Ann Ryan – Customer Stories

Ann's story was featured in the Irish Daily Mirror, read the full article below or download a copy here.

A woman who was diagnosed with severe hearing loss in her 30’s was told she had the hearing of an 85-year-old and said pride is preventing people from getting help. For over a decade she struggled in her daily life until she discovered a hearing aid that changed her life for the better.

Naas native Ann Ryan shelled out thousands of euro on hearing aids she found to be underwhelming and so uncomfortable they ended up in a box never used. When she heard that hearing loss over time can be associated with Alzheimers she decided to act.

Ann told the Irish Mirror: “Hearing loss is a quiet disability – pardon the pun. “It is not spoken about and those who have it generally stay quiet about it. It is associated with old age! “The reality is that many people suffer needlessly. But life can be normal again.”

The former primary school principle admitted that suffering with hearing difficulties affects your day to day life. She said: “I went to a well known brand to get tested and was given a lump of hard plastic so never wore it.

“This was when I was 41, in due course I couldn’t hear what kids were saying in classrooms, I had to get them to stop talking so I could hear one voice. “So I went to the Mater hospital and was told for someone at 42, I had the hearing of an 85-year-old. “The doctor advised me he’d highly recommend I learn how to lip-read, it turned out I had a profound hearing loss in one ear.

I don’t hear sounds such as birds singing, or th e washing machine pinging to say it’s when it’s finished. “With my hearing aid in I now do.” As a disability, Ann adds: “It’s the silent embarrassing one” that people in their middle years don’t talk about. “If you go into a shop and you’re deaf and you ask for something they say, ‘would you like such and such with that’, and you’ll say, ‘excuse me, can you repeat that’, and they’ll say it again and you still can’t hear them.

“I’m much better now though, I tell the person I’m sorry I have a hearing loss and people are very understanding, but a lot of people are too embarrassed to say it or it’s a time waster and all of that.

“Nearly 15 years ago I went to a hearing loss provider and got a hearing aid which cost €5,000. “I had to break them in because you couldn’t just put them in because they’d blow the ears off you. “It turned out to be five grand down the Swanee, they were irritating, hard in my ear, and while it didn’t bother me if people noticed them, they were brutally uncomfortable.

Studies have shown that even mild hearing loss under the age of 50 can double the risk of dementia in later years as the brain is forced to work at a higher capacity than usual. Ann said: “In 2014 I read there was a correlation between dementia and hearing loss and so if you don’t regularly hear things, your brain forgets that sound. “They’ve done a lot of research that ties forms of dementia to hearing loss, in other words it doesn’t cause it, but it makes it worse. Luckily for Ann the timely intervention of two Irish businessmen helped with the improvement of her hearing.

“It just happened to co-incide that John Ryan and Dave Gleeson started this Irish company, Blackberry Hearing, as up until then, you had the standard providers who charge exorbitant amounts,” she explained. “I was one of the first guinea pigs, I trialed one of their first hearing aids. “That was 2015, they were a third of the price, I paid €1400, I put them in and they haven’t taken out since, they transformed the quality of my life and my social interaction.

“It meant I didn’t have to sit any longer with my back to the wall so I could hear. “I didn’t have to watch where I’d be sitting because my right side is better than my left. “About six months ago I upgraded, to the Rolls Royce aid, they’re called Evoke.

As I’m speaking to you, you’re coming straight into my ear as if I have earphones in. “In the car if I’m on the hands free, the conversation comes into my ear, the sound isn’t lost on the car engine. “It’s changed my life, I could go out without my rings, if I stepped out to work or social interact without my hearing aid I’d turn the car around and go back for it.

“That’s about as strong a recommendation as I can give, I’m 62, I’m fit and able bodied but I know there are men, women who for pride sake don’t want to give in and wear hearing aids, but this is life changing.”