by In Wales
Fri Aug 31st, 2007 at 06:21:38 AM EST
Back in April I put a diary together called The dawn of a new digital aid which took a quick trot through a lifetime of audiology clinics, technology developments and my new digital hearing aid.
I promised to update on my progress and have utterly neglected to do so. So while my risotto cooks, I'll give you a belated update, although I fear I may have left it a bit too long since I can barely remember what my analogue was like...
From the diaries ~ whataboutbob
This is what all the fuss is about:
One of the latest and the most powerful digital hearing aid you can get. I got used to it extremely quickly, unlike the one I trialled a few years ago.
This one has three programmes, 1,2 and 3.
Programme 1 is just a regular, unfiltered everything setting. It 'hears' whatever sound there is and feeds it into the lughole. I say unfiltered but you can argue this isn't entirely true. Being digital, it can be programmed by computer to match my frequency profile. So it tries to fill in the gaps a little more for the frequencies that my hearing is poorest for.
This was noticeable in the older one I trialled, since the bass sounds overpowered everything else and shook my ear to pieces, and the higher frequencies drowned out anything in between, leaving me with a situation where rustling crisp packets or footsteps in the distance were far louder than the person next to me that I was attempting to converse with.
Not Very Helpful.
So I was sceptical about this new piece of technogadetry and reluctant to let go of the analogue I was so familiar with.
It turns out that the frequency compensation on this aid is very good. I don't feel dissociated, and I've got used to how it sounds very quickly. It was a little different, but not enough to still notice it after a few days. It ought to be louder but feedback is still an issue since we decided to try a new material for the hearing aid mold, that holds the aid in my ear. It doesn't suit. The fit isn't tight enough and with an aid as powerful as this the feedback can be horrific. At inconvenient moments it squeaks like all of Mouse Hell Karaoke Night breaking loose.
With a mold that fits well I should be able to up the volume a bit. The only problem with things being any louder than they are is that it starts to hurt. I feel my ear vibrating with every sound, my head is dealing with 110 plus decibels bellowing at my inattentive cochlea, just for a few neurons to fire lazily at the PC in my skull. I may or may not be able to decipher all that noise, but my headaches do all tend to be on the left hand side, feeling like some sharp clawed monster has embedded its grip in the side of my head and face.
The volume button is my biggest bugbear. Rather than an easy to use 'wheel' to turn up and down, from zero sound to loudest, you have to push the switch up and down 4 levels, from 'loud' to 'loud with lots of feedback'. Only switching the aid off, can remove all sound. Which is darned inconvenient when I need to switch on, change programmes or when a sudden loud noise takes off around me.
The default volume appears to be 'loud with lots of feedback', so when I switch it on, sleepily, first thing in the morning, barely awake... I'm greeted by "EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE". I've actually stopped putting my hearing aid in first thing, especially when I'm alone in the flat. I've even reached the stage where I don't notice for a few hours that I still haven't got around to putting it in. This signals a remarkable change in my attitude and ability to cope with hearing nothing at all. It's extremely significant but perhaps I'll discuss elsewhere. Ask me in a comment if you like.
Well, programme 2. This is the real magic of this newfangled piece of technogadetry. It cuts out background noise. I'm unable to filter and prioritise sounds and background noise, the result being that everything is as loud as everything else and I can't tell what is important and what is just noise. Programme 2 does this for me.
The first time I tried it, walking down the busiest road through the city centre, talking to my friend, I switch on programme 2 and the traffic noise faded to almost nothing within a couple of seconds. It then picked out my friends' voice from all the babble and background around us. Astonishing. I stood there like a fool with my mouth wide open just saying "wow, I can hear you". He walked in a circle around me, talking, and I could still hear him without any traffic noise intruding. As though we'd stepped into a quiet room. It has to be one of the most amazing things I can think of. Duly impressed.
It's not as helpful in a room full of people talking since it is designed to cut out the frequencies that traffic and machinery usually fall into. So a room full of people talking are broadly at the frequency programme 2 is designed to highlight, but still it emphasises the voices closest to me which is better than anything the analogue could do.
By reducing overall background noise, I can pitch my own voice much better and be more aware of my own volume, something I couldn't do with the analogue in a noisy environment. It often led to me shouting myself hoarse whilst people around politely failed to tell me that I was bellowing 3 times louder than they needed me to. The opposite tends to happen now. "You're speaking very quietly." ... "Oh. I'm on programme 2."
Programme 3 is for induction loops, such as with cinemas, theatres, conference and meeting audio systems for hearing aids. Microphones pick up the sound, the signal is converted and transmitted as a radio wave and the hearing aid picks up that particular frequency - giving better quality and clarity of sound (you only here what goes through the microphones, meaning to chat to someone next to you, you need to flip programmes which is fiddly). Hundreds of different loop systems exist. Some are brilliant and some are worse than useless. Ask in a comment if you want a separate diary on this, there's more than enough to say on these. The induction setting exists on analogues too but I can make it louder on the digital aid. Every bit helps.
I've tried playing with different settings in different environments. At the gym, I can pick programmes depending on whether I want to hear the music or the instructors voice more; in the office pick to choose whether I want to be aware of and involved with the background chat or to cancel it out as much as possible. My MP3 Player seems to deliver better clarity of sound, and music is a big thing for me. The longer I can hang onto that, the better. Getting access to decent MP3 players, the right type of induction loop and friends with good taste in music has enhanced my life drastically. It's these seemingly small things that change my world.
So, this new aid is great. Great in that it is better that anything I have had before, it gives me new forms of access to the world around me. The technology has got better and my hearing has got worse. I'm better off now than I would have been with the technology available 25 years ago. It's no cure, it is not perfect, I'm not a 'hearing' person with it (as if I'd want to be!) but I can see myself running with it for a few more years, many years I hope, disasters aside. I'm glad I gave it a go.