Kathleen Mortensen

Cave Creek, AZ

“People wear glasses if they can’t see, so be proud.”

How and when did you first realize you were experiencing hearing loss?

I remember at about 16, the telephone was quieter on the left ear and I didn’t hear the TV playing in the other room.  Thinking this was normal, I never said anything to my parents. Having my son at the age of 22, I didn’t hear him crying at night and realized there was a problem. That fear of missing something at night made me reach out to a specialist.

Where did you first go for information or help? Why?

I researched an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist through my health care provider. My Internist didn’t see any problem when looking into my ears.

Based on your experience, do you have suggestions for others on how and where to start? Any other important things for them to consider?

If you have any problems hearing or understanding conversation or the TV, look for an ENT  as there are many reasons for the loss, not just getting hearing aids without knowing why.

What was your biggest concern about hearing aids? Did that turn out to be true?

Having been diagnosed with otosclerosis, surgery was the next step in 1977. The hearing gain from the stapedectomy lasted 6 months. Due to scar tissue, the artificial stapes could no longer vibrate. I then got a hearing aid.

I had therapy for listening and learning how to hear, which was very beneficial. Sound was extremely loud, so it was hard getting used to it. After 18 months, I got a serious cold and my ear canal changed, and my aid just screeched all the time in my ear. Due to financial constraints, we couldn’t afford a new aid.

In 2008, my hearing loss continued to decline and became very challenging for my job, so I reached out to a new ENT specialist. I had a revised stapedectomy which lasted 9 months and had my 3rd stapedectomy in 2009. That lasted for 6 months and in July 2010 a new ENT specialist reconstructed the inner ear and revised the stapedectomy.

That was successful until 2016.  My hearing had declined to the point of not being efficient with my job, so the next step was a hearing aid. This helped but I became very unstable and fell easily. I did a lot of research and discovered that I should have 2 aids since I did have significant loss in my other ear.

How have hearing aids changed your life? How do they help you at your job, in your hobbies or at volunteer activities?

My son was concerned with me getting Alzheimer because I was guessing at what people were saying. Being left out of conversations because I couldn’t hear became troubling. I was making mistakes with my clientele and started withdrawing.

The 2 hearing aids have made an amazing difference and I am learning how to balance and trying to reduce my falling incidents through yoga and exercise. I still have challenges in crowded places or large warehouse stores. I have quit my job and now am self-employed, so I can control my environment.

What would you tell someone who is considering hearing aids?

It is not worth struggling to hear or being left out in conversations. I used to want my hair to cover them and I am no longer self-conscious about them. People wear glasses if they can’t see, so be proud.

Who is your hearing care professional?

Carrie Graf Birdwell, AuD at DuPage Medical Group