In January, and at my audiologist’s suggestion, I began a thirty-day, free trial of a pair of hearing aids with artificial intelligence. By months end, I was hooked on this new technology and traded in my Oticon OPN aids for the OPN S aids.
Those of us suffering from sensorineural hearing loss have difficulty hearing consonants. Most will say that they can hear but can’t understand what anyone is saying. This is due to an inability to hear S, T, H, and F as well as other consonants. People suffering from sensorineural hearing loss are unable to distinguish between words such as sea and she, fat and hat, and fan and van.
Though my audiologist lauded aids with artificial intelligence, I was skeptical. Yet, with these new aids, I can hear the swish of my dishwasher, the spin cycle on my washing machine, and the whirring of my air conditioner’s fan. As I’m writing this column, I hear the tap, tap, tap of the keys on my keyboard.
Through the rest of winter and into spring and summer, my audiologist refitted my aids. He slowly increased gain, particularly in the area of soft sounds. This increase in gain comes without feedback, which is a benefit of hearing aids with artificial intelligence platforms.
With more tweaking, my audiologist warned me that all sound would be louder. It would take time for my brain to adjust. He hoped I would distinguish between the words I previously had trouble hearing. After my third fitting, I noticed a raspy sound upon hearing words with S. It was as if the S was elongated. Sat sounded like sssat. Worse, the sound seemed contrived, mechanical, and unnatural.
I emailed my audiologist suggesting we get together sooner than planned to correct the problem. These sounds are driving me crazy, I wrote. He proposed we wait several weeks. I heeded his advice.
After a few weeks, I noticed an improvement in hearing women’s voices. Those annoying Ss were sounding more natural. Environmental noise is louder, but I’m able to distinguish words better. Though I still need my mini mic to hear in noise, it is easier to hear. I feel less exhausted after an evening out in noisy restaurants. Finally, I am hearing with more clarity.
This past week, I saw my audiologist for a final fitting. He explained that it might take several more weeks before I became accustomed to more loudness and the different sounds around me. He is right. Currently, I’m drowning in sound. All I want is to retreat into a quieter world. However, I trust that this maddening noise will, settle over time, into sounds that make sense.
All of the major hearing aid manufacturers have incorporated A.I. technology into their newest aids. Cochlear Implant manufacturers are introducing A.I. into their products and conducting human trials. If you are in the market for new aids, I recommend trying a pair with this new technology. Most manufacturers are allowing free trials of up to 30 days. If you are considering an implant, check with each of the C.I. manufacturers’ websites to follow the release of their A.I. products.
As we meander through the hearing world, recognize that there is no one hearing solution. Hearing is perception. We all hear differently. Technology that works for one person may not work for another. I believe that keeping up with new technology and trying out new devices can lead to better hearing. As I told my audiologist yesterday, I am always open to new and different hearing solutions.

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Linda Bilodeau

I’ve grappled with hearing loss since 1978. Through it all, I’ve faced periods of denial, acceptance, curiosity, trust and hope. But more often than not, I’ve felt annoyed, angry and frightened. I’ve encountered despair, loneliness and envy. I’ve experienced panic attacks. I’ve met understanding people, kind souls who helped me a great deal and others who thought I had nothing short of an invisible plague. As a way of coming to terms with my hearing loss, I’ve decided to put my feelings about my disability down on paper. My hope is to better understand myself and perhaps you’ll find a little something in my meanderings that will help you, too.

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