How Much Is Your Hearing Worth?

BELOW IS THE CONTENT FROM A RECENT NEWSPAPER ARTICLE THAT WE PUBLISHED.

info-box-11-2How much is your hearing worth?

According to one health plan, mine could be worth about $43,750 per ear. Of course, if I paid more for my plan then my hearing would be worth proportionately more. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t seem quite right to me. So what’s your hearing really worth? Not to some heartless insurance company, but to you. $50? $5,000? $500,000?

An experiment I conducted recently leads me to think that the true value of your hearing needs to be expressed not in dollars and cents, but in terms of all the things you’d lose if your hearing were to suddenly stop working.

Please indulge me a moment while I take you through my eye-opening journey of self-discovery.

The experiment

Before leaving work one day, I cut a pair of earplugs in half and carefully inserted them deep enough in my ear canals so that they couldn’t be seen. (To avoid the risk of injury or permanent loss of your ear plugs in the depths of your skull, I can’t recommend enough that you do not cut your ear plugs in half as I did.)I wanted to experience first hand what life is like with hearing loss. I walked out the door and entered an entirely new world . . .

The street sounds were muted and distant. The jingle of my keys was softer but still audible as I fumbled for the right one to secure my office. I could just make out the satisfying clunk of the deadbolt as it slammed into place.

After settling into the driver’s seat of my car and starting the engine, I instinctively reached for the radio settings. I selected the Wave (don’t judge) but, though I could hear the music, the sound seemed empty somehow.When I increased the volume, the speakers became distorted. Grumbling, I settled for crumby sound quality.

Transitioning from my quiet office to my busy household (six people and a large dog) is usually a full-on auditory assault (I mean that in the nicest possible way, honey). This particular evening, though, the din was muted and the transition was easy. Unfortunately, this is where the advantages of my artificially reduced hearing sensitivity ended.

 What happened at dinner shocked me

Dinnertime is one of the few moments when our whole family assembles for a common activity, and I did my best to keep up with my children’s reports of what happened at school that day. I could “hear” that there was a conversation taking place, but it took a lot of effort to understand it. Occasionally I’d piece together a bit that somehow materialized within my awareness 30 seconds after it was spoken, but by then it was too late to make a meaningful comment.

So I just sat there, until the aural fog was broken by my daughter veritably yelling, “DAAAD, PASS THE KETCHUP!” Notice the lack of “please” from my normally polite little girl. Without a doubt she’d asked me nicely once or twice already, and in her frustration she’d abandoned all pretense of decorum.

It didn’t take long for me to tire of asking my children to repeat themselves. In fact, I lost all interest in trying to participate in the conversation. I was in a bubble – a lonely little world that I shared with no one; on the outside looking longingly in at my own home and my own family. I’d never felt so disconnected.

What connects you?

I have to admit that my experiment, though revealing, fell well short of helping me truly understand the experiences of thousands of people living right here in Nanaimo with a reduced range of hearing (a fancy term for hearing loss).It was a far cry from living with a chronic condition that has, in most cases, crept in slowly and almost imperceptibly.

My experiment did, however, make me reconsider the value of my hearing.

My hearing connects me to my world. All those soft sounds that make up the background soundtrack of my life are so much more important than I’d realized. The gentle swishing of the dishwasher tells me that my children have completed their chores. The clicks of my canine’s nails on the hardwood behind me warn that she’s about to express her love to me in her unique, sloppy way.

Losing that soundtrack is unnerving. If you’ve ever had young children, you know how unsettling it can be when suddenly the house gets “too quiet.”

Much more than simply connecting me to my environment, though, my hearing connects me to what truly gives my life meaning – the people I love. Without my hearing, I was the proverbial man stranded on a desert island – lost and utterly alone.

Is your hearing worth more than a latté?

After my earplug evening, I thought about the cost of hearing improvement that I have to ask people to spend – thousands of dollars in most cases.

Then I thought about some of the little things we spend our money on each day: coffee, cell phones, the occasional drink. These are all expenses that we gladly take on because they help us connect with others.Hearing aids, without which all the lattés in the world won’t help some people connect with the people around them, amount to about $2 to $3 a day.

Yes, those “expensive” devices, along with the professional care to program them and keep them working their best, cost only a few dollars a day when spread out over the average lifespan of a hearing aid.

I reflected on my experience that evening. What if I hadn’t been able to simply remove the earplugs? What if the cost of a cup of coffee each day would bring me back into the world I once shared with my family?

Would it be worth it to me? Absolutely. Would it be worth it to you?

The true value of hearing

I’d like to propose that the true value of your hearing is simply the difference it makes in your life. How much does it help or hinder you? What are you willing to do to improve or protect it?

It’s estimated that one in five people living with a reduced range of hearing doesn’t even know it. Remember how I was forced to distance myself from my loved ones during my little experiment, or how my daughter lost her politeness when demanding the ketchup? By the time hearing loss is diagnosed, relationships with loved ones have often already deteriorated to near the breaking point.

If you’re over the age of 30, get your hearing checked. If everything’s working fine, I encourage you to grab a pair of earplugs and replicate my experiment. Try it for even a few hours and I guarantee you’ll have a renewed appreciation of the value of your hearing.

If it turns out you do have a reduced range of hearing, try the opposite experiment: try wearing a hearing device for a day and experience what you’ve been missing. You’ll be surprised.

If you’d like to book a free hearing assessment, or even just pick up a free pair of earplugs, call 250.585.4100 or visit us at 5800 Turner Road. For more resources, visit www.nanaimohearingclinic.com.

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