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Hearing aid recipient encourages others to seek help

'Hearing loss can happen at any age.'
Tennille Caplette received hearing aids from the Campaign for Better Hearing.

ST. PAUL - Tennille Caplette had already been dealing with hearing issues for a while before she decided to get a hearing test done. 

About eight or nine years ago – after dealing with ringing in her ears and noticing something was going on – she made an appointment to have things looked at. She was referred to a specialist and found out her hearing issues were actually much worse than she thought. 

She was booked for surgery, but the procedure did little to help. Instead, she had horrible side effects after, such as vertigo. 

Then, five years ago, she would get her first hearing aid. Since hearing aids can be quite expensive, Caplette could only afford one, so she made due. 

“It was nothing fancy,” she says, as she describes the device. Caplette then continued on with life, not realizing she should be doing follow-up and annual appointments to keep track of her hearing. 

When HearingLife Canada called her last October about booking an annual check-up, Caplette was caught off guard. But, she decided it would be a good idea to follow-up after five years.  

Around this same time, her one hearing aid was acting up, and obviously needed repairs. 

When Caplette went for a new hearing test, she was told once again that her hearing was worse than she originally thought. 

But, going through a pandemic, being a single mom supporting two teenage children, there wasn’t much left over at the end of the month to spend on new hearing aids.  

“I was just starting to kind of get out of the red,” says Caplette, explaining the situation. So, to be told she would need two hearing aids was a bit of a shock, and not something she felt she could juggle financially. 

Then, the Campaign for Better Hearing came up. 

Shawna Pettinger works with HearingLife Canada and is a clinician based out of Sherwood Park. Caplette has only good things to say about Pettinger, and describes her as being a strong advocate for Caplette. 

Pettinger approached Caplette with the idea of applying to the Campaign for Better Hearing – it was a long shot, and there was no guarantee the support would be available – but there was a chance. 

Since its inception, the Campaign for Better Hearing movement has expanded to more than 11 countries. The program educates the public about the effects of untreated hearing loss, and the importance of regular hearing tests for people over the age of 60. 

Since 2015, more than $1.6 million has been raised by HearingLife to support the distribution of free hearing aids to Canadians who cannot afford them. In 2020, 200 hearing aids were donated to those in need. 

But Caplette, who is just 44 years old, wasn’t sure she would qualify for the campaign. 

Part of the program also asks recipients to speak about their experience – something Caplette wasn’t sure she would be comfortable doing. She admits she still has some anxiety around the fact that she has hearing aids, and purposely wears her hair down to cover them. 

When she was sent home after her check-up, and while waiting to hear if she had been successful in becoming a candidate with the Campaign for Better Hearing, HearingLife offered a loaner set of hearing aids for her to use.  

Caplette says she assumed these would be the ones she kept, if she was successful. 

But, when she returned to the clinic after being notified she was in fact successful in becoming a recipient with the Campaign for Better Hearing, Caplette was caught off guard when she found out she would be receiving an entirely new set of hearing aids – made especially for her. 

“I was really blown away,” says Caplette, adding, she actually sat in her car and cried. 

She recalls the drive home with her new hearing aids as being a bit overwhelming for a few reasons. One was that she could hear absolutely everything. She described it as being a sensory overload.  

“It was very surreal.” 

When she got home to her children, she felt like her daughter was yelling at her – a habit her kids had picked up out of necessity due to their mom’s ongoing hearing issues. She slowly began to realize just how much she had been missing. 

When describing the new hearing aids, she says they are phenomenal and likely something she would have never been able to afford on her own. She has an app on her phone that connects to the hearing aids, she can listen to music through Bluetooth, and do other things she previously couldn’t do with her old hearing aid. 

One challenge that had come up as a result of the pandemic was the fact that people are required to wear masks at many of the places Caplette works – such as on the school bus she drives. 

She says she had learned to lip read as a result of her hearing issues, and masks suddenly provided an additional challenge.  

“I was still missing so much,” she says, adding not only was she completely missing some conversations, but she was also mishearing many of the things she was being told. 

Since getting her hearing aids, she says the children on the bus she drives are often confused about how their bus driver can now hear all their conversations. Her daughter, who also rides the bus, simply tells the other kids her mom is bionic, leaving the younger kids puzzled. 

Caplette says few people actually know she wears hearing aids. The issue is quite personal to her, and sharing her story is a big step, she says. But, she is keen to encourage others to seek out professionals who can help them if they do suspect hearing loss. 

“This has definitely been an eye opener,” says Caplette. “Hearing loss can happen at any age.” 

For those who may be hesitant to get their hearing tested, Caplette says getting that first test done was an important step for her. It confirmed that she wasn’t imaging the things she was experiencing.  

“I knew something was wrong.” 

The benefits that Caplettte has experienced since taking the necessary steps and opening herself up to being nominated with the Campaign for Better Hearing have been many. 

She says she feels more included in conversations, she can hear the birds when she sits on her deck – and sometimes, when she needs a break and has to turn life down a few decibels, she can.  

Janice Huser

About the Author: Janice Huser

Janice Huser has been with the St. Paul Journal since 2006. She is a graduate of the SAIT print media journalism program, is originally from St. Paul and has a passion for photography.
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