An Audiologist's Personal Journey: Living Through the Hearing Aid Experience

An Audiologist's Personal Journey: Living Through the Hearing Aid Experience

I've got quite the story to share with you – it's about my unexpected dive into the world my patients live in daily. One morning, following a cold, I woke up with a plugged feeling in my ears, almost as if they were stuffed with cotton. No matter how much I tried, I could not get my ears to pop to equalize the pressure. Tympanometry testing at my office confirmed I had bilateral middle ear effusion – fancy talk for fluid trapped behind my eardrums.

Suddenly, I was missing out on life's little sounds – the clickety-clack of my keyboard, the swish of my clothes, even the soft shuffle of my feet on the floor. It was like being submerged in a pool, sounds muffled and distant. It was very disorienting; I felt like I was underwater, and it was hard to focus on even small tasks. 

Embracing the World of Hearing Aids 

The optimist within me viewed this as an opportunity to immerse myself fully in my patients' journeys and understand firsthand the impact of wearing hearing aids. As luck would have it, a leading manufacturer had recently launched a cutting-edge hearing aid model (the Oticon Intent), which we had just received in our inventory the day before. Without hesitation, I selected a pair and customized them to suit my hearing needs and ear shape, utilizing precise real-ear verification measurements (it was finally my moment to hear the carrot story!).

The moment they were on, it was like someone had turned the volume knob on life back up. I could hear all those tiny noises again, crystal clear and oh-so-familiar. Even the rustle of my hair against the microphones became a sound I welcomed. I’m amazed at how far hearing aids have come over the years in terms of a more natural sound quality. Ten years ago, when I was fitting patients with new hearing aids, I would have to warn them that everything would sound tinny and amplified, and they would have to learn to get used to it. But with this new product, there was none of that! Everything was natural and clear.  

Hearing my colleagues' voices without straining was a delight – Denise's voice was just as warm and melodic as I remembered. These weren't the old-school hearing aids that made everything sound metallic and artificial. Nope, these were the real deal – natural, crisp, just perfect... until I heard my voice, that is.

That was an experience! My voice boomed inside my head, echoing like I was speaking into a barrel. At first, I avoided talking altogether, but duty called, and before I knew it, I was chatting away with a patient, my booming voice forgotten.

By the end of the day, my brain had worked its magic, tuning out the sound of my voice just like it tunes out the hum of a refrigerator or the buzz of traffic. It's incredible how adaptable our brains are, isn't it? When our brain knows what a sound is and knows that it’s not essential, we can tune it out. This is called the process of habituation, which is also how we treat tinnitus. My voice became normal, and I did not think about it again. 

Newfound Empathy & Understanding 

That evening, at a friend’s birthday party, I was surrounded by 15 friends at a small booth. I immediately felt empathy for every hearing aid user I have worked with! A cacophony of clattering noises flooded my nervous system, and I could barely think. I instinctively reached for my hearing aids to turn them down. Once seated, I whipped out my iPhone and fiddled with the app settings until I found a program that helped cut through the noise.

The Oticon hearing aids are built with gyroscopes and accelerometers, which give them a better 3D picture of what is going on around the user and the ability to detect if the user is walking, standing, staring straight ahead, etc. This smart technology enables the device to focus on the same person the user is focusing on. It was a game-changer! I could follow chats across the table while my friends with perfect hearing asked for repeats. How's that for impressive?

Of course, every gadget comes with its hiccups. The next day, my left hearing aid decided it didn't want to play nice with the app. After trying every trick in the book, I realized that sometimes, suitable old-fashioned push buttons are your best friend. Bluetooth might be nifty, but it can be finicky. However, I learned some troubleshooting techniques I cannot wait to share with my patients. 

A week in, and I'm smitten with these little wonders. They've pulled me out of my underwater silence and splashed my world with vibrant sound. One of my patients once said that getting hearing aids was like going from sepia to full color – and now I get it.

This whole adventure has been eye-opening (or should I say ear-opening?). It's given me a newfound appreciation for what my patients go through and a deeper understanding of the power of hearing aids. Our brains are truly remarkable, aren't they?

So, here I am, soaking up every decibel of this experience while it lasts and sharing it all with you. If you ever find yourself curious about the world of hearing aids or just want to chat about the marvels of our auditory system, you know where to find me!

Interested in learning more? Attend one of our regular hearing solution events to learn more about our unique approach to hearing loss or give us a call at 916-646-2471.

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