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.
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 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.