Young or old, ignorance is no excuse when it comes to protecting and enhancing your hearing.
Over the past years we have shared with you everything that we have learned, as we learned it, traveling our country as well as this continent and two others and have tried to put some science into the art of shooting moving targets. The invention of several new MRIs has given science a better understanding of the neurological activity when someone does something and, as a result, the science has changed or evolved. As this evolution occurs, we have evolved and have changed what we believe, how we teach and how it all happens.
So in this epistle we decided to share our most recent bit of scientific data and tell you about how it has changed our lives. We are both wearing hearing aids and it was a quality of life decision that we are glad we made and what a difference it has made in our lives. The audiologist was shocked at how little hearing we had actually lost, and for someone who is around loud noises as much as we have been in the past 30 years to have hearing loss only one percent worse than a person our age was indeed shocking to us as well.
During our years in Skeet and then in sporting clays in 1983, we have always been diligent about protecting our hearing. We have worn custom fitted ear plugs first by Exxon Chemical and then by Tim Holt, and began the journey with Tim and Garry Gordon of EAR electronics when they began. Now we are backing those up with Pro Ears Predator Gold electronic muffs when it is cold weather. When you combine the fact that we are around shooting more than any 20 to 30 active shooters you know combined, and that we have so little hearing loss, the inevitable conclusion is that the hearing protection we use in the game today really has worked and will work for you provided you will wear it.
We began using custom molded plugs 40 years ago and have been using the same electronic hearing protection for the past 30 or so years and, as it has gotten better, we have updated what we were wearing.
What we weren’t ready for is the stigma that hearing aids come with, hence the title of this article. This stigma is deeply rooted in our minds from the first time we ever saw someone with a hearing aid back when we were in our first years of school. It looked like a hunk of metal on the back of someone’s ear and the phrase “deaf and dumb” was repeated over and over. As a result, the two were automatically associated with each other.
We are finding that this stigma is not the only reason people will not wear hearing aids. We are sure vanity has something to do with it, as well as it being a sign of ageing or something that old people have to do. The simple fact is that as we age, our hearing gets worse, but it gets worse in such a gradual slow pace that we can make up for it by leaning in and straining to hear conversations or turning the TV or radio up louder and louder! The fact that we can compensate for hearing loss takes some of the urgency out of solving the problem, but the problem persists and the compensation continues simply because it is easier to not do something about it than to solve the problem.
What we did not know or begin to understand was the amount of stress we were putting on ourselves by trying to hear what was going on around us. Yes, we said “STRESS.” Once we realized how much we were straining to hear, we began to realize what we were doing to compensate other than just turning the volume up! Now that we can hear, we are no longer looking at peoples’ lips in an attempt to understand what they are saying. For the first time in a long time, we recognize their eye color and just how much emotion is transmitted through voice inflection and facial expression.
Selling hearing enhancement is like selling hearing protection, its damn near impossible to get people to buy it or buy into the idea of protecting your hearing until it is too late. As we mentioned earlier, we have been diligent about protecting our hearing ever since we began building our passion for wing and clay shooting and, even to this day when we are at the range, we do not even touch our shotguns without first putting our hearing protection on and making sure it is working. If you ever meet someone who thinks they do not need to protect their hearing, just buy them one round of Skeet and give them only one of those little yellow foamy earplugs. After they shoot that round and take the ear-plug out and notice the difference, they will be convinced of not only how much your hearing is effected by loud noise but also how much protection just that little foamy earplug can give!
Go to your audiologist and have your hearing tested to establish a base line to reference your future hearing tests and wear your hearing protection when at the range or hunting. Yes, wear it while hunting–you just might be amazed at what you can hear with the electronic hearing protection that is available in the market today. Next month we will talk about what pushed us over the edge and made us act to solve our hearing problems, and what we have discovered about what is out there in the market as far as hearing enhancement.–Gil & Vicki Ash