Beck: Mr. Crosby, it's a pleasure to meet with you again. At last year's Starkey Hearing Foundation Gala, you brought the house down quite a few times, and I am still stealing some of your lines from that event. Thanks for your time today!
Crosby: Thanks Dr. Beck. Nice to see you again and it's a pleasure to host the Starkey Hearing Foundation Gala, it's an honor to work with Tani and Bill Austin. They do so many wonderful things for hearing impaired children around the world. It really is special to be here again.
Beck: Would you briefly review the origin of your hearing loss, and your experience with hearing aids?
Crosby: As you probably recall doctor, my hearing loss was essentially due to noise exposure during my military service. I was on an anti-submarine sub-chaser in WWII, and we had lots of depth charges going off all around us. There were plenty of explosions, and they were loud! I guess I was just more susceptible to hearing loss than some of the other guys, but the hearing loss came on slowly starting at that time, and it just got worse and worse.
Beck: You mentioned that you may have been more susceptible to hearing loss than others, and that's certainly an issue. In fact, we can have two people with the exact same noise exposure over a period of time, and one of them may demonstrate terrific hearing loss, and the other may have no ill effect at all. So you're right, genetics and individual susceptibility is an issue, along with the loudness of the sound, duration of the exposure and other factors too. But please, go on.
Crosby: When my time was up, I was discharged, and it was a regular discharge, not a medical discharge, and I didn't realize my hearing had gone bad. Pretty soon after getting back home, my mom actually noticed that my hearing was not very good, and she's the one that took me to the doctor. I was given hearing aids at that point, but I was a kid, and I really didn't want to wear them. I can remember thinking it was a terrible handicap and I didn't want everyone to see the hearing aids. But then pretty quickly, I started to realize that I was missing lots of conversation and so forth, and I started to wear them regularly. And really, they've never been a detriment or a problem for me, not to any extent. Hearing aids didn't cause any problem with my social life, my career, no problem at all, and I've been wearing them for a long time. As a matter of fact, once I became an entertainer and started working on television, I was probably the first performer to talk about hearing problems on the air.
Beck: If memory serves, you brought hearing loss into the limelight on many talk shows back in the 1960s and 1970s.Merv Griffin, Dinah Shore, Mike Douglas and Johnny Carson.
Crosby: You have a good memory - Yes. I spoke about hearing loss and hearing aids on their shows, and I'm proud of that. When people have hearing loss, I think they often take that burden and pass it on to their friends and family, and we make them scream and yell at us so we can hear! But I think it's better to take responsibility and wear hearing aids!
Beck: I think you're right. Do you have a favorite story about those shows? Perhaps one story that shines above the others?
Crosby: Well there are so many favorites. We got literally thousands of letters from viewers who were so happy this was being brought into their living rooms. As a result of those interviews on the TV shows, so many people got their hearing checked and bought hearing aids. It was just fantastic. But yes - my favorite was a time with Johnny Carson, millions and millions of viewers, and Johnny asked me Norm, how are the new hearing aids? And I said Oh they're fantastic, they have high decibel-low income radiated frequency response and they have positive and negative diodes and they're really fantastic. And then Johnny would ask What kind are they? I answered It's a quarter to nine.
Beck: When you think about that event, talking about hearing loss and hearing aids on TV, some 40 years ago, that is remarkable on many levels.
Crosby: I think the most important thing was that we had fun with it, but we never made fun of it! It was all from a positive perspective, the reaction was incredible and it did a lot of good.
Beck: I recall seeing your hearing test last year and I remember you have a profound hearing loss in both ears. For the readers not familiar with the term profound with regard to hearing loss, it means your hearing loss is frankly, in the most significant category. The categories are normal, mild, moderate, severe and profound. Given that, it's shocking how well you do in one-on-one conversations.
Crosby: Thanks, I think! You know attitude makes all the difference, and of course another issue is the hearing aids. Bill Austin has really taken good care of me. I couldn't get by without Starkey or Bill. When I'm on stage, I can hear everything I need to hear, the music cues, the other performers, everything.
Beck: Have you always worn behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids?
Crosby: No, I used to wear the old body aid which I wore in my pocket, and it had wires going up to my ear. Bill said he thought he could help me and fit me with the behind-the-ear units, and he was right! It was just an amazing difference. So after that, we became friends, and it's been fantastic ever since.
Beck: What year was it that you started wearing BTEs?
Crosby: Let' see, Teddy Roosevelt was president from 1901.well, let's just say it's been a long time! But as far as how they look, and wearing smaller ones, well, smaller is fine, but I don't even care how they look. I wear them on television and I wear them everywhere, all the time. But it's crazy, if you need hearing aids, you should be wearing hearing aids, and if you get a good fitting, even with behind-the-ear hearing aids, they're cosmetically invisible to most people. They're hard to see, they're wonderful, and there's no reason in the world why people who need them shouldn't wear them!
Beck: I think you also had something to do with Frank Sinatra getting hearing aids?
Crosby: Well, maybe a little. Barbara Sinatra called me and said Frank was having difficulty hearing. We were all good friends, and of course, no one said no to Frank! Bill Austin happened to be in L.A. and he went to Sinatra's house and took his impressions, and he had the hearing aids made that night at the Starkey facility in Anaheim, and the next day he delivered them to Frank.
Barbara called me and said Frank was ecstatic, he was listening to records and was enjoying them so much - it was a delight. But then over the long haul, I'm not sure he wore them in more difficult situations. And you know, that happens to a lot of people. Sometimes they just don't realize they have to learn how to use hearing aids in different environments. You know, they first wear them in the office or at home and they do fine, but as more challenging situations arise, they need to learn to work with the hearing aids, and put in the time to learn, and it does take time. Sometimes, even though the audiologist tells the patient what to expect, everyone wants a quick fix, or a miracle cure, and it's just not that easy. You have to work at it and it takes time.
Beck: Very well said. How do you do on the telephone?
Crosby: I do terrific on the phone. I don't even use the telephone switch. I just put the telephone right up to my ear and I can hear fine. I even use my BTEs with the cell phone. I hear great on the phone, no problem at all.
Beck: Before I let you run, can I get a photo or two of you showing the hearing aids and the cell phone?
Beck: Thanks for your time Mr. Crosby. It's a pleasure spending time with you, and thanks for all you do to help promote better hearing!
Crosby: My pleasure Dr. Beck. See you again next year at the 4th Annual Starkey Hearing Foundation Gala.