by Chelle George
A few weeks ago my left hearing aid quit working. It’s four years old as of last January and the warranty ran out two years ago. According to my audiologist office, it’s going to cost at least $300 to fix it with a warning that it could be more. For this low income girl, that’s a lot so I made an appointment with my state vocational rehabilitation office. My goal, to send both hearing aids in, one for fixing and the other for conditioning.
People are telling me, “Get new ones!” I really don’t want to. I really like my bright red hearing aids, these hearing aids have a FM receiver built into them so I didn’t have to mess with sleeves/boots. My pretty red hearing aids are only 4 years old.
Then there’s an echo of audiologists saying, “They are only good for about 5 years anyway.” Really, why? “There’s big improvements in technology within that amount of time.” Is it really that big of a difference from what I have now? “Oh yeah, I never have clients say their old hearing aids were better. They always like the sound better with new hearing aids.”
In my experience going from analog hearing aids to digital was a HUGE deal. I will never look back at analog. Until that big of a change comes around again, I can’t see that there will be that big of a difference again. There might be nifty new programs but I have 4 different ones now and I don’t know what else I could possibly want except perfect hearing again.
And my hearing aids were $4,500. That’s a lot of money to shell out and it doesn’t feel like so long ago that I paid for these. I know people who have had their hearing aids for 10 years and they are still happy. I want these hearing aids longer than four freaking years. The longest I’ve had a pair of hearing aids was 6 years and those probably would have lasted longer except one got run over multiple times at the long row of drive style mailboxes. (Took a phone call in the car when cell phones weren’t compatible with hearing aids then forgot it was in my lap when I jumped out of my low to the ground car to check mail.)
That was in 2005 and the last time I had to go without working aids. I worked in a salon and I tried wearing the remaining hearing aid but it felt so lopsided it wasn’t that helpful. I spent around two months not talking while my blow-drying hair, spinning people in my chair to face me or learning to read lips in the mirror. My clients had to repeat often. It was awkward and forced me to be upfront with everyone about my hearing loss. We were all relieved when I got my new, first pair of digital hearing aids. After that, I had no problem telling people I couldn’t hear well.
This time I work in the state Deaf and Hard of Hearing Center which is the most accommodating environment I can possibly work in. I thought I’d be okay without hearing aids as I didn’t wear them all the time anyway but I find myself missing them. A lot. I work at different health fairs around the valley sharing resources the state offers for those who are Deaf or hard of hearing and it involves a lot of talking even if people are in denial about their hearing loss. I thought I’d get by with lip reading and my remaining hearing. Nope! It was tough because some people just can’t look at me while they talk and others don’t move their lips enough. Luckily our table display offers ALDs such as the PockeTalker, Mino and Duett for people to try out. I grabbed the PockeTalker and started using it. The chatting proceeded a lot smoother after that and it also got other people trying it out. Thank goodness for ALDs!
Then I went to my first meeting without hearing aids in a long time. I had an ache in my chest as I walked in. I knew I was going to miss my hearing aids here too. The meeting was at work and a FM listening system is available but this time they had a new system in place with fabulous neck loops…and I couldn’t use them. I was able to plug in my earbuds but it wasn’t the same. I survived the meeting missing some conversation all together and concentrating so much that two hours later I was tired. I wanted nothing more than a glass of wine and to go to bed after.
With my boyfriend’s ski patrol banquet dinner coming up at the end of the week I started to worry about not being able to hear. I talked to my boss, the hard of hearing specialist, about borrowing one of their FM systems to use so I could hear the speeches. I have my own personal FM system I used in the past for this event but it’s a one piece deal that won’t work without my hearing aids. She suggested the Comfort Contego with two pieces and let me borrow it for the duration of my hearing-aid-less-ness. At the banquet, we arrived early to set it up, using medical tape (less sticky) we taped it to the microphone. Viola! I could hear the speakers with my normal 50% word discrimination which was nice because my boyfriend received a couple of awards. The system cut in and out often and there is no treble/bass adjustment. I need more treble so it all had the same deep pitch. I don’t want to complain too much though. It helped, I got through the speeches and I felt connected to the event.
Today I sat through another three hour health fair. This time I used the Contego unit instead of the PockeTalker. It was held in the gym which is usually horrible acoustics but they had acoustic panels on the wall cutting some of the reverberation, hooray! I was so happy to see them. Once again, it presented plenty of opportunity to talk about ALDs.
The last two weeks made me realize how much I depend on my hearing aids, how much I need them and how much they help. Having something programmed specifically to my hearing loss makes a big difference in my understanding speech. I wrongly thought I’d get by fine without them but now I want them back. Using a neck loop to headphones makes for even better hearing and I miss it.
Sigh. My appointment isn’t until the 28th of this month and that’s just to get things started. After that, it’s waiting for approval and if I get approval then sending my hearing aids off to get fixed. It’s a process. I’m going to be one very happy girl to get them back.