By: John Phillips, Eargo Client
I’m generally a very open person and have never been afraid to share personal details about events in my life. I went through a fairly serious disease a couple of years back and one of the agents used in the treatment is notorious for damaging hearing – especially in the upper-frequency ranges. Going into the treatment though, I was hopeful I would be one of the lucky ones that wouldn’t suffer this particular side effect. I had a baseline hearing test done just before treatments started.
Five days after my first treatment, I woke up and knew immediately that my hearing was being affected. I validated it later that day while watching a nationally televised football game and couldn’t figure out for the life of me who was announcing the game as I didn’t recognize the two voices. My son Will was over that day and he sounded to me like he had a lisp every time he used a word that had an “s” consonant in it. My hearing would rebound after a couple of weeks, but then would get affected again following the other two rounds of treatment.
Treatments finished and I started to notice some peculiar things. While attending a birthday party for my goddaughter, a carousel candle was spinning on the cake and every few seconds it would “beep.” I asked my dear friends why the carousel was beeping and they looked strangely at me and said it was playing a happy birthday song. Not good, I thought. My washing machine plays a melodic tone when its cycle is finished and I told my wife, Kay, that the speaker was going out on the washing machine because several notes were missing. Turns out they weren’t missing at all. I just wasn’t able to hear all the notes anymore. Use of closed captioning was becoming more frequent and I was asking a lot of people to repeat what they had just said because I was having a hard time discerning their speech and was resorting to reading lips. I went to Houston to visit my son and his family, and I couldn’t understand my two young granddaughters with their high-pitched voices. Trying to participate in a dinner table conversation at a restaurant with a lot of background noise was very challenging. Often I didn’t participate much at all as I’d have to ask people to speak up or repeat themselves. It became clear I was missing out on a lot of life.
I had my hearing tested again and the results showed that there was a pretty sizable drop in my ability to hear in the higher frequencies. This is the range of human speech and high pitched sounds (like small speakers and small children). A year later there was no change in hearing, so this was now my new hearing normal. It started affecting my relationship with Kay because she’d say something to me in the study where she works and I’d be in the kitchen not able to understand what she was saying. I’d have to stop whatever I was doing and walk into the study, or yell at her to come to me because I was growing tired of always walking to wherever she was.
As much as I didn’t want to admit it (mainly because of the associated stigma), I needed hearing assistance or, more precisely I needed hearing aids. So, the research phase began.
The Search Begins…
There are so many different types of hearing aid devices. Some are simply unintelligent, inexpensive amplifiers that make everything louder. Some are incredibly sophisticated (and expensive) that get programmed to one’s exact hearing loss and filter out background noise and other unwanted sounds. There are some that sit behind the ear, in the ear, in the canal, etc. all with their pluses and minuses. After a year of research and procrastinating (often wrestling with the “do I really have a problem” question), I came up with what I wanted in a hearing aid:
1. Invisible. I wanted a unit that sits completely in the inner ear canal and can’t be seen.
2. Rechargeable. I wanted a unit that I don’t have to muck with constantly changing batteries.
3. Programmable. I wanted a unit that I can program myself and not have to run back to a professional audiologist for every little tweak.
Based on these three requirements, there was really only 1 device that met all three criteria: the Eargo Neo HiFi.
I contacted Eargo and sent them my last hearing test. They confirmed that their solution would work for me as I had mild to moderate hearing loss. I didn’t need a prescription to purchase the Eargo products and the nice thing is that Eargo lets you try their revolutionary technology for 45-days risk-free and they pair you up with a professional hearing specialist during the trial period to make sure you get the most out of the trial.
I ordered the Eargo Neo HiFi and they arrived in a couple of days. When I perform with my band, I use in-ear monitors so I was already comfortable with having something in my ear canals. When I put these devices in my ear for the first time, the world suddenly came “alive” again. I had no idea that my shoes squeaked on wood floors. When I went to my office the next morning, I had no idea how many birds were in the trees surrounding the office. I had no idea that the small refrigerator in my office had a “hum” to it.
Eargo designed them well. Anyone can be right beside me looking directly at my ear and not have a clue that there is something in there. What is even more “cool” about this technology is that each device has four (4) program areas. I use my iPhone to load certain sound profiles into each program area. For example, program 1 is a cell phone profile, program 2 is a business meeting profile, program 3 is a TV profile, and program 4 is a busy restaurant profile. When my environment changes all I have to do is double tap on my ear and the device moves to the next program area (and a female voice in my ear tells me which program I am on).
The units come with a case that is also a portable charger. I charge up the case once a week and each night I place my hearing aids in the charger. When I wake up the next day I take the units out of the case/charger and they are fully charged ready to go. The rechargeable batteries last 15 hours or more. I’ve not yet had one whisper in my ear, “low battery.”
Eargo Neo HiFi hearing aids knock it out of the park for meJohn on his Eargo Neo HiFi trial
When I first entered the trial period, I wasn’t happy with being able to understand the TV or understand human speech. But, patience is a virtue with this process. The brain associated certain sounds with part of speech. When those sounds change (due to hearing loss), the brain essentially forgets what those sounds meant because it doesn’t hear them anymore. Hearing aids bring back those sounds, but it takes the brain some time to associate these “new” sounds into the speech recognition function. My ability to understand speech, both in-person and on the TV is much, much better now than it was just four months ago.
To validate that I made the right decision, my son and family came to visit us from Houston for two weeks a couple of months ago. I had my two granddaughters strapped in the back seat of my car and they were talking to me. I couldn’t read their lips, I had background noise from the traveling car going, and I could understand every word they said.
Near the end of the trial, Kay asked if I was going to keep them. I said I wasn’t sure. She looked firmly at me and said, “oh, you’re keeping them.” This was validation that MY hearing aids were having a positive impact on OTHERS. So, I made the decision to keep them. And I’m glad I did.
John’s Final Verdict
At the end of the day, it’s hard to be a 59-year old male and come to the conclusion that you need hearing aids. After all, aren’t they supposed to be for OLD PEOPLE? It’s a tough pill to swallow but I can honestly say that my quality of life has been greatly improved by stuffing two little technological wonders in my ears every morning. My brain has accepted the Eargo-enhanced hearing as its new normal and, quite frankly, what things sound like without them has become undesirable.
If you’re experiencing many of the hearing loss effects I write about, then I encourage you to explore a solution. My solution may not be the right solution for you, but these Eargo Neo HiFi hearing aids knock it out of the park for me and I’m totally OK with being 59, about to be 60, and wear hearing aids. Why? They’ve restored the joy of hearing that I didn’t realize I was missing. It’s all about the quality of life.