"The Kids Can't Talk Behind My Back Anymore!"
In learning a little more about her story, it seems Jen is one of those rare individuals suffering with what is known as otosclerosis, or a stiffening of those little bones of the middle ear. Fairly rare today, it very rarely occurs in men, but sometimes is brought on by the hormonal changes brought on by childbearing. Sure, enough Jennifer first noticed her hearing problem after the birth of her daughter Isabel, back in 2006.
But, along with the loss of sensitivity to sounds brought on by the otosclerosis, Jen also suffers with acute tinnitus, or a constant ringing, or buzzing in the ears.
After ascertaining that Jen was well aware of the medical aspects of her condition, and their potential ramifications, we performed a thorough otoscopic exam using our little Firefly otoscope.
This little device, like it’s big brother before it, allows me to not only get a great view of the anatomy of my patient’s ears, I project what I am seeing up onto our forty-eight inch LCD for easy discussion, should I find something of note.
In this case, Jens major problem lie beyond what I can normally see, which ends at the eardrum, or Tympanic membrane. The calcification, and fixation of her ossicular chain coupled with the beginnings of a normal loss due to living a full, and rich life, but one generally without ear protection.
Once we’d established Jen’s history, checked to make sure we had nice clear ear canals, and normal structures, I explained the three goals I have for every person who comes to me for hearing help.
I think that explaining what we can, and cannot do for folks is critically important in helping them to understand not only their own particular hearing loss, but what personal amplification, and signal processing both, can, and cannot do.
We all need this step. We need to be clear not only what our obstacles are, but also what the tools available are able to do, as well as what our patient’s themselves are responsible for. After all, it is their hearing loss.
Every patient needs to understand it’s not our problem, but theirs, and while we will do everything modern technology can do, in the end, they have to own both the loss, and accept responsibility for the changes we are going to make in their lives together.
That is the key, folks need to know that while the loss is theirs, we are all about helping them to cope, and get them back to the kind of life, and lifestyle where their hearing is no longer a limiting factor in their lives.
Or, barring that, our goal is to help them to minimize the impact of their hearing loss on the life they want to live, with whatever gear we are using. So, understanding right up front what our mutual goals are in every fitting helps to set both responsibilities, and explain our limitations.
Here are the three things we seek to accomplish for each, and every patient we see, regardless of budget, or lifestyle.
- Audibility: Very simply you can’t process a sound you don’t hear. Our first job is to make all of those sounds needed for speech understanding, and a rich life, loud enough where they again become “audible” meaning that they are all above our individual patient’s hearing thresholds.
- Comfort: Not only do each, and every one of our fittings have to reach audibility, they have to do that through a device that is, and remains comfortable, even when worn for sixteen hours, or more a day. They also have to stay comfortable no matter what sound environment our patients find themselves in. A hearing aid that is not comfortable will soon end up in the drawer, and become another failed fitting. Wearing hearing aids myself I am keenly aware of the importance of overall comfort so I strive to make each fitting so comfortable that patients forget they are wearing them.
- Improved Signal over Noise: This is the single most important feature to being able to understand in those really rich sound environments such as parties, and noisy restaurants. As the number, and volume of the sound sources increases, those of us with a hearing loss get double whammied. Whereas normal hearing individuals may be able to pick that conversation out of a background of noise that may even be two to five decibels below the background. Those of us with hearing loss find ourselves in the position of having those numbers reversed. When we get in noise, we need the signal, or whatever we want to be listening to, to be two to five decibels above whatever background we find ourselves in. This single feature is what drives all of the better gear in our industry. We’ve been able to do #s 1 & 2 on our list for some time now. But, only with the advent of advanced signal processing, and the shrinkage, and exponential growth of processor technologies have we begun to improve the signal over the noise. However, having said that, today’s gear is incredible in what it can now do in those most challenging of environments, in some cases actually giving our patients “better than normal” hearing.
When I take the time to bring our patients along in their understanding of both our mutual goals, as well as in understanding what we can, and cannot accomplish, everything gets so much easier.
Teaching our patients about their hearing loss, what can, and cannot be done through amplifications, and signal processing is one of the reasons we have the very best patients in the known universe. Those like the incredible, and generous Mrs. Jennifer Davis, who allow us to tell their personal stories, so that you, and others might find the faith to make the move you might need to that richer life.
After explaining what we were about to do, we moved right into the most fun part, actually discovering the particulars, and moving to the solutions today’s gear, when properly fit, and set up, has to offer.
One of the things I insist on in any new gear I fit, is that it be capable of what we call In Situ Audiometry. Any gear I fit has to be able to in, and of itself be able to measure our patient’s hearing thresholds, while they wear the actual gear. I have found through many years of fittings that there is no better information than that provided by your patient’s themselves.
This method alone includes the patient’s own individual ear canal resonance and volume characteristics. Anytime we deviate from this information by using headphones, we must go through conversion formulas that take averages and guess about the numbers I am going to use to formulate the patient’s prescriptive amplification curve.
In Jennifer’s case I’d picked a pair of Widex Dream 330s for several reasons. Not only did Widex pioneer In Situ Audiometry, their live voice tracker allows me to not only establish my patient’s hearing thresholds at all the important frequencies, it also allows me to display the results in living color up on that 48” LCD. I can instantly show both patients and significant others why they are having trouble, as we look band, by band at where the sound actually coming through their hearing aids is projected onto the screen.
It’s so easy to understand, my patients love it as well. We can instantly see where we are, where we may need more, or less gain, and in less than fifteen minutes we’re actually fine tuning a fitting. In Jennifer’s case it took a little longer, as we were making multiple equipment configuration changes, and remeasuring results as we went to get that perfect fitting for her.
Once, I’d established that we were meeting our three mutual goals above, I set about to address the last thing that was really bothering Jen, her tinnitus.
Folks this is a really common, and for some folks life altering disability. Not being able to turn the noises in his head off is what is said to have lead the painter Van Gogh to cut off his own ear. It really bothers some folks. I have it. So, I do understand.
One of the reasons I’d chosen the Widex system for Jennifer wasn’t just their superior sound quality, and In Situ’ audiometry, or Sound tracker system, but rather their Zen tinnitus management system. In this feature, Widex is head and shoulders above any other system I’ve encountered in the industry. They have developed a system that generates what are know as mathematical fractal tones.
The best description I can give is kind of like those sound you hear coming from Buddhist temples high in the Himalayas. An incredibly relaxing sound, available in several “colors” to suit the particular tone and tempo of that particular patient’s own individual tinnitus. With the touch of a button Jen can overlay a quiet, but soothing sound that simply masks her tinnitus in a way that is both effective and relaxing.
“I love them. I even want to wear them to bed.”
That was what Jen reported on her one week check up when I asked about how she liked the Zen feature.
The other great quote she brought back to us was that,
“The kids can’t talk behind my back anymore. I hear everything.”
So, while we can’t guarantee your results, or that you’ll “hear everything”, we believe that if you can give us the chance, we can change your life. Just like we did for our patient of the month Mrs. Jennifer Davis. Now, when husband Louis, has something sweet to say, she hears it. Or, when Louis Jr. or Isabel, are scheming to pull one over on Mom, she is able to function as a mom should, and apply that wisdom, and correction when, and where needed, without the misunderstandings, stress, and loss she had to deal with when she came in.
Thanks again Jennifer for letting us tell your story. You are the greatest! And, we are truly blessed to have you amongst our family of the best patients in the known universe.
To read more about Jen visit our ad partners "Senior Scene", or "Spotlight on Brevard"