A Vernon grandmother of 25 and great grandmother of seven didn’t realize how much she was missing until she was awarded a pair of free hearing aids through the National Campaign for Better Hearing program.
“It’s just unbelievable,” said Karen Hudema, 71. “Last year, I felt I was handicapped with my hearing.”
The Better Hearing Program offers free hearing tests to Canadians over 60 at participating sponsor clinics to support making testing a part of regular wellness habits while treating hearing loss in its early stages.
Sponsor clinic HearingLife registered hearing instrument practitioner (RHIP) Colleen Poole noticed Hudema was having a hard time hearing in group situations and asked if she’d like to come in for a hearing test, Hudema recalled.
“But then the COVID hit, so we couldn’t do anything for a while,” Hudema said.
Restrictions eased in the fall and Hudema was able to go to the clinic in Salmon Arm, by appointment only, and have her hearing tested free of charge.
The campaign’s research shows connections between hearing loss and other health problems such as depression, social withdrawal and isolation.
“I knew I missed things,” said Hudema, who works as a manager of Westmount Apartments, a retirement community in Vernon. “Certain voices I could hear, many I couldn’t. I learned to laugh at myself, but I felt left out, especially in group settings”
A few days after the test was completed, Poole informed Hudema she’d been “approved.”
“What have I been approved for?” she asked.
She would be the recipient of free hearing aids through the campaign’s Give Back Program, thanks to Poole’s nomination.
The Give Back Program donates $4 for every hearing test completed at a sponsor clinic.
“The more people we test, the more people we help,” the website reads.
Hudema was ecstatic.
“I started to cry, I was so excited.”
She picked up her new devices Nov. 19, 2020.
“I couldn’t believe how well I could hear,” she said. “I hardly even know I’m wearing them. I can’t believe all the sounds I missed.”
The hearing aids were linked to Hudema’s iPhone too, meaning she’d never miss a call again from one of her seven children or 25 grandkids who call Regina, Sask., home.
“Phone calls were always really hard,” she said. “Now, I hear everything.”
Hudema said she was well aware her hearing was declining, but getting a test was low on her priority list.
“You don’t really realize how bad it is,” she said, noting it’s a gradual process. “I just kept putting it off and off.”
But now she’s urging all her peers to have their hearing tested.
“I feel they’ve (hearing aids) given me my life back. I have my self-esteem back.”
Poole said the cost and financial aspects associated with hearing loss may be one reason why people seem to put off testing.
“The other thing is they don’t recognize it,” said Poole. “I like to compare hearing loss to a light switch vs. a dimmer. It slowly changes. A light switch, from normal hearing to hearing loss, the impact would be very significant for folks. A dimmer is gradual.”
Poole said it’s time to get tested if you work in a “noise-induced” environment, you have known hearing loss or when you turn 60.
“It is so great to be a part of HearingLife and the Campaign for Better Hearing,” Poole said. “It really changes people’s lives.”
To learn more, visit campaignforbetterhearing.ca.