother's results was fantastic to observe and a real privilege to witness. There was a re-connection; one which had obviously been missing for some time. Both son and mother were surprised and elated by the difference the hearing aids were making.
Mary and her son enjoyed a two-way conversation and he commented that Mary's speech seemed noticeably clearer. This is not uncommon - improvements in speech follow when a person is able to hear their own voice and they are then able to annunciate much better. Mary’s son telephoned his sister, and via loudspeaker they all had a three-way conversation. The emotion in her daughter’s voice was clear as she enjoyed speaking to her mother again. It was just a normal conversation that most take for granted, but just being able to find out what Mary might like for tea was a very visible and welcome return. Such conversations had not been possible for Mary prior to the ear wax removal and fitting of the hearing aids and, judging by the beaming smiles from Mary and her son, had been sorely missed.
We fitted Mary with her own hearing aids the following week and after a few routine follow up appointments to check her progress, Mary continues to do well. As for her family, they said she is much happier; she is loving regular conversations with her daughter, hearing her budgie, Peter, chirping and as Mary’s son put it - “we are glad to have mum back”!
Helping to improve Mary’s hearing and observing this family dynamic made me feel extremely privileged to be a part of the social reunification of their family. As the one providing the help and care in these instances, I take a great deal of satisfaction and pride from my work as an Audiologist. It certainly served as a strong reminder of the magic that can occur when someone’s hearing is restored.
The significance of hearing well and how this is helps to maintain good family relationships cannot be overestimated. Communication brings people together and listening to stories and actively engaging in conversation helps cement our social bonds. The impact of hearing loss isn’t just felt by the person living with hearing loss but all those around them - family, friends, carers and even our pets! So, rather than being a spectator on the fringe of a conversation, get your hearing checked, get hearing well and like Mary, get the magic restored!
Thank you to Mary T. for being an inspiration and for giving us permission to write about her story in our blog.