A quest to hear & enjoy life; three years after a profound hearing loss

I've been promising a status report on my current hearing aids for months, and now that a full year has elapsed since my initial review...I've run out of excuses.

The next few blog postings will detail three primary points:

  • The current status of my hearing, and attempts to mitigate a fairly recent profound loss.
  • Recent experiences using technology to help mitigate the loss.
  • An "outsiders" view of the hearing aid industry.

    To immediately address one major point; there are two major types of hearing losses. A conductive loss is what you experience while fighting head colds, and while there is often a comparatively-mild impact on the quality of sounds you'd hear, a conductive loss largely impacts the quantity of a sound, not the quality. A sensorineural hearing loss is a totally different experience; it involves a reduction in the ability to hear certain frequency ranges, which significantly impacts communications by affecting speech comprehension accuracy, and the loss of an ability to process certain frequencies extinguishes the ability to perceive the related sounds. In-effect, a sensorineural hearing loss hinders the quality, not quantity, of a sound. To better understand, see this illustration.

    One major point I intend to make over the course of the next few postings: Phonak's claim that their Phonak Naida V UltraPower hearing aids are water-resistant is, without any doubt, wholly-false. Once you get beyond, and accept this indisputable fact (which I'll clearly document in the next posting), they're not bad little gadgets. Though their false advertising has significantly hindered my ability to enjoy liberties that many otherwise take for granted...and has done so at a great financial and emotional cost. Backstory:
    For a complete history, better description, and simply all the details you never wanted to know about my "ears", see my wiki.

    In-short, my congenital loss was rated mild in early-childhood, although it quickly shifted to a common "mild-to-moderate" by my school years, and it stayed there for easily two decades. Then, in late 2006 my loss suddenly shifted near the profound category, by 2007 my hearing (according to most professionals) was nearly gone. Adding insult to injury, I began to experience a very painful condition known as recruitment. On the plus side, much to the chagrin of many area professionals, I still have somehow managed to retain enough of my speech-comprehension skills, that I'm often told "...I don't understand how this is possible, but despite your puretone losses, you still have excellent speech comprehension..."

    Heh, maybe I'm a mindreader, or as OHSU's Director of Clinical Audiology puts it best "...Individuals with hearing loss have to concentrate and focus to a much greater extent to comprehend than an individual with normal hearing. As such, individuals with hearing loss do become fatigued faster. The more spontaneous or complex the listening situation the more concentration is needed and the more likely you are to loose that concentration and miss important communication..." I was diagnosed with narcolepsy around the time my hearing stopped declining, so...maybe the unrealistic and seemingly sterile hearing test environment helps artificially inflate results away from real-world performance, and outside the labs maybe I'm just taxing myself too much. Who knows...either way, that's a topic for another day.

    It was during the sudden and profound decline in my hearing that a now seemingly endless struggle began; a quest to find hearing aids that will allow me to continue pursing two passions; dancing and cycling.

    Hearing Aids
    Over the years, I've worked with a variety of audiologists, and have never found a team so passionate and knowledgeable about their products than the folks at Gresham Hearing Aid Center. Both Ken and Larry have patiently worked with me for what's approaching half a decade...and in that time I've "burned through" more than 10 personal hearing aids, and a handful of loaners. The Naida V UltraPower Hearing Aids are quickly becoming my next causality.

    Last year I blogged about corrosion that appeared after only a single day of cycling. To their credit, Phonak did provide a full replacement, although they did hassle my hearing aid vendor over who was paying for what. Further, having hearing aids repaired is not quite as simple as mailing the broken product to the manufacturer...stay-tuned for details.

    Moving Forward:
    My social pursuits have been significantly hindered, due to the unreliability of these hearing aids, despite near-continual attempts to mitigate things. With Phonak, the phrase false advertising comes to mind. What I don't understand, is that why, despite 4-5 decades of technological refinements, hearing aid manufacturers still utterly fail at manufacturing a device capable of withstanding common physical activities. For instance, see the profusely-sweating woman on the main page at www.naida.phonak.com, and also their claims of "...WaterResistant: Dependability, no matter where or what. Complete protection..." all tacked on this photo:
    Phonak water resistant teaser photo

    ...funny, they named that photo "teaser_water_resistant"...guess I should have taken that filename more seriously...

    Anyway - back to making it all about me :-) Thanks for reading this far. For those who stumbled across this page, I'm sorry :-P For those of you whom I directed here, always remember I enjoy talking about this...but, thanks for also not making me repeat, or poorly summarize, the same particular explanation for the umpteenth time ;-)

    Further, I know I've focused on the hearing aids at the moment, and haven't fully explained other facets of the past three years...for some insights, check out my my wiki, for others...stay tuned, or simply feel free to ask questions.

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