ReSound Alera: The Little Black Dress of Hearing Aids

Buck has been driving us toward North Carolina for the last three hours. We just made the big turn north on I-85 at Montgomery, Alabama toward Atlanta. Pensacola had a near-record 13.11 inch rainfall last night with more falling today. A persistent, heavy rain has been with us since we picked up our soggy Sunday newspaper at the gate and linked up with I-65 to Montgomery.

It’s not so bad for me, since I am in the passenger seat. Our laptop is a great knee warmer, and I’ve got it tethered to my Droid phone for high-speed internet.

Buck is road-testing a brand new pair of hearing aids on this trip. His old pair of Phonak BTE’s (behind the ear) are still working reasonably well, but hearing aids reputedly have a “life” of five to six years. Buck’s Phonaks are six now, and so when his audiologist let him know about a special 60-day trial promotion on new hearing aids, he decided to take advantage of it.

Dr. Jennifer Reeves LaBorde, Audiologist at The Hearing Center, Pensacola, Florida

Buck has seen Jennifer for about 12 years. She is Dr. LaBorde, a Ph. D. Audiologist, but to us, she’s also our trusted good friend, Jennifer. Buck promised her that he would check out all the bells and whistles on his new ReSound Alera BTE hearing aids on our trip to Maggie Valley. We’ll be in a variety of situations involving road noise, restaurants, and visits with friends that should provide all the elements for a good test.

Buck left Jennifer’s office with a chic black shopping bag full of gee-whiz gizmos. The hearing aids themselves are sleek matte black and silver units. The accessories are where things have the potential to get fun. These hearing aids are blue-tooth equipped, which opens up a world of potential enhancements. One is a phone clip, a unit that wirelessly pairs with Buck’s cell phone and then allows him to hear cell phone calls directly into both ears via the hearing aids. We haven’t tried that one yet. The other accessory is called a mini-mic. It’s a chic little black and silver number that I can wear clipped on to my t-shirt or blouse. When wirelessly paired with Buck’s hearing aids, my voice goes directly into his ears. What spouse wouldn’t love that?

We tried the mini-mic at home first, and then at a noisy restaurant. The mini-mic is fantastic. Buck could hear background sound all around our table at the restaurant, but when I spoke in a very soft voice, that is the sound he heard intimately and clear. It dampened and took precedence over all the other sounds. Buck had to remind me a time or two not to speak so loudly. Amazing. We were able to enjoy a relaxed meal and conversation in that noisy space without resorting to lip and/or mind reading.

And so, we have the black “Hearing Center” bag full of goodies and battery chargers to play with in Maggie Valley.

Buck says that so far he doesn’t feel like he is hearing any better with these new aids, however he notes that the TV volume on his small office set has come all the way down to 20, from a setting of 32, so something is clearly going on. Jennifer explained that brains need a period of adjustment to get used to a new assistive device.

Another cool thing is that the hearing aids make a record when Buck adjusts the volume up or down so that when he goes back for a follow-up with Jennifer, her computer can communicate with them and see how and when the units have been adjusted. This will give valuable feedback as she  fine-tunes the units.

Far out, don’t you think?

18 thoughts on “ReSound Alera: The Little Black Dress of Hearing Aids

  1. I am sure glad that hearing technology is progressing—Kathy says I may need aids myself, while I’m still claiming it’s mere distraction. Anyway, enjoy Maggie Valley. My father and I drove through there in the early 1970s because he’d always heard how beautiful it is there. It is!

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    1. I think the hearing technology is moving faster now because of all us baby boomers. You know we’re not going to let something like hearing impairment get in the way of listening to our music! Seriously, Richard, claim what you will,but if Kathy has broached the subject with you, ahem, you probably should make an appointment with an audiologist for a hearing test. Buck wears the behind the ear models because his hearing loss is severe, but there are lots of completely in-the-ear models that are invisible. Besides, we are all running around with some sort of earpiece gizmo these days for phones or whatever, so who’s to know (or care)?

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  2. It is far-out and amazing. I spent several years working on healthcare issues for kids with special needs, and my co-hort was involved in newborn hearing screening issues. She really educated me about technology involving the deaf and also about deaf culture which is fascinating. I often wonder why more elderly people don’t take advantage of new technology — is it not that good or is it difficult to obtain, afford, etc.?

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    1. Elizabeth — I imagine there are lots of reasons. One is cost. Except for certain work-related hearing loss or some ex-military or some federal workers, insurance doesn’t cover hearing aids — which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but you are an expert in having to deal with policies that don’t make sense. Another aspect I’ve noticed is a resistance to change and/or reluctance to work through the learning curve required by new technology. You don’t just turn on the hearing aids and that’s that. From what Buck tells me, your own voice doesn’t sound quite normal, even with the best devices. I think learning to work with something like Bluetooth technology, wonderful as it is, can be quite exhausting at first, and requires determination and patience.

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  3. This is wonderful news, Beth. My mom at 87 has been through several sets of of hearing aids, but her hearing has worsened more and more. I am going to mention these to her for her next audiologist consult. Have fun in the mountains!

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    1. Hey, Loretta! Hope you’re rested up from all the wedding festivities! Buck’s audiologist told us a nifty anecdote about some ladies who live in a very nice retirement resort here who have lunch and play cards together. They all have the ReSound Alera’s with the mini-mic, and when they get together, they all put their mini-mics (paired to their own aids) in the middle of the table so they can have a great conversation together and hear each other clearly without much background noise.

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  4. What a fantastic story. In my career at GN ReSound, I have personally worked with over 1200 customers in twelve different states and I would rank Dr. LaBorde at the very top in professionalism, product knowledge and patient advocacy. It is quite rewarding to see willing patients, top notch professionals and advanced technology blend so well!

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