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What price would you pay?

This is an opinion piece - My hearing was damaged long before I had children, but it certainly got worse afterwards.

As a millennial, I have experienced a couple of advancements in technology. I remember my grandpa playing Johnny Cash vinyl records on a vintage player. I remember my cassette tapes and trying to perfect the art of recording songs from the radio station. I remember my first radio which had a CD player and how I would listen to songs for hours while discovering my own taste in music. It was still good until then but something really special happened for my generation. Of course, there had been cassette tape Walkman’s before the portable CD players. I know that. It wasn’t anything unique but at that time it wasn’t considered cool to walk around with a cassette player – obviously it had become too primitive for my age group. The ability to go anywhere with my CD player and those atrocious earphones was amazing! Sadly, it just got worse. Next it was MP3’s and then portable MP3 players that could probably only store about 20 songs if you were lucky. I can truly not even recall. The more convenient it became, the worse my listening behaviour got. You would think that as a young adult I would stop. No, my music was blasting all the way through town as I drove to work.

My journey with Tinnitus started when I had perforated an eardrum after not equalizing correctly on acceding during a scuba diving excursion. It was only the right eardrum, and I didn’t really understand what had happened but soon enough it healed by itself. Fortunately, the Tinnitus would come and go but it never went away completely. It was bearable.

In 2019 I had my daughter, my firstborn, who thank goodness was actually a very easy baby even though any mother might agree – it doesn’t feel that way the first time. In 2021 I had my son, and everything changed. He had colic for the first 3 months, and it was unbearable. The mental toll of not being able to comfort your child, feelings of guilt because you feel you are neglecting your first child’s needs – those feelings can heal over time. As my son cried constantly and loudly, I tried to comfort him. Holding him and as it where his screams would mostly be right next to my ears.

It is very strange. I cannot say which day it started. I just know that one day I realised there was no silence. If I were a bit anxious or stressed it would get worse. If things were calm, it would be less severe. My son is almost 3 and my daughter 5. They are active and playful children and with that comes laughter, giggles, screaming and temper tantrums. You don’t have to be a parent to know kids can be noisy. As my children grow, I know that one day those noises won’t be in our home anymore. They will be grown, and I will long for those giggles and screams from when they chase each other around. I love these moments, but I know they come at a price – my hearing.

My hearing was damaged long before I had children and I wish I had taken better care. Those conveniences of my teenage years are something I traded for hearing later in life. As I see it now, it was a poor trade. I would a million times rather listen to my children’s stories with ease in the years to come, than listen to all those songs so loudly even for a moment.

Noise-induced hearing loss is preventable.

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