What does better hearing sound like?

The internet has a number of excellent hearing loss simulators. If you have access to a computer with the internet you might visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbBZjT7nuoA

In a practical reality these simulators are for people who love someone with hearing loss to help them understand what their family member or friend is experiencing. If a person has hearing loss the online simulators will be very difficult to hear as the changes take place in the presentation. Because of that, I am attempting to describe not what loss sounds like but what better hearing actually sounds like. Hearing loss is by definition fairly easy to understand. “You can’t recreate hearing loss simply by plugging your ears. A person with normal hearing can hear quiet, medium and loud sounds that vary from low pitch to high pitch with amazing clarity and definition. When you have hearing loss, you often lose higher pitched sounds, like the sound of women’s and children’s voices or consonants like T, S and F. Even though you still may be able to hear strong vowel sounds such as A, E and I, speech becomes harder to comprehend.” (Starkey.com)

As I test patients I have some tried and true examples to compare bad hearing to better hearing. After the test to gain the data needed to properly program digital hearing aids to demonstrate on them, in addition to having their family members speak to them from about ten feet away with and without the hearing aids, I crumple a sheet of paper right in front of them, first without the hearing aids then with them. This dramatically shows the crispness of sound they are missing and could enjoy. I also rattle keys and open and close an office door I leave squeaky on purpose. These simple steps really show someone sitting in a dispenser’s practice what better hearing sounds like. Because most of you are not sitting in such a practice, I want to try to verbally describe what better hearing sounds like. To do so, I will describe my own better hearing after wearing hearing aids four years. Without my hearing aids on, my family’s voices sound farther away than normal. My better hearing brings those voices back closer in range like I would expect them to be. Without my hearing aids on, the dialogue on TV makes sounds so I know the TV is on, but with my aids, better hearing brings a distinct understanding to what is actually being said.

Nature sounds are the most starting difference for me. Without the aids, I cannot hear the crickets and peepers during the summer months and when I sit on our back porch to watch the various birds coming and going from our feeder, I cannot hear them. When my aids are in, I have all of these nature sounds restored. Without the aids, just about everything is mumble jumble or not even there. With my aids, clarity of life is restored.

In most cases, hearing loss happens so gradually that we get used to having our audio or sound life not providing what life around us is actually like. Any fine hearing professional in our area would be happy to demonstrate that difference to you. Ultimately, better hearing is best understood when you actually experience it.

If you have the symptoms of hearing loss let a professional help you find out why. The hearing professional will help you sort out the models, technology level to meet your need, your budget, and answer your hearing need questions.

Happy New Year!

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Jeffrey L. Bayliff, NBC-HIS, is owner of Hear the Birds Hearing Aid Center, Lock Haven.

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