I Can Hear You Now

Treatment of hearing loss is easy and effective.

While Norman Cianfarani has only worn hearing aids a few short months, he admits his struggles began years ago.

Cianfarani’s photo courtesy of Norman Cianfarani.

Background noise no longer bothers Norman.

The 63-year-old retired Lakewood Ranch resident says crowded places, like restaurants and shopping malls, were particularly challenging listening environments.
“It was getting to be a bit embarrassing when my wife and I would be out to dinner with friends and I had to ask people to repeat themselves,” Norman shares. “It makes you feel like you want to crawl underneath a rock. I never felt like I was on the same page in conversations. I started to isolate myself and avoid people, and that’s just not me. My wife and I are very social and lead very active lives together, and I didn’t want to sit at home.”
Norman says communication with his wife also suffered.
“Even at home, I couldn’t hear well. The television was always loud; I would miss phone calls. I pretty much drove my wife crazy asking her to repeat herself all the time.”
In addition to his hearing challenges, Norman also suffered with tinnitus for more than two decades, he says.
“At its worst, it sounded like a train whistle blaring in my ears. I lived with it for twenty-five years. I’ve been on medication to control it, and it helped a bit, but that, combined with the hearing loss, was taking a toll.”
Norman decided he needed to take the plunge and get a set of hearing aids. He started researching different brands. He visited his local hearing aid retailer to test several different brands.
“I have a place right near the house, and I went in there and tested out a few to see what I liked,” he admits. “I wanted to do my due diligence and research on my own. I already knew I was going to Sound Advice Hearing Solutions when I was ready to make a purchase. Owners Don and Audrey Hawley are friends of ours.
“I was talking to Audrey, and she mentioned that several people from my neighborhood had come in for hearing aids, and I have to admit, I was surprised. I’m from the old days where hearing aids were often viewed as a sign of weakness and still to this day, a lot of men, especially, refuse to use them. I decided I needed to get them, too.”

Selective Hearing?

Kenton Hofmeister enjoys the Florida lifestyle from his waterfront home in St. Petersburg.
The retiree spends many of his leisurely days engaging in his favorite sport – fly fishing. He and his wife of 56 years, Ann, also enjoy biking, kayaking and spending time on the water onboard their 20-foot boat.
Kenton began experiencing hearing loss decades ago, but much like Norman, he chose to ignore it rather than acknowledge it.

Photo by Fred Bellet.

Kenton loves to go fly-fishing. His wife, Ann,
sometimes tags along.

Kenton spent much of his lengthy career in the field of human resources and later as a consultant. He also worked as a minister at one time. He had the most difficulty hearing in group settings and crowded places.
“I would conduct meetings with upwards of fifty people in a room, and everything sounded muffled,” he describes. “I couldn’t recall names. The reason for that is because I couldn’t hear the person tell me their name in the first place. I need to hear it if I am expected to remember it. Restaurants were also an issue. I could not drown out the background noise and focus on the person speaking to me.”
Kenton enjoys sharing his love for fly fishing with kids, teaching local youth how to master the sport.
“I had a hard time hearing the kids when they would ask me questions or tell me their names,” he admits. “It was really frustrating.”
His hearing at home was no better, he adds. The television was always blaring, and his wife seemed convinced he was ignoring her when she spoke.
“We’ve been married for fifty-six years. I’m sure there are things I don’t want to hear anymore,” he says with a laugh. “But seriously, the hearing difficulty caused a bit of a strain.”
Friends who knew Kenton was struggling referred him to Sound Advice Hearing Solutions.
“A couple of friends told me to give them a try, and they are near my home, so it is conveniently located. I had run out of excuses not to. It’s the best decision I finally made!”

There’s a Hearing Aid for That

Audrey Hawley, BC-HIS, co-owner of Sound Advice Hearing Solutions, says the hearing professionals at the practice pride themselves on getting to know the needs of each patient during the initial hearing exam.
“We conduct a very extensive and comprehensive exam. We spend up to two hours with a patient for their initial appointment,” confirms Audrey. “We want to make sure we understand the wants and the needs of every person who walks through our doors, and we go to great lengths to do just that.”
Both locations of Sound Advice Hearing Solutions feature a warm, inviting and serene setting to put clients at ease. They include spacious, spa-like sound suites for hearing tests instead of old-fashioned hearing test booths. Once the hearing test is performed, the hearing specialist completes an in-depth consultation about current hearing difficulties and how they affect the client’s lifestyle.

“Audrey is phenomenal, and the products they sell are second to none. I remain very impressed and pleased with my results. Hearing is believing!” – Kenton

“They are very customer service oriented and listen to the consumer,” Kenton shares. “That was the biggest thing I noticed, having been in the human resources field for so many years myself. The hearing examination that they do is remarkable. Audrey got to know me as far as my likes and dislikes, my lifestyle and understanding my needs. I was very impressed.”
Norman agrees, saying that he was pleasantly surprised.
“It was far greater than I had expected it to be,” Norman raves. “She was with me for two hours, not thirty minutes like many other places. I have never in my life had such a thorough hearing exam conducted.”
Audrey says getting to know the customer helps in making a recommendation for hearing aids.
“We educate the consumer on their particular degree of hearing loss and what their options are moving forward.”
Audrey recommended the Oticon Opn devices for both Norman and Kenton, based on their lifestyles and needs.
“Kenton’s and Norman’s cases were very similar, which is why I chose the Opn by Oticon for both of them,” Audrey relays. “Both of these men had difficulty hearing in noisy environments and were unable to tune out background noise and focus in during conversations.
“In addition, they both had a hard time at home in tentatively quiet surroundings away from crowds with their wives.
“Opn by Oticon is by far the best technology we’ve ever had to work with,” Audrey adds. “This is a phenomenal hearing aid. The Oticon brand is over one hundred and ten years old and is among the industry leaders in hearing aid technology.
“The Opn has the ability to drown out the white noise, or the background noise. It is fully adjustable to the individual’s needs and can be synced with cell phones and all electronics. Since neither of these gentlemen ever had hearing aids before, I felt this advanced technology would be enlightening to both of them, and I wanted to provide them with exceptional quality. This product does that.”
Audrey recalls a story Kenton shared with her once he had his hearing aids. “He showed me a picture of him at a restaurant with his family,” she says. “He specifically wanted to have somebody take a picture so he could bring it in to show me. He said it was so loud and there were easily sixteen people at this huge, long table, and he was in the middle of it, and he could hear everybody.”

Don’t Ignore the Problem

“As human beings, we all have a risk of developing cognitive decline as we age,” Audrey explains. “We know that someone with a mild, untreated hearing loss increases that risk by two hundred times and someone with a moderate degree of hearing loss by three hundred times. It is absolutely critical that people seek early intervention. Most people with hearing loss don’t think it’s a big deal in the early stages, but that’s critical to be sure we keep the signal from the ear to the brain active.”
In the United States, hearing loss affects nearly 20 percent of the population, reports the Hearing Loss Association of America. That amounts to nearly 48 million people. Although one in three has a hearing loss at age 65, issues with poor hearing also affect people who aren’t in retirement. Sixty percent of those with diminished hearing are still in the workforce or school, notes the association.

“She was with me for two hours, not thirty minutes like many other places. I have never in my life had such a thorough hearing exam conducted.” – Norman

Most people with hearing issues ignore their condition for years. On average, people put off seeking hearing evaluations for seven to ten years after the onset of hearing loss.
There are many reasons why opting for early intervention is a wise choice.
For one, hearing loss isn’t just about losing the ability to hear sounds and conversations. It can affect the brain’s processing when listening, which leads to frustration and the need to constantly ask, What? People may begin to withdraw socially when they no longer hear well, which can cascade into isolation, anxiety and even depression.
“The reason is that when one of our senses isn’t working to its full potential, the brain isn’t getting the information it should be receiving,” Audrey educates. “The section of the brain associated with hearing will decline in its ability to function. The longer that continues, the harder it is for the brain and hearing technology, such as hearing aids, to work together and get everything back to how it should be.”
Yet hearing loss is often an “invisible” condition, describes Audrey.
“Hearing loss is one of those things you can’t see from the outside,” she says. “A lot of times, people don’t even realize that someone has a hearing loss. They may attribute the effects of the hearing loss, such as not answering or giving a nonsensical response to a question, to the person being aloof or confused.”
That lack of awareness also extends to the person with the hearing loss. Unlike how blurry vision makes it easy to recognize the need for glasses, hearing loss doesn’t occur in a similar manner. It often happens gradually, and sounds that are missed aren’t noticed.
People may be standing behind you and talking, for instance, but you aren’t aware of the fact that you aren’t hearing them. Unless they move into your line of sight, it’s more like they were never there.
“For most people, hearing loss is gradual, and it’s hard to detect a change that is so incrementally small over time. The brain just acclimates as the loss progresses,” informs Audrey. “When our clients try on devices, their brains are able to assess information and sounds that their ears can no longer access on their own. It’s a light bulb moment for a lot of people when they hear for themselves what they’ve been missing.
“That was the case for both Norman and Kenton. They have been amazed at how they can now hear in noisy environments and focus in on the person speaking to them, while at the same time dismissing all the background noise. The advanced technology and the ability to pair these with the television and cell phones has also been a wow factor for the two of them.
“Most importantly, they are now active participants in conversations again, something they were both missing out on. They no longer have to feel isolated from other people.”

Back in the Conversation

Kenton enjoys teaching kids the love of fly fishing and says his new hearing aids allow him to hear sounds that seem like music to his ears.
“They tell me their names, and I can remember them now,” he shares with a laugh, “because I can hear what they are saying and what they are asking me. Teaching kids to fly fish is very rewarding to me, and now I can hear every intricate sound and all of their voices.
“The technology is remarkable as well. I can adjust the television volume straight into my hearing aid, so now the television doesn’t have to be blasting anymore. And my wife is so happy she doesn’t have to exhaust herself by repeating things. It’s so great!”
Norman says he no longer misses out on conversations, especially with his wife.
“I only miss out on a few words here or there, rather than ninety percent of a conversation,” Norman relays. “I have complete conversations with my wife now, instead of partial conversations.
“The most important thing I learned with my experience is that hearing aids do not repair or reverse the damage, but they have improved my quality of life. My hearing struggle is manageable now.”
Both Kenton and Norman give all the credit to Audrey and the staff at Sound Advice Hearing Solutions.
“Audrey is phenomenal, and the products they sell are second to none,” Kenton says. “I remain very impressed and pleased with my results. Hearing is believing!”
“Their level of expertise and professionalism is exactly what I was looking for and what you would want,” Norman adds. “I have referred several people to them, and I won’t hesitate to continue doing so in the future. These hearing aids have changed my life!”

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