A Story About Hearing Loss
- Posted on April 20, 2018
I was always accused of not listening.
Many of us, from time to time as tradesman, have been accused of not listening – some of us with current spouses, and others with ex spouses. Being a good listener is something of a rarity among many people. Saying that, many of us want to be listened to and have our story heard.
This is my cautionary story about hearing loss.
In 2009 I re-entered school at the University of Alberta at the tender age of 42 to pursue an Education degree so I could have the credentials to teach my trade of welding in High schools and later, college. This was very daunting after being 25 years in the welding trade, and a member of local 146 since 1998. I had to relearn how to write essays, do research, and take copious notes in classes. It was at the beginning of my two-year journey at the University, that I was taken aback at how soft spoken the professors were. I couldn’t always hear what was being said because of the noise of the constant chatter and paper shuffling of the 300 other odd students in some of my classes. I remarked to some of the students, over a pint at the campus pub, that they must also have trouble taking notes. They responded that they could hear the profs quite well and that maybe I was just the old deaf guy. It seems, after a couple of beer, people could be quite forward (joking of course).
I began to realize, after this, that I might have a hearing problem. You might be surprised at how strongly people resist admitting that they have this issue. After all, it is irreversible damage that can’t be repaired and is often a sign of old-age. However, hearing loss can be a stigma in society because it is seen as a disability. For many, having a disability is not how they wish to be seen in the world. They don’t want to admit that their body is failing.
I saw my doctor and went to a specialist who reviewed my tests. I was told I had profound hearing loss and that I might be genetically pre-disposed to hearing loss. In the Boilermakers we work in a very noisy environment and so, coupled with my genetic pre-disposition, I lost hearing at twice the rate that others would. Even though I wore hearing protection (Deci-damps) I still had heavy loss over a twelve-year time period in Alberta. I knew this because I had worked in British Columbia for ten years before coming to Alberta and joining lodge 146. In British Columbia, they had a program where you needed to get your hearing checked every year. Even though I cheated and did it every few years, I still kept those test results. When I came to Alberta, and up to the time I went to University, I did not have my hearing checked even once. Why bother, right? I’m too busy working, and the dollar is paramount.
My loss was great enough that my audiologist said I needed hearing aids. It wasn’t acceptable for me to just turn up the television to deafening levels (for everyone else but me) so I could hear the new “The Walking Dead” instalment. Apparently it freaks out the neighbours kids. I thought of myself as a younger 40, so I went for the hearing aids that are completely hidden inside the ear. $5000 in total for those ones, the tech said. Since I was an older student with very little cash, I asked WCB to pay for them. They, in turn, asked me for evidence that the loss happened in Alberta. Thank goodness I had those audiology records from BC to back up my claim that most of the hearing loss occurred in Alberta. After a period of time, WCB agreed to pay for hearing aids for the rest of my life as well as batteries and other incidentals related to maintaining them.
In order to keep the rest of my hearing, I have had to diversify my income by going back to school and retraining as a teacher and welding instructor. Life can still be difficult, even with hearing aids, because they are just aids. You don’t get your hearing back to being fully functional. It is better to take care of your hearing and not need them.
The Boilermakers, as a whole, are asking all members to get tested by an audiologist so that our hearing is protected. I support this initiative wholeheartedly so that fewer boilermakers are affected by hearing loss like I was. In the end, it is good to be able hear birds tweeting, our childrens’ voices, the fire alarm when its sounding, or instructions about potential dangers in a safety meeting. Nobody needs to have hearing loss as part of their job, and boilermaking can be a very noisy occupation.
So, if you are at the bar having a wobbly pop and you and your fellow brothers and sisters are the noisiest table, it just might be because your all half deaf.
by Wade Martinson