Home The News My Answer to My Own Hearing Loss

My Answer to My Own Hearing Loss

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 By Mel Dermody

I want to say a special thank you to the Irish American News for allowing me the opportunity to share my story. When it was suggested that I write an article, I was hesitant to share a story so close and personal. However, I believe that every problem is an opportunity in disguise.

In my early years, my parents noticed my speech was not developing as it should and I wasmixing up words. Often they would say a word and I would think it was a different word. By the age of 3, I had been fitted with hearing aids from the social welfare in Longford. Much of hearing loss is initially misdiagnosed as a variety of learning disabilities. Fortunately, my parents acted early and continued to investigate. My hearing loss was diagnosed, identified and corrected.

Given that we base our speech on how we hear, my speech developed to a good standard and I could communicate easier.

My hearing test had revealed the most common type of hearing loss, a high frequency loss. I hear everything a normal decimal level, but I do not hear it clearly. I could tell when someone was talking, but sometimes struggled to understand what they were saying. While I hear a lot, I miss out on various parts of conversation. Missing parts of conversation made relationships difficult and education more challenging.

Although hearing aids improve one’s ability to take in more information and lead a better life, they don’t give the same hearing as someone who is in the normal range. At primary school, I had the benefit of having a classroom of 6. The teacher repeated for me and every evening my mother made sure I had not missed anything. Once I passed the evening tests I would pass anything!
Attending secondary school in Granard, Co. Longford, I was exposed to larger classrooms. My parents helped to fit me with smaller, more functional hearing aids. There had been advances made in the hearing aid industry with the move from analogue hearing aids to small in the canal hearing aids. Although small, they were never out of sight and in my later teenage years I was conscious of how they looked and how people perceived me. I questioned could these devices be smaller and could they work better.

To put hearing loss more into perspective, if I picked up 75% of what the teacher was saying then I was being graded out of 75% instead of 100%. This is the difference between failing and passing at school. Often when someone tells me they get by with their hearing, I think about how they are limiting themselves from learning or only hearing 75% of their life. Trying to put the pieces together for that extra 25% can be stressful.

In 2010, I completed my Master’s Degree in University College Dublin. I had the confidence to do what I always had wanted to do. I took on my greatest challenge, my hearing loss and my hearing aids. I broaden my education to fit myself with invisible hearing aids while achieving excellent amplification. I studied audiology through Aston University in the UK. After many years of frustration, I was able to make my hearing stronger and learn what adjustments audiologists could have made on me for many years to help me hear better.

Learning the frequencies to tweak in my hearing to help me hear better and has been the most rewarding experience I’ve had in my life. It opened up a whole new world to me. Conversation is more enjoyable and I can now partake in group conversations.. It was only when I had hearing aids that worked correctly, that I gained the confidence to take the challenges that I previously would have avoided.

The two most Important factors in a good fit is picking a good hearing aid and working with a professional who knows how to fit it and solve issues on follow ups. It can be a difficult adjustment, so the support of a professional is critical. I now wear invisible hearing aids and fit them as well. It has always my ambition to study hearing loss and to be able to help others through my own personal experience.

In 2004, I spent the summer in Chicago and loved the atmosphere and community that surrounded the city and the Irish community. I returned in September 2013. I have had the pleasure of playing with St Brendans for 2014 and John McBrides since. The one great advantage of having a hearing loss while playing GAA is not hearing some of things being shouted from the sideline!

Having acquired licenses in both Illinois and Indiana, I worked with the Hearing Lab for two years. In the past year I have started working alongside an Ear Nose and Throat doctor on a part time basis. This has allowed me the opportunity to learn more about ear diseases and corrective procedures.

I have opened a hearing aid centre in the South Loop of Chicago with free parking facilities. I invested in the most modern and up-to- date testing equipment and I work with the best technology from every hearing aid manufacturer.

Looking forward to helping you.

Mel Dermody

 

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