In my late thirties I began to notice that I was having some difficulty hearing people when they were talking. Sure, I knew they were talking and could make out what they were saying, well, most of of the time, sort of. Put me in a crowded room of people, or a noisy restaurant, or a conference room? Trouble. I shrugged it off. But then about two years ago I was in a banquet hall at an awards function and I could not make out what the people across the table were saying, at all. I was encouraged to get my hearing tested. I didn’t. Then, about a year ago the significant other, aka my wife, told me she could not take my, "Huh?" and "What was that?" and "What did you say?" anymore. And I was growing increasingly frustrated and embarrassed about not being able to hear people in meetings and in social functions. A friend at work, who has had hearing aids since she was quite young, had given me the name of the Washington University audiology department and urged me to go get tested. So I did, finally, one year later! Trouble indeed. Seems a classic hearing loss pattern for people my age, well, generally a bit older, is in the higher frequency range, which just so happens to be where nearly 80% of speech sounds happen. Seems we make a lot of noises with tongue, lips, etc. that are all at a high frequency. It is those high frequency sounds made when we speak that makes the articulations of the individual letters of or language discernible when we speak. For instance, say "f" and "s." No vocal chords for those really, all mouth sounds, all high frequency, and I could not really tell the difference!
I’ve been missing a lot of that. So, I got the test, was told I have a significant higher frequency hearing problem, that’s the bad news, the good news? In recent years they have come out with what are called "open ear" digital hearing aids that are very easy to wear, nearly unnoticeable, and deliver excellent sound into your ear through a tiny little tube that inserts a tiny little speaker into each ear OK, fine, I could use hearing aids. But I still put it off, then I realized I was sick and tired of not being able to hear people clearly, of missing what my family was saying. One morning I snapped at my wife when she said something I didn’t hear and I misunderstood her. Enough!
So, as of about three weeks ago or so, I’ve taken the plunge and invested in the best open ear digital technology I could find. I’m now sporting what are, in effect, two tiny high-end computer audio processors on each ear. And people who don’t know I’m wearing them are shocked when I tell them and then they notice this tiny little plastic tube running into my ear, but that’s really about all they see. The device itself sits up on the top of your ear. If you are a technology geek like me, check out the technology involved. It is amazing. The device takes in all the sound coming at me and boosts the sounds on the frequencies where I have a loss and helps filter out distortion, noise, etc. There are several different programs for various situations, including being in a noisy environment. Just this week they boosted the volume on them and I’m not hearing all the things I had been missing before, and I realize I’m hearing all this for the first time in a very, very long time!
My case may be a bit unusual since I’ve had this hearing problem
apparently for quite a long time. The best guess as to how I developed
this loss is simply that as you age you lose irreplaceable nerve cells
in your ears that are responsible for processing sound for you. But in my case, when I was a baby I had a lot of severe ear infections, which my caring
parents treated as soon as possible of course, but the repetition of
them knocked out nerve cells then, long before normally happens as a result of age and other environmental factors, and so the cumulative impact of the
natural hearing loss process caught up with me a lot faster than it
does most people.
All I can say, now having worn them for nearly three weeks, is wow. I had no idea what I was missing. I’m hearing music like I haven’t heard it in years. I can listen to the TV at a normal volume. Did you know how much noise rustling paper makes?
I have several friends who have pretty serious levels of hearing loss and have done nothing
about it. To all of you men out there who have a hearing loss and there
are a LOT of you, believe me, do something about it. If you need
hearing aids, get them.You do not realize how much you are driving your family nuts and how much you are missing out of in life by not having a full range of hearing. Don’t put it off as long as I did. Women, if you suspect that your husband has a hearing loss problem, get him tested. He may just be ignoring you on purpose, but….chances are he does have a hearing loss. Since getting these aids and speaking about it openly I’ve had more men tell me they too suspect they have a hearing loss, but have been unwilling to do anything about.
There is a stigma attached to hearing aids. Why? I don’t know, but there is. People who would never kid me about wearing glasses, don’t hesitate to make jokes about my hearing aids when they know I have them. It is a weird thing and frankly, kind of ticks me off. But, at least I can hear their stupid remarks clearly!
And the joy of hearing what I have not been hearing for many more years than I care to admit is well worth the expense, the hassle and the social stigma associated still with hearing aids. Well worth it! I went out to dinner in a typically noise environment tonight for the first time since getting my aids, and, for the first time in years, I could hear each of my children speaking clearly and had no problems! I could hear the waiter talking to me, I could hear him clearly. And nobody had to repeat anything. Amazing.
Besides, since all those people walking around with iPod earphones
shoved into their ears will soon be joining you and me in wearing
hearing aids because the vast majority of them are destroying their
hearing nerve cells, if you get them now, you will be the trend-setter.
My hearing aids are some of the most advanced computer and audio
technology on the planet. So, hearing aids are really cool, after all. So, don’t be stupid like I was. Don’t wait to get your hearing checked. If they tell you that you could really benefit from hearing aids, you can. If you think your hearing loss is not bothering anyone, particularly your loved ones, it is, more than you realize. So, if not for yourself, do it for your loved ones. If you need them, get them.