Rampant Hearing Loss Problem
There are 48 million Americans suffering from hearing loss and over half of the people 75 years of age are hearing impaired. Nearly 1 in 4 Canadians report hearing problems as well. What happens when your hearing problem goes beyond the most powerful aid on the market?
My wonderful wife, Irma, was born with otosclerosis. This is a hereditary disease that causes the cartilage to continue to grow. Of course there is a more technical description here.
It didn’t really affect her hearing until shortly after she turned 25, when she did start having hearing issues. She decided to have her hearing checked and found out that she was in need of one of the hearing impaired products. This was in the summer of 1960 and the test was a very simple one. She found the aid to be a help and wore it for a few years. Gradually that culprit, the cartilage, just kept on growing. A few years later she had to have some retesting and the result was that she needed a new hearing aid. The audiologist found that her left ear had better hearing than the right ear. We changed over the aid from the left ear and set it up for the right and she was able to hear better with both aids activated.
This System Worked for a few Years.
In 2007 we again bought the best hearing aid on the market for her good left ear. Later that year we were on a visit to Bullhead City in Arizona for a month. One day we decided to go over to Las Vegas for a few days. The city was packed as there was an all-star basketball game taking place and people were everywhere. When we arrived at our hotel for the night we were really tired and hit the sack early.
Irma Completely Lost Her Hearing!
Morning came and when Irma awoke, she couldn’t hear — she was stone deaf! Suddenly, we could not communicate. She could talk but she had a tough time controlling her volume as she couldn’t hear herself. We drove back to Bullhead City in silence. The problem persisted and I had to use a writing pad for the rest of our visit. We flew back home and immediately contacted our audiologist. He set up an appointment with an ENT who told us we could have an MRI done to try to determine what was happening and would take a month. We decided to go over the US border to Buffalo and get it done the next day. By this time she was regaining some of her hearing. The doctor suspected an inner ear virus after he had the results of the MRI. Again, we sat with our audiologist and discussed the various hearing impaired products and solutions for the deaf that we could consider. She set up an appointment with another doctor who suggested she was a good candidate for a Cochlear implant.
Cochlear Implant Candidate
He arranged for us to meet a lady who had cochlear implants done to both ears. She had her first one done free of charge and had paid for the second one herself at a cost of $30,000. She explained what it was like to hear again digitally, and told us how she learned to hear by using the talking books from the library. We were then given a date for the operation and it wasn’t long before we were ready to go.
On the morning of the appointed time for the operation, the doctor informed us of another one of the hearing impaired products that we might consider. There are many options for treatment of deafness to consider. In this procedure he could go in through her ear and drill a small hole in one of the three tiny bones that make up part of the hearing system. Then, he would insert a prosthesis in the hole. It was made up of two parts. A small plastic tube would be set into the bone and a tiny piece of titanium would be the vibrator. He advised us that if that didn’t work he could then install the cochlear implant.
We opted for the prosthesis as it sounded to be the lesser of the two evils.
After the operation, the doctor told us it was successful and to come back in a week to have the sutures removed. Once that was done, he told us that Irma now had 80% voice recognition.
Hindsight is Always 20/20
In hindsight, Irma should have had the cochlear plant because as it turned out, her hearing was pretty good for a year or so but it soon began to go downhill once again.
We moved to the Vancouver area eight years ago and soon we were meeting up with doctors once again to see what could be done. Unfortunately, because Irma is profoundly deaf in her right ear, the doctor was very afraid that if anything went wrong during another operation she could be totally deaf permanently. So, we have accepted that and life goes on.
I don’t know when I heard about the Loop. Possibly it was when I was researching hearing impaired products and solutions on the internet. Then, I read about a gent who had a blog online and he talked about it there. I sent him a note and he kindly called me. This gent was well educated and holds two PhDs. He is profoundly deaf but spent as much time with me as he could so that I understood just how the loop works.
How The Loop Works
People with poor hearing use hearing aids to increase the volume of sound entering the ear. Unfortunately, once the hearing loss becomes severe, the ability of the aid to produce good hearing is impaired. It is simply pumping volume but, in Irma’s case, the quality of the volume was just not good enough.
We Needed to Change to Digital Sound.
Digital audio is a technology that can be used for sound recording and reproduction using audio signals that have been encoded in digital form. To make this short, we hear in analog sound. With the loop system, analog sound is sent through a microphone to a converter which converts the sound to digital and sends this sound through a thin wire. If a person using a hearing aid equipped with a T-coil is anywhere inside the loop, or within about four feet or so of the outside of the loop, they will be able to hear clearly. The loop of wire is connected to the converter and then placed around a room and connected to the converter to form a loop. The converter can be connected to a TV or sound system. A microphone can be connected to the converter as well. The converter can be plugged in to a wall receptacle and it is ready to go.
How Irma and I Use This System.
Irma and I enjoy watching television and also like to talk while doing so. I will sit where I normally sit, and I place the microphone on my shirt pocket flap. We turn the TV on as well as the converter and Irma pushes a small button on her hearing aid to activate the T-coil installed in her hearing aid. When I say something she will hear it perfectly and she also hears the TV perfectly. There is a little problem in this as both the TV and I will be transmitted at the same time. We get around that by stopping the TV while I talk for a moment. Our TV system allows us to pause the program to do this.
The beauty of the system is that as long as Irma is within the area of the loop she will hear clearly. She can hear the sound of the TV from anywhere in the room and we can communicate clearly anywhere in the loop at a quiet, normal tone.
Another advantage of the loop system is that the volume of the TV can be turned down to the lowest setting while Irma can listen to the program and I can be using the computer or doing a crossword puzzle.
www.alds.com is a dealer with a vast array of hearing impaired products and they supply the world.
A couple of years ago we purchased a wireless headset and this worked very well. That too operates on the digital system. This system works well but Irma would be wearing the headset and every so often the signal would wander off and she would need to try different settings to clear the signal. It worked but was a pain you know where.
Another of the hearing impaired products is a pocket amplifier. This has an attached microphone and a headset. This would be used by two people sitting next to each other on a sofa or in the car and is battery operated. Irma tried it but the headphone caused feedback.
This is a good system for small groups to use. For instance, a couple want to meet up with a realtor or auto dealer in an office. Place this machine on the desk and it transmits the voices to the T-coil in the hearing aid. There is no need for the hearing impaired person to be missing out on the conversation.
HP AC151 Bedside Fire Alarm & Clock
Because of Irma’s level of deafness I have always had in mind the question, “What if I am not home and a fire occurs?” She cannot hear anything without her hearing aids on. If I were home, I would have no problem as my hearing is perfect. There will come a day when this may happen.
This bedside alarm is for people who remove their hearing aids at night and live alone or in case everyone is sleeping without their aids on.
The clock is Activated by the Fire Alarm.
It is like a sentry waiting for the alarm signal. When an alarm goes off, it is transmitted to the clock and the clock lights up very brightly and produces a very loud alarm with a baritone voice saying, “FIRE, GET OUT!” A bed shaker goes off vibrating under the pillow.
The clock is plugged in to the wall receptacle and it also has a backup battery good for seven days if the power goes off.
These hearing impaired products and solutions for the deaf are available from www.aids.com. I should mention that I am not an affiliate of this company but give this information to you as I feel it is important to know.
Here is a related article on Hearing Loss.