Living His Dream Regardless of Hearing Loss
By Jo-El M. Grossman
Thomas Lesh, Jr., is passionate about the audio industry. The 39-year-old father of three spent some time as an audio engineer programmer in Eugene, Oregon, before now working for a production company that develops a car restoration show.
“I’ve been in my current role since 2011, and it has morphed to include mixing in dialog and sound effects with music to develop a program,” he said. “It’s very hands-on and creative to be part of a final product.”
It was also in this role where Lesh discovered he had a moderate-to-severe hearing loss.
Read more about Lesh’s hearing journey.
Didn’t Know How to Hear
At 16-months old, Lesh came down with an aggressive form of spinal meningitis. He was given a strong antibiotic, which as a result, could have caused profound hearing loss.
“Luckily, I did not develop too severe of a hearing loss,” he said. Although his pediatrician recommended hearing aids, his parents didn’t move forward with fitting Lesh with a pair.
“I didn’t know how to hear, so I didn’t know I had hearing loss.” — Thomas Lesh, Jr.
Growing up, Lesh sat in front of the class to hear what he could, but it didn’t occur to him that he should share with anyone his hearing difficulty. While he attended school with hearing impaired children, and he knew the definition of hearing loss, Lesh didn’t really put the two factors together.
“I didn’t know how to hear, so I didn’t know I had hearing loss,” he said. “I thought I just had a speech issue, because I went to speech therapy during elementary school through junior high.”
In the Yellow
According to Lesh, his senses in the frequencies he could hear were heightened, so he excelled at his production work in those ranges. When it came to sounds he couldn’t hear well, it started to become more noticeable in his job.
“I saw it! It threw me back, and I was a bit nervous as to what else I couldn’t hear.”
For example, on one project, his clients asked that the cymbals be turned down. Lesh couldn’t hear the clients’ concern. When he ran it through new technology that shows the waves and frequency, he could see how yellow the cymbals were.
“I saw it! It threw me back, and I was a bit nervous as to what else I couldn’t hear,” he added. It was then Lesh knew he had to see a hearing care provider.
Working With a Professional
After a hearing screening confirmed Lesh’s hearing loss, the hearing care provider recommended he “just try a pair of hearing aids on.”
“It was amazing what sounds I didn’t have access to,” Lesh said. He hadn’t heard certain sounds in so many years that some were even incomprehensible in the beginning. “A huge shocker was what I thought was high pitch wasn’t at all. Another oh my goodness!”
“A huge shocker was what I thought was high pitch wasn’t at all. Another oh my goodness!”
“Hearing aids alone won’t help,” he added. “You need to work with an audiologist to have them programmed. They do the finetuning to the devices.”
Access to More Sounds
“It really is amazing how bad my hearing was,” Lesh said. “Before being fit my hearing aids, I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to hear people during conversations. Now that I have access to better hearing, my confidence is up.”
Wearing hearing aids has given Lesh access to more sounds, like hearing crickets and cicadas. It’s also helped him realize how loud he had the car radio playing — a definite relief for his wife and kids.
“Now that I have access to better hearing, my confidence is up.”
“I also think about the safety aspects for my family and me. Alerts and alarms could have been going off, and I might have been unaware of what was happening,” Lesh said. “Plus, we used to hike in the desert, and I would have never heard a rattlesnake.”
With three kids under the age of seven, it’s never a dull moment for Lesh and his wife. They recently moved from Oregon to Ohio. In addition to a move, Lesh is also changing careers.
“Life’s too short not to follow your passion. Go for it!”
“While the audio industry is an interesting opportunity, I want to make a difference and change lives,” he said. “I’ve decided to go back for a nursing degree.”
Regarding helping others with their hearing health, Lesh said it’s something you have to do. “You have to overcome the vanity issue,” he said. “I saw others with hearing aids, and I didn’t think anything of it. When I thought about myself with hearing aids, I thought I would stick out. Why, I don’t know.”
Lesh points out all the famous people throughout history who have hearing loss in the past, such as Thomas Edison, Ludwig van Beethoven and Helen Keller. They all lived their dreams regardless of hearing loss, and he encourages others to do the same.
“Life’s too short not to follow your passion,” Lesh added. “Go for it!”
Communications & Content Manager
Jo-El Grossman is currently Communications & Content Manager for Phonak U.S. Although she joined the company in October 2017, she brings her skills as an accomplished, creative and qualified marketing and editorial leader with a multi-media background.