Direction. I love to look up definitions to words I already know. I am many times surprised by finding a definition or variation of the word’s use that I had not been aware of before. I looked up the word “direction” this morning and really liked what I found.Direction: guidance or supervision of action or conduct, assistance in pointing out the proper route used, the line or course on which something is moving or is aimed to move or along which something is pointing or facing.

This weekend I had my first of three “overnight” stays with Chloe, my hearing assistance dog. I hear voices so well with my cochlear implant, and can even hear various environmental noises depending on the level of background noise. However, only getting “sound” in one ear makes it difficult to “place” where the sound originates. Many late-deafened people call it “loss of directionality”. Chloe’s ears work really well. That is why she has this job. She thoroughly enjoys alerting me to the direction of where the sound began.

If I pay attention to where Chloe looks, I can then pin point from where the sound is coming. She even looks up for airplanes! I have heard some jets flying overhead and have identified what the sound is – thanks to my kids! But Chloe looks up right to the location of where the jet is, allowing me to find it immediately. The White House sends 4-5 choppers up this way occasionally when President Bush is headed to Camp David. Helicopters make a very strange sound and it’s even hard for my kids to locate them even though they fly low. The sound doesn’t “match” where their actual location is as there is a distortion of sound. We sort of make it a race to see who can find them first. I have a feeling I now have an advantage with Chloe!

But you know? Direction is much more than finding from where a sound originates. To a late-deafened individual, direction can be “guidance or supervision of action or conduct”. When a person first loses their hearing they go to their doctor, and/or an audiologist. It is unfortunate that there are not very many doctors who can help us with more than testing and diagnosis. I have met only a few individuals who had a doctor who cared enough to discuss coping skills with them, or to tell them about wonderful organizations like the Hearing Loss Association of America. Few offer any help for the HoH (hard of hearing) person’s family, or ways to work more efficiently, etc. Few warn HoH people that there will be “hard days”… and that depression is common.

Thankfully we live in a day of the internet, and information, support groups, and “community” can be found very quickly if one simply “googles” hearing loss.

Call me a dreamer, but I really do believe that in my lifetime audiologists will have recognized that hearing tests and the fitting of hearing aids is only a small part of what they do. I think it has already begun to change in some parts of the country. Think of how wonderful it would be if in those terrifying moments after having been told:

“You have a hearing loss and it is likely progressive. I don’t know why you have a hearing loss. It’s called a sensorineural hearing loss… a common diagnosis”.

… that we next feel a comforting hand on our shoulder and are handed information about a local HLAA chapter! Better yet, our audiologist is actually actively involved in the chapter because they care about the “human aspect” and emotions that accompany living with a hearing loss. Advocacy is important to them, they want us to feel connected and to know we aren’t alone. Am I dreaming? I don’t think so.

As important as a community of my peers have been to me, I still meet people when I travel the U.S. that take me aside to ask, “Why are you so darn happy about your hearing loss? How can you even smile about the things you speak about?”

Given the opportunity, I gladly explain how God has brought me through all of this! I don’t ever try to gloss over those “dark days”, or pretend that it has all been a wonderful journey. As a matter of fact, there have been some days that I really did not WANT to go on! There were days that not one person’s words really made a difference. I have a very wise husband who recognized that there are many needs he cannot meet. He reminded me to read, and specifically my Bible. He points me in the direction of God when I’m at a place no one “this side of Heaven” can help me. My relationship with God is not dependent on hearing. Only “listening” is involved. So given the opportunity… I’m glad to point people who ask in His direction!

Denise Portis

©2007 Hearing Loss Diary

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