I always associated hearing loss with older people, like grandparents, and I thought I’m not wearing a hearing aid hanging on my ear.Charlie Benante, on his initial thoughts on hearing aids
For a musician, there is no more valuable tool or piece of equipment than your hearing. The reasons are obvious. As an audiologist and avid guitarist, my hearing helps me craft the tone of my instrument, learn parts of songs, interact with bandmates and so many other things. For Charlie Benante, professional drummer for the legendary metal band Anthrax, he took good hearing for granted until it began to affect his passion for music and interfere with his personal life. Thankfully, Charlie recognized what was happening and took action with the help of Eargo. Below is Charlie’s hearing journey that he hopes inspires other musicians and all people to take the necessary steps to hear and live life to the fullest.
At the age of four, Charlie began playing drums and quickly progressed to where he was playing recitals at age 5. It didn’t take him long to earn a stellar reputation and he found himself playing in bands with people twice his age. Charlie’s professional career took off shortly after high school when he attended an arts school and met his Anthrax bandmates. The band quickly gained a rabid following and the rest is history. World tours, multiple albums, drum sponsorships…you name it. Charlie was living the life of a rock star and professional musician.
As thousands of musicians know all too well, being exposed to loud music causes hearing loss over time. This is especially true in the high frequencies (or pitches) which results in conversations lacking clarity and word definition. For Charlie, this became quite noticeable about 4 years ago. Here’s what he had to say about his hearing loss.
“At first I would ask people to repeat themselves, and I found myself saying, “what?” Since I was home during the quarantine, my daughter and girlfriend really noticed I wasn’t hearing well. I was turning the TV volume up because I couldn’t understand what was being said. I had my hearing tested by an audiologist who confirmed that I had developed a high frequency hearing loss, but I didn’t want to wear a behind the ear hearing aid like she suggested.”
Charlie continued about what kept him from trying that hearing aid. “I knew what the problem was but I didn’t want to accept it because of the connotations that come along with having hearing loss. I always associated hearing loss with older people, like grandparents, and I thought I’m not wearing a hearing aid hanging on my ear. I just can’t do that.”
One of the tipping points came when Charlie was in the recording studio mixing a song. “There were certain parts of the song I couldn’t hear properly. For example, the hi-hat and other cymbals sounded dull. I asked my sound engineer to bring all these higher pitched sounds up in the mix the way I wanted to hear them and I thought everything sounded really good. However, the engineer said to me ‘Dude, this is really abrasive and metallic – it’s not good.’ I knew then I had to do something.”
Charlie’s Next Steps
To find a hearing aid he would want to wear, Charlie turned to the Internet. “I researched and researched, and found Eargo and thought to myself, ‘Wow! Look at this.” This is something that totally appeals to me. It’s small and concealed, it focuses on clarity of speech, and appears to do the job I wanted. The reviews were great. I reached out to Eargo, talked to an audiologist who confirmed Eargo would be right for me, and the rest is history.”
Eargo Arrives – First Impressions and Charlie’s “Hearing Coach”
“The strange thing at first was it felt foreign to place them in my ears and leave them in, yet they were extremely comfortable. I also noticed the sound of my own voice was different, which was normal, and the fact that other sounds were heightened around me. I didn’t have to ask people to repeat, I didn’t have to turn the TV volume up, and I didn’t have to compensate for my music and mixing. Once I continued to get used to them, Eargo changed everything about my day and I felt like I was hearing things like I was younger!”
Charlie liked the fact he could use the Eargo app and make his own adjustments, but also could turn to one of Eargo’s audiologists for remote fine-tuning. “I love Eargo’s technical support. I’ve done a handful of calls with my hearing professional who I like to call my ‘hearing coach’. She was genuinely interested in helping me understand how we can make things even better, and was also honest with me if my expectations were unrealistic. Best of all she gave me great suggestions on how to make the most of my Eargos.”
Parting words from Charlie
“Because my hearing loss issue came on gradually, it was hard to tell what and why until I took the steps to look into it. I can’t stress enough how important it is to spend a little time looking at what’s available to help you. I can’t thank Eargo enough for creating a product and delivering an amazing service for someone like me who’s a musician, and also for all people who have hearing loss. I realize it’s a delicate subject for some people, but you owe it to yourself to solve the issue. You’ll be so much happier for doing it.”