Steffen Kjærgaard is a Tour de France racer and sprinter. With his power and speed he helped his team-mate, Lance Armstrong, triumph in the 2000 and 2001 tours. Out of the saddle, Kjærgaard took a slower road towards recognizing his hearing loss and getting a hearing aid. But when he finally cleared this hurdle, he found the going easy and the advantages plentiful.
Steffen KjÃ¦rgaard is the sports director of the Norwegian Bicycle Association, a demanding job with 140 travel days per year. In his time off he enjoys skiing and sailing with his family.
Hearing impaired family
He is 35 years old, the father of two children and hereditary hearing loss runs in his family. Steffenâ€™s sister received her hearing aid at age 25, and both of his parents have been treated with hearing aids, as well. Steffen was in his early 30s when he finally received his hearing aid. â€I should probably have gone for it earlier, but I was reluctant because of the stigma of hearing aids supposedly being for old people,â€ he said.
When he was younger, a routine medical check-up revealed a mild hearing loss in Steffen. Towards the end of the 1990s his hearing loss became more pronounced. By that time, friends were encouraging him to get a hearing aid. He acknowledged that he had difficulty hearing the commands from his team manager in his earpiece or what was said at team meetings. His wife, too, suggested that he get a hearing aid. But it wasnâ€™t until 2007 that Steffen finally relented.
The reaction among family and friends was positive all around. Everybody found him to be more responsive and ready to join in. And they enjoyed that they no longer needed to engage in loud conversation over the dinner table and in social gatherings. Steffen feels as if things have calmed down.
Steffen said he was extremely surprised about how much easier life became with his hearing aid. His audiologist warned him about a potentially difficult period of transition and adaptation until he would be fully comfortable with his hearing aid and that he should avoid using it in noisy settings, at first. But Steffenâ€™s experience was totally different.
â€To me, all I had to do was put it in, step out into the traffic, go to my car, start it and drive home. There was not transition period, at all,â€™ he explained.
In a few situations Steffen chooses not to use his hearing aid. He leaves it out when he does his sports, for instance. In general, he sees his hearing aid as an aid he can choose to use or not use.
â€As a practical matter, my hearing aid is almost like a pair of glasses. I can take it out for a day or work without it. And then I may put it back in when I go to lunch and talk with other people,â€ he said.
A personal piece of advice
Steffen encourages others at his age to accept their hearing loss and try to reduce the problem rather than let the time pass by. The solution may be a hearing aid. They might experience the same joy and relief in their everyday life that he experienced, he said.
â€The hearing aid does not replace or restore normal hearing,â€ he added, â€but it is a valuable tool that allows me to communicate much easier with my family and on the job.â€
Source: Din hørsel; photo: Din hørsel
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