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Dr. Giles's Blog

Reflections from Dr. C. Scot Giles, the Consulting Hypnotist and practice owner at Rev. C. Scot Giles, D.Min., LLC

What you say?

Charles Giles

I’m hard of hearing. Have been for many years. I find that difficult to write because as disabilities go, being hard of hearing these days isn’t much of one. Technological advances have been amazing and with them I function almost as well a normally-hearing person. Still, people treat you differently if they know. There is an old fashioned social stigma attached to being “deaf."

There's a medical condition that runs in my family on the male line. The men in my family develop tinnitus (ringing in the ears) in our teens and it progresses to hearing loss by midlife. Therefore, when it happened to me I was not surprised. I’d watched my father and uncle try to cope, and made it my business to learn about audiology so that when my time came I could make an informed decision.

These days hearing aids (which I’ve now worn for decades) are very sophisticated. Unless you are looking for them you really can’t see that someone is wearing them. They are no longer little loudspeakers. Instead, they are sophisticated computers that turn incoming sound into data, manipulate the data according to the wearer’s hearing loss and output it on the other side. For example, rather than just making sounds louder, my aids take sound in a range that I do not hear well and transform it into a range that I can hear normally. They can even take out background sounds, so that when I’m in a noisy restaurant I often can hear better than anyone else at the table.

Today is my second day wearing a new pair of hearing aids (they are Starkey Halos) that use a whole new technology. These use bluetooth to not only communicate with each other but with my iPhone. The computer in the iPhone is much better than anything one can fit into a hearing aid, so these instruments have capacities that no one could have dreamed of a few years ago.

There is an app on my iPhone that controls the aids. I can adjust all the settings on the fly to get the best hearing profile in any environment. Then, I can store those settings in the iPhone, and use the Global Positioning System to identify the location exactly. The next time I am in that environment the iPhone tells the hearing aids to switch over to that program. The iPhone even knows when I am in my car moving faster than 10 miles per hour and adjusts itself so I hear best in that environment.

Oh…I can also listen to music, take phone calls and use a remote microphone up to 50 feet away without having to use any sort of headset or earbuds. The hearing aids simply become a high quality stereo headset that automatically adjusts for the best sound. I have literally become one with my iPhone. 

In fact the iPhone can now send messages directly to my hearing aids that no one else can hear. I can get reminders, information from Siri and other data delivered directly to my brain. Think of it as Google Glass for my ears. Actually, that sort of bothers me. It’s like being part of the Borg from the old Star Trek series.

So, if you are going to have a hearing loss in this day and age it’s amazing what a good audiologist can do to help you out. The only downside is the cost. High tech hearing aids are amazingly expensive and insurance does not pay for them. But it’s worth it, especially if you make your living listening to people. As we baby boomers get older I suspect audiologists will see more and more business from us.