“It’s amazing. I no longer have to position myself at meetings.”
Robb Boss believed he was doing “just fine” coping with his conductive hearing loss. A successful oncology sales representative with a leading pharmaceutical company, Robb’s personable and intelligent communication with colleagues and clients has led to much success and satisfaction for the 41 year old. But a brief conversation with a co-worker helped Robb see the downside of his untreated unilateral conductive hearing loss and take action.
Name: Robb Boss
Profession: Oncology Sales Representive
Indication: Unilateral conductive hearing loss.
Sound processor: Ponto Pro
The first signs of my hearing loss
“I lost most of the hearing in my right ear when I was a teenager. It was a conductive hearing loss. But I was young and I adapted. I would sit on a certain side of people so I could hear with my good ear and that just became the norm with me – a natural way that I coped.
Over the past five or six years, the hearing in my right ear has started to decrease quite a bit. It began to affect my professional and my personal life. I’m the father of six kids, five of them girls with gentle, soft voices. Conversations and all types of communication were becoming more problematic for me”, Robb explains.
“I know that relationships are built on clear communication. More and more, I didn’t always hear what was being said. I would assume things and fill in the gaps to compensate for what I didn’t actually hear. It got to the point where there was a lot of miscommunication on my part. I would think I heard the whole story and I didn’t.
How I realized I had to do something
My Ah-hah came at a sales conference. My wife and children had come along and were outside at the pool. I went out during one of the breaks and my wife was chatting with a woman who I didn’t know. I walked up and joined the conversation. The woman was actually someone who was with my company but in another division. I thought the conversation was going well. At one point, I couldn’t hear exactly what she said and guessed that she was asking me about my job. After we had talked for a few minutes, she looked at me and said half humorously but with a clear message, “You need to take listening 101.”*
I was surprised and a little shaken. I had never told anyone at work about my hearing loss. Only my family and close friends knew. I had always managed to overcome and adapt”, Robb continues.
“After that conversation, I began to reconsider the possibility that I might benefit from a bone anchored hearing solution. At a checkup two years earlier, my otolaryngologist had encouraged me to think about a bone anchored solution. There was something about the permanent nature of that option that made me hesitate. It was not a concern about the surgery which I knew would be minor. I suppose it was more about accepting the fact that I was no longer able to adapt or overcome my hearing loss as I had in the past. It was very humbling to realize that I might need help that would be so permanent and, as I thought at the time, so visible”, says Robb.
“Instead, my doctor tried to manipulate the bones in my ear to see if that would improve my situation. It didn’t and I became increasingly frustrated and exhausted trying to hear people. It was especially difficult communicating with my oldest daughter. She has a tone of voice that I couldn’t hear at all. After asking her for the third time to repeat, she would say, “Never mind.” I realized it was frustrating for me but even more frustrating for my wife and kids.
My doctor had used bone anchored hearing solutions for his patients for years and was very confident that they could make a positive difference for me. His office was actually converting to the new Ponto System at the time I considered acting on his recommendations. He had many positive things to say about the Ponto System as “the next generation” of bone anchored solutions. I realized I was a patient that could choose to go with a newest technology”, Robb explains.
On the cutting edge
“I did some research online and I liked what I saw. The design was a little different, more ergonomically shaped to follow the lines of the ear - not the little box that I had seen with my doctor’s old bone anchored system. I also liked the Oticon technology inside the Ponto Pro sound processor. It is the advanced digital processing that is used in the most advanced conventional hearing aids. I especially like the multiple functions offered with Ponto Pro like the “Learning Volume Control” that adjusted to different listening situations and the directional microphone that allowed me to "zero in on what I wanted to hear". I also talked to my audiologist who was really excited about Ponto Pro’s new technology. Oticon’s experience with hearing instruments and track record of innovation was the big turning point for me. It was exciting to be one of the first to experience the new innovation” says Robb.
“The surgical procedure went well and the recovery was easy. I was ready to experience all of the good things I had heard about Ponto Pro. I have to say that the fitting was pretty amazing. It is almost hard to describe what it was like being able to hear so much more clearly. I could even hear the background noise that most people probably hear all the time – but I hadn’t been able to before. It was a really incredible sensation.
It was raining on the day I was fitted with Ponto Pro. When I drove home, I could hear the ping of the raindrops on my windshield. I thought, “Oh my gosh, I can hear everything, every little detail!”
The week after I got my Ponto Pro, I attended a sales meeting in a large board room. The door out to the lobby was right behind me. I could hear what was going on in meeting and what was going on behind me in the hotel lobby”, informs Robb.
Looking ahead with confidence
“It’s really amazing. I catch myself sitting in a certain spot so I can hear the whole table and then I remember that I don’t have to do that anymore. Before I had to position myself carefully and even then I would be staining to hear. With the directional microphones in my Ponto Pro, I am hearing even more clearly at meetings and larger, noisy gatherings. It is also easier to hear when I’m driving the car and the kids have the radio going and my wife is speaking to me. Now we can talk easily and the experience is more enjoyable for all of us.
When I want to, I can also mute my Ponto Pro. To mute, I just hit the mute button. It’s quick and easy.
I have gone back to my audiologist to fine tune the sound processor to my individual preferences. I like that Ponto Pro can be customized for my individual hearing loss and that, if my hearing changes in the future, my Ponto Pro can be readjusted.
As for my worries about being more visible with my hearing loss, only one or two people have even noticed. I like the selection of colors that Ponto Pro comes in. I was originally leaning toward black but then I went with brown which is close to my natural hair color.”
A natural part of life
“It probably took a couple of weeks to really get used to the uniqueness of hearing all of the different sounds. Now I put my Ponto Pro on in the morning and I don’t pay attention to it all day. I’ve actually gotten into the shower by mistake and then remembered I had it on. Wearing my Ponto Pro has become so natural. It almost becomes part of you – and now I know that’s a good thing” Robb concludes.* Listening 101: US expression for basic training to improve listening skills.