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A Client’s Story: Reflections on a hearing journey and a celebration of technology

The pandemic brought social isolation to so many, and the impact on the elderly is even greater if combined with a hearing impairment. This is further compounded by research which shows that 77% of older people might need someone to help them through the process of setting up a new device. And yet our client Hugh Gurney is so adept at pairing and using his hearing aids and enhancing accessories, that you might be surprised to hear he has just celebrated his 95th birthday. In this interview, we talk about his work, his hearing and how he has embraced the world of technology.

In January 2020 Hugh Gurney booked to see our audiologist Wendy Davies as he was so impressed by the care his wife had received at Help in Hearing. Affected by a severe high frequency hearing loss, he was fitted with Oticon Exceed power aids, with which he has been delighted, as they are comfortable, easy to control from his phone and give plenty of flexibility to make adjustments across the frequencies.

Drugs causing hearing damage

Mr Gurney had been a scientist in the pharmaceutical industry for over 40 years. His first major project in 1948/49 was to develop and run a process to make Dihydrostreptomycin, a derivative of streptomycin used with great success as a course of injections to treat pulmonary tuberculosis. In its heyday it was listed by the WHO as critically important for human medicine. Unfortunately it was found  to be ototoxic causing damage to the cochlea or vestibular structures of the ear. Many patients cured of TB developed severe deafness, and when new more convenient oral drugs for TB became available the use of Dihydrostreptomycin in human medicine was discontinued.

After several years working with penicillin and other drugs, Hugh spent 4 years in Bombay setting up a factory to manufacture steroids and vitamins. On returning to the UK, he served as general manager of factories in Co.Durham  and Cumbria, with heavy machinery making some areas quite noisy. One factory had a youth club with a good pop band and he received regular invitations to their concerts, which he says were enjoyable but painfully loud when seated in the front row!

Time for hearing aids

Despite exposure to possible hearing reduction factors at work and as a wartime teenager to the noise of the London Blitz, Hugh hadn’t really noticed his hearing loss until the 1980’s when he realised he could not hear the alarm sound on a colleague’s new mobile watch. Soon after that he booked a hearing test and had aids fitted through a local optician.  Although these were very useful at the time, particularly for technical and supplier meetings in France, Italy and further afield, once he retired Mr Gurney found himself taking a break from wearing them for several years. However, in 2014 his wife “strongly encouraged” him to start his hearing journey once again.  

An NHS test confirmed that he had severe hearing loss at high frequencies and provided hearing aids which, with controls bought privately, proved quite useful. He said “I have no complaints about the advice and service I had from the NHS audiology teams but they were limited to equipment on the NHS list. Last year when I needed to update, I realised that hearing technology had changed dramatically with a much broader choice of audiological devices and accessories available which could improve the high frequency shifting I needed. I decided to move on. I was encouraged by my wife’s contacts with Help in Hearing to follow her and had a consultation in January 2020.” 

Choosing the right device

Our audiologist Wendy spent time with him working out the best option for his hearing, choosing Exceed aids by Oticon as the best devices for him. He has some experience of internet technology and is a dab hand at pairing with his iPhone, remote microphone and a TV streamer. He says he has been very pleased with the new hearing aids Wendy has prescribed and fitted, as well as all the advice and service he has had since, despite the difficulties of lockdown.

Covid has made all our worlds smaller and as the world re-opens these advances in hearing technology will make that opening up so much more meaningful. At Help in Hearing, we offer independent advice in order to find the right hearing solution for our individual clients. We take time to explain how the technology works, from the hearing aid itself to a range of supporting accessories – we are here to help, just call 0345 2220579. Or email

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