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Hearing is believing

When Teresa Bauer left her audiologist’s office wearing her new open-fit hearing aids nearly two years ago, she was overcome with emotion.

“I could hear the breeze rustling the leaves and the birds chirping—all those things I didn’t realize I had been missing because my hearing loss was so gradual,” she said. “It was amazing.”

Bauer, now 56, says her life was changed by the latest in hearing aid technology—open-fit
hearing aids.

Unlike conventional hearing aids that fill the
  Teresa Bauer with her new open-fit hearing devices
Teresa Bauer sits on a motorcycle with her
husband, Jerome.
ear, the open-fit device tucks completely behind the ear and has a clear thin tube traveling into the ear canal, making it nearly invisible to the observer. Inaddition to the cosmetic benefits and comfortable fit, open-fit hearing aids don’t create the sensation of a plugged ear or make the wearers feel like they are talking in a barrel. The sound is more natural. Open-fit devices can be programmed to amplify only the sounds the wearer is missing.

Bauer attributes her hearing loss to wearing a headset for four years while working for a previous employer. Looking back, she recognizes the warning signs.

“My family had been telling me to get my hearing checked because I couldn’t understand them when we were in a vehicle, and I always had the TV and radio volume too loud,” she said. “I was also gradually increasing the volume on my headset and noticed my hearing was better in my right ear. If I had made the connection, I might have saved the hearing in that ear.”

Her social life also was affected.

Dr. Debra Arneson-Thilmony
Debra Arneson-Thilmony, AuD


  “After a while, I stopped asking people to repeat themselves and missed a lot of what was being said when I was with a group,” she said.

When she learned her job was being eliminated in 2009, she decided to take advantage of unused wellness screenings. She was shocked to learn she had permanent hearing loss in both ears, because routine hearing tests conducted at her previous workplace documented no hearing deficiencies.

“I had lost the conversational range of tones, so I wasn’t able to differentiate between consonants,” she said. “If you can’t distinguish between like or line or live, you can’t understand what people are telling you.”

Her story is typical for patients with noise-induced hearing loss.

“The most common thing people tell us is that they can hear; they just don’t understand, especially in background noise or if someone is speaking softly or from a distance,” said Dr. Debra Arneson-Thilmony, Sanford Health audiologist.

Dr. Arneson-Thilmony sees an increasing number of younger people experiencing hearing loss caused by noise exposure, including damage from personal listening devices that focus sound directly into the ear canal and close to the ear drum.

She offers guidelines for wearing ear buds or headphones.

“If the music can be heard by others or you can’t easily have a conversation, the music is too loud,” she said. “Never set the volume beyond 50 percent.”

Bauer now wears headphones positioned in front of her ears instead of directly into the ear canal during workouts. She uses a telephone at her current job.

“People don’t even notice my hearing aids, so I take them off to show them,” she said. “They improved my quality of life. I no longer turn up the volume and can understand people in social situations and my workplace.”

The hearing aids also fit with her active lifestyle.

“Teresa’s set has special microphone technology to minimize wind noise, which is important for someone who enjoys the outdoors,” Dr. Arneson- Thilmony said. “Additionally, these newer models have a special coating, so they’re more resistant to moisture in the environment or sweat.”

Bauer encourages others to benefit from her experience.

“I can’t imagine life without my hearing aids,” she said. “If you start noticing a change in your hearing, get checked. You’ll be amazed when you hear what you’ve been missing.”

Click here for more information, or call (701) 323-8006.

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