It’s one thing to read about amazing technology that can change lives, but it’s another thing to hear from real people who’ve experienced its impact.
And that’s the case with hearing aids too, but those success stories often don’t get much attention because many older Aussies have written off hearing aids as too fiddly or too expensive to bother with.
So, we spoke to two 60-pluses who use Blamey Saunders Hears hearing aids to get their sincere views on what it’s like to use devices that actually do work – and not just work, but solve many of the problems people commonly experience with hearing aids from other manufacturers. These are their stories.
Tell us about yourself, Edith.
I live in a town called Batemans Bay, which is south of Sydney by about four hours’ drive. My husband and I were in business together; we had a fleet of cabs in Sydney and I worked mainly in retail at David Jones. We retired here 30 years ago. I’m 83 and I still have my marbles, apparently!
How did you discover you had hearing loss?
The old story, you tell everybody that they’re mumbling but of course they’re not and the children were nagging me. I’ve got two daughters, one of them in the health service, so they finally convinced me that I really was having a problem.
The one big thing was, I do play a lot of classical music on my sound system and all of a sudden in the violin concertos, the violin disappeared. All the high notes disappeared. That was when I was convinced that I had a problem. My maternal grandmother was stone deaf and I think I have inherited it from her. I don’t see any other reason why I should have had this problem.
What other hearing aids did you try before Blamey Saunders Hears’ products?
I went to see somebody that had set up a business here in Batemans Bay and they had a soundproof booth. The cost was then $8,000, so I did that and I wore those for probably three or four years.
However, my hearing deteriorated and I went back and asked them to please adjust them. They said, no, they couldn’t do that, I had to have new ones and the new ones were $13,000. The audiologist said that before I could have them fitted, I had to have some ear wax removed. So I went to my doctor, who was also a family friend, and I told him I was about to spend $13,000 on hearing aids and he said, “I beg your pardon?”
So, your doctor advised you to see Blamey Saunders Hears instead?
He said, ‘Do you remember there was a program on television…?’ New Inventions, I think it was called. I had seen the program and Blamey Saunders were showing their new product.
So, I went home and I went online, and it was an extremely easy website even for me. In my working years we didn’t have computers; I have become reasonably computer literate in the meantime, but it was really, really easy.
I was given the $13,000 hearing aid to trial for a week and they were OK. However, Blamey Saunders offered to send me a pair for $2,000 or $3,000 – this was probably eight or nine years ago. The ones they sent were superior to the $13,000 ones, and I probably had them for five or six years.
You’ve since bought a new pair from Blamey Saunders Hears?
Yes, I bought the new ones. I had a bit of trouble adjusting them, but I found an angel called Elizabeth at Blamey Saunders and she connected with me via the computer. She adjusted them for me and everything has been absolutely marvellous ever since. She was so patient, so respectful. Nothing was too much trouble and she sorted me out very, very beautifully and I’ve not needed any help since then.
Has having the Blamey Saunders Hears devices had a big impact on your life?
I’m very, very fond of classical music. I go to the opera a lot. Although it’s only a small town, they show the Metropolitan Opera productions not that far from here at the cinema. These new ones, I can adjust just the music so that I don’t get any whistling in the high notes and that sort of thing.
Would you recommend Blamey Saunders Hears to other over-60s with hearing loss?
If anybody mentions the words ‘hard of hearing’, I tell them about it. I don’t know how many have taken it up but I’ve certainly talked. I think this is a fantastic set-up and you are in control. Sadly, the three that come to mind that I’ve spoken to who keep complaining about their bad hearing, they haven’t done anything because they probably think it’s more convenient to go to a shop. I don’t think it’s convenient to go to a shop when they charge you three times more than you need to pay!
Can you tell us a bit about yourself, Paula?
I’m in my late 60s and I’m retired from full-time academic work, but what I do now is human research ethics. I’m the chair of the ethics committee at Swinburne University and I’m also on the ethics committees with an organisation called Belbury.
My husband and I live on a farm in the Huon Valley. It’s only a small farm but we raise beef cattle and some sheep, and we’ve got lots of chooks. I work from home, but I travel up to Melbourne once a month to chair my committee and do a bit of training.
What type of hearing problem do you have?
I have what’s called early onset age-related hearing loss. In other words, my hearing is diminishing just as everybody’s does as they get older but I started much earlier than most people do, which is a genetic thing. My mother had it and her mother had it and I’ve got it.
In my late 50s, I began to find that when I was giving a lecture and the students asked me questions, I’d think, ‘What?’. I developed little techniques like trotting up the stairs and standing right near the student so that I could hear what they were saying.
It worked out pretty well because they loved it. They thought, ‘Oh, she really cares about what we say’. Well, I did, but also I couldn’t hear them at all if I didn’t do what I was doing! Running or attending meetings was an absolute nightmare, because I was spending my whole time saying, ‘Sorry, could you say that again?’. And you could see people go, ‘Oh, why doesn’t she get some hearing aids?’.
And so, like most people who find their hearing disappearing, I started developing all these little tricks to try and cover it up, and after a while I thought, ‘No, this is terrible, I can’t go on like this’.
How did you try to solve the problems your hearing loss was causing?
I went to an audiologist. I had my hearing test done and was sent off to a hearing aid place in Hobart. Unfortunately, the hearing aids they sold me broke down all the time. They came from a so-called top European brand and were fabulously expensive.
The people in Hobart would argue with me when I’d taken them back, but eventually they had to send them off to Melbourne where they had to go to be fixed. They’d then send them back saying there was nothing wrong with them and I would send them back again. And about the third time they’d say, ‘Oh, yes, there is something wrong with them’, and then fix them. Then they’d break down again and it just went on for two years! In the end I thought, ‘Look, enough, I’m just going to have to manage without hearing aids’.
So, I did that famous thing that they do with hearing aids. It’s known as ITD and it stands for ‘in the drawer’. That’s where they ended up, ITD! And I went back to trying to cope and running up the stairs to listen to the student questions. Then one day my husband said to me, ‘Did you know there’s an Australian company manufacturing hearing aids?’.
I did one of their online hearing tests and was very reassured to see that what I thought was wrong with my hearing was exactly that they said, that I’d lost all the high-range sounds.
I ordered my hearing aids through Blamey Saunders and they arrived in the mail. They had set them up according to my online test and I tweaked the little device around myself and got them perfect and I was very happy with them.
What has it been like since you switched to Blamey Saunders Hears hearing aids?
I’ve had these same hearing aids now for three years and I have been extremely happy with them, they’re comfortable, so much so that where the other ones used to hurt my ears all the time, these ones I have to remind myself to take them out before I get to the shower!
Of course, that would be a rather expensive shower.
I actually got into bed one night with them, it was only the whistling that told me that I was lying in bed with my hearing aids still in. I thought, ‘Oops!’ and got up and took them out again. I’ve been really, really happy. It’s just so much easier when you can hear people clearly.
I drive a lot and I like to listen to talking books as I drive. One of the things that Blamey Saunders do that was fabulous for me was that I drive a Pajero. Now, they’re very nice cars but they’re not quiet cars. They’re quite noisy inside and I was finding that even with my hearing aids in I was having trouble listening to my books.
I went in and talked to Sophie, one of the technologists, and she said, ‘Oh, we can develop you a special program’, so they went and actually sat in a Pajero and worked out exactly where the speakers were, and they designed me a program which actually retunes the various sound levels inside the hearing aid so that it picks up the sound from the speakers in the car specifically. The difference when I put on the custom program to listen to talking books is just incredible!
What do you like most about Blamey Saunders Hears?
For somebody like myself who lives in the country, it’s an absolute godsend. I can deal with them by ringing them, I can deal with them online by emailing if there’s nothing urgent, I can just send an email and I get a response really quickly, or I can text them. There’s basically a whole range of ways I can communicate with them; through their website, by telephone, by text.
I’ve dealt with different people every time and I’ve found them all very capable, all very friendly, very helpful. And whether I’m dealing with people by phone or by text it doesn’t seem to make any difference, they respond to you very, very, quickly and they’re all very helpful.
I’ve got ways of adjusting my hearing aids. I don’t actually have to use it very often but I’ve got their little device and the IHearYou app; I can basically do whatever I want from home without having to go to into the city. I just connect my hearing aids to the little device and I can adjust it on my computer. For people like myself who live out in the country, I think this arrangement is absolutely perfect. Being able to do everything from home is so convenient.
The fourth thing is that their technology is so good. The signal-to-noise ratio algorithm they use is so much better than the one that I got with my so-called leading European brand, that even if the other things weren’t there, I would still want to use these hearing aids because they’re superior and they’re comfortable.
What would you say to someone who is considering getting hearing aids?
I would say do it. It makes life so much more enjoyable. You can hear music again and really enjoy it. Because when you start losing hearing, you lose it from the high-frequency sounds downwards, which means that lots of music I don’t hear anymore without my hearing aids.
The other thing is that I find children almost incomprehensible. I just don’t hear their little, high voices. The same thing applies to women with high, soprano voices.
You just lose so much of life. You lose the nuances, really, you lose the subtleties. And so it opens up radio, it opens up TV, it opens up talking books, friends talk to you, it opens up group activities. It basically it opens the world to you.
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.
Blamey Saunders Hears is making it easier for Australians to access high-performance, custom-fit hearing aids.
Step 1. Take a free online hearing test.
Step 2. Select your hearing aids online.
Step 3. Personalise your settings with an app on your phone.