Hearing Vibes

Dr. Kristi Swingle

Dr. Kristi Swingle

Local Audiologist to Join March Virtual Meeting

Tiggy Shields

The Discussion Group for Better Hearing is pleased to host Dr. Kristi Swingle, Au.D., at its virtual meeting on March 11. Our group brings this opportunity to the SaddleBrooke community in a continuing effort to offer education, support, and advocacy for those experiencing hearing loss and related challenges. This one-hour session will include Dr. Swingle’s presentation, pre-submitted questions and a final Q&A open session. All are welcome to attend.

Many community members have joined our discussion group over the past two years. If you have issues or concerns about hearing loss, and have never taken the step to meet with an audiologist, these sessions are your opportunity to learn about how professionals can assist you, the support services you can expect along the way, as well as hearing aid and other technological advances.

Dr. Swingle received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in speech and hearing sciences from the University of Arizona, and her Audiology Doctoral degree from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry, School of Audiology. She served her internship with Arizona Hearing Specialists in Tucson and continued four years as an audiologist on staff where she met her husband, also an audiologist, before leaving to take a Clinical Professorship at the University of Arizona. In 2018, Dr. Swingle and her husband Dr. Gregory Swingle became owners of Arizona Hearing Specialists.

In addition to her educational credentials, Dr. Swingle is a Fellow in the American Academy of Audiology and a member of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). She has received the Jean R. Guloien Outstanding Master’s Student Award, and Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award, both at the U. of A., and has pursued extensive continuing education hours.

To join this Zoom session on Thursday, March 11, 10 a.m., please contact Maria Menconi at [email protected]

Otherwise, for information about the Discussion Group for Better Hearing, contact Jennifer Jefferis at [email protected] or by phone at 360-909-6212. All upcoming meetings are held at 10 a.m., Thursdays, March 11, April 8, and May 13.

When Hearing Aids Are Not Enough: My Journey to Cochlear Implants

Bev Smith and Tiggy Shields

At a certain stage in your hearing journey, you might reach a time when hearing aids no longer do the job you need. Hearing aids only boost what’s left of your hearing; they can’t boost anything if there is nothing left. That’s when cochlear implants come into play.

I’ve been hard of hearing since birth, but I didn’t even realize it until I was in college. I took a hearing test as a routine part of a speech class, and whoa! My hearing was abysmal in the normal speaking range. Effective hearing aids at that time were not really an option, and even by the ’80s and early ’90s, they were of marginal help. I’ve had a series of hearing aids since then, but by 2014, it was clear the aids were not enough. My hearing was on a steady decline. It was scary to contemplate surgery, but I was at the point where I had to weigh the pros and cons. Was it worth my undergoing surgery and receiving a permanent implant? These are real concerns for people. In my case, I was missing so much that choosing the procedure was a no brainer. Additionally, professionals have had plenty of experience and cochlear implant surgery is routine. People wonder about the cosmetic issue of wearing the magnet on their head. I have experienced absolutely no ridicule or curiosity about this, as it is becoming quite common to see cochlear devices on people’s heads.

Three companies make cochlear implants, and you will want to do your homework if you are contemplating going that route. The Adult Loss of Hearing Association (ALOHA), which before COVID-19 restrictions held gatherings monthly, was an invaluable resource for me. Desert Cochlear Connections also offers resource material and monthly (now Zoom) meetings. I recommend you contact these organizations through the resource website at www.alohaaz.org to begin your search, as well as the Discussion Group for Better Hearing right here in SaddleBrooke (see below), for support and information via their Zoom sessions.

Once you choose surgery and have been implanted, your audiologist will program you to fit your particular hearing needs. This is called “mapping” and sometimes takes multiple visits. Likewise, there is a period of time you need to “train your brain” to understand what you’re hearing. It took me four months of listening to books on tape while I followed along with the written words before I felt like I was understanding most conversations. Some people don’t need so much time. Even right from the start I heard sounds like birds chirping that I’d missed before. It’s really fantastic. The one downside I’ve experienced is that the quality of music is not as full and rich as it is naturally. This is slowly improving as my brain “learns” to fill in sounds.

For me, going to cochlear was life changing. Before my procedure, I had gradually become less comfortable in groups where I simply could not follow the conversations. Just to catch a punch line was impossible. So, if you find yourself in that position, when even wearing hearing aids, I encourage you to investigate whether cochlear implants are right for you.

Consider attending the next monthly Zoom meeting of the Discussion Group for Better Hearing so you can get important knowledge right up front, save money, and avoid early mistakes. For more information, contact Jennifer Jefferis at [email protected] or 360-909-6212 or Maria Menconi at [email protected] Please contact Maria to join upcoming Zoom meetings: Thursday, Feb. 11 at 10 a.m. and Thursday, March 11, at 10 a.m.