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They keep working, however noisy it is

He had been planning to buy one of those expensive hearing aids. That was when he read about the hearing revolution. Charles Dublanc talks about the new art of hearing and modern, affordable hearing aids.

He was at a buffet lunch with his gym club. Sixty people were packed into the small room, each trying to make him- or herself heard above the other. "The din was terrible, because older people have a natural tendency to talk louder." This was how Charles Dublanc from Wangen, near Zurich, described the moment when his brand new, barely visible mini hearing aids faced their baptism of fire. "I quickly changed the setting to position 4, and I was immediately able to carry on a conversation with the other people above the din, however loud, without any trouble.  And yet my hearing aids cost only a fraction of what I would have had to shell out for the well-known brands."

Charles Dublanc does not fit with the typical image of a hearing-impaired person. At 63, he is still young and looks it. An entrepreneur, he worked in the textiles industry for decades and travelled extensively around Italy on business. He now provides a consultancy service and coaching for companies and private individuals. Encouraged by his wife, he faced up to his hearing problem very early on and didn't put off getting a hearing aid for years or even decades, as is so often the case. It strikes you as soon as you start talking to him. He is as quick-thinking as a forty-year-old, only rarely asking for something to be repeated. He has his wits about him. To put it in a nutshell: Dublanc embodies the new breed of hearing aid wearer to whom wearing a hearing aid comes as naturally as wearing glasses comes to others. 

Why do a million Swiss people have trouble hearing, but only a very few wear a hearing aid? Why is it that there is hardly any other decision in life that is put off for as long as the decision to consult an ear specialist or audiologist? Dublanc answers the question without a second's hesitation: "Popular hearing aids are completely overpriced. Any child knows that. I have tested all the popular brands and would have had to fork about 4,000 Swiss Francs (about £2,500) myself. Two days before I was planning to buy one of those hearing aids, I happened to read an article about new mini hearing aids which, although very reasonably priced, were also extremely modern. I knew immediately that those were the ones for me!"

Dublanc did not have to consult an ear specialist or an audiologist, but headed straight into one of the 200 or so pharmacies that sell the new hearing aids, offer free hearing tests and provide a professional service in less than one hour. He was allowed to try out the hearing aid which suited him for a whole weekend, and the results were impressive: "I'm pleased that I had put all the expensive hearing aids through their paces beforehand. It means that people believe me when I say that there is absolutely no difference in terms of quality. The only argument in favour of the very expensive hearing aids is that they offer a couple of gimmicks which I don't really need for everyday purposes."

Aside from the price, Dublanc thinks there are also psychological reasons why older people wait far too long before getting a hearing aid. "People still think that wearing a hearing aid makes them look old. That's nonsense. On the contrary, you look old if you're always having to say "Eh?" and "Pardon?" And you're increasingly left alone because living with someone who is hard of hearing is no fun at all in the long run." And what about how it looks? "This argument doesn't wash either. The new mini hearing aids are almost invisible."

Source: Sprechstunde Doktor Stutz, Nr. 1/2012, Page 88 f.

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