My Little Blue Boxes: On Ten years of Aided Hearing

So I realized that I very nearly forgot a fairly important milestone. at about this time in 2006, I was finally cajoled, kicking and screaming really, into obtaining these bits of plastic and wire. on which I have become probably more dependent than I am the bodily organs into which they snuggly fit.

Hearing aids. A great invention, but not one I accepted happily at first. I can still recall the oddness of being in the return vehicle home, and listening to the rat-ta-tat of the tires as they met road. And the waterfall that was using the bathroom. The confusing maelstrom of voices as they surged in and out, making demands of me and others that my newly taxed brain simply could not process.

After all of that craziness, can you really blame me for mostly shoving the things into their box and continuing along without them? My audiologist at the Charlotte Speech and Hearing, a wonderful United Way agency that I hope still exists, told me that it would be a slow adjustment process, and so it was.

As with many things in my life, I finally saw the wisdom in fully embracing these new bits of technloogy after one too many an encounter with a neighbor, a soft-talking woman who was trying to get to know me. And once I accepted the need to wear them full-time, the rest as they say was history.

I am still quite appreciative of the good folks at Starkey, the company who had supplied me with the free aids, in conjunction with the state of North Carolina. They hung in there for 5 years, but it soon became clear that the quality was just not good enough for my use anymore, especially as I had started grad school.

So thanks to the good folks at a University of North Carolina clinic, I was upgraded to Phonak Exelia Art aids (in Tar Heel colors naturally). Even these took some getting used to. Initially, they were so loud that I found it hard to function in nearly all social situations.

Paradoxically perhaps, as my hearing deteriorated, I could suddenly make comfortable use of them such that my overall life has and continues to improve. The down side, of course, is that when I remove them at night I am pretty much profoundly deaf. This is also a concern because sometimes these fickle things do fail. I a so thankful, when that occurs, that I can just ask my audiologist usually on the same day for an emergency appointment.

The upside is that, for the most part, I am functional. Of course technology has just changed tremendously in the past 5 years as well. My online grad school attempt means that I can control volume levels, as well as easily participate in discussions on the forums. It remains to be seen, but I’m hoping that this will ultimately lead to much better outcomes.

Hearing aids themselves have gotten better, and more connected, as well. I’m guessing it’s about time for another upgrade, and this time I’ll likely get some kind of bluetooth component. I’ve heard all kinds of good and maybe not-so-good things about how well that works, but it does hold a lot of promise going forward not only for me, but for all of us with similar conditions. So here’s to 10 more years?

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