A ‘hearing helper’ gave this musician a new lease on life
- Health & Wellbeing
If you live outside a capital city and are experiencing hearing issues, help is at hand at a reasonable cost. Michael is from Wagga Wagga and loves music. Read his story here.
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Wagga Wagga resident Michael Pym, 78, started playing the trombone in his local concert band more than 50 years ago.
Since then, he has played under 33 conductors, attended more than 2,080 rehearsals and taken part in around 450 performances. He plays in the Riverina Concert Band every week, which includes two-hour rehearsals, as well as regular workshops and performances.
He is one of the original members of the band, and has been marching and performing in the local Anzac Day parade since 1972.
“We do stuff from everywhere - classical pieces, Phantom of the Opera, ABBA. Anything you can think of we have played,” he says.
When Michael started having trouble with his hearing five years ago, he quickly became worried his musical pursuits would be affected.
“I wasn’t picking up messages if people didn’t speak clearly, or on TV, and I also wasn’t able to hear what the conductor said. Conductors don’t always speak clearly or loudly,” he adds.
Despite having concerns about his hearing, Michael put off addressing the problem for quite some time. He isn't alone. In Australia, four million people are affected by hearing loss, yet most people wait years before addressing the problem. Stigma, cost and distance from high quality solutions and service providers are the most common reasons for putting it off.
Some wait for things to get worse, risking secondary complications such as depression, anxiety and a higher risk of dementia.
After addressing his hearing issues, Michael was able to enjoy his favourite activities again
“I kept putting it off because I didn’t think it was necessary. I have an audio test each year and my loss was just marginal,” he explains. A visit to the doctor also revealed that Michael did not have an underlying health issue.
Yet increasingly Michael was finding it difficult to keep up with the voices around him.
“A lot of the sermons (at church) were lost to me,” he says. And he constantly found himself having to ask people to repeat themselves, especially during band rehearsals and performances.
One day Michael caught up with an old friend who had also experienced hearing difficulties. He told Michael about a hearing aid solution by Blamey Saunders that could be ordered and personalised in the comfort of his own home.
Given Michael lives in a regional town, the accessibility of the service appealed to him.
“I didn’t have to travel anywhere, I was able to ring them [Blamey Saunders hears] up and the hearing aids arrived in the post. I just put the batteries in, popped them in my ear, and away I went,” he says.
Making adjustments were also a breeze, according to Michael. “I thought that I probably needed slightly shorter ear tubes so I sent them an email and said I don’t think I measured that right, and the next day they sent me, free of charge, a set of shorter tubes.”
“I’ve got all the gear, for example equalisers and information to tune on the computer, as well,” he says.
One month on, Michael says the hearing aids have made a big difference to his life.
“The hearing helpers are coming along very well. It’s helped a lot. Conversation and TV are now much more legible and my first effort at playing in Riverina Concert Band with aids was successful. I can now hear the conductor's instructions and have a much better idea of what is going on,” he says happily.
The Riverina Concert Band in action
Fast facts about hearing loss
- 1 in 6 Australians experience hearing loss
- Many people delay treating hearing loss for an average of 7 years
- 3 in 4 people who need hearing aids do not get them
Untreated hearing loss can lead to:
- Fatigue and embarrassment
- Irritability and anger
- Isolation and loneliness
- Personal safety problems
- Impaired memory and learning ability
- Reduced psychological health
You may be eligible to access a range of hearing services, under the government’s Hearing Services Program. This may include hearing assessments, advice and support, hearing rehabilitation programs and much more. To find out if you’re eligible visit hearingservices.gov.au.
What is your biggest concern when it comes to your hearing? Let us know in the comments section below.