Matt Maxey, Chance the Rapper, Kelly Kurdi holding DEAFinitley Dope shirts

DEAFinitley Dope Sign Language Interpreters to Join Chance the Rapper On Tour

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Chance the Rapper wants all of his fans to enjoy his shows, especially those in the Deaf community. Prior to performing in Tampa, Florida on June 14, Chance, alongside Matthew Maxey of DEAFinitley Dope — an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter service — announced he would providing interpreters for the remainder of his Be Encouraged Tour. While some arenas provide ASL interpreters, oftentimes deaf people have to request or hire their own interpreters. Chance is one of the first major hip-hop artists to independently offer this service.

Chance the Rapper makes history with ASL interpreters

Chance The Rapper is making history (per usual) as the first rapper to hire his own ASL interpreters from DEAFinitely Dope to bring on his tour

Posted by All Def Music on Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Maxey, who is hard of hearing, interpreted, through another hearing interpreter as Chance said “We will have interpreters at the show, which will be a new thing going forward, to help everybody experience the show… If you know anyone that’s deaf or hard-of-hearing please invite them.” Chance also provided 50 front row tickets free of charge to deaf and hard-of-hearing fans for his Tampa show.

DEAFinitely Dope, an Atlanta-based company founded by Maxey, describes itself as “seek[ing] to unite the hearing and Deaf community through music and sign language, breaking barriers in the process.” Maxey’s goal is to change the way fans experience genres like hip-hop and R&B, making them more versatile through sign language.

In a segment with 10 News, DEAFinitely Dope said it’s their job to capture a song’s rhythm and feeling as well as the artist’s message. Interpreter Kelly Kurdi told 10 News, “We’ve all been close to tears since we met him, because we just can’t believe that he’s willing to provide interpreters on his own.”

Fan response to the announcement has also been positive.

Update: Kelly Kurdi, the assistant manager for DEAFinitley Dope told The Mighty:

We were interpreting for the deaf patrons at Bonnaroo Music Festival in Tennessee for Dram. Chance the Rapper happened to be backstage and saw Matt interpreting. He contacted the Access Team at Bonnaroo and asked to meet Matt. We went over to meet him later that evening and that’s when he asked what we were doing the next two weeks. He wanted to bring us in for the rest of his tour and include the Deaf community at all of his shows!

We are a team of deaf and hearing individuals who have come together with a shared passion for music, ASL, and change for the community. We have a deaf founder, deaf manager, and deaf videographer who creates all of our music videos. Matt and I work together as an interpreting team on the shows and it’s been amazing to see how much excitement and inspiration Matt brings to the Deaf audience. For many of them, Chance’s show is the very first concert they’ve ever attended as they normally have to go through so much to get an interpreter hired by venues so they often give up or just don’t even try.

To have an artist not only hand pick and hire his interpreters but also provide 50 front row tickets where they can feel and see everything is huge. We are hoping that together Chance the Rapper and DEAFinitely Dope will create a movement that will not only change the concert experience for Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals, but also spread awareness about the 35 million Deaf/HOH Americans who fight for access and inclusion on a daily basis.

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Decorated hearing aid.

The Day I Decided to Stop Hiding My Hearing Aids

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I stared at the new pair of dark brown behind-the-ear hearing aids that were sitting on the audiologist’s desk before me. I had been secretly dreading this day for several weeks – the day I would have to trade my tiny receiver-in-the-canal hearing aids for a pair of larger and more powerful behind-the-ear hearing aids with custom earmolds.

My audiologist tried her best to balance my two biggest needs when she originally fit me with my first pair of hearing aids: hearing aids that were as small and discreet as possible that would amplify the frequencies I couldn’t hear. Although my audiologist tried to make the receiver-in-the-canal hearing aids work for my hearing loss and the tiny size of my ears over the several months that I had them, nothing we tried seemed to work.

Eventually, I reluctantly chose to switch to a pair of larger and more powerful behind-the-ear hearing aids instead of the receiver-in-the-canal hearing aids, because I was tired of not being able to hear well. This decision was incredibly difficult for me, because while I had begun to accept the fact that I have a hearing loss and that wearing hearing aids is beneficial to me, I still struggled with my self-esteem and being one of the only young adults with hearing loss I knew.

My mind raced and I fought back tears while my audiologist programmed my new hearing aids and placed them on my ears. How would I be able
to hide my hearing loss from others with these giant hearing aids perched on my ears?

I invested all of my energy into hiding my new larger hearing aids for several weeks. My short pixie haircut made it nearly impossible to hide my
hearing aids with my hair, so I decided I had to be creative and come up with a different way to hide my ears from the rest of the world. Since it
was the beginning of spring, I was able to get away with wearing
beanies that covered my ears for several weeks… until the weather became warmer and my friends and classmates started asking me why I was wearing hats all the time, even when it was not cold outside. I was armed with all sorts of excuses – it’s a fashion choice, this hat matches my outfit, I made this hat myself, my hair is a mess today, and my go-to: “Because I want to, that’s why.”

Even though I knew it wasn’t true, I felt as though all eyes were fixated
on my ears as soon as I walked into the room, especially when I entered the
classroom. I felt even more self-conscious and insecure about my hearing loss than I ever had before, and I started withdrawing from social situations as much as I possibly could as a result.

For several weeks after I was fitted with my new larger hearing aids, I began to stop by the bathroom before each of my classes to look at myself in the mirror – not because I wanted to see what I looked like, but because I wanted to make sure my hearing aids were not visible to anyone else. I found it incredibly difficult to concentrate during my classes because my
mind was constantly preoccupied by the fear that I would turn my head in a certain way or my beanie would shift ever so slightly and reveal my hearing aids. My fear of being caught with exposed ears led me to stand in front of the mirror every morning and try my best to make sure my hearing aids were completely covered by my hair and my beanie.

One morning as I was standing in front of the mirror before class, I began to question why I was trying so hard to hide my hearing aids from the rest of the world. The class I was about to go to was required for my major, and focuses specifically on learning about people with hearing loss. I stopped and stared at myself in the mirror as I began to think about what was happening. I was about to go to a class that is dedicated to learning about hearing loss and how to work with people who are d/Deaf and hard of hearing. It was probably one of the safest places on my entire college campus to have a hearing loss. My hearing loss was not really a secret since I used various forms of accommodations in my classes. So why was I trying so hard to hide my new hearing aids?

After a few moments I took a deep breath, pulled the beanie off my head and stuffed it into my backpack, and walked out of the bathroom and into the classroom. My muscles were tense as a million thoughts rushed through my head, but I felt my muscles relax as the class period progressed and nothing bad happened. Feeling encouraged, I didn’t wear my beanie to my other classes that day – and happily, nothing happened; no one drew attention to my hearing aids, and almost everyone treated me the same way they always did.

A few days later, I saw a picture on Facebook of a cochlear implant and a hearing aid someone decorated with washi tape to make it look prettier and more colorful than the boring skin and hair colors hearing aids and cochlear implants typically come in. I searched for more images of decorated hearing aids online, and I quickly decided I wanted to decorate
my hearing aids, too. A large part of the reason why I felt so insecure and
hesitant about wearing my new hearing aids was that my hearing aids were rather large and an ugly shade of brown… but I could easily fix that with a bit of creativity and some colorful decorative tape!

I started experimenting with various colors and designs of washi tape and duct tape. My first “pimp,” as it is called in one of the Facebook groups dedicated to showcasing the numerous ways hearing aids and cochlear implants can be decorated, was a bright purple washi tape with white polka dots. (Anyone who knows me well knows I am obsessed with the color purple, so it’s no surprise my first hearing aid pimp was purple!)

Although my original purpose for decorating my hearing aids was to ease my insecurities and make me feel more confident about my hearing
aids and my hearing loss, it has become so much more. My brightly decorated, colorful hearing aids help me to advocate for myself when needed. Since my hearing aids are very noticeable, I receive quite a lot of questions about my hearing aids and my hearing loss that spark a conversation. My colorful hearing aids help others to remember that I have a hearing loss and I need for them to speak clearly and face me when they are talking to me. It eases some of the frustrations of trying to communicate with people who do not have hearing losses and who don’t automatically know or remember how to best communicate with me. I have been able to help other people who have hearing losses to feel more confident because of my colorful hearing aids, and I have even inspired a few people to begin decorating their hearing equipment as well!

If you feel self-conscious or insecure about wearing hearing aids because you don’t want people to notice your hearing aids and/or you don’t
like the way that hearing aids look, I encourage you to consider decorating
your hearing aids to reflect your personal sense of style. Decorating my
hearing aids has helped me to embrace my hearing loss, learn how to advocate for myself, and teach others about my hearing loss and how to communicate with me effectively.

Besides… who wants to wear boring beige or brown hearing aids, anyway?

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How I Ease My Phone Phobia as a Deaf Person

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I was born Deaf. Even though I cannot fully understand speech without lipreading, I could understand a few people close to me over the phone in a limited way.

But I’ve always had some “phone phobia” and usually avoid the phone unless it’s from a trusted phone number.

Wikipedia described phone phobia as:

Fear of using the phone in any context (for either making or receiving calls) may be associated with anxiety about poor sound quality, and concerns that one or other party will not understand what has been said, resulting either in misunderstandings, or in the need for repetition, further explanation, or other potentially awkward forms of negotiation.

Even nowadays with newer technology such as the captioned phone, where an operator types the caller’s conversation for you to read on the screen while you talk to them, I still get anxious when having to use the phone. I’d rather use IP Relay where I can type out my conversation instead and have an operator as a buffer for my anxiety.

If you meet me in person, you’d probably think I have no social anxiety at all, and I hardly ever do while out in public. On the phone the lack of lipreading, having to explain the phone technology and delays, worrying about my “deaf accent,” and lack of seeing body language in the other person just ramps up my anxiety.

I’m trying to ease this and learn new methods of getting through it, and I thought I’d share them with you.

5 Strategies for Easing Phone Phobia

1. Exposure and practice. Simply put, the more you try doing it, the easier it becomes. Try it with telemarketers too. Have some fun and pester them with silly questions.

2. You’re fine. Just know you’re not expected to be perfect. Don’t worry if you don’t know the answer right away, stumble through, or ramble on. Everyone does this at one point or another.

3. Rehearse. Write a script of what you need to say and write answers for any anticipated questions. Write down key points to cover, questions you have and even conversation topics to keep the flow going. Don’t read it word for word, but keep it handy to ease any anxiety.

4. Businesses want you to call — they’re there to help you and since they’re in customer service, they’re (usually) trained to help you. As long as you stay calm and polite, they’re often willing to help and it’s a happy break from angry rude calls they’ve received.

5. Act as if you’re there. Use gestures, smile, and use the same body language. Even though the other person won’t see it, it’ll come across in your voice. Part of social anxiety is the restraint of movements, so walk around and free yourself.

I hope these tips will help you “reach out and touch someone” (Oh I know, even I’m eyerolling at myself).

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'Guardians of the Galaxy' Trailer Criticized for Excluding Captions

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Update: On Thursday, Marvel Studios removed the trailer from its Facebook page and Chris Pratt posted an apology in sign language on his Instagram page. “More than 38 million Americans live with some sort of hearing disability. So I want to apologize,” Pratt wrote. “I have people in my life who are hearing-impaired, and the last thing in the world I would want to do is offend them or anybody who suffers from hearing loss or any other disability. So truly from the bottom of my heart I apologize. Thanks for pointing this out to me. In the future I’ll try to be a little less ignorant about it.” 

Instagram does this thing where it mutes all the videos it shows and forces you to turn on the volume in order to hear them. (maybe because most people are watching those videos at work when they should be working and don’t want to get caught. I know that’s when I do it. ????) So when I made a video recently with subtitles, and requested that people turn up the volume and not just “read the subtitles” it was so people wouldn’t scroll past the video on mute, thus watching and digesting the information in the video. HOWEVER, I realize now doing so was incredibly insensitive to the many folks out there who depend on subtitles. More than 38 million Americans live with some sort of hearing disability. So I want to apologize. I have people in my life who are hearing-impaired, and the last thing in the world I would want to do is offend them or anybody who suffers from hearing loss or any other disability. So truly from the bottom of my heart I apologize. Thanks for pointing this out to me. In the future I’ll try to be a little less ignorant about it. Now… I know some of you are going to say, “Hey! Chris only apologized because his publicist made him!” Well. That is not the case. As always I control my social media. Nobody else. And I am doing this because I’m actually really sorry. Apologies are powerful. I don’t dole them out Willy-Nilly. This is one of those moments where I screwed up and here’s me begging your pardon. I hope you accept my apology. And on that note. Why doesn’t Instagram have some kind of technology to automatically add subtitles to its videos? Or at least the option. I did a little exploring and it seems lacking in that area. Shouldn’t there be an option for closed captioning or something? I’ve made them lord knows how much money with my videos and pictures. Essentially sharing myself for free. I know they profit. So… GET ON IT INSTAGRAM!!! Put closed captioning on your app. #CCinstaNow

A post shared by chris pratt (@prattprattpratt) on

“Guardians of the Galaxy” fans are upset with Marvel Studio’s film franchise after it posted a trailer on Facebook removing video captions and telling fans to “turn up the volume” to watch the clip.

“C’mon seriously dude,” Chris Pratt says in the trailer. “You’d rather read those than hear me?”

“Nah. No reading those,” he adds as the captions disappear from the video. The video then continues for the remaining 37 seconds without any captions.

Dozens of deaf people and parents of hard-of-hearing children have taken to the comments section of the video to share their disappointment with the film company.

“As I am a proud Deaf individual, that was hurtful. I wouldn’t have expected this out of Marvel,” a deaf fan wrote. “I was so excited when I saw this video had captions because movie trailers never, never, NEVER have captions! Then you had to go and do that. Wow. There’s just-haha- I have nothing to say but wow. Marvel you better watch yourself.”

“I love Chris Pratt but this is absolutely the most insensitive stunt I’ve seen in a long time,” a mother of a deaf 2-year-old shared on Facebook. “Captions are not for lazy people who forget to turn on the volume. It’s for people with hearing loss.”

“We had plans to see this movie opening day, however now we will make other plans. My [hard of hearing] teenage daughter watched this with tears,” another wrote. “You see those words at the bottom… she reads because her hearing aides don’t pick up the ranges in voices. The statement may not have been made to offend the people that NEED the words but this mom is very offended.”

“I am part deaf and have auditory processing disorder, which is like dyslexia, except with sound. I need captions. This is a disgusting video and you should be ashamed,” another added.

The Mighty reached out to Disney, the parent company of Marvel Studios, and has yet to hear back. 

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7 Pros and Cons of Cochlear Implants for Adults

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Many people assume that when you get a cochlear implant, you are “cured” of deafness. This is complete nonsense. It just doesn’t work that way. A deaf person receiving a cochlear implant remains a deaf person; they don’t miraculously become a hearing person. There are many cochlear implant pros and cons to consider before committing to the operation.

Being deaf is not an illness that needs to be cured. It’s true that cochlear implants (CIs) can help some severe or profoundly deaf individuals improve their way of communicating in the hearing world. However, not everyone has positive experiences; some deaf people actively protest the use of CIs.

Many people in the deaf community resent cochlear implants for the effect it has on the hearing people in their lives. When a deaf person gets a CI, and it works to a certain degree, their friends and family assume they can stop putting in the effort to effectively communicate with them, because “you can hear now, right?” It’s important that you understand how much work and dedication goes into effectively using a CI. You don’t simply flip a switch and boom you can hear. Also, it doesn’t work for everyone.

Having said that, a hearing person who suddenly becomes deafened after decades of hearing will have a different experience from someone who was born deaf. A CI candidate with a memory of sound, knowing what things are supposed to sound like, may make those connections more easily, and is likely to be more successful, more quickly, than a person who was born deaf with no memory of sound.

Tom was a hearing person and became a CI candidate when he suddenly lost his hearing as an adult. After getting his CI, he says:

I struggled with getting my sound processors to “create” that same sound as close as possible. I wanted my dog to bark again but not like a sick duck, and I wanted my wind chimes to tinkle instead of clack. And after eight months of program adjustments we (my AuD and me) were finally able to give me a new bionic hearing “normal”, what I’ve since called a facsimile of “normal” sound.

How does a cochlea work?

The ear is made up of three primary parts, the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. The cochlea is the inner organ of the inner ear. It is a fluid-filled snail-like structure with tiny little hair cells which bend when the fluid is disrupted by sound waves. Each tiny hair responds to a specific frequency or pitch. The bending of these hair cells sends electrical signals to the brain for interpretation, allowing us to understand what we’re hearing.

Due to CIs being such a controversial subject, I’ll keep the focus of this article to cochlear implants for adults and the pros and cons associated with it.

What does the cochlear implant do?

Cochlear implants are surgically implanted electrical devices that allow people with a severe-to-profound hearing loss to process sound. Referred to as an auditory prosthesis it provides a sensation of hearing, and some implantees achieve near-to-“normal” speech understanding in quiet acoustic conditions.

The implant works by transforming sound into electrical stimulation. A microphone-like device, or sound processor, picks up external sounds and digitizes it. These digital signals are then sent to a tiny wire, with many electrodes, which is implanted into your cochlea. Each electrode corresponds to a different signal frequency. Your brain then receives the signal through the auditory nerve.

The problem comes in when two electrodes stimulate the same neural population or overlapping neural populations, thus confusing the sounds, reducing your understanding of what you might have “heard.”

How well does the cochlear implant work?

A cochlear implant doesn’t work for everybody, and not everyone is a candidate to receive a CI.

The audiology team try to give candidates realistic expectations of how successful they will be with a CI, and they will only offer a CI if they think a candidate will benefit from having one. Of course, they can’t predict how well someone will do. Statistically most people will do relatively well; those who have been recently deafened tend to do better than those who were profoundly deaf all their lives. Recipients can push the envelope, as I did, by practicing listening to a variety of sounds on a daily basis to get the best out of their CI.

Being born profoundly deaf, my audiologist said I should not expect to do as well as most recipients – I will always have to lip read. By focusing on Auditory Verbal Therapy, listening to music and audio books when I was working or doing housework,and asking people what I was hearing, I improved well enough that I can sometimes use the telephone or have a conversation with someone in the next room. It really depends on how they talk and it’s still difficult for me.

With my hearing aids, I had no hope of being able to understand speech. With the CI, I had some hope, and with lots of practice, determination and patience, pushed it as far as I could. It’s like training for a marathon – you tend to get out what you put in. It’s important to remember that everyone is different and can get very different results at activation. The CI won’t cure your deafness, but in my experience it sure is a heck of a lot better than a hearing aid.

There are many factors that can contribute to your CI outcome, including:

  • The amount of residual hearing you have.
  • How long you’ve been deaf.
  • Your age, overall health and other medical information.
  • If you have a functioning auditory nerve.
  • The type of device implanted.
  • The experience of your surgeon.
  • Postoperative complications.

 Pros

Hearing

Increases your level of hearing, making it easier for you to communicate with your friends and family and follow conversations.

Speech perception

CI development has improved a lot, allowing recipients better speech perception in quiet environments.

Career

A CI can expand your career opportunities, setting potential employers concerns at ease.

Learning

Increased opportunities to learn and participate in a learning environment without outside assistance.

Safety

Being more alert to potential dangers, for example hearing sirens and thunder.

Music and telephone

Many recipients enjoy the beautiful melodies of music and even use the phone.

Confidence & independence

Many recipients experience a boost in confidence, being able to hold their own in a conversation.

Cons

Background noise

Background noises, like many people talking or environmental sounds, can affect a CI recipient’s understanding of speech. Technological advances are rapidly improving this.

Surgery

All surgery carries an element of risk.

Sport risks

You must be careful participating in certain physical activities, including high contact sports and water related activities.

Maintenance

A CI does require maintenance, for example replacing wires, changing batteries or remapping of the sound processor.

Side effects

It does take some time getting used to the CI device. It might irritate your skin, or you may experience muscle spasms, numbness and even facial paralysis. Fortunately this is rare.

Training

Sounds are translated via the device and might sound unnatural at first. You need extensive training to perceive and comprehend the sounds more effectively.

No guarantees

There is no guarantee that the implant will work well. You could lose any remaining or residual hearing.

The cochlear controversy

If you’re a hearing person reading this article, you might be surprised to find out that many deaf people don’t like CIs and believe them to be a threat to deaf culture. The controversy about cochlear implants are primarily directed to the definition of deafness as a disability. Many deaf people argue that they should not be seen as disabled, but rather as members of a minority cultural group. They do not see deafness as an illness to be cured or a problem to be solved. For them, being deaf is part of their identity and getting a CI would destroy their identity, effectively betraying their cultural values.

I disagree with this view. I have two cochlear implants, and I am still deaf. What I mean is I still require communication support when dealing with noisy environments and multi-person conversations. I will never be able to be a fully hearing person, and that’s OK. I’ve accepted I am deaf – but now I really do have the luxury of selective hearing! I understand that deaf people against CIs believe they’re fighting for the preservation of their culture, and that’s great, but every person should have a right to their decision and not have to defend it.

How much does a cochlear implant cost?

U.K. residents wanting a CI can usually get one on the NHS if over the age of 18, and two if younger than 18. Very few people in the U.K. need to pay for a cochlear implant.

An adult might get a second CI if they are blind as well as deaf, or have another qualifying disability. In the U.K., the cost of assessments, surgery, and aftercare is around £20,000 to the NHS. The CI device costs upwards of £20,000. Paying privately for the CI will easily double the cost.

In the U.S.A., the cost of a CI, including all add-ons, is around $40,000; it may be covered by insurance.

Conclusion

A cochlear implant will not give you “normal” hearing, but it will, in many cases, enable you to hear better. When I say “hear better” I’m comparing CIs to the standard hearing aid. Today, cochlear implants are more sophisticated, and they help many more people with severe to profound hearing loss than ever before. Still, a CI cannot replace natural hearing. The cochlear implant pros and cons should be carefully weighed before you make your decision.

That being said, the decision to receive a cochlear implant, if you are eligible, is yours and yours alone. I encourage you to respect every adult’s decision and not judge them.

In my experience, the best impartial website to help you to make an informed decision is Cochlear Implant Help. There you will find a very useful comparison chart. You can read my personal cochlear implant story and how I went from rejecting the very idea of having a “thing” implanted into my head, to acceptance and learning to live with a new way of hearing.

Cochlear implants and hearing aids are so very different. I now understand why hearing people find it so hard to understand hearing loss, and why deaf people can’t really comprehend what it’s like to hear. It’s like night and day. I’ve lived through the shock of going from almost zero hearing to a full-on Take-Me-With-You-World rollercoaster ride at 90 miles an hour – and lived to tell the tale – and I’d do it all over again!

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Thinkstock photo by Elizabeth Hoffmann.

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Why Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids May Harm People With Hearing Loss

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It’s been almost four years, but I still remember how much it hurt. The mundane click-clack of high heels and polished dress shoes on my Mimi’s tiled kitchen floor became a cacophony of sound. Harsh, discordant — every sound echoed off the walls and the floor, assaulting my ears with pain. The buds were too big for my ear canals, the sounds too much to bear. I ran to the quiet sanctuary of my car and cried.

I have different hearing aids now — ones that were fit and programmed unique to my ears. The first pair were not. And at 26, I’m not afraid to admit my hearing loss, I’m proud of it. I’m not afraid to show off my Made for iPhone® hearing aids. They make sure I don’t miss the punch lines to funny jokes and can keep up with a conversation. But in the last few months, two things have forced me to recall those first pair of hearing aids, because the biggest difference between the failure of the first pair and the success of the second was the way they were fit and programmed.

The Grassley-Warren Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2016 (now updated for 2017) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s announcement that “it does not intend to enforce the requirement that individuals 18 and up receive a medical evaluation or sign a waiver prior to purchasing most hearing aids” has some potentially terrible consequences for patients.

Stigma and price kept me from getting help, and from face-value this act could help with both, allowing more people to afford hearing aids, and thereby increasing awareness and acceptance of both hearing aids and hearing loss. But while helping more people access hearing aids is great, that same benefit coupled with the FDA’s declaration that adults aren’t required to undergo professional testing for most hearing aids could take away the most essential part of ensuring long-term hearing aid success and satisfaction — personalization.

Hearing aids aren’t a one-size-fits-all commodity, and they shouldn’t be purchased like reading glasses. Today’s hearing aids are mini microcomputers inside the ear, constantly working to the design of each individual ear and hearing loss. For them to work properly, ear canals must be measured for proper comfort, and hearing aids need to be fit and programmed specifically for a person’s individual hearing loss, ears, and other physical attributes (e.g. does the person have vertigo or in-ear obstructions). For users to get the most out of their devices, they need to be properly educated on how to use them and what to do when issues arise.

My hearing loss is unique only to me. My ears are unique to only me. What I need out of a hearing aid is unique to my lifestyle. My learning style and technical knowledge are unique to me. When I was fit with my Made for iPhone hearing aids, it took almost five hours to fit, program and instruct me properly. But because of that, in the last two years, I’ve worn them every day, pain-free. I am now comfortable with group conversations and leading work meetings, confident in my ability to be in a restaurant or outside in a park, and I’m happy, because for once, my ears and brain aren’t draining my energy levels trying to put sounds and words together properly.

To get a better understanding at just how much personalization can be needed, let’s look at my most recent hearing aid fitting.

  • Initial testing found a severe hearing loss with working bone conduction. Great! Hearing aids can work for me.
  • Physical examination of my ears and deep ear impressions showed that I have tiny ear canals that even the kid-size earbuds don’t fit comfortably in. Invisible hearing aids — not an option. Custom earmolds — required.
  • Further testing showed I need at least 65dB to hear low-frequency sounds and 70-80dB to hear mid- to high-frequency sounds, but that my pain threshold for sound is between 80-85dB. High-level technology required to provide proper amplification without
    causing pain and discomfort.
  • Testing also showed I can hear almost “normal” in a couple low-frequency sounds. Additionally, in discussing my first pair of hearing aids, a pair of improperly fitted receiver-in-the-canal devices, it was clear to the professional that a bud occludes my ear canal too much, leaving me feeling stuffed and causing sounds to echo. I need venting to allow for sounds at this frequency to come through properly. The need for custom earmolds is affirmed.
  • I have severe tinnitus in the right ear and sometimes in the left ear as well. Tinnitus
    technology also required.
  • I have an iPhone and don’t want to touch my hearing aids if I can help it. Made for
    iPhone compatible hearing aid required.
  • Every day I walk my dog outside, attend three or four large meetings at work, have daily one-on-one discussions with my boss and coworkers and take one or two phone calls. Each week, I go out for drinks with friends to a local pub or on a date to a restaurant or outdoor festival with my boyfriend. Hearing aids must have multiple programs to account for various environments and an active lifestyle.

And what happens if my hearing aids break, or the mobile app stops working? Who do I go to for annual cleanings? Who can I call who knows not only my products but who I can trust has the knowledge and experience to make educated calls about the health of my ears? The answer: a certified hearing aid specialist or audiologist.

Hearing aids aren’t glasses. You can’t put them on, walk out the door and call it a day. They require education, time to get used to, ongoing programming and professional care. I believe to be happy with them, you need more than just technology — you need the investment of personalized care.

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Thinkstock photo by Andrey Popov.

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