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Impact of hearing disability magnified for local woman during pandemic

Chelsea Prust, who suffers from APD, and her nephew, who she is raising. Photo provided by Chelsea Prust.

While wearing masks may be an uncomfortable annoyance for the majority of the population, there are those who experience much more significant problems due to this particular pandemic protocol.

Chelsea Prust, a 25-year-old woman raising a two and a half year old, finds it very difficult to function in public when everyone she speaks to is wearing a mask.

“Now that everyone is wearing masks, I cannot understand anything,” Chelsea said in an interview with Kingstonist. “The words that I hear are already muffled, so these masks make it impossible. If there is any background noise, my brain just doesn’t comprehend what others are saying.”

Chelsea suffers from Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), which is an umbrella term for a variety of disorders that affect the way the brain processes auditory information. Since the world began wearing masks, Chelsea has realized she cannot understand most of what is said to her if she can’t see the speaker’s lips.

“I have struggled with mental health issues as well my entire life,” Chelsea shared. “I have severe anxiety, depression, ADHD, PTSD and also fibromyalgia. Since being diagnosed with Auditory Processing Disorder, I have learned that this is where a lot of my anxiety comes from. I am unable to understand what is going on around me, I get overwhelmed easily, and I am reliant on Ontario Works right now, due to my mental health. Also, I have been a stay-at-home mom for two years of my two-and-a-half-year-old nephew. I have just recently gotten full custody of him — that was another battle of its own.”

After a visit to an audiologist, Chelsea was sent to Ottawa for further testing, which confirmed her APD diagnosis. These specialized test are not covered by the government, and Chelsea paid $800 to have her diagnosis confirmed, and give herself peace of mind.

“I have gotten regular hearing tests done, they all say the same thing. My hearing is fine. No, I do not have perfect hearing, but no one understands when I tell them my hearing is fine, but I cannot understand what people are saying. Thankfully, I switched to a new hearing clinic to do my hearing tests. I say thankfully because the audiologist that saw me has been diagnosed with Auditory Processing Disorder, as well.”

Chelsea struggles greatly with her hearing, which has affected all aspects of her life, including hearing and understanding her young nephew when he’s in a different room from her.

“This diagnosis, even though it gives me answers, is creating more issues for me,” she continued. “I have always wanted to work with children. In the report of my results, it says that I would be best suited for a place that is very quiet (a bank, library). This has really limited my life. I don’t know what I am going to do. I want to be able to hear my son when he gets into sports, is in a play, or even just trying to talk to me when he isn’t right in front of me.”

Chelsea has been prescribed hearing aids, but, as APD is not recognized as hearing loss, she does not qualify for funding from the assistive devices program or Ontario Works.

“I do not qualify for the assistive devices program, because Auditory Processing Disorder is not a hearing loss, it is a hearing disability,” Chelsea continued. “I have contacted several places, March of Dimes, United Way, Canadian Hearing Society, Ontario Works, and more. The hearing aids that I need are more of a specialized kind. They are going to cost me $8,000. I do not have any savings at the moment, and really have no options.”

“Chelsea has contacted March of Dimes, the United Way, and many more organizations,” echoed her mother, Kim Prust. “She does not know where else to turn. I would love to give my daughter the gift of hearing. I am on disability myself and I am not able to afford them, either. I am at a loss of what to do for her.”

Kim has set up a GoFundMe which she hopes will allow her daughter to purchase the hearing aids she needs to continue to function in our pandemic society, and beyond.

“If you can help at all, I know that she would be forever grateful,” Kim said.

Visit the GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/f/7rky2d-hearing-aids

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