It was about a year ago. I was commuting to the Cincinnati VA Hospital, where I completed my one-year clinical training as an audiologist. Interstate traffic, bumper-to-bumper (a standard morning in the big city). As I’m impatiently waiting my turn to inch forward, and wishing I was back in those small towns and cities I grew up in, I turned on the radio and started listening to Bob and Tom. Tom and Chick McGee were talking about a technology convention… about a brand-new company that came out with a “brand-new” product. This company stated they were “revolutionary”. They apparently made some hearing aids.
Chick McGee says, “These new devices can automatically detect what environment you’re in and adjust themselves to help you hear better. It has 4 different pre-set sound modes… so you can try them out and see what sounds best to you.” Tom was mildly impressed, and said, “So it’s basically a very sophisticated hearing aid.”
This was not a revolutionary product. It is not sophisticated. Real hearing aids have been doing these things for well over a decade! They’ve been filtering noise… adapting to your environment, and so much more. The kicker is, real hearing aids don’t use “pre-set sound modes”… they are 100% customizable. Every single patient has a unique hearing loss pattern. They may hear low-pitched sounds great, middle-pitched sounds poorly, and high-pitched sounds great. They may be the opposite of that. Pre-sets will never work for people. They will always make sound feel unnatural and ugly.
When I’m programming hearing aids for a patient, even the slightest mistake is detected… they can tell something doesn’t sound quite right. With my programming software, I can fix those issues. Sometimes that means changing the volume at one specific pitch (frequency) by 1 little decibel. “One-size-fits-all” hearing aids? Not a chance.
This one incident on my way to work last year taught me a lesson. Audiologists have done a really bad job at informing the people. Because audiologists have done such a bad job, the people they wish to serve end up wasting money. I can’t tell you how many patients I’ve seen who bought a “hearing aid” over the internet or through the mail, only to find it sounds absolutely terrible. These scam devices are usually several hundreds of dollars and don’t have any return policy attached. All our hearing aids have a return policy included, because we are confident you will want to keep them.
What’s worse… after people buy these scam products online, they end up having a false perception of what all hearing aids sound like, and they end up waiting a few more years before coming to see an audiologist. That’s a few more years of not hearing the grandkids… a few more years not hearing the jokes at the family table on Thanksgiving. This is why I got into this profession… because life is too short to miss out on these precious moments.
If this article helps one person, or saves someone $500, or simply helps the people of my communities feel more confident about the future… that’s a win in my book.