The Cost of Hearing Loss
by Amy Pajula, on February 26, 2019
I had already been struggling with my hearing loss for years when I became a first year college student. Now, however, I was away from home and in danger of failing some of my classes. The frequent embarrassment in social situations and feelings of isolation (even in a crowded room) were something I had always struggled with. The addition of college-level academic stress was paralyzing and nearly unbearable. I was struggling to navigate it all. I was being tested on information I couldn’t make sense of. I went to the audiologist to share my frustration and she showed me a huge pair of hearing aids that would be a good fit for my loss. Although I was on a budget, it was very important to me that I had smaller and more hidden hearing aids. She reluctantly showed my a smaller pair that she felt wouldn't be as good of a fit. I put the entire purchase on a credit card. The set was $2300 and was the most expensive purchase I had ever made.
The hearing aids did help as I sat in the front of my classes. I wasn't straining as hard to understand and was able to follow the lecture. However, the second anyone behind or around me started shuffling papers, opening a soda, unzipping a backpack, or flipping a notebook page all I could hear was the extraneous sounds so I missed the notes. The social stress continued as I lived in a dorm and was always around people and I couldn't wear my hearing aids all of the time. The cost of batteries added up and they were not easy to find unless I went back to the clinic where I purchased the aids.
Three years later I was a junior in college and still sitting in the front row of my classes. Classes were more detailed, lectures were specific with examples, and I couldn’t create decent notes even with my hearing aids in. That familiar stress and anxiety set in and I knew I had to get my hearing re-tested. While my hearing loss had not changed, I learned my hearing aids were breaking down and needed an expensive repair. My audiologist reminded me that this was one of the drawbacks of hearing aids of this type because all of the mechanics were in the ear canal, which is a moist environment, and they would likely break down again. I had only recently completed my payments. She encouraged me to try newer, better fit hearing aids suggesting this would be a better investment.
Trying the hearing aids, I was dismayed to see you could see them in my ear and they felt large and awkward in my small ears. I did notice I could hear better with them right away. At $3500 they were almost twice as much as my last ones and I couldn't believe how unlucky I was at having to purchase new ones. At the end of the day my ears were so sore, I had to remove them. Often times when going out at night, I did not wear them because in the louder environments they did not help me understand conversation and it was just a wall of noise and clanking silverware. However, in my classes I was able to survive.
I did not realize it at the time, but this would be my journey for many years. I would worry about my hearing and I would worry about my hearing aids. I would worry about different aspects of my life, my classes, and ultimately my job. I couldn’t understand the voicemail I had listened to 100 times, or couldn’t understand what the person calling me was asking. I was missing important information at meetings. I contributed to a meeting and was told “we just discussed that”. My kids would get frustrated, my husband would get frustrated, and I would get frustrated. My social life was challenging because there were times I just couldn’t follow what was going on despite using hearing aids.
By my thirties I was now on my fourth pair and most expensive pair at $6300. These were again newer and better hearing aids, and were the first behind the ear aids I had ever used. I had some discomfort with the ear piece tube but did find them more comfortable than the in the ear canal type, and felt the sound quality was definitely improved over the last set.
Naturally, the first hearing aid I ever lost was one of the most expensive. I had been out with friends when my battery went out and I didn’t have one on me. Once a hearing aid battery goes out, it makes your hearing worse because your ear with poor hearing is now also plugged with something. I took it out and put it in my purse. I never saw it again. I was absolutely mortified. I didn’t want to tell my husband and I was so mad at my own carelessness.
It’s a hard truth when we remind ourselves that hearing loss cannot be cured or reversed. I was 32 and had already spent almost $15,000 on hearing aids. I still struggled with my hearing loss and the hassles and frustrations that came with it every day. I was looking at a lifetime of buying hearing aids every few years. I wanted to spend money on trips and fun experiences, or even needed things like a new car or furniture.
The same month I lost that expensive hearing aid, I stumbled upon the Esteem® device. While online researching what was new for hearing loss, I learned about a clinical trial for a completely implanted hearing device. I had always dreamed about this and jumped on the possibility. At a point of total frustration, I was willing to take a risk and participate in the trial.
To make a long story short, the Esteem® changed my life and by changing my life it changed the lives of my family and my children and my friends. It required a surgical procedure and some healing time, but when the device was activated I felt like I had finally found a solution! Consistent hearing created a confidence in me that wasn't there when I had to worry about batteries going out or how I would manage situations where I couldn't wear a hearing aid. I don't have the soreness and itching in my ears so I can chat with my family when I get home instead of needing a break for discomfort. I'm not spending time carefully cleaning the wax ports each night and when I travel or leave the house I don't have to pack a case or extra batteries. Sounds are clear and it's a noticeable difference to hear without an artificial microphone and with nothing in your ear canal. The phone was a big improvement for me without having to manage the feedback. I swim and paddle board and snowshoe socially because I can hear and be active. When my older son comes up late at night to wake me up and tell me he's home, I hear him. I can be active and I can be spontaneous.
Most importantly I feel the confidence one feels when the treatment option it a great fit.
The Esteem® is an investment. There is the upfront cost of the surgical procedure where the entire device is implanted. However, you always use this device. The maintenance is replacing just a piece of the system - the Sound Processor houses the battery and software which currently lasts an average of 5 years. When the battery depletes the Sound Processor piece is replaced. As advancements to software and battery longevity are made, you get to take advantage of those updates at the Sound Processor/Battery change. I know when I get a new battery it will be the newest available.
Each set of hearing aids was an investment, but that investment disappeared completely because they would need to be replaced entirely. The Esteem® procedure requires a higher upfront investment. Over the years and after spending so much money on other options that I didn’t love, couldn’t use all the time, had to repair, maintain and once even lost, I look at costs in a different way.
Hi, my name is Amy - I have personally experienced the unique challenges of living with hearing loss as a teenager, a college student, a young professional, a new mother, and now the mother of two teenagers. I had significant challenges in each of those roles as I tried to manage my hearing loss and minimize the negative impact it had on my life. I stumbled upon the Esteem® at a low point in my hearing loss journey while trying to manage a stressful career, two active toddlers, and hearing aids that did not work with my lifestyle. I am now a bilateral Esteem® recipient and am thankful every day that I found this solution. I understand the necessity of finding a hearing solution that enhances your life and look forward to educating you on the Esteem®. I can be emailed directly at email@example.com with ANY questions. If a phone call is your preference, I can be reached at 651-361-8050. I look forward to connecting with you!
This is the experience of one patient. Individual results may vary. Esteem is a surgically implanted hearing device for a certain type and level of hearing loss. It can only be prescribed by a properly trained ear surgeon. Talk to your hearing healthcare professional for more information or contact Envoy Medical.