The New Voices in My Head

 

Technology can be life-changing – and weird.  Guest writer David Drake, who last year wrote about upholding the family hearing aid tradition, shares his experiences with a new hearing aid/cellphone combination.

 

by David Drake

 

This past year, I started hearing some new voices in my head when I’m on the phone.

My new set of hearing aids connect directly and wirelessly to my iPhone, without the use of a separate streamer around my neck. They are great; I can answer and initiate calls easily, adjust my hearing aids from my iPad screen, and so on. The sound that used to come from a telecoil in one ear has been replaced with binaural Bluetooth speakers (aka my hearing aids) that deliver rich, comprehensible voices.

The new technology does cause some funny experiences, especially if I’m in a face-to-face conversation when I happen to get a phone call.  Suddenly there’s a telephone ringing urgently in both ears—which to me is as clear as day but of course unheard by anyone else. Let me say, it’s very hard to carry on a conversation when there’s a telephone ringing in both ears!  

The person with whom I’ve been talking suddenly sees me adopt a strange, distracted, middle-distance facial expression, one that is normally associated with a three-month old having an exultant experience in his Huggie. No matter how hard I try to keep a professional face, I know that I’ve got that expression, only without the smile.

“Oh my God, is he having a stroke?” I can sense them wondering.

At first, I tried to over-explain, but it just made things worse: “Oh, see, I’m getting a phone call… only… umm… you can’t hear that there’s a phone ringing in my ear… I’m the only one who can hear it… Really… Oh God, that doesn’t sound good, does it?… I mean, I’m getting a phone call, no… really… I am…and the voice on the phone will go right into my head, do you understand? There will be voices in my head that you can’t hear. Oh God, this is getting even worse!”

I began to get pitying looks. People inched away.

And the thing is, with Bluetooth, the binaural sound really does seem to be in the “middle” of one’s head, rather than off to the periphery of one ear, as with a traditional phone. It’s a definite advantage, but one that takes some getting used to. So, now, when I get an important (albeit silent) call in the middle of a conversation, I’ve learned that it’s best not to explain at all.  A quick, “Excuse me, I’ve got to take this call,” a swipe on the phone’s screen, and I just carry on from there.  My colleagues have adjusted without protest, although I still see curious smiles as I make the appropriate swipes and taps on my phone.

I’m still learning how my new technology brings voices into int my head. By tapping the home button three times, I can turn my phone into a remote microphone in a restaurant. People can pass it around, a la Phil Donahue (am I dating myself?) and I can hear everything.  I don’t miss anything. 
 
But there are days when I wish all this technology weren’t necessary just to hear a simple phone call. In those moments, I like to remember the second sentence said by Edward the III, after his famous phrase, “Honi soit qui mal y pense”. (“May he be shamed who thinks badly of it.”)  edward

The king went on to say, “Tel qui s’en rit aujourd’hui, s’honorera de la porter”. “Those who laugh at this today, tomorrow will be proud to wear it.”

 

david-drake

David Drake is the founder and headmaster of the White Oak School in Westfield, Massachusetts, a school serving bright students with dyslexia and related learning disabilities. He lives with his family in Northampton.

 

About Gael Hannan

Gael Hannan is a writer, speaker and advocate on hearing loss issues. In addition to her weekly blog for HearingHealthMatters.org, which has an international following, Gael wrote the acclaimed book "The Way I Hear It: A Life with Hearing Loss". She is regularly invited to present her uniquely humorous and insightful work to appreciative audiences around the world. Gael has received many awards for her work, which includes advocacy for a more inclusive society for people with hearing loss. She lives with her husband on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

10 Comments

  1. I was used to my steamer pro around my neck making it very easy to answer my phone so I invested in an Iwatch thinking it would provide the same convenience. However I was disappointed to learn today that there is no Bluetooth connection on the watch so now I have to dig for my phone when it rings. I’m disappointed.

    1. Hi Olive,
      I like the idea of a smart watch acting as a streamer. It would be harder to forget, and also one less piece of technology to wear! I know that my HA’s can use the smart watch as a controller, but, as you noted, it’s not a streamer. If a pair of HA’s currently require a streamer, an iWatch will not replace the streamer. However, now that at least two major HA companies have models that incorporate the streamer’s functionality into the BTE shell, my guess is that that may become a trend. Anyway, my sympathies on the smart watch; I think there could be an entire message board of examples of technology that all of us have bought, only to find out that it didn’t “connect” in the way we’d hoped! I’ve got a drawer of the stuff.

  2. Hi Kathi,
    Great question. I assume you’re asking about the pairing of my PBX-office deskset with my iPhone? Here’s what I did, hopefully by way of answering your question: at ReSound’s suggestion, I bought an inexpensive dongle ($16?) that is typically used to allow recording of business calls. Only instead of plugging a tape recorder into the dongle, one plugs in the little Mini Microphone that ReSound sells. It’s job is to turn the desk phone’s audio into a bluetooth signal that the hearing aids can receive. So there’s the dongle, and there’s the Mini Microphone, and I just leave them permanently connected to my desk phone. When I want to make a call on that phone I go to the ReSound app, choose the Mini Mic’s symbol, and I’m connected. Two clicks or pushes, in other words, and I’ve got a clear dial tone. You hold the desk phone’s handset naturally, your voice goes into the regular lower part of the handset while your audio is being beamed to your hearing aids by the Mini Mic. So…. to try to answer your question, I believe ReSound devices are compatible with both iPhone and Android, so I think pairing would be possible with any modern cell phone regardless of what system you’re using. On a related topic, this kind of arrangement is definitely a “reasonable accommodation” to your hearing loss if you’re at work, and you could talk to your HR department about supporting it.

  3. Does your phone have the capability of pairing with any phone other than the iPhone? I’ve read that it is a proprietary BT pairing protocol, and doesn’t/won’t work with any other cellphone.

  4. Hi Carol,
    The iPhone has a built-in feature called Live Listen, which, when turned on, turns the phone into a hand held mic transmitting to bluetooth enabled HA’s.
    On the home screen, go to Settings. Then go to General. Then go to Accessibility. Then go to Hearing Devices. You can then turn on “Control on Lock Screen”, so you won’t even have to turn your phone on to use Live Listen. Anyway, what happens then is that if you triple-click the home button, you’ll see something like “Carol’s Hearing Aids” and an option that says “Start Live Listen.” Touch that option and you’re in business. I hope this helps! (You will need to “pair” the iPhone to your hearing aids the first time out, but that’s usually a one-time thing.)

    By the way, that same “Hearing Devices” screen does allow you to turn off the “ring sound” of an incoming call, if you prefer. You’d be depending on the vibrate feature to detect calls in that case, and I don’t always notice those.

  5. Thanks for your article, David.
    I’m using the Resound Linx2 with iPhone 6, and yes, that overwhelming ringing in both ears (when a call comes in) stops everything else! Wish there were some options available (like modulating the ring volume when it’s coming into my HAs!)
    Question: Where are you landing with three pushes of the home button that let’s you use your iPhone as a mic in restaurants?
    Thanks!

  6. Hi David W!,
    Wonderful story, and we can all relate! “At least he has his dog to lead him home!” Priceless. Thanks for sharing! As for your questions, I’m using a plain iPhone 6. I guess you’ll have to do some research with the manufacturers to check compatibility with earlier phones. As for the mechanics? Wow… all I know is that all the wizardry that used to be in the streamer is now in the BTE itself, and that’s a pretty great thing. You download an app to the phone that not only allows you to pair the devices but that also allows you to tune the HA to different environments, adjust volume, cut down wind noise, check batteries, etc. Now, the HA’s will automatically switch over to your iPhone for phone calls, but you can also manually switch over the HA’s to be able to receive from a television-linked transmitter (great sound, btw) or, if you get clever, you can patch a system together to let you use an office-style PBX deskset phone. In those cases, the app lets you choose, graphically, which device you want to connect with. This technology is a great new advance for people who use their cell phones a lot, for voice or for music. And again, thanks for the great story!

  7. I thank you also for the information. I used an iPhone 4 with a streamer and at first it was wonderful, however, I had difficulties with the number of steps needed to get to the point of answering. Then my streamer had some problems. By the sound of it your system has gone further and works much better. Can you tell me what iPhone you use and if it’s the mechanics of the phone or some app that makes you able to by pass the streamer. I enjoyed your description of answering the phone while talking to someone eye to eye. Have had a similar experience when my streamer worked. I once heard a former student say, “Look at that poor old guy talking to himself. At least he’s got his dog to lead him home.” Funny and frustrating. Thanks David

  8. Hi Laurie,
    I actually haven’t experienced a delay, and the sound quality is great… not only is it bluetooth, but it’s binaural, so it’s much, much more intelligible than listening to a phone with just one ear.
    The only tricky part is the initial “pairing” of the iphone to the hearing aids, but once that’s done it seems pretty stable. I’m using the ReSound Linx system, but a friend has the new Oticon with some similar features. My version of the ReSound has the telecoil built in (in case I’m handed a phone that I’m not “paired” with) and it handles the bluetooth current drain by using 675-size batteries. The BTE size is almost the same as a device using smaller batteries, but I get great battery life because of the 675 (the blue tag).

  9. Thank you for sharing your experience David. I am wondering if you experience any delay with the phone conversation. I had tried Bluetooth a few years ago with my Blackberry but found the delay in the hearing/transmission and wondering if the newer technology has dealt with this issue?
    Thanks. Laurie

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