Shelli Sonstein has been in radio for 50 years. Throughout that time, the current co-host of The Jim Kerr Rock & Roll Morning Show on Q104.3 in New York would don her headphones and hit the airwaves. And when she wasn’t preparing segments, bantering with colleagues, delivering news and sports, or engaging with guests and listeners, she was enjoying the music she loved so much.
“And we would crank it up, especially when it was a song we liked,” she says. “Plus, there’s the concerts. All those years, it’s a long time to abuse your ears.”
For much of that time, Sonstein suspected what was happening. Years ago, when her kids were young, she began mishearing people when they spoke to her — the first signs of her hearing loss.
“One day, I took my son to school and asked one of the moms what her daughter’s name was. She said ‘Kate,’ but I heard ‘cake,’” Sonstein explained from the offices of iHeartMedia, owner of Q104.3. “Hearing consonants was where I had difficulty.”
With both her parents suffering from hearing loss and the auditory risks of working in radio, Sonstein was pretty sure she knew where this was headed.
“I probably would have had hearing loss anyway, but I’m sure I brought it on much sooner because of my decades in radio,” she says.
Now she wears Widex Moment Sheer hearing aids and doesn’t miss a thing. “In fact, I’m hearing things I hadn’t heard in a long time,” she says.
Overcoming the Stigma of Hearing Aids
It took a while, though. For starters, Sonstein simply resisted what was becoming obvious. She’d been an activist in the latter days of the Vietnam War, and while an undergraduate at Temple University in Philadelphia, caught the attention of the program director at a local progressive rock station and the rest was history.
“I had a gift for gab and no fear,” she says. Still, as the years went on, she couldn’t bring herself to accept the idea of hearing aids. She was otherwise healthy and vibrant and admits thinking hearing aids communicated the opposite. “And hearing aids used to be much more ‘pronounced,’ let’s say. You really knew somebody was wearing them.”
Then, a couple years ago, when she finally accepted that hearing aids could help her live a fuller life, Sonstein was disappointed in her first pair.
“I was just so discouraged,” she says. “I thought there was something wrong with me because they didn’t sound right. Sure, it was an improvement over not hearing, but they weren’t natural. They sounded tinny. I’d assumed hearing aids were like eyeglasses and they could all help, but not all hearing aids are created equal.”
Eventually, Sonstein’s audiologist recommended Widex Moment Sheer, which includes patented PureSound technology to overcome the tinny, artificial noise that results when direct and amplified sound arrive at the eardrum out of sync. Through PureSound’s ZeroDelay processing, which is ideal for people with mild to moderate hearing loss, Widex Moment hearing aids eliminate distortion and other common artifacts to create a more natural sound.
“When Shelli first came to us, we knew improving sound quality was her highest priority,” said Dr. Ken D’Auria, audiologist at NYHD | Institute for Hearing & Balance. “She needed a hearing device that she could rely on in the studio as a DJ, as well as during her everyday life. Given Widex’s reputation for natural sound and ultra-fast processing times, we believed Widex Moment Sheer with PureSound would allow for those truer acoustic reflections Shelli so desperately wanted. Widex Moment Sheer has proven to be the perfect fit for her lifestyle and hearing needs.”
In the days following her fitting with NYHD | Institute for Hearing & Balance, Shelli confirmed a dramatic improvement.
“Shortly after getting my new Widex hearing aids, I went on a long walk with my dog, and it started hailing,” she says. “And I was actually hearing the hail on the leaves — sounds in nature I hadn’t heard in a long time. It was absolutely fantastic.”
Communicating Better at Home and Work
In the end, it had been a different kind of media that spurred Sonstein to accept hearing aids. When she would FaceTime her grandchildren, she had a hard time making out what they were saying. “I was constantly asking them to repeat themselves.” Now she wirelessly connects her Moment Sheer hearing aids to her smartphone and catches everything.
“When I visit, they have to sit in the back seat of the car and I used to struggle to hear them in those situations,” she says. “Now I change the directional settings on my Widex hearing aids and can hear what’s going on behind me. And my husband is a low talker, so when he’s driving and I’m riding shotgun, I set the direction to my left so I can hear him better.”
Back in the Q104.3 studios, where sound is everything, Sonstein says her Moment Sheer hearing aids have helped her professionally, whether on regular Microsoft Teams meetings or in between segments.
“When we’re not on the air, we’re still speaking to each other in the room and I’ve noticed the difference right away,” she says. “I can communicate better, and the sound quality is superb.”
In social settings, background noise used to hamper Sonstein’s ability to understand people. Throw in some loud music at a party and Sonstein says she started avoiding such situations altogether.
But her Widex Moment Sheer hearing aids with PureSound processing make it easier to hear in noisy spaces, allowing Shelli to enjoy social outings with ease. “Especially when going to loud restaurants, things are much, much better. It’s fantastic,” she says.
Sonstein understands people’s hesitancy to wear hearing aids, but as she pulls back her hair to show just how much you can’t see her discretely designed Widex Moment Sheer hearing aids, she admits her own reluctance had been a problem.
“It was ridiculous that I resisted for so long,” she says. “Life isn’t worth missing, and if you don’t hear well, you lose out on so many of the special moments life has to offer. Nobody gets embarrassed about needing glasses. We should have the same attitude about hearing aids. Because when you think of all the headphones and earbuds people wear today, we could have a growing problem of people damaging their ears. We need to get over the stigma and I’m proud to be a voice leading the charge.”
Watch Shelli’s story here. If you or someone you know is experiencing similar hearing difficulties, click here for more information.
For high-res images, click here.