Interview with Leslie Nielsen Actor and Comedian
Starkey Hearing Foundation's Great American Awards Gala
AO/Beck: Hi Mr. Nielsen. Thanks for meeting with me today. I know you only have a few moments, but if you don't mind, perhaps you can tell me a little about your hearing loss and hearing aids?
Nielsen: Sure Dr. Beck. Nice to meet with you too.
AO/Beck: I know that you've been wearing hearing aids for quite a while, and you've been a highly visible and vocal advocate for hearing aids. Can you tell me why this is so important to you?
Nielsen: Well, let me correct one thing....It's not really that I've been an advocate for hearing aids for a long time, it's just that I've been losing my hearing for a long time! So it's actually very important for me because I'm actually hearing impaired and I simply want to hear better! Importantly, that word losing tells you something important. It says it's an active process, and because hearing loss is an active process, we have to actively participate to help control and manage it. For me, one important thing is to avoid loud noises as best I can. Another thing is to keep the stereo at a reasonable level, loud enough so you can hear it comfortably, but not too loud as that too, can hurt your hearing. And of course, another thing I do, is I wear hearing aids to make the speech sounds loud enough, while preventing them from getting loud enough to cause further damage from sound!
AO/Beck: That's a great point and I'd like to expand on that for the readers. Virtually every digital and digitally programmable hearing aid made has output limiting and some form of compression. These circuits allow the hearing healthcare professional to fine tune and limit the maximum output, so as to prevent the sounds from getting too loud. Thanks for mentioning that. Can you tell me how your hearing loss has impacted your career?
Nielsen: Sure. You know it's very difficult to be an actor, and to have people depending on you to say the right line, at the right time, and to not be able to hear your cues! I can't tell you how many times I would've had to have said What? if I didn't have my hearing aids. So my hearing aids are a life saver, and they allow me to practice my craft.
AO/Beck: How many years have you worn hearing aids?
Nielsen: I think it's been about 15 years now.
AO/Beck: And from 18 inches away, it looks to me like the hearing aids you're wearing must be completely-in-the-canal (CICs), because I know you're wearing them, but I cannot see them!
Nielsen: That's right they are CICs, and they fit right into the channel of the ear canal. They're very comfortable.
AO/Beck: Mr. Nielsen, what can you tell me about the quality of the sound?
Nielsen: That's a tough one to answer. I think most people probably assume they'll get amazing X-Ray hearing that will make all the sounds clear, but that doesn't happen. Even the best digital hearing aids out there will probably never be as good as the ears most people are born with. But having said that, I can say that the sound through the hearing aids is very good, and it is a high quality sound, and they are so much better now than they were when I first started wearing them.
AO/Beck: Can you tell me what you would do if you got to the Starkey Gala tonight, and realized you had left your hearing aids in the hotel room?
Neilsen: I have to say, oh-boy - if I didn't have my hearing aids, it would be absolutely terrible. I would just have to go back to the hotel and retrieve them. You know, events like this are difficult for people with normal hearing and even more difficult for those with hearing loss. I really don't want to find myself in the position where everyone is laughing at a joke, or nodding in agreement with a suggestion or a statement, and I have no idea what was said, and I wind up saying what? and huh? That really is very embarrassing and I see no need to put myself in that position. So, if I forgot the hearing aids, I would have to go back and get them.
AO/Beck: Mr. Nielsen, I understand that the hearing aids you're wearing currently are digital hearing aids made by Starkey. Can you tell me if you hear a difference between this pair of hearing aids and the pair you wore for the last few years?
Neilsen: Yes, there is a difference. The new hearing aids are more crisp and the sounds are more distinct. The new digitals are head and shoulders above the previous ones, and the previous ones were pretty good!
AO/Beck: Thanks so much for your time and your thoughts on hearing aids. It really is a pleasure to meet with you.
Neilsen: Thank you too, Dr Beck. I send my best to all of your readers too.
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