I have a million questions, but I should keep this first post brief.
About my condition: I experienced sudden, broad-frequency hearing loss in my right ear about a year ago. It was accompanied by tinnitus. Both the hearing loss and the tinnitus appear to be permanent.
Diagnosis at this point is uncertain, but we have ruled out tumors, gross otosclerosis, and several other causes. A passing viral ear infection is one of my doctor’s favored theories. I did feel somewhat disoriented over the two-week span when I was losing my hearing, though I had no other obvious signs of illness.
I was hoping for a clear diagnosis, and then a treatment. So far, nothing. Last week I had my first hearing aid consultation.
I’ve had three audiology tests over the past year. They show not only the hearing loss in my right ear, but also high-frequency hearing loss in the left ear that, in retrospect, I’ve probably been living with for years.
Here’s a consensus of my audiograms, overlaid with the classic “speech banana”:
Red = left ear, green = right ear.
(That sharp notch at 6 KHz in my right ear is close to one of the loudest frequencies in my tinnitus.)
The audiologist tried a par of Widex Mind 440’s on me. I wore an open-hole device on the left ear, and a closed-hole on the right. I definitely noticed some improvement, but the sound was a bit “hollow” (too much mid-range, I think). I could also tell that I wanted more gain in the high frequencies. I wanted additional clarity for the “f”, “s”, and “th” sounds. She surprised me and told me that even the best hearing aids offered little to no gain above 4 KHz!
I know a fair amount about audio equipment, so I pressed for a reason why this would be so. She told me that feedback was the limiting factor at the high frequencies. A little reading on the Net makes me wonder whether her information was fully up-to-date. I found an article from a Mayo Clinic physician, several years old already, which stated that hearing aid technology had improved and could assist people with high-frequency hearing loss, where previously there was nothing.
There are many feedback-suppressing technologies these days – including pitch shifting, an idea I had myself over a decade ago (and failed to patent!). Just a small frequency shift, say 6 Hz, is adequate to kill a feedback loop. Above 2 kHz or so, the slight inharmonicity that might result from the pitch shifting should go un-noticed.
The audiologist told me that the Widex 440 did have a program which shifted the high frequencies downward, but apparently by an entire octave. I didn’t get to try that setting, but her description left me with the impression that it would sound artificial.
I don’t know whether the audiologist was reluctant to give me the extra gain I requested at the high frequencies, for fear of treating me to the squeal of feedback. But if that gain is simply not obtainable, with any device, I don’t think I should waste any money on a hearing aid for my left ear. I’ll just get one, for the right ear.
Please share your wisdom. Many thanks!