If asked to make one overarching observation about the hardware it would be this:
Its hard !
Its just not easy finding the right hearing aids and accessories to best mitigate your hearing loss. So far in my own experience, I have used three different manufacturers and five different aids- Widex, Oticon, Phonak (Lyric and Audeo).
Currently, I am using the Phonak Audeo and glad to have found it. At the same time, it would be foolish (in fact, irresponsible) of me to recommend one aid over another –even among those I have used. Why? Because one thing I have learned is that they are experienced differently by each user. They “sound” differently. Better quality hearing aids have individual sound processing algorithms and processors. I found that my brain liked some better than others; my brain could hear some better than others. Yours will too.
Understand, that I am talking here about Hearing Aids and not PAD’s (Personal Amplification Devices) or OTC’s (Over The Counter) Hearing Aids. I’ll discuss those in later entries.
My hearing loss (and I would argue most types of hearing loss) is not rectified just by making everything LOUDER. I am basically flying a two engine aircraft with the right engine totally shot out….and the left one took a hit and is showing smoke and fire..its on its way out. My gene therapy might just restart that right one and get it back up. In the meantime, I need a hearing aid that will keep some function in that left engine and that tries to mimic what our brains have done so very, very well.
I am asking my hearing aid to filter out the background noise so that I can hear whatever it is I am trying to hear. Further, please filter out the human conversations around me that I am not interested in. I am asking it to make sounds clearer , not just louder. Our brains do this superbly and we are not even fully aware that it happens until our ears no longer provide the information that our brains require.
At this point, my arsenal consists of a good Phonak hearing aid, PLUS:
- Streamer (Phonak)
- Crossover (Phonak)
- Roger Easy Pen (Phonak)
- Mike (Phonak remote BlueTooth microphone)
- BlueTooth TV/Stereo Link (Phonak)
and for me, using ALL of that help is really critical to keeping me engaged in the world. Most manufacturers offer similar devices.
The Streamer, which I wear around my neck, along with my IPhone are the control centers. They allow me to send and receive phone calls with the audio delivered directly to my hearing aid. The Crossover looks like another hearing aid but in reality is just a microphone and processor that I wear on my deaf right side that broadcasts sounds to my left side hearing aid. That way I can “hear” sounds from my right side and not have a Dead Zone there.
The Roger pen is one of my most needed aids. It is an FM directional microphone with its own processor. It looks very much like a fountain pen. It further screens out background noise in favor of conversation and additionally amplifies where it is pointed. At business meetings and groups at a restaurant, I put it in the middle of the table. I’ll turn it from time to time pointing it at whoever is speaking if I am having trouble making out what they say. If it’s a real noisy restaurant say, I’ll pick it up and point at the speaker. A little awkward sometimes when you are eating but worth it to stay in the conversation.
I find that most everyone is supportive about using it in those settings. In fact, there is a group of four couples of us that are really good friends and many times they will use Roger as a “talking stick” and the group will just pass it around to whomever is speaking. We also find that we don’t “talk over” one another as much like many groups will do ….makes better listeners out of all of us !!
The Remote BlueTooth “Mike” weighs less than an ounce and is great for other situations…. If I am driving, my deaf ear is the one facing the passenger. Plus I cant exactly watch lips ..lol. For this situation, my passenger just clips on the Mike and I get a direct audio stream to my hearing aid. Works great for shopping too. The other person can be a bit ahead or behind and I can still get what they are saying. Also, I use it for Yoga. My instructor wears it and the stress of trying to hear is mostly eliminated. Finally, in a lecture or presentation setting, if the room is not “Looped” (wireless transmission of sound system direct to hearing aid), often I will go forward and place the remote Bluetooth Mike on the podium. Not ideal, but if speaker stays at the podium, it works pretty well.
A Bluetooth Stereo link does the same for TV/Music. With a direct adjustable audio feed the sound does not have to be so loud that it is uncomfortable for others in the room.
Finally, the IPhone lets me control my hearing aids and programs ; adjust volume etc and uniquely enables me to use a service called InnoCaption. This service, available for free to certified hard of hearing individuals provides real time Captioning of my phone conversations so that I can read what the other person is saying to me. I will discuss this service and how it works in a future post about it alone.
Assistive hardware allows those with hearing loss to stay in the game. Many things may limit the amount and types of devices one uses. Just don’t let complacency be to blame. It takes work – Repeat visits with your audiologist until you get the programming right; learning how your devices work and how to use them and adjust them; reading and researching what is being done and being developed; engaging your colleagues, friends, family and loved ones to help and try to work with your hearing loss.
The bionics are getting better all the time -and quickly. The medical research is well into restorative territory. Sure beats the prospect of an ear trumpet as our best bet to hear.