Lisa is one of millions of Americans who is young, active and has improved her quality of life by taking charge of her own hearing health. Hers is a story that plays out every day across the United States, and perhaps you’ll recognize some of the challenges and barriers she overcame. Lisa’s path led her through frustration, sadness, determination and, ultimately, a sense of humor about her hearing loss. Here is her story…
“Pickle me, Auntie Lee-Lee!,” is what Lisa heard one sunny afternoon as her angelic four year old (good grief, is that an oxymoron?!) nephew, Nicholas, ran toward her from across the yard. For the twentieth time that day, Lisa said, “what, sweetheart?”
Before they could engage, Nicholas was already running in the other direction with Elmo dragging behind him gathering grass stains. “How silly of me,” thought Lisa, before heading inside the house to get ready for her book club meeting.
“Lisa, the audiologist called to confirm your hearing test tomorrow,” called Lisa’s brother Dwayne from the kitchen. “Have a good time discussing Reese’s book club pick with your friends, and thanks again for watching Nicholas.”
Lisa figured she wouldn’t have much fun at the meeting. The club was planning to get together at a bakery, and she’d struggle to follow along over the clatter of dishes and calls for coffee orders (was that your tall mocha double-shot with whipped?). She had the feeling she would nod in agreement to her friends’ questions. Socializing was becoming more of a challenge for Lisa, and she didn’t want to be left out of the conversation.
Like millions of other Americans, Lisa’s hearing sensitivity had gradually worsened over time. She isn’t deaf, but her ears no longer detect certain sounds the way they used to. As a result, the auditory cortex doesn’t receive a full picture of sound and has to work harder to fill in the blanks, the same way you would while working Sunday’s crossword puzzle.
Hearing loss like this doesn’t happen overnight. It typically begins in our forties, and can be more challenging to manage if our career exposed us to loud sounds. Lisa proudly served our country in the Air Force (a slightly louder profession than the average desk job). Her trip to the audiologist confirmed her high-frequency hearing loss.
What is “High-Frequency Hearing Loss”?
Let’s start with the concept of sound, which can vary in pitch. If sounds are a rainbow, the low pitches would be red and the high pitches would be violet.
“High frequency” refers to the upper pitches of sound, like bird song, a dripping faucet, a piccolo, or the right-most keys on a piano. High-frequency hearing loss can also be thought of as high-pitched loss.
Like many other people with this type of hearing loss, Lisa can hear low-pitch sounds without issue – her brother’s motorcycle, rolling thunder, the neighbor’s dog barking about the mailman’s nightly delivery. The more high pitched the sound, the more she struggles. If the high-pitched sound is very soft, she may not hear it at all. This puts her in what us audiologists consider a tough spot when it comes to understanding speech.
When we think about speech, we can categorize the sounds inside words as either low- or high-pitch. Vowels are relatively loud, and low-pitched. Lisa has no trouble perceiving those and loves singing “Old MacDonald” with Nicholas. E-I, e-i, o! But consonants at the beginning and end of words are not easy for her to hear. They are soft and high-pitched. For example, in the words, “tickle, fickle, and pickle” the vowel /i/ stays the same. The initial consonant is what changes the meaning of the word. Elmo and Nicholas were asking for her to “tickle us;” not as she understood to “pickle us”. That day in the yard, Lisa was listening through her high-pitched hearing loss. By the time her brain comprehended Nicholas’s speech, he was running to the next activity. This can get really tiring (both toddlers and a lack of speech comprehension), promotes isolation, and ultimately reduces the overall quality of our lives.
My Musings on Helping Lisa Hear More of Life:
As Lisa’s audiologist, I was happy to be able to recommend Eargo Max. The comfortable hearing aids restore her ability to detect soft, high-pitch sounds, which translates to less listening effort during conversation and more seamless participation in social settings. Research shows hearing more clearly is known to help maintain brain and overall health, helps people be more social with their friends and family and ultimately lead happier, more positive lives.
The result? Lisa no longer strains to hear her nephew and has leveled-up her book club discussion game (she’s advanced well past The Big O’s book lineup). Lisa took action to mitigate her high-frequency hearing loss with Eargo Max. She didn’t realize what she’d been missing, and said she feels much more present when interacting with Nicholas. It’s been a pleasure working with Lisa. She told me hearing more of life helps her feel ten years younger (her words, we don’t promise the fountain of youth). Lisa seems more confident, more energetic and less stressed. I’d like to think it’s because of Eargo Max, but it might just be because of all the pickling, er, tickling!