Stroke of Genius

Advanced hearing-aid technology allows stroke victims to speak more clearly.

Aside from suffering a few minor bumps and bruises, Robert Hildreth made it through 26 years as a Connecticut firefighter relatively unscathed. It was only after he retired and moved to Florida that Robert’s health began to take a turn for the worse.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

With the help of Miracle-Ear, Ringo is learning to speak again.

Nicknamed “Ringo” by his buddies at the firehouse, the 82-year-old’s health problems started about ten years ago when macular degeneration began to rob him of his eyesight, leaving him with limited vision in his right eye and only peripheral vision in his left.

In the fall of 2016, Ringo was diagnosed with bladder cancer. And as if that wasn’t enough, within an hour of returning home from the hospital following the surgery he had to begin eradicating the cancer, Ringo suffered a stroke.

“He got up to get his jacket and had the stroke, so it was right back to the hospital,” Ringo’s wife, Ann, relates. “They actually had to helicopter him to a hospital in Orlando. He was later moved to another hospital and then to a nursing home for a while.”

Ringo is back home in Ormond Beach now and recovering well from the stroke. He has regained full movement in all his extremities and continues to regain his strength. His only real issue, Ann reports, is with his speech, which remains garbled.

A language pathologist at nearby Flagler College has been aiding Ringo in his attempt to speak clearly again. He has also received some help in that endeavor from a source some might consider a bit unusual: Miracle-Ear®.

Technological Improvements

At about the same time that his eyesight began to falter, Ringo’s hearing began to fade as well. He has been wearing Miracle-Ear hearing aids ever since, including receiving an upgrade on his original hearing aids about six years ago.

About a year ago, Ringo received yet another upgrade, this one featuring Miracle-Ear’s GENIUS™ 3.0 technology. According to Melanee Bryans, LHAS, at Miracle-Ear, the latest advances are so great, they can help patients hear their own voice more clearly and naturally.

“Just as it is with most everything else in the tech world, the technology available in hearing aids has improved markedly in the last five years,” Melanee educates. “The differences are literally like night and day.

“One of the best things about the changes is that the new technology provides a more natural sound for the wearer. It also has voice recognition, which means it recognizes and separately processes your own voice so that you hear it as natural as possible.”

The ability to hear yourself speak is an important element of speech development. It is particularly important for children who are first learning to speak. It is equally important for someone such as Ringo who is, in essence, learning to speak all over again.

“It’s critical that not only are you able to hear what you’re saying but that you are able to hear yourself say it naturally,” Melanee relates. “With this new technology, the wearer gets that more natural sound of their own voice, which helps them more naturally process what they sound like.”

I Can Hear Clearly Now

Ringo’s new hearing instrument does more than just improve the sound he hears when he speaks.

It also contains noise cancellation features that allow him to hear a single sound more clearly in crowded or noisy environments.

It even has a feature that allows him to more clearly hear an external electronic source such as a TV or radio directly through the hearing device. That’s one of the features that Ringo and Ann appreciate the most.

“Ringo loves to watch the car races, but for me, it just sounds like sirens blaring when those cars are turning left all the time,” Ann informs. “But because he can now hear the TV through his hearing aids, I can actually turn the sound on the TV all the way down to zero, and he can still hear it.”

Ringo says that for him, the ability to focus on a single speaker in a crowded environment such as a restaurant and hear the TV through his hearing aids are bonuses. He’s most appreciative of the opportunity the new instruments offer him to hear all sounds more clearly and the effect it’s had on his speech therapy.

“There is a huge difference with these new hearing aids!” Ringo exclaims. “I’m so happy to have them. I really, really love them. I think I’m doing much better with my speech because of them. I can’t thank Melanee enough for all that she’s done for me. She’s just great.”

Ann confirms that Ringo’s speech clarity has indeed improved since he received the latest upgrade on his hearing aids. She says Ringo’s speech therapist agrees that the hearing aids have expedited that process.

“The therapist said the ability to hear words more clearly makes it easier for him to regain what he’s lost through the damage caused by the stroke,” Ann shares. “And I can tell you for sure that he is definitely speaking a lot more clearly.

“He has days that are better than others, but overall, he is doing much better. And he’s a lot more attentive now. When the therapist speaks, he reacts right away, and I can now talk to him in a restaurant whenever we go out, and he can hear me just fine.

“Even when we’re in church, I can whisper something to him, and he can hear me. I don’t have to talk out loud the way I used to with the old hearing aids. The first time I was able to do that, I said to myself, Okay, this is going to work.

Melanee knew it would.

“I knew these new hearing aids were coming, and I remember sitting through our conference on them thinking of all the patients I had who would benefit from them, and one of those patients I thought of was Ringo,” Melanee recounts.

“I was so excited to see how he would do with them, knowing that, as a stroke victim, he was having trouble speaking, and knowing that if he could hear his own voice better, he could better learn to move his mouth properly to make the right sounds.

“He was one of those who were at the top of my list of patients whom I really wanted to help with this new technology. It’s just great to see that he’s doing so much better now and that we were able to help him get there.”

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