Don’t Panic. It’s Not Good for Your Hearing.

Sometimes, out of nowhere, my hearing loss catches up to me. My frustration about not hearing something important comes rushing back, a reminder of my difficult early days with hearing devices. It can quickly turn into panic.

Ordinarily I’m fine with my hearing aids and cochlear implant, supplemented by a remote mic when necessary, Otter a.i. for in-person captions, and Innocaption+ on my phone.

On Labor Day, though, there was a crisis, and I couldn’t access the direct-to-iPhone  Bluetooth link, which sends the audio to my hearing aid and cochlear implant. I had Innocaption captions, but no audio. It’s a challenging way to deal with an emergency.

Photo by Anna Tarazevich on

I am living in rural Massachusetts at the moment, in a house with a dense woody area behind it going up a hill. My dog, Ollie, likes to sit outside in the evening, ready to bound in when I call him. (Treats are involved.) 

Monday evening around 6:30 or 7, I stepped out to call him. He was on the hillside, waiting expectantly. For some reason, I looked away and when I looked back up he was gone. I heard a loud strangled cry. I ran up to the hillside, afraid he’d been snatched by a coyote or a cougar.

No sign of him. Then I realized he was behind the house, behaving strangely. He’d encountered a porcupine and had a snout full of quills. They hung off his face and rattled when he moved.

My vet was closed but had emergency information on their phone message. I called one emergency vet after another. The most I could make out of what they said — using captions, no audio — is that they were full and could take no more animals. One suggested I get him a cone so I raced to the pet store before it closed. Another customer helped me try (unsuccessfully) to snap the cone in place around his neck. It wouldn’t have helped anyway.

How could Ollie go through the night with quills in his face? That’s when I started to panic.

Meanwhile I had texted my daughter, who took over the search. She found a vet about 45 minutes away, who told her I’d have to go to a different vet an hour and a half away because they were full. Her husband, a paramedic, got on the phone. A friend once said about my daughter’s husband, somewhat enviously, “Paramedics can do everything.” Apparently this includes talking a vet into accepting one more dog. They texted me the information.

I was low on gas and so went to the gas station to fill my car. It was closed. Labor Day. I didn’t think gas stations ever closed. A second was also closed. I finally found a third.

I was able to control my panic once the vet appointment was set up, and drove the long dark drive without incident. The vet took Ollie and said she’d have to sedate him. I said I would come back in the morning. It was not a peaceful night, but at least I wasn’t sleeping in the car. I picked up Ollie at 8 am the next morning and he seemed fine, if a little groggy.

What have I learned from this incident? I knew my phone was having sporadic trouble connecting with my new hearing aid. But I put off figuring out the problem. Yesterday, I had an appointment with customer support. Bingo, a very simple solution. Answer the phone by pressing the button on the hearing aid. I tried it on my next incoming call and it worked perfectly and even took me directly to Innocaption in case I also wanted captions.

Last week I wrote about being prepared for emergencies. I hadn’t really thought of a dog with porcupine quills on Labor Day evening and a nonworking phone connection as the kind of emergency I might encounter.

If one of your hearing instruments isn’t working properly, don’t put it off. You never know when you’ll need everything working perfectly.


For more about living with hearing loss, read my books “Smart Hearing: Strategies, Skills and Resources for Living Better With Hearing Loss” and “Shouting Won’t Help: Why I and 50 Million Other Americans Can’t Hear You.” Both are available as ebook and paperback on

11 thoughts on “Don’t Panic. It’s Not Good for Your Hearing.

  1. Frightening situation. What if all the gas stations were closed? What if Ollie had been gravely injured? Or what if YOU had?


  2. Katherine, your panic adventure serves as a reminder that I am (we are all) only “that close” to being stranded – incapable of communicating in a potentially dangerous situation. Every morning as I install my CI and HA – an act that suddenly dispels the profound silence that is my normal night time state – I am reminded of just how fragile my link to hearing at all really is.

    It doesn’t help that I am on the threshold of my ninetieth birthday and need all my fingers to count the things I can no longer do or do well or safely. I’ll be moving on to my toes shortly. I hasten to say that I am generally in good health while at same time being keenly aware of all my vulnerabilities.

    Thank you for your work, Katherine.


    • Thanks Jerry. I’m somewhat younger but just as aware of the fine line between self-sufficiency and needing someone else’s help. For me, the key is what I wrote in the headline. Don’t panic. As long as I can stay calm I can figure a way out of a bad situation. Thanks for your thoughts, which are always interesting.


  3. Katherine, Thanks for the story of your Labor Day adventures. We do need to keep on top of all our hearing devices and accessories!. And gas in the car!!


  4. Always wise to have at least 1/4 of tank of gas because that will take you anywhere. And dogs with quills – unfortunately, they can die from those things. Being persistent with having them taken out is necessary. Telling the VET this is something that is STAT. helps to get the point across. We watched the Mountain Vet Show on TV and they talk about this all of the time. Our dog never had this kind of encounter but met up with a motor cycle and died because of it. Instead of animals, we have kids.


    • Yes, quills are dangerous and short of putting a dog in deep sedation will drive him crazy until they’re removed. But if you live in an area where there are porcupines, it does sometimes happen. One of my earlier dogs got 72 quills, a vet record for my vet. I don’t let the dog out at night anymore.


      • Ouch I feel for the dog – just like what we saw on the TV show…but with two dogs…what a shame.
        Had to say…enjoyed your Zoom yesterday too.
        This blog is also new to me. Figured I will add this to my reading and writing activities so I can keep in touch with you.


      • Indeed , there are SO many stories as it were. Especially after your thoughts, the insightful questions, validating comments and pensive inquires brought out heartfelt comments that helped to show that we are really help shape what’s to come in the future which is good.

        Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply to Leslie Garis Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s