I asked, as I always do, what, if anything, Thea wanted for her birthday. This year, she wanted our hearing checked.
She had had an acoustic episode working at home that had left her with some issues. As she described it, she was working away when she noticed in the space of a few minutes that she felt like was wearing earplugs when she wasn’t even wearing her earpods. Sounds came back to her after a bit. But the hearing in her right ear was suddenly different from her left. The sounds weren’t the same pitch. It was like her right ear was dropping everything by almost a fifth.
My hearing has always been a bit messed up. Tinnitus. Maybe from working my first job as a tape technician at the KSWO-TV station. Maybe from junior-high band. Maybe before that. I can’t remember hearing a live cricket throughout my childhood. Digital watches were silent unless I got them close enough to my head for bone conduction to tell me that it was beeping. I heard pitches higher. And I heard pitches lower. I just had a hole in my hearing. So, I always figured that I’d need hearing aids at some point. I was planning on waiting until my 60th birthday.
Thea did the research and made the appointment for us at the Pioneer Hearing Center.
My testing was pretty straight forward. Sound-proof-ish ‘room’. Press the button when you hear a sound. Left ear. Right ear. Switch to bone-conducting. Left ear. Right ear. Results. My hearing is a bit worse than I believed. That ‘hole’ in my hearing where my tinnitus cascades has widened and deepened. I’m definitely not getting all my sounds from my surroundings. And a few years ago, there would have been nothing to really do about it. The sounds can’t make it through the tinnitus curtain. Newer technology has the ability to shift those sounds and amplify them to a range that my hearing can manage.
Thea’s testing had a little hiccup. When they tried to do the bone conduction test on her right jaw, she still heard the sound in her left ear. She had to have a white noise generator put in her left ear to force her right ear to do the work. Results. Her hearing has an issue but it’s not a problem with her ears. So it’s not something that can really be fixed by hearing aids.
The next question was, do I want to hear better. I admit that there’s a problem. But we are so early in the process of hearing loss that it’s minor. I can continue to lip read and ask people to repeat and slow down. It’s not really an impairment. It doesn’t bother me so much. But Thea says it bothers the hell out of her. If it means understanding her better, get it done. So, we’re doing this.
After being fit with Starkey A.I. powered Evolv hearing aids, it’s easy to notice a difference. I hear keyboard clicks and paper rustling that were silent before. I hear radio static and my blinker’s relay clicking on and off. And it’s adaptive. So it will make changes in different areas to optimize my hearing.
But after wearing the Starkey’s for a month, I realized that the AI was also stupid. I was watching a movie and they would suddenly optimize for the dramatic music at the expense of the dialog. I was watching football and the white-noise from the crowd eclipsed the color-commenter so the AI filtered out all the sounds. And the AU really, really wanted me to hear the air-conditioner fan when it came on. We tried twice to adjust the AI but it just wasn’t a good fit.
So from Starkey’s to Phonak’s. Less AI, more filtering. Better bluetooth. After a month with the Audéo L90’s, I’m convinced that they are a better all around product. In fact, I’m not even sure that I need all the bells and whistles of the 90’s. The 70’s are only missing speech optimization filtering. And that’s not where I’m having problems. So I’m going to go with the Phonak Audé0 L70Rs.