The inevitable happened last November when we decided we both needed to see an audiologist and get our hearing tested. The thing that pushed us over the edge was that we were contemplating not going to Thanksgiving and Christmas parties because we could not hear what people were saying because of the background noise. We found ourselves looking at people’s lips as we struggled to read them and little did we know just how much stress we were putting on our bodies trying to hear and read lips at the same time.
As we talked about this one evening at the dinner table, Vicki said that was enough–we were going to make an appointment and do something about our problem. So we talked to Claude Miller the next week while quail hunting at the 74 Ranch who just happens to be an ENT doctor with an audiologist on staff at his offices in Corpus Christi. It would be a huge understatement to say that Claude was shocked when we told him that we wanted hearing aids because he said, “nobody wants hearing aids!” Well we did and Vicki convinced him to make an appointment with his audiologist Dr. Ryan Sawyer to do some testing so we could get this process started.
Word got out through Claude and Ryan to the Phonak hearing aid people that we were an anomaly in the hearing business and we went to Chicago in December to learn more about hearing enhancement because we know we are not the only ones out there in our sport who needs hearing enhancement. We were blown away with the technology that is available today and with the stigma of “deaf and dumb” that was associated with wearing a hearing aid. As soon as we began talking about our hearing aids to others and how much they actually helped our ability to hear and took so much stress out of our lives, we began to get the look! Hearing aids…deaf and dumb…and it was almost as if the people were relived to know that Vicki and Gil wear hearing aids, which we guess makes it ok for them to.
What a difference in our lives they make, and what a change in our stress level. We no longer wake up and turn the TV on in the morning only to find the volume up to 80! We could all of a sudden hear, without straining! The radio volume in our vehicles was on 14 not 42! We began to notice peoples eye color because we were not having to read lips and what a difference it made in our public speaking–we could actually hear what people were saying, which made it easier for us to bring their comments into the conversation.
We were having one of our dinner parties for about 30 in our Houston home and everyone was gathered in the kitchen watching Gil cook and one of the ladies asked him what that was around his neck and he replied, “It is a Com-Pilot that Bluetooths my phone to my hearing aids so I can talk on the phone without holding it to my ear.” Her response was, “I am so sorry.” This is what we did not expect, but were warned by Dr. Claude Miller, Dr. Ryan Sawyer and the Phonak people about the stigma attached to the use of hearing aids!
This stigma is deep seated and in every one of us because of the association between hearing aids 50+ years ago, slow learners and the phrase, “deaf and dumb.” It is this stigma in great measure that creates the vanity problem in many people who really need hearing enhancement but are too vain to even consider talking about using them. One of the other things we have uncovered is that there are “hearing aids” out there in the market that just amplify everything and they cost about half of what ours did. People buy them, wear them for a few days and they stop using them. The reason is they do not suppress the ambient noise so you can hear the person you are having a conversation with. Our Phonak Audio V 90s, prescribed by Dr. Ryan Sawyer, suppress ambient background noise and amplifies the conversation we are having through stereo directional microphones in each unit.
As we have said before, this is a quality of life decision and if you have grandchildren you probably can’t hear them when they talk can you. Well the reason is that the high frequency tones are the ones that typically go first when your hearing begins to weaken, and it is just that range of tones you will all of a sudden pick up with hearing enhancement.
If you are a wing shooter, and especially a clay target shooter, you have a 47% chance of having high frequency hearing loss. Hearing aids cannot replace something that you have lost completely, but the technology available today is utterly amazing and can enhance what you have left! By no means are our Phonak aids the only ones out there in the market, and you should go to your audiologist and ask which ones out there are right for you and follow their advice! Go get your hearing tested and find out for yourself what is out there. The technology is advancing at an amazing pace and new products come out every four months, so the life of your hearing aids are about four years before they will need to be replaced. They are not cheap, but what price do you put on being able to hear your grandchildren’s high pitched voices or the whistling wings of a flock of ducks coming out of the fog or your wife at your favorite restaurant? Go get your hearing tested; the technology is here that will enable you to hear again.
There’s something you need to be aware of when going through the process of getting hearing aids. Once you have the ones prescribed for you by your audiologist, you will need to go back and have them adjusted two or three times during the first 30 days you wear them, so be patient with your audiologist as they adjust them. They actually hook them up to a computer that tells them what the aids have been doing while you have been wearing them and, based on what you say about your hearing and how they have been acting, an adjustment is made.
It takes a little time because even though they have adjusted them to your audiogram, it takes some tweaking to get them perfect so be patient. The other thing we should mention is that having something in your ear will be strange to some of you and will be a little of a discomfort in the beginning, but that too will go away. Since we have always worn custom fitted ear plugs, our transition was nothing, but for some of you it will be something you will eventually overcome.
Here are a few questions you should ask when buying electronic hearing protection or hearing aids. What are the differences between the models and what exactly does the warranty cover? How long should they last and what will the battery life and cost be? Are they waterproof or programmable so they can be adjusted to match my audiogram? What are the color options?
Remember you can’t enhance what is not there, but the technology is available and amazing to make the most of what you have left so get over it and go get some hearing aids and enjoy much less stress in your life and hear what you have been missing!–Gil & Vicki Ash