Dear Avalon family,

The appointment notes read that Henry’s daughter had made the appointment for her father, that he had six-year-old hearing aids but couldn’t hear, and that he was stubborn. He didn’t really want to come to Avalon.

You see, Henry originally had come to Avalon in 2009. He would have benefitted from hearing aids at that time but chose not to get them. Then, he returned in 2012. His hearing loss had worsened but still, he did not invest in better hearing.

He was now returning to Avalon after nine years
My curiosity was high as I brought Henry and his daughter back to my test room. Henry started the conversation by explaining that his left hearing aid was dead and that he couldn’t hear very well. When both of his hearing aids were working, he heard “okay” for someone who lives by himself, doesn’t get out much anymore, and just watches TV. That’s what he rationalized. I felt sad, deeply sad, that his world had become so small…because of his hearing loss. I could tell that Henry was relying on visual cues to figure out what I was saying.

I cleaned and serviced his current hearing aids, first
His dead hearing aid came back to life!  He was not expecting that to happen. Henry was thrilled and told me that he was hearing better but I could tell that he was still relying on lip reading. By the way, all of us use important visual cues in our communication. All of us.

I then did the first test we do at Avalon – the Speech Discrimination Test
I presented a list of words to determine how well Henry was understanding speech. It was worse than I thought. He scored 0% understanding. The hearing aids that he had purchased six years ago made everything louder but not clearer. Zero percent understanding while wearing hearing aids was not a good sign. Henry had waited too long to treat his hearing loss and when he finally sought help, the provider just sold him hearing aids. I know the provider because she originally trained at Avalon but decided to start her own business…sadly, the business of selling hearing aids.

I wondered if I would be able to help Henry at all. I conducted the rest of the test in the sound booth. Miraculously, if we were able to stimulate what was left of Henry’s hearing with properly fitted hearing aids, and he accepted the right follow-up care, he could understand at 80%. That truly was a miracle!

Henry’s eyes lit up as I spoke to him over the headphones
He had not heard so clearly in years. I asked Henry if he would like to hear like this to which he replied. “Well, I live alone and only watch TV. I can just turn up the television.” Henry was deeply resigned about his hearing, in denial, and may even be depressed because that’s what happens to people with untreated hearing loss. In Henry’s case, he was UNDERtreated. His hearing aids were no longer serving his hearing needs. Remember, he was getting 0% clarity.

I asked Henry what it would be like if he could hear his daughter at 80% clarity when she came to visit. I asked him to imagine how that would be for him and his family. Hearing loss affects everyone in the family.

Henry’s eyes welled up with tears. All his denial and resignation melted away as he thought about being able to hear and understand his daughter. It was time for Henry to invest in better hearing through Avalon where he would be adopted, where we would make sure that he was hearing the best he could for life; his life right now and for years to come.

What happened next blew my mind
As I presented three options for hearing technology, good, better, and best, his daughter became incredibly codependent. He asked her what she thought which is how people ask for support in making an important decision.  She replied and kept saying, over and over, again, “Dad, it’s up to you.”

Henry made the decision on his own, despite his daughter’s apprehension of telling him what she thought.  As I write this, I realize that I don’t know the dynamics of their relationship so maybe I should not judge her.

But I did make a powerful request of Henry’s daughter
Here’s what I said. “May I be direct with you?” She replied, “Yes.” I continued, “When you drop your Dad off at home, would you look him in the eyes and tell him, “Thank you, thank you for doing this for me!”  That’s when both her and my eyes welled up with tears. And she agreed to tell him. That’s the connection, the human connection that Helen Keller means.

Most people need to know that what they do matters. Henry needed to know that his decision to invest in hearing help mattered to his daughter.

Will you take this Avalon challenge?
Most of you have invested in hearing help through Avalon, and some of you haven’t. Will you ask a family member or close friend how they are doing with your hearing loss? What is it like for them when you communicate with one another?  Just listen. And then, say thank you for sharing.

If your loved one has concerns about your ability to hear and understand, would you make an appointment for BOTH OF YOU to come in? At that appointment, we’ll make sure that you are hearing the best you can, AND we’ll educate your loved one on what they can do to make communicating easier for both of you.

You see, what you do matters.