Sudden hearing loss impacts woman’s life

One September morning, Judi Page woke to find that her life had changed overnight. Though she had no history of hearing problems, Judi suddenly lost all hearing in her left ear and had only limited hearing in her right ear. When she visited a doctor, she learned that the cause of the hearing loss was unknown and the damage would be permanent.

Judi’s disability is hardly uncommon. An estimated 2.5 million Floridians are deaf or hard of hearing, according to a 2015 report from the Florida Coordinating Council for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. That hearing loss makes it difficult to hold down a job — only 31% of adults with hearing disabilities are employed full time. So when Judi’s hearing loss prevented her from making calls or attending meetings for her job at Florida State University’s payroll department, she knew she needed help. At the suggestion of a co-worker, she reached out to Vocational Rehabilitation, a state agency that helps people with disabilities find or keep jobs — and she is glad she did. “Everyone there was fantastic,” Judi says.

VR helped Judi see an audiologist to learn about the different hearing aid options available to her. She chose biCROS hearing aids, a special type made for those with unbalanced hearing loss. The biCROS aid picks up sounds on her left side, where she has no hearing, and transfers them to her right ear, where the hearing loss is much less severe, so that Judi can hear everything happening around her.

While Judi was pleased with the new hearing aids, she admits that they took some getting used to. She had to adjust to the sensation of hearing sounds from both her left and right sides in only one ear, and sometimes finds it easier to remove the aids when she is in a crowded place or is talking on the phone.

Still, she is grateful for the difference the biCROS aids have made at work and at home. “Everything has improved — my work life and my personal life,” says Judi. “It gives you your confidence back.”

As much as she appreciates the hearing aids, Judi names something else as the best thing VR provided for her — her new alarm clock. Since Judi tends to sleep on her right side, leaving only her left ear exposed, she often didn’t hear her alarm clock go off.

VR sent Rehab Engineer Gary Sherman to determine a solution, and he created a sonic boom alarm clock, which shakes the bed and displays flashing lights to ensure that Judi wakes up. “You can’t sleep through that,” she says.

In the future, Judi plans to learn American Sign Language so that she will still be able to communicate if she loses the remaining hearing in her right ear. But for now, she is happy with the progress she has made and the people who have helped her. “Everyone at VR treated me like royalty,” she says. “I would recommend that anyone who needs help give them a call.”

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