As a physician over the last 20 years I’ve found that many of my patients treat their healthcare choices as if they are buying a major household appliance. I call it the “refrigerator method’ and to a certain extent I think that is not such a bad approach to take - especially when we are young, basically healthy and just starting out in life. All else being equal, cost and convenience are considerations that all of us just naturally factor in to any decision involving a major expenditure.
However, as we enter middle age many of us will eventually have to face some type of chronic health concern for which the “refrigerator method” will be woefully inadequate. For these problems, the decisions we make are more akin to choosing a spouse than they are to picking out an appliance. This is especially true when we must face hearing loss. Except for buying preplanned funeral arrangements for yourself, nothing signifies your own mortality more than purchasing your first hearing aid. Finding the right “partner” to go through this with, one that you can work with and trust in the years to come is crucial.
Don’t let the fact that a hearing aid seems like an appliance full you. A hearing aid is so much more than a mere appliance such as a refrigerator. You will probably never take your refrigerator to work with you. Nor will you ever bring it with you when you dine at a crowded restaurant or go to the movies. You’d feel foolish lugging around that side by side behemoth in any social situation. Simply put, it would be out of place. But when it comes to your hearing aid, without it you will be the one out of place when you are at work, eat in a crowded restaurant with friends or catch a movie with your spouse. (If you have no idea why, then you can stop reading this. Clearly, your hearing is unimpaired.) If however, you know all about the anxiety of catching half of what your boss said at the meeting, or spent entire evenings smiling and shaking your head “yes” as the person sitting next you at dinner moves their lips but all you hear is the din of the crowd around you, or you no longer enjoy going to the movies because you have lost too many friends by annoying the heck out of them as you constantly ask what was just said on screen – then please read on.
I lost much of my hearing in my right ear to a middle ear infection when I was a child. I tried my first hearing aid when I was 35 years old. I went to a major university for assistance. Sure, I hated the way it itched and slid around in my ear. The tinny sound it offered was more annoying than useful, but I figured I needed to get used to it. It spent three months in my ear. That was 16 years ago. The last time I saw it, Bill Clinton was in the White House and that little electronic wonder was in my sock drawer.
Finally, 16 years had passed along with most of the remaining hearing in my right ear and a good bit in my left. My wife had finally had enough and so we made a deal. I would try hearing aids once more and she would hold off strangling me as I slept long enough to see if the hearing aids were helping. A friend of mine recommended ECHO Hearing Systems and Audiology. At my first visit I was given a first rate hearing exam. I was then engaged in a conversation about what I wanted to accomplish by getting hearing aids. This is a crucial point because while eyeglasses restore your sight to 20/20 vision, hearing aids can never restore your hearing to normal. This is a fact that many of the more commercially oriented outlets and companies often fail to address. What’s gone is gone and can’t be brought back. However, hearing aids don’t just make things louder. If that’s all they did you wouldn’t be much better off with them as you are without them. They adjust and amplify what hearing you have left but in such a way as to achieve greater clarity and comprehension of the sounds around you.
Over the next several months they worked with me to address all of my concerns and to get me through that crucial adjustment period. I discovered that with ECHO you get a working relationship that will be a part of your life in the years to come. This kind of connection with people whose competence and professionalism you trust is important no matter what the service or product involved happens to be. When it involves your health it is vital. When it involves an aspect of your health, the proper care of which restores and enriches just about every human relationship and social interaction you will ever have, it is invaluable. My hearing aids are so comfortable that I often forget that I have them in. Since I was able to use a model that allows for an open fit (the receiver that goes in my ear canal has holes in it to allow in all ambient noise) I have absolutely no tinny sound to contend with like I did with my first hearing aid 16 years ago. I no longer see increasing hearing loss as an inescapable part of aging. Because they allow me to hear better, I don’t associate wearing them with getting older. If anything, they make me feel, and according to my friends and family, act younger. Thanks to Karyn & Beth at ECHO I am now the proud owner of a pair of hearing aids that I wear without fail and that I will not ever leave in my sock drawer to never be seen or heard from again.
Written By: Stephen M. Pickstone, M.D.