Hearing Awareness: “What?”



It was a distinct scratching noise that stopped me suddenly. It was an unmistakable sound that caused my head to turn its way quickly, trying to pinpoint what was behind it. I could see a single leaf tumbling across my driveway, making its distinct sound with every turn. I marveled at the beautiful sound, the first of many new sounds waiting for me to discover. Only a few months earlier, my first cochlear implant was activated, and relearning sounds was a gift I found joy in.

Hearing loss has been a normal part of my life since I was 18 months old when my parents found out I had severe and profound hearing loss to each ear. My hearing loss journey started with hearing aids which continued for over 30 years until I finally received my cochlear implants in 2019 and 2020. The cause of my hearing loss is unknown, and we will never know why, all of the sudden, I had no hearing. There was no screening at birth like there is today to pinpoint if I was born with it or if it happened suddenly. We can only speculate.



According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, approximately 20% of Americans have some degree of hearing loss. Of the 48 million people in the United States with hearing loss, 28.8 million need assistance from hearing aids. Hearing loss is a common medical issue and is the third most prevalent health condition in older adults.

With hearing loss common around us, it is important to note that those of us with hearing loss have to adapt with communicating with others. “What?” “Huh?” “Can you repeat that, please?” Conversations with people who have hearing loss can include these phrases and words often. Hearing plays a major role in how we communicate with others. If you are speaking to someone with hearing loss, here are a few tips to help you effectively communicate:

  • Maintain eye contact. Face the person and avoid covering your mouth. Some people with hearing loss rely on lip reading to help them communicate.
  • Please speak clearly. Avoid mumbling and do not shout. Shouting or mumbling makes it harder to understand others.
  • Limit background noises that can impede the conversation. Background noises can include the TV, radio, or music.
  • Please repeat yourself when asked to. You can try rephrasing if it would make it easier to understand. Nothing is more frustrating than hearing “never mind” when we don’t hear something.
  • Utilize paper and pen or smartphone to write out the words you are saying to communicate clearly. This is especially helpful if in a noisy environment.



Approximately 2-3 kids out of every 1,000 children are born with hearing loss in one or both ears. 90% of these children are born to parents who do not have hearing loss like me. As I have mentioned, screenings are more common today than when I was diagnosed with hearing loss. In Missouri, babies are screened at birth. Follow the audiologist’s recommendation at the birth screening for follow up if it is needed. My children were tested yearly until they were school age. We recently took my son for an additional test since we noticed he needed the television volume increased, and he was not hearing as well as he was. Hearing loss in kids can present as failure to respond to sound, delay in speech and language development, and unclear speech.

 Be proactive in protecting your children’s hearing. Prevention is the best measure to avoid hearing loss in your children’s future. Here are some prevention tips to protect and preserve your children’s hearing:

  • Keep the TV and music players volume down
  • Wear hearing protection when around loud noises that cannot be controlled such as fireworks, sport events, riding ATV/dirt bike/tractors/airplanes, music concerts, car races, or shooting sports.
  • Limit the time of exposure to loud sounds. Have your child take a break.


When I first got my cochlear implant, my daughter (who was 3 at the time), studied my cochlear implant and then looked at me. “It’s beautiful!” She is right; it is beautiful. The gift of hearing itself, no matter how it happens, is beautiful.



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