Wilma Brass’s Inspiring Story

 “I was born with a mild hearing loss and some vision impairment as well  but did not know the cause till I was 26 ( Usher syndrome)

 my parents decided to put me in a school for the hearing impaired when I was 9. At 14 I went to a boarding school for the hearing. Here for the first time I did wear a hearing aid.  I would wear it in class but would take it out for free.

 The tendency not to wear hearing aids outside of class persisted until I emigrated to Australia from Holland at 21 and found that though my English was reasonable, the Australian language is not as clear as the Dutch language  and I now HAD to wear a hearing aid full time. ( which then poses the question which languages are easier to hear and/ or lip-read and which languages are harder. Australian and English are not the same when it comes to hearing ( or lipreading; Australians are notorious mumblers, not all)!! Not all languages are equal. I speak French and German as well, though not fluently, so have some experience with differences)

Though it often was suggested by the audiologist that I wear 2 hearing aids especially as hearing deteriorated slowly, I found it unbearable and exhausting when I tried it till in my late 40’s ( in 2005) at last the digital hearing aids had improved enough that I actually liked wearing 2.

What I have learned since then is that it makes a HUUUGE  difference what audiologist I have!!!!

When I got these last hearing aids about 4 years ago my aids were set pretty much the way the computer said it should be in spite of my request to match them to my previous hearing aids. I was ready to smash them against a wall and was in tears with frustration.

Another audiologist who heard this and had worked with me before knew immediately something was very wrong as that is NOT how I behave usually. She suggested my next appointment would be with her. She reset the hearing aids from scratch! I could not BELIEVE the difference. !!! Same hearing aids!?!?!? Was that even possible?!?!?! Totally different experience. I was ecstatic!!! 

What is the case here?

Those of us who have worn hearing aids for over half a century ( or however long as long it is from a time before computers set hearing aids) have developed listening skills that may vary tremendously, especially when only wearing one hearing aid when both ears have loss, and the settings we need to meet those developed skillsare often very different from what the computer says we need.

I would have thought that audiologist’s training was including the skills to handle the requirements of clients like myself, but it seems I am just darn lucky to have an audiologist that is capable of working with my needs. Thanks to her I get the full pleasure of hearing aids that are set to my particular and unusual needs. I am terrified she won’t be there one day and I will be stuck with hearing aids that are set SO WRONG  I would get frustrated and depressed. Remember having Usher syndrome means I am LOSING MY EYESIGHT AS WELL!!!!! So hearing becomes more and more your ‘more reliable’ sense and the demands of what hearing aids need to be able to do increases.

My experience described above proves that hearing aids CAN BE fantastic, but ONLY AS FANTASTIC AS THE AUDIOLOGIST MAKES THEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now, I live in a retirement village and so, meet a lot of people who have lost hearing, and often eye sight as well!!! later in life. I ache for them as I realize that they usually do not have the skills to communicate their requirements  of the hearing aids. So often all I hear is:” they don’t help, they’re no use.”

The skills an audiologist needs to be a good audiologist is not limited to being able to setting the hearing aids to  match the computer’s output; that takes no skill beyond being able to handle the machines and aids. 

Their ability to communicate, and more importantly to  HELP their clients to communicate back to them WHY the hearing aids ‘don’t help” and LISTEN  o so carefully and give further help with communications, is by far the trickier skill and an absolute requirement if people are to benefit from hearing aids, especially if their sight is deserting them as well. not to mention other faculties of the body.

 These elderly people rely on their hearing aids more and more as often, with aging bodies, the only thing left in life is relationships and that requires communication. And that means hearing aids that WORK FOR THAT PARTICULAR PERSON, in the way that person needs and never mind what the computer has decided!!!!

Now, I AM  aware that developing new skills at an older age is so much harder and that includes the skill of learning to listen with hearing aids. So the audiologist does have a tough job here. Because even if communication between audiologist and client is optimal, there still remains the time factor for the elderly client to learn the skills required to work/listen with their hearing aids.

I am so fortunate I have my fantastic audiologist. And because of her, I get the FULL  benefit of 2  fantastic hearing aids set to my unusual requirements. 

I hope that this story is not just a story but an encouragement for the professionals to help people stay connected by giving them not only the best hearing aids available but having them set to the maximum individual requirements possible to meet the needs of their clients.

Wilma Brass”