Brett Hagen has been practicing optometry in the Pacific Northwest for 30 years. Currently based in Spokane, Washington, and delivering eye care for Garland Vision Source, Hagen has never gotten over the special feeling of helping patients see.
“I love my job,” he says. “Whether it’s someone getting glasses for the first time or getting laser vision correction, I get to present vision to people who didn’t know what they’re missing.”
Recently, however, it was Hagen who was missing something. His hearing, which had been damaged by a virus more than a decade ago, had only gotten worse. Coupled with a pandemic that forced his patients to wear masks to their appointments, Hagen’s hearing loss was making it harder to do the job he loves and causing him difficulty in his personal life, according to a press release from hearing aid company Widex.
“It was creating awkward moments with patients, because I was leaning in to hear them,” he says. “And the masks—you don’t know how much you’re reading lips until you don’t have those lips to read. At home, I would listen to my wife and not understand a thing she said. I’d listen for context clues and try to piece it together. If I couldn’t, I started giving up rather than saying, ‘What was that?’”
But then a couple months ago, Hagen was fitted for Widex MOMENT hearing aids, and now he’s experiencing the kind of “sensory awakening” he’s spent years creating for vision patients, according to the announcement.
“Hearing, like vision, is absolutely instrumental in day-to-day living,” he says. “To get it back is powerful. Just powerful.”
According to the National Institutes of Health’s Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), nearly 30 million US adults could benefit from hearing aids. However, most people with hearing loss suffer an average of seven years before giving hearing technology a try.
About 15 years ago, Hagen caught an indeterminate virus while visiting the hospital where his son was receiving treatment. When he recovered, his hearing was noticeably damaged.
“The fog in my ears never went away,” he says. A hearing test revealed significant loss in the mid-range frequencies, where most everyday sound exists, including speech. Still, his doctor didn’t recommend hearing assistance right away.
“Now, time has taken away a bit of my hearing, and the combination was causing me to drive people crazy. The leaning into patients; asking staff to repeat things,” he says. “At home, my wife was too kind to tell me it was bugging her, but it was bugging her.”
Like many hearing loss sufferers, Hagen initially resisted hearing aids because of a perceived stigma—a stigma some of his own patients had about glasses.
“I didn’t want to be perceived as old, so I was willing to put up with the hearing loss,” he explains. “It’s like the age stigma of getting your first bifocals.”
Recently, though, he’d had enough. Not only was his hearing loss affecting his job and his home life, but combined with pandemic conditions, it was making him feel isolated.
“I’m a bit of an extrovert,” Hagen says. “But when you can’t hear well, you start pulling away from crowds and friends. It’s demoralizing. Suffering from hearing loss while being isolated by the pandemic, all of that weighs on you.”
The Natural Sound of Widex MOMENT
In 2021, Hagen finally visited an audiologist and after trying several hearing aids, he was fit with Widex MOMENT.
“They sounded so natural,” he says. The other hearing aids he tried boosted his hearing, he explains, but with side effects. “One sounded like a really nice speaker but placed way across the room. The other had a ‘tinny’ effect. When I tried the Widex MOMENT hearing aids, it was powerful, because I knew something else was possible.”
Widex MOMENT hearing aids include PureSound technology to overcome artificial noise that results when direct and amplified sound arrive at the eardrum out of sync. Through PureSound’s ZeroDelay processing, “which is ideal for people with mild-to- moderate hearing loss, Widex MOMENT hearing aids deliver the fastest sound processing in the industry.” At just 0.5 milliseconds, it eliminates distortion and other common artifacts to create a more natural sounding hearing aid, according to the company.
Today, using the Widex MOMENT app on his smartphone, Hagen has programmed a custom setting that boosts PureSound performance in that middle frequency range where for years he’d struggled to hear clearly.
“When I put them on, I teared up because I heard voices in a way I hadn’t in a long time,” he says. “When I got in my car, I heard my feet rustling against the carpet, which was mind blowing. At home, I could hear the sound of my wife’s fingernails on her laptop across the room.”
Hagen and his wife attended a professional tennis match and using the Widex MOMENT app, he was able to adjust the directional performance of his hearing aids to better hear the players in front of them.
“I could literally hear the player bouncing the ball as he was getting ready to serve,” he says. “And I lost all the ambient noise behind me that was so distracting.”
Hagen regularly pairs his Widex MOMENT hearing aids with his smartphone using built-in Bluetooth connectivity to take phone calls or listen to music. “Frankly, they pair better than some of the headphones I’d use for running,” he says.
And the stigma? Gone.
“I’ve just decided I’m not putting up with poor hearing, and frankly they don’t show anyway,” Hagen says of his Widex MOMENT hearing aids. “They set the color to match the color of my hair; the actual device in my ear is so small. I stopped telling people I got hearing assistance because nobody could tell.”
Maybe not by looking, but no one in Hagen’s life is commenting on his “selective” hearing anymore.
“Staff meetings are easier. Patient care is easier. I can even hear my younger patients through their masks,” Hagen says. When he and his family go out on their pontoon boat, he doesn’t crank the music as loud, a habit that had started to unnerve Hagen’s wife.
“There are a whole lot of people putting up with crummy hearing who don’t have to. These,” he says, pointing to his Widex MOMENT hearing aids, “are game-changing.”