Hear Clinic + Your Ear Holes

HAAM looks out for your hearing

Yours truly during mid goo insertion.
Yours truly during mid goo insertion. (by Kevin Curtin)

“Would you say it’s an impressive amount of earwax?” I asked the audiologist mining amber-colored gunk from my ear with a miniature light saber. “No,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to inflate your ego.” Now that’s someone who knows how to deal with musicians.

Over 80 local music makers passed under her otoscope/auriscope Friday at the Hear Clinic, a semi-annual event providing hearing health examinations and custom earplugs for members of the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians.

The services of that decade-old local nonprofit have, in some regards, been undermined by the Affordable Care Act. An estimated 40% of HAAM’s 2,000 members earn enough annually to qualify for ACA marketplace insurance. Last November, HAAM encouraged members to apply for government coverage since ACA eligible HAAM clientele would see higher co-pays on medical services in 2015, and no longer be able to receive medical care through their providers in 2016.

What HAAM still offers to its enrollees regardless of whether their insurance status has changed via Obamacare, are services including dental, vision, acupuncture, and hearing. The latter, made possible through a partnership with Estes Audiology, addresses a serious concern for those of us surrounded by loudness on a nightly basis.

My ear holes are subjected to live music up to seven nights a week and that exposure goes back to 1998. At my last HAAM Hear Clinic two years ago, I was provided a deluxe set of custom earplugs, valued at least 10 times higher than the $25 charged. A few months later, in a mosh pit at Red 7, I lost them.

Since then, I’ve been a slacker, occasionally remembering to jam in cheap earplugs about once a week. Obviously a hearing test was overdue.

Friday on the University of Texas campus, after having copious wax unearthed from my sound trenches, I sat amongst tattooed musicians gabbing about their bands waiting to be tested. Workers ushered me into an airtight booth that looked like a walk-in cooler with a window, slapped some headphones on me, and gave me a handheld clicker. Testing each ear separately, I responded to a series of escalating pitches at varying decibels by clicking every time I heard a tone.

At the next station, a counselor interpreted the results of my screening. Against all odds and expectations, my hearing remains well within the range deemed normal for an adult. I also learned that my left ear (“old lefty”) detects high frequencies better than the right. I’ll remember that next time I listen to a King Diamond record.

At the Hear Clinic’s grand finale, audiologists use a caulk gun to shoot blue goo deep into your ear canals. After it dries, they ease out a perfect impression. I’m told my auditory canals are unusually small and curvy.

These molds will make their way to the Westone laboratories in Colorado Springs to be transformed into high-quality earplugs or in-ear monitors. A month from now, I’ll receive a set of earplugs engineered especially for my tiny, curvy ear canals. Nothing like a perfect fit!

HAAM remains that for Austin’s musicians.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

HAAM, Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, Hear Clinic, Estes Audiology, Westone, King Diamond

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