It’s never too late to do something about your hearing loss – or get a bone conduction hearing solution. Just ask Malcolm Simon, who finally decided to have bilateral Baha® surgery at the ripe ‘old’ age Aof 80! His only regret? Not doing it sooner.
Malcolm was born with 50% hearing loss in one ear and a little less in the other. Growing up in the 1940s and 50s, people with hearing loss were viewed quite differently than they are today. Not a lot of attention was given to hearing problems.
“It was totally ignored in those days,” says Malcolm. “While glasses were common, hearing aids were not. They weren’t acceptable and people would actually laugh at you. I’d say, ‘Listen, a person has to wear glasses if they can’t see, so what’s wrong with a person wearing hearing aids if they can’t hear?’ Nowadays, I think hearing aids are accepted by everybody. People wear stuff in their ears and over their heads for all sorts of reasons, so there’s no longer a stigma about wearing hearing aids.”
Social stigma was the reason why Malcolm had always refused to use hearing aids. As he explains, they were quite different back then – huge, very conspicuous devices with tubes going around the head. “Never, ever would I have worn a hearing aid like that! I’d rather stay deaf,” he says. And he did – for many years.
Admitting defeat and trying hearing aids
Like many others with a hearing problem, Malcolm learned to hide the fact that he couldn’t hear. In school, he positioned himself in the front row so he could easily see who was talking by lip reading. He faked audiology tests by looking at others and taking notes when they did. (Audiology tests were quite different back then, too.)
Throughout this time Malcolm’s hearing was getting even worse as his ear canals closed up. He could hear noises, but couldn’t make out words. But he still chose to do nothing about it.
The turning point came at a college party. “A guy I was talking with suddenly said, ‘Mal, you’re not such a jerk, after all’. I was taken aback and said, ‘What are you talking about?’ He explained, ‘Well, you’d walk by and we’d say hello, and you would always totally ignore us’. I was astounded – I had no idea. Then I told him about my hearing loss. He was really the first person I ever told.”
The incident made Malcolm realize that if he didn’t do something about his hearing loss, the implications would be worse than people laughing at him. He might not be able to get a job – he might not be able to communicate at all. Malcolm decided to visit an audiologist and had hearing aids fitted.
Over the years, he tried several different kinds, as the devices became more and more sophisticated. “I must’ve had four or five different sets of hearing aids,” he says.” They’d work for a while, but then I’d lose the hearing again. It was almost like a joke, people would say ‘Hey, now you’ve got your finger in your ear again’. I had to do that to prevent feedback, otherwise it would whistle.”
Malcolm went on to become a teacher in physical education, and hearing wasn’t so much of a problem because he was working mainly in an open areas. But he avoided situations like busy restaurants and group meetings, and still suffered from not being able to hear properly.
Joy of discovering the Baha solution
Now retired, Malcolm visited a speech school one day and met with an audiologist who demonstrated the Baha solution. She put the sound processor on a Baha Softband around his head, and when she switched it on he couldn’t believe the difference it made.
“She walked around the room talking all the time, and I could hear her – without even turning my head!” he says. “And that was the moment right there. I mean I started laughing. I should’ve started crying, but I started laughing because I was just so happy to hear. I’d never heard like it before. It was just a moment of awe for me. And the rest is history, as they say.
“I was 80 years old when I finally got smart and got my Baha sound processors. I wish I’d done it years earlier because it’s made such a dramatic difference to my life.”
Malcolm underwent the surgery, on both sides, and had his bilateral Baha sound processors fitted a few weeks later. Being able to hear clearly again after 80 years in muffled silence has meant a lot to him. For years, he’d stopped going to church because he was afraid he might not hear people talking around him or the minister asking for prayers. Now he feels comfortable in any surroundings. He knows he can hear everyone and everything. He even has to tell his wife to lower her voice, or turn the volume down on the TV!
And he’s rediscovered the joy of listening to music. “You’ll realize how old I am when I tell you I love listening to Golden Oldies music,” he laughs. “Whenever I’m on the internet, I always have iTunes on and I play Golden Oldies. I have the sound down as low as possible and can still listen to the kind of music I haven’t been able to hear in years.”
His advice to others thinking about getting a Baha system is simple: “First of all, find out if that’s what you need. And once you’re convinced it’s right for you, don’t hesitate. Don’t waste any time. Go right away and have it done!”
Name: J. Malcolm Simon
Lives in: New Jersey, USA
Type of hearing loss: Bilateral hearing loss since birth
Profession (Retired): Professor/Director Emeritus of Physical Education and Athletics, Soccer Coach
Hobbies: Hiking, biking, swimming, playing tennis, golf and poker and spending time with his wife, children, grandchildren and friends.
Please seek advice from your health professional about treatments for hearing loss. Outcomes may vary, and your health professional will advise you about the factors which could affect your outcome. Always read the instructions for use. Not all products are available in all countries. Please contact your local Cochlear representative for product information.