Managing with Technology
Peter has a bilateral hearing loss. He also has otosclerosis, for which he had a successful stapedectomy in his left ear in 1972 (his mother also had otosclerosis and bilateral stapedectomies). The hearing in his left ear is now worse than his right; the sound in his left ear is more distorted. He wears two behind the ear (BTE) hearing aids. This is his third set of hearing aids in about 15 years. Has also uses a remote device with blue tooth connectivity. He is in his sixties and is active and working.
Peter shared his story with Marg Anderson, ezisound's director of clincal outcomes and learning.
What does ‘living well with hearing loss’ mean to you?
It means being able to understand all conversations, and manage in background noise - ie. put up with it, without annoying the life out of me. I’d like to be able to listen to music as it was written, not with four or five frequencies missing. For example, when I listen to Mozart’s flute and harp concerto, I miss the flute section. It sounds like the flute is two blocks from the orchestra. I heard Mozart’s symphonies played on authentic instruments once. Other people said how wonderful it sounded. I couldn’t tell the difference.
You said the sound is more distorted in your left ear. Have you tried turning off your left aid and only listening with your right?
No, never thought of doing that.
Have you tried listening to music through headphones?
Yes, but the upper frequency range disappears. My present hearing aids have a music setting. It pushes up the bass, but it can’t pull the range of frequencies I need to hear. It’s like there are gaps, the sound is striated.
Do you tell people you have a hearing loss?
I avoid it, but will tell them if I can’t understand them. I have to then. I can’t stand it when people whisper to me. When I’m running a training session, participants will come up to me and whisper and I can’t hear them. I have to take them out of the room and ask them to repeat it.
You said the hearing aids you got three years ago are the best ones you’ve had so far. What difference did your new hearing aids make?
The remote blue tooth makes answering my mobile phone dead easy. The aids provide far better noise suppression. I can walk down a busy road without having my head blown off. My old hearing aids used to catch me out if a bus went past. They are slightly better for music. I have four programs - 1 is omni-directional, 2 is directional, 3 for music where I can plug directly into my blue tooth remote (great on a plane), and 4 is "T".
How do you manage hearing people?
One to one conversation is no problem, as the hearing aids compensate well for my hearing loss. Where aids don’t compensate is when there is a lot of extra noise, such as music. I find it very hard to hear voices then. I can switch on the directional microphone, and this helps when the noise is behind or beside me, but not when it’s in front.
Tell me more about what it’s like for you in noise and group situations.
I have to concentrate very hard on what the person is saying, and then when someone else in the group speaks, I have to switch my concentration onto them. After a while it gets too hard and then I shut up and stop listening. I find it frustrating and isolating, and I get embarrassed.
How do you manage in the workplace?
I have a reputation for being loud - everyone can hear my telephone conversations across the office. I bought an additional blue tooth device so I could use it with the landline phone, but it takes too long to stream in, so sometimes it’s quicker and easier to use the speaker phone, but then eveyone hears my conversation and some callers do not like being on speaker. So I tend to use my mobile.
How do you feel about being told you’re loud?
Embarrassed. I get annoyed when Ros my wife tells me to shhh. (Peter's wife Ros also also shared her story with ezisound.
I realised after the interview that I had focused on Peter’s challenges, not on the topic ‘what does living well with hearing loss mean to you?’ I sent him an email and this is his reply.
Living well with hearing loss is living with seamless tools to aid my hearing. I’m not asking for perfect hearing, but just having a tool which is constant and seamless so I can know my limits and know those limits will not change and hence I can manage them.
Listening to music is an area where I can make allowances, provided I know those allowance and they will be reasonably constant. Now I have multiple settings on my aids, I find myself constantly fiddling with them to get the maximum benefit, which distracts from the sound I am listening to. Or in a crowd, I fiddle with the aid to get the best result and get frustrated when I can’t achieve it.
Living well with hearing loss means knowing my limits, knowing those limits will not change, and having management strategies to cope. Strategies include knowing where to sit or face, how to make automatic telephone adjustments, remembering to keep a notebook in my pocket so when people try to whisper to I have an alternative.
Marg Anderson, ezisound®’s director of clinical outcomes and learning. Marg has a hearing impaired partner and is acutely aware of the challenges of hearing loss – not only for the person with the impairment, but for their partners as well.
Peter's wife Ros also spoke to Marg about what it's like living with a partner with hearing loss, and what you can do to help.
Do you have a story to share about hearing loss?