"I had never heard my own footsteps."
Photo: Anne Fishbein
As a teenager, Ramona Jensen had to have tubes inserted in her ears. Unfortunately, the procedure caused scarring on her eardrums. “It wasn’t long after that that I got a significant change in my hearing,” she remembers, “but my mother didn’t have the money to do anything about it.”
At that point, the loss wasn’t debilitating. After graduating high school, Ramona found work as a telephone operator, a job she continued to do into her 30s. But her increasing hearing loss was making life difficult.
“I was able to work around it with little tricks. But recently it was affecting my work and they were threatening to fire me because of the problems it was causing.”
The problems were not confined to her job. It was hard to do everyday things – like getting lunch. “When I went into the Subway ─ I’m a short person and the counter blocked my view from reading the person’s lips ─ I left because I was so embarrassed and confused. I used to have to go with someone else.”
In fact, life was getting dangerous.
“Once I went to the hardware store and I didn’t hear this truck and stepped out right in front of it. I could literally reach out and touch the bumper where he stopped.”
Ramona had a Facebook friend who had hearing aids. “He worked at a grocery store, and I knew he didn’t have a lot of money, so I asked him how he did it, and he said it was through a nonprofit. My sister went online to look and found out about LSH.
“I contacted your organization and within less than two months I had my hearing aids.”
Ramona’s sister went with her to pick them up. “I walked out and the first thing I heard was somebody talking and I kept looking around.” To her astonishment – and her sister’s amusement — she could hear people talking on the other side of the parking lot.
The new sensations continued at work. “I kept hearing a mechanical sound and I didn’t know what it was. I finally asked my co-worker and she said, ‘That’s the air conditioning.’ I had never heard it before.”
The difference in her life has been profound. “I had never heard my own footsteps. I didn’t know that if the wind wasn’t really blowing the air made a noise.”
Life has improved for Ramona in other ways. “I have been at a brand new job that pays more. There are no more issues — I’m so much more comfortable going out. My social life has improved.”
She’s looking forward to taking a train trip this fall to visit her mother in New Mexico, something she wouldn’t have planned before she got her hearing aids. “Before, I couldn’t hear if someone came up behind me — things like that. If someone was telling me something important, I couldn’t hear what they were saying.”
Now, Ramona says, “I feel comfortable doing that alone.”
Along with her new job – and perhaps most important – she can now help the sister who has stood by her all these years, and who is now ill. “I can take care of her. I can hear her call me from the other room.”