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A Bird’s Eye View into the Evolution of Hearing Aids

evolution of hearing aids
Ed Douglas, a retired teacher and professional photographer, has been wearing hearing aids for more than 25 years. Throughout that time, he’s seen how the technology has grown from “dinosaurs” to being almost like natural hearing.

For the Birds…

Ed’s hearing journey began one sunny morning 25 years ago when Lou, his wife, commented on how pretty the birds sounded.

“’What birds?,’ I asked her. I couldn’t hear them,” he says.

“I immediately told him that he needed to get his hearing tested,” Lou says. She had noticed Ed in the past sitting back and simply zoning out, but it was not hearing the birds that prompted her to say something to her husband.

“I knew he didn’t hear me all the time, and maybe he couldn’t hear a lot of voices and background noises,” she added. “But when he couldn’t hear the birds, that was heart breaking. He was missing out on something he loved.”

“But when he couldn’t hear the birds, that was heart breaking.” 

Within a week’s time, Ed was at his audiologist who confirmed he needed hearing aids. He started wearing them immediately.

Read more: Why I finally decided my dad needs hearing aids 

“I wanted to be able to hear,” Ed says. “Plus, as a teacher and a professional photographer, I needed to be able to comprehend what other people were saying, or else I wasn’t able to communicate.”

The Way of the Dinosaurs

According to Ed, those first pair of hearing aids weren’t anywhere close to what is available today.

“Dinosaurs,” he says. “A lot of feedback, too. If I put my hand near my old hearing aids, it would make a whistling sound. That was annoying, but yet, it was still better having hearing aids.”

Lou was happy that Ed could once again enjoy doing what he loved: hearing the birds.

“His hearing aids would ‘scream’ at me, too, and they just made things louder. It was difficult for him to go to busy restaurants. But, he could join in conversations again, hear little kids’ voices and understand women’s voices,” she says.

Advancement in Hearing Technology

Ed has been wearing Phonak hearing aids for more than four years; the most recent pair for a few months.

“It never occurred to me to be self-conscious about wearing hearing aids,” he says. “I’ve worn glasses all my life, and I’ve never been self-conscious about them. Hearing aids are like eyeglasses for the ears.

“Technology has changed so much,” he adds. “The biggest is sound. It’s more natural. It’s like it was before I lost part of my hearing.”

According to Lou, with each pair of her husband’s Phonak hearing aids, he discovers something new.

“Audio books could go directly to Ed’s hearing aids instead of using headphones,” she said. “Now that he’s retired and home alone, he’s able to have phone calls go directly through his hearing aids, hands-free.”

Read more: How to Use Audiobooks for Hearing Rehab

Besides the new technology, Ed feels his hearing aids are more comfortable.

“He used to say that the older ones felt like bubblegum stuck in his ear,” Lou says. “Plus, people don’t even know he’s wearing them. A lady at church just the other day was surprised that he wears hearing aids!”

“My Phonak hearing aids are more like what cellphones are now. Cellphones do much more than just calling. They have cameras,” Ed adds. “My hearing aids are advanced to a point to where they kinda purify the sound instead of magnify it. They also get rid of the noise that might be confusing or cause a person to be distracted by it.”

A Discovery of New Sounds

Now retired, Ed spends his time photographing birds.

“I love to hear new sounds outdoors,” he says. “Not only bird songs, but the wind, rain and rustling of the leaves. I also like to hear insect noises, like cicadas and those little creepy-crawlies that make those noises at night. It’s nice to hear creature sounds.”

“And,” Lou adds, “he can hear me better, too!”

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