Given my significant hearing loss, I wondered if there would be things I can no longer do, things I’ve always enjoyed. Gratefully, the answer is, “No.” Of course, if there’s something I don’t want to do, that’s a different story. I can (and do) just take out my hearing aids 😉 But I want to talk about things I continue to enjoy with my aids.
I am a Motorcycle Safety Foundation Rider Instructor, and I teach the Basic Riding Course to students who want a motorcycle endorsement. I enjoy teaching and love motorcycles, so coaching new riders is a good fit for me. I’m very upfront with the students about my hearing loss. I find that my Starkey hearing aids handle the classroom setting well, and I don’t have a problem understanding the students. When we’re out on the range, I ride demos for the students, so I’m off and on bikes for several hours and can’t wear the hearing aids – helmet on, helmet off, etc. But it doesn’t make much difference since everyone is yelling above the bike engines anyway and the coaches use hand signals. So, I continue to coach, wearing my hearing aids in the classroom, and yelling or being yelled out on the riding range.
When I ride my motorcycle for pleasure, I do not wear the hearing aids under my helmet; instead I wear a foam ear plug. I do not use any of the available Bluetooth devices for my helmet (MP3 player, cell phone, GPS, etc.); I figure I need to give all of my attention to the road. My Suzuki motorcycle sounds more like a Singer sewing machine than loud pipes on a Harley. I’m confident I hear traffic on the bike as well as I do inside my car, with the windows up and radio on.
Recently, I decided to face a demon, one I’d created in the name of my hearing loss. 40 years ago I was fluent in Spanish, but I have let it slowly slip away. For the last four or five years, I’ve felt disappointed in myself for losing the ability to communicate in that beautiful language, but I would finish my sentence with the excuse — “And now, with my hearing loss, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to regain my fluency.” Two months ago, I made a new friend from Colombia. She has an excellent vocabulary and reads and writes English well, but she has a very strong spoken accent that makes it difficult to understand her. So we agreed to spend two hours a week together – one hour in English, one hour in Spanish, working with each other. And — compliments of my Starkey hearing aids – my Spanish is quickly returning. I do not have the comprehension problems I had envisioned, and I’m having a blast!