Ian O’Malley: Hear, Hear!

Ian O’Malley is a noted Westporter. A 30-year New York radio personality (currently on Q-104.3) and a realtor with Compass Group, he’s on the board of directors of Homes with Hope. Many “06880” readers remember him for raffling off a bottle of single malt for Experience Camps.

Ian speaks frankly about his hearing loss. Yesterday was World Hearing Day. To celebrate, he sends along these thoughts:

If I can positively affect even one person by writing this, it will be worth it.

An old adage about music is: “If it’s too loud, you’re too old!” That’s a bunch of nonsense.

Ian O’Malley

During my long tenure in radio and TV, I’ve been exposed to “loud” a lot. It’s primarily from the constant use of headphones, whether for radio shows, voiceovers, or privately listening of music.

Yet without question the real culprit for me is concerts. I’ve never counted how many I’ve attended, but it has to be north of 1,000.

Much of the music I love doesn’t have excessive volume, such as big band/swing, classical or even blues. But my love of rock, and even more so heavy metal, definitely does.

Until I met Debbie, I had never worn ear plugs to a concert. I now realize that was pure insanity, with a price to pay: significant hearing loss.

Lack of proper hearing is something I’ve dealt with forever. My go-to relief was simply to turn things up. When I couldn’t do that, I suffered through whatever situation I was in.

I got adept at reading lips, leaning in during conversations to try and hear what was being said, and/or frequently asking someone to repeat themselves.

This could be especially nerve-wracking when meeting with potential real estate clients. Retaining information during an interview is our number one priority.

Yet especially in a restaurant or setting with plenty of background noise, I might as well have been trying to listen Charlie Brown’s teacher. It got to where I just made a point of laughing when the person speaking across from me did. They could have been saying “Ian, you are such an idiot.” I would have replied “Yup!’ and laughed along, completely clueless and not hearing a word.

My wife Deb finally got me to bite the bullet and get my hearing tested. She had repeatedly urged me to. Half was genuine concern for my well being. The other half was for her sanity.

Even though husbands are genetically predisposed to tuning out their better half on occasion, clearly I was not hearing her much of the time.

I finally got tested at the Audiology & Hearing Center in Fairfield. Though not as bad as Brian Johnson of AC/DC — whose doctors told him he could never be near concert amplification again unless he wanted to go completely deaf — my own hearing was very damaged.

Brian Johnson of ACDC, rocking on (and loudly).

Was I a candidate for hearing aids? I asked.

Yes.

Like the vast majority of folks, I always associated hearing aids with the elderly. I’m no spring chicken at 56 years old, and knew I would have to pony up for all those Van Halen concerts eventually.

Still, I was guessing more along the lines of 75 when I would have to come to terms with things.

Linda, a lovely and smart audiologist, suggested I try on a demo pair, use them for a week and get back to her with my thoughts. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I said sure. She put the hearing aids on me (which are all but invisible) and pressed the “on” button.

There was a wonderful video on social media a few years back. It shows a deaf baby getting fitted with hearing aids for the first time, and the reaction when they are turned on. The kid’s eyes go as wide as pie plates, and he  smiles. The same happened to me.

(Another analogy: It’s like the first time watching your favorite TV show or sport on HDTV.)

Back home, I walked into the kitchen where Deb was standing. She talked to me without knowing I had the hearing aids in (unless you’re inches from my head you can’t see them). I immediately got weepy. I’d honestly never heard her voice properly before.

She could tell they were tears of joy and relief. Realizing my hearing was now assisted, she said, “You idiot, I told you to get these years ago!”

Deb and Ian O’Malley, with their sons. (Photo/Xenia Gross)

For the next 10 minutes I stood on our porch, listening to the true sound of wind rustling through the leaves and birds chirping. It was like living in a whole new world. Not an hour goes by still without a “Wow!” moment.

My ego, pride and fear got in the way of something that clearly needed to be addressed. I’m so glad I did.

I probably could have said nothing about wearing hearing aids, and no one would have noticed. But I know that someone reading this is either like me, or knows someone suffering like I was for so long.

You don’t have to suffer. If your sight was headed south you’d go get glasses, right?

Maybe the term “hearing aids” has a stigma. Kind of like suggesting that if it’s too loud, you’re too old….

Meanwhile, if anyone has any questions, please reach out to me (ian.omalley@compass.com; 646-709-4332).

I’ll hear you loud and clear!

9 responses to “Ian O’Malley: Hear, Hear!

  1. Peter Jennings

    My Father who recently passed and who I took care of for the past 10 years was mostly blind and mostly deaf and he always said that he felt the loss of his hearing was more socially isolating than loosing his eyesight. Don’t underestimate hearing loss!

    I’m not a huge fan of concerts, you can actually hear better with soft ear plugs as the filter out a lot of the “noise”.

    Thanks Ian and Dan for making light of this issue.

  2. Thanks for bring attention to this and world hearing day Dan! I’m happy to answer anyone’s questions who might be considering taking the next step. Besides marrying my wife and therefore having my children, it’s likely the best decision I ever made.

  3. Thanks for this post. I know I need hearing aids at almost 77years old. I now have subtitles on for every movie. I just don’t want to seem old. You’re post helped

  4. Luisa Francoeur

    Thank you for such a good article. Hearing aids have been great for me and, as you say, when I mention having them, people are always surprised because they are virtually invisible. What convinced me to get them was being told that your brain will lose the ability to process certain sounds the longer you let hearing loss proceed.

    • Wendy Crowther

      Great article, Ian. Thank you.

      Luisa, I was going to mention this point too. My aging parents both had hearing loss, especially my dad who began to lose his hearing in his 60s. Having championed hearing aids for them over decades, I learned that attending to hearing loss early can help preserve one’s ability to recognize sounds and words. The longer you wait, the worse it can become.

      I originally thought this sounded more like a sales pitch than the truth. So I looked into it. It’s true! Therefore, when a hearing test indicated that I was experiencing slight hearing loss, I invested in a pair. I didn’t want to end up like my dad who waited too long. Surprisingly, my health insurance actually paid for a good percentage of the cost.

      Here’s a link to AARP’s opinion on hearing loss, the brain and more:

      https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2015/hearing-loss-myths.html

      Cost is a deterrent for many. My dad, who was a veteran, got his hearing aids via the VA in West Haven. It’s a great choice for those who qualify.

  5. Celeste Champagne

    Love the “Face for Radio” mask:-) Where can one find them?

  6. Celeste…I got the mask on a site called Redbubble.com. Enjoy!

  7. I love my hearing aids. Got them when I was 56. I kept my very short haircut. No one notices them. Love how they sync with my iPhone. They’ve been a lifesaver in understanding what people are saying on global zoom meetings. We need to pressure Medicare and insurance companies to consider hearing a quality of life issue. I was lucky. My insurance covered them. My audiologist would have helped me file with the state for coverage otherwise, because I need to hear for my job. Doesn’t everyone?

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