(WJHL) — It’s something many take for granted and may not take care of until it’s gone: our hearing.

The National Institute on Deafness says around 20 percent of Americans have some sort of hearing loss.

Pastor Steve Collins is one of them.

“It’s imperative that I have good communication skills.  And I was losing those unknowingly,” Collins said.

Collins noticed something was wrong when he couldn’t hear the voices of women and children. That’s when he visited Briana Buck, an audiologist at Holston Medical Group and received an exam.

“When we discovered I had 50 percent hearing loss in my right ear, I was absolutely shocked,” he recalled.

“It’s virtually painless,” Buck said of the exam. “It takes 15 minutes, give or take, to see what the hearing sensitivity looks like, and also word understanding.”

Collins was a candidate for hearing aids, and Buck helped him find the right fit. She says hearing aid technology has improved immensely.

“We’re able to fine-tune into certain frequencies depending on the hearing loss to meet prescriptions settings more appropriately,” she explained. “We have noise cancellation and directional microphones that work together to sort of pick out where speech is, to pick out where noise is.”

Buck says there is a variety of hearing aids. Some are equipped with Bluetooth technology, so users can listen to music and talk on the phone with their hearing aids.

It may not be easy for some to accept that they need hearing aids, but Buck says putting pride aside is worth being able to hear.

“The sad part about it is people do not seek help,” Collins said. “And, certainly the people here at Holston Medical Group can help you. And, that’s what it’s all about.”

“Hearing is literally the window and door to the world,” Buck said. “So, when we have a hearing loss, it makes it very difficult to get through that door or window to other people.”

For Collins, hearing members of his congregation and family have brought a sense of hope, and excitement for the future.

“It’s just a totally different world for me. And, I’m excited about that,” he said.