Listen up!

Lt. Col. L. William Uhl (U.S. Air Force photo/Bill Evans)

Lt. Col. L. William Uhl (U.S. Air Force photo/Bill Evans)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- (Editor's note: This commentary is a continuation of "A world of difference': Hearing aids improve life of Academy officer," written by Lt. Col. William Uhl and published in November.)    


I was diagnosed with hearing loss and fitted for hearing aids in November. Last year, I said I loved my new hearing aids. Do I still love them? Yes.


What kind of hearing aids do I have? I have the kind that fit in the ear. The unit housing the microphones and the battery fits behind my ear, and the speaker, connected by a wire that’s barely noticeable, fits in my ear. It took a few weeks to grow accustomed to the feeling of having something in my ear whenever I was awake, but now I often don’t think twice about it.       


How hard is it to maintain hearing aids? It’s easy. Whenever I’m not wearing my hearing aids I place them in a container with dehumidifying pellets to keep moisture from building up inside them. It only takes few seconds to perform surface cleaning and replace two small parts whenever I need to.


How long do my hearing aid batteries last? On average seven to eight days. Replacing the batteries takes seconds. My hearing aids emit a distinctive tone the moment the batteries die. Until then, my hearing aids work as well as they do with brand-new batteries installed. I carry fresh batteries when I approach the one-week mark.


Do my hearing aids have special features? My audiologist can install up to four programs on my hearing aids. The programs I’ve chosen facilitate listening to music and hearing in noisy environments such as restaurants and wide-open spaces such as lecture halls. There are other programs to choose from, but I picked those that matter most to me. If I change my mind, my audiologist can reprogram my hearing aids. I also have a small remote allowing me to discreetly adjust the volume of my hearing aids and switch programs whenever I need to. If any environment becomes too loud, I can mute my hearing aids.   


Do I now have bionic hearing? No. My hearing aids compensate for frequencies I have trouble hearing. If people speak too softly or mumble I still ask them to repeat themselves, but I’m not asking people to do so as often as before. The TV gives me trouble sometimes, but with a few minor volume adjustments to the TV and my hearing aids I can hear without making the TV too loud for the rest of my family. 


Do I still make appointments with my audiologist? Yes. The follow-up visits consist of seeing my audiologist every three to four months and telling her how well (or poorly) I hear in various environments. She does a diagnostic check to make sure my hearing aids work properly. If necessary, she makes adjustments so I can hear everything comfortably. 


Do people treat me differently because I wear hearing aids? As far I can tell, I don’t think so. Being treated differently was one of my greatest fears before I started wearing hearing aids. I don’t make it a point to tell people I wear hearing aids, but if the subject comes up, they’re surprised to learn I do wear them. I feel more confident around people because I hear them correctly the first time they speak and I don’t feel left out of conversations as much as I did before.


How much has my life changed since getting hearing aids? Other than hearing much better, not much has changed. I wear my hearing aids except when I’m sleeping or doing water activities. I’ll be tested in November to see how well I hear with and without my hearing aids. Like my yearly optometry exam to check the prescription on my reading glasses, my audiology exam is another appointment I schedule.


I’ve worn my hearing aids every day since getting them and can tell a noticeable difference in my hearing when I’m wearing them versus when I’m not. I would’ve made an appointment with the audiologist much sooner had I known how much better I would hear with them.


It took me a long time to admit I had trouble hearing. Much of it had to do with fear. Wearing hearing aids has been a very positive experience. If you think you need hearing aids, don’t wait as long as I did to discover how much better you’ll hear with a little help.


For more information or to schedule Call the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Audiology Clinic at 333-5142.