Thursday February 22nd 2018

Are you listening? Can you hear?

I have a hearing problem! There, I admitted it! Perhaps it is age, or perhaps I have more than a hearing problem, but like many Americans, I am afraid, or have been to find out, or even admit to the problem until now! I have been in sales for many years (by day) and as a salesperson, one has to “listen” to what the clients are asking for. I am pretty sure I never lost a sale because of my hearing situation, but can I be certain? By night, I am a theater reviewer, attending plays and musicals, concerts and Cabarets along with comedy clubs. I make notes and write reviews of what I see (and hear), so “hearing” is of great import to me.

Like most males I know, our wives (or significant others) keep reminding (notice, not “nagging”) us that we are not responding. To some, it is called “selective hearing”. In other words, hearing the words and thoughts that are positives, but ignoring the negatives and in some cases the “honey do’s”. Jane has told me for years that I have a problem. I really thought mostly because of some wax build-ups I had years ago. I thought to myself “I attend theater almost every night and write a review of what I saw (and heard), so I must be fine”.

As it turns out. I do hear the actors, BUT I do not always understand the actors!

What does this mean? It means I know the actors are speaking to each other and of course to the audience, but I am only capturing a portion of the words they are saying. I do think that my mind has saved my bacon by training itself to read the lips of the actors, allowing me to make more sense out of what the conversations in the production are. Yes, I find myself looking at people’s faces more! This is the clue that tells me that I am probably reading their lips!.

As the years have gone by I find myself saying that young people speak too softly, or too swiftly. I also find myself increasing the volume on the Ttlevision and radios. Women’s voices and even those of my own grandkids are harder to understand than the guys at bowling on a Sunday morning or even at a ball game. I do find myself blaming my cell phone for the muffled sounds that are coming through and have even gone to my provider to change phones.

While this has been going on for a period of time, it was just a few weeks ago that I was hit the hardest. One of my readers, who went to see a play I had reviewed, sent me a note asking if I had been seated in a certain section of the theater. I replied, yes. In fact, that is exactly where I was seated. It was then that she advised me that I had missed part of the action and dialogue, and that my review was slightly off. I went back to the theater and sat in a different section. Sure enough, she was right! The actor who had his back to my original seating area has made a statement that changed the entire meaning of the scene. So now, it is time for me to have a hearing test/evaluation.

Selecting where to go is of great importance. Hearing healthcare is as important (or perhaps even more) as any other part of the full person, and from what I have read, an audiologist is trained to take one from step one to completion, so I will begin my search and get back to you…tune in for more. By the way, that is a joke, as you are reading this.

Phase Two of my hearing problem…… where do I go for assistance?

How does one find the right place to get hearing help? There are newspaper ads and direct mail pieces almost weekly- “Mike Ditka hears because of us!” claims one company. Turn on the radio and Walter Jacobson reminds you that he has had a “perspective” for years! All of this is commercial and scares me dramaticlly. Then again, why not use the internet? The problem is that once you do a search on the web, all of the companies seem to appear as “pop-ups”. I spoke to a few people who I see wearing hearing aids, and while many of them said they went to Costco, one of them said, you need to see an audiologist to make sure that you truly need a hearing aid.

I guess that made sense to me. If I were to meet with one and have a complete test, they would be able to lead me in the right direction. If my hearing problem  is a “sensory Neural loss” then a hearing aid would do the job. If  a “conductive loss” then I would need to go to a Otoloryngologist for correction. I called a few of the area Otoloryngologists and they suggested I call a small hearing aid center located in Skokie, Clear Sounds, Inc. This is a privately owned firm run by two women, Marina Britva and Millie Kaven that carries several brands of aids and is completely independent. Today, I went for an interview and a hearing test to take the next step.

I met with Millie and the first thing she did was explain the hearing test process. I would be in a small sound proof booth. I would be able to see her and she me, but all sound would be transmitted through her microphone and the headset I would be wearing. First she did an ear exam to make sure that my ear drum was clear of wax and that there were no problems there. This all checked out and I was ready to enter the booth. I sat in my chair, she placed the headset on me and handed me a button, instructing me that we would be doing one ear at a time, first the right, then the left. Tones would be transmitted by her, and I was to push the button whenever I heard a tone. We did this for each ear.

After this, while still in my headset, we did words. A tape would say a word and I was to repeat what I heard, without hesitation. In other words, I was to say what I heard (or thought I heard). Again, we did one ear at a time, until completion. This concluded the headset testing, but then Millie placed a different headset on my head, one where part of the set was on my ear and the other on my ear bone, to measure or check if the bone was working properly. Tones , once more and then the test was done. I came out of the booth, sat down with Millie and we went over the results of the testing process. I was one who could be helped with hearing aids and did not need any surgical procedures. My span between  normal hearing and hearing loss was, and is marginal, allowing a hearing aid to make what I hear what is being said.

The next step is the choice of hearing aids. There are many types. The big difference is those that are very small and fit directly into the ear compared to those that fit over the ear with a small wire and plug that are placed into the ear channel. Part of what one must consider is the comfort, the look and of course the ease of using. What I selected was the BTE (behind-the-ear). I tried one on, and it was small enough that even when I put my glasses on, there was no problem. The beauty of this type of unit is that the small wire can be changed over the years should there be a change.

What they are doing is ordering the unit, which is rechargeable on a daily basis and can be programmed to work with my smart phone. This will allow me to answer the phone without holding the phone. There is a small unit that can clip on to my pocket or collar (of a suit jacket) and in that unit, the microphone. This means that I have “blue tooth capability” even in someone else’s car or on the bus, or anywhere! What a wonderful world we live in!

The idea of having me wear the unit for a week or so is to make sure that I am comfortable and I adjust to the use of the aid as well as the comfort. These ladies have been servicing the North Shore for 25 years, and one of the reasons for their growth is their people skills. They work with them to find the right answers. It is not “making a sale” as many of the other franchisees are prone to do, it is building a relationship with the client/patient so they will regain their confidence by hearing again. Let’s face it, a happy customer will bring others to the source of their happiness, and these ladies , along with their staff, do just that.

To the right is the chart that evaluates my hearing- what I hear and what I don’t. There is a range where I think I hear clearly, but what I am hearing is “sounds like”. I have been assured that with the aids, this will no longer be the case. I await this transformation.

I will soon go back to this office located at 4551 Oakton Street in Skokie ( just a few blocks from the Oakton Yellow Line train) for the fitting and trial aid. I will report to you once I do.

I am hearing clearly now!

What a difference! My life has changed! I am now fitted and trained in care (and feeding) of my hearing aids- the Phonak Audeo. These are the rechargeable hearing aids that are easy to operate and for two weeks, many people did not even notice that I was wearing them . In fact, until I pointed it out they knew nothing, except that I was responding to ALL they said. Millie did the fitting and adjusting sending me on my way. I wore them (taking them out every night and putting them on each morning-very easy) for two weeks, before going back to Skokie (all part of the Clear Sounds package) for any adjustments.

Because I am a theater person and attend many musicals, Millie made sure to fine-tune my aids so that my weaker ear would be able to pick up, not just the notes, but in fact be able to decipher which instrument might be playing that note. This week, I saw two musicals, one more a chamber musical, the other almost an opera and by George, she did it! I heard every note clearer than I ever did before and for once in “Ragtime” I realized that there was in fact a clarinet. What a difference hearing the music makes!

The process continues. I will head back to Skokie this Tuesday to review what has been happening. If my volume control (blue tooth feature) has been working and the patterns that I have set and how they fit the unit. Everything is done via a computer program which allows them to look at my usage and advise me if there are any changes that need to be made. I do not think any “big box store” will do this for you. Clear Sounds also has open hours each day for cleaning and battery needs. After Tuesday, I may not have to go back regularly, but knowing that I can go back when the need arises, is more than enough for me. My ears are a major part of reviewing plays and hearing clearly sure makes the story flow better, the music sound better and makes me feel as if I was walking “on air”.

If you are having hearing problems, I am sure they will be glad to assist you in finding the cause, effect and solutions. Just give them a call at 847-679-4626. Tell them Al Sent you!




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