The Power of Hearing Aids: The Tony Laviola Story
Education and Advocacy Mediaplanet sat down with musician Tony Laviola to chat about his battle with hearing loss and how the use of hearing aids have allowed him to continue to pursue his passion for playing music.
Mediaplanet: When and how did you get into playing the bass?
Tony Laviola: When I was 16, I was in a band that had a drummer (because he had the car) and four guitar-playing singers including me. Someone had to give up the limelight and sink back into the rhythm section. I was the youngest, so it was me.
MP: Why was it your instrument of choice?
TL: At first I was disappointed, but we did a lot of Beatle and Motown tunes, and as I listened to Paul McCartney and James Jamerson’s bass lines, their music touched me. I began to fall in love with the electric bass — it’s an affair I continue to this day. Later my good friend and great guitarist Tony Quarrington took me under his wing and exposed me to playing jazz. I got an upright bass and never looked back.
MP: When and how did you first start noticing things just weren’t right in regards to your hearing?
TL: About 15 years ago I noticed that I was having to ask people to repeat themselves more and more. It was especially apparent with my wife, who grew tired of having to repeat herself and suggested it was time to have my hearing checked. Sure enough, the audio test showed significant hearing loss in the frequencies where most speech sounds lie. It is the nature of this disease that it sneaks up on you in small increments.
Like the proverbial boiling frog, by the time you notice what’s happening to you, you’re cooked. In retrospect I think I started losing my hearing when I was in school. There was sometimes one little misheard word that would completely change or confuse everything I’d heard until that point — I’m pretty sure I would have done better if I’d had a good pair of hearing aids then.
MP: How has the use of hearing aids increased your quality of life?
TL: My current hearing aids are the first that I have kept. Ten years ago I got my first pair and I returned them the same day. Five years later I tried again — this time I lasted two days before I returned them.
Finally about two years ago, Marshall Chasin helped develop my Widex Dream hearing aids and asked me to be on the test team for them. I finally found a hearing aid that was everything I needed it to be.
MP: In what ways have your hearing aids allowed you to once again pursue your true passion for music?
"Communication is an essential part of everyone’s day to day living."
TL: It was absolutely inspirational to be able to hear delicate sounds of a gentle rainfall and not have to look as intently at the lips of whomever I was having a conversation with. I can now hear the full spectrum of sound from 20-10,000hz without the artifacts that were so infuriating in previous hearing aids. This is truly a musicians’ hearing aid. Having said that, there’s nothing that matches OEM [Original equipment manufacturer].
MP: Going into the holiday season, in what ways have hearing aids given you the ability to enjoy more conversations and good times with family members?
TL: I think you’ve said it all. Communication is an essential part of everyone’s day to day living. To be given back some ease in that ability is like having rediscovered that most precious gift. Being able to hear nuance in both speech and music allows me to respond better in both.
MP: New Years is a time for resolutions. What are some things can we do in 2015 to take better care of our hearing?
TL: Set a maximum level of seven or eight out of 10 on your iPod and don’t exceed it. I can hear some people’s music from their earbuds and I’m hearing impaired! If you need to “feel” the music, then save it for when you get home and play it on a home system. Pay attention to your neighbours (or significant other) when they say it’s too loud. Turn it down so you’ll be able to enjoy sound for many years to come.
Bring earplugs to major concerts just in case it’s overwhelmingly loud. Musicians’ choice are ER 15’s which allow even attenuation across the audio spectrum.
Get a hearing test even if you don’t think you need one to establish a baseline curve for your present hearing. Even on your initial visit, your audiologist may find that you could benefit from hearing aids now and you could start hearing better immediately.
Appreciate everything you hear.