At 70 years of age, Haydn was in good health and enjoying an active life, but was finding it increasingly difficult to hear his friends around the lunch table. He self-diagnosed a hearing loss.
‘Assessment of my hearing loss was easier because Sue, my wife, had been active in Better Hearing Australia and I knew what the issues were,’ said Haydn. ‘My hearing loss may have been exacerbated by exposure to noise in the Navy.’
Haydn had a full assessment before being fitted with hearing aids. ‘I was very impressed with this process where I was taken out to the busy street to assess how the aids coped with traffic noise and so on. The aids have made a difference, but of course there is nothing like your own hearing.’
‘Hearing loss is a problem. We avoid loud noise, which today is everywhere; shopping centres, car parks, exercise facilities, sporting events, cafes and restaurants. Otherwise we battle on, but straining to hear is tiring and most people generally don’t understand the problem at all.
‘I do get frustrated for other hearing-impaired people in the community who struggle to get the understanding and support they deserve. Hearing loss is an invisible handicap and people generally do not intuitively know how to support a hearing-impaired person.
Sue Daw, OAM
Sue was diagnosed with a hearing loss due to otosclerosis at the age of 7 and fitted with her first hearing aid. Otosclerosis is a hereditary disorder causing progressive deafness due to overgrowth of bone in the middle ear.
‘There is a strong history of otosclerosis in my mother’s side of the family,’ said Sue, ‘although as a family we never talked about our hearing loss. Mum and her three sisters all developed hearing loss in their thirties. My mother’s father also wore a hearing aid.’
As a child, wearing an aid with no noise suppression did limit Sue’s hearing, and as a result she didn’t do as well at school as she might have and was shy.
‘I had the new wonder stapedectomy operation when I was 19 and I can still remember the wonderment when my ear cleared one afternoon and I heard my mother’s footsteps on the kitchen floor for the first time. It was a very noisy world for a week or so until my brain made the adjustment.’
Being able to hear in one ear following the stapedectomy gave Sue the confidence to travel overseas. Unfortunately, after six years, Sue took a very noisy helicopter flight and her hearing failed.
‘Realising how life-changing it was to have good hearing in one ear, I had a stapedectomy in my other ear. It was successful and I had good hearing for another 25 years. It was disappointing when my hearing deteriorated again, but hearing aids have been my lifesaver ever since.’
It was only when Sue joined Better Hearing Australia (BHA) in 1994 that she realised fatigue is normal for someone with a hearing loss, as they work hard listening, filling in the gaps and watching body language. Sue went on to become a BHA teacher and has run the BHA Canberra Group for the past 20 years.
‘What we’re all really looking for is a cure, and dedicated researchers, such as Professor David Ryugo at the Garvan, are striving to help us protect our ears and find that cure. That is why I am passionate in supporting the work they do on hearing loss, so that it will become a thing of the past.’