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A real difference—maker

Hearing aids help woman stay involved
Barbara Wright was hesitant at first to get hearing aids but now can't image life without them.
Barbara Wright was hesitant at first to get hearing aids. After wearing them since 1976, though, she can’t imagine life without them.
  When Barbara Wright shares how hearing aids have improved her life, it pays to listen.

She speaks from experience, having depended on hearing aids for more than 35 years to keep her connected to others both socially and professionally in her teaching career. Her current devices are so advanced she can now hear subtle sounds she hadn’t realized she was missing, such as water dripping or a clock ticking.

In 1976,Wright, then a new mother, was visiting with friends when she realized she had a problem.

“I could see their mouths moving,” she said, “but I couldn’t understand anything they said.”

She was referred to an ear, nose and throat specialist who diagnosed her with otosclerosis, the abnormal thickening of bone in the middle ear. The bone prevents structures within the ear from working properly and causes hearing loss.

“It was devastating to need hearing aids,” the Bismarck woman said. “I felt such a stigma being so young. I put it off three months until my husband told me I had to do something because it was too hard on people around me.”

She was fitted for her first hearing aid at Sanford Hearing Centers and has been a patient there ever since.

“Stigma that hearing aids make you look old remains the number one reason people avoid seeking help for hearing loss,” said Debra Arneson-Thilmony, an audiologist with Sanford Hearing Centers. “When people delay getting help, it is more difficult to make the correction. People may also lose the ability to differentiate sounds. Hearing is like a muscle; if you don’t use it, you lose it.”

Wright taught English as a second language for 13 years and then served as an elementary reading teacher for 23 years.

“Without my hearing aids, I would not have been able to continue teaching,” she said. “I was successful because the volume the hearing aids provided allowed me to hear and to differentiate sounds.”

  Dr. Debra Arneson-Thilmony
Debra Arneson-Thilmony, AuD
In 2010, Wright’s right hearing aid needed replacing. The hearing in her left ear was also deteriorating.

“It sounded as if I was under water, and I was missing so much of what was being said,” she said. “I’ve been very socially active since I retired and worried I would have to quit taking classes and participating in community activities.”

Her new hearing aids put an end to those fears.

“My audiologist, Arneson-Thilmony, recommended the best technology available for me,”Wright said. “I replaced both devices, and my hearing is nearly 100 percent now.”

These are not the hearing aids of days gone by, often relegated to dresser drawers.

“We made a significant improvement by upgrading Barbara to the latest digital technology,” Arneson-Thilmony said. “These hearing aids have excellent sound processing and multiple microphones to address background noise.”

Arneson-Thilmony encourages anyone struggling with hearing to see an audiologist for evaluation.

“Have your hearing aids investigated to see how the latest technology can improve the quality of your life,” she said. “An audiologist can also try to improve your current hearing aids by properly adjusting them.”

Wright’s advice to others is clear.

“If you have any hearing problems, get screened and get whatever help you need,” she said. “Even with a slight hearing loss, hearing aids will make a real difference in your life, and you’ll wonder why you waited. Your family will also thank you.”

Click here for more information on Sanford Hearing Centers, or call (701) 323-8006.

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