Most days you’ll find Joe Sweet at one of his favourite places: the curling rink. It’s not just the challenge of the game or exercise he looks forward to, it’s the friendships he’s made. Over more than two decades, he’s risen through the ranks and taken on different positions on the team.
Unfortunately, a hearing loss almost kept him out of the game. Like many older adults, Joe lived with a hearing loss that was eroding his relationships with friends and family. It all started with a concert that Joe attended with family.
“I went to a concert, and the band had great big speakers. Just as I was dancing past the speaker they hit the drum and I heard a pop go in my ear,” Joe recalled. “And the next morning it was just ringing, and I couldn't hear anything at all in it.”
Soon, family gatherings became more challenging because he couldn’t follow the conversations, frustrating his loved ones and leaving him feeling left out.
“At Christmas parties, I couldn’t hear anyone. It was all just chatter,” Joe remembers. “it's amazing how many times that you say "pardon," or you try to pretend that you're hearing somebody.”
Soon, Joe noticed it affected his performance on the ice as well. While professionals make curling look easy, Joe notes, it’s actually a very difficult sport that requires a lot of practice and teamwork. The team lead – the skip – keeps a close eye on the game and calls out instructions to guide shots into the best possible position.
“I couldn’t hear the instructions. It's no fun when the skip asks you to do something and you do it the opposite. It lets the whole team down, especially in an important game,” he says. Making a wrong move even cost his team a game.
While his hearing loss didn’t keep him from going out to play, it was increasingly robbing him of the pleasure in the game – and in the team camaraderie.
“You go to the pub and you talk about the game and tell someone they made a good shot,” he says. “But I would only get bits and pieces of it. All that joy was gone. Everything thing that I did – work, family, all my social activities – was in jeopardy.”
Joe had tried other hearing solutions – with mixed results.
“They were itchy, they were screeching at me most of the time, and they didn’t really give me any benefit,” he said. “I put them in the night table drawer and they’re still there today.”
It didn’t help that they frequently fell out onto the ice when he was sweeping. A second pair soon joined the first in the drawer.
“Then I stumbled on Unitron and it changed my life,” Joe remembers. “The hearing solution has helped with almost everything. Now I can hear everybody. Even in a crowded environment, you can hear the person that’s talking to you.”
Now, instead of worrying about missing instructions from the skip or making a wrong move, he’s helping to call the shots in his role as vice – the second in command.
“My favourite spot is vice because I still get to sweep, which I think is really good for my health,” Joe says. “But I also like the strategy part of it. It's like chess. And the vices get to help because the skips ask their advice.”
In the past year, he’s been vice more than any other position – and things are getting better off the ice too.
“The pleasure of making a shot is certainly a high, but getting to know people is a big part of it,” says Joe. “Before I would only get little bits of the conversation. Now I’m part of the group.”
“Because of Unitron, my quality of life has increased immensely. It’s been a real game-changer.”