Every now and then there are moments from the work day that stay with us long after the last patient has departed, computers turned off and the office locked for the evening; moments that we replay in our heads and hope we will always remember. This week we experienced such a moment as we fit a patient with a very particular hearing instrument for the first time.
Hearing loss presents itself in many different configurations. For some, hearing may be diminished in both ears, some in one, and for others the auditory mechanism is so damaged that the ear provides no audibility and is referred to as a “dead ear”. For patients with one normally hearing ear and one “dead ear”, there is a special type of hearing system called a CROS fit which stands for Contralateral Routing of Signal. For this particular type of fit a patient wears a microphone on the “dead ear” and a receiver on the hearing ear. Sound from the “dead ear” side is routed to the hearing ear, offering patients a fuller, more robust picture of their acoustic environment.
This week we were privileged to have the opportunity to fit an upbeat woman with a radiant smile with a wireless CROS hearing system. We became choked up as we watched her reaction to hearing her boyfriend on her “dead ear” side. Overwhelmed with emotion she began crying as she wirelessly received auditory information from the side that she had never heard from. She repeatedly thanked us as she fanned the tears in her eyes telling us that she has never heard him from that side of her head before. Social activities such as dining in restaurants were always more effort for her because she had to carefully plan her seating to ensure that the person she wanted to hear was seated next to hear hearing ear. Now, for the first time, she has the acoustic information from both sides of her head and it left her speechless. Imagine the limitations of seeing with only one eye and then suddenly being able to use the one eye to capture the visual field from both sides.
Hearing is a precious sense that connects us to our environment. It enables us to communicate with friends and loved ones and feel in touch with our world. The absence of hearing, even in one ear, can severely impact an individual and render everyday communication a struggle. We are so grateful to the acoustic engineers and all of those who work for the hearing aid manufacturers who allow us to achieve what was once thought of as impossible. How wonderful it is to be able to make a difference in someone’s life, by providing them access to one of life’s precious senses.