Part One (recorded July 2004)
Beck: Hi JK. Its an honor to meet with you. First, I want to thank you for your service to our country. Would you please tell me a little biographical information before we discuss your hearing and hearing aids?
Switzer: Sure. I was born in Baton Rouge, and I am the only son of an only son. I studied civil engineering at LSU and I accidentally joined the Air Force.
Beck: Thats pretty unusual!
Switzer: Well, yes. I went into the ROTC building to see my dads name on the wall, as he was commissioned in 1941, and the Air Force ROTC recruiter got me. If the Army recruiter had come out of his office first, I wouldve joined the Army, but the USAF got me. I was originally signed up to be a civil engineer in the USAF, but after a couple of weeks in the program I realized they were letting college graduates like me fly jetsand that sounded much more fun and interesting, so I switched and became a T-38 instructor-pilot at Williams Air Force Base just outside of Phoenix.
Beck: Im a little familiar with that planeits a very fast, training jet isnt it?
Switzer: Right. Its a supersonic trainer that we use to train aviators before they go out and fly fighters.
Beck: What did you fly after the T-38?
Switzer: I went to Langley and flew F-15s for a few years, and then I applied for, and was selected to join the Thunderbird Team.
Beck: And thats a two year commitment?
Switzer: Usually it is two years, but I was there 3 years and 8 months. I was very fortunate. I got to fly as the advance pilot and the narrator. I flew at the head of the team everywhere we went and I flew the number 8 airplane (the two-seater) and I also flew the news personalities and the celebrities around. After flying as the advance pilot for two years, I flew the number 5 aircraft as the lead solo for one year. It was an amazing experience and Im grateful for the opportunity.
Beck: What a wonderful experience. And the Thunderbirds fly which aircraft?
Switzer: Those are F-16s.
Beck: How many hours of jet-piloting did you have?
Switzer: 4,200 hours of military flight.
Beck: Thats a lot of hours in the sky, and a lot of noise exposure too!
Switzer: Yes, its quite a bit.
Beck: Did you wear hearing protection?
Switzer: On occasion we did. It depended on the aircraft and the mission. Sometimes in the old T-37s we doubled-up on hearing protection meaning we wore the foam ear plugs and the headsets together.
In the T-38s, we always wore hearing protection on the ground, but we didnt have to double-up, sometimes we just used the little yellow ear plugs. In the air, we usually had sufficient noise attenuation from the flight helmets, so we didnt require additional noise protection. Nonetheless over time, I couldnt fly with hearing protection or I wouldnt hear anything! So after 20 years of flying, my high pitched hearing had deteriorated and I needed some help. The hearing loss was really a problem. I had all sorts of problems in crowded rooms, restaurants, while watching TVthere were lots of situation where the hearing loss really made it difficult for me.
Beck: Thats pretty common from the amount of noise exposure you had. Typically noise exposure causes hearing loss in the 4000 Hz area, but it can certainly occur above or below that. Have you worn hearing aids before?
Switzer: Yes I did. A friend of mine mentioned Bill Austin and Starkey, and Mr. Austin called and said hed like to fit me, so here I am.
Part Two (recorded September 2004)
Beck: Good Morning Sir. Its been a few months since we recorded the notes above, and Id like to find out how youve been doing with the new hearing aids?
Switzer: The new hearing instruments are absolutely incredible. They have made an amazing difference.
Beck: I believe you are wearing the tiniest hearing aidsthe completely-in-the-canals (CICs)?
Switzer: Thats right. These are the 100 percent digital CICs.
Beck: What are the most significant differences between your previous hearing aids, and the ones youre wearing now?
Switzer: The new hearing aids have three modes. I use them for one-on-one normal conversations in program one. Then, when Im in noise, I switch to program twoand its a substantial relief! Most of the background noise slips away and I can attend to the person speaking in a cocktail party or a restaurant. It really is much better. The other thing is that when I wear the news ones, and I do wear them pretty much all day long, if someone drops a spoon in the sink, or theres a sudden noise, I dont jump out of my skinthese really handle the sounds of everyday life much better, and they are amazingly comfortable.
Beck: You mean comfortable with regard to the physical fit or the sound quality?
Switzer: The sound is amazing, but I meant with regard to the physical fit. I put them in my ears in the morning, and then a little while later I forget that Im wearing them.
Beck: Thanks so much for your time and your thoughts on your Starkey digital CICs.
Switzer: Youre welcome Dr. Beck. I am very satisfied with these hearing instruments, and I am pleased to be able to share my observations with your audience.
Part One (recorded July 2004)