I never grew up celebrating Christmas. A part of me always wanted to be included in the magic. My memories consist of celebrating Hanukkah. The very word transports me to frying potato latke pancakes and returning home to the familiar sights of eight flickering candles around the comfort of family members. Something about the holidays makes everyone happier. From the winter luxury of blazing California heat, I tried to join in on the festivities, blasting Christmas tunes about snowfall and binge-watching reruns of It’s a Wonderful Life and The Holiday. Regardless of your faith, or the weather, the end of December is a time to be included. It allows for reflection on the marking point between one year and the next. Time has passed and yet, for some, the annual holiday season can feel as if nothing has changed.
But for others, the holiday season can only be a chilling reminder of how much has changed.
Suzanne is one of the many who return to their family homes in late December year after year. A young, ambitious graduate student in California, she remembers these festive meals growing up as an opportunity for her family members to come together over eggnog and enjoy each other’s company. As a child, she grew up with special memories with her father around the family table.
But one Christmas, everything was different. As a retired carpenter, Suzanne’s father has acquired sensorineural noise-induced hearing loss, which makes it difficult for him to communicate. But Suzanne didn’t know the extent of his difficulties, until that moment together. Cozied around the table, she was confronted with the painful truth of how hard it really was for her dad. Suzanne admits, “I had started to notice that group conversations were virtually impossible for him to follow along.” During a time when it seems like anyone could be a part of the holiday cheer, Suzanne’s father was left out.
Since then, they’ve tried everything to make it easier for them to talk with each other again, from using oversized hearing aids, to reducing background noise from the television. Nothing would work.
And he wanted to be a part of the magic of conversation, too.
And it felt hopeless.
Suzanne realized communicating with her dad would just get harder and harder as the holidays went on. She would have to increase her voice or catch his eye for attention. Added to that, there was no way to prevent background noise from interrupting. With the irritating rumble of cars speeding outside, or the sudden dings of smartphones, eliminating group conversations didn’t ease the problems of communicating. The process was tiresome, to say the least.
There wasn’t a substitue for verbal communication for him. As someone who was born hearing, Suzanne’s dad couldn’t rely on ASL becasue that just wasn’t an option for him. There was simply no way to reconnect with the hearing world and Susan’s father was left feeling alone. His entire world as he knew it suddenly shifted. No longer could he hear updates about his daughter’s work in academia. But even more poignant, no longer could he hear about his wife’s medical progress at the memory care center. Isolated, disconnected, and worried about his wife, he struggled to meet the demands of his role as a father and a husband, just as you or I would feel if we were cut off from the world we knew out of the blue.
Connected yet disconnected — where to look for help?
Many who are hard of hearing, like Suzanne’s father, rely on hearing aids and are met with dissapointment. Here’s the problem with hearing aids — you often only hear a louder muffle of the noise around you. That doesn’t help. And they can sometimes lack value yet still be outrageously expensive, ranging from $1500-$5000. With these limited options, the search to find useful and cost-friendly auxiliary services can feel underwhelming.
The National Institute of Health (NIH) found that many people with severe hearing loss were dissatisfied, even with the most advanced of hearing aids. Even if a hearing aid does improve one’s hearing, the incessant background noise remains a constant problem. Scientists have yet to find a useful solution to improve a hearing aid wearer’s ability to understand speech in a noisy background. With an estimated 17 percent of American adults reporting some form of hearing loss and half of adults ages 75 and older reporting hearing loss, the rising challenges of hearing loss remain a constant struggle, one that even modern technology cannot address.
Finding a solution
Suzanne felt a deep need to reconnect with her dad and make their next Christmas together a more positive experience. It was surprising to Suzanne that even in a time where we are globally connected like never before, she had yet to find a solution to her father’s hearing challenges. When researching assistive technologies for a school project, she had a personal mission to help her dear father. If anyone could do it, it was Suzanne. Deeply loving and perceptive, she rummaged through her resources to find a way to reopen her father’s world.
Determined, she opened her internet browser and embarked upon a search, finally discovering Ava. Suzanne wasn’t expecting much, given their lack of success with hearing aids. One afternoon, when Suzanne and her father went to the memory care center to visit her mom, they decided to try out Ava with the nurses. And then something wonderful happened, causing Suzanne to reach out to us:
My dad could connect with my mother and her nurses for the first time since his hearing loss! He also uses Ava out in the community when talking to his favorite merchants. We use Ava as a family at dinner parties and sporting events. We all have it loaded on our phones.
We would like to extend a big thank you to you and your team. What a wonderful product you have. It has truly changed my dad’s life.
Unlike hearing aids, which can be bulky and noticeable, not to mention have steep price tags, Ava fits everyone, with a price to match. Suzanne’s family’s favorite feature is Ava’s ability to pick up on speech from many people in a group. It provides a play-by-play of what people are saying around the dinner table, allowing Suzanne’s father to pick up on the most important pieces of information during their time together. Unlike recent past years, this Christmas, Suzanne’s father can be included in the magic of conversation with his family and not have to constantly worry about the interruptions of background noise or missed information. And these newfound connections are only the beginning of what he could do with Ava.
Sometimes, a change can be a good thing.
Now, more than ever before, there is a universal need for Ava. Join the conversation, along with our sixty-thousand other users, and try out the magic of Ava this holiday season with your family.