About ten years ago, a woman came into the office seeking hearing help after she was released from an alcohol addiction clinic. To not violate any policies, I’ll call her Betty.
She met with my father, Nick, to discuss her inabilities to understand conversations at times. She explained, “I can hear, but just not clearly sometimes. It can be hard to make out softer voices or to hear people in noise. I notice it more on my right side. I think my left ear is ok.”
After testing her hearing for the first time, Nick counseled her: “Your hearing is worse in your right ear, but your left ear has a mild loss as well. In order to do this properly, you should correct both ears.”
Betty commented, “I don’t think I need anything in my left ear! If my right ear is worse, I only want to correct that side.”
To her liking, Nick entered Betty into a trial with JUST her right ear. He fit a hearing device that was discreet and calibrated to her right ear’s hearing deficiency.
She was happy and kept the device at the end of her trial.
She has been a terrific patient ever since. She comes in periodically for cleanings and adjustments.
Now, when I started at Michels Hearing Center about 7 years ago, she was one of the first patients I had met. We became friends since she’s so active in our hearing maintenance programs.
Well about 3 years ago, Betty wanted to sit down with me to discuss her hearing again. She knew there was better technology available and felt she’d like to try something newer. I went through the paces with her: retested her hearing, checked her ear canals, and then counseled her on her loss.
“Betty,” I said, “to be honest, there hasn’t been much change in your hearing for the last few years.”
“Yet, I still feel I am missing out on conversation.”
“Don’t you think it’s time to fit your left ear?” I asked.
“No, I don’t need one in that ear. I want to try something better in my right ear,” she was quick to respond.
To her liking again, I upgraded her right device. She noticed quite an improvement in comfort and clarity versus her older technology. She was happy and kept the device at the end of her trial.
And so, the story continues. She has been coming in regularly for hearing checks and adjustments since then.
Then we get another call that she wants to sit down and discuss her overall hearing again. She heard about new technology and is considering trying it.
I tested her hearing again: no change.
“I still cannot hear plainly. I am missing out in conversation. I can’t hear the tv well, and my daughter is complaining that I say ‘What?’ too much. Can I get a better device for my right ear?”
“No,” I said.
I wasn’t rude, but she looked surprised.
“If you are here for your right ear, then please don’t waste your money. If you can get one hearing device today, then please, you owe it to yourself to fit your left ear once and for all.”
“Tell me why,” was Betty’s response.
“Betty, I see you wear glasses. What do you think the optometrist would say the next time you go and insist on only wearing one lens for your right eye?”
Betty smiled as I went on.
“He’d probably laugh! With one lens, you can surely see better, but you are only seeing half the picture. No matter how hard you try with your right lens… no matter how hard the doctor tries to adjust your right eye’s prescription, he will NEVER be able to get you to see properly from the left side of your head.”
I explained more, “Your ears are no different. You are asking me to adjust your right ear to the point that it can hear sounds all the way around you. And it’s impossible. No matter how great the device is on your right ear, you are still only hearing from the right side of your head.”
She agreed. Finally. And so she walked out of the office for the first time in over 10 years with a hearing device in BOTH ears. And I was nervous about what she’d think in the end.
I fit Betty’s left ear 3 weeks ago.
And today… she had her first follow-up appointment.
She came into the office. She sat down quietly.
I was hesitant to ask: “How has everything been going, Betty?”
“I can’t thank you enough,” she gleamed. “I can’t believe the difference. I am hearing exactly the way I wanted to. The tv is quieter. My daughter is ecstatic, and I just can’t thank you enough. I’m finally happy.”
Betty made my day today.
This isn’t an “I-told-ya-so” story. The fact of the matter is: we are born with two ears for a reason. Take full advantage of them. Whether you have 1% or 99% hearing loss, it is still a hearing loss.
Every second that goes by that you leave your hearing uncorrected, not only can your hearing suffer more, but you miss on the slightest little hearing moments that will never happen again.
I am sure that as of now, Betty regrets not correcting her hearing like this from day one. Either way, she is finally happy. And so are we for helping her the right way.