Once again we careen headlong into the holiday season, and about this time many of us reflect on those things for which we are thankful. As this is my first contribution to the HearForever blog, my initial thanks is to you readers for allowing me the opportunity to reach out to you in this way.
I’m also thankful that I get to do what I do every day. For 15 years I worked with hearing aids and was privileged to share with people from all walks of life, young and aged, their experiences of renewal as they began again to hear and understand the voices of teachers, parents, friends, and grandchildren; birdsong, dry leaves underfoot in autumn, and breezes rustling new leaves in spring. Very often tears of gratitude accompanied these experiences.
I am thankful for the technology that facilitates these experiences. Hearing aid technology improves daily and as it does, such experiences become more frequent and more profound for many hearing-impaired individuals. The truth is, however, that hearing aids, despite their technological wonder and sophisticated design, can only help an individual use his or her remaining hearing. They do not restore the hearing that has been lost. Those who are most happy with their hearing aid experience are those with the most hearing remaining. Such individuals are thankful for the hearing they have left. I am certain those of you with no hearing loss are most thankful of all.
For the majority of people with an acquired hearing loss, high-level noise exposure is the greatest contributor. This exposure, whether industrial, recreational, or otherwise, is completely preventable, as is the associated hearing loss. So, this year, what I am most personally thankful for is the opportunity to work on hearing loss prevention instead of rehabilitation. Rather than remediate the effects of hearing loss after its occurrence, I now work with products designed to intervene in noise exposure before it’s too late.
Hearing protection technology is infinitely less sophisticated—and many orders of magnitude less expensive—than that of hearing aids. But the simplest foam ear plug plays no small role in reducing the number of hearing-impaired Americans from the current estimate of 31.5 million or so. Think of the potential savings to individuals, employers, and society as a whole if more Americans used hearing protection in their noisy work and leisure activities!
This year, let’s be thankful for the humble earplug and its relatives. Let’s be thankful for the role they play in maintaining quality of life for so many over their lifetimes. And let’s protect and be thankful for the hearing we have left.