respect hearing aid technology

R.E.S.P.E.C.T-ing Your Hearing Technology

I’m a bit terrified of technology.

Maybe that’s not quite true. My feelings about technology – especially assistive hearing technology – are complex. I love what technology does for me, I just don’t understand how it works. So it fills me with a huge sense of awe, of need, and of gratitude.

I also feel terror when some important piece of technology – that connects me to everything – stops working. And/or fear (slightly less than terror) that it will stop functioning. Because that’s what frequently happens, but only on a Friday night with no hope of audiological help until at least Monday. Or on a trip far from home, and probably also on a weekend. So, what happens when lightning strikes and something happens to my hearing aid, CI sound processor, and I forgot to bring backups? What happens when my smartphone screen goes black and stays black? Elevated heart rate, sweat on the face and a voice that goes up an octave and doubles its volume.

I may not know how the darn things work, but I’m an experienced expert at what makes them not work.

  • Leaving a hearing aid, naked and exposed, on a bedside table – the perfect midnight snack for a huge sheepdog.
  • Stepping on something that goes crunch, and oh gosh, it was my hearing aid, with half its earmold now in bits.
  • Stepping into the shower, thinking how lovely the water sounds. Wait! I’m not supposed to hear water in the shower – and I crash through the shower door.
  • Losing it. The hearing aid and its case are just gone. How can this be? It takes an hour of frenzied searching, before I find it, inexplicably on the windowsill behind a curtain.
  • No batteries. I thought I had backup batteries, but apparently not. Off to the nearest drugstore, not always easy in the days before pharmacies were open 24/7.

These days I have a great deal more respect for my technology anda greater appreciation for what life would be like without it. Back in the mid-1990s, I got my first CIC (completely-in-the canal) hearing aid. They were very new on the market, and although I was pleased at giving up the big beige monstrosity I’d been wearing for years, things started to go wrong almost immediately.

They had trouble getting a proper fit – as I talked, the darn thing would slowly slide up and out, and I was reduced to pushing it in every minute or so with my pointer-finger (a habit that I still have to this day). The battery cage broke off. I grumbled and ranted with frustration at each new problem, until the Hearing Husband stopped me in my tracks.

“Gael, they are not doing this just to frustrate you,” he said. “Look how far things have come. You have to have more respect for technology.”

And he was right, they weren’t out to get me. The hearing aid people ultimately solved the fitting problem and the manufacturer improved the battery cage hinge. I didn’t know it at the time, but the hearing aid industry was on the cusp of an explosion in innovation and before long, I would have unbelievable access to better sound and communication. Constantly improving captioning, digital technology, Bluetooth, hearing loops, and brilliant new designs became the norm in my hearing loss life.

I think that sometimes we depend on technology too much. Like, when you’re entering a public building, you stand in front of the door, expecting it to automatically open for you (like many of them do). Even worse is that you wait a couple of seconds longer, to give it a chance to do its job, before you finally see the word “PUSH’. That’s when you realize how dependent we’ve become on all things electronic and battery-operated.

Well, I’m a battery-operated, electricity-fueled babe with hearing loss and I’m not only grateful, I expect even more wonders to come. I’ve also learned not to leave home without making sure I have spare batteries. I try to keep my devices cleaned and charged (my charging station is a wild thing of beauty), and have a 95% success rate of putting my hearing aid and sound processor to bed at night in a lovely, comfy drying aid.

I’m still not sure how that hearing aid came to be on the floor or the behind  the curtains – now that is something to be scared about. 

 

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.

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