Would You Cry If You Couldn’t Get a Hearing Aid?
2011: The Launch of World’s First 100% Invisible Hearing Aid
Author: Keith ‘Earman’ Chittleborough, Audiologist.
Oh no, she’s not…? Yep, she is. She’s crying.
That’s what a young and awkward me was thinking in those terrible and elongated seconds that, despite the gap of 10 years between then and now, are still as vivid to me as, say, memories of graduations, of marriages, of births, of buying my first car (a Holden Commodore, FYI).
Unfortunately, these were not tears of joy, because I had just told my patient, “No, this hearing aid will not work for you.”
Carolyn was a late thirties something, jet-black hair, a go-getter with attitude on tap. She was diagnosed with hearing loss in her twenties, didn’t get her first pair of hearing aids until a few years ago. CICs, hard acrylic shelled peanuts that spent more time in her purse than in her ears. She’d come to me to try something different, a revolutionary new type of 100% invisible hearing aid, and it wasn’t going to plan.
I remember Carolyn, sitting upright in our dentist-like chair, the light of the medical microscope shining on her powdered cheek like a spotlight, luminescing those terrifying and inconvenient tears. I could do little but stare and grip the medical forceps we use to insert and remove the hearing aids with my white knuckles.
I said something profound like, “Umm… Sorry.”
I was pretty much speechless. You see, you’ve got to understand, that this isn’t the type of thing that normally happens in audiology. Back then, in my short 5-year career, it never had. A patient might cry when we told them that they have a hearing loss, that they need a hearing aid, but never the other way around, when we said they couldn’t get one.
What’s Required for Invisibility and Natural Sound
Okay, so what palpable defect in my brain caused me to deny what was, according to those tears, clearly the hearing aid of Carolyn dreams?
Well, I can honestly say, it wasn’t my fault! Thing is, while Carolyn was otherwise the perfect patient, her ear canals… not so much. They were just too dang small. Then again, this was back in 2012, the hearing aid we’re talking about was 16mm long and about 8 wide. I could barely get the device in her ear, and then only to about 8mm from the eardrum (4mm being ideal). We want deep fittings so:
a) no one can see the device,
b) it’d stay in for several months, and,
c) it would sound more natural than anything else available.
But try as I might, the thing just wouldn’t fit. It’d either fall out, or I’d be hurting her trying to get it further in. And I swear to you, I tried—for several months. It’d work for a few days, a week maybe, before something went wrong.
Carolyn told me about the days when the devices worked, about how good they felt and their natural sound, about how she was able to forget about her hearing and just live the life she used to have… the life before her hearing loss.
Lyric™: The Hearing Aid That Makes You Forget Your Hearing Loss
The hearing aid we’re talking about is called Lyric. It was, and still is to this day, the world’s only deeply inserted, extended-wear hearing aid. Because of its placement it truly is invisible. It stays in all the time. You sleep with it. You shower with it. You forget it’s there, even as you say goodnight and good morning to those you love, and who love you. That is, if your ears are the right size.
And that’s why Carolyn was crying now. Because sometimes love and effort isn’t enough. Her ears were just too small.
“But you still have your old hearing aids,” I’d said.
“I hate them,” she’d said.
I had failed her. Maybe I should have been the one crying?
Lyric: An Evolving Subscription-Based Hearing Aid
Fortunately, as you might guess, the story doesn’t end there. As I said, the hearing aid we’re talking about is called Lyric—specifically, back during the launch—Lyric version 1.0. It was basically a prototype. Six months later, Lyric 2.0 came out. It was 4mm shorter than the original, and a lot thinner.
Carolyn came back. I fitted her. It worked. 100% invisible and natural sound. It’s a pedestrian story really, success due to the march of technical progression, no heroics on my part. She’s on her 10th anniversary of Lyric subscriptions now. She gets 3 months out of Lyric, she can pop in for five minutes, we take them out, put fresh Lyrics in. We’re on Lyric version 4.2 now.
Carolyn often refers to Lyric refits as, simply, getting new ‘ears.’
So, that was the true account of the first time a patient ever cried when I’d told them they couldn’t get a hearing aid and, since that day, I’ve always had the answer to the question, what hearing aid do you think is the best? And no, my answer isn’t Lyric, because it’s not my answer to give.
And she’s just given it.
If Carolyn’s story resonates with you or a loved one, please reach out to our team at Victorian Hearing. We are proud to be Melbourne’s top provider of Lyric and offer 30 day trials.