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Renowned Baroque Flutist Triumphs Over Hearing Loss: A Musical Journey of Resilience

by Madonna

In a testament to human spirit and musical tenacity, acclaimed Baroque flutist Stephen Schultz reflects on one of the most poignant moments of his 2023 – performing J.S. Bach’s Cantata BWV 8 with the Cantata Collective in Berkeley last November. In an interview with SF Classical Voice, Schultz humorously remarked, “Bach must’ve had a flute player from Mars,” acknowledging the virtuosic challenges presented by the piece’s high-reaching flute part. Little did the audience know that Schultz, who had practiced tirelessly for six months, has been grappling with hearing loss for nearly two decades.

Schultz’s remarkable journey unfolds against the backdrop of otosclerosis, an abnormal bone growth within the middle ear that leads to progressive hearing loss. Initially realizing the severity during a classroom session in 2004, where he couldn’t hear students at the back, Schultz faced a difficult decision: hearing aids or surgery. Fearing the impact on his professional opportunities, he initially opted for neither, a choice fueled by denial and trepidation.

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Four years after the diagnosis, Schultz took the courageous step to embrace hearing aids, recognizing their necessity as his hearing loss began to affect his teaching. However, the standard aids were designed for general use and fell short for a musician seeking a natural sound from his flute and surroundings during performances.

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The turning point occurred with the introduction of Widex Moment Sheer hearing aids last year. Schultz, describing them as the “gold standard,” highlighted their unique music mode and the ability to create a concert mode through fine adjustments. With these aids, he experienced a transformative sound quality that preserved the natural essence of the Baroque flute, all controllable through a smartphone app.

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Beyond his personal triumph, Schultz underscores the importance of educating young musicians about hearing protection. He advocates for tools like musician’s earplugs and shields to safeguard the well-being of orchestra members, fostering a culture of awareness in the musical community.

Recognizing a shared experience among fellow musicians facing hearing loss, Schultz has become an advocate, aiming to break the stigma and encourage others to seek help. His journey serves as an inspiration for those in similar situations, demonstrating that advanced hearing aid technology can empower individuals to continue pursuing their passion for music.

As Schultz eloquently puts it, “The state of the art in hearing aids is phenomenal. It’s important when you do notice you are losing your hearing not to be shy about it. Don’t spend four years in denial like I did. Go get help.” Schultz’s resilience stands as a testament to the transformative power of technology and the human spirit, proving that the love for music can indeed triumph over adversity.

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