West Ham goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold stood by until the coronavirus pandemic forced him to take action.
The Australian international didn’t realize his reliance on lip-reading before the introduction of face masks began to make everyday life difficult.
His 29-year-old brother, who has used hearing aids since childhood, encouraged him to see a specialist in London, and in April 2023, Arnold picked up his first hearing aids.
Although he has yet to wear it for a match or training session, Arnold spoke to BBC Sport’s Jo Currie about the life-changing moment and how wearing hearing aids has been.
“Maybe it was something that my friends and I have been going back and forth since I was 19 or 20, but it was a conversation where people said I needed hearing aids and I thought ‘yeah whatever’ and let it go,” said Arnold.
“The first big conversation was around Covid when everyone was wearing masks and I started to realize that I read lips a lot. I had a hard time at that time.
“I spoke to my brother who has used hearing aids all his life and told him it’s very difficult in high altitudes. It was a casual conversation at first and he asked me if I wanted to connect him to a hearing center in London. That got the ball rolling and I went from there. “
Arnold didn’t want to stop wearing hearing aids for the rest of his life but now he’s changed.
What he did in his video announcing the news was very well received, which Arnold did not expect.
“I didn’t want to accept the fact that I might have to wear hearing aids for the rest of my life,” she said. “It was hard to accept at first. It was a slow start to get used to, but I love them now.
“At first I wanted to put the video out more for the benefit. I didn’t want questions, I didn’t want to talk about it. It just helped me to keep going.
“Later, seeing the response I received changed my mind completely. The messages I received from young children and their parents thanking me and saying that I was an inspiration, I never thought that would happen.
“One woman reached out to thank me. Her daughter struggled with it for a long time. This made me realize that I was changing the shame I had, something I never thought I could do on my own.”
Although the improvements to Arnold’s hearing aids have improved his life off the pitch, he has chosen not to wear them during the game so as not to damage them.
This comes with its own challenges, especially at times for Arnold’s manager at West Ham, Rehanne Skinner.
“At the end of the week [against Bristol City]I saw Rehanne getting upset because I couldn’t hear what she was trying to tell me.
“There’s a bit of frustration when the crowd gets bigger, but I try to find time off to go and get the right information.”
From the falling rain to the keys jingling in his friend’s pocket, hearing the simplest things has made Arnold’s biggest gain.
But Arnold is not the only one who has noticed the change.
He said: “I used to whisper a lot when people were talking to a lot of people because I couldn’t speak.” “I found myself leaving conversations, which can be isolating, but I didn’t realize that was why I was doing it.
“I went to breakfast with Caitlin Foord a few days later [getting the hearing aids] and he was like ‘it’s nice to be talking to you out loud and not repeating myself three times’.
“It’s a rollercoaster that goes on but it’s all worth it.”
Watch the full interview with Mackenzie Arnold on Football Focus, Saturday, 3 February, 12:00 GMT on BBC iPlayer and BBC One.