Lesson Learned

Discover a new world of sound.

During the 34 years he spent working as an educator in and around Baltimore, Michael Savarese served in almost every capacity possible, from teacher to principal to administrator. His work in the field didn’t end with his retirement.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Michael Savarese

“After I retired, I started my own company,” Michael reports. “It was called PACES, which stands for Parent and Children Educational Services. I mostly worked with home-schoolers.

“Home-schoolers tend to get a bad knock sometimes. People say, Why don’t you just send your kids to school? But home-schoolers are some of the most dedicated parents you can find, and for the most part they are very devoted to learning.

“Think about it; when you’re teaching your kids at home, you’re teaching them every minute of the day; it doesn’t stop. Even when they go on vacation, they’re teaching them things like maps, distances and geography. So their kids are always learning.”

Now 85, Michael is still learning himself. He recently learned firsthand how someone with a severe hearing loss can often be the last one to learn they actually have such a loss. If not for friends and family, he might still be waiting to learn that lesson.

“Like most people, I thought I could hear pretty well,” Michael says. “I didn’t hear anybody saying anything bad about me, so I figured I was okay. And I could hear birds and things like that, so I thought everything was fine.

“But when I would talk to my brother, my wife or my friends, I’d get a different story. There were times when someone would say something, and I’d miss what they were saying, and someone else would say, You’re going to have to repeat that, he didn’t hear you. Again, I thought I was fine. But when your brother, your wife and your friends are telling you you’re missing stuff, you’ve got to pay attention. So I visited my primary care physician, and she recommended I see Dr. Duran.”

A Gradual Loss

Drianis Duran, AuD, a certified audiologist with Gulf Coast Audiology, says Michael is typical of many of the patients she sees, because others were more bothered by Michael’s hearing loss than he was.

“When I ask a new patient, What brings you here today? the answer is usually, My wife or my husband, or the patient points to whoever brought them,” she says. “Hearing loss is often more noticeable to others than it is to the patient.

“Because the loss is very gradual, people don’t always notice just how drastic their hearing loss is. Many even think their family exaggerates, that they hear well but their spouse mumbles or talks while walking away from them, things like that.

“Michael was having that problem, but it was actually a failed hearing screening that first brought him to us. That was in 2015, and I explained at that time that he had a high-frequency hearing loss. That’s the type where you feel like you can hear, but you can’t hear clearly. That type of hearing loss happens gradually, and what happens is you feel like you hear well and everyone around you mumbles. It’s almost like you’re hearing underwater, but you blame everyone around you because you’re in denial.”

Michael was certainly in denial. The results of his hearing screening notwithstanding, he passed on Dr. Duran’s initial recommendation to be fit with hearing aids. She knew he’d be back, though, and this past spring, Michael returned with a new attitude.

“When Michael came back to us earlier this year, he was very receptive to the idea of getting hearing aids,” Dr. Duran says. “So we talked about options and fit him right away with hearing aids, and he was very, very happy with the results.”

A Real Marvel

Michael was fit with Phonak Marvel hearing devices. Among the most advanced in the industry, they contain Bluetooth technology that allows the wearer to stream audio from electronic sources such as a TV or smartphone directly through the hearing aids.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

“With these hearing aids I can literally hear things I couldn’t hear before,” Michael raves.

As Michael soon found out, the direct streaming feature not only makes for a much clearer, cleaner sound, it also affords the wearer a new level of independence and freedom that can greatly enhance their lifestyle.

“When I’m watching TV now, it’s like the people on TV are talking directly to me,” Michael says. “It’s really amazing. I can even leave the room where the TV is and still hear the TV clearly. It’s just wonderful.”

Michael’s hearing aids also include a feature that allows him to create specific settings for different environments. For crowded areas, for example, he can use a setting that dims the ambient noise around him and enhances the voices of those closest to him.

“With these hearing aids I can literally hear things I couldn’t hear before,” Michael raves. “I can hear all the birds. I can even hear my feet walking across the floor. I can hear paper crumpling. I didn’t realize just how much I was missing until I got them.”

Michael’s first follow-up visit with Dr. Duran came at a time when her office was temporarily closed because of COVID-19 concerns. But in what amounted to a virtual visit, Dr. Duran still made the same adjustments she would normally make face-to-face.

“That first follow-up visit is where we address any questions and make any changes that are needed to ensure everything is working optimally,” Dr. Duran explains. “So what we did with Michael was we had him come to our office and wait in our parking lot.

“Once he was there, we went down to his car, got the hearing aids, brought them back in, and from there I checked them out and read all the data. Then we gave them back and made a call to him on his cellphone and carried out the rest of the appointment on the phone.

“Michael was actually the first patient we did that with, and it taught us that there are a lot of different ways we can treat patients, whether it’s through curbside service or sending supplies directly to their home. We’re doing a lot of that now.”

It was during Michael’s second follow-up that Dr. Duran set up the direct streaming component that has Michael hearing the TV and phone so clearly. He rates his experience with Dr. Duran and her staff as exceptional.

“Dr. Duran is truly one of a kind,” Michael raves. “They don’t come any better than her. She really is wonderful. She diagnosed my problem and never pushed me one way or the other, and when I was ready to get the hearing aids, she stepped up and did a great job.

“I have only nice things to say about her staff. They’re all so kind and helpful. I can’t imagine there’s a better place to get hearing aids, which is why I’ve already given her name and number to some of my friends. I will recommend her to anybody.”

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    • Gulf Coast Audiology

      Gulf Coast Audiology is owned and operated by Drianis Duran, AuD, a board-certified doctor of audiology. Gulf Coast Audiology offers the highest quality hearing aids, service, repairs, accessories and batteries. They also specialize in vestibul... Read More

    • Drianis Duran, AuD

      Drianis Duran, AuD, is a board-certified audiologist with clinical expertise in the areas of hearing loss and dizziness and balance disorders. She holds credentials from the American Board of Audiology, the American Academy of Audiology, the A... Read More