I FIRST REALISED that my hearing was failing me when I was leaving the army. I was there for about 11 years and was based at McKee Barracks, near the Phoenix Park, for most it. I was in the Army Equitation School, but I did other things as well, such as working in the intelligence area.
I was 19 when I joined and 30 when I left. I didn’t notice any symptoms of hearing loss, but when I was doing the pre-discharge medical, the doctor at the college asked: “Are you deaf?”
He sent me for a hearing test. I can’t really remember what the test entailed – it was an audiologist test of some sort, where you put the headphones over your ears and you either hear the beeps, or you don’t.
They said, “Yes, you’ve got a problem. You’re going to need a hearing aid.” I got a shock – at 30 you don’t expect to have to get a hearing aid. I was kind of in disbelief.
I hadn’t noticed it at all before I was diagnosed. I might have found it hard to hear somebody, but it didn’t feel like a problem.
I was diagnosed with hearing loss in both ears. My hearing had diminished by 25 per cent in one ear and 35 per cent in the other. The doctor said a hearing aid was the only solution.
I was just 30, but I didn’t give a hang about wearing a hearing aid. I got these in-canal ones that you wouldn’t even notice. Though the technology wasn’t great then, it worked enough to keep me going. I noticed an immediate improvement, no doubt about it. I suppose I was hearing things that I hadn’t realised I was missing.
My hearing loss wasn’t hereditary. My father could hear a pin drop, my mother too. I’d say it was the result of army training exercises over a period of about 10 years, using stun grenades on the range.
We were supplied with ear defenders, but sure macho men wore them around their necks not over our ears. It was my own fault entirely. When you’re young, you think you are bulletproof. You don’t think of anything like that.
My hearing loss has never affected my business career. I’ve never felt that it has held me back in any way. I don’t find myself sitting at a certain side of someone so that I can hear better, with the hearing aids I can hear fine.
I was on a business trip to Saudi Arabia one time though, and I stood on my hearing aid in the bathroom one morning and made bits of it. I still had the other one, so it wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t catastrophic. I could hear, it just took a little bit more effort.
Down through the years, the technology and clarity has improved dramatically. I’m using a Hidden Hearing aid now. There’s a unit behind both my ears, which you wouldn’t notice, it fits in under the glasses and then there’s a little loop going down into the canals in both ears.
I take them out at night, throw them on the dressing table and put them in again when I get up. It doesn’t bother me to have to do it; it’s quick and easy.
You take them out in the shower too – you could wear them in the shower but you’d only do it once!
They are battery operated and the battery lasts about a week. I regularly find myself without batteries, but both ears rarely go out at the same time, so if I have one, I’m still good.
I also have a streamer, that’s a small Bluetooth unit that I can put in my top pocket. It means I don’t have to pick up the phone; it just answers directly into my hearing aid.
If I’m in the car, as soon as the phone rings I just press a button on the unit and the call just goes straight to my hearing aid.
You hear that people who may be a bit deaf tend to speak more loudly, but it’s the other way around apparently. I spoke a bit lower, so my family tells me.
I get my ears checked every year. I go to an ear nose and throat specialist, but it’s the hearing aid company that does the audiology test. My hearing probably has declined over the years, but not a lot.
I’ve never made a claim against the army because it was my own bloody carelessness. They gave me ear defenders and I didn’t wear them. I don’t feel any anger towards them at all; my years in the army were wonderful. The message really is very simple: wear your ear defenders, they work.
I’m 58 this year. I’d have taken better care of myself if I had thought I’d have lived that long!
My hearing is not something I mention to people. It never really comes up. It doesn’t affect me in any way really, with high tech hearing aids; you’re as good as if you have two good ears.
For anyone who has a hearing defect, I’d say just go and get it checked. Put a bloody hearing aid in and you’re done. It’s no burden.