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Living with hearing loss: Suzanne Tenant

Contributed by , staff writer

For the record, if Suzanne Tenant of Austin, Texas, misses your phone call, it’s probably not because of her hearing loss. It’s because she switched her new smartphone to silent mode and forgot to turn the ringer back on after leaving church.

Her old phone, may it rest in peace, didn’t survive an unfortunate trip through the washer. With its passing, Suzanne decided it was time for an upgrade and joined the world of the constantly texting, Facebooking and mobile uploading smartphone users. She also recently purchased a pair of accessories crucial to the use of her new phone: hearing aids.

As an interior decorator, Suzanne spends a lot of time with clients browsing through fabrics, meandering through showroom sets and mulling over color schemes. She knew that her hearing had been slowly worsening over the past 20 years, but it was an issue she didn’t want to face.

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“I was trying to do all kinds of things to cope with it,” Suzanne said. “I was playing little games and trying to pretend like I knew what people were saying, but I couldn’t understand them unless they were looking right at me.”

When she realized she couldn’t tell the difference between “I love this” and “I hate this,” she knew it was finally time to have her hearing tested. A trip to the audiologist confirmed her moderate to severe hearing loss, and Suzanne now wears a small behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid in each ear, which she says are virtually invisible unless someone is looking close.

As soon as she put the hearing aids in for the first time, the difference in her hearing was immediate. Suzanne could suddenly hear the sound of her clothes on her skin, which she hadn’t heard in years. When she turned her car on after leaving the doctor’s office, the volume level on the radio nearly blew her out the door. With her hearing aids in, she only needs the volume up half as loud as she did before. Now, her hearing is so acute that she even has to close the door to the laundry room to muffle the sound of the washing machine..

“I learned I shouldn’t be so prideful and not get help when I needed it,” Suzanne said. “I think people are a lot more understanding about things like hearing loss than we give them credit for. We like to think there’s nothing wrong with us and sometimes we need to understand that we do need a little bit of help.”

Because she still works, Suzanne had her hearing aids paid for through the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, a government organization her audiologist helped set her up with. The change has had an undeniable impact on her ability to continue working, not to mention living a fuller life. Now she doesn’t have to ask her clients to repeat themselves, and there are no guessing games when it comes to their likes and dislikes.

It took her five years to confront the fact that she needed hearing aids, but now Suzanne wishes she had done it sooner. While it took her around six weeks to fully adjust, Suzanne seizes every opportunity to encourage people to have their hearing checked and to erase the stigma associated with wearing hearing aids.

To the ladies at her church, as well as everyone else, Suzanne has one piece of advice:

“Go get it done now.”

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