Third Wave

On Monday I went for a haircut and stuck my hearing aids in my pocket when at the hair cutting place. When I got home my left hearing aid was missing. A retrace and search turned up nothing so it is probably gone for good.

These aids were older and now out of warranty so I was on the hook for replacement. When I contacted my audio professional they informed me that there was a decent two for one sale on now. I was able to replace my missing hearing aid with two that have the latest technology – they are Starkey instead of Audibel but that’s the same company. What I found was quite remarkable.

It appears I was born with a hearing defect, or at least one turned up early in life. My very first hearing test in 1970 identified that my left ear had some losses at higher frequencies. This didn’t become a problem for me until the early 2000s, when I had another hearing test done in Georgetown.

In 2004 I got my first hearing aid – left ear only. It was a digital one, but I suspect there wasn’t a lot of computer power available. The digital part was mostly for sound capture and reproduction. Basically what the hearing aid did was boost the volume at higher frequencies in my left ear. I could hear birds singing again – but I also heard computer fans and hard drives, refrigerator motors, chainsaws etc. It took a while to get used to filtering out the noise.

Fast forward to 2016 and my right ear had deteriorated and the left one hadn’t got any better. At this point I was exhibiting classic hearing loss symptoms – muffled speech, hearing the wrong word. My 12-year-old hearing aid was hopeless. So I got a pair of new ones.

These Audibel aids made a huge difference for me. My comprehension improved immensely. I still had the impression that sounds were being amplified – it seems that everybody I met had a microphone on their lapel. But things were a lot better.

Now it’s 2019. The newest aids have quad-core processors, set up their own network to communicate and can be programmed to suit the different needs of each of my ears. A new hearing test showed that my right ear is stable but the left has gotten worse again.

The net effect of these new aids is subtle. I don’t sense the amplification even though it must be there. I just hear better.

It seems as if the designers of these new hearing aids are getting closer and closer to their goal of restoring natural hearing. The aids don’t get in the way or cause whistling or distortion. Believe me, that is a good thing.

There is a third program available besides normal and hearing loop. It’s supposed to help with Tinnitus – ringing in your ears. I haven’t tried it but I will before I go back for a checkup in a couple of weeks.

I’m grateful I have enough cash around to buy these great hearing aids. I read somewhere that about three million Canadians have hearing loss, and with the Boomers aging that number won’t be decreasing anytime soon. What is even more alarming is that more than 80% of those who are hearing impaired don’t seek out help. Hearing aids cost money, it’s true – but the alternative is to wave goodbye to a large part of life – whether it’s Bluegrass music or talking to the grandchildren.

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