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A New Twist in Sound Clarity

Dealing with hearing loss is something you constantly adjust to throughout your lifetime. At the age of two, I was diagnosed with hearing loss. My mother noticed that my language acquisition was not age appropriate compared to others. My mom spoke to my aunt who had a good friend that was a speech pathologist. After observing me in play with my brothers and cousins, the speech pathologist recommended that my mother take me to an audiologist to have my hearing tested. After a series of tests, the audiologist met with my mother and reviewed my audiologic results. It was at this time that I was given the diagnosis, bilateral sloping moderate to severe hearing loss. The reality of the situation took a while to settle in with my mother. She was in shock and could not understand how this could have happened. She searched for an explanation, but nothing was apparent. She had an uncomplicated pregnancy and there was no history of hearing loss in my family. The cause of my hearing loss was, and still is, unknown. My mother knew that action had to be taken. My hearing loss was sensorineural and my inner ear was damaged. After consulting with an otolaryngologist, and based upon my audiologists recommendations, I acquired for two hearing aids. At the age of two, my world completely changed.

We quickly discovered the complexities of hearing loss, and we found it wasnt as easy as putting on a pair of eyeglasses to correct eyesight! It was, and is, a process that requires constant and various forms of support. Simply putting on a pair of hearing aids is not a cure for hearing loss. Although hearing aids amplify sounds in the environment, they dont help you compensate for the multiple difficulties that result from hearing loss. For many years I was almost entirely dependent on the support from therapists, parents and teachers. From the day I received my hearing aids, I began receiving aural rehabilitation. My mother took me to speech therapy three days a week. I learned how to articulate. Even with hearing aids, which I wore all the time, I remembered I could not hear myself say certain sounds. I had to be specifically trained to make sounds that came naturally to others. After many years of watching my speech therapist, I learned to speechread. Speechreading has benefited me far more than I could have imagined. This seemingly simple skill has enabled me to read peoples lips to understand conversations and it is one of the most valuable survival skills I use to participate in the hearing world.

As I began school, new complexities of hearing loss appeared as academic and social demands began to occur. The hearing aids I wore as a little girl were quite visible to others. People would stare, or look at me differently. At a time when everyone was trying to fit in, I thought I stuck out like a sore thumb. I was constantly trying to find clever ways to hide my hearing aids.

At one point, I broke my hearing aid so it could be sent away for repair. It didnt change the fact that other children could not understand why I could not hear like they did. At times, I couldnt understand it either. There were many days where the boys at school would taunt me by obnoxiously chanting, What? Huh? What did you say? But as I got older and more comfortable with myself, making new friends got easier for me. Now, every time I meet someone new, I make an effort to be upfront and honest about my hearing loss. I find that the more a person knows about my situation, the more intrigued they are by it. Communicating with friends and family about my difficulties creates less judgment and more understanding.

In addition to social difficulties, Ive faced many academic challenges as well. To compensate for hearing loss, I had to actively concentrate and focus more intensely on simply hearing sounds. This made school exhausting for me. I found it was extremely important for me to focus 100% at all times. Many times I would get so tired from listening that I would miss important information that others heard with ease. To truly understand what I heard, I had to rely on the use of a notetaker throughout high school and college. The notetaker would write notes for me while I listened independently to my teachers. I also had an itinerant teacher that supported me in understanding complex materials. Throughout my grade school and high school years, my itinerant teacher would pull me out of study hall two or three times a week to help me comprehend the overwhelming amount of information I faced during class. Over the years, she helped me develop unique visual learning strategies that differed from my hearing classmates.

There have been simple techniques Ive picked up to help me cope with hearing loss. Since I have a significant loss, Ive learned the importance of positioning myself maximally when interacting with others. If a person is facing away from me, I know I will have a difficult time understanding their conversation. I constantly move myself into positions that enable me to see a persons face and their gestures to communicate with them effectively. I also learned socially appropriate ways to let others know when they have to move, for me to understand them. I have learned the art of navigating through our noisy world to cut out as much background noise as possible. When I enter a restaurant or go to a party, one of the first things I do is search for the corners and areas of the room with the least background noise.

Because of the difficulties Ive faced throughout my life, my mother and I have pursued careers in the industry that has had the most profound impact on us, the hearing aid industry. In many ways, my life has been defined and characterized by the changes and advances in this industry. The support Ive received from friends, family, and therapists would be meaningless without the fundamental ability to hear sounds.

When I was first fit with hearing aids at the age of two, I received conventional, standard Behind-The- Ear (BTE) hearing aids. These devices amplified all sounds and noises in my environment. There were many times that I would become frustrated because I was unable to distinguish voices above background noise. Technology has amazed me with advances made since this time.

At the age of sixteen, it was time for me to get new hearing aids. By that time, my hearing loss had increased to moderately-severe to profound sloping sensorineural hearing loss. I switched from conventional hearing aids to programmable hearing aids. What a difference that made for me! It was the first hearing aid I used that was able to eliminate some of the background noise. I had a remote control with a button that reduced background noise and enabled me to focus on speech. It helped me enormously. I was able to understand what my friends and family were saying at a restaurant. It made life a little easier for me.

I currently work in an audiology office. Many individuals are fit with hearing aids that enable them to take control over their difficult listening situations. Each day, I see individuals walk out of our office experiencing life on an entirely different level. Little did I realize that my life was going to significantly change as well, as a result of working with hearing aids.

One beautiful Friday afternoon, our office received a visit from an AVR Sonovations representative. My audiologist told me she wanted me to personally experience the sound quality of the AVR Sonovations new product, the Impact XP13 Behind-The-Ear hearing aids. I didnt hesitate. I followed the representative into the exam room and I sat patiently as she programmed the new cutting edge hearing aids.

The experience was incredible. I was in shock! The sound quality of the hearing aids was amazing and I could hear the consonants s, ch, and sh for the first time in my life! Shortly after the hearing aids were programmed, the representative covered her mouth and pronounced individual consonant sounds for me. I was able to mimic some sounds back to her. However, there were some sounds I could not identify. During this initial period, I tried forming my mouth to find those sounds by listening to myself. I was not aware of these sounds previously - they were entirely new to me. Years and years of speech therapy trained me to articulate sounds that now came easily to me.

As I walked out of the exam room that day, everything changed. My interaction with others felt entirely different to me. The clarity of speech was wonderful. I began trying to imitate the new sounds I was able to hear. I was told that in time, my speech would experience improvement. There were even slight changes that occurred within a matter of minutes.

Not only did speech sound beautiful to me, but I experienced many things Id been missing over the years. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the clicking of a ball point pen (on and off) made a sound. When I walked out of my office later that evening, I realized the intense noise traffic creates. I literally stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and listened to the noises of the cars driving by. We live in a noisy world! As I got into my car and turned on the ignition, the car radio sounded distorted. I turned off my radio because music was overwhelming for me. I could not identify all the sounds at that point, but as time went on, I gave my brain the time to adjust to the clarity of music. Today, the sounds have come together and music sounds beautiful to me.

Another new experience I had that first evening happened when I was lying down on my bed in my quiet room. Out of the blue, I heard a click, click, click that I never heard before. I wondered, What is that noise? Feeling confused, I called my roommate downstairs and told her I was hearing weird noises that came and went. My roommate smiled and told me it was the sound of the dogs nails as he walked across the wooden floor!

Later that evening, I went downstairs to get a glass of water. As I turned my faucet on, the intensity of water sounded unlike anything Id ever heard. It was amazing. I turned the water on and off several times because I was in awe of the overwhelming, yet peaceful sound it made. For so many years, I had missed simple things like that. I felt a mixture of embarrassment, surprise, and gratitude when I think of the little sounds I missed my entire life, which I can now fully enjoy.

I have been wearing my new Sonovation hearing aids for nine months and my brain is still adjusting to sounds and experiences that have been missing from my life. Because of these hearing aids, life has become a more colorful place in which to live. I truly understand the clarity of speech better today than I ever did. For the first time, I am able to monitor my own speech because I can hear myself articulate.

Technology is getting better and better each day. I was recently given the opportunity to hook up an FM system to my Sonovations hearing aids. What a wonderful improvement to understanding speech in noise! I am eagerly looking forward to what is going to happen next.

Throughout my experience, I have learned, I must be patient, assertive and take the time to be an advocate for myself and others. Every day I find ways to remind co-workers, acquaintances, family and friends about my hearing loss and the abilities that are sometimes taken for granted in our world.

Im constantly in the process of discovering new and unique techniques to help me change my own quality of life. I feel fortunate for the support I have received from my audiologists, teachers, friends, and family. Without them, I would be unable to benefit from the amazing advances that technology has afforded me.

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Thanks to my Audiologist, Dr. Linda S. Remensnyder, Hearing Associates, P.C. Libertyville, IL. and to Wendy Davis, AVR Sonovations Representative.


Visit www.sonovation.com for more information about Sonovation hearing aids.

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