What's in this blog? Hearing Loss and Hearing Aids

"Mankind is terrified of silence, is uncomfortable in the quiet, is this the reason they need so much going on around them that is noisy? "

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Went to a movie

Went to see Edge of Darkness Mel Gibson today and the sound was a whole new experience. First time I used the second program on the HA's that boosts the entire frequency spectrum. Most enjoyable movie in a long time.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

What My Audiogram Looks Like

The Red and Blue lines are my latest audiogram. The shaded area is the hearing banana, which is the frequencies used in speech. It's shows why I have a hard time hearing soft consonants such as f,s, th which are in the 2000-6000hz range.

Great web site for understanding Hearing and Hearing Tests

Take the Piano thud test! What's the highest frequency you properly hear?

A Interesting Link from the Hearing Aid Forum

Piano Thud Test

Training the Brain

Wearing these new Hearing Aids requires my brain to learn how to pay attention to some sounds and disregard others all over again. The first day, every sound was front and center, bright and clear. After four days I realize that I am now discriminating some sounds. I still can't believe how much better everything sounds. I have to turn the volume down on everything including my Blackberry, the radio in the Subaru and the TV.

The Hearing Aids have a default volume. The background noise in some places like restaurants is too high for default volume (2 chirps) so I turn it down a couple of chirps and the noise is lot more tolerable.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Day One, WOW

Penny, the audiologist fitted my first hearing aids this morning at 0900. The hearing aids are very light, easy to wear and just about invisible. Cool! Love the design and quality construction.

We paired my Blackberry with the Streamer. The Streamer is a Blue Tooth interface, microphone and remote for the hearing aids. Reviewed the maintenance, paper work, warranty and completed the checklist. Bill paid and now for the rest of the day.

Returned several voice mails and phone calls using the Streamer and Blackberry. I really like hearing the caller in phone calls in both ears. Much easier to understand. My wife's voice is fantastic!

I heard the turn indicator relay my Subaru for the first time after driving the Forester for more than a year. The door chime is LOUD. The car makes lots of noises I don't remember hearing before.

Next stop, meeting with a customer and FedEx account exec. Didn't miss a word in our one hour meeting. No one had to repeat anything.

As usual I had 4 phone calls during lunch. Easier to hear the phone with Streamer off in noisy places. I am beginning to understand the limitations of the firmware sorting out noise from voices. Had to turn the volume down a notch or two.

Another hearing challenge at Starbucks working on the laptop. Easier to hear in Starbucks than at lunch. Fewer voices and racket to sort out.

I used my laptop to charge the Streamer while I was working on an integration this afternoon.

Sounds I heard again today for the first time;

Birds chirping
Zippers and clothes rustling
Everyone's voice sounds different
the key clicks on my laptop keyboard
Wind and soft rain
Sounds are really bright and sharp
Tinnitus is much less noticeable

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What Happened to My Hearing?

Growing up I had many relatives who suffered hearing losses.

One of my favorite uncles was Uncle Ernie, who was the Chief Engineer on the Gulf Queen oil tanker through WWI and WWII. By the time I came along in 50's and 60's he was wearing a hearing aid around his neck with an ear phone one ear. He was dammned near stone deaf from spending years in a ships engine room.

My moms father was a boiler maker and welder for a railroad company. He was also hard of hearing all of my life.

My father, a WWII naval aviator and retired airline pilot wears hearing aids and is almost deaf in one ear. Too many hours around aircraft engines and very noisy cockpits. He once told  me "No one was too concerned in WWII about what happens to your hearing when you sit less than six feet from six 50 caliber machine guns. Not to mention the engine sitting a few feet in front of you. We had a war to fight"

One of my brothers who is an airline pilot is also hard of hearing.

Another brother also has hearing problems although he won't admit it.

My nephew told me that listening and watching my brother and I trying to talk to each other in the boat was pretty funny. We were both shouting at each other! That comment really made me think. I realized that at 55 years old I am just like my father, grandfather and uncle.

I lost a my high frequency hearing due to exposure to loud noises. I can pass on a few lessons learned the hard way.

If you are a shooter, wear plugs and muffs. I have been an avid shooter all of my life. 45 years ago, we knew a lost less about hearing protection.

If you are working in the shop or mowing the yard wear hearing protection.


Once the hearing is gone you can't get it back

Which Hearing Aids Did I Buy?

I have learned that no hearing aid is going to restore my hearing. It's not like buying glasses and having 20/20 corrected vision. The best they can do is help me hear the soft consonants that I can't hear now that sometimes drives me crazy and results in lots of screwed up conversations.

I am a tech head and  love gadgets. I read and browse the Internet daily to keep with the technology I use on the job, my hobbies and now hearing aids. I have spent several days browsing articles and web pages to educate myself about hearing aids and hearing loss.

"TANSTAAFL" There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Austin Diagnostic Clinic did not have the least expensive hearing aids for sale but they do recommend some the best. What I was buying in addition to the hearing aid hardware was the services and experience of the audiologist and an Audiology department. In addition, the price included a Streamer Blue Tooth and Remote Control for which other providers charged extra.  And, cash flow was better since they bill the insurance company for its share.

Penny, my audiologist at the Austin Diagnostic Clinic (ADC) provided me with the most in depth and accurate information about the choices that I had to make concerning what hearing hearing aid would help me the most.

Getting useful and objective information on Hearing Aids turned out to be a real challenge. There are thousands of web pages and other resources on the internet that offer some useful information. A lot of it is advertisement. What I did find was user manuals, videos and other useful stuff on hearing aids I was interested in. Some of the magazines for Hearing Aid providers have some neat articles on-line. Some of the articles are very technical so I had to Google lots of terms. 

The most useful on-line resource I have found is the Hearing Aid Forums. If you have questions and want to read comments and discucssions from other folks about hearing loss and hearing aids check out this forum. I highly recommend it.

I read  "The Consumer Handbook on Hearing Loss & Hearing Aids" edited by Richard Carmen, worth reading, ISBN 9780966182682. You might be able to get a free copy from your audiologist. The companion web site is www.hearingproblems.com

The 2010 Consumers Guide to Hearing Aids published by the James Wilson Group Strategic Solutions for features and listings of hearing aids. Great resource if you like comparing features and stats. Very useful glossary of Hearing Aid Industry buzz words in the back.

Consumer Reports also had reviews of some hearing aids last Summer. Typical CR report.

After talking to Penny, I decided  to try a pair of Auticon Dual WX Hearing Aids. These are high end Hearing Aids that have a decent reputation and some pretty neat technology. After insurance the hearing aids will cost me about $1300 after the FedEx Health Insurance contributed $5000.00. I am going to be wearing the hearing aids 16 hours a day, every day of the the rest of my life.  Some quick number crunching revealed that the difference between adequate and the premium hearing aids is about $1 a day over the expected life of the hearing aids. It's worth it to me.

Oticon Dual XW link on Oticon web site

Coping with a wide variety of environments  including very noisy loading docks, server rooms lots of time on the phone made the choices a bit tougher.  Blue Tooth is a necessity for me because my Blackberry is my link to customers and FedEx and I use it about 14 hours a day according to my wife.

So Far So Good

The Audiologist at the Austin Diagnostic Center Audiology department has been great. Penny, the Audiologist is very competent, pleasant and very familiar with the hearing aids that she supports. We spent over an hour reviewing my hearing issues what technology is available from the hearing aid manufacturers.

She gets 5 stars from me.

No issues with the insurance company either. FedEx  health insurance pays $5000 of the cost of the hearing aids. I pay the rest, not a bad deal.

What I Hope to Hear Again

The turn indicators in my Subaru.

Little girls talking and laughing.

My friends talking to me across the table.

The Hearing Test

I got my hearing tested on January 13, 2010 for the first time in three years at the  Austin Diagnostic Center Audiology Department.

I wasn't surprised at the results. The difference was that my hearing loss from 500hz to 8000hz was now moderate to severe. How to Read Your Audiogram . My audiogram looks like ski slope all downhill from 500Hz.  This is typical of someone like me who has been exposed to too much loud noise.

Penny, the audiologist recommended seeing an Ear Nose and Throat specialist first. No sweat, 2 days later and another hour spent at Austin Diagnostic Center another confirmation that I needed help with my hearing.

I Have a Hearing Loss

I am a 55 year old American male and one of millions of baby boomers who are hard of hearing. The only difference between me and most of my peers is that I have decided to do something my hearing loss.


1. I constantly misunderstand people when I am talking to face to face and on the Blackberry cell phone. The biggest and sometimes most difficult part of my job at FedEx is communicating with my peers, managers, techs, sales people, and customers.

2. I noticed a few months ago that I had the Blackberry ringer set to LOUD and the volume maxed out and I was unable to clearly understand people I was listening to. I missed calls because I can't hear the phone ring. Blue tooth headsets help but not enough.

3. I know I have a high frequency hearing loss from several years of hearing tests. My hearing has been deteriorating for several years.

4. I constantly ask my wife "What did he/she say" watching TV.

5. Forget about understanding the 17 year old waitress in the restaurant who taking my order and telling me about the special of the day. Especially if she is talking too fast and has an accent. I order from the menu.

6. I realized that I am opting out of conversations at social events because I can't hear.

7. My hearing problems result in a lot of misunderstandings with my wife.  Okay, they were pointless arguments for which I was responsible.

8. My Tinnitus is getting worse. I can't remember when I haven't had ringing in my ears. The last couple of years it has gotten so loud that it wakes me up. The Ear Nose and Throat specialist told me that it's my body compensating for the lack of auditory input in the frequency ranges I can no longer hear. The hearing aids won't make it go away but hopefully make less bothersome.

Tinnitus Article