I likely obtained single-sided hearing loss when I was six-months-old, after suffering from Meningitis. It wasn’t until I was two-years-old, however, when I was diagnosed.
My godmother, who called home everyday, noticed that every time I answered the phone I would hang up. She told my mom that she could hear me, but I couldn’t hear her. She suggested a visit to the Ear Nose and Throat doctor. That’s when we got to know that I was completely deaf in my right ear.
The doctor assumed that when the fever reached my brain from the Meningitis it could have damaged a few nerves.
Read more: Living with single-sided hearing loss
For 38 years I’ve lived with only hearing from one ear. For the most part, I’ve been able to live with it. I’ve graduated college, held jobs and participated in sports and social activities along with my peers, but there have been times I’ve struggled. I often rely on lip-reading and always have to position myself in specific locations around the room, always making sure my friends and colleagues sit on my “good side.”
Hearing with both ears can help with various aspects of hearing, including:
For the majority of my life, I didn’t know that hearing technology was available to treat my unilateral hearing loss. Then in 2020, when I discovered HearingLikeMe.com through Instagram, I learned about the Phonak CROS.
The Phonak CROS is specifically built for unilateral deafness, otherwise known as single-sided deafness. “CROS” stands for “Contralateral Routing of Signal”. A CROS system consists of two parts: 1) the CROS device with a microphone to pick up sounds and voices from the unaidable ear and wirelessly transmit them to the hearing aid, and 2) the hearing aid to receive the signal from the unaidable ear and play it to your hearing ear.
The CROS basically transmits sounds from the non-hearing ear to the hearing ear. For those who are curious – Yes, you have to wear these in both ears and not just the non-hearing ear.
Having never worn hearing aids, I was very sceptical about how I would manage with them always behind my ear. But as you can see in the picture, the design of the Phonak Audéo Paradise CROS P system is sophisticated and almost invisible. There is absolutely no hindrance to the wearer. I can carry out all of my daily tasks without having to worry about them, as they stay tucked behind my ears like a child in its mother’s arms.
I was always under the impression that hearing aids were bulky and would be embarrassing to wear, but I love showing off my hearing aids to everyone I meet.
The Phonak design team has also gone a step ahead and provided amazing color options. I chose the Graphite Grey.
The hearing aids sits comfortably behind my ear and goes into my ear canal though a tiny wire, which is almost invisible. During my fitting, my audiologist adjusted the length of this wire, which is connected to a tiny ear bud that is inserted into your ear canal. The buds are tiny, unlike Apple Airpods or earphones, which block out sound. These actually allow you to hear normally even while you wear them.
Hearing aids used to come with batteries that needed to be changed regularly. This meant always needing to carry spare batteries. The CROS P, however, uses rechargeable batteries. After charging my hearing aids for three hours, I get 12-15 hours of uninterrupted use. (For people who tend to use the Bluetooth pairing function, the usage could drop down to about 10 hours on one charge.)
The CROS’ lithium-ion battery offers 40 percent more power than conventional rechargeable batteries, which means it is reliable and capable of supporting the technology and performance of Phonak rechargeable hearing aids.
I often use my hearing aids to stream music, answer phone calls and participate in video calls on my computer. I’ve never been able to use traditional earphones before. I have always had to use a speaker to listen to music, since most head and ear phones are stereo output. This means if I did use earphones or headphones to listen to music, I would only hear one channel of the output – especially for MP3 and WAV files.
My CROS hearing aids finally give me a tech-savvy solution to hear better and stay connected – hands-free.
With the rechargeable hearing aids, there are two charging cases that Phonak offers. The smaller one is an easy-to-carry case (seen in photo).
The wider one has an inbuilt fan to take the moisture out. This is useful when you live in a city like Mumbai, India – where I live – and where the humidity peaks throughout the year.
When I went for my hearing aid fitting, my audiologist performed tests to measure the hearing in both my ears. She determined the intensity of the sound to be streamed to my good ear and set the levels.
Once she set these frequencies, I still had the ability to increase or decrease the volume and balance given my surroundings. For example, If I am on a noisy street, I can decrease the volume so I am comfortable with the level of sound that streams to the good ear. Sometimes loud noises can be overwhelming, especially in a country like India where honking is considered the norm, even at a red light. Adjusting the volume is also useful if I’m straining to hear a speaker when there’s loud background noises.
As the Publication’s Manager for HearingLikeMe.com, I was lucky enough to visit the Phonak headquarters to for my hearing aid fitting. Here is a video of my experience:
I was recently walking in a flea market in my hometown of Goa, India with a friend who was unaware about my new hearing aids, when my phone started to ring. Without a hitch, I tapped my ear twice and began to talk to the caller. My friend thought I was talking to him and asked what I was talking about. That’s when I realized that he didn’t know or couldn’t see my hearing aids. Once I hung up, his jaw dropped in awe looking at my new ears. Being able to answer and hang up calls without even reaching out for my phone is really cool. The caller can hear my voice crystal clear. In fact, because these hearing aids have such great microphones, the caller can even hear some minute background sounds. Overall, this is a brilliant feature.
I now regularly use my hearing aids for online meetings and classes, as well as social events and recreation. While I still haven’t gotten used to the point of wearing them all-day, everyday, I do notice that I hear better when I am wearing them.
I’m looking forward to continuing using my hearing aids in different settings, especially if I’m in a professional setting or a place where I don’t always want to ask, “sorry, can you repeat that?”
There are also accessories such as the TV connector, where I could connect my hearing aids to the TV to watch programs or play video games with the sound streaming straight to my devices. Amazing, right?
I think I’ll always enjoy rolling over on my “good ear” to get a good night’s sleep, but during the day, my hearing aids bring new sound and life to my ever-expanding world.