In a Q&A with Edward Luczak, the retired salesman explains why he chose a professionally fitted hearing aid over an over-the-counter (OTC) one, and how that decision changed his life and made him feel alive again.
Tell us about your hearing loss journey.
Edward — I am a 65-year-old man who lost the upper third of his left ear hearing in an industrial environment when I was in my mid 20’s. This also left me with tinnitus, and I was on my own to deal with both. I learned to suppress the tinnitus as best as I could and just dealt with the hearing loss, depending on my good right ear to make up for it.
When did you decide to seek treatment?
Edward — As time went by, I found myself — at 53 years of age — having to strain to hear more often. It was exhausting. You don’t realize the amount of energy that is used straining to hear sounds and then trying to interpret them into words that you can understand.
I was fitted with a pair of over-the-counter hearing aids. I had no hearing aid coverage in my insurance, so cost was a major factor and that gave me an option that I could afford. So, $800 later I walked out with a hearing aid for my left ear. This "helped" my left ear, but I believe it only amplified the sound and nothing more. After a while I stopped wearing them, as the benefit didn’t outweigh the discomfort. They were Receiver-in-Canals (RICs), but hurt to wear. They had two programs, normal and restaurant, but they simply made the sound louder, and I still had issues with understanding.
Why did you decide to try Starkey’s Livio AI hearing aids?
Edward — Being retired, I have the time and I researched in-depth every brand on the market and every technology, along with models offered, to find what would be best to help my hearing loss. An audiologist can tell me about my hearing loss and recommend a solution, but no one knows my hearing loss better than I do or knows exactly what I need to make it better. It was two weeks of intense research, but I settled on Starkey.
Once I selected Starkey, I went a step further and downloaded documentation from the Starkey Pro site, which provided extreme detail on the devices along with the fitting and programming information. I have 40+ years of technical sales experience and fully understand the specs, technology and terminology. I had no intention of trying to program these myself, but I wanted to be informed when speaking with my hearing care professional and to assure I was receiving the most out of these incredible devices.
What has been the result?
Edward — It has been nearly six months now and I use my hearing aids from the moment I wake up until I go to bed. I can clearly hear sounds that are out of my range. I used to sit there, either at home or out in public, and smile and nod, barely or not hearing conversations. I am now engaged with people around me. My hearing has improved more than I could ever have hoped for. My personal frustration of missing out on so much is behind me.
I can’t wait to put my hearing aids on each day. It has brought a new attitude to my life and when I say they saved my life, it wasn’t from fall detection, which it could be someday. No, it saved my life in terms of getting me engaged again and enjoying everything around me. I’m no longer an outsider when around others, as I can hear again.
There really are no words to describe how that feels after all these years, but it’s wonderful. I can hear female voices clearly, which makes my wife and daughter very happy as they were a challenge for me. No more issues with hearing people in masks. In fact, I can hear them better than my wife, who has good hearing. The Mask Mode and Edge Mode features are amazing, the directional focus is so useful, and it has sharpened my mind once again, making me feel like “Ed revision 2”.
What is your advice to other people with hearing loss, who might be hesitant to try hearing aids?
Edward — When you cannot hear, you begin to detach yourself from the outside world. You miss out on sounds, you miss out on conversations, you miss out on interactions and being a participant in life. I found myself going into a shell. I didn’t want to visit people, as I was embarrassed that I couldn’t hear, and I know it was annoying for others to be constantly asked to repeat themselves. I was losing interest in many things and, although it never went to the point of depression, I can see how that could happen in time.
I am living proof that good hearing aids, not sound amplifiers, can change your life. My personality is back, I enjoy going out and seeing people, I can go to restaurants, concerts, theaters and more and hear everything. You don’t realize how much you have lost until you get it back.
I like to use a story of when I was a child. I watched baseball on a black-and-white TV. The first time my father took me to a game, it was Connie Mack stadium. Walking out of that tunnel to our seats, the feeling of seeing the size of the ball field, the smell of the food, but most of all seeing the colors was something I have never forgotten. It was an amazing experience. I can say trying on my Livio AI’s for the first time was exactly like that — replacing the colors with sound.
Don’t settle for limited hearing; everyone deserves to live life to its fullest and good hearing is the start in many cases. For me, I know there are many hearing aids on the market. The ones sold online and in stores are just amplifiers, from what I have researched. Go to a hearing aid professional and get the best you can afford. I got the best but there are other levels that may be perfect for you. But you need to decide that you are done with being the odd man or woman out and make the call to get your life back.
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