MARYSVILLE – Can you hear me now? That popular line from a commercial applies to many people.
About 25 percent of the population can’t hear very well. And only about 25 percent of those people actually get hearing aids.
Why, when it could improve their health and wellness by leaps and bounds?
“The social stigma,” said Carmen Buechel Brown, owner of Ears 2U in Marysville for 36 years.
I know all about that stigma. It kept me from getting hearing aids for years. But when I started saying, “Huh” all the time to my wife, she encouraged me to buy my first pair about eight years ago. I got the kind that goes into the ear canal because I didn’t want people to see I have a hearing deficiency. I also had a very good friend growing up who wore hearing aids. And I remembered how different he felt because of that.
Once I tried on my first pair I couldn’t believe it. It was wonderful to be able to hear again. The world was alive again instead of muffled. It’s really no different than wearing glasses, if you think about it. My last pair broke so I went to see Brown for a new set.
She explained to me that she only sells top-of-the-line Siemens hearing aids now.
“No junk anymore,” she said. “Too many people came back unhappy.”
She said she offers four levels of technology. The worse your hearing the more technology you probably need to be happy. The ones she recommends for most people are in the $3,000 to $4,000 range. The fancier ones can be set up to be controlled by your Android or Smart phone for things like volume, bass, treble, on, off, etc.
My hearing test showed I had about 30 percent hearing loss in my right ear, and a little worse in my left. I blame it on playing drums for 50 years. She said I can hear vowels fine, but struggle on some consonant patterns.
I told her I wanted in-your-ear hearing aids, similar to my last ones. She told me she would sell me those, but that I probably would like behind-the-ear better. She explained the ones in your ear actually muffle sound some, while out-of-ear ones pick up sound better all around you. She also said batteries last longer, and chargers can be used for those.
But I wanted what I wanted. She let me take home a loaner set. But when I came back a week later I wanted to try the outer-ear kind. I’m so glad I did. They don’t look that bad – my wife says they’re hardly noticeable – my ears don’t feel plugged, and I feel like I can hear all around me. I’m actually afraid of what I might hear some people say now.
Brown, who graduated from Marysville High School in 1973, said every Wednesday she goes to nursing homes to help seniors with their hearing issues. She said there isn’t much money in doing that but she feels so good helping them. It’s her way of giving back because she started her business helping those folks.
Brown said the first two weeks of having your hearing aids is when you want to get the settings right.
“You want to make them as perfect as possible,” she said.
Brown gives full refunds after up to 30 days if you aren’t completely satisfied. Since it’s a medical device, there is no sales tax. Upkeep is fairly simple. Clean it every morning for a few seconds with its brush. If it needs a repair, she has loaners.
“That’s really rare,” said Dennis Judd of Stanwood, who has been going to Brown for 20 years. “She’s got the best customer service.”
Brown said 30 percent of her clients are from Labor and Industries claims. But she said her clientele is getting younger.
“They want the technology, like the controls by cell phone. They don’t want to buy the cheaper brands,” Brown said.
She also said women buy hearing aids sooner than men.
“Because we don’t want to miss anything,” she said, smiling.