The members of BIHIMA are committed to understanding the experiences of those with hearing loss and allowing that feedback to shape the technology they pioneer.
In this instalment in our series of real stories of hearing loss, we tell the story of Robin, a member of Mountain Rescue Service in Ireland and a qualified Mountain Leader who found that his rescue abilities was vastly improved with the help of the latest hearing technology.
“I’ve worn hearing aids for many years,“ said Robin. “My belief is that my hearing loss is hereditary, though my father claimed it began with a fall from a high chair when I was a baby. The deafness went unnoticed until school and there I developed a creased frown – this was me concentrating on hearing the teachers!”
Robin’s problems with hearing loss continued into adulthood and led to a series of medical intervention, but this treatment was not combined with bespoke audiological care or the right technology for his needs. “As a young man I developed vacuum headaches, so I was labelled by one GP and began a series of operations to clear my sinuses,“ he explained. “I’ve had several ops in the years since. I originally wore one aid but added the left one as my hearing deteriorated. By 1990, I‘d had a left radical mastoidectomy after a consultation with a surgeon and believed my left ear was finished for good. The hearing aids were, in retrospect, clumsy behind the ear and in-the-ear aids. I was fitted with basics and assumed a fix!”
As experienced by many people with hearing loss, the effects of reduced hearing are wide-ranging and often lead to social isolation and disengagement with hobbies that were once fulfilling. “I didn’t socialise because of crowd noise – even a few people speaking over each other wiped out anything I could hear. When I tried to explain about my hearing loss I was just left feeling angry because in general people didn’t listen or have the patience to pursue a conversation with me. Folk treated me as though I was dim and that offended me. I could not listen to the radio and I missed the classical music I used to love. I became resigned to my deterioration.”
As well as a loss of relationship with music, Robin’s favourite past time of hill-walking was jeopardised by his hearing loss. “I love hillwalking. I was even a member of the Mountain Rescue Service and was a qualified Mountain Leader, so hearing was critical at times. But in the wind I could hear nobody so I walked alone, even when walking in a group. I would shout without realising it, and would get embarrassed when told about it.”
It was when Robin went for a routine appointment and was met by a new audiologist that his situation began to change. “After a thorough consultation which included my wife as a participant so that I could be checked with a familiar voice, she prescribed new hearing aids: a left one which is powerful enough to re-educate my left ear with its misshapen drum, and my main right aid, restoring a long lost stereo effect. Now I am TRANSFORMED! I now have very comfortable and powerful hearing aids, sleek and well fitted. I can hear the birds in our garden! My car makes more noises than I am happy about. I am so ‘back in the moment‘ that I am constantly smiling to myself. It’s a great, uplifting experience to be back among the details of my life, my hobbies, sounds like my cat, and all the minutae which make up normal household life.”
Not only was Robin’s quality of life fully restored, he was also able to be much more effective in his important role as a Mountain Rescuer. “I found a group in fog on a mountain by hearing directionally for the first time!” he explained. “It is so refreshing to return to a state in which I know exactly what’s going on round me!”
This case study is based on Robin’s nomination of his audiologist, Yvonne Doyle of Hidden Hearing in Wexford Town, Ireland, for the Audiologist of the Year 2017 Ireland competition: www.audiologistoftheyear.co.uk
Audiologist of the Year is a highly acclaimed award within the hearing industry, celebrating the exceptional work of hearing care professionals across Europe. Now in its twelfth year, the competition invites patients to nominate their audiologist to be rewarded for their exceptional hearing care services. For more information, please visit www.audiologistoftheyear.eu
You can read the other stories in our series here: