I worked in the Service (repair and installation) department at my company. One of our sales reps sold a product to a customer that we had never sold before, and the manufacturer told us at the last minute that the would not release the product for shipment to the customer until we had a “trained” and certified service technician on staff.
It turned out that the “training” involved watching four VHS video tapes and then taking a written test. My manager called me into the office, handed me the videos and the test (pre-internet days) and told me to go home and get trained. Today. By 5pm.
So I went home and asked my wife to take our small children to the zoo for the afternoon. I sat down on the floor in front of the TV and put in the first video. Since it was set up and repair training, the entire thing was videos of a tech’s hands doing things, and a voice-over explaining what was being done.
I was having trouble understanding the words without the context of the face the voice was coming from (I also didn’t realize before that how much speechreading I had been doing). I turned up the volume. Then I turned it up again. And again. And again. I realized that volume wasn’t the problem. It was so loud it was hurting my ears. I was sitting 3 feet from the TV and couldn’t understand most of the words.
I got through it and passed the test because I was already a really good tech and realized that most of it was common sense and enough like the stuff I already worked on to be able to fake it.
When my wife came home I told her that I wanted to get my hearing tested, and she replied “Oh, thank God!”
After the hearing (tone and word recognition) tests, the audiologist said that he wanted to do one more test. He walked behind the chair I was sitting in, and started talking to me. I could hear that he was talking, but couldn’t understand any of the words. He asked my wife to have me turn around so that I could see that he was standing 3 feet behind me.
Then he programmed a pair of BTEs with foam “ear molds”, had me put them on, and then said “let’s try that again”. He went behind me and started talking and I could understand every word. Then he asked me to turn around, and he was standing 15 feet down a hallway behind me.
I sat there, a 28 year old man, father of 3 - with another on the way, and cried. Shortly thereafter, when he told me that those aids would cost over $6,000 (in 1996 money) I cried again. I had health insurance from my work, but HA’s were a specified exclusion. If I wanted them I was going to have to pay cash for them, and we simply didn’t have it.
I had to save for two years to buy my first set. As luck would have it, I had a bad sinus infection and my regular doctor referred me to an ENT. The subject of my hearing came up and he mentioned that he also dispensed hearing aids. He gave me a price on a set of Siemens BTEs (analog) that were about $1500 less than the other guy’s price, so that’s what I started out with.
It was a big change, and it wasn’t always pleasant, but it was life-changing. I had a lot of conversations with my wife that went something like: Me - “What’s that?” Her - “What’s what?” Me “That ‘tick, tick tick’ sound.” Her - “that’s the dishwasher. It has always sounded like that”. Wind noise in the car, the kids playing outside, etc, etc, etc.
26 years later, I still work for the same company (though in a much different role), and 2024 is the first time our insurance has included HA coverage. I have a set of Phonak Audeo Lumity 90s on order - the waterproof ones - and get to pick them up the day after tomorrow.
I have always babied these things because they were out of pocket when they needed to be replaced. As a result, this will only be my 4th set of aids in that time. I wore the Siemens from 1998 to 2002, upgraded to Oticon Atlas ITE and wore those until 2014 when I switched to Oticon Alto Pro RIC, and the new Phonaks will be RIC as well. The nice thing about holding on to them so long is that there tend to be big, noticeable improvements!
I should add that I did get hearing checks, repairs, new ear molds, etc during those intervals…
So, long story long…