Archive for the 'Pimp your NHS hearing aid' Category

Countdown

Two eardrums were sighted by the practice nurse early yesterday morning, which is just as well, because apparently they don’t do wax removal any more. The Multi Mic has exited its box for charging, and the iPhone is finally unlocked and waiting. Now all that remains is to strip the Danalogics of their illegal zebra stripes, before beginning the final countdown to wireless connectivity at Clinic O tomorrow.

T minus 15 hours and counting…

 

 

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The Shape of Things to Come?

 

I received a shock answerphone message from Clinic O the other day, and had to listen to it several times to make sure I’d heard correctly. Apparently there will be a delay on my hearing aid review appointment…of approximately 17 weeks. The original appointment to make some tweaks to the volume required a mere 12 week wait, so dabbling with your settings on the NHS is now a very long-drawn out affair. At this rate, the new user could find themselves eligible for their 3 yearly upgrade before initial adjustments to their new hearing aid have successfully concluded.

While I wait for my far-off appointment, I am amusing myself by dreaming of the day when I no longer need to interact with the infuriating volume wheel on the Danalogics. According to this New Scientist article, one day I might even be able to control the volume with my tensed knuckles instead. Apparently, some clever scientists at Saarland University in Saarbrücken, Germany, have developed tattoos which can turn knuckles and freckles into smartphone controls.

Should the scientists at Saarland ever turn their attentions to the fiddly business of hearing aid controls instead of smartphones, my daily frustrations with the Danalogic iFIT 71 volume wheel could become a thing of the past.

For example, my right knuckle could be programmed to respond to tension from my clenched fist; as background noise suddenly intensifies while I’m having an important conversation, my whitening knuckles could send a command to my hearing aids to switch on the directional mics. Whenever someone starts hammering in the background while I’m doing a group tutorial, the digging of my fingernails into the tabletop could act as a signal to activate the mute setting. And when standing in front of a packed lecture theatre, I could discreetly swipe my knuckle tattoos to control the volume whilst my hearing aids are still on my ears. I currently have to take them off and peer at the volume dial through my reading glasses every time I accidentally brush the wheel with my hand when touching my hair.

Cool…

The original academic article from the Saarland team can be found here

See also DuoSkin tattoos from MIT Media Lab

I’m still waiting for someone to invent my hearing aid tattoos…

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It’s a Wrap

ha stickers silver2

During my most recent stint as a hearing research guinea pig at the MRC Institute of Hearing Research, the researcher asked if she could see my hearing aids to take a note of the model details. I did a surreptitious hygiene inspection and obediently passed one to her.

“Hmmm, the name seems to have worn off”, she said, peering at the naked beige underbelly in the hope of finding clues. I needed to step in.

“It’s a Danalogic i-FIT e-Series 71, courtesy of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde”, I said helpfully. “Also known as The Mighty Chipolata on account of its standard issue size and colour.”

Whether it was my unusually precise knowledge of the spec, or the unusual appearance of the aid which surprised her, I wasn’t sure.

“Danalogic? Really? …I’ve never seen one like this before”, she said, examining the two-tone results of my latest time saving decorative strategy. It involves applying self adhesive film only to the parts of the aid which are visible whilst on the ear, apart from the ugliest and most visible bit on top with all the buttons and holes which defies even the most dextrous decorator. The controls are the bit design forgot; they aesthetically scream ‘HEARING AIDS!!! AGHHH!!!’ and a mere glimpse can make people standing behind you in a ticket queue very restless. Even the most conformable self-adhesive material known to man* cannot surround the monstrous volume wheel and battery drawer protrusion without the whole thing looking like a badly wrapped parcel, or worse, a home made explosive device. Less is definitely more, I have decided, when working with sticky backed plastic and the Danalogic i-FIT 71.

If you’re in possession of a Glasgow-style NHS Danalogic yourself and you’d like to have a go at testing my minimalist wrapping strategy, here is a handy minimalist sticker template for the model shown. The Mighty Chipolatas in the picture are wearing lovely 60 micron Oracal film offcuts pinched from under my colleague’s desk while she’s on holiday (sorry Jo!). They’ve got blue metallic embroidery thread on the tubes.

*Oracal High Performance Cast 751, you can flawlessly wrap every part of a racing car with this sleek and cutting edge stuff, but the Danalogic’s control panel has got it beat. Mind you, if you think wrapping a hearing aid is a bit fiddly, spare a thought for these guys (and don’t be tempted to use a blowtorch on your HAs)

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No Greater Love…

i heart hearing aids

“This is all your fault!” I shouted at the spouse on the station steps, “If you hadn’t decided to get the same train as me this morning, I wouldn’t have forgotten to put my hearing aids in!

The spouse took a deep breath. Now was not the time for him to question the logic of this last statement.

“…Today of all days,” I ranted on, “I can’t be late for the assessments… and I need to hear what’s being said!”

“Do you want to go back and get them?” interjected the spouse rather sensibly. “We can just get a taxi into work instead.”

I hesitated slightly at the attractiveness of this proposition, but decided to take a more hormonally irrational approach.

“No.” I said, “I’ve managed to get by without the damn things for forty-odd years, and I bloody hate taxis.” A vibration on the metal steps underfoot spurred me into action. “Hurry up!” I snapped,  “we need to get tickets, I can hear the train coming…”

The spouse rolled his eyes as he watched a dustbin lorry rumble past. It didn’t sound anything like a train to him.

Half an hour later, as everyone gathered with their clipboards in the studio at work, my heart sank as I realised I couldn’t make out the pre-assessment chit-chat. I felt a pang of remorse and wished I’d listened to the spouse on the station steps instead of shouting at him. Why hadn’t I just gone back to get the bloody aids when I had the chance? What an idiot. This was going to be a very long day.

Just as the assessment proceedings were finally about to get underway, the studio door opened and the spouse appeared. What was he doing here? He was supposed to be hanging an exhibition in another building…I was confused. Heads turned as he strode in and handed me a tiny plastic snack box. I couldn’t believe it. This was either the smallest packed lunch of all time, or…

“My hearing aids!” I exclaimed, as I noisily snapped the box open in front of my curious colleagues, “Thanks Hun!”

Unbeknownst to me, the spouse had waved me off at the entrance to work and gone all the way back home to fetch my ear gear. Even after being shouted at.

If I hadn’t already married him, dear readers, I’d have decided to marry him on the spot.

Fashion, body taboo style…

Fashion special mastheadDebora Dax Beer Belly Sweater

Above: Debora Dax Beer Belly Sweater and Cellulite Trousers image via Dezeen

Ever since unveiling my Age of Beige hearing aid stickers back in 2011, I’ve looked forward to the day when the fashion world would catch on to my radical Beige is the new Black concept, which shamelessly promotes NHS beige as the colour for those in the know.  When I saw the garment above, I thought that day had finally arrived, but it turns out that it’s actually part of a concept range based on female body image taboos.

Nevertheless, I like to think of the illustration above as the perfect fashion embodiment of how someone under the age of 50 feels on the walk back home from the hospital after a first NHS hearing aid fitting, and no one will persuade me otherwise.

Of course, a garment like this can’t be found on the high street, but for anyone out there who wants to join me at the beige neoprene cutting edge of NHS orthotic styling, there are a few more readily obtainable suggestions below…

ear gear beige   composite

Beige spray

Hearing Aids with Attitude

hearing aid tattoos

I can’t seem to find time to write anything these days, so here is a Photoshop version of my latest ongoing hearing aid pimping exercise instead. I can’t think of anything better than a nice tattoo to set off a pair of flesh coloured NHS hearing instruments, and I’m hoping they might intimidate those irritating people in shop queues who helpfully insist on poking you on the shoulder from behind, if you don’t move at the speed of Usain Bolt once a till becomes available.

It would appear that, for some people, the sight of hearing aids in a queue can bring out the same primitive instinct as the sight of a caravan ahead on the road; they become impatient to overtake even when the caravan is travelling at the same speed as all the other vehicles…

I Have A Dream

Nacht und Traume

One day, in a far-off digital future, all hearing aid users will be able to tune their hearing aids to their own specifications, all by themselves. Instead of just being able to choose between programmes which suit listening to the tv in quiet, conversing in a noisy restaurant, or trying to tune into a non-functioning loop, they will have access to multiple programmes tailored to individual activities in different types of acoustic spaces. They will be able to swap effortlessly between an open or closed fitting, and they will be able to prioritise music over speech if they feel like it.

Cookiebiters and reverse slopers will benefit most from this brave new world. Instead of being forced to endure a badly modified version of an algorithm designed to fit high frequency losses, they will have specially designed algorithms which will allow access to minute adjustments across the entire frequency spectrum, with smooth transitions in amplification which, for me, will mean no more terrifyingly loud keys in the C6 area of the piano keyboard. I will enjoy full harmonic resonance on the mid to lows when playing Schubert, and spend hours playing low notes with the left hand just because it sounds wonderful.

bass bung

Until that historic moment arrives, I am making do with my latest hearing aid hack for digital piano playing. The Kookybite Bass Bung® (pictured) transforms an open dome to sort of semi-closed for home musical purposes. Carved from a 60p eraser from WH Smith, it may be a little eccentric, but it works. By turning down the volume switch on my music programme, and trapping the previously lost low frequencies in my ear with the bung, the troublesome C6 zone is dampened, whilst resonance returns to the previously thin bass notes. My piano no longer sounds like the speakers are stuffed with cotton wool, and I have fallen back in love with it again after a rather prolonged playing hiatus. Naturally, speech is pretty incomprehensible with this arrangement, and your breathing becomes a bit Darth Vader, but this doesn’t matter unless you’re playing your piano in a crowded cocktail bar whilst suffering from a lung infection.

One day, when I find someone who knows anything about fitting cookie bite hearing loss, I shall get them to set up my hearing aids to do this properly, so that I can enjoy playing Schubert without the unfortunate downside of being deafened by passing cars…

 

Update: After finding little bits of coloured rubber everywhere, the spouse recently asked me to consider the possibility that I was going a bit mad. I am vindicated, however, by this article which very clearly and succinctly explains the shortcomings of hearing aids in relation to listening to music, and notes how important those low frequencies are. The bit in the article about the high proportion of keys on the piano sitting below the 1kHz threshold  also illustrates why the reverse sloper/ cookiebiter may be on a hiding to nothing with their piano and a default Autofit NHS hearing aid fitting…


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