Tag Archives: technology

Purple Ears

I had gone to the audiologist way back in October of last year, and not too long after that visit, I was given two brand new hearing aids. The shock of all the noise was a lot to take in for the first couple of weeks. There were appointments of adjusting certian sounds through the months of November and December. We were just getting it right, but for some odd reason, I just could not get my hearing aids to stop distorting my voice when I yelled for my kids, or when I heard certian high pitches.

My audiologist and I were baffled. It was at the point of, just before Christmas, she said, “It might be that it would be something you’ll have to live with.”

In the middle of that whole process, I decided to make my hearing aids stand out by exchanging the beige colored ones for some bright purple ones. IMG_0136

Eventually, I plan on getting some bright colorful earmolds to go with the purple hearing aids. I’m not going to hide the fact I wear them to hear the world around me. My future students need to see their teacher isn’t ashamed of being deaf/hard of hearing.  (The reason I use both is because I am profoundly deaf in my right ear and severely in my left. I’m right on the edge of being completely deaf, though with hearing aids, I am hard of hearing.)

That doesn’t mean I can function like a hearing person does, though! I still have to work twice as hard as a hearing person. I still lipread, use sign language is my primary language, and can’t hear certian speech sounds. My clear speech is all due to some amazing speech therapists I  had growing up. I still can’t hear my voice completely. I can’t hear the “s” or “th”  sound, but when I talk, I know what it feels like to make those sounds. I’m just a great fooler… No one can guess I was born deaf with the way I can talk.

Even though I thought I would need to resign to the way my world now sounded, which was different than what I had grown up with. I was beginning to resent wearing hearing aids, but something nagged in me to keep fighting to get the sound I was familiar with back.

It had been a month since our last appointment, and I decided I should try one more time to see if we could figure out how to get it the way I had with my other hearing aids.

I called through my video relay app on my phone, and immediately, the secretary knew who was calling. I tell her that I just can’t stand the way a a certian pitch gets distorted, and I just want to try one more time in adjusting my hearing aids. “Sure!” my interpreter signs back to me, “Would tomorrow at 11:45 work for you?” I nod and sign, “YES!” I had a glimmer of hope that my hearing aids could be adjusted to be what I wanted.

The next day, as I walked into the office, I was greeted cheerfully by my audiologist and she immediately tells me that she now knows what needs to be done for me. “I had a client yesterday who is just like you, but he had a bit of a nerdy way of figuring it all out.” The guy apparently had a pitch app on his phone that helped him find what pitches his hearing aid went crazy on him. After a few minutes of detective work, she discovered that, according to the computer program, the hearing aids had a feature called a whistle diffuser and a feedback diffuser. At the pitches of whistles and feedback, the hearing aids would automatically try to “dial” down the down, causing it to sound robotic. Once she turned those features off, the whistle pitches came through the hearing aids just as they were supposed to sound. With the feedback diffuser off, you would hear the feedback. It just happened that the guy didn’t like hearing the feedback or the whistling, so he had his turned back on. “I’ll learn to live with it!” he had told her.

“You grew up with having analog hearing aids. Feedback and the whistle sounds are something you’re used to. Lets try turning off those features and see what happens.” It dawned on me, at that moment, that my old digital hearing aids had the feedback reducer feature and was turned off as well. I told her, and she laughed. “That could be just it!”

The second those features were turned off, I suddenly could hear clearer. I asked her to bump up the volume, and that helped quite a bit.

Its been four days since that final adjustment, and I say final because everything sounds like what I am used to. Music is clearer, and I can hear the high saprano voices I love without it becoming distorted. I called for my kids the other day to tell them it was time to go home, and I didn’t sound like a robot. It’s amazing how that made me feel. I was me again.

The con is I can hear feedback in my right ear now. It is a sore reminder that I do need new earmolds soon. Once I do get new earmolds, that feedback will be gone, and they’re going to be colorful, too! That will be fun.

 

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I Can’t Hear the Phone

Staring into the computer screen, I watched my relay call get dropped for the third time in a row. I buried my face into my palms, fighting the urge to scream.

I needed to make such an important call, and I wasn’t getting anywhere fast as I sat there trying to get my interpreter back in hopes of finishing this task.

I groaned in frustration.

My husband, who was working from home, waved his hands to get my attention, and I let him know he had it. He signed, “What’s wrong?” I told him of the issues I was having with my computer, and, as I did, I grabbed my Android, turning on my relay app, with hopes it would work better through this device.

It drops again. I try closer to the modem, and it still fails. My husband shows his sympathy as I voice my frustration. A videophone/relay service care representative helps in determining it was my internet to be the problem. A speed test revealed it was too slow for video calls.

Our internet service provider fortunately had an online chat feature, which was doable with the turtle like speed my wi-fi was giving me. “It’s your modem! Let us send you a new one.” What a relief! It was fixable! “It will most likely arrive in about two to three days.” My heart sank. He then sends me another message, “It might come tomorrow since we are dealing with this so early in the day.” I had hope again, but it still didn’t solve the problem at hand.

I still needed to make an appointment with an audiologist.

Why?

My one and only working hearing aid had broken into three pieces, no thanks to weak tubing on both the hearing aid and in the ear mold. Fortunately the tube parts could be replaced, but only an audiologist would have the parts to replace them with.

I knew I also needed a new audiogram done. It’s a basic test to see what kind of hearing loss there is in both ears. I had to have this proof to get services. I had one done three years ago, but they wanted a new one.

I had to roll my eyes. It’s not like my hearing will ever get better. It’s been the same since I was three years old. My right ear was with profound loss and the left was only severe. It’s never really changed since then.

Life can be so challenging without hearing aids, I mused. Yet, even with hearing aids, I still used relay to make calls, but with no viable internet service, I was literally stranded with no way to call out.

My husband could call for me, but he was busy working hard, and I knew I needed to fix this myself.

We ordered lunch, and I watched outside for the delivery, knowing I would not be able to hear the knock on the door. At that moment, I decided I needed to get a door light. I didn’t want to feel this trapped again. “Maybe get a hearing dog?” The idea sounded really interesting. I made a mental note to do some research on that.

After eating lunch, I tell my husband that I would drive to the library to use their internet and make some phone calls. He signs for me to be safe and to text him if I was able to get an appointment. I told him I would.

At the library, which I knew would be quiet on it’s own, but for me, I heard nothing at all. No shuffling of books, no slightly squeaky carts being pushed down the aisles, no slight murmur of people discreetly holding a conversation, or even the sound of the loud air conditioning blowing over the vents above my head. It was nothing at all.

I logged online and pasted in a phone number into my videophone program on my computer and braced with hope it wouldn’t drop. To my delight, it went smoothly as it should, and after a few other calls, I had found the right audiologist to make an appointment with. They would be able to take me in the next day!

Once that was done, it made me think on how I made my calls before internet. I smiled to think of the little white machine I had gotten in middle school. My first TDD (Tele-communication Device for the Deaf) was so amazing to me, and I learned the brief codes in calls, such as GA (Go Ahead) and SK (Stop Keying). The latter was the TDD way of saying, “I’m done and going to hang up.”  When my TDD light would flash, I ran as a typical teenager to answer the call. There were some friends I would talk for a long time with, and there were others that made their conversations brief. My typing skills became fluid with the use of the TDD.

It wasn’t until I was at Gallaudet when internet came into the picture, which was filled with AOL Instant Messaging, emails, and other chat platforms.

Then came along the “cell phones” for the deaf, which were basically texting phones without the audio portion of the device.

My favorite of these kind of devices at that time was called a Sidekick, and now that dinosaur has been buried by the multitudes of smartphones we use today.

Some of these amazing smartphones have become the ear and the voice for deaf people. Nyle’s phone on ANTM (America’s Next Top Model) is a great example of this. Seeing him on that show makes me so proud of him, but that’s a whole different blogging subject.

Tomorrow, I can look forward to and hope for my hearing aid to be fixed. Even if it does, I won’t depend on them so much anymore. I’ve learned that I can function fairly well without them. I could lipread my hearing friends, and some of them knew basic signs. They were all patient with me and made sure I could see what they were saying. Even in church, despite the many hindrances of trying to read lips around a microphone, speakers moving around the stage (which is a challenge and a half when it comes to lip reading), and the fact I didn’t have an interpreter that day. Powerpoint slides helped, and I know now what I need to do to make sure I got as much as I could.

I won’t go into detail on that… It’s a mission I’m on. It’s a mission: Impossible kind of thing, but only possible through God.

I’m blasting music though my earbuds, simulating my brain with sounds, even though they’re not sharp and clear as they are with hearing aids. But, it’s time for me to quite down my brain soon to sleep. Music will need to go soon. The silence should do me good.