Hearing better

When Justine Hergott, 104, a resident at Youville Home in St. Albert, used her SuperEar® during outdoor visits with her son-in-law and grandson last summer, it helped bridge a communication gap introduced by COVID-19.

“Even though we were sitting six or seven feet away from her, as soon as we turned it on, you could see she perked up immediately,” says Justine’s grandson, Gerard Schultz.

The SuperEar is a personal sound amplifier, or assisted listening device. It includes a set of stereo headphones and a compact microphone that increases ambient sound for the user both indoors and outdoors. Users can put the microphone on a table or hold it in their lap.

Justine, who lives with dementia, has had hearing issues for many years and is no longer able to use regular hearing aids, Gerard says. Using the SuperEar, she can communicate with staff, family members and other residents. 

Seeing Justine use her SuperEar during the outdoor visitations inspired recreation therapist Cynthia Lawrence to help other Youville residents who have hearing difficulties converse with loved ones. She purchased a device online and began informally trialling it with residents.

“It definitely helped some of the residents, and it made the visitations go a lot more smoothly because they were able to hear,” says Cynthia. “People who are hard of hearing tend to cue with lip reading, and when you have a mask on and they’re not able to lip read, it makes it so difficult. It helped amplify the voice under the mask.”

Using the SuperEar during outdoor visitations was also a solution for Mabel Wynnyk, 98. 

“She was having a hard time hearing us talk because of the distance we had to keep from her,” says her son, Jim. “And then talking through the masks didn’t help matters.” 

“When she put [the SuperEar] on, she was more interested in carrying on a conversation rather than just hearing bits and pieces of our conversation with her. It put a smile on her face.”

Now that public health orders have changed and outdoor visits are no longer happening at the site, some residents are using the SuperEar during phone calls and FaceTime and Zoom visits. The SuperEar has worked so well for some of these residents that their family members have ordered one for their own use.

“Anything we can do to improve their quality of life makes a difference, and hearing is such a big thing,” says Gerard. 

Justine Hergott

Mabel Wynnyk

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