United States Department of Veterans Affairs
 Health Care
Hearing Better Again at 84 with High Tech Help
Sitting patient and therapist displaying device, small box on lanyard, around patient's neck.
Theodore Zang and VA Audiologist Dr. Jacqueline Watson display the technical device which has helped him hear clearly again.

Theodore Zang is 84 and has had profound hearing loss since World War II. "After I fired a rifle in basic training, my ears started ringing and they haven't stopped."

Today, thanks to technology and the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System, he is enjoying conversations again.

Theodore wears a device around his neck called an iCom. When the phone rings, the device sends sound waves to his behind-the-ear hearing aids.

VA Audiologist Dr. Jacqueline Watson explains that "tinnitus," the clinical name for the ear-ringing condition, is a disability that can interfere with activities of daily living. There is no cure for it, leaving clinicians and their patients seeking options for managing rather than curing the problem.

Attending College, Surfing the Net

Managing very well, Zang, who has been retired many years, attends courses at Hunter College and spends hours at his computer and enjoying time with his family thanks to his digital hearing aids, the assistive device, and visual cues that maximize his ability to make out the words spoken to him.

The assistive hearing devices have made a big difference in his life: "Hearing aids and the i-Com I got from the VA have made a tremendous difference for me. I call them 'my ears.' They enable me to feel more connected with people and less frustrated because I am able to hear and understand what they are saying. And, very importantly, I do not have to suffer the frustration of my family when they are trying to communicate with me and I am not able to understand."

Zang remembers that his hearing problems had a very adverse effect on his work as a consultant. "I did not understand what I was being told and I had to ask for the information to be repeated. Even more embarrassing was that many times I misunderstood and acted on information that was slightly incorrect."

Theodore is confident that his hearing ability is better and fully enjoys conversation. He is particularly grateful to the VA for identifying his need for two hearing aids and encourages New York area Veterans with hearing loss to explore the room at the Manhattan VA Medical Center where television devices, amplified telephones, and other assistive listening devices are displayed.

Hearing Aids are Easy to Use

Dr. Watson notes that most Veterans with hearing loss receive new, finely tuned hearing aids every four to six years. The latest models of hearing aids are programmed through computer software. And, "As Mr. Zang has discovered, the hearing aids are fairly easy to manipulate and use."

Zang served in the Army in World War II in Germany and Austria. Already sensitive to noise, Zang's hearing worsened during the war with exposure to machine gun fire. He points out that "in those days soldiers did not have protection for their hearing."

By Hans Petersen, VA Staff Writer