13. My Son Has Only A Mild Hearing Loss.
An Audiologist Told Me That To Be A Good
Parent I Should Buy A $4000 Pair Of Hearing Aids.
Dr. Abonso: Maybe she used to sell encyclopedias.
I think so. The audiologist at our son's school couldn't understand why she
Dr. Abonso: What else did your high-pressure audiologist say?
Suspicious Consumer: That the FM unit we had been using wouldn't be needed anymore.
Dr. Abonso: That bothers me. The purpose of a FM unit is to make certain the teacher's
voice can be heard clearly. Even the best hearing aid in production -- the Resound
aid -- picks up everything in the room.
Suspicious Consumer: Isn't that what it is supposed to do?
Dr. Abonso: Yes,
of course, but if the microphone is located a long way from the teacher, most
of what the microphone picks up is the noise and reverberation in the classroom.
Suspicious Consumer: Isn't that
the brain's job: separating speech from noise and reverberation? Why shouldn't
my son learn by practice as I did?
Dr. Abonso: That
works fine for adults, but most kids with mild hearing loss haven't heard enough
clear speech so that the speech-recognition circuits in their brains could wire
Suspicious Consumer: Huh?
Dr. Abonso: They
need as much clear speech as possible -- as young as possible. The best thing
is to give them as much noise-free speech as practical.
Suspicious Consumer: So what does FM do?
Dr. Abonso: An FM
system allows the microphone to be located near the teacher's mouth, so clearer
speech is sent to the student. It's not a cure-all, but it helps.
Suspicious Consumer: If my son
only has a "mild loss," why does he need any hearing aids at all?
Dr. Abonso: Ah,
I wish you could listen to one of my heroes, Dr. Noel Matkin. Unfortunately
he moved from Northwestern University out to Arizona.
Suspicious Consumer: So are you going to tell me what
he would say?
Dr. Abonso: I can
try. The child with a mild loss typically ends up with one year's delay in school.
A so-called "mild loss" will knock out 30-40% of conversational speech sounds,
making it impossible to learn without a great deal of concentration.
Suspicious Consumer: So what causes the school delay?
Dr. Abonso: No one
has an exact explanation, but kids normally learn a lot of their vocabulary
and idiomatic language from eavesdropping, which requires good hearing.
Suspicious Consumer: Back to my
original question. Would he really hear better outside of school with a $4000
pair of hearing aids instead of a $1600 pair of aids?
Dr. Abonso: If he
only has a mild loss, probably not much.
Suspicious Consumer: When would you recommend the more expensive aids, or are they just a come on?
Dr. Abonso: Good
grief, no! If your son had a moderate to severe loss, I would strongly consider
Suspicious Consumer: Are all programmable aids just as good?
Dr. Abonso: Hardly.
Some of them don't have much of anything intelligent inside to program. And
you'd be better off with good-quality conventional aids in competent hands than
with the most sophisticated aids in the world in the hands of someone who doesn't
understand how to program them.
Suspicious Consumer: How do I know which is which?
Dr. Abonso: Call
one of the superb educational audiologists in the Chicago area: Barbara Murphy
or Judy Elkayam.
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