Hearing aids these days can be so small, they are barely detectable, but their impact on the quality of elders’ lives can hardly be underestimated.
Judy Morgan, an inspirational 83-year-old yoga instructor from Penrith, New South Wales, knows this first hand.
Back in 2016, at the time a dedicated carer for her late husband, Morgan had been struggling with hearing loss for around three years before finally biting the bullet and being tested.
“My husband was very ill and I was looking after him and I’d just put myself on the backburner,” she says.
“And then after he passed, I decided to look into having my hearing tested.
“I just noticed it wasn’t very good… I felt very isolated from people.
“We would go to lunch with a group of women, and I would be saying very little when normally I say quite a lot.
“I couldn’t hear what they were saying most of the time.”
By taking advantage of her local Audika hearing clinic’s free hearing tests, Morgan discovered her suspicions were right – her hearing had indeed declined substantially.
Thankfully, there was a quick and easy fix – and a small pair of very discreet hearing aids turned things around instantly.
“It was just a new world,” she says excitedly.
“I couldn’t believe how well I could hear.
“Everything changed and I just felt like my old self again.
“You can’t see them and it’s just wonderful.”
Morgan is an example of the one in five persons found to have experienced a ‘life-changing’ effect by restoring their hearing.
But holding off is a common trend for older Australians, also.
The study by Audika and YouGov also found that while nearly half of all Australians think that they have hearing loss (43 per cent), just one in five have planned a hearing test this year.
“I know I left it too long, and that’s what people do,” Morgan says.
“They leave it too long and think ‘oh, I’ll just put that off, I think I can hear all right, I’ll just leave it for now – but you can’t afford to do that.
“As soon as you feel your hearing going, you should go and have your hearing tested.”
For Morgan, her hearing loss was a tiny setback in her otherwise active, thriving life.
Having practiced yoga for more than 63 years, and taught it for the last 58, she is an inspiration for her students, who are a diverse group comprising all ages and experiences.
She says that the true essence of the practice is not about flexibility or contortion, but rather improving wellbeing from the inside out.
“In the ’60s, we all went to yoga in mesh tights, leotards and big earrings… and it was purely on a physical level.
“But now I rely so much on meditation and positive thinking, feeling good about yourself, as well as physical wellbeing.
“When people walk out of here, I want them to walk out feeling better than when they walked in.
Through her yoga studio, called Living Beautifully, Morgan hopes to instil in her students a holistic shift in mindset and coping mechanism that they can call upon as they navigate the many challenges they face in everyday life.
“It’s about caring for your total wellbeing and, in that, being able to love yourself, love other people, to forgive yourself and to forgive others.
“People hang on to things so much from the past, so we focus on letting that go, letting people feel empowered, particularly women.
“We host workshops where women can come together and learn to be empowered, learn to let go of the past, be strong – I’m all for women being strong.”
The COVID-19 pandemic unsurprisingly brought Morgan’s network a range of adversities, but she says it has also provided an opportunity to truly engage with yoga’s healing potential.
“During the period of lockdown, we covered all sorts of subjects like fear. Fear was very big as was loneliness, and procrastination too.
“It’s a very practical sort of meditation, you know, hitting the spot where people really need it.
“That’s what I’m trying to do. Nothing airy fairy, just feet flat on the ground and helping people to cope with their lives.
“And to breathe, because once you breathe properly, your mind won’t be so busy.”
Morgan has women in their 70s in her general classes, some of whom have been loyal students forin excess of 20 years.
“I don’t consider that class the seniors because they’re so good,” she says.
However, Morgan has also developed in-chair yoga classes for older persons who need a more accessible and gentle introduction to the practice.
“It’s for people who can’t do quite so much, so they sit in a chair for half the class, they learn strength by standing up, they have extra flexibility and balance by standing and finally they have lying down to relax.
“So, it’s a combination of many things.”
Unfortunately, Morgan notes, it has taken a bit of convincing to encouraging a number of seniors to participate, with many feeling dispirited by the prospect of working with a chair.
“They’re not interested… because they think that means ‘old’.
“[But I say], ‘look at corporate people, they have people come in and teach them yoga sitting on a chair, because that’s the only place they can do their yoga, and they’re young…”
As for retirement, it’s not something Morgan has in her sights.
While she notes that she is listening closely to her body to determine if it is time to wind-back her physical-based classes, Morgan always sees a place for teaching yoga in some form.
“I’m still having a good time.
“Once I feel that I can’t do it anymore, I’ll just stop and probably teach meditation only.
“Who knows what’s ahead, but I love what I do – passionately.”