Archive for the 'NHS consultations' Category

Testing, Testing…

“Hiss? Ah, I think I know what that could be”, said the extremely helpful audiologist, “there’s an air-con fan running, I’ll turn it off for a moment and see if that’s the noise you’re hearing.” It wasn’t, but after some vague sound descriptors from me and further experimentation with the expansion and compression settings on the aids, the hiss was banished. It took a little longer to actually do than to describe here, but ‘A La Recherche du Temps Perdu’ has already been written so I’ll spare you an epic account of check-box clicking.

Hearing aids sorted, it was now time to move on to the really exciting business of setting up the ReSound Multi Mic. Months of preparation had gone in to preparing for this groundbreaking moment, but it turned out that the aids were initially not as excited about talking to the Multi Mic as I was. They doggedly refused to leave airplane mode until I had practically snapped their battery doors off with my clumsy openings and closings to the prescribed instructions. Fortunately, the extra time afforded by this complication allowed me to come to terms with the fact that hearing aids could even have an airplane mode, and I made a mental note to remember not to send any aircraft into an accidental nosedive by listening to iTunes whilst airborne.

Now for the really, really exciting bit: hearing distant/ quiet speech wirelessly. The very helpful audiologist clipped the Multi-Mic to his lanyard and retreated to the farthest corner of the room, by chance mirroring the exact  behaviour of a student trying to escape from me during a hard of hearing tutorial. He uttered some words and waited for my reaction. It was impressive.

“OH MY GOD!!! That’s absolutely amazing!!! I can hear every word!!!” I shrieked, leaning right back in my seat to listen for further bon mots, just like other people do, instead of being bent double. Blimey, this was awesome. Amazingly, at almost the same time, someone shrieked “OH MY GOD!!! That’s absolutely amazing!!! I can hear every word!!!”, and this stopped further expressions of absolute amazement in their tracks, while a short circuited Cookie Bite Cortex tried to work out what the heck was going on. It turned out the other voice was actually mine being picked up from the far end of the room and wirelessly beamed back to me as an echo, so I’ll have to see how that one works out when I’m waxing lyrical during group tutorials. I don’t want to accuse anyone of talking complete rubbish only to discover that it’s actually me on a 40 millisecond time delay.

Demonstration over, I had to make a snap decision on whether to go for a 50% mix of multi-mic and hearing aids when in wireless mode, or 100% Multi Mic, so I opted for 100% Multi Mic to get my money’s worth (£372 inc.VAT to be precise). This is in the hope that with studio background noise levels muted slightly by silenced tulip domes, hearing through the Multi-Mic is going to be the way forward. Whether I have made a terrible decision there remains to be seen once live student trials commence in just under two weeks’ time, but whatever happens I’m stuck with it until my follow up appointment in 3 months’ time. Fortunately I have been allowed to hold on to the old Danalogics in the meantime, just in case any nasty surprises emerge in the real world.

With everything fully set up and tested, it was time to pack everything back into its box and release me to the wilds. I thanked the extremely helpful audiologist profusely for his interventions, and returned to work with high hopes…

Wireless at last!

A flat iPhone battery and a last minute decision to update its software nearly derailed planetary alignment prior to attending Clinic O, but fortunately disaster was averted and I arrived safely in the waiting area at my appointed time. When my name was called, I trotted to the soundproof room with an air of great expectancy, and marvelled that this could not be in greater contrast to some of my earlier experiences. Once inside, I whipped off the Danalogics and eagerly assumed the position for otoscopic inspection.

“There’s a bit of wax in there, but I think we’re okay”, said the extremely helpful audiologist, “but it’s worth pointing out that your right eardrum looks a bit…er,…wet?”

I briefly considered that the recent exertions of work might be causing my brain to liquefy and leak out through an undetected perforation in my eardrum, before recognising the actual cause.

“Oh, I know what that is”, I pronounced with great authority, “it’ll be the almond oil. I’ve been ladling it in for the last two weeks. It’s everywhere.”

I had now qualified to proceed to the programming stage, and it was a great relief to discover that the original settings from the Danalogics could simply be copied across to the new aids. Blood, sweat and umpteen sound-induced frights in Glasgow Central station had gone into those precisely tailored settings, and the thought of starting anew was a little daunting.

I now turned my attention to getting a glimpse of the aids. In previous encounters, the emotional response to the sight of new aids has always been an initial gulp of silent horror followed by polite beige resignation, but this time, I nearly jumped out of my chair like an internet cat presented with a surprise cucumber.

Oh. My. God.

I shrieked at the sight of two tiny scarlet beans with programming wires attached, and couldn’t believe that these lacquered little beauties were mine. I even had to touch them to make sure they were real. If the NHS Danalogics were chipolatas, these ReSound UP Smart babies were a zingy dash of sauce. Whatever next! I peered closer and thought I’d died and gone to hearing aid heaven…the monstrous volume wheel was gone!  The sight of a hearing aid back panel with no unsightly protrusions induced a surprise pang of regret as I suddenly realised that my NHS hearing aid pimping days were over. Like so many of my other talents these days, my prowess with adhesive film was now redundant. Still, there was always the possibility that I could resume my pimping career in future, since the surprise invitation, back in April, to choose a colour, had come with the caveat that if one aid got lost or broken then I’d get a beige replacement.

But that didn’t matter right now. The seamlessly red Up Smart beans were placed weightlessly on my ears and I was asked not to make a noise while the programming bit with the loud noises was carried out. I suppressed the usual urge to suddenly make an involuntary noise when asked not to, then sat back and gloated at my great fortune while graphs came and went on the computer screen.

Then, came the moment of wireless hearing truth. I was switched on and the silence of the soundproof room finally presented itself to my ears through the new aids.

“How’s that?” asked the extremely helpful audiologist.

Oh no. I could hardly bring myself to say the words.

“I can hear a hiss…”


to be continued…

The Upgrade part 3: Will hissssssstory repeat itself?

the mighty chipolata

“Good news, no great change since your last hearing test”, announced the charming audiologist as I handed the sweaty button-push back. “There’s a mild loss in the low frequencies, but nothing significant”.

I peered at the screen while she did a bit of wire untangling for the next bit, and beamed with pride as I spotted a perfect 0dB threshold in both ears at 4KHz. I always like to do well in a test, but zero dB, wow. This was actually 10dB better than it was back in 2010, so I surmised that I should be able to enjoy the hissing of leaves on the trees, the hissing of the sea, and the hissing of hearing aid circuitry for many more years to come. In fact, if things kept up at this rate of improvement, I might even be able to hear the hissing of other people’s hearing aid circuitry in five years’ time.

“Okay, you know the drill”, said the charming audiologist, as sound probes were wiggled into my ears and the chipolatas were wired up ready for programming. The Oticons, now prostrate and deaf on the table, looked tiny and vulnerable in comparison; I remembered my tragic abandonment of the Siemens Chroma S back in 2012 and vowed that this time, the Oticons were coming home with me until I knew that things were going to be alright. If the performance of the mighty chipolatas matched up to their size, I would be happy to let the Oticons go to NHS hearing aid heaven. If it didn’t…well, it didn’t bear thinking about, so I decided not to, just yet.

After the initial programming, the charming audiologist set about a bit of on-screen fiddling with settings, and I started to become anxious every time a hiss or distortion entered the setup. I wished, not for the first time, that I could do the fiddling bit myself, but after a short while, her work was done and the moment of truth arrived.

“Right, I’m just going to talk for a bit so that you can tell me how it sounds”, she said. I listened carefully, relieved that although I could hear some hiss thanks to my freak bat ear peak at 4KHz, it was nowhere near as loud as the last time with the original Danalogics. I’d rather have no hiss at all, but I could live with it. To my cookiebite ears, the 2012 originals had sounded like a basket of chips being lowered into a deep fat fryer at the initial fitting. This time, other than a mild hiss  and air-con sound, there was nothing distinctive to comment on, but there never is in a soundproof room with air-con. Result.

“Sounds okay –  ” I stopped in my tracks.

“Oh… my voice sounds different…not dramatically so, but…different…” I struggled in vain for a description to the sound, but nothing came apart from ‘boingyness’ and I thought I’d better just keep that one to myself since I was supposed to be articulate. I certainly couldn’t hear anything intrusively bad, so after a run-through of the controls and a small tantrum of disbelief upon discovering the fact that there was a volume wheel instead of a push button, no default beep indicator on the volume, and no mute setting, I decided I was ready to return to the outside world.

I thanked the charming audiologist for her genuinely charming and painstaking attentions, slid the sleeping Oticons off the edge of the table into my handbag, and set off with the chipolatas on my ears to experience a whole new world of Danalogic sound.

The Upgrade part 2: Maybe they might be taking them after all…

hearing aids with wings

The very nice new audiologist must have noted my intensely misplaced interest in the Deafblind poster in the waiting room, because she warned me to watch my step on the raised threshold of the audiometry room as I entered. I was very impressed by her charming and attentive manner which made me feel slightly less apprehensive about potentially having to wave goodbye to the Oticon Spirit Zests. I had become rather attached to them, and it occurred to me that they had been listening in on every conversation I’ve had for the last 3 years. Ah, if hearing aids could talk, what tales they could tell, I mused poetically, wondering if if I could patent the idea for espionage purposes. Fortunately the Oticons had their battery drawers open during my previous visit to clinic O last month, and couldn’t hear their digital death sentence being issued by the hearing aid re-tubing lady. I cast my mind back to that fateful morning:

“We’re discontinuing services and spares on these Oticons”, she had announced gravely, as she rummaged through the tubes box, ” I’ll change them for you just now while we’ve still got some left in stock, but this will be the last time…you’re actually due for an upgrade anyway…you’ll get something nice and new instead, isn’t that good!”

“But…but…” I spluttered, “I got these ones ordered specially because of my type of loss, the standard issue ones didn’t work for me, I could hear the circuit noise…what will I get instead?”

Please don’t say Danalogic i-FIT 71, pleeeease’,  I beseeched my inner deity, despite it having let me down on quite a few beseechings lately.

“It’ll be one of these”, she said, reaching for the silicone ear model and plucking a brown chipolata-sized hearing aid from its rubber earhole. I should have been distressed at its size and general appearance, which was that of a partially inflated water balloon, but I’ve come a long way since nearly fainting at my first sight of a tiny NHS beige prawn back in 2010. Besides, the chipolata didn’t look like the previous i-fit I’d had, so there was still hope. Hey, maybe it was actually a top-notch Phonak or something…tssk, typical of me to have assumed the worst, I sighed. I tried desperately to align the elusive close vision sweet spot of my bifocals with the name on the casing to see if it started with ‘P’, but the re-tubing lady got in there first.

“It’s the new, improved Danalogic i-FIT es 71″ she announced cheerily, before turning her attention back to the disembowelled Oticons and doing a bit more noisy rummaging in drawers.

“But…but…” I spluttered, before the rummaging suddenly stopped and I was hit by the next devastating blow. Having to get my ears syringed again in preparation for the new fitting was bad enough, but there was worse to come; it seemed there was only one longer No. 2 tube left, so I’d have to have a shorter No. 1 on the right aid. I had a flashback to my last experience with a No.1 tube and panicked.

“That won’t work” I blurted unintentionally forcefully, giving the re-tubing lady a bit of a fright. She hadn’t realised what kind of peculiar exterior and interior head anatomy she was dealing with when innocently making her suggestion. I felt bad for being so ungracious, but it was just that the thought of having to gurn my way through the day to keep a too-short tube in place was very unappealing, especially in conjunction with the bizarre cranial contortions necessary to see anything through my new bifocal contact lenses. If all this kept up, I’d have to start wearing a clown suit to work in order to lend some gravitas to my academic image. No, this wouldn’t do at all.

“Just fish the old tube out the bin, and stick a new dome on it” I said, very pragmatically.

The Upgrade part 1: They’ll never take my hearing aids

“Don’t let them take your old hearing aids off you Hun”, pleaded the spouse as I set off for my visit to Clinic O this morning, to be lavished with a full hearing aid upgrade. I reassured him that, until such time as the upgrade had been given a full trial, the Oticons would be going nowhere without me, unless I was chloroformed in the hospital lift by the rogues who illegally sell NHS hearing aids to unsuspecting bidders on eBay. Fifteen minutes later, in the lift up to Clinic O, I made sure that I didn’t turn my back on anyone, just in case. At the second floor, I got out alone and with hearing aids intact and set off on the walk along the empty corridor. There was not a soul in sight, and when I emerged into the eerily empty waiting room, the ENT reception desk was unattended and all the doors to the rooms in the Hearing Aid Clinic were locked.

“Maybe they saw my name in the book and everyone’s hiding”, I thought, before realising there were still another five minutes to go until my rousingly early 8am appointment. I took my pick of the seats in the best vantage point for name call, and since it was so early that the telly wasn’t even on yet, I kept myself busy by putting my latest trial pair of multifocal contact lenses through their paces. I had been ready to throw in the towel after the first pair, but the optician is clearly an optimist and/ or likes a challenge. I focused randomly on the distant noticeboard, but all was a blur apart from the familiar sign made from four A4 printouts taped together saying HEARING AID CLINIC in one foot high capitals. Hmmm. It seemed I’d have to adopt my new multifocal distance vision pose to force the lenses into the correct alignment with my eyeballs to see any thing else on the board. I took a deep breath, turned my head as far as it would go to the left, then swivelled my eyes as far as they would go to the right, whilst keeping my chin firmly over the left shoulder. The noticeboard swam briefly into focus, but as I wondered whether this ludicrous posture was really sustainable as a multifocal vision solution whilst running for trains, etc, the first poster I read turned out to be very apposite.

Having trouble hearing? Having trouble seeing?” enquired the headline  in a cheery fashion, before everything drifted annoyingly out of focus again.

“Hell, yes!” I said to myself, reassured that I had come to the right place. I read on excitedly, but it turned out that I had not ended up in Specsavers Hearcare by accident, after all. The poster was actually an invitation to sign up for a meeting of Deafblind Scotland and, despite the clear resonance of its headline, I’m not quite eligible for that particular club. Just as I was puzzling over how the intended target audience would access the poster, my name was called, and I was invited to step into the audiometry booth.

Hearing Hell

cone of silence

“How can I help you today?” said the very nice audiologist to Clinic O’s cookiebite bad penny. I had turned up this time in a last ditch bid to see if there was anything that could be done to reduce the overwhelming amount of amplified background noise which is currently rattling my cochleas, and my nerves, in the architecturally stunning new learning spaces at the Institute of Artistic Endeavour.

“Can I show you some pictures of where I work”, I pleaded, “then what I’m asking might make more sense. When I say I’m a lecturer, people assume I stand in a lecture theatre talking all day, but I actually spend most of my time listening; doing one to one tutorials and large and small group discussions in the studio with a group of 50 on average. I’ve only got a mild loss; it’s always been tricky because of the environment, but now that we’ve moved to open plan for the entire department it’s impossible. I don’t know what to do…if I take the hearing aids out, the noise is vastly reduced, but then I can’t make out what the students are saying in normal conversation. I can hear fine in quiet spaces, but I’m rendered deaf in here… ” I pulled out my iPad to show the photos of my studio on an open mezzanine above the main studios.

“Oh dear, I see what you mean, you haven’t got a hope with hearing aids in there”, said the very nice audiologist. “It’s all hard concrete surfaces and glass, and with all the noise coming up from below, and in the sides from the refectory, and 120 people in the space all doing different activities, no hearing aids would cope well with that. I doubt there’s much I can do, but let’s take a look at your settings, there might be some small adjustments that can be made. You never know.”

A few mouseclicks later, and the disappointing news came that all the noise reduction features were already activated. It seemed there wasn’t much room for manoeuvre. The very nice audiologist explained that a lot of background noise inhabits the same frequencies of the cookie bite zone where the amplification is required, therefore reduce the background noise, and you reduce the amplification on voices at the same time. Catch 22, hearing aid style. Can’t hear with ’em, can’t hear without ’em.

Nonetheless, she did some adjustments on the standalone speech in noise programme for me to try, leaving the speech in noise settings on the automatic programme unchanged, so that I wouldn’t be any worse off if the tweaks didn’t work.

They didn’t. Cone of Silence it is, then…


sunny corridor

After my visit to the dentist on Wednesday, I am pleased to report that dental drills are much quieter than they were when I was last on the sharp end of one 15 years ago. Funny, that. Fortunately, no further x-rays were necessary, so the Oticons remained unscathed, apart from a light showering with water infused with powdered tooth, when the drill coolant suddenly started spraying out at a peculiar angle.

First thing the following morning, me and my hearing aids presented punctually, and in full working order, for a routine service at clinic O.

“What can I do for you today?” enquired the very nice hearing aid lady.

“Just a routine service…and can you leave the retention tails on the tubes, they won’t stay in my ears otherwise…and can you activate the ‘Mute’ setting, it’s been activated twice but it doesn’t seem to work…and can I give you these Chroma S aids back, I keep forgetting to take them out of my handbag every time I come in…don’t want anyone to think I’ve stolen them…oh, and here’s the remote for them as well, it’s brand new, might be useful for an old person…”

I paused to draw a breath and glanced surreptitiously in my handbag for a second, before adding, “oh, and can I get some batteries as well? Mustn’t forget the batteries, I’m nearly out…”

Hearing aid lady cheerfully set about complying with my machine-gun fire list of requests, and I congratulated myself on having written them all down before I came in, so that I wouldn’t forget as usual. After replacing the tubes, she enlisted the help of saintly hearing aid chap to activate the Mute setting in the software and, as a heartwarming cross appeared in the onscreen dialog box, I felt a glow at the thought of turning off screaming toddlers and people with grating voices on the train with one touch of a button. Ah, yes, things were looking up. The sun was shining, my toothache was gone, my tubes still had their tails on and, unbeknownst to me, there were yet more riches to come.

“You’ve got room on there for one more programme”, said hearing aid chap enthusiastically, “do you want me to activate the loop for you? It can be really useful…”

I wondered if I had died and gone to heaven.

“That would be great,” I said, “I’d been wondering if the loop setting might be useful when we move to our shiny new building in November.” I pictured myself lounging at the back of the spanking new state of the art lecture theatre with my eyes closed, just like everyone else for a change. People could whisper distractingly in my ear, tap on their bleeping mobile devices and pointlessly rustle paper right beside me all they liked…I would be able to hear the speaker and not them. Bliss.

A few mouseclicks later, and my souped-up Oticons were ready to change my life. I bade the very helpful staff a good day, and set off along the sun-filled corridor with a newly acquired spring in my step and my fingers on the Mute button, just for the hell of it.

Little did I know, I was going to be seeing the sun-filled corridor again before the day was out…

Tails Of Woe

BatteryBot admires the sleek contours of the new Oticon Spirit Zests and gets to grips with their unfamiliar snap-on tubes, while the Easter Bunny has a go at selecting the right size domes.

“What’s the matter with you now?” said the spouse, as a heavy black cloud descended on the settee.

“I knew these tubes were too short”, I whined, “and I need tails…look! the domes have come right out of my ears. I’ve tried all the spares and they’re all too short…the sound keeps cutting out. What use is that?” I gurned for a bit, then waggled my jaw ferociously from side to side like a demented sheep to prove my point.

The spouse ignored this seductive display of wifely attractiveness, recognising it as the familiar aftermath of a hearing aid appointment. He was going to have to brace himself in order to make a masculine practical suggestion.

“You’ll have to go back, then”, he said. “Why don’t you phone clinic O in the morning.”

“I can’t…they’ll go mad…they thought they’d seen the back of me by giving me all those different domes and tubes. If I phone up less than 24 hours later, they’ll have me down as an awkward customer…I’ve probably used up their entire budget already…oh god.”

After a sleepless night of mental preparation, I phoned clinic O and was back in the soundproof room by lunchtime.

“What can we do for you today?” said the latest member of the audiology team to be assigned to my seemingly never-ending case.

I did another highly unattractive display of jaw waggling, and threw in some eyebrow raising for good measure. I then completed my new party trick by popping the domes right out of my lugholes with a simulated yawn.

“Hmmmm…I think you need a longer tube”, said the hearing aid lady, probably thinking I was suffering from some sort of complex neurological disorder after witnessing my facial gymnastics. “Let’s try the next size up.” I saw a pair of scissors come out, and this reminded me to ask her not to cut the tails off the new tubes. Snip. Too late.

I decided not to push my luck by asking for the tails to be re-instated, and said thank you instead. I wandered off down the corridor enjoying the now continuous soundscape of clinic O, and waggling my jaw with impunity.

I Think We Got Something Just Then

It was the moment of truth (again) at Clinic O on Tuesday, as the programming leads were disconnected from the shiny new Oticon Spirit Zests which the very nice senior audiologist had managed to wangle on my behalf. I was a bit disappointed that she wasn’t doing the fitting, but hearing aid chap was doing a thoroughly fine job in her absence, in the hope that it might be the last Clinic O would see of me for a while.

Nothing was too much trouble. “No problem”, he said with saintly forbearance, when I told him that I like the retention tails to be left on the tubes. Unfortunately it was just a fraction of a second after he had cut them off with a scalpel. A couple of fresh tubes with tails were snapped on, and I was soon reporting on the sounds of the soundproof room, as requested. I could now hear a faint circuit noise type sound, but I was told that the air conditioning was on. I decided that phenomenological proof of whether the noise was coming from the hearing aid or the air conditioning could never be established, so I decided to focus instead on reporting the fact that the sound was cutting out every time I moved my jaw or raised my eyebrows. My report was less than articulate and took the form of a high pitched strangled whine and a frustrated exclamation of “Bloody hearing aids, why are they always such a pain in the arse?”

“Ah well, you see, that’s because the tails are getting in the way”, said hearing aid chap in a saintly fashion, despite my tantrum. “I’ll cut them off for just now and give you a spare pair with tails on, and some larger domes that you can try if they still won’t stay put. You can find the combination that works best. It’ll save you having to come back every five minutes.” I thought this was a jolly good idea, and happily abandoned my initial hypothesis that the tubes were too short.

Some more saintly forbearance was required as I practised changing the volume control and programme settings.

“Oh…what…they’re not making clicking noises when I press the volume”, I whimpered, wondering what was going wrong this time. Hearing aid chap patiently reconnected them to the computer and checked the settings.

“Try that,” he responded, positively beatifically, “you should be hearing something now.”

“Nope, still not doing anything”, I said. Hearing aid chap held an aid up to his ear and reported that it was, in fact, making a noise when he pressed the button. Quite a loud one, apparently. I cringed as I remembered Mrs Richards in Fawlty Towers complaining to Basil that the radio didn’t work, and wondered if everyone sitting next to me in meetings was going to wonder what the strange woodpecker noise was whenever I changed the volume.

“Don’t worry”, said hearing aid chap patiently, “I’ll increase the frequency of the beep to one that you can hear better. It’s set to 1kHz at the moment.”

Unfortunately, there was no dog whistle 16 kHz option in the volume beep frequency preferences, so we settled for the max frequency of 2 kHz, which was marginally less near the bottom of the cookie bite, and selected LOUD to make up for it.

“Yes, yes…I think we got something then”, I said, making a mental note to only press the volume button in quiet surroundings, and when no-one else was around.

Digital Obsolescence

It was decision time at Clinic O, as I finally handed back the hissing Danalogics and said I’d stick with the faithful, if slightly quirky, Chromas. We’d been through a lot together, me and the Chromas, and I realised I’d come to love their classic beige NHS orthotic styling and big comfy domes. I was now looking forward to a few final adjustments to sort out my slobbery dental fricatives, before waving goodbye to Clinic O and wandering off into the audiological sunset.

The very nice senior audiologist totally understood the reasons for my decision, but wasn’t as elated as I thought she might be at the prospect of not seeing my name in the appointment book every five minutes.

“Those Chromas are getting pretty obsolete now, you know…it’s not really ideal”, she said pensively, whilst beheading the Danalogics and handing me back the worryingly large stash of ReSound leatherette pouches and unused wax picking accoutrements that I’d amassed from my frequent visits over the last few months.

“I had a word with my boss before you came in”, she continued, “there are still a couple of options left if you want to try them?”

“Tell me more…” I said, leaning forward with interest.


Blog Stats

  • 184,643 hits