line art illustration two people speaking and listening
HEARING LOSS

Changing Mindsets About Hearing Loss

BY EARGO - MAY 1, 2024

 

 

May is National Speech/Language/Hearing Month (formerly known as Better Hearing Month), and the 2024 theme centers around “Changing Mindsets.” This year’s theme is a perfect reason to reignite the dialogue around challenging the stigmas associated with hearing loss and inspire people to take action to address theirs. Among Eargo’s many longtime users are two talented artists who are passionate about raising awareness around hearing loss and who talked to iHeartMedia DJs across the country about it.

Charlie Benante is an American musician, best known as the acclaimed drummer for Anthrax and also for touring with the reunited Pantera. Smac McCreanor is an Australian actor/dancer/comedian renowned for her Hydraulic Press Girl content series, which the National Gallery of Victoria showcased at its 2023-24 Triennial exhibition.

With more than 1 billion young people worldwide at risk of hearing loss, Charlie and Smac spoke* about their personal experiences with hearing loss in a series of conversations with iHeartMedia DJs nationwide in an effort to raise awareness of the issue and to encourage others to take their hearing wellness seriously.

Charlie Benante on drums Charlie Benante, Anthrax drummer
Smac McCreanor Smac McCreanor, Australian actor/dancer/comedian

iHeartMedia:
When did you first notice your hearing loss?

Charlie:
I noticed it when we were mixing our last record. We were in the studio, and I was asking our producer/mixer to raise some of the cymbals: “The guitars sound kinda dull to me. Can you brighten them up?” And he did it, and then when I heard it back, I was like, “Yeah, that sounds great.” And then he was looking at me like, “This sounds horrible.” [Laughs.] I raised all the high-end frequencies. It was a horrible mix. I said, “Wow, I think I have some problems.” I went and got my hearing checked, and it turns out that some of the high frequencies in my right ear are gone.

Smac:
Five to six years ago. … I was having brunch with friends, and [hearing loss came up and] someone was like, “Oh, well you can do the fingertip test … You just rub your fingers together near your ear.” So we’re all doing that in the circle, and we’re like, “Oh yeah, cool.” … And I was like, “What are you talking about?” I couldn’t hear it. And that was the exact moment I was like, “Let me get on my phone right now and book an appointment to get my ears checked.”

iHeartMedia:
Right, because you think, like many of us, it’s something we experience as we get older, but many of us … are experiencing that at such a younger age.

Smac:
I wasn’t prepared to get the results that I got at 30 years old. … I was really surprised when the audiologist was like, “Yeah, you should get hearing aids now.” And I was like, “Now? I thought this hearing test was to tell me to get hearing aids in 10 years.”

Charlie:
I used to be crazy when I was younger, But you just do these things and you don’t even think about it. You don’t think about protecting your ears.

iHeartMedia:

What about your everyday life? What are some of the struggles that you went through in everyday situations?

Charlie:
During COVID, it was just me, my daughter, and my girlfriend, and like everybody else, we’re watching Netflix ... And I would raise the volume so loud because I couldn’t hear 

And they would be like, “You know it’s really loud?” And I said, “I don’t hear it.” … I refused to put any sort of caption on the TV because I’m like, “I can’t do that. I’m not that guy.” I felt that if I went that route and started reading, then wow, I’m getting older. But that wasn’t the case. 

Smac:
I was guessing a lot of what people were saying. I just kind of played along. … I was always relying on someone. If I had a close friend there or my boyfriend, I would be like, “Yo, what did they say?” And then when it comes to work, well, I work on set. There were times where I misheard directions. I would always be like, “Oh, it’s because it’s a noisy environment. It’s because that person isn’t talking loud enough.”

iHeartMedia:
For a long time, people were kind of afraid to talk about [hearing loss].

Smac:
It definitely has that stigma, that you don’t talk about this, and you don’t have to deal with it until you’re way older. But I’m 30, and I have to deal with it now, and that is actually super common. … Now that I’ve gone through this process, I’m still like, “Why isn’t it talked about more?” Especially in your 20s, early 30s, it’s just not a common topic, and that’s why I was never urged to get my ears checked. … The numbers now of how many younger people are experiencing this is huge.

iHeartMedia:
But it’s nothing to be ashamed of, that’s for sure. Do something about it. Don’t be ashamed.

Charlie:
That was it. I just went and got my hearing checked, and that’s when I found that I had hearing loss.

iHeartMedia:
We grew up thinking we go to the doctor for the ordinary doctor business, we go to the eye doctor. … We go to the dentist. But we don’t get our hearing checked.

Smac:
Now I’m thinking back. I could have dealt with this a lot sooner if I really listened to those signs and took it seriously.

iHeartMedia:
What advice do you have for people, young people … about … the importance of getting their hearing checked?

Charlie:
The noise that we all hear in everyday life has gotten crazy. [People are] wearing headphones as they’re walking down the street. They’re wearing pods. They’re blasting stuff in their ears, and they’re doing a lot of damage to their hearing, and they don’t even realize it. … When people go to the gym to work out, they use some sort of hearing device to work out. They’re pumping stuff in their ears as they’re working out, not even realizing that, wow, I’m blasting this thing in my ears. … That’s the thing that people have to understand. It’s not just age that changes your hearing or your eyesight, whatever. It’s the damage [from modern life]. … And when they’re at the age of, let’s say they’re in their 30s, they’re going to have a problem.

I would say, protect your hearing. A lot of people, when it comes to your eyesight, “Oh my god, my eyes.” You know? People go and get nice sunglasses or reading glasses or glasses that make them look sexy and everything. But hearing loss, they don’t consider that as severe as their eyes, which is something that I just never understood. I would say, for younger people, just protect your hearing as much as you possibly could. Don’t listen to things on 10. Take it down. And give your ears a break every once in a while.

iHeartMedia:
Talk to me about how life is today.

Charlie:
I feel like I went and did something about it. I meet a lot of people who don’t do much about it. But now I’ve opened up the discussion, and people will write me. … For me, I wear my Eargos when we’re out to dinner, when we go to the movies, when I go to a concert, and I [can] adjust how loud I am going to make it. I’m standing there, enjoying it, because I’m getting clarity. I’m not just getting the vibration of the low end.

iHeartMedia:
… Living to your fullest in that sense. And then how has your confidence changed? Because when I put my Eargos in, I start hearing better, and I start hearing sounds that I didn’t know I could hear. Or I start having that confidence in hearing conversations. … I felt like suddenly I was more involved and people were hearing what I was saying because I wasn’t afraid to speak up or talk because I knew what the conversation was. … Now I’m hearing what I should be hearing.

Smac:
Yeah, “involved” is a good word. I felt way more present. And simple things, like the wind, your footsteps, your own breathing. I didn’t realize I was missing that. … The changes since wearing Eargo have been pretty interesting because I feel like the things that I … wouldn’t usually think are important I’m now hearing more. When I’m in my car, I can hear the wind outside. … I didn’t know I wanted to hear that. But it’s kind of awesome.

I used to really stress and strain to hear people, and I didn’t realize that until I came home and I had a headache, I was exhausted. … And now [wearing my Eargos,] when I go out to dinner and I come home, I’m like, man, I’ve still got energy. … I was just present. I didn’t have to ask people to repeat themselves. I didn’t have to guess what they were saying, and I didn’t feel confused or out of the loop or anything. … I feel way more confident. I’m like, “Is this what I’ve been missing for the last five years?”

iHeartMedia:
It’s not your grandfather’s hearing aid, for sure. … It’s so great to be able to hear again, to be a part of the conversation. You do feel isolated. You don’t really think about it. … I’m happy that you’re hearing things now. It’s great to have conversations with your family, to be able to hear.

iHeartMedia:
You want them to work right, but you also … didn’t want people to be able to see them.

Charlie:
They’re concealed. … They’re this sexy little black capsule that just goes right in your ear and you don’t see it.

Smac:
When I think of hearing aids, you think of this old-school, really bulky situation. But I was blown away when I saw what they can be actually. Like Eargo, when I’m wearing them, my friends literally don’t even know that I have them in.

iHeartMedia:
They disappear. They’re [almost] impossible to detect. It’s crazy.

Charlie:
Man, I can’t tell you how happy I was the day that I received my set of Eargos. Everything just opened up again. … When I contacted them, they were so supportive, and they were so hands on with me, and it was great. … They didn’t just go one step, they go a few steps into it. Which is something I really appreciate.

iHeartMedia:
Did you hear something differently than you had heard it before?

iHeartMedia:
What are things you’re hearing now that you didn’t hear for the last 10 years when this was happening to you?

Charlie:
I remember listening to music again and just watching a television show and being like, “Wow, I feel normal again. This is what everybody else is hearing. This is how it should sound.”

Sitting around a table with people talking. If we’re on tour, and I’m doing a meet-and-greet, I’m hearing what everyone is saying. A lot of times, people would make a joke, and I wouldn’t hear the joke, but I’d laugh anyway just to make it seem like, “Oh yeah, I hear what you’re saying.” But now I don’t do that. Now I’m in on the joke and I could tell you that the joke wasn’t funny or if it was funny, because now I can hear it. … With the Eargos, I could hear every aspect of the table.

I remember I went to see Genesis last year or the year before that, and I had my Eargos in. And it was so awesome because I heard every single nuance that the keyboardist was playing. It was just so great to hear it again. [Eargo does] such a great job. … It’s like night and day.

Smac:
I think those personal moments are really important. And since I’ve worn Eargos, I haven’t taken that for granted. It’s kind of overwhelming and almost emotional experiencing the things that I’ve always had, but now it’s enhanced and I’ve gained it back.

Charlie:
The product is great, and so many people have reached out to me about it now, and I’m so happy about that. You gotta break those doors down, those stereotypes. … It’s your hearing. It’s important.

iHeartMedia:
What’s been the reception from [other] people?

Smac:
Now that I’ve gone through this journey, and I’m talking to people like you and others that have this experience, I’m realizing how common it is.

iHeartMedia:
You’re not alone. You thought you were, but you’re not.

Charlie:
Most people now are concerned about their hearing, and they want to do something about it. Especially my musician friends. Because they’ll say to me, “Wow, dude. I didn’t even realize until I saw what you were talking about. That happened to me,” or, “That is happening to me.” … I hope we reach people and people see this or hear this and it wakes them up to that issue of your hearing, which is very important.

iHeartMedia:
Well, how does it feel to be an influencer without even knowing it? You influenced me to get Eargo. You're an influencer. 

Charlie:
Well, my mother always said to be a good influence on people, so I guess it worked.

iHeartMedia:
I was like, "All right, I'm set. He's gone through it, then I know that this is legit." So, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me. … Where should people go if they wanna get their hearing checked and to find more information about this?

Charlie:
You can have your hearing screened at eargo.com. Just go to the website.


 

*This conversation is the result of multiple interviews conducted in 2023. The questions and answers have been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

The information contained in multimedia content, interviews, or quotations from third parties (the “Content”) posted represents the views and opinions of the interviewed participants and does not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Eargo, Inc. (“Eargo”).