Shortly after Stan Van Liere put in his hearing aids at the Spectrum Health Hearing Center eight years ago, he walked past the building’s HVAC system.
“The compressor started up, and it scared the heck out of me because I hadn’t heard it before,” Van Liere said.
He discovered many other sounds he had not heard in years—crickets chirping, birds singing and the rustle of turning pages in a book. But unfortunately, he also discovered how loud a crowded restaurant or his workplace (a test lab for aircraft actuators) could be.
So, like many people with hearing aids, he didn’t wear them all the time. Thanks to advances in technology, that’s about to change.
Van Liere, 62, of Holland, Michigan, a patient of audiologist Debbie Youngsma, AuD, CCC-A, has new hearing aids that work seamlessly with his smartphone, allowing him to make adjustments using an app on the phone.
When he’s in the noisy test lab at work, he can easily turn them down and adjust the bass and treble so he can still hear people talk. Or when he’s in a busy restaurant, he can adjust the sound so it’s coming just from across the table. Thanks to geo-tracking in smartphones, he can save the settings for different environments and the phone will automatically sense when he’s there and adjust accordingly. When he leaves, the settings will revert to his preferences.
“The technology has come so far,” Youngsma said.
This new generation of hearing aids is especially attractive to Baby Boomers like Van Liere.
“It makes it look like people are just texting on their phone, not, ‘Look, I have these hearing aids here,’” Youngsma said. “Baby Boomers want the latest in technology, and they understand it.”
Like most of Youngsma’s patients, Van Liere’s hearing loss came as a result of exposure to loud noises without adequate hearing protection. Van Liere worked for 20 years doing pyrotechnics on the ground during air shows.
He lived with his hearing loss for five or six years, until finally scheduling a hearing test.
“I was a manager at a test lab, and I had employees filing grievances against me because they thought I was hollering at them,” Van Liere said. “I couldn’t hear myself. I knew I wasn’t hollering at them, so I thought I’d better go in and see what’s going.”
Turns out, he had significant hearing loss.
“It’s been a big impact for me,” Van Liere said. “I can’t believe how much I was missing.”
Youngsma urged those who suspect hearing loss in themselves or a loved one to visit their primary care doctor or contact the Spectrum Health Hearing Center. The center’s audiologists work with patients from six months old to adults to evaluate their hearing, diagnose the problem and find the right solution.
“There’s help for everyone,” Youngsma said.