Hearing Aid Life Hacks – Steve Claridge of HearingAidKnow – #10

Steve Claridge

So I think it took me a long time to come to terms with my hearing loss. So I think I was probably five years old when I first got diagnosed. My parents first noticed I was missing things. And it took me many years to sort of be comfortable with wearing hearing aids. So I think if I say any, you know, strong message to anybody is just don’t worry about being seen wearing a hearing aid. They don’t want to look old. They don’t want to look stupid, they don’t want to look different, really. It’s just all in your own mind, really, that perception that you’re being viewed badly just because you’re wearing a hearing aid. And I mean, now I’m uncomfortable with that. I tell everybody, people will find it their lives easier if they just accept the fact they need a hearing aid, use it to its full potential, and try not to worry too much about it.

Steve Claridge of Hearingaidknow.com with Ben Thompson, AuD.

Ben Thompson, AuD

Welcome to Episode 10 of the Pure Tinnitus & Hearing Podcast. This is your host, Ben Thompson. Today I am with Steve Claridge, who is from Hearing Aid Know. So he’s going to teach us a lot about hearing aids and what we need to know. We’re happy to have Steve on as a guest. Steve, thank you for being here. We’re happy to feature the great work you’ve been doing with Hearing Aid Know, and your own experiences, in terms of the hearing journey.

Steve Claridge

Well, thanks for thanks for inviting me on firstly. So Hearing Aid Know is basically an information website for people with hearing loss, tinnitus, and you know, just any any related problems really. I started it about 15 years ago, it was just a blog, then about my own hearing loss. So I was just kind of venting about my own problems, really. And I got to know other people that were writing about their hearing loss. And it just kind of snowballed from there. So about sort of five, six years ago, another guy, Jeff came on board. he’s a he’s an audiologist from Dublin. So it’s kind of nice now that we’ve got my perspective, as a hearing aid wearer, and Jeff’s perspective as a hearing professional. So yeah, we’re just trying to get information out to people really.

Ben Thompson, AuD

What is the most important information that you’re trying to share with the community right now entering 2021?

Steve Claridge

I think it, I think it’s been, I think a key thing has been for a long time is I think a lot of people don’t understand the sort of complexities of buying hearing aids or getting fitted. And I think that’s what turns a lot of people away, you know, we know that probably 40 or 50% of people that come into a practice to get a meeting, decide not to not to get, you know, not to take the hearing aid, they take it back. No, we’re not interested. So I think people need information about that to understand the problems, especially for new hearing aid users what it is not just a case of necessarily going in popping the thing in your ear works perfectly. There’s these hurdles there. So I think we need to get past that, you know, so that more people can pick up hearing aids, use them, find benefit from it, rather than just either sitting in the drawer or, or returning it to the audiologist

Ben Thompson, AuD

Yeah, and it’s very important what you’re providing with Hearing Aid Know because everyone’s going online to search for answers, whether that is reviews, or a second opinion, or to get a recommendation to treat their hearing loss or tinnitus. What are the big trends that you are seeing as we are starting 2021? What are the trends in terms of technology? And how someone can actually get hearing aids on their ears using telehealth and the internet

Steve Claridge

Well, I’m pretty pleased the way things have been going recently, actually. I want people to be able to just go in and basically buy hearing aids like they would a laptop or a brand new mobile phone. Obviously, it’s not quite as simple as just picking up a phone is. But I think I think we can get to that point. I think we’re still stuck in the old traditional way of selling hearing aids. You know, you’re going to see a professional, you get fitted, you go back to see them. And so I think we can move past that. And I think that’s really starting to accelerate now. I mean, just recently Apple, I’ve started to put more audiology-specific features into their new iOS release where you know, the Airpods can basically function like a primitive hearing aid. I think companies are starting to realize that, you know, there’s a big market out there for the taking, you know, there’s a lot of people, there’s a lot of people that are getting fitted by professionals. And this means, you know, I’m a perfect example, I’ve been wearing hearing aids for 30 years, very happy with the service I’ve heard from all the professionals I’ve visited. But I think there’s a lot of people that are discounted from that for their model, you know, because maybe the hearing aids are too expensive for them, or they just don’t like going to see the audiologist and that whole visiting people. So I think there’s a big market for a new technology and hearing aids, you know, direct to consumer, we’d like to say, I’d really love to see just somebody go into Walmart or Target or something and just picking up a new Samsung Mobile, and the next day a GN Resound or Widex hearing aid, and they they buy it, take it home, and stick it in their ear. And I think I think we’re definitely moving towards that. And like you say, with telehealth as well. So already the major manufacturers can self-fit, you know, if you’re fitting somebody with a hearing aid, they don’t necessarily have to visit your practice anymore. That can be done remotely. So I think our industry is making steps towards that happening. So I think it’s going to be interesting.

Ben Thompson, AuD

Definitely. I agree. It’s great to have you on because me, being in California representing United States, you being in England representing England. It’s great to have this collaboration, and the experience you have as someone who wears hearing aids, for many years seeing different professionals, it’s very valuable perspective, very valuable experience, so that people in my position who are working to treat hearing loss, as well as others who are considering moving forward with hearing aids or tinnitus treatment can learn from your experience. What are the major experiences, the major lessons that you have learned that you may want to share to someone else who was in your position when you started this journey?

Steve Claridge

I think it took me a long time to come to terms with my hearing loss. So I think I was probably five years old when I first got diagnosed. My parents first noted I was missing things. I wore hearing aids on and off till I was about eight. And then my hearing loss degraded to the point where I couldn’t really not wear hearing aids. So even then, after the age of eight, and it took me many years to sort of be comfortable with wearing hearing aids. So I think if I say any, you know, strong message to anybody is just don’t worry about being seen wearing a hearing aid. You know, there’s a whole stigma around that, you know, people don’t want to, they don’t want to look old, they don’t want to look stupid, they don’t want to look different, really. But I think, it’s easy to miss dismiss that, but it’s all in your own mind, really that perception that you’re being viewed badly just because you’re wearing a hearing aid. And I mean, now I’m uncomfortable with that. I’ll tell everybody happy to put the hearing aids on display. So I think people will find it that their lives become easier if they just accept the fact they need a hearing aid, use it to its full potential. And not try and you know, try not worry too much about it. You know, the more people that get hearing aids, the less that’s going to be an issue, right? I mean, it’s just a problem, because it’s not common, not as common as, say wearing glasses, but if it was, then it wouldn’t be different.

Ben Thompson, AuD

Thank you for sharing that, Steve. That’s very important. And thank you for being vulnerable and sharing your own personal story. Now, tell us about your online community. Where can someone finds you guys and what kind of messages do you have? What are the most common popular topics on your website?

Steve Claridge

For HearingAidKnow.com we get to review new hearing aids. The other guy Jeff, who’s an audiologist does have a mild hearing loss himself. We’re both wearing hearing aids. So we’re reviewing most of the new models that are coming out trying to stay impartial in our reviews. The website is not sponsored by any brand or is not affiliated with anything. So we’re trying to stay as impartial as possible. I think people find those reviews very useful. And like you said earlier, you know, more people are googling for brands, and help around here today.

Ben Thompson, AuD

I see it myself, the articles you put out, they get a lot of interest and support, whether that’s through the hearing loss Facebook groups that finds your article, or through the search for the terms that you’re writing about, what are the most popular articles or most popular stories that you guys had in the last year?

Steve Claridge

And I think, again, it’s probably just reviews, mostly. So I think a lot of people have been looking for Phonak Marvel, that tends to get hit quite a lot. Ear wax articles seem to do quite well. I think Jeff did an article about ear candling and why it wasn’t a particularly good idea. And that seems to be very popular. So it seems like there’s a lot of people investigating ear candling options. It’s surprising, you know, you write articles and think that people would be searching for that kind of information, but they just search for the most bizarre, most bizarre things. Okay, can my dog wear a hearing aid? And that kind of thing is, is quite, quite amusing. When you see what, you know, people land on our site for.

Ben Thompson, AuD

That’s quite funny. Okay, now, tell us what do you want someone to know about the process of buying a hearing aid? And of course, each country, each state, each region has its own insurance and payment. But let’s talk about the process of getting a hearing test, doing research online, getting interest in devices, and then actually purchasing or getting fit with devices? And how in 2021? How is the online telehealth model going to play a bigger role?

Steve Claridge

Um, well, I think people need to realize that, you know, particularly new first time hearing aid users, they’re not just going to go in and buy the hearing aid and pop it straight into their ear, and it’s going to be perfect, solve all their problems on day one, there’s got to be a good understanding. I mean, I guess it depends on how long give out a hearing loss for and how, how bad that is, and how much you’ve been missing over time. But the longer you leave it, the longer you have a hearing loss, and the harder it’s going to be to listen. It’s not to say it’s not going to work for you. But it certainly is like a sort of training in a retraining of your brain aspect to that. I’m not sure that always gets communicated well to potential patients where there might be, you know, one of the reasons that a lot of people try hearing aids and decide that it’s not for them. So I think so I think when people do go to practice, they, you know, the audiologist gives them a hearing aid to go away and they got a trial period of, say a month, I think it’s really critical to use that month effectively. Go to different environments you would normally be in and try that, you know, really try the hearing aid out, you don’t want to just leave it in the drawer. But most of the time, just pop in for an hour and I’m not kidding. You’ve got to really test it out. So, I think that’s, that’s the key message. Telehealth. So I mean, I tried it out with my audiologist. And it just I think it’s the same as coming to visit. It works incredibly well. And the changes can be made. So you know, I would speak say you know, I can’t hear very well in an office environment so the changes be made and sent over over Wi Fi. What do you know, instantly kind of thing so I think that would help people get quicker responses to their hearing problems. I think that’s another thing that people are too happy about that you say you know, might come in and get a hearing aid go away for like two weeks to try it out. But that kind of you know, two weeks to come back and see the audiologist to get changes or two weeks where it might not be working as well for them as they might want to so if they can just do a remote update much quicker then you get that testing cycle going quicker.

Ben Thompson, AuD

Yeah, that’s amazing. I totally agree. Because with the iPhone, with smartphones, the hearing aids are connected through apps or through the iPhone or through the phone settings to the user, the individual can make adjustments by themselves. And then additionally, the professional can help them to change the baseline settings. Like you’re saying, sometimes you just can’t afford or you don’t want to wait a week, two weeks to make this change that will impact your every hour of your life in that moment. So, unfortunately, the current clinic doctor system, wait for an appointment model. It’s sometimes too slow for the needs or the desire for the customer for the client for the patient. So hopefully, technology already has shown that it can shorten the time someone has to have that problem. And then they can go back to just living their life and not having to think about the hearing aid, right?

Steve Claridge

Yeah, yeah. And I think, you know, I said earlier about, I’d like to see hearing aids on the shelf next to mobile phones. I think we’re all conditioned to want you know, the things we want just to work straight away. You know, if you buy a TV, you don’t want to spend six days trying to set it up if you want it to just work right. And I think people want that with a hearing aids. That’s not an easy solution. And that’s not always possible. But I would assume that’s what most people want, you know, they don’t want to keep coming back and visit and tweaking and trying out, because they just want they wanted it to just work. And now I think the uptake of hearing aids would go much higher, you know, more people will be wearing them if the time it took to get a perfectly fitted working decreased.

Ben Thompson, AuD

Yeah. And we talked about over the counter hearing aid in the United States. We have in development, the over the counter hearing aid act. This is a protocol, some safety measures set by the government to categorize certain types of hearing devices as appropriate for mild or moderate hearing loss, without the need of a professional. That’s great, because there’s some standardized process to it. But already right now, before the over the counter hearing aid act comes out in about a year or so. Already, someone can buy hearing aids online, called direct to consumer, they don’t even need a hearing test to get them fit on their ears. From your perspective, have you been following the over the counter hearing aid act in the United States and then also globally? That’s just the trend of more direct to consumer hearing aids being sold? What are your thoughts? Have you been following this on your website?

Steve Claridge

Yeah, yeah. So I think, you know, I think the whole world can benefit from that in every country, I think the over the counter act is definitely a step in the right direction.

Ben Thompson, AuD

Okay, so tell us tell us more about the big projects for HearingAidKnow.com. And what you guys bring to the online hearing community that is unique.

Steve Claridge

I think we bring impartial advice. I think generally people are getting better for this. Historically, a lot of the online content was very scientific, very sort of business speak. So I think we try and talk naturally. And not use buzzwords or, you know, scientific language to describe hearing as we try and describe it as, as the patient would be looking at them kind of thing. So, you know, describing the benefits and how they would work for people. So we’ve talked about the trial period, being difficult, and something that somebody really needs to sort of concentrate on getting the most out of. So we’re sort of looking at building a, like a phone app product to more like a sort of walk through the steps. That sort of process to set to help them say, “Okay, well, you know, listen to somebody who’s behind you listen to somebody who’s in front of you have a TV up loud.” So just a sort of a walkthrough for them. So you know this today, do something try listen to somebody behind you then listen to a lady, listen to a man. Listen, somebody, shouting at you. So sort of an instructional walk through for that month of the trial. We’re looking at putting that out sometime soon.

Ben Thompson, AuD

Hmm, fantastic. What are the major differences between getting hearing aids in England versus United States?

Steve Claridge

Well, we have the National Health Service, where people can go and get free hearing aids. Which is great. I mean, the problem is, a lot of the hearing aids supplied by the NHS are quite out of date. I mean, not shocking, but they’re probably five to eight years out of date. They’re still really good hearing aids, but they tend to be bulkier models, and they’ll fit them with the full shell molds rather than in the ear models. So yeah, I mean, a lot of people are very happy with the NHS here, follow up appointments are free, but they’re not getting the best technology they possibly could. And I think a lot of Audiology departments are quite understaffed. A lot of people are super happy with their NHS aids, and they can’t understand why anybody would want to go private, and there are a lot of people who go private and get more benefit from that. But yeah, I mean, I think that’s quite a unique thing to the UK.

Ben Thompson, AuD

Yeah. So tell me about your experience. As an athlete, I believe you run. Tell me about your experiences as an athlete and having hearing loss, wearing hearing aids. How does that work for someone who wants to wear hearing aids also wants to be as athletic and exercise?

Steve Claridge

I think the major problem is wind noise. I probably don’t run as fast as many other people do. But certainly you know, you’re moving. And so this constant wind is coming. And so that is a major problem. I have Ear Gear for my hearing aids. They stop the sweat going into the hearing aid as well. But they also block off a lot of the wind noise really, really well. I mean, a lot of the modern hearing aids have wind noise reduction built in, but none of them are as good as Ear Gear. Yeah, definitely if you’re going to run with some hearing aids, you want to get some Ear Gear. So yeah, sweat certainly has a problem. So I have to say I do find it quite hard to hear people when I’m running just because of that, just because of the wind is also a kind of sound, I’m sort of focused on moving forwards. And I tend to have somebody on the side of me. You know, if you’re running alongside somebody. So I think I find it difficult to say anything as a group of runners. I’m not really in the conversation that well. Yeah. But I appreciate that.

Ben Thompson, AuD

I appreciate you sharing this, it’s important for us to realize that you can still be athletic, you can still exercise you can still do what you love, even with hearing loss, even when you’re wearing hearing aids. So I thank you. Thank you for sharing that. All right, we’re wrapping up here with the Pure Tinnitus & Hearing Podcast, episode number 10. I want you to please tell our audience listening, where they can find your work as a blog author, and where they can find your website, and anything else you’d like to share.

Steve Claridge

HearingAidKnow.com. That’s pretty much our sort of central location, you can find that in Google.

Ben Thompson, AuD

Yeah, that sounds fantastic. And thank you, Steve Claridge, for being on this podcast. I know it’s very valuable to share your story so that other people who are considering hearing aids or who already have them can relate to what you’re going through. And me as an audiologist, I can be a middleman to share your story with those who would really benefit from it. And it’s been great to meet you. Great to get to know you. So thanks for coming on.

Steve Claridge

Yeah, thanks for having me.

Dr. Ben Thompson, Au.D.

Dr. Ben Thompson, Au.D.

Dr. Ben Thompson is an audiologist in California and founder of Pure Tinnitus. Dr. Thompson has a comprehensive knowledge of tinnitus management. He completed his residency at University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) and is a past board member of the California Academy of Audiology. Via telehealth, Dr. Thompson provides services to patients with hearing loss and tinnitus.

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