Hearing Aids Don’t Just Amplify Sounds, They Also Clarify

Mike M. struggled with his hearing for years before he went to see ARC audiologist, Dr. Amy Mullin. "I was in denial," he says. "I thought only old people had hearing loss and I was in my 50's."

Certain situations proved particularly difficult for Mike, who is a retired occupational therapist. For example, when he was in a noisy environment like a restaurant or bar, the clanking of silverware and overall "background buzz" prevented him from hearing friends who were sitting across from him.

"I had to work really hard to hear people. I would lip-read and look for clues. It was exhausting and embarrassing," Mike says. "I was constantly asking people to repeat themselves. And still, I would miss so much of what was said."

Mike's hearing loss interfered with his enjoyment of theater productions. "I was frustrated that I couldn't hear the actors," Mike says. Mike is a "theater enthusiast" who discovered Austin High School's theater program in the late-90's and has since attended 88 productions there. He also enjoys performances at Austin's Hyde Park Theater.

"I had to sit in the front row, but sitting so close prevented me from full appreciation of the stage sets. You need a little distance to get the full benefit of live theater," Mike says.

At home, Mike would turn up the television volume but, he explains, "Amplifying the sound didn't help. It was louder but it wasn't clear."

He also had trouble hearing his wife of 31 years who he describes as "soft-spoken." "It was a problem when we sat down in the evening for happy hour. That's the time we converse," he said "and I couldn't hear what she was saying."

Three years ago, Mike finally "got tired of working so hard at hearing" and went to see Dr. Mullin. "I was frustrated and exhausted," he says. "When I saw Dr. Mullin, I already knew I had hearing loss. She was just going to tell me how bad it was."

After a hearing test, Dr. Mullin diagnosed Mike with bilateral hearing loss and showed him hearing aid options. Mike selected a small, "high end" hearing aid that is barely noticeable.

The next step was trying the hearing aids. Dr. Mullin explained that she would turn up the hearing aids in three phases. Each time Mike would have a week or so to adjust to the increasing volume of the world. She warned that Mike would undergo an adjustment period during which his brain would learn how to filter sounds he hadn't heard in a while.

Mike remembers the first day he wore hearing aids. "It sounded like the world was screaming at me!" he says. "I was walking in a parking lot and there was a woman pushing a shopping cart. The noise of the cart was so loud, I wanted to run away from her. I was overwhelmed."

Very soon, Mike felt comfortable in his hearing aids. He began hearing sounds he didn't realize he'd been missing like the sound of the coffee pot in the morning.

"The hearing aids don’t just amplify sounds, they also clarify," Mike explains. "They changed my life."

After six months of wearing hearing aids, Mike was packing for a trip to Arkansas to spend Christmas with his family when he realized that he couldn’t find them. Mike was devastated. "I almost cancelled the trip," he says.

Mike went to Arkansas and thanks to his "animated and vocal" family, he got through the holiday without the hearing aids. When he returned, he was amazed at how quickly Dr. Mullin was able to get him a replacement pair.

"It took a couple of days for her to order them and have them adjusted for me." And, that was a good thing because Mike needed them. "I had plans to go to the theater," he says.

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