After frequent suggestions from my husband, who was tiring of repeating himself, I went off to one of the local audio clinics for a free test. At the end of it, the young clinician told me I had mild to moderate hearing loss and the best hearing aid for me would cost $13,000.
I now wear hearing aids, at considerably less cost, but I do wish I’d known about Dr Elaine Saunders’ company, Blamey Saunders.
Sounds of Silence is a book about hearing loss and Elaine Saunders’ journey growing up with a father who became increasingly deaf, through years of study on three continents, to becoming Telstra Business Woman of the Year in 2004, for her groundbreaking provision of hearing aids through the internet.
The book is very technical in places, and I confess I did not always follow these parts, but there are warm personal anecdotes, such as describing an early outing with the man who was to become her husband. Several times the book is given over to others as they describe their personal journey with deafness. This is much more engaging than Dr Saunders retelling those stories. The book is written clearly and the structure of the chapters is very straightforward. Her description of the ear and how it works is wonderful and left me marveling at this mechanism we so often take for granted.
Dr Saunders writes of the impact of hearing loss, apart from the obvious one that you just don’t hear as well. Hearing loss can lead to cognitive decline, increased dementia, increased risk of falling and decreased ability to manage chronic illness. An interesting aside was that we hear better with our glasses on. Dr Saunders’ early work was with children and there is a much discussion about education for deaf children.
The sooner hearing loss is diagnosed the better. Dr Saunders writes in several places in the book of the ‘stigma’ of wearing hearing aids and of peoples reluctance to have aids show or admit they wear them. My own audiologist was at pains to point out how closely the colour of my aids matched my hair.
Dr Saunders gives useful strategies for managing background noise. Making noise louder is no solution to hearing impairment.
The history of the hearing aid is entertaining from ear trumpets to bulky battery carriers worn like a back pack. The tiny computers which hearing aid wearers have today are a huge advance.
There is a thoughtful chapter on the difference between hearing and listening.
The business Blamey Saunders provides hearing aids at a much cheaper rate. Hearing can be tested at home and hearing aids adjusted at home through the internet. Dr Saunders believes in the future of tele-health. I tried out their site and ‘chatted’ to Sophie who was able to answer some queries I had from my reading.
The book is also an interesting study in business practice as Dr Blamey and Dr Saunders searched for providers and distributors before starting up their own company. They threw down the challenge to the conventional hearing aid industry that Dr Saunders concluded were not acting in the best interests of consumers.
Regardless of whether you’re interested in Dr Saunders’ company, you owe it to yourself to have your hearing checked if you think you might have a problem.
My thanks to New Holland for the review copy of this book.
Tell us, do you have hearing loss? Would you read this book?