When Words Fail
Blindness separates us from things but deafness separates us from people – Helen Keller
The Bomb & The Silence
11,803 days ago, I was born without 95% of my hearing. For various reasons, no one was aware. Once it became known, I went under multiple surgeries for each ear. I regained most of my hearing as a result of the surgeries and countless speech therapy sessions.
Fast forward to March 07th, 2006, forty days after turning eighteen years old, I joined the United States Army.
That Memorial Day weekend, I was shipped out, playing with bombs.
Over the course of the next four years, I handled numerous service weapons, including a number of incendiary and explosive devices. As a result of prolonged exposure to these weapon systems and explosives alike, greatly reduced my hearing levels by half.
Specifically, 48% left, that is.
The Veteran’s Administration (VA) refuses to admit it’s service-related. Because, why not? Right? After multiple appointments through private audiologists, hearing loss was verified. Note: at the time, adequate hearing protection was not provided, if at all, during those four years.
Further downside to this story, my health insurance at the time only wanted to cover ten percent of the total cost of hearing aids – leaving me to pay $5,000.00 for both hearing aids.
The Hidden Risks of Hearing Loss
Simply put, mild hearing loss doubles dementia risk. Moderate loss triples risk, and those with severe hearing impairment are five times more likely to develop dementia.
“Hearing loss also contributes to social isolation. You may not want to be with people as much, and when you are you may not engage in conversation as much. These factors may contribute to dementia.” – Frank Lin M.D., Ph.D.
Breaking this down, this means my brain works extra harder just to process normal sounds. Additionally, there is a greater risk of mental health conditions. Focus also breaks down as the brain becomes exhausted more quickly. As a result, social isolation increases. Social isolation increases the risk of poor eating, smoking, alcohol use, lack of exercise, depression, dementia, poor sleep and heart disease.
Fun times, am I right?
Social isolation, well, more like the social cure, gives me the opportunity to read more books, write more stories, and so on.
It’s a bit of a paradox, really.
The hardest part of dealing with my level of hearing loss is finding and being in a relationship with someone who fully understands the daily struggles.