Posted on Friday, April 13, 2012

Hearing Aids: Advances over the Years

Family runs on the beach. Learning to cope with hearing loss is a family affair.

In the distant past of hearing aids having, hearing loss could mean wearing indiscreet aids with lots of feedback. Today's hearing aids provide discreet, comfort and advanced features that adjust to a person's environment while storing a users preferences. The amazing advances of hearing aids over the years are perhaps appreciated most by people who have had hearing loss their whole lives and have taken part in this technological evolution. Such was the case with Lisa Wilcox who was diagnosed with hearing loss in kindergarten.

When Lisa Wilcox was in kindergarten her teachers began sending home notes like, "Lisa does not pay attention in class." Knowing her daughter was both bright and eager to learn, her mother took her to a hearing health professional to have her hearing tested. Thus began Lisa's lifelong use of hearing aids, or what she calls her, "hearing aid saga." Her first hearing aid was as Lisa puts it, "a clunky headphone model attached to a non-discreet box on my desk." Her classmates, as is the case with many children who are not introduced to the reasons or difficulties of hearing loss, would saunter past her desk and shout into the microphone. The kids thought this was funny. Lisa, obviously, did not. It would be some time before Lisa's hearing aids would advance enough to allow for discretion and comfort.

Teaching your son or daughter's peers about hearing loss can be managed in conjunction with his or her teacher as pointed out by this nine step anti-bullying plan.

As information and technology began to improve, Lisa tells us her old hearing aids, "Soon gave way to huge BTE aids that gave me both a lot of feedback and headaches." Despite the problems with this old technology, Lisa did recall the feeling of walking outside after getting her hearing aids put on and realizing, “Hey! I can hear birds singing!” She wasn't yet happy with the advancements in hearing aid technology, but she admits they were pointing in the right direction.

Glasses with Hearing AidsGlasses with Hearing Aids In high school, Lisa was a cheerleader and involved with the student body government and lots of extracurricular activities. She describes the day she came in wearing, "Brand spanking new US Air Force issued, black horn rimmed, and huge eyeglasses (for I was not only blessed with a hearing loss but poor eyesight as well). This new “technology” wired through the tops of the eyeglasses from one hearing aid to the other. No wonder my GOOD friends nearly fell off their chairs laughing. I shudder to think what my not-so-good friends thought!" After this experience, Lisa gave up on hearing aids entirely. It would be a few years before she'd revisit the technology that would change her life.

In college, Lisa discovered the advances in hearing aid technology meant she could turn her, "disability into an ability."

At her university, Lisa could no longer cope with her untreated hearing loss. She found herself straining in the lecture halls to hear her professors speaking. As she explains, "Providentially, I met up with a professor who bluntly told me, “You’re too young to miss out on life because of a simple thing like wearing hearing aids.” I finally came to grips with my hearing disability and took the steps to turn it into an ability with properly fitted hearing aids."

Today's listening technology has advance not only in unique features, but also with new ways to precisely fit hearing aids to individual preference and comfort.

Today's BTEToday's BTELisa tells us, her new hearing aids enabled her to, "graduate from college, get married and have a family, and find fulfilling work outside the home with the special needs population." Lisa's work with autistic individuals means she helps with therapy sessions, checks clients in, and answers the phone a lot. All of these daily interactions are made easier with the incredible advances that have happened over the past forty years with hearing aid technology. But it's not just work that is made easier. "With my newest aids, I can enjoy music to the fullest and take advantage of today’s technology with an iPhone as well. Most importantly, though, it enables me to help our youngest son navigate his own way through his issues with having a moderate hearing loss that also requires him to wear binaural aids." As Lisa shares her story of hearing loss with her son, it is her hope that he will be grateful for today's hearing aid technology which allows him to turn his, "disability into an ability."

Lisa, thank you so much for sharing your story with the People Hearing Better community. Many people reading this have had similar stories as they've experienced hearing aids as they've changed over the years. Today's hearing aids not only have advanced technology and directional microphones, but are better fit for comfort and have hundreds of different styles and solutions. If you have hearing loss there is no better time to try the wonders of this technology, so visit your hearing health provider today!


Thanks to the Hearing Aid Museum for use of the photos!

If you'd like to learn more, see your hearing health provider. If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!

If you have a hearing loss story you'd like to share with our community or a question you'd like answered, contact dstewart@ahaanet.com

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