Is Noise Tolerance A Problem?

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We have all experienced discomfort in noise. Sometimes it’s too loud, like a motorcycle or large speaker system; sometimes it’s annoying, like fingernails on a chalkboard. Either way, noise takes many forms and impacts each of us differently.

For instance, take the rumbling of a motorcycle engine. While some find it a nuisance, the motorcycle owner may have purchased that exact brand for the sound that it makes while cruising down the highway.  

Most patients will respond to noise differently. Some are tolerant of noise, while others exhibit high sensitivity to noise. These patients who appear sensitive to noise are the ones that cringe at sharp impulsive sounds or feel the need to remove their hearing aids when driving in the car. It’s this particular, noise-sensitive, patient that has motivated some recent research efforts.

There is a research-based agreement that people who are more accepting of background noise (or “noise-tolerant”) tend to be more successful with their hearing aids while those who are “noise-sensitive” are less likely to find success1. This thought has led clinical audiologist to develop research projects that are focused on understanding if the benefit that one person receives from their hearing aids is linked to their individual noise tolerance.

Many have started to answer this question, in part by asking research participants about their willingness to tolerate background noise with a variety of noise-reducing technologies. Early findings suggest that noise-tolerant patients report mild benefits from the reduction of noise while noise-sensitive patients report the greatest benefits. Recall that these noise-sensitive patients are the ones that may be challenged to succeed with hearing aids.

Today, the best guidance for supporting the noise-sensitive patient would be through the selection of advance noise-reducing technologies (e.g., digital noise reduction or directional microphones) and the inclusion of a volume control either on the hearing aid or through a remote control.

Guided by ongoing research, tomorrow’s options may be different. If one could diagnose patients as noise-tolerant or noise-sensitive, it would be possible to identify patients that benefit most from aggressive strategies for improving noise acceptance. Once identified, a research-derived prescription would be selected, presenting a unique combination of hearing aid settings that assist the noise-sensitive patient toward a successful experience with hearing aids.

There’s no doubt that listening in noise is an immense challenge. For anyone with sensitivity to noise, this challenge may become an impasse to their acceptance of hearing aids. This opportunity to significantly improve a patient’s noise tolerance means their path to success could be one that’s short and easily navigated.

Contact us to set up a FREE hearing consultation!


Nabelek, A.K., Freyaldenhoven, M.C., Tampas, J.W., Burchfield, S.B., & Muenchen, R.A. (2006). Acceptable noise level as a predictor of hearing aid use. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology, 17, 626-639.

Talking About Hearing Loss is a Matter of Timing

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Talking to a loved one about their hearing loss is a difficult thing to do. Each holiday season, millions of American struggle with hearing loss at social gatherings around Thanksgiving, religious holidays and New Year’s Eve. For some there is embarrassment and frustration. For others their family and friends are more burdened by the challenge of communicating to their loved one with hearing loss. Since awareness for hearing difficulties tends to reach its height this time of year, we want to offer suggestions for knowing when it is best to speak to a loved one about addressing hearing loss. 

Accepting change is often said to be one of the hardest things to do. In fact, it has been found that there are many stages in the process such as anger, denial and, ultimately, acceptance. Far too often those with hearing loss are pushed too hard into making a hearing aid technology purchase at the early stages of this process. Many individuals will return the product and subsequently wait several more years until taking the needed actions. Just like changing any habit or situation for the better, it takes the proper mental commitment from the impacted party for successful outcomes. For a concerned loved one it is important to employ caring and patience in your sentiment when speaking to a loved one about their hearing loss. Patience is extremely important as this individual should be shown the respect to make the decision, when they are ready.

By taking this suggested approach, the best possible outcomes will be achieved for all parties involved in that the loved one will be committed to improving their hearing and getting the most out of their investment. If you would like additional assistance in crafting your approach for speaking to a loved one about their hearing loss, simply reach out to our office by phone or submitting your information on our Contact Us page. Also, when that person is ready to take the first step, we offer complimentary hearing consultation appointments to help determine the best course of action for gaining better hearing.

If you feel like you or a loved one experiences hearing loss, please contact us today to set up a FREE hearing consultation. In addition, being there by the side of your loved one is very important too. You can also visit our website at wwww.chicagolandhearing.com to learn more about what we have to offer.


Experts Recommend That Hunters Use Ear Protection While Hunting!


As hunting season continues, we’d like to take the opportunity to talk about the health concerns associated with not wearing ear protection.

Many hunters say they don’t like wearing hearing protection while they hunt because it inhibits their ability to hear when an animal approaches. But many may not realize the hearing loss that can occur from just a few shots over the course of the day.

“I’ve been doing this all my life, so if my hearing’s going to go, I’m guessing it’s probably going to have gone already,” Jeff Lohmeier said.

Megan McMahon, an audiologist tried to describe why gunfire causes hearing loss.

“The gunshot’s going to be at a level that’s 140 decibels, which is essentially like standing next to a jet engine,” McMahon said.

McMahon said that noises this loud can cause instantaneous hearing loss.

“People think … one shot’s not going to do too much, I can get away with just that one shot, but we do know with a high-level noise, something that high, you can cause some permanent hearing loss just that one time,” McMahon said.

Many hunters at the shooting range said they won’t plug their ears because they want to hear when a deer approaches.

“It’s a personal preference, some guys might [wear hearing protection], but it might take away from the hunting experience as well,” Jason Petrella, a Brown County Park Ranger, said.

McMahon knows she can’t convince all hunters to plug their ears, but hopes that she can save as many as she can from requiring hearing aids in the future.

“Once the damage is done in the inner ear, that’s a permanent type hearing loss, so it’s not going to regenerate or come back,” she said.

It’s unfortunate that the damage can not be reversed, but it can be prevented! Here at Chicagoland Hearing Aid Centers we offer hearing protection for hunters. We would like to express how important it is to protect your ears during this sport! Contact us today to learn more about hearing protection options.

5 Tips To Be A Great Advocate

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Being an advocate is hard, and when you’re an advocate for someone with hearing loss, it can be even more challenging. Hearing loss is connected to the misleading belief that only the elderly has it and that hearing aids aren’t for the “young.” In reality, hearing loss affects children and adults of all ages, and according to the World Health Organization, over a billion teens and young adults are at risk for hearing loss as of 2015. That being said, it is very difficult to encourage someone with hearing loss to get the help they need without alienating them or actually causing them to wait even longer.

Being an advocate for someone with hearing loss is hard because you aren’t trying to get someone else to help them but are trying to get them to help themselves. Here are five tips to be a great advocate for a friend or loved one with hearing loss.

1. Let them come to you: Instead of constantly pushing them to get help or overwhelming them with hearing aid pamphlets and articles on hearing loss, let them come to you when they are ready. Everyone eventually reaches a point at which help is the only option left, so give them time to come to terms with their hearing loss and be ready to help when they ask for it.

2. “With” not “at”: Don’t talk at them about hearing loss. Talk with them. Let them know you are there to listen and encourage them to be open about difficulties they may be facing.

3. Sometimes, not all the time: When you notice them blaming their hearing issues on other things (people mumble, it’s windy, it’s loud, etc.), politely suggest that they should have their hearing checked just in case. If they get defensive and say no, let it go and try again at a later time. Be patient and pick your moments wisely. It’s better to mention their loss every now and then instead of all the time.

4. Two minds think alike: If you have other friends who have hearing loss or wear hearing aids, consider introducing them to each other. Sometimes it takes someone else with hearing loss to help a person see how much he or she is really struggling and how much getting help could improve their life.

5. Be patient: Try not to get frustrated or impatient when communicating difficulties arise and you have to repeat yourself multiple times. Getting angry or annoyed will only make you less trustworthy as an advocate and may make the person with hearing loss feel like you don’t support them anymore and consequently avoid interacting with you.

We’d Like to Welcome Kathryn Otto to the Chicagoland Hearing Aid Centers Team!

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We’d like to welcome Kathryn A. Otto, MA, CCC-A to Chicagoland Hearing Aid Centers!
Kathy graduated from Glenbard West High School and went on to complete her undergraduate work at The University of Iowa, where she received her BA in Speech and Hearing Sciences. She then attended Northwestern University and earned her MA in Audiology and Hearing Impairment. Chicago afforded many clinical opportunities while in grad school, including working at Hines VA Hospital, Children’s Memorial Hospital, and Northwestern Memorial Hospital. She completed her certification working at the Dizziness and Balance Center in Glenview.
After relocating to Iowa, she worked with an ENT group and started her own hearing aid practice. After moving back to the Chicago area, Kathy returned to her alma mater, Northwestern, to lecture and supervise graduate students. She has also worked with Dr. Richard Wiet at the Chicago Otology Group (now the Ear Institute of Chicago) and Drs. Richard Bulger and James Rejowski (formerly York ENT, S.C.). Kathy joined Auditory Services, Inc. in 2009 where she worked until October, 2016.

When she’s not working with patients, she’s either singing with The Elizabethans (where they perform for various assisted living facilities and local groups) or at the barn, pursing her passion for the sport of eventing with her horses.


We are too excited to have Kathy as our newest member of the Chicagoland Hearing Aid Centers team!

Why Are The Human Ears Shaped That Way?

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It’s easy to poke fun at someone with big ears, but human bodies have an interesting way of evolving to optimize their effectiveness. One expert, Todd Ricketts, director of graduate studies in the department of Hearing and Speech Sciences at Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, sounds off on how the shape of our ears muffles noises from behind and why large flaps may actually make someone a better listener.

Size Matters

The shape of the ear has a big effect on how one hears, and since we’re only born with one pair, we get used to the sounds they deliver to the eardrum and eventually to the brain, says Dr. Ricketts, who does research into hearing aids. While some animals have rotating ears, many scientists have speculated that humans, at the top of the food chain, don’t need ear functions with up-down precision hearing, “since we’re not likely to be attacked from above or carried off by a bird,” Dr. Ricketts notes.

The ear’s outer flap, called the pinna, acts as a sound-gatherer, “a bit like a horn,” Dr. Ricketts says. That horn is pointed slightly to the front, allowing the ear to gather more sound from what it is facing rather than from what is behind. “The sounds from the back are sort of like shadows, and they don’t travel so well around the ear flaps,” Dr. Ricketts says.

Alfred E. Neuman-size ear flaps should help drown out ambient noise behind a person, thus allowing him to hear the person he is facing better. People with flatter ears, on the other hand, can conceivably pick up sound from behind better, “which you could argue is a good monitoring ability,” the professor says. No matter your ear shape, to hear more clearly when speaking with someone face to face, simply cup the pinnas with your hands to concentrate the oncoming sound.

Extra Benefits

The distance between our two ears helps people locate where a sound is coming from. The little ridges and folds that most people have on their pinnas alter the frequencies of sounds and also help us better locate the initiation of the sound. Whether the top of your ear is fully curled or has bumps or dents, “everyone has a unique sound signature,” says the professor.

Earlobe shapes—whether attached or low-hanging—tend to be genetic and haven’t been shown to affect acoustic ability, notes the professor. They are, however, loaded with nerves, “which is why many people feel a lot of sensation around their ears,” he says. Scientists accept that earlobes have no real biologic function, Dr. Ricketts admits.

Down the Canal

The swirly shape of the ear leads sound down into the auditory canal, which acts as an amplifier. “Humans have a natural amplification in the 2,000- to 4,000-Hz range, which is where the difference between consonant and vowel sounds comes into play,” says Dr. Ricketts.

At the end of the canal, the soft tympanic membrane, also called the eardrum, is both protected and hypersensitive to sound. If it should tear, “it has the unusual ability to heal on its own,” Dr. Ricketts says.

Under Pressure

In a healthy ear, after sound travels through the canal, pressure changes push and pull on the eardrum, causing it to vibrate and register vibrations as music, voices or noise. Past the tympanic membrane is the tympanic cavity, where small bones sit in an air pocket along with the Eustachian tubes, which help equalize pressure. Then there is the inner ear, a space filled with fluid that transmits sound waves to the sensory ear organ and ultimately the brain.

Intelligent Design

The ear is a self-cleaning, self-oiling machine, “which is why doctors will tell you not to shove a Q-tip in there,” says Dr. Ricketts, though he admits to sometimes succumbing to this guilty pleasure. Placing objects inside the ear can impact ear wax, which is meant to capture and expel dirt. “Cleaning your ear can actually dampen your hearing,” cautions the professor. Despite their rather odd shape, “ears do a pretty good job for what they are meant to do,” says Dr. Ricketts.

Do you have even more questions about the shape of your ear? Or even hearing loss and how you can handle it? Contact us at Chicagoland Hearing Aid Centers as soon as possible!

5 Halloween Safety Tips For Children With Hearing Loss

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Halloween marks the most exciting night of the year for many children. Decked out in

their new princess or superhero costumes, kids fill the streets in a hurried effort to

amass buckets full of treats. Unfortunately, Halloween can also be a dangerous holiday

for children. This is especially true to children who have hearing loss.

The following 5 tips will help children with hearing loss enjoy a fun and safe Halloween


1. Check Hearing Aids

Check hearing aids before you leave to ensure they are functioning properly. Take extra

batteries in case you need to change them during your time out.

2. Make Sure Costumes Fit Properly

Avoid costumes that include masks, hats, scarves or other accessories that could

dislodge hearing aids, cover the hearing aid microphones or obstruct your child’s vision.

Costumes and accessories should fit well to maintain optimal hearing and avoid blocked

vision, trips and falls.

3. Stay Close

Children under the age of 13 should be accompanied by an adult. Keep an eye out for

potential dangers that may be overlooked with the added excitement of trick or treating.

Children with hearing loss may not be able to hear if a car is idling, and may

unknowingly walk in front of cars assuming they are parked with the engine off. Always

use sidewalks and crosswalks and encourage children to walk rather than run between


4. Walk in a Group

Children that can safely trick or treat without adult supervision should stay with a group

of at least three other children. Establish a plan and outline the route the children will

take before they leave. Make sure each child in the group is familiar with the route.

Agree on an arranged meeting place to check in with them and make sure you know

when to expect to have them home.

5. Wear Reflective Clothing and Bright Colors

Give the children flashlights and apply reflective tape to costumes and treat bags to help

pedestrians and drivers see your children. Wearing brightly colored costumes will make

keep children visible.

Following these simple tips will help kids and parents enjoy a memorable and most

importantly, a safe Halloween night!

Hearing On and Off the Field: Tyson Gillies

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It’s the bottom of the sixth inning, and the crowd’s deafening cheers fill my head. The pitcher throws a curve ball, and my teammate misses, striking out before the ball even hits the catcher’s glove. Do I steal? Do I stay? Will he get the next hit? Will it be a line drive? Well, if it’s a homerun, I should run. What if it’s not?

As I watch the pitcher wind up for the second pitch, options run through my head in fast forward. My feet dance in rhythm with my thoughts, toes scuffing up dust as I bounce off and on first base.  And as my feet shift heel to toe, my mind races, analyzing all the plays, all the ways that next pitch could turn out, all the different things that could happen should the bat and ball meet. I can’t be sure. I should steal now. It’s never safe to steal, but here we go.  The ball flies out the pitcher’s hand as my feet push off the base and race towards second. I’m sprinting fast, second base getting closer and closer, and yet when I get there, all I hear is “OUT!” from the umpire. And then I hear the cruelty of the crowd.

This is the scene I imagine as San Antonio Mission’s outfielder Tyson Gillies, 26, explains what can happen on the field when he makes a mistake.

“It’s like they can’t see past it,” Gillies said. “People didn’t want to take a chance on me when I started out because I came with certain risks. They couldn’t see past my hearing loss. So now, when I make a mistake on the field, it’s not just a bad call by a player, it’s all about whether or not I heard the play at all. When I make a mistake, it’s all they see.”

The Early Days

Tyson Gillies was born with hearing loss, but he was almost 5-years-old by the time he was finally tested.  “My lip reading was so good, I had everyone fooled,” he said.

In school, his teachers thought he wasn’t listening and often chastised him for not paying attention. “They didn’t know what to do with me,” he said. “In kindergarten, for example, I wouldn’t hear everything so I’d memorize all the activities for each day. I knew when it was Monday or Friday based on what we were doing. I knew when snack time was, when naptime was and what came next. I was always one step ahead, so no one could see that I was different from the other kids. But, when activities got changed, I didn’t know what to do and would get so frustrated that I’d just lose it.”

But what Gillies’ teachers thought to be bad behavior was actually a severe cookie-bite hearing loss in both ears. Testing showed that hearing aids were a necessity.

Growing up in a small community about four hours outside of Vancouver, Canada, Gillies said he faced a lot of teasing and bullying because of his hearing aids. “It was hard just being different…being the outcast,” he said.  “I was the only one. No one had hearing aids or knew what they were. Kids are always judgmental with anything different, but even adults would ask what the things on my ears were.”

Until about tenth grade, Gillies said he was a homebody, avoiding social outings and doing anything he could to hide his hearing aids. He kept his hair long and wore beanies to hide the devices. “I went through a lot of hearing aids when I was younger,” he said. “ Kids threw one pair on top of a roof in third grade, but I threw some out of our apartment’s windows or flushed them down the toilet. I didn’t want to wear them.”

After a while though, Gillies said the insecurities and isolation faded as he accepted how much he needed the hearing aids. “They just became part of who I am,” he said.

Now, he’s open about his hearing loss and is the first to tell others about his hearing aids or event to make a joke about them. “When you laugh about it or bring it up before anyone else can,” Gillies said, “people are just more comfortable around you. If you say it first, it’s like it’s no longer an issue.”

Hearing Baseball: Hardships and Home Runs

Today, Gillies is a professional baseball player, a centerfielder for the San Antonio Missions in Texas. The Seattle Mariners originally signed him in 2007 before being traded in a major deal to the Phillies in 2009.

Gillies never saw himself playing pro ball until later in life, and if you ask him, he’s the first to admit the real reason he got started in the game: “I was waiting for hockey season.” Originally, Gillies was trained to be the quarterback in high school, but he was turned away when his hearing aids wouldn’t fit inside the helmet. “They never even took a chance on me…that was the last time I ever let anyone put ‘can’t’ in my head,” Gillies said of the experience. Despite his initial interest in baseball, Gillies quickly proved himself a powerhouse of athleticism and talent throughout high school and during his first year of junior college at Iowa Western Community College.  He was drafted after only a year at Iowa and has been playing professionally ever since.

Despite his talent on the field, Gillies’ hearing loss has affected the way others see and treat him as a player. “People always go for the ears when I tell them I can’t hear, and that’s the worst,” he said. “ I can’t hear them and don’t respond, so they end up thinking I’m being a jerk. It’s something I wish I could explain to everyone, especially the fans that are yelling behind me. They end up thinking I’m rude, but in reality I just haven’t heard them so I don’t respond.”

With coaches, Gillies said he’s had some great ones and some who weren’t quite sure how to work with him or who understood how his hearing loss impacted him as a player.

He recalled how one coach interacted with him after signing with the Mariners. “One of my coaches would always go up to me, talk really slow, use hand signals and say, ‘You. Are. Going. To Right Field,” Gillies said. “He did it everyday, so finally I was like I need to do something. One day when he got done telling me where to go, I said, ‘Ok. Oh, how’s your family? Your friends? How was your weekend?’ and he just stared at me in shock. It was like he finally understood that I was actually capable at that point, that my hearing loss didn’t make disabled or different.”

Gillies said the automatic assumption that he’s incapable because he has hearing loss is one of the biggest obstacles he’s faced as a ball player. “I’ve always worked like crazy to be a powerhouse on the field so that no one can say anything about my hearing loss, and after a while, people start to forget I’m hearing impaired and start talking about how I play instead,” he said. “When something happens that puts focus back on my hearing loss, it’ s like oh great, here we go again. I just try to tell myself it’s going to get better and that I can’t let it hold me back.”

“If you don’t’ act like you have a disability, no one else will,” said Gillies’ girlfriend Caitlin Connolly. “He just puts it out there before anyone else can and makes it obvious before there is even an issue. In all the sports he’s played, he’s never really seemed different because it’s so much unspoken communication. He’s always one step ahead of everyone else, playing out scenarios before they happen so that when they do, he’s ready.”

But, what Connolly is amazed at isn’t Gillies openness about his hearing loss; it’s how he handles difficult and negative situations. “He has such a strong wall, and he is incredible at keeping it inside, but just some of the things I’ve heard at games…it’s disgusting,” she said. “Some of the players used to call him Radio when he first started, but the fans are honestly the worst. They’ll use his hearing loss and are ready to blame him for missing a ball, shouting, “Did you not hear the ball? Didn’t you hear the play?’ It’s the only thing they look to when something goes wrong.”

Commentators, Gillies said, will do the same thing, citing his hearing loss as an excuse for the way a play went or the loss of a run. While the teasing incites flashbacks from growing up, Gillies said he does his best to brush it off. “Because of my hearing loss there are insecurities and frustrations that come with it, but I just try to remember that it’s all part of the game,” Gillies said.

“Everybody has to deal with teasing and taunts. I just try to remember how far I’ve come and what I’ve done to overcome it. I always tell myself to stop feeling sorry for myself, that it could be so much worse and that I should be thankful for what I have.”

Helpful Hearing Aids

Gillies’ has worn numerous hearing aids throughout his life, and said that as he got older he tried to always ensure his hearing aids were the latest technology. “He just has a better quality of life overall,” Connolly said of what hearing aids do for Gillies. “Whether it’s sports or communicating with friends, they make him so much more confident and open. Without them it’s like he’s a different person.”

In May, Gillies’ broke his hearing aids; a 2012 set of Starkey completely-in-the-canal devices, Connolly said it was like his world just fell apart.

“I watched it happen and could see what a setback it was for him,” she said. “He is such a positive person, but watching him struggle with the older technology was really hard. The older hearing aids were holding him back. When he reached out to Starkey and they invited him to come to Minnesota, it was a miracle. He was so excited, and I was just sitting there crying when I found out because I was so happy for him.”

Two Whole New Worlds

Neither cried at the end of the Starkey hearing appointment, but both were all smiles when they found out that Starkey Hearing Technologies CEO Bill Austin had worked with his team to create not one, but two hearing aids for Gillies to walk away with.

“I was shocked when I heard them say he was getting two pairs, “ Connolly said. “We just weren’t expecting that. We were already so grateful, but when that happened…we were just speechless.”

For on the field, Gillies was fit with invisible-in-the-canal (IIC) SoundLens2 hearing aids to help block out wind interference and be virtually unnoticeable while playing or practicing baseball. While his former hearing aids were unable to hear sounds well from behind and to the sides, Gillies said he’s amazed at how clear and easy he can hear and understand sound from every direction. The goal with the SoundLens2 devices was to enable Gillies to have optimal hearing without any interference while playing, especially while wearing hats or helmets.

For off the field, Gillies has receiver-in-the-canal (RIC) Made for iPhone hearing aids that will offer him power, personalization capabilities, the latest in hearing aid technology and the ability to create geo-tagged memories, which is key with upcoming travel plans to North Carolina, Canada and possibly Asia

“I’m on the road a lot for baseball, so this is going to be amazing when talking on the phone while traveling,” Gillies said. “I called my mom last night and she was in tears because she was so happy for me,” he said after a night wearing the Halos. “It was incredible how clear her voice was, and even last night when we went out in Minneapolis to loud restaurants with live music, I could hear and understand so much.”

“He gives people hope,” Connolly said of Gillies. “Here he is, this successful and talented athlete with hearing loss. People look at him and see how far he’s come with hearing loss and they see that in the end it doesn’t mean anything, that it doesn’t stop him from going after what he wants.”

Hearing loss comes in all shapes, sizes and activities! Here at Chicagoland Hearing Aid Centers we want you to hear better for more fulfilling life! Contact us to set up a hearing consultation to see what we can do for YOU!

Hearing Aids Reinvigorate Birding, among other things!

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The Toyota just got new tires, and its driver now has, at age 84, his first hearing aids.

I didn’t think I needed them, but my wife, tired of repeating herself, thought differently. I hate to admit it, but she was correct — as usual.

The new hearing aids join reading glasses, 10 total joint replacements, three steel bands to hold my right femur together, a pacemaker and a vaporized prostate. I continue to grow younger with each new part and system upgrade.

My Toyota has had new motor mounts, fans, a radiator, an air conditioning compressor, a fuel pump, a muffler, a couple of belts, struts, brakes and probably seven sets of tires replaced in its 15 years on birding trips down 90 percent of the gravel roads in our state.

The Camry’s engine still purrs along but does need the occasional quart of oil, and the transmission hiccups on occasion, as does its driver when he eats too fast — so we both are forced to slow up a bit from time to time.

The hearing aids were much slower in coming than reading glasses. By the time I was 47, my arms had grown far too short to hold the newspaper at a readable distance. I could still see like an eagle at 2 miles, but I could not be sure it was an eagle at 3 feet.

So I have reading glasses stashed in places such as the car, my desk, my living room chair, my bedside, the “throne room,” where I can read the paper in peace, and in my left pants pocket.

Now come the new devices, even ones Made for iPhone. Though I refused to consider them for years, I knew for more years than I care to admit that I needed to swallow my ego and rejoin the world I was missing because I couldn’t hear enough to understand normal conversation.

I hadn’t heard a bird song other than nearby crows, nuthatches, blue jays and the occasional rooster for the past decade.

Even worse, in recent years, I heard less and less of funny lines in the theater, often laughing with the audience at jokes I failed to hear. I laughed because others laughed. The jokes must have been funny.

I turned up radio and the television too loud for my family, and I became the master of the phrase, “Say again, please.” I called it “selective hearing.” It was the term selected.

How does a guy wind up unable to hear any frequency higher than low thunder?

I have to blame outside forces. First, I spent three years in the Army around noise — for two years in the artillery at Fort Hood, Texas, and a third year in Korea around heavy equipment, driving a truck up and down mountains, and working on an airstrip.

Second, I refereed football, basketball and wrestling for almost 40 years, often more than 150 dates a year. That’s at least 5,000 contests where I blew the whistle at least 100 times a game — half a million times, maybe twice that many.

Every whistle blast hit the ears full bore. I haven’t tooted the whistle for 20-plus years, but I haven’t heard high-frequency bird songs for at least that long.

You learn to bird by movement, silhouette and field marks and try to bird with someone who can hear. Now — if I can retrain my brain to sort out what I can now hear, my bird list can only grow. We’ll see if you can retrain 84-year-old ears — and their owner.

In the meantime, I can hear every joke and every note almost too loud in the theater these days. In fact, I can hear people turning the page of their program 10 rows away. Now when I laugh, there is a reason.

’Tis good to be back in the real world.

Do you feel like you are missing out on life’s important moments? Contact Chicagoland Hearing Aid Centers today to schedule a hearing assessment as soon as possible.

Why did Apple get rid of the headphone jack on the iPhone 7?

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Welcome to your hearable future. At the launch of the iPhone 7 yesterday, Apple announced that it was ditching the white headphone wires that have been an icon of the brand since 2003. Instead, listeners will use AirPods, a pair of wireless earbuds that connect to the phone over Bluetooth.

Ditching the headphone jack allows the iPhone 7 to shrink even slimmer, and losing a hole makes the phone more water resistant. But this is also the latest case of Apple using its flagship product to bring a tech trend to the masses– get ready for “hearables” doing battle for the ownership of your ears.

I’ve been using similar technology since 2014, when Apple paired with Starkey Hearing Technologies to produce the world’s first set of smartphone-connected hearing aids, the Starkey Halo. The software means I can take calls and listen to music directly via my hearing aids. The codec that Apple developed for these devices, which allowed audio streaming over low-energy Bluetooth for the first time, now appears in the AirPods.

A handful of start-ups have released devices that aim to take hearables even further. New York firm Doppler Labs offers the Here One, a pair of outsized earplugs that auto-tune your environment to play you a more aesthetically pleasing version. And German company Bragi has the Dash, a wireless “smart earphone” that incorporates a music player, pedometer, pulse rate monitor, and much more.

Hand-in-hand with the hardware comes the voice-recognition software to control it: think Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, OK Google and most recently Alexa, the AI that lives in Amazon’s Echo device. Just as smartphone apps took over from the web as the way most of us use the internet, hearables promise to take over from screens, bringing relevant information directly to our ears. Want to know what the weather is like in Rome, the contents of your inbox, or how long it will be until your next train arrives? Just wonder aloud, and Siri will whisper the answer discreetly into your ear.

Unlike visual interfaces, which demand your attention, audio provides an ideal interface for pervasive, background connectivity. The end goal is a more immersive type of computing, where the interface itself becomes invisible. We’re only just beginning to explore the possibilities that lie in this space: last year, sound artist Daniel Jones and I used this hearable technology to create Phantom Terrains, an app that allowed me to sense Wi-Fi fields. It’s likely that we’ll soon see developers creating novel apps that exploit the platform offered by AirPods.

At the AirPod launch, Apple’s Phil Schiller said that removing the headphone jack was an act of “courage to move on,” and some commenters joked that Apple might ditch the iPhone’s screen next. With the rise of audio interfaces and computers that live in your ear, that’s not as crazy as it sounds. But if you’re not quite ready to move on from cables, the iPhone 7 comes with an adaptor that will allow you to plug your old, wired headphones in the phone’s remaining Lightning port.

What will they think of next? Contact us today to learn more about the Made for iPhone hearing aids at Chicagoland Hearing Aid Centers.