The members of BIHIMA are committed to listening to the experiences of those with hearing loss, to allow these to shape the technology they pioneer, and so that BIHIMA as a whole can reflect the needs of people with hearing loss as we seek to raise consumer awareness and influence policy makers.

 In the first of our series of real stories of hearing loss, meet 50-year-old Stuart. Stuart‘s hearing had deteriorated so much that he was having to rely on lip-reading in his job as a Company Director.

“I had been gradually losing my hearing over many years and to compensate for my depleted hearing I intuitively developed an ability to lip-read,” he explains. “This required significant concentration and I began avoiding unnecessary conversations and almost totally stopped using my mobile phone; both of these actions being unconducive to my profession. I began to withdraw from interacting with other people.”

Over the years, Stuart had tried to seek help on his own and through his local hospital, but none of the solutions were comfortable or effective and they ended up being “consigned to the back of the bedside drawer”. But then he sought help of Robert Beiny, a Hertfordshire based practitioner, who also won this year’s Audiologist of the Year competition. He had the expertise needed to match Stuart’s needs with exactly the right technology.

At the initial consultation, Stuart also explained that he suffers from a condition which causes his body to overheat. The audiologist idenitified a hearing system designed to fit snugly behind the ear connected by a tube to a moulded in-ear fitting, ensuring that the moulding was as open as possible in order to provide ventilation for the overheating problem.  “The aids were tuned and set to progressively increase in volume over the next six weeks and so off I toddled back to Wales armed with a full five senses!“

Robert asked for regular feedback so he could fully optimise the technology: “the more detailed the better. Robert and I were now travelling companions on a journey of discovery, our destination… hearing utopia. So he wanted to know even the smallest things: for example, wind-noise was spoiling the bird-song when I went out for a walk.  A few tweaks on the machine and that was sorted.  Background chatter was filtered, music listening enhanced, and we even programmed a quiet mode to be used for reading in a busy office.”

But the problem of the overheating still presented the occasional problem as it resulted in a build-up of bacteria which led to ear infections. This significantly reduced the number of hours that Stuart could wear the hearing aids. “We considered various options and after deliberation Robert said he thought he had found a solution that involved a new software release.  The upgrade allowed the retro-fit of the existing equipment with a smaller tube connected to tiny open in-ear tips. The digital adjustments were made and the difference was incredible!  I now can’t tell if I am wearing the aids or not, they are that comfortable. For the past 18 months I have not had a single case of ear infection.“

“I now feel that my hearing is fully restored and I am back to my previously genial disposition. My hearing aids are the first thing that I put on in a morning and the last thing that I take off at night. And I am just a pipistrelle’s squeak away from possessing the hearing of a bat, which far-and-away exceeds my original expectations!“

This case study is based on Stuart’s nomination of his audiologist, Robert Beiny, for the Audiologist of the Year 2017 competition. The Audiologist of the Year is a highly acclaimed award within the hearing industry, celebrating the exceptional work of hearing care professionals across Europe. The competition asks for patients to nominate their audiologist for going above and beyond in providing hearing care services. For more information please visit www.audiologistoftheyear.eu.