I have been setting on something for a bit now that I want to share and hopefully encourage others.
I was diagnosed with hearing loss at about age 4. I was given a hearing aid that didn't really help much, because the technology just wasn't there for it. As I grew older, the loss worsened, but I learned to compensate for it by watching people's lips and facial expressions.
I can never forget the jokes and people laughing at me as I struggled with this loss. I became depressed and would avoid social settings, because I struggled to communicate. I can remember sitting in a classroom trying to understand a teacher who was facing a chalkboard, then getting called on to answer a question, only to be laughed at because I never truly understood what the teacher said or misheard the sounds.
At 12 years old, I began playing drums, because I felt passionate about the beat. I could hear it and feel it more than the different notes played by most instruments. I loved that feel, the rush.
At 19, I tried to join the military. Doctors at a Military Entrance Processing Station looked at me after a hearing test and laughed, asking, "Son, why are you even here?" I left, feeling defeated again.
I was fortunate law enforcement took a chance on me. Though I struggled, I overcompensated to be able to do the job. I never let the lack of hearing hold me back.
Now comes a bit of truth: By the time I was 14 to 16, almost 50% of my hearing was gone.
A few months ago, my chief basically said I needed to get my hearing checked, so I did. That's when I found Nathan Darby of Chenal Hearing in Little Rock. I knew going in he would test me, and I feared the hearing loss would be worse -- and I was right.
Another 12 percent loss.
I felt my heart stop, and I was scared. I was afraid of what he was going to tell me. He said he was surprised I had no structural damage, which means the issue possibly is between the ear and my brain. I was sick when I was 2 years old, likely with meningitis or something similar that caused the hearing loss.
Darby said technology improvements have led to in-ear aids that can be prescribed for an individual's level of hearing loss. I had never been told hearing devices could be prescribed. Darby said if I were interested, he would order customized devices for me and asked me to come back in two weeks.
That was eight weeks ago.
I went back to Darby's office to get the new devices. He had me sit in a chair as he adjusted the settings, and immediately I could hear sounds I had never heard before.
He had Allie stand behind me and talk. I could understand her words without looking at her. What I didn't know was Darby was moving her out the door, then 30 feet down the hall, and she sounded as clear as if she were standing over me.
This is impossible!
I cried. I still cry thinking about this, because weeks later I am hearing things I never knew possible.
The first few weeks have been sensory overload. Darby said there is a 30- to 60-day adjustment period, so I have been wearing the devices non-stop in so many different environments. It's like living in a new world.
I hear so many things now. My son, he is loud. I can hear my TV without turning the volume past a couple clicks. I even can clearly hear my dogs. The first time I drove my old patrol unit, it rattled so much, I felt I needed to write it up for repairs.
I have been walking outside more, and nature sounds unlike anything I have ever heard.
The new devices connect to my phone like earbuds, so I get phone calls easier. I can listen to any streaming through my phone directly to the devices.
I have found a part of life I never knew existed, and I still cry when I hear things I never heard before.
I owe the chief a thank you for pushing me to do this. I never knew life sounded so good.
Les Munn recently retired from Texarkana Arkansas Police Department after 25 years of service. He said he is looking forward to exploring and experiencing life -- and being able to hear the world anew.