Hearing the Calls
When Jim Schaffer first began coaching football at Nazareth High School, he looked like any other coach watching the game. The assistant Blue Eagles coach consulted with his players, groaned when the quarterback got sacked or the team lost yards, and cheered after every touchdown. But there was one big difference; he ignored the officials to his left when they spoke to him. He wasn’t disinterested or being rude, he simply couldn’t hear.
Things have changed since the high school computer science teacher first began coaching. He now hears everything around him, thanks to Audiology Services. The professionals there fitted Jim with special technology, known as a CROS system. (CROS stands for contralateral routing of systems. The CROS transmitter is worn behind the unaidable ear—in Jim’s case the left—detects sound, processes it, and transmits it to the hearing aid on the other side, allowing the wearer to hear sounds from both sides.) It sometimes takes Jim a moment to realize which side the sounds are coming from, but that’s just a minor inconvenience in his book. He’s thrilled to be able to hear all that he was missing.
Jim began experiencing hearing loss when he was in high school. He developed what is known as a cholesteatoma, or an abnormal skin growth in the middle ear. The only treatment at the time was surgery. “The growth had engulfed my ear drum, so basically they gutted my left ear,” he says. “I had only 20 percent hearing on the left side.” Over time, the scar tissue built up where the surgery had been performed, and Jim had practically no hearing at all in his left ear. Years later he developed a cholesteatoma in his right ear. By that time, however, medical science had progressed, and the surgery did not impair his hearing.
He tried a hearing aid in his left ear, but found it was more distracting than helpful. “Forty years ago, hearing instruments were nothing like they are now,” he says. “All I heard was background noise. I didn’t want to wear it; I even became prejudiced against them.” And so he tried to compensate. His wife would always walk on his right, so he could hear her when she spoke. He’d turn the television volume up much higher than the rest of his family, and he’d try to find the quietest corner in every restaurant.
Eventually reality hit. He was having trouble hearing my students. “Sometimes I’d have to ask them to repeat themselves two or three times,” he says. They would get frustrated with me, and I didn’t blame them. Students deal with enough obstacles, let alone a teacher who can’t hear. That’s when I knew I had to do something.”
Jim did his research. “I found out we have the best of the best right here in our own backyard,” he says. “I went to Audiology Services and was so excited when I sampled the hearing instruments they gave me. I was sold immediately. I didn’t realize all that I was missing. I am so thankful to Audiology Services.”