Paul's Starkey Hearing Story

Today on our blog, we’re excited to share Paul’s story. He is currently wearing 3 Series™ Behind-The-Ear hearing aids with Surflink® Mobile. Take a look at his hearing journey, told firsthand, below!

I was born with a hearing loss that progressed from mild to severe over the years.  My hearing loss is likely genetic as my maternal grandfather had the same loss.

When I was very young, I didn’t know others could hear better than I could until third grade when my hearing was first tested. My parents were against getting hearing aids for me. In their eyes, wearing hearing aids would be a negative experience, and they didn’t want me to endure being labeled hearing impaired.

So, I waited to receive hearing help. I missed a lot. I would lose track of what others were saying, especially in groups. I was unable to participate in conversations. If I tried to force myself back into the conversation, I would invariably say something that was already said or was so out of place that I would embarrass myself. So I learned to just be quiet. People either thought I was odd or an introvert. Interestingly enough, my good friends never had a problem with my lack of hearing.  It was just part of who I was to them. At times, even now, it is even a source of laughter. 

Looking back, I don’t know how I managed college. My class notes were incomplete and I was too embarrassed to ask professors to repeat what they’d said. Things got even more challenging once I entered the working world. Once I began working, it became clear that I couldn’t manage without assistance. There were just too many important things that I needed to get right. I could no longer afford to “fake it,” and I realized that I needed to get my first set of hearing aids.

Initially, I purchased just one hearing aid. I was 25 years old when I was fit with my first hearing aid. Eventually, I met my audiologist Ginny Wright. At the time, my wife was working with a developmental pediatrics group and Ginny was part of that team. When we met, I was already wearing one hearing aid. She helped me replace it and eventually convinced me that hearing aids for both ears was the way to go. I fought getting hearing aids and in particular the need to wear two. But she was patient, yet insistent. Over time she convinced me that two hearing aids would be significantly better than one (don’t tell her she was right!). 

Without exception, all of my concerns about wearing two hearing aids were insignificant when measured against the benefits. Most didn’t play out at all.  Now, my life is incomparable to what it would be without my hearing aids. I consider my audiologist my friend. I respect her professional capabilities and her expertise. I currently live in NYC, but travel down to South Carolina multiple times a year to visit family and friends. I typically have her retest my hearing or adjust my hearing aids as needed a few times a year.

Wearing hearing aids is not the imposition I expected. I’ve come to understand the vital nature of having them. My business life is significantly improved and, now that I’ve experienced the benefits over time, my personal life would be impossible without them. I’ve progressed through several hearing aids as my hearing has gotten worse and better technology has come along.

My current aids are Bluetooth® enabled. This has been a big quality-of-life change for me.  Being able to take calls directly through my hearing aids or enhance my ability to hear during meetings has been unbelievable. I really only take them out when I play volleyball. When I play, I choose to remove them. But, that is really just to protect my hearing aids. I don’t want to take a chance on damaging them! I leave them in for most of my other leisure activities especially golf. Golf is just too social. I would miss out on too much of the camaraderie without my hearing aids.

I would encourage anyone with hearing loss to give hearing aids a try. I’m very open about discussing my hearing loss and my hearing aids. But the truth is nobody really cares whether or not you are wearing hearing aids. It’s just like noticing that someone is wearing glasses. It isn’t a big deal. Occasionally someone asks me a few questions about my hearing aids if they are unfamiliar with hearing loss. I find this to be a show of caring or simply fulfilling a curiosity and enjoy when this happens. I am happy to talk openly about my experience and answer any questions I can. My hearing loss is part of what defines me. I’m not ashamed to let others know about it. 

Sadly, due to stereotypes I feared were associated with hearing impairments, I was very late to the game. Now that I have two hearing aids, I panic if I have to do without them. 

You can find out more about Paul’s audiologist here, or locate a provider near you here.

By Beth McCormick, Au.D.