I recently caught up with Maria to follow up to an earlier blog that focused on her father. I wanted to know more about her own hearing loss and her life now that she is wearing Starkey hearing aids.
Maria Butler Spence is the daughter of George Stahl Butler (1899 – 1985), a pioneer in the education of the deaf. Throughout her childhood, Maria’s father worked at various schools for the deaf, her family lived on campus, and her parents always signed and talked. Her play mates were deaf students, and her family ate in the dining halls with the kids.
As an adult Maria moved away from the residential schools for the deaf and pursued a career in teaching math and science. When she retired, she and her husband Bob began to spend more time on a wide-range of hobbies. Bob also began to tell Maria that she said, “What?” – a lot. She didn’t think she had a hearing problem, but a little over a year ago, to prove him wrong, she took one of those free hearing test. She was surprised when she was told she had a hearing loss. The folks at the hearing aid store were eager to fit her with hearing aids but because of her family’s history of working with the deaf, Maria understood the importance of addressing any question of hearing loss at a professional level, rather than shopping at a walk-in store in a mall. She made an appointment with an Ear Nose Throat doctor, who referred her to Gardner Audiology. And it was confirmed that Bob was right — she has a serious hearing loss in her right ear. Gardner Audiology fitted Maria with Starkey hearing aids.
As she begin to list her hobbies, I understood better the impact of the hearing loss and the significance of the Starkey’s on Maria’s day-to-day life. Maria is a singer and has sung with Sweet Adeline for 20 years. Sweet Adeline is an international group of singers who enjoy four-part harmony, a cappella or unaccompanied music (the female version of a Barber Shop Quartet). Maria sings bass in a Sweet Adeline quartet and a 20-person chorus. Her biggest fear was that the hearing loss would affect her singing, but that fear was quickly set aside with the Starkeys. Maria explained that a singer in her chorus recently complained that because of the acoustics in the room, she could not hear the pitch pipe (an instrument that sounds out a note or pitch reference for the singers); Maria responded with a chuckle, “I wear hearing aids, and I can hear it fine.” The other woman was shocked to know Maria wore hearing aids; you can’t see them and they perform naturally.
Maria’s husband Bob sings in two barber shop choruses, so music is a big part of their lives. They also love to dance. They recently took a trip down the Mississippi River on a paddleboat, the American Queen, for a 1950’s week; Maria laughed as she explained, “We jitter bugged every single night!” Maria takes advanced tap dancing; she and Bob have enjoyed square dancing for sixty years and serve on the Board of Directors of the FL State Square Dance Federation.
I asked how the Starkey’s handled such a wide range of sounds and environments, and she said, “They’re great. I always wear them. “
She noted that in a crowded restaurant or at a concert, she turns the hearing aids to the lower level and that works very well.
Maria concluded, “These hearing aids have made a world of difference to me.”