Happy New Ears!

Yep, you read the title right.  Since this is the start of a New Year, I thought it appropriate to talk about a new era of hearing for me.  I’m a little hesitant to tell you that my natural hearing was getting bad.  That’s really bad, right?  A piano tuner who makes his living with his hearing, losing the ability to hear everything correctly?  After years of  loud music and the constant exposure to the  percussive strikes of piano tuning, (yes, the piano can be classified as a percussive instrument!), I finally had to admit to myself what my wife had been telling me for a long time, I was losing my hearing.

Reluctantly, I went to an audiologist to have my hearing checked.  The hearing test revealed that my hearing was pretty normal up to about the 1300mhz range, and then it took a nose dive off the chart.  For those of you who don’t know what that is in real life terms, I could hear normally up to about two and a third octaves above middle C, but I had a gradually increasing hearing deficiency in the higher frequencies above that.  Interestingly, those are the frequencies where the plosive sounds of speech are located, like p’s and t’s and s’s, the sounds that help us differentiate words from background sound.  Also, much of women’s voices are in that range.  (See honey, I had a medical excuse for not hearing what you told me to do!)  I had good enough hearing to do my job and could still tune very well, but I sometimes could not hear the buzzes and rattles that my customers heard, and pianos that I voiced were turning out really bright, although they sounded good to me.

Obviously, I needed hearing aids.  The thought filled me with dread.  My only experience with hearing aids had been with my dad, who, in his later years couldn’t hear much of anything even with his hearing aid.  His aid (just one because he was deaf in one ear much of his life) was big and clunky and evidently didn’t work very well.  He complained often about the “wall of noise” he experienced when in a crowd.

You can imagine my pleasant surprise when I learned of the technological advances that have taken place in the hearing industry since my dad’s time.  The hearing aids, (or devices, as they like to call them), are very small and have digital circuitry in them that allows my audiologist to tailor them exactly to my hearing loss.  The part that fits in my ear does not seal the entire ear canal, but is open enough to allow natural sound to come in normally and the aids enhance only the higher frequencies where my own hearing is deficient.  I am amazed at the difference it has made for me.  I can hear the buzzes and rattles in pianos now and find the source and eliminate them.  I can voice a piano to a more normal sound, specific to my customer’s wishes.  I can participate in conversations without asking people to repeat themselves.  My wife likes that!

In short, I love these new hearing aids.  I’m sure many of you can sympathize with my reluctance to share this story with you.  A piano tuner that can’t hear well doesn’t seem to have much of a future, but I hope I’ve convinced you that with modern technology, I am as good as I ever was, and I think, even better.  Just think, new ears and thirty plus years of experience?  Pretty awesome if I do say so myself!

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