Continuing my series of blogs containing articles I have written about hearing aids. This one is from 2007, which explains why 2008 is referred to in the future tense. Below is how the article appeared.
In the noisy and fast-paced city life of today even mild hearing loss could mean you are missing out unnecessarily on all sorts of interactions with other people from closest family to successful first impressions with prospective employers or a new romantic relationship.
The most surprising effect on my life from wearing hearing aids that allow me to hear normal speech going on around me without straining or lip reading is that I recognise myself if I see my reflection when out socialising as previously my face was screwed up in concentration and anticipation which made me look different and strange.
Of course finding out about hearing aids requires a visit to a hearing aid audiologist and these are not to be confused with the hearing aid salesmen who earned the hearing aid industry such a bad reputation for exploiting vulnerable people in their own homes. Hearing aid audiologists today are highly trained with a vast experience of human beings with varying degrees of hearing loss.
I interviewed three top London hearing aid audiologists: Pamela George at Hidden Hearing’s Baker Street outlet; Adam Shulberg from Cubex on New Cavendish Street, and Alan Aaronson, an independent with his hearing centre on Hoop Lane, Golders Green, who was responsible for fitting my life changing hearing aid in 1999.
Pamela George says that build up of wax in the ear can account for 10 decibels of lost hearing so seeing your GP or an ear nose throat (ENT) specialist is a useful first port of call. However the quickest way to find out if hearing aids can benefit you is to book a free hearing test appointment with Alan Aaronson in Golders Green, Hidden Hearing in Baker Street or Cubex in New Cavendish Street as Adam Shulberg says: “A hearing aid is only as good as the dispenser who fits it.”
Being able to hear well in different social and environmental settings as well as protecting your ears from damaging noise trauma are two benefits that hearing technology can provide. I am wearing a pair of hearing aids and my right ear is taking longer to get used to it as it produces more defensive wax as I haven’t worn one in my right ear before whereas my left ear took to the new aid immediately. The sound I am getting is extremely welcome though. Alan Aaronson says: “it takes from a few minutes, to a few weeks – depends on the type of hearing loss, the previous experience with an aid (or not), the type of aid, the way the aid has been programmed, venting and how adaptive to change the user is”.
Adam Shulberg says: “This varies depending on the individual. People who have never worn a hearing instrument before will take longer to adjust to the new sounds they are hearing and require more counselling; those who are experienced wearers will adapt faster. For new users we recommend wearing the hearing no more than a couple of hours a day initially and in quiet environments only, increasing by an hour each day. Within a week they are usually ready to experience the outside world. This will take more getting used to and again the level of technology will often determine how successful they cope with everyday situations.”
Pamela George describes her experience when a client tries hearing aids and hears through them for the first time: She says: “Your stomach melts. They stop frowning from straining to hear and it looks as if years have just fallen off them. Mr Patel who owns a shop in Liverpool Street brought an elderly Londoner to see me and he said ‘I can hear what you are saying to me’ when I put the hearing aids in and he stopped shouting.”
At the top end of the market there are hearing aids that are either unnoticeable such as Ion by Sonic Innovations which I am currently wearing or those designed to be seen such as Delta hearing aids by Oticon and the Phonak Audéo. Hearing aids such as these can be fitted immediately. Adam says: “long gone are the days when people try to cover up their hearing aids. Now people want to show them off.”
The wait time in the private provision of hearing aids is quick today. Aaronson says it takes a few days if you opt for ‘Express’ or from 7 to 10 days. Adam says: “Depending on the hearing loss, it is often possible to have a hearing aid fitted on the same day. For custom made in the ear models the waiting time is about about a week although 24 hours turnaround service is available at additional cost.”
Hearing aids vary greatly in price and the audiologist’s job is to recommend the best one to suit your lifestyle and hearing loss. I have mild to moderate hearing loss but actual speech was usually drowned out by other sounds which meant I couldn’t hear myself speaking and therefore I spoke very loudly, I asked people to repeat things which impeded the flow of conversation or I just missed out on information being passed around me and was laughed at when I pronounced words as they were written as I hadn’t heard them spoken. The social benefits I immediately received from the hearing aid Alan Aaronson fitted in 1999 were immediate and dramatic and since then I have totally corrected my slurred speech, can enjoy conversations, manage the volume of my voice and even speak and listen well in a room full of people chatting.
In 2008 legislation will be passed which makes it the employers’ responsibility to ensure workers’ hearing is not damaged by exposure to damaging noise in their work. Pamela says lasting damage can be prevented if it caught in time because there is a temporary threshold where the hairs in our ears have bent after exposure to excessively loud noise but they will stand up again. “After continual exposure the hairs responsible for high frequencies break off”. The solution is a sound attenuator can project musicians’ and DJs ears from high frequency hearing loss and tinnitus. Alan says these are: “custom built earplugs with special filters to allow the quality of sound to still penetrate and not get muffled.”
Do companies provide ear care for their employees as part of a benefits package? Adam says: “where there is a legal requirement for hearing impaired critical safety employees to comply with national standards. For example we work closely with many train companies whose guards’ and drivers’ hearing needs to be up to scratch.”
If you think that you would be interested in experiencing what advanced hearing technology is available today then it would be safe to visit Alan Aaronson, Adam Shulberg or Pamela George as these reputable companies are very customer focused and spend a majority of their time fitting, repairing and servicing hearing aids. Alan says: “There are hearing aids in various price brackets from “standard” to “advanced” and I would explain the differences”.