For the last decade or so, 82-year-old Adair Dunn has lived with significant hearing loss in both ears, particularly her left.
“It’s more than just not being able to hear,” said her daughter, Dana Territo, one of Dunn’s nine children who got together and wrote the essay that won Dunn a free hearing aid from Hearing Health Care, a company that fits people with hearing aids at several locations across south Louisiana.
In the essay, Territo explained how her mother had always been a spirited debater and a very social person who loved gatherings of her enormous family — including 19 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren. But that began to change once her hearing, which had been compromised most of her life, started to decline when she was in her 70s. It was heartbreaking to see, Territo said.
She couldn’t hear dinner conversations, so evenings out with the family eventually got more frustrating and stressful for Dunn.
It also led to misunderstandings that inevitably come with hearing loss; her grandchildren began mistaking her lack of attention as a lack of interest.
Territo described a day when one grandchild wanted to show his grandmother something he’d done, and Dunn, unable to hear the request, seemed to be ignoring him.
“He was so upset and confused,” Territo said.
Kyla Saldivar said it’s not at all unusual for those with hearing loss to navigate misunderstandings with friends and family, often exacerbating the social isolation.
There were times, Dunn said, when she questioned her sanity when a family member told her she had been told information she didn’t remember hearing. “I don’t know if I forgot it, or if I never heard it in the first place,” she said.
That’s also not unusual, Saldivar said, noting that some studies show a more rapid decline in those with dementia or other illnesses affecting memory if that person also has a significant hearing loss.
Roy Templet, with Hearing Health Care, said he’s been traveling on mission trips to other countries for years with the Starkey Hearing Foundation.
“What we do is already rewarding, and even more so when you consider lack of access in poor countries,” he said, estimating that he’s fitted about $10,000 worth of hearing aids on children in other countries.
“We decided we wanted to do something in our community at home, so we came up with this contest,” Templet said.
Now, Dunn is ready to get back to debating politics with her family.
“Oh, I love it,” she said. And her children are glad to have her back to her old self.
“She has done so much for everybody else she comes across, but she never does anything for herself. So this is what we wanted to do for her,” Territo said.
“We’ll have to remember we can’t talk about her while she’s in the same room anymore,” Sanders laughed.