Not everyone starts their day doing handstand push ups. Whether it’s CrossFit training, running or lunch hour workouts with her daughters, staying active has always been a part of Sherry Townes’ lifestyle.
But while her strength and fitness were at their best, Sherry realized that her hearing wasn’t.
“About ten years ago, I noticed I was asking people to repeat themselves a lot, and I started to wonder if maybe it was me, rather than them mumbling,” recalls Sherry. “My mother was hard of hearing, and I knew eventually it would happen to me as well.”
What she hadn’t anticipated was that hearing loss would slowly erode her social life and relationships. It wasn’t just the little things – like missing a compliment from her husband, or misunderstanding something a co-worker said. Conversations became especially challenging. At work, her role as an information systems specialist involves helping people – often over the phone – and listening is key to helping people solve problems. In her free time, her social life was also taking a hit.
“I've never had a hard time hearing a noise, but conversations involve hearing exactly what someone is saying rather than just the noise they're making,” says Sherry. “I did a lot of smiling and nodding and hoping that the person didn’t ask a question so I didn’t say the wrong thing. Hearing loss really changes your life socially.”
She began to rely more and more on her daughters, who would often step in to explain or her behavior.
“We'd go to a store and the clerks would talk to me, but I would walk right by because I couldn't hear them. The girls would always follow me and explain, ‘Oh, don't worry. My mom's just hard of hearing, she’s not being inconsiderate.’”
Even her coach thought she couldn’t follow instructions very well, when the truth was she couldn’t hear them. Months went by before he understood what the real problem was.
“People don't expect you to be deaf – they can’t see that you’re hard of hearing. When you misread what they say, they think you’re less capable,” says Sherry. “So, you're always explaining that you have hearing loss. You're always apologizing.”
A turning point came for Sherry when one of her coworkers confided their own hearing loss and suggested she also try hearing aids.
Some of the features in her hearing aids were a pleasant surprise, like being able to directly connect her hearing aids to her phone or stream her favourite media.
But the biggest benefits came from regaining social connections.
“It's like being able to be a part of the world again,” says Sherry. “I was missing out on so much because I just avoided situations. If I saw three people standing together at a party, it was easier not to go talk to them because I wouldn’t be able to hear them. Instead, I'd just sit by myself.
“Now I can join in conversations and not constantly be worried that I'm going to misread what people are saying.”
As for her active lifestyle, Sherry doesn’t need to worry about missing a thing – or losing her hearing aids. They stay in place while she stays active, even when things are upside down. “I was concerned about wearing them at the gym and losing them. But, I've never had a problem whether I’m running or walking on my hands. They stay right where they are.”