My first hearing aid was analog. I told the audiologist who fitted me that it was like hollering down a rain barrel. She was a crusty old soul and basically told me to suck it up and be happy. I remember it was so badly fitted that the top of my ear bled. Thank heavens, she retired, and the person who took over was a dream. My hearing aid was fitted correctly and over time I finally got one of the first digital aids. Wow.
I’ve done behind the ear (BTE), in the ear (ITE) , and bi-cross with a wire running through my hair (not fun and not repeated). I lost the bi-cross set in a snowbank between Fairbanks and Anchorage (I kid you not). I thought I was doing pretty well with my old Phonak until I got my new Phonak Naida. Then the earbud broke and I went back to the old Phonak for a short time and I realized while it might fit a little better over the ear, I never realized how bad the sound was in comparison.
But when I got the old one it was way better than the Siemans I had before and that was way better than the Starkey model – and so on and so forth.
It used to be that a hearing aid was just a microphone and a speaker. Now there is what amounts to a tiny computer either in or behind the ear. It can shut down extremely loud, abrupt noises for folks like me who have a pain reflex to such (although there are times it can’t control it all). It conditions sound, for lack of a better term. Sound coming in at frequencies I can’t hear is somehow transformed into frequencies I CAN hear – sometimes for better or worse – put my grandson behind me in a car and it sounds like Darth Vader is shouting at me. Oy vey!
Someone on a Deaf and HoH attorney’s list shared a NY Times blog by a person who still wore an analog hearing aid and was happy to have the wax encrusted, cracked aid (must be an ITE) fixed. I can only assume she uses it only for environmental noises, because my first aids were awful in terms of all the extraneous noises. The blog (above) talks about the hunt for an affordable hearing aid. It takes folks on a long journey to various retailers including big box stores. And while I’m all for folks shopping (assuming they have the time and the money to drive all over) the fact is that a competent hearing aid center like Audio Hearing Center, the one I go to – sure, I’ll plug them here since the Times article plugs big box vendors – has a very wide variety of hearing aids. They carry all the major brands. I go Phonak because I have Phonak FM and iCom and I don’t want to change to a new brand. There are hearing aids without bells and whistles and one’s that can adapt like crazy – which for me is a godsend. I think the important thing is to get a GOOD audiologist and a GREAT tech. Mine is also an electrical engineer. I have a relationship with my hearing aid vendor and staff, just like a good doctor. You go to a big box store and meet different people all the time. I will stay with Dawn and Joel, thank you.
But back to the point – which is old and new technology. Last night I went to a Buddhist meditation and mind training seminar and had the old aid by mistake. It interpreted some sounds as whistles and others as – I’m not sure what. After a few hours of desperate lip reading I was exhausted. I’d have had to work maybe half as hard if I’d had the right hearing aid.