When I was a teenager I found out that I had a hearing loss. I've probably had hearing loss my whole life, but just didn't recognize it. My first audiologist even questioned whether "I was pushing the button when I heard the tones”. I guess the amount of hearing loss that was being revealed didn't reflect his expectations of how a 14 year old boy should hear, or maybe how I was able to easily converse with him before stepping into his booth.
At the end of the test the audiologist asked me how my hearing loss effected me throughout my daily activities. I started to remember all the times my hearing, or lack there of, affected different situations in my life. Like the embarrassment that followed answering questions never asked in front of a class of my peers or the torture of trying to pick up girls at dances. I always felt like I was yelling and leaning in just a little bit too close. The background noise made it impossible to follow what any of the girls were saying and soon I had a different excuse to miss all of the dances. This became a pattern in my life. If I got embarrassed I'd start to avoid the situation. No more birthday parties, no more dances, I even quit my baseball team.
I had no idea that hearing loss was the reason behind all of my embarrassing moments but thanks to an attentive mother I ended up in this chair in front of this hearing expert.
When the hearing professional told me hearing aids were the cure to all of my problems I was excited to start the process. As a kid I was pretty self conscious about my friends seeing my hearing aids and wanted the smallest ones possible. The audiologist had other plans and set me up with a pair of behind the ear hearing aids with big molds that filled up my ears. In my mind they were as noticeable as holding a traffic cone to the side of my head, but whatever I was on my way to better hearing - right?
When I put them on for the first time my hopes of hearing normally were dashed. I hated them! All I could hear was the sound of my breathing and my own voice booming in my head. The professional said that I would eventually get used to it and he put me on a wearing schedule. I had to wear them every day all day long, which was brutal. Six months later, and with no improvement, I took them out and put them in my desk drawer. What a waste of time and my parents money.
The next several years were frustrating. I knew my communication problems were the result of my own hearing loss and not someone else’s poor speech. This started to wear on me. As good as I had become at working around my hearing loss, I could see the strain on others as they were patiently repeating themselves and accommodating my needs. So after 15 years I went back to a different hearing professional to try a different product. Luckily my hearing loss hadn't changed very much, and being older I was able to understand why my hearing loss caused me problems with some people and some settings but not with other people and other settings.
I was told that my hearing loss was most likely something I've lived with since birth and allowed me to hear the low frequencies the same as people who have normal hearing but the middle and higher frequencies have a mild to moderate hearing loss. He explained why I was able to hear men better then woman, why I struggled with accents, why I hated going to movies and watching TV shows with background noise and why I struggled to hear every time I got into background noise. He even explained why I hated the hearing aids my mom bought me 15 years ago and why I'd still hate the same hearing aids today.
The audiologist recommended that I wear open-fit hearing aids. He didn't over sell them the same way the guy I worked with 15 years ago did, but he did say they'd be almost invisible and I wouldn't have the same problems that I had last time with my own voice and the over amplification of the noise from all around me. I was skeptical but when I first put them on I was ecstatic. I didn’t feel plugged at all and my voice didn’t want to blow my head apart. I could hear easily as I walked around the office speaking to other people, I was amazed at my ability to hear every word.
I bought the hearing aids for $4500 and have been wearing them religiously now for over two years. I love them!
Having better hearing has changed my life dramatically. I no longer feel self-conscious about my ability to take part in social conversations, I no longer avoid dinners or parties. I go to busy places whenever I want. I even go dancing.
My hearing is better now than I ever could have imagined.