Back For The Future

Devices with high-def directional technology help hearing-impaired outperform those with ‘normal hearing’

Not all people get to live out their childhood dreams. But Bobby Cresap did.

Bobby’s fascination with architecture began when he was a boy playing with construction toys. Ultimately, he parlayed that passion into a 45-year career as an architect.

“My favorite thing about architecture is that it’s exciting and fun,” says Bobby, who owned his own architectural firm for 30 years and is now a shareholder in one. “There’s something different to do every day, so it keeps me stimulated.”

Not all people get to live out their childhood dreams. But Bobby Cresap did.

Not all people get to live out their childhood dreams. But Bobby Cresap did.

Bobby’s career began somewhat serendipitously. After he was discharged from the Army, Bobby ran into a friend who happened to be an architect. Bobby told his friend that he’d always been interested in the profession but admitted he wasn’t sure what architects did. The friend agreed to mentor him.

“I took a week’s vacation from my job and sat in my buddy’s office watching him work,” remembers Bobby, 70. “I practiced being an architect and loved it, so I went back to school and earned my degree. I’ve been practicing architecture ever since.”

About seven years ago, architecture became a bit more challenging for Bobby, who suddenly began to struggle to hear his clients. The issue concerned Bobby greatly because a clear exchange of ideas with clients is essential in his line of work. 

“As an architect, my livelihood depends on being able to communicate with clients verbally and then translate their needs and wishes graphically,” Bobby explains. “I’ve got to be able to hear. When I couldn’t, I visited a hearing specialist and was fit with hearing aids.

“The problem was that the specialist had a hard time fully addressing my hearing issue. With the hearing aids, I could hear decently with my right ear, but I heard virtually nothing with my left ear. I was very frustrated with the outcome.”

To rectify the problem, Bobby visited Dean Knoblach, BC-HIS, a board-certified hearing instrument specialist at Knoblach Hearing Care in Largo. Bobby had known Dean socially for several years. Now, he wondered if Dean might be able to correct his hearing loss.

“When Dean tested me, he noticed that the eardrum in my left ear was inflamed and suspected that I had an infection,” Bobby recounts. “He took a picture of my ear with his camera and sent me to my doctor, who diagnosed an infection in my middle ear. 

“Subsequent treatment cured that infection, but the result was a further loss of hearing in that ear. I went back to Dean and told him my only goal was to hear my clients clearly and distinctly. I didn’t care if I could hear anything else, as long as I could hear people’s voices.”

So What’s New?

Bobby received his initial set of hearing aids from Dean in 2014. Since then, he has returned to Knoblach Hearing Care every four months for checkups, which are part of his free lifetime care. During one such recent visit, Bobby asked, “So what’s new in the hearing aid world?”

“They can finally outperform normal hearing,” replied Dean’s wife, Kathleen Knoblach, HAS, a colleague at Knoblach Hearing Care.

“The late 1990s ushered in the first 100 percent digital hearing aids,” Dean discloses. “Though they talked a big game at the time, the first digital hearing aids were like the first personal computers: expensive with very limited capability.

“Twenty-plus years later, the hearing care industry has developed some of the most sophisticated software and reliable digital technology imaginable. Today’s premier hearing devices wirelessly and effortlessly connect patients to their world in ways that are the envy of people with normal hearing.”

One of the largest leaps forward comes from eight directional microphones in each device. The left and right devices continuously share information with each other and collectively determine which microphone has the clearest speech signal. That signal is then sent immediately to both devices. That process is repeated 1,200 times every second of every day.

“Another feature that just gets better and better is speech recognition,” Dean asserts. “It gives the device the ability to recognize and continually adjust gain levels between talking, singing and environmental sounds. The result is comfortable and effortless clarity that sounds natural.”

Kathleen notes that these new technologically advanced hearing devices can also be connected wirelessly to smart phones, televisions and other electronic devices.

“Imagine being 30 feet away from your phone and hearing it ring privately, right in your ears,” she relates. “You simply touch a button on the device to answer the phone, talk and then touch it again to hang up. 

“These devices can also let you know if you’ve received an email or text; they can play music and provide directions while driving. They can even play the live audio signal missing from a muted television in a restaurant. And many models feature new tinnitus therapy signals, which can turn annoying head noises into the sound of a light breeze.”

Another advanced feature called M-Core motion detection allows the wearer to better maintain contact in active environments.

“It works like this,” Kathleen informs. “If you sit still for more than one minute while conversing with others, when you eventually get up to walk around, the devices will automatically remember and favor the voices – up to five of them – that were around you before you started moving.”

“Everyone loves my new ears, but my significant other (Kim Shuey, right) is upset because now I can hear better than her.” - Bobby

“Everyone loves my new ears, but my significant other (Kim Shuey, right) is upset because now I can hear better than her.” – Bobby

The Future Arrives

In response to his request for the most technologically advanced hearing device, Dean fit Bobby with the latest the industry has to offer, the Signia/Siemens Binax. The device connects wirelessly to his phone, which allows him to clearly and comfortably hear private phone conversation no matter what kind of high noise environment is in the background at the time.

“The 16 directional microphones, constant speech recognition, Bluetooth and high definition sound resolution (HDSR) can provide more comfort and clarity in difficult listening environments than normal hearing,” Dean contends.

Studies conducted at the University of Northern Colorado and the University of Oldenburg in Germany concluded that in challenging noise situations, “People who are hard of hearing and wore the Siemens Binax were able to hear better than people with normal hearing.”

Dean adds they’ve gotten even better with motion-sensing technology. Bobby can attest to that.

“Bobby wore his new devices out to dinner with friends one night,” Dean says, “and while he was at dinner he texted me: Everyone loves my new ears, but my significant other is upset because now I can hear better than her.

“They knock down background noise so I can hear people’s voices over the noise,” raves Bobby. “I’m doing really well now, even with soft voices. Not only that, but now I can hear the birds and I can tell which direction their sounds are coming from. And if I’m very, very quiet, I can even hear the wind. 

“Not only did Dean help me hear the voices of my clients, he also gave me the gift of hearing nature for the first time in quite a while. I told Dean my only goal was to hear people’s voices. Being able to hear the birds and the wind are all added benefits.”

Bobby is thrilled with his futuristic hearing devices. He’s also happy with the care he receives from Dean, Kathleen and the staff at Knoblach Hearing Care.

“They’re extremely smart,” Bobby enthuses. “They’re problem-solvers, diligent and dedicated to their profession. I feel a commitment from them to solve my personal hearing problems. I really like them.”

© FHCN article by Patti DiPanfilo. Photos courtesy of Bobby Cresap. mkb
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