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.
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.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org; 646-709-4332).
I’ll hear you loud and clear!