Long-time truck driver finds fast hearing improvements with the right hearing aid
March 7, 2011.
Randall King, owner of King Hearing, shares the following story: Bill had driven a truck for 30 years. He had a significant hearing loss and had worn hearing aids on and off – mostly off – for the past seven years. It’s a curious thing, but truck drivers commonly have a greater hearing loss in the left ear. Although it doesn’t really seem that wind is that loud, many drivers drive for long periods with the window rolled down and this continued exposure to wind noise can create a hearing loss in the left ear.
It’s common that we discover quirks in certain professions that create unique hearing problems, like when farmers operated tractors without cabs, for example. Because they would often look behind them at the plow, they would sometimes have a greater loss in the ear that had more direct exposure to the exhaust pipe on the tractor.
Hearing aids were a nuisance to Bill. He had to wear them due to federal safety standards, but while he was in the cab, he could hear all the road noise and little of what he wanted to understand. When he snacked chips, it sounded to him as if a horse were eating a carrot!
Bill came to me with very little enthusiasm – he had been through the drill and just wanted to get on with it. I tested his hearing and explained the unique frequency loss that he had developed, similar to that of many people that had worked around noise. He had near normal responses in the low and mid frequency range, but had real problems hearing the consonant sounds in the high frequencies that contribute to about 95 percent of understanding.
A few years ago, we really did not have a good solution for Bill. He had always worn hearing aids that were entirely inside his ear, which created an acoustical problem. The ear canal is only about one and one-half inches long and about the diameter of your middle finger. When you stop up one end of this canal, you hold in low frequency sounds more than high frequencies, creating a sensation much like stopping your ear up with your finger. Sounds, like road noise and chewing, tend to get amplified more than is comfortable and this uneven balance of sound can actually make it harder to hear with hearing aids.
The good news for Bill was that technology had enabled us to fit hearing aids that leave the ear canal very open, to use your natural hearing for low frequencies, and to just “feed” amplified high frequencies into the ear for better understanding. Bill was skeptical – he had tried hearing aids for a long time and was frustrated with the results. After explaining all the advantages, I had one more piece of good news for Bill. If he did not like the hearing aids I recommended after wearing them for a month, I would refund all of his money… so, he gave them a try.
At our next appointment, Bill was excited, even though he had only worn his new hearing aids for a week. While driving his truck, the road noise sounded more natural and not over-powering. And he could eat what he wanted without feeling like he should go to the barn.
Hearing aids are not magic, but they do help the difficult condition of hearing loss. Fitting the right hearing aid to each person’s unique hearing loss and making the right adjustments to program the hearing aids, can mean the difference.