Music Appreciation – Caveats and Limitations

As we all know, music holds a special meaning and connection for each and every individual who listens to it. We all have our own personal preferences to how we like our music to sound and whether we want to hear more bass than treble, more vocals than instrumental, and so on. Each and every one of us has our own personalized “equalization setting” of choice.

This is one of the great things about music. Not only can we make it “our own”, but we can use it to convey a magnitude of information. How many times have you heard only a couple seconds of your favorite song and you immediately thought of a time or place – or how you felt – and instantly it takes you out of your current environment and transports you to another world? So what happens when you lose your hearing? How does music sound then?

Clarinetist Performance

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A Beautiful Ending

The end to every journey can be met with excitement or sadness: it’s all on how you look at it. The past year has flown by before my eyes. There were days when I was tired and thought that it was the longest day of the week, however the majority of time has left me saying to myself “where did the week go” by the time Friday came. So then how do I look at the end of my journey? I see it as an exciting time as well as a sad time.

The past year has been an experience that has made not only a professional impact but also a personal impact on me. As an audiologist, I have grown substantially. As I wrap up my time here at headquarters I feel as though I have gained the knowledge and experience of a 5 year time span. I recognize that the intensive 12 months behind me have challenged my educational foundation (in a good way) as well as required me to think ‘outside of the box’ by looking forward 5 years to the future generation of hearing aids and the people who will be wearing them.

This challenge has made the biggest impact. As you emerge from school with a fresh perspective you still remain closely focused on the present, the here and now. You look at each day and each patient regarding how they are getting along at that point in time. You never challenge yourself to think 5+ years ahead. Think of what the technology will be like, what hearing loss and medical intervention may be, as well as the average age and profile of the clients you will see. Can you wrap your head around it?

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The Future May Not Be All About Technology

The world we live in is bursting with new and exciting technology. As an audiologist I am astonished by the technological achievements that are implemented into today’s hearing aids, while other times I feel constricted and limited. How can this be? I can get into my car, connect to a “smart system”, browse my music and pictures, ask the system for directions by simply talking out loud; the possibilities are endless. Why then aren’t we farther along in hearing aid technology? Why isn’t there a proper “smart” hearing aid? Would we even want one if it existed?

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Accepting Silence

As I ride the train every morning, I am reminded of what quiet and/or silence really is. That brief moment when you can hear a pin drop in a packed train car, when someone rustling an umbrella or opening a bag catches your attention because it is a harsh invader in the heavy fog of silence. Everyone seems tired, there aren’t any jovial conversations being had — just the undeniable silence that leaves only the rhythmic steel wheels churning along the rails. When did silence become so thick?

On the train

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Your Audiologist — A Life-Long Relationship

It was another “normal day” at the office. My schedule was full of hearing evaluations, hearing aid fittings, and follow-up appointments. No boring routine, as each client was unique in their history and needs, as well as their expectations. As any doctor does, I had developed a mental check list I would follow when meeting a new patient. Medical history, listening needs, diagnostic testing, explanation of evaluation results and counseling. The process had never failed me.

I met Jane in the waiting room, brought her back to the testing area, and introduced myself. After completing the diagnostic testing it was time to start the counseling portion. Jane was not unlike other individuals I had worked with, however she was unique and to this day has made a lasting impression on my professional career.

Audiologist for life

Jane was young, in her early thirties at the time of her evaluation, and had experienced a rapid decrease in hearing in her right ear. Over a very short period of time, Jane had lost approximately 75% of her hearing in that ear, while her left ear remained unaffected. She worked in a multi-physician office that required her to perform quickly and efficiently, two qualities which were starting to be affected by her hearing loss. She described anxiety, stress, exhaustion, and an overall feeling of desperation for any intervention that may help her “get her hearing back”.

As her audiologist I could see the physical evidence that her hearing evaluation revealed. However, I knew that if I simply started to read the results back to her, I would only be adding to the sense of helplessness she was describing. So I did the next best think I could think of. I pulled my chair up next to Jane and her husband, left her results on the table, and told her that she already knew what the results were. Her hearing was indeed measurably worse in her right ear in comparison to her left ear. She had been working overtime trying to compensate for the difference. I told her that she had every reason to be upset, to feel stress and anxiety while trying to perform her job. Most importantly, I told her that she was exhausted at the end of the day because she was doing the job of two ears with one. She was working to compensate and function as if she still had normal hearing in both ears. Her brain was literally exhausted. Everything she described, every function and emotion, was valid. She was exhausted.

It was only a matter of seconds before she started to cry in the middle of the office. For a hearing healthcare professional, crying is not out of the norm to experience on a daily basis. Jane’s crying surprised me, however, and I think it surprised her husband as well. When I was finally able to ask her if she was okay, she looked at me and simply said, “thank you”. I asked her why she was thanking me, as I must admit you do not always receive a “thank you” when you explain results to clients. Her explanation was easy: I had been the only person who had taken the time to validate what she was experiencing on a daily basis.

The rest of the appointment was filled with discussions of Jane’s unique hearing loss, her work environment, the amplification options available, and the expectations of what may or may not be possible. Regardless of the outcome of Jane’s appointment that day, she left my office a vastly different woman than when she first arrived. She was not the only person who had been transformed in the 90 minutes that had elapsed, however. She also made a lasting impression on me. To this day I remember Jane and I can feel the emotions of that appointment rush back over me. I only hope that in the 5, 10, or 20 years even, Jane remembers the same thing. These relationships are the ones that last forever.

Relationship? Is that the right word to describe the interaction between a patient/client and a doctor? If you’re talking about your general healthcare provider perhaps it is, but your dentist? Maybe not. Your audiologist? Absolutely! The definition of relationship says it all: “The way in which two or more people or things are connected”. A hearing loss impacts the rest of your life, as does your decision to (or not to) wear hearing aids. The routine testing, maintenance of hearing aids, fine tuning and programming, repairs,etc., these are all actions taken between you and your audiologist. When something is not functioning appropriately or broken, you depend on your audiologist to know the answer and get you communicating again! Your audiologist, when you find one that you feel comfortable and happy with, will always be a part of your life.

It is our human nature that causes us to “judge” someone when we meet them — do we like their personality, are we “on the same page”, will we work well together? These are all questions that you should ask yourself when you meet your audiologist, because it is important to remember that if you are starting this relationship out on the wrong foot, then it cannot grow and evolve like it needs to. Not only do you make an impact on the audiologist, but we can only hope to make an impact on your life — your communication. We do all that we can to provide you with the tools you need to have continued success and a life full of unlimited communication and interaction with the world around you.

Adapting Abroad: Languages, Hearing Loss, Neural Plasticity

Language differences today can be divisive and challenging – they can separate people and halt communication altogether. How can it be then, that at the same time, language can be a uniting front and bring millions of people together? Perhaps then it is not the language being “good” or “bad”, but the people trying to use the language as a tool of communication.
abroad
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Becoming a Part of the Family

As I write this post I am reminded that we all are different, that we all are unique in our journey to our current day. How exciting it all is and even more special that we can share it via modern technology.

Nicole at Sonova

My transition to audiology is not one of the “classic” stories you hear. I don’t know anyone with hearing loss, I have no family history of hearing loss or hearing aid use, and I was never exposed to hearing loss throughout school.

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