On Hearing Loss and Accessibility

A few weeks ago I started to catch a cold that led to a fever that lasted for four days. Just when I thought I was better, sinus problems caught up with me. After a trip to the doctor, getting some pills and treating my symptoms, everything seemed to be on the mend.

Unpleasantness alert: Then I started losing my hearing. Fluid was in my ears, so everything I heard sounded like my head was under water. At first my left ear was handicapped for a day and then my right ear worsened. Congestion was building in my upper sinuses and ears. This led to sharp pain… It was rough so I won’t go into all the gory details.

I’ve had ear complications before but none like this, and none of them took one of the five senses away from me. Friends told me that cold/ear symptoms like these were much more common than I realized or had experienced. But knowing a problem is common and now having personal experience with it are different things.

I experienced some sober days coping with the hearing loss. I was anxiously waiting for improvement but knew full well that complications like these often lead to permanent hearing disabilities. It would be tough to go through life without hearing in one ear, but I had severe problems in both for more than two weeks. After their patience had worn off, my kids didn’t want to speak louder for me. I couldn’t hear conversation at the supper table.

And with a huge sigh of relief, my ears began to clear last Sunday and I’ve regained a lot of my hearing. They’re still getting better and I’m hopeful that I’ll make a full recovery.

What I realized from this experience is how precious my hearing is to me. From listening to my kid’s squeaky conversations to soaking in the music at church to listening to a great podcast, good hearing is understandably treasured.

I have an all-new appreciation for the work developers pour into accessibility technologies. They are doing some of the most valuable and innovative work of all and making the world a better place.

I only got a small taste of a handicap. I’m not going to pretend I know what a permanent hearing loss must be like, but thanks to my experience I now empathize. Good technology makes life more livable. The more ways people with basic disabilities are helped with specialized devices the better.