Richard Sheffield would be eating in a crowded restaurant with a friend and not be able to comprehend what his lunch partner was saying.
"I would hear all kinds of noise, lots of people talking, but it was the person right across the table from me that I couldn't understand," Sheffield said.
The Columbus businessman said things have changed the last couple of weeks since he began wearing a new hearing aid, the Lyric manufactured by Phonak.
He received it at St. Francis Ear, Nose, & Throat, which has recently made Lyric available.
"It's a whole new world," said Sheffield, 61, who has had hearing problems for about 25 years and was frustrated with the other hearing aids he has used.
Lyric is different from most hearing aids. For one thing, it is totally invisible because the tiny device is placed deep in the ear canal just about 4 millimeters from the ear drum.
Because of the look of traditional hearing aids, often with a piece worn outside the ear, many people don't wear them as they should. Because of that, more companies are producing the smaller, in-the-canal devices.
"It's nice," said Sheffield about the aid's invisibility, but added that cosmetics have never mattered much to him.
St. Francis audiologist Andrew Wise said Lyric uses the outer ear to naturally direct sound into the ear without the need for multiple changes or settings. The sound is better because less amplification is needed. According to Phonak Lyric takes natural sound and makes it more audible, unlike digital technology which mimics natural sound.
Clients have the option of getting a remote to adjust volume, but Wise said it's really not necessary.
The hearing aid is worn 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It can be worn while sleeping, exercising and in the shower.
There are no batteries to charge. No daily maintenance is needed.
"You would have to take it out for an MRI," Wise said.
A tiny magnet given to the owner is used to remove the Lyric.
Wise said no surgery is needed to insert the hearing aid. It can be done in just a few minutes.
The exterior of Lyric is made of a soft material specifically designed to contour to the ear canal. A special coating protects against moisture and wax.
It is programmed for each person's needs and can be adjusted.
The audiologist said the Lyric is for people with mild to moderately severe hearing.
"Not everybody qualifies," Wise said. The hearing aids must be changed about every three months. They are sold by the hospital on a subscription basis with a user purchasing a year's worth at a time. Wise could not give an exact price. "It depends on the insurance," he said.
Sheffield, who lives in Waverly Hall, Ga., with Sandi, his wife of 37 years, owns Automotive Network in Columbus. Hearing in a garage where auto repairs are done can be difficult even for someone with good hearing. Sheffield travels around the country doing seminars for automotive companies and said it will be easier now for him to hear students.
Also, he said his wife will not have to constantly ask him to turn the volume down on the television.
He said having his hearing difficulty has been troublesome. For example, at times giving a "stupid" response to something that has been said because of a misunderstanding,
"I won't be trying to read lips now," Sheffield said.