New Hearing Aid Molds

Yesterday I got my new hearing aid molds and the feedback problem is not nearly as bad.  That’s good news.  The new ones don’t itch and irritate my ears like the domes did which is also good news.  There is still some feedback while I insert them into my ears so my audiologist put in a 6 second delay to give me time to put them in without feedback.  Now they play a little ditty when the battery snaps shuts.  Ta-da-ta-tah!”  You are now hearing again.

New molds

New molds

There were some issues I had with the app which my audiologist tried very hard to help with.  My first problem is reconnecting to the app if I happen to walk too far away from phone.  He told me to turn off the whole phone and it should be easier to reconnect.  He demonstrated and it connected.  Later, while at home I walked too far away and had to reconnect.  The app kept telling me it couldn’t connect and I should go into demo mode.  The app doesn’t do me any good in demo mode.  Since we just turned my phone off and on an hour before, I hoped I wouldn’t have to do that every time I walked too far away.  I fiddled around some more and found out if I turned the Bluetooth device off and back on, it reconnected the first try.  Okay, I got that down now.

The next problem I needed help with was the spatial configuration (mic direction).  I could not figure out how to zoom my hearing aids forward and I could not get them to go right either which I think would be great while I’m driving to be able to hear my passenger better.  In my last pair of hearing aids, they focused forward in the car at the windshield making it very difficult to hear my passengers so my audiologist set a specific car program in them that kept all the mics opens.  So when I saw I could change the direction of my mics in the new hearing aids I was excited but then I couldn’t get it to work.    My audiologist fiddled around with it for a bit and even called the company about it.  It seems there are some glitches in the iPhone app and that’s one of them.  I sure hope they get the bugs worked out of it so I can try the right direction while driving someday.

I got something new to play with, a streaming device for my TV.  I haven’t been able to hook it up yet and even though I watch very little TV, I’m kind of excited.  The only time I watch TV consistently is during football season and that starts Sept 4th!  (Go Steelers!  Go Seahawks!) Normally I use captions when I watch TV or a movie but I take the captions off when watching football because they get the way of the game.  I have the noise turned up because I like the sound of the crowd but I do not understand much of the announcers say.   So I’ll have to set it up this week with a movie to be ready for the game.

As I got in my car at the audiologist office I thought, “I don’t have a radio in the car.  I should hook up Pandora because I can!”  My 80’s station popped up and “Another One Bites the Dust” came up.  Oh good song….  Good sound too.  It was closer to what I remember 30 years ago.  So I’m all happy in my car singing with Queen and thinking about the coming football season.

When I get home, there was a mad rush to get things together for an evening picnic with friends in the mountains (that’s when I walked too far from my phone again and lost my connection).  There was no real reason to keep my the Bluetooth device going at the picnic so I put it away but of course kept my hearing aids in. As we pulled in parking spaces were rapidly filling up because of a wedding at the reception building just beyond the picnic parking lot.  This happens a lot there and it can be kind of irritating but I think all of our group got in.

We greet the others there and I talk to a few people about my new hearing aids and then of course conversation drifts this way and that way and I’m following pretty good.  We have dinner and then sit around the fire pit.  Music suddenly fires up at the reception just beyond a patch of trees.  “Man, that’s loud,”  I keep thinking.  I keep looking at the others who keep chatting.  They seem unaffected.  I look a few picnic tables back wondering if I hear it now because of my new hearing aids or because we are closer.  I know we’ve been here dozens of times while weddings went on but I had no idea the music was in hearing range there.

Without meaning to, I say out loud, “That’s loud,” as I look into the trees.  A few others heard me and laughed.  “Now you’re hearing what we hear.”  I can’t believe I haven’t heard the music like that before.  Wow.  The world is a noisy place.

My only issue left is my ears still work out the molds. As I talk/chew/laugh, they work out and I’m pushing them back in.  I guess I have an overly strong muscle there.  It doesn’t irritate my ears like the domes did at least.  They just slide right back in and without feedback so it doesn’t rate high on my list of issues but more like a minor irritation.  Maybe there’s something I else I can or maybe I’ll get used to poking them back but at any rate, I’ll be bringing that up on my next visit to the audiologist.  First I need to wear them a while and see what else might need to be fine turned.

So for now, I’m feeling better with these new hearing aids.  I’m about to run errands in my radio-less car so I’ll hook everything up and listen to my 80’s station on Pandora.

(Oh no, can’t find spellcheck on the new version of wordpress.  I depend on it so there’s bound to be typos, sorry!)

 

New Hearing Aids

Shiny box to protect the new hearing aids.

Shiny box to protect the new hearing aids.

A few weeks ago vocational rehabilitation gave their approval for my new hearing aids and last week they were in. I went in Wednesday to get them programmed and to get hearing aids molds made. We know from the loaner hearing aid I did not like the domes. There’s some feedback problems and they constantly push out of my ear so every 5 minutes I pushing them back in. My ear became sore so I returned the loaner early not wanting to deal with it.

Here are the new hearing aids.  With domes.

Domes.  Blah.

New hearing aids-Cool! Domes-not cool.

And they are a boring color so I will have to decorate them when I have time this week.

As soon as we turned the new hearing aids on, the feedback was horrendous.  If I can hear it that loud then I know it’s bad.  It’s not just the high pitched squeal, these babies SCREAM because my hearing loss is moderate/severe so the power is turned up.  Once they were in my ears they were okay until I went to run my fingers through my hair.  I winced and the audiologist said he’d take ear impressions later which will take away the feedback.  I hope.

These Siemens “Carat” hearing aids just came out last week with a new upgrade and I’m one of the first to try it.  There are more options than my old hearing aids had like turning off the annoying beep when batteries are low.  He can change the beeps to more tolerable beeps when I change programs on them and that I like because the beeping has always driven me nuts.  I made sure I had a T-coil so I continue to use the hearing loop and neck loops for my phone. I can change the programs on my hearing aids because he knew I didn’t want to carry around a remote on top of everything else.  Then he pulled out this…

Mr. Bluetooth

Mr. Bluetooth

And I’m not exactly thrilled to see this to tell you the truth.  Bluetooth sounds great but it wears my hearing aid batteries down faster and my phone battery as well.  Yeah, it has great sound but I don’t like all the extra drain.  When I use my T-coil, (neck loop and hearing loop) there is no extra battery drain at all.  I am Ms. T-coil and my audiologist is Mr. Bluetooth and here’s where we clash.  The device came with the hearing aids so of course I’ll take it.

I can’t use it to hook into meetings and I could use it for TV if I buy some adapter but I’m not a big TV fan (until football starts up again) and I’ve used captions since the late 90’s to fill in the missing pieces so ‘listening’ to TV is kind of weird.  I’m unsure if I’ll hear enough even with the bluetooth and will probably end up depending on captions anyway.

The only cool thing about this device is there’s an app for my phone which I downloaded.  It lets me chose the direction I want to hear from; all around me, focus forward or backward and to the sides.  I can control treble and bass which is nice for my music.  Music sounds so tinny through bluetooth and the neckloops.  I think that’s because I don’t hear the higher frequencies anymore and when that’s added in through my hearing aids, it sounds weird.  I hear low tones (bass) and that’s what I’m used to.

The app also shows how much life is left in my hearing aid batteries and that’s kind of cool, it’s much nicer to check in that way instead of all annoying beeping.  So he showed me how to use it all, took ear impressions for new molds and sent me on my way.

I kept the bluetooth device on as I went shopping, listening to my music with the bass turned up.  I can also change programs with that devices.  Maybe sometimes I’ll use it.

Being a good girl I wore them the rest of the of the day even though when I laid back on pillows to watch a movie, they screamed so I sat up.  Sounds come through naturally and I like that.  The domes made my ears itch too so I was constantly pulling them out and jamming my finger in so scratch.  I’d put them back in with a whole lot of screaming before they settled into my ears again.

The next day I went to work with for a full of training.  The feedback made people on the other side of the room cringe.  It’s a good thing I work I at a deaf and hard of hearing center because they all put it up with it in good nature.  I had troubles changing my programs and had to used the bluetooth device to change it so I knew where I was at.  If I walked too far away from phone, I lost the bluetooth connection and had to find it all over again.  The battery on my phone went so low I had to charge it while at work which is something I normally don’t do.

I found myself frustrated with all the technology and I’ve never felt that way with new hearing aids before.  It’s like when I get a new phone, I’m excited about all the new options but frustrated with the learning process.

When I got home, I put the new hearing aids back in their shiny box and they have not come back out since.  I’m not wearing them again until the feedback problem is fixed (this coming Thursday afternoon).  I took out my old comfy hearing aids the next day to finish day two of training at work without feedback.

I’m on the fence with these new hearing aids.  There’s some cool features but I’m worried the ear molds won’t be able to control the SCREAMING feedback.  If they don’t, I’ll return them and try another kind.  Maybe my hearing loss is too severe these days for hearing aids???  That thought floats around in my mind too.  In which case, I’ll have to consider a cochlear implant or go the deaf route with more sign language.  However I feel like I cope pretty well without hearing aids with lip reading and a few rules (like face me when talking to me).

I’m facing another threshold I think.  If my hearing drops even a little more it will shift my entire world once again.

threshold

Captioning Options

Last week I had the opportunity to experience TypeWell, “A system for capturing spoken content and generating an immediate meaning-for-meaning transcript.” Kate Ervin, executive director of Typewell was in Salt Lake and offered to give us a demonstration before leaving town. Reading about it online, I came up with the above description and wondered how it differed from CART.

She came in for my speech reading class putting a lap top and a Kindle Fire in the middle of the table, each facing different sides. She sat to the side with her laptop in front of her, ready. The previous week I told my students she would be there but all three of them had no idea what to expect. (Yes only 3, summer is hard on classes due to vacations plus it’s twice a week in mornings which makes it hard for working people to attend.) A long time HLAA chapter member came in too and once we started talking, the words appeared on the screens in front of us.

TypeWell demo

One of my students is recently deafened due to acoustic neuroma and she was thrilled to see speech transcribed in front of her and her husband was happy to know these kinds of options exist. My other student is a college student who has gone through most of her education without any CART or captioning at all. She was told it was a hassle to sign up with the disability resource center and that a note-taker would work just fine. All this time she struggled through classes when this was available? She could see where it would have made her college time much, much easier. The other HLAA member and I are familiar with live captioning but we love options.

captions

How is TypeWell different from CART? She uses her laptop with advanced abbreviation software instead of a stenography machine. Kate said they summarize by leaving out false starts and filler words but they also try to capture everything like other people’s remarks and sounds such as car alarms that may be going off outside to show why everyone is looking out the window. It easier for the transcribers if only person at a time talks. CART might better suit someone who wants to hear/see everything such as person with a new CI who is learning to hear again.

How is it like CART? Captioning in all it’s sources is wonderful. Just like CART, it appears on the screen in front of you and it follows the conversation and I didn’t see any missing words (except when I stumbled over my words/sentences). There is a slight delay as with CART but not enough to make a big difference. It can be done on-site or remotely (off-site). Notes can be saved and used to study or review later.

Kate Ervin of TypeWell

Kate Ervin of TypeWell

How do people become a transcriber under TypeWell? TypeWell doesn’t provide services but instead train people to do it.  Kate said each person has to be able to type 60 words a minute with no errors and they need strong English skills. They have to pass a specific test or they do not get the software to work with. (She also mentioned their software has a math mode for in the classroom.) Training cost is about $500 and about $100-200 dollars a year for the software. There are ongoing training opportunities and workshops to attend.   

They will train anyone who can work with a university or an agency first (either as an employee or contracted) to gain experience and later transcribers can become independent contractors.  The typical charge for services is $15-$30 an hour, with the high end being $40-$60 and hour.

If you are hearing and this sounds good to you, think about applying because the hard of hearing population is growing and I think captioning will be more in demand. People with hearing loss are becoming less passive and want to be included. This job can be used in conjunction with another job, see the TypeWell blog for Jarren in Washington who provides services to both the Deaf and hard of hearing as an ASL interpreter and a TypeWell provider.

TypeWell is another option for real-time access to communication for those who are hard of hearing. Visit their website for more information and locate a local provider with this link: http://support.typewell.com/customer/portal/articles/229852.

Giving Up Old Ways

RoadLessTraveled

I read this book some years ago and picked it up again the other day. Because my life perspective have shifted over these last 3 years or so, I’m picking up completely different things from it. Here is something that slowed me down, reading word by word instead of the sentences if that makes sense. I thought, “This applies to many of with hearing loss.” I’m going to quote the paragraph below:

“Recently we have been hearing of the “mid-life crisis.” (Change this to hearing loss crisis.) Actually, this is but one of many “crises,” or critical stages of development, in life, as Erik Erikson taught us thirty years ago. (Erikson delineated eight crises; perhaps there are more.) What makes crises of these transition periods in the life cycle–that is problematic and painful–is that in successfully working our way through them we must give up cherished notions and old ways of doing and looking at things. Many people are either unwilling or unable to suffer the pain of giving up the outgrown which needs to be forsaken. Consequently they cling, often forever, to their old patterns of thinking and behaving, thus failing to negotiate any crisis, to truly grow up, and to experience the joyful sense of rebirth that accompanies the successful transition into greater maturity.”

In order to grow/mature in our hearing loss, we need to let go of old ways and embrace the new ways/lesson. It’s the clinging that’s so painful. What do you think?

Seeing Is Hearing

A friend of ours had a daughter graduate from college last Saturday and we were invited to her party that evening.  Since I’m trying to wear my hearing aids more lately, I didn’t bring their case with me because if I can’t put them away, I have to wear them.  At first people were gathered in the kitchen which has 1 1/2 walls of window, custom cement floors, high ceilings, marble counters and a two sided fireplace.  It’s gorgeous but it’s an acoustic nightmare and I wanted nothing better than to take my hearing aids out but I couldn’t.  The reverberation made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up so I migrated out onto the deck where I could sort sound better.  Soon most of us were out on the deck and only going inside to get another drink or more food.

It was a perfect evening with some clouds, a light breeze with the temperature in the 70’s somewhere and a great view of the Wasatch Mountains.  Patio furniture gave everyone a place to sit and we formed a circle of chairs with a group.  I like circles.  I can face everyone and hear most of it.  Ken even tested me once asking me if I heard and when I nodded my head (wrong answer on my part because that looks like the deaf nod) he asked me what I heard and I repeated it.

I enjoyed the chat about a cheese documentary and what Europeans used to put in cheese  and since I started that subject (remembering a chat about feta cheese with someone there last Christmas) it was easy to follow.  When the subject changed to a young man who was one of the Lost Boys of Sudan I could follow that too even though his speech was lost to me because I couldn’t see him.  The lady who sat next to me turned around to face me and gave me the short version.  It’s so nice being in a group like that.

The graduate’s sister started speeches so we all stood up and suddenly I was out of my circle as a new one formed.  Now I was behind people but I could see the sister and ‘hear’ her words but when the graduate replied to my left behind others I heard nothing.  I turned to Ken and asked for his help.  He shrugged his shoulders and said, “I don’t know.”

“Just two words to sum it up,” I asked.

He shrugged his shoulders again because he is terrible at this.  These are the kind of situations I hate.  I want to hear and can’t.  I don’t blame Ken because it’s not easy for his brain to sum things up, he doesn’t know where to begin or what words to choose.  His ADD brain is floating with all the words so he can’t pluck two plus I think he feels it’s rude to talk to me while speeches are being made.  Even I was afraid to move and disrupt things so I stayed put and trying to contort my body and hear what she was saying.

ear

So frustration with my inability to hear was mounting.  Not only was I moving in weird ways for a better view I’m pretty sure my eyebrows were down and I was squinting with concentration.  The host, our friend, must have noticed because when I looked her way she motioned me to her side.  She didn’t have to motion me twice!  I hustled right over and standing next to her I could see everyone’s faces again and I heard most everything again. I could even understand the two charming, young men from Africa with their accents.  How nice that was!  I’m grateful to her for recognizing my look of frustration.

Once again I was astonished that being able to see made such a big difference.   I don’t consider myself the best speech reader but  when I get through situations like these, it’s proof that seeing is hearing.

happy eyes

A Loaner Hearing Aid

Last week the vocational rehabilitation state service accepted me into their program. The letter said to call to make another appointment and the next appointment wasn’t until June 2.  Then that’s an appointment to start talking about what to do.  I’ve already been about 6 weeks without a hearing aid and I don’t want to wait another two months for hearing aids.  I really in truly miss my hearing aids.  (Wearing one doesn’t help me that much.)

I put an email in my audiologist office asking if it were possible to get a loaner hearing aid as I wait for the voc rehab plan and they said yes!  Come on in next week.  So yesterday was the day and my audiologist was almost giddy in showing me the new technology.  I’m a bit skeptical of new technology because I don’t see how 4 years can make a big difference but I felt caught up in his excitement.  Besides, beggars can’t be choosers and any hearing aid would be great to me by, even an old analog one.

He isn’t the one who sold me my hearing aids but he’s been super helpful about programming them for me whenever I needed.  He is the best programmer I’ve run across and no matter the problem, he’s been able to fix it.  I’ve tried 5 other audiologists in the area before finding him, ran across a lot of disappointment and bad hearing programs before he corrected it all and made my hearing aids more likable.  When discussing the loaner, he wanted to give me one without a T-Coil because it’s the newest one he has and he wanted to show off the technology and I said no!  I must have the T-Coil. I use the loop at the Sanderson Center often plus I use my neckloop for my phone.  I want the T-Coil so he gave me an older version that’s not as old as my own hearing aid.

different hearing aids

 

It’s a Siemens something Carat, a RIC (Receiver In the Canal) and you can see the vast difference between hearing aids.  He kept saying I’d like the discrete part of it and I kept telling I really don’t care about discreet or I wouldn’t have bright, red hearing aids.  I had to ask him what the receiver was and he said the speaker which is what the makes the behind the ear hearing aid smaller, the speaker is off the hearing aid and in the ear.  I’m glad I asked because to me the receiver would be the thing that collects noise for me. So I signed my life away for the loaner and walked out of his office a lot happier than I walked in.

I researched this style a few months ago for a Hearing Aids 101 class I taught at the senior center.  One of the benefits of a RIC is hearing less internal noise such as chewing.  After putting it in I noticed right away I did not feel stuffed up on the RIC side like I do with the red hearing aid.  That’s nice and the noise feels more natural.  Of course it’s hard to tell how well a hearing aid will work in a quiet audiologist office.

Happy to be hearing out of both ears, I wore them all day and made a commitment to myself to wear my hearing aids all day from now on.  While eating nuts, that’s all I could hear on my right but with the RIC, I didn’t hear that hardly at all.  It works!   Right now I can hear myself breathing with the red hearing aid and not the RIC.  I clearly hear my clock ticking again.  Taking out the RIC and leaving the red hearing aid in, I have to really concentrate to hear the clock and the sound is barely on my threshold.  What a difference!  If voc rehab will go for it, I think I might like a new pair of hearing aids after all.

My audiologist pointed out yesterday once again that my red hearing aids weren’t the once he would have dispensed had I gotten hearing aids from him.  He says my lifestyle fits in with the RICs better and he could be right.  To be fair, I think the guy I bought them from wanted to sell me something similar but at the time I wanted hearing aids to work with my FM system and I wanted the FM receivers built into my hearing aids.  The FM got me by at quite a few events for a while but now there are other devices out there and ALD systems in place at some places.  I can let go of the FM system, it’s probably 9 years old anyway.

My red hearing aids have served me well and I don’t regret that choice at all.  They served me well but wow, technology really does move fast.  I’m a lot more open to new hearing aids now.

Accommodations Equal Confidence

CART makes a difference in a classroom setting.

CART makes a difference in a classroom setting.

The final memoir workshop was last Thursday night. It was a two night workshop and thanks to CART (Communication Access Real-time Translation), I was fully able to participate and understand everything being said. Out of habit I found myself looking at people as they spoke only tell myself, “You can’t hear. Go back to CART girl!” At the end of the night Julia (my CART person) was packing things up while some people were talking. One of them asked me a question and because the ventilation system was roaring above I couldn’t hear so with my new habit, I turned to look at the laptop for a translation but she already put away her stenography machine. “Duh,” I thought and started to look back at the person for a repeat but Julia was already typing it out for me on her laptop which was still up. Bless her. I’m convinced CART people have huge hearts. Thank you Julia!

CART 3

Last time when I wrote about CART, I said it gives me courage to participate. That thought rolled around in around in my head this last week and wouldn’t let go because not only does CART give me courage but it also gives me confidence to participate. Without the proper accommodations I’m lost in a sea of noise.

For example, I went to a meeting last month with an FM system in place but with old, omnidirectional microphones in place which picked up every computer keyboard tap, pens and fingers tapping the table, shuffling papers and scrapping sounds as microphones slid back and forth between speakers. It was exhausting trying to pick out speech between it all. I couldn’t place the people speaking in time to lip read fully (I have a hard time locating sound) and I didn’t ask questions in fear of someone else having already asked and slowing the pace of the meeting down. After bout half and hour of this, I found myself tuning out to get away from the excess noise so I hardly participated at all in frustration and lack of confidence. Thank goodness someone there was taking the minutes. A few days later I read what went during the meeting and no one asked the question I wanted to.  Oh well, there’s always email.

Another accommodation that still works great for my moderate, severe hearing loss is the hearing loop. I hear like I remember normal hearing to be like while inside a loop with my hearing aids on. It’s a miracle feeling and I will thoroughly enjoy the loop when I can and as long as I can. Unfortunately there’s not many set up in my end of the world yet but I’m working on it! Life is easier when the proper accommodations are in place and both CART and the loop gives the hard of hearing that extra boost we need to stay in society and stay mentally active.

Without those accommodations, we withdraw from life. We come across shy, awkward, aloof and maybe as not the sharpest tool in the shed but it’s only because we can’t hear/understand what’s going around us. We can’t keep up. I’ve been thinking that many of us must have our true selves locked up inside, hidden within hearing loss and hidden from the world.

We need to break out and stop fearing so much.  There’s too much life to live.  It’s taken me years to break out and advocate for myself and now that I do, I feel a little freer. I share my adventures with you so that you know you aren’t alone, you can learn from my mistakes and make adventures of your own. Ask for accommodations yourself, build your confidence that way too and maybe together we can make the world a better place.

As a reminder…

martin luther king quote