Marlene Zahn, 77, has suffered with hearing loss since she was in her 30s. The former Manitowoc resident, who has lived in Fond du Lac for the past eight years, has gone through five sets of hearing aids in the past 25 years.
“My sixth set has been the magic number,” Zahn says, noting she got them through Agnesian HealthCare’s Fond du Lac Regional Clinic Audiology department. “This is the first set I’ve been happy with - I can hear so much better - the clarity is the best it’s ever been.”
Having to constantly ask people to repeat themselves, Zahn became frustrated with the hearing aids she had purchased elsewhere. “Friends kept asking me if my hearing aids were working right,” Zahn recalls. At the urging of her daughter, she sought a second opinion at Agnesian HealthCare nearly two years ago. It was then that she met with Nicole Auxier, a doctor of Audiology, who tested her hearing and had her try out different types of hearing aids to see what worked best.
“I can’t believe the difference,” Zahn says. “These hearing aids work great. They have modern features where I can adjust the noise background just by lightly touching the back of my hearing aid behind my ear. And a man’s voice comes on and automatically tells me when to change the batteries. I never had options like these with my other hearing aids. And these weren’t even as expensive as my last few.”
Diagnosed 40 years ago with otosclerosis (an abnormal bone growth in the middle ear), Zahn originally had surgery in both ears to correct the health concern. In spite of it, her hearing loss became more severe over the years.
“Otosclerosis typically begins in young adulthood with a slow progression of hearing loss,” Auxier says, noting it is more common in women than men and may be inherited.
In Zahn’s case, genes may play a role. “My dad suffered from hearing loss. Now, so do all of my siblings,” Zahn says.
“Due to the severity of Marlene’s hearing loss, we did a trial of different power hearing aids to try and find the best one for her lifestyle,” Auxier says. “What we recommend depends on the degree of hearing loss and factors, such as technology needs, ear size and shape, dexterity issues and more. Each hearing aid we fit is personalized to the patient, and we offer a 60-day trial period to make sure the hearing aids improve the patient’s quality of life.”
After using the new hearing aids, Auxier says Zahn reported that she could hear the ladies at her exercise class, could understand her husband and the television better, needed less repetitions of words, and could hear better on the telephone.
“Hearing aid manufacturers have been focusing on improving listening while in noisy situations and wireless/Bluetooth compatibilities,” Auxier says, noting high tech options include wireless connectivity to televisions, telephones, cell phones, loop systems, computers and MP3 players - with sound going directly to the hearing aids.
Zahn says the hearing aids recommended by Auxier have improved her social life and boosted her confidence. “I don’t have to keep asking people to repeat, and it’s a pleasure to go out for dinner now. I love talking on the phone again, because I can finally hear who is on the other end.”
“Nicole has solved my hearing concerns. And even better, she’s just a lovely and very caring person who is a good listener. Every time I see her she gives me a hug.”
As for those who might be putting off getting their hearing checked, Zahn has words of advice. “When you finally get tested and discover you can hear so much better with hearing aids, you’ll wonder why you waited so long.”
To learn more, call the Fond du Lac Regional Clinic Audiology department, located at 421 Camelot Drive in Fond du Lac, at (920) 926-8460.