Readers of my book, “Shouting Won’t Help: Why I – and 50 Million Other Americans – Can’t Hear You,” know that I don’t hear much, in the literal sense. But having spent nearly 35 years with progressive hearing loss -- and the past two years researching a book about it -- I have learned a lot.
I interviewed dozens of people across the country with hearing loss, I talked to doctors and researchers about the causes and treatments for hearing loss, and to psychologists and psychiatrists about the emotional effects of hearing loss. Their stories -- and their wisdom -- complement my own story.
The two most important things I’ve learned are 1) Most people with hearing loss feel isolated and alone. And 2) Most people who know people with hearing loss have no idea what the hearing impaired are going through. By writing about my own daily experiences, I hope to help others with hearing loss to know that that their experiences are shared by many. I also hope to help the hearing understand their hearing impaired counterparts.
Hearing loss affects 48 million Americans of all ages. That’s 17 percent of the population. It’s not just for the old. Sixty percent of men with hearing loss first lost their hearing between the ages of 19 and 44, according to the NIDCD. For women the peak age of onset is between 40 and 59. Even teenagers are affected at an alarming rate. One in five teenagers has some degree of hearing loss.
I began to lose my hearing at age 30, from unknown causes. Today I have a cochlear implant in one ear and a hearing aid in the other. The miracles of modern technology go only so far, however. My day still consists of overcoming one hearing obstacle after another. For many years my hearing loss defined me: I was hearing impaired. Now I’m a person with hearing loss. There’s a big difference, as I hope will become clear as I write this blog. Readers who want a more extended version of these thoughts can link to my web site, katherinebouton.com. I welcome comments and suggestions.