Every year, the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) Walk4Hearing brings hope and empowerment to thousands of participants with hearing loss, their families and supporters in 20 communities across the nation. The events raise funds and awareness for hearing loss programs and can be very moving for walkers and participants. But for Mark Robinson, 64, of Birmingham, Alabama, the 2019 Walk4Hearing in Washington, DC, brought a significant revelation.
Mark’s daughter Lindsay is program coordinator for Hearing Industries Association (HIA), an HLAA Hear for Life partner. While visiting her, he attended the Walk, and had his hearing screened at the on-site mobile trailer provided by the Lions Community Outreach Foundation—with unexpected results. The exam showed a slight loss in the lower frequency range and significant drop-off in the high frequencies. Later, Mark followed up with an audiologist, who confirmed the earlier outcome.
Mark recalls, “I suspected that I may have had mild hearing loss, but the results were far worse than I believed. This came as no surprise to my wife and family, who had been frustrated for years when I missed what they said. I also noticed that my hearing difficulty caused me to hold back from conversations in crowds and restaurants, which was extremely unlike me. Over time, hearing loss changed my personality from a gregarious person into someone quiet and hesitant.”
An avid music fan and rock guitarist, Mark attributes his hearing loss to attending thousands of live rock and heavy metal concerts over six decades from a very young age without ear protection.
“I killed my own ears,” he admits. “Having been involved with rock music for most of my life, both as a concertgoer and as a performer, I like my music loud and fast. Back in the ’70s and ’80s, no one cared about equalization, and they always had the sound turned up to ‘11.’ Nowadays, I wear heavy duty ear protection when I attend festivals, so I don’t cause further damage.”
Noise-induced hearing loss is an increasingly prevalent global issue for all ages, particularly among youth. According to the World Health Organization, unsafe listening practices may be a risk factor for more than 1 billion young adults and half of young people aged 12 to 35. The American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) estimates that nearly 30 million American workers are exposed to hazardous noise levels daily.
Following his diagnosis, Mark was fitted with hearing aids that have made a big difference in his life and relationships. He has been able to resume his normal activities and is once again able to understand and participate in conversations with friends and family members at home, church, and other venues.
He says, “It might be an overstatement to say that the HLAA Walk4Hearing saved my marriage. But I know my wife was getting so tired of repeating herself and facing me so I could understand her. Now, wearing my hearing aids, we can interact more naturally; I can once again take my bride out to dine and talk at a nice restaurant. I can even go to a movie with my children and enjoy the experience with them. As a result, I no longer feel left out of my family’s life.”
Mark encourages anyone who suspects they may have a hearing loss to attend a Walk4Hearing event and to have their hearing screened, whether on-site (if available) or at an audiology clinic.
“Find out if you are a candidate for hearing assistance. Don’t be stubborn like I was and miss out on your life or family because you can’t hear, when you can do something about it!”
Join HLAA at a Walk4Hearing event this spring or fall and be part of HLAA’s community of support in action. We’re breaking down barriers to hearing health and empowering people with hearing loss across the U.S. Together, we can bring hope to hearing loss.
Join or Donate to a Walk to bring hope to people with hearing loss in your community.
If you or someone you know has a hearing loss, visit hearingloss.org for resources and to find a local chapter, or a Walk4Hearing near you.
For questions, contact HLAA at email@example.com.
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