Su Lum: Slumming
August 7, 2012
When I lost one of my hearing aids and when, a week later, a gazelle-like dog ate the other one, things were looking pretty grim. Terry Burke, my sweet audiologist, was on vacation, so I went around deaf as a post for a week and then another week waiting for the new ones to arrive.
What I didn’t know was that during the four or five years since I first bought hearing aids, the technology had taken quantum leaps in the improvement department. Like computers and oxygen equipment, what you buy today is obsolete tomorrow.
These hearing aids look very much like my old ones but are more comfortable and have several exciting features, such as five different sound levels instead of just one, and I can control the volume, which I could not do before.
The five settings are: master, comfort, music, Zen and reverse focus. The comfort setting blocks out extraneous sound and is the one I use the most. Master makes everything louder and can be a bit shrill, music is supposed to be good for live music (I haven’t tested that), Zen has a background sound like muted windchimes (not my cup of tea), and reverse focus lets you hear what’s behind you. Whoa! Watch out if you’re sitting behind me in a restaurant.
The setting can be accessed by a little button on the aids or by a control that you can carry in a pocket or wear around your neck – this is the one that also controls the volume – so I’ve been having a great time trying them all out. I put it on reverse while waiting for a prescription at Carl’s, and the noise of the fish pond/fountain behind me was like sitting under Niagara Falls.
But wait – there’s more. My hearing aids talk to me and to each other, and you can get them in male or female voices in every language. As soon as I get used to the vocabulary, I’m going to switch my guy to French. Right now he has an English accent.
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“Partner check,” he will say if I only have one of them in. Like, “Where’s my partner, hey?” Meanwhile, the other one will be blinking, making it easier to find if misplaced.
He also will tell me what setting I’m on and when the batteries are getting low.
But wait – there’s even more! I plug what looks like a cellphone charger into the TV, hang a different control around my neck and listen to the TV (or radio or books on CD) through my aids. With the control, I can raise or lower the volume and can hit a special button that cuts out barking dogs or people cross-talking in the room – I love that feature.
This is a truly great improvement because the TV doesn’t have to be blasting all the time, and since it has a range of 30 feet, I can go to the john without missing anything and can turn it off when commercials come on.
Another plus is that the aids work on the phone. I used to have to take the aid on the phone side out because it hurt my ear – no more.
When you’re hard of hearing, you spend a lot of time processing. By the time you figure out what someone has said to you, you’re already behind, and after getting derailed, it’s all too easy to think, “Why bother?” and avoid interaction. Now I’m kicking ass on “Jeopardy” and can keep up pretty well as long as you don’t whisper or turn your head away.