It was two years ago when I suspected I had hearing loss. It started when I was in church. I couldn’t figure out what the priest was saying. Whenever anybody spoke into a wireless microphone, it really echoed, echoed, echoed. And I kept asking my girlfriend Amy, who is now my wife, to repeat herself. In fact, it seemed like everybody around me was mumbling, until I asked them to speak louder. Then, they were shouting.

Then, in December of 2015, at my local Sam’s Club in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, I saw a sign offering free hearing tests. My wife and I made a beeline for that booth.

In no time, Licensed Hearing Instrument Specialist McKenzie “Mac” Dossett had tested me and uncovered my hearing problem. Mac fitted me with hearing aids that same day. I could hear again. For me, the experience was life-changing.

Now I know that without hearing aids, the world seems dull and dead. My new hearing aids are convenient. They’re simple to use. Most important, they make a dramatic improvement in my life.

When I first approached Mac at Sam’s Club, I expected to get help. What I didn’t expect was to get assessed by someone who provides the hearing impaired with inspiration and hope.

I learned that he had worn hearing aids since he was four or five years old. Hearing loss runs in his family. Eventually, that loss led him to become a hearing specialist. Today this dedicated 31-year-old is not just highly trained — he has a deep compassion for the frustrations the hearing impaired face.

That’s why he knew what I was going through. Hearing loss can make you feel irritated, anxious and ashamed. I constantly felt like I was missing out on something. Basically, I just wasn’t enjoying my life.

I felt touched when Mac told me he feels grateful for his early hearing loss — because now he gets to use his disability for the benefit of others. He has come to see his condition as his blessing, he said.

Mac taught me that various things can affect hearing, including wax buildup in the ear, or some type of restricted movement in the three bones in the ear. Apparently, measles and mumps can also damage hearing, and so can diabetes, ear infections and certain medications.

Most hearing loss, however, is the result of aging or of being exposed to loud noise over a lifetime, as I was. But, I had the good fortune to find Mac at Sam’s Club. He was so patient with me, so kind and knowledgeable. I love the hearing aids I got from him. I’d never live without them again.