Hearing Aids (Understanding) | Can You Hear Me Now?


From a speaker who can’t hear.

Above are my results from a recent hearing assessment (an audiogram—please note the grey areas in the four graphs as they indicate the ‘normal’ range!

The ‘bad’ left ear (one which has a history of operations) is only functioning at 25% and at 40db (bottom left graph), the volume most people speak at.

The ‘good’ right ear is also under-performing (bottom right graph)—just 50% at speaking volume—therefore, I’m basically picking up maybe half of what people are saying at best…

The specialist discussing my results last year stated I’ve probably become very good at figuring out what people are saying rather than totally understanding their words (this is not a compliment).

There are two options:

  • hearing aids—for an instant fix to raise my hearing to within normal range;
  • (potential) surgery—first on my ‘bad’ ear to raise the level of hearing before doing anything with the ‘good’ ear (as the latter has a retracted ear drum which could require surgery at some point before it causes further problems)

All of the above left me gutted at the end of last year and after recently gaining a second opinion it’s time to face reality and make some decisions.

You have to understand that most of my childhood is littered with memories and issues relating to my ear problems. The constant poor hearing, ongoing visits to speech therapists from about age six (as my deficient hearing meant I couldn’t hear sounds properly to form them—how ironic that part of my living now is made by public speaking: irony or awesome…?). Then the teenage years, living with constant ear infections and three big surgeries which ate up months of my life with long hospital stays and even longer recovery times.

There are three parts to the decision of accepting and exploring hearing aids as part of my future:

  1. Fun—to embrace this with a smile and surround it in joy. There’s simply nothing to get upset about. It is what it is and who knows what I’ll learn and discover about myself during the opportunity I’ve been given to go on this journey;
  2. Sign—it’s always been on my to do list but now it’s more relevant to learn sign language to supplement my hearing impairment;
  3. Hack—to explore the hearing aid hacker scene (inspired by the news of the tuning being done already to existing devices:

Any thoughts, ideas, assistance, advice, help, links etc to assist in this will be humbly received.

Fun fact: ‘here’, ‘hear’, ‘ear’ and ‘year’ sound the same when spoken due to my Welsh accent.


  1. I can hear you, DK. With two hearing aids. Been using them for more than three years now. No problems whatsoever. Other people have glasses, I have hearing aids. I don’t get headaches that often anymore, I hear much better, I miss them when I don’t wear them after taking a shower or in the morning or so. It’s part of my life, part of me, no problem with the hearing aids at all, only without them :-) They don’t fix the whole problem and you will still miss a bit of the sounds, but it improves it all a lot. So don’t hesitate, support your brain before it loses the capacity to transform the sounds. Because that’s what it does when you don’t keep teasing it! My mother has a CI (cochlear implant) and I probably inherited the bad hearing from her. However, I also have an annoying tinnitus and the hearing aids overpower the stupid noise most of the time, but I still don’t ever experience silence. Ever. Never ever that is. There’s always that high-pitched sound in my head. I go to sleep when I am dead tired, probably also because then I don’t run the danger of having to listen to the tinnitus for too long. When I am in the office with nobody around, I need to turn some music on otherwise the tinnitus gets on my nerves. Anyway, I have fully embraced the hearing aids (one left, one right :-)) since the day I got them. I am down to -70 db intensity with both ears at the 2K mark where your bad ear is at -90, so I think we are pretty much on the same (low) level. You are such a techie, man, use the power of technology in this as well. You won’t regret it. Having said all this, your statement “I’m basically picking up maybe half of what people are saying at best…” reminds me that I need to take the hearing aids out every once in a while, because sometimes it’s not worth getting more than 50% of what people are babbling.


    1. Thanks you for taking the time to comment my friend – appreciate not only the comment but the fact we’re even more connected in our problems as well as our friendship :-)

      Will take all your advice on board (as ever), especially the bit on how sometimes it’s good not to get what people are talking about… haha.

      Hope to connect with you soon fella – we can compare devices…

  2. Big hugs DK. I know it has been a lot of time soul searching in last few months but right decision I think. Will change your life. Just Ask Nick who resisted forever. Hugs winging their way from Bali.

    1. So amazing of you to even read let alone respond to this where you currently are – thank you – appreciated so much x

  3. Thank you for sharing this with us. We witness people walking around all the time with things stuck in their ears, and I would not complain at all about a wearable device I can control myself probably through a phone app or an Arduino in my pocket. Something that selectively enhances what I want, while filtering out what I don’t. So I was heartened to read about hacking hearing aids. I want the selectable, adjustable filters like I have already on my camera apps. Restaurant-with-music? Click. Restaurant-no-music? Click.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to connect Lee and love your ideas for the filtering / control of the wearable devices. I’m surprised there hasn’t been more development in this space (only because of the potential commercial gains to be had). Please do keep in touch if you find anything out there – thanks again sir.

  4. Hey there DK. Thought I’d let you know that I also wear hearing aids. I got them about 15 years ago & wow what a difference they have made in my life. I distinctly remember hearing birds singing the first time I wore the aids. I hadn’t realized I’d been missing this sound for years. I have a range of settings on my hearing aids which can be a huge advantage if I need to block out background noise to concentrate on tasks. Take the plunge DK & see how your world in face to face communication will change. Good luck. Looking forward to HEARING how you get on.

    1. I didn’t, no – I’m both excited and nervous about getting them in terms of the sounds I’ve been missing out on. Can imagine it’s both delightful and freaky at the same time. Thanks for sharing and well wishes – will talk more when we see each other which I’m sure will be soon :-)

      1. Make sure you avoid a few things at first until your brain has adjusted to the hearing aids, namely:
        – trucks
        – people making paper balls
        – women in high heels in a corridor

        You will see, I mean, hear :-)

  5. We met the other day at the Mahi Papaho conference. I pricked up my ears (haha), on seeing this post mentioned in your twitter feed, as I’ve been struggling with this very same decision. My hearing loss stems from a birth defect probably made worse by my beloved iPod, so I’ve had half a decade of pretence and sagely nodding when I haven’t quite heard something. My family are on my case to do something about it, and from reading these comments I’m not sure why I haven’t sooner! So full support from me.

    1. Hey Deb – thanks for stopping by and adding your thoughts. Want to throw that support straight back at you and wish you success for the future in your journey of tackling your hearing impairment. Let me know if there’s anything I can do.

  6. The disadvantages of hearing loss of any kind only really hit home when you do, as Glenda noted, hear the birds and the “high pitched’ sounds that you have never noticed before or never noticed loosing. Go for it DK and Deb – as Ali noted above it will help everyone…

    A decision that is made which will demonstrably improve the quality of life, not just yours but that of other close to you, has to be a good decision. They have made a bth a huge and a subtle difference, and although the adjustment to them was needed (Chris says it all and some) they are now missed when out.

    The great thing about investing, and it is an investment, in modern hearing aides is that you are doing something over which you still have total control. They are non-invasive, you are in charge of when they are in and out, and these days you can either invest in ones with wide range adjustability and other features like bluetooth to phones etc, as well as find ones that can be personally adjusted.

    So good on you for investing in yourself and choosing to use something that will help in ways that only you will really know about, but others will notice as well

    1. Thank you Nick for sharing your thoughts, guidance and encouragement to others (plus myself). You’re a gent and your comment is highly valued!

  7. I just asked for details on the TED event later in the year. By coincidence I am deaf, I have a little perception in my ears but without the aids I’d be blindfolded. Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of my life, having passed 50 a few years ago I decided to go to University. My decision to wear aids was purely a financial one, if you can afford it get them and get them in. I’m on my third pair now, make sure you get them insured, I lost a pair (left in my sports bag which was stolen). In hindsight it was the best thing to happen as the expotential advance in quality and the relative cost was something I hadn’t realised. THe insurance company replaced them and what I received was 50 times better than what I had. THis was four years ago, I keep leaving my sports bag on the train in the hope of a new pair but people on the Kapiti line are too dammed honest.

    My current pair are widex (a Danish company) I’ve also heard (ha ha) that resound are very good quality. If I’d had the money I’d have done it sooner and if you could afford it I’d recommend you go for the very best you can manage.

    I feel naked without mine.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story here Jeff – appreciated greatly.

      Many congratulations on your decision to go to University – am sure you’ll make a success of it and hoping to connect with you in and around Welly one day sir :-)

      PS Hope you got my TEDx response…

  8. Well, if it helps then there should be no doubt in your mind but to go for the hearing aid. For the past three days I have had a high ringing but also a bass boiler type noise and pressure behind my ears due i think to the flu i’ve had and its really quite disturbing having sound bouncing around in odd distorted ways, very uncomfortable feeling. I am sure not hearing properly affects how you feel on many levels.
    From a welshie,
    Isla xxx

    1. Hey Welshie – lovely to have your comment although now worried about your hearing… get it checked out – let us know how you get on and thanks again for taking the time to leave a comment x

  9. Most people wait for 7 years after getting a dx of hearing loss before they do something. However I appreciate from your blog that you had such bad advice that you were not able to make an informed decision.
    Firstly, Hearing loss is not done in percentages. The audiogram is a log scale and percentages do not apply. So lets break it down. There are two different graphs there. the are for the nerve and the X (left) and O (right) are how the ear as a whole is functioning.

    Sound is a pressure wave. The numbers on the y axis or the left side of the graph are how much pressure it takes to move air to hear the sound. 0 is a normed scale so if you are the average man, your hearing should be at 0 across the board but our margin of error is 15 so anything between 0 and 15 is normal. So at a normed scale=0 is 0 micropascals of pressure needed to more the air molecules. because it is a log 10 scale, as you go down, the number indicates how many 0’s of additional pressure is needed. 10 is 10. 20 = 100, 30= 1000, 40= 10,000 the number on the X axis or the top are the frequencies.
    What your audiogram tells me is that the nerve is basically normal but sound is being blocked by the middle ear space and so you need more pressure to push past the blockage. Once it gets to the nerve, you hear pretty normally.
    Because the nerve is pretty normal, sign and cochlear implants are not and probably never will be necessary (unless you want to learn another language and then Sign is cool and one of NZ;s official languages.)
    The good news is that with hearing aids, we should be able to get your hearing pretty well back to normal. If you had a nerve damage, this would not be possible as even the best hearing aids. Hearing aids are great speakers but it does not matter how good the speakers are if you are putting them on a crap stereo (nerve damaged) system.

    More good news is that hearing aids are now great speakers and even the most basic (which is all you would need) all have blue tooth and wifi capabilities so you can take calls, stream music and podcasts. So you needn’t spend a fortune and you will love them and wonder why you waited soooooo long.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to write and share your insights Lisa – deeply appreciated – will digest in due course.

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