Back in 1989, I became involved with the Westchester Chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America (www.hearingloss.org). I remember my first meeting. It was then that I discovered that there was life beyond my old analog hearing aids. Soon, I became familiar with Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) and flashing devices.
New technology has given all of us an opportunity to function better and live fuller lives. Over the years, the technology has only gotten better.
Early Devices: Pocketalker, TTY/TDDs and Closed Captioning Devices
My first joy was in trying out the Pocketalker device. If you aren’t familiar with Pocketalker, it is a small device the size of a pack of cards with a microphone and a cord of varying sizes. It can be used for one-on-one conversations, or it can be used extended to clip to a TV or other sound source.
Then there was the day I went to the home of our former chapter president. She was getting a new closed captioning device, and she offered me the one she had been using only suggesting that I make a small donation to our local chapter. The day I brought the device home and hooked it up to my television, my family and I watched words dance across the screen to the sound of high-pitched tiny beeps. The problem with the early devices was the captions were often garbled. Also, many shows were not captioned.
Then there was my first TTY/TDD. I bought this device when my hearing loss became more severe. AMAZING was my first thought! Once again, I could communicate by phone. After that, I got flashing and vibrating devices to alert me to the doorbell, the telephone and to wake me up in the morning. These devices helped me to function and remain part of the workforce.
A lot has changed since those days. Now that I am profoundly deaf and I wear cochlear implants, my needs have changed as well. There will be more on that in a future post. How lucky I feel to be living in a time that has so much to offer persons with varying levels of hearing loss.
Utilizing Cell Phones, Computers, Accessories, and Resources
Perhaps the most pronounced change came with the use of cell phones and computers. Here are some examples of how technology has evolved:
- Both hearing aid and cochlear implant users can use Bluetooth-enabled phones to stream cell phone conversations and music directly into their Bluetooth-ready hearing devices. This is of particular value because many recipients are bilateral, and bilateral listening often provides for a richer experience.
- Closed-captioning devices are no longer needed for televisions since all televisions 13 inches or larger are now required to have built-in captioning.
- There are many captioned landline phones out there that are often free to persons with hearing loss. Companies such as CaptionCall (www.captioncallphone.com) and Captel (www.captel.com) are examples.
- Also, companies such as InnoCaption (www.innoCaption.com), Clear Captions (www.clearcaptions.com) and Hamilton Captel offer apps for cell phones free of charge.
- Internet newscasts are often captioned just with a click in settings.
- Text messages are an option if the caller isn’t comfortable with their level of hearing on the phone.
- Cochlear implant companies have developed accessories for persons with hearing loss. Some of these devices include TV devices for better listening, a personal microphone for restaurants and noisy environments and a phone device as mentioned above for conversations and music. You can visit the three major providers at www.cochlear.com, www.Advancedbionics.com, and www.medel.com.
- Movie theaters routinely provide captioned movies. Check out www.captionfish.com.
- In New York City, Galapro is available for captioning of Broadway shows delivered right to your phone. Check out the application for further details. Aso, don’t forget about www.TDF.org for captioned performances both on and off Broadway.
- We are seeing more visual alerting systems in public transportation. Some subway systems such as those in New York offer assistance with loops if you turn on your t-switch. Some cabs provide t-switch amplification.
If I go back to a time when my hearing loss really impacted my life, I think of all that I missed. Decades of movies. Music. Important conversations. Still, I feel pretty lucky. Those who lived long ago never had the opportunity to hear what I got back with digital hearing aids, cochlear implants, and assistive accessories.
Going back in time: Beethoven, Mozart, Helen Keller and Thomas Edison
Think how beautiful it would have been if Beethoven had the opportunity to once again hear the music that brought so much joy to everyone else’s ears. Imagine how much easier it would have been for Thomas Edison to have had an interactive conversation with his friends Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone and John Burroughs. How special would it have been if Helen Keller had been able to have a live chat with her good friend, Mark Twain? I think of this often and feel so much gratitude for living in these extraordinary times that allow me to participate in all the sounds of life. Imagine what tomorrow will bring!
How has the technology for persons with hearing loss affected your life?
Closing Note: Mention of any websites, services or devices are included in this post as a courtesy and are not intended as a statement of endorsement.