First, heart-felt thanks to everyone who responded to my last blog post on the unique challenges caused by being a blind hearing aid wearer. There’ve been many useful contributions made through the comments. I’ve been particularly moved by some of the private messages I’ve received. If someone like me talking about this issue publicly has helped someone in any way, then I’m delighted to have done it.
While I’ve been writing this post, our grocery delivery company dropped off my latest order. This is great because a hungry Mosen is a grumpy Mosen. I used to dread events like that, because I’d always wonder how well I would hear the guy when he brought all the groceries upstairs and engaged in a bit of chat. Now I look forward to chatting with him and finding out what he’s up to. The Phonak Q90s have made an enormous difference.
As promised, I’m revisiting the question of blindness assistive technology and hearing aids, now that I have more information, and what is for me an absolutely perfect outcome.
My previous post outlined in detail the issues I was having integrating the Phonak ComPilot into my workflow as a screen reader user. My audiologist, who has been wonderful during this fitting process, had the judgement to realise that the issues I was raising were not something she’d encountered before. She organised for a representative from Phonak to fly down to meet with us both. That meeting happened today. In advance of the meeting, I wrote a detailed email explaining how I use my laptop and iPhone, and the implications of that usage for the operation of the ComPilot. I posed a number of questions, and today the brilliant Phonak man, who’d been with the company for over 20 years, came with answers. I’m happy to share those answers with you in case they help.
The good news is that it is still possible to connect a cable and get stereo audio from the Q90s to an external source with a headphone jack, such as a computer or iPhone. To do this, an audio shoe is fitted to each aid. An audio shoe is a small interface which makes the aid just a little more bulky. With previous aids I’ve owned, it was necessary to remove the audio shoe whenever you needed to change the aid’s battery. This requirement no longer exists with the Q90. That’s good, because one of the reasons I’ve rejected some Phonak products in the past is how difficult I found fitting the audio shoes. If you think I’m grumpy without my groceries, you ain’t seen nothing compared to how I got trying to get those audio shoes to connect.
You then get a cable from Phonak, which for the hearing aid geeks has the part number 0570109. At one end of this cable is a 3.5 mm plug suitable for connecting to a headphone jack. The cable splits in two at the opposite end, with a connector that plugs into the audio shoe of each aid.
Phonak set up two programs on the Q90s for me. The first gives me audio from the cable with the hearing aids’ microphones turned on. This means I can wander around with the cable running from the aids to the iPhone, and hear absolutely everything all the time. There’s no time out, no fading in, no latency. It’s just always on and it always works. The other program gives me audio from the cable with the microphones turned off. I use this in my studio where I want to hear only what is coming out of my mixer, no externalities that may interfere with my ability to hear what kind of sound I’m producing.
The creation of these two new programs has meant I’ve had to sacrifice a couple of the programs I was using infrequently, since there is a maximum of five programs available.
The good news is that the ComPilot is unaffected. I can still use it and it works as it did before. That means if I’m out and about and need a single device where I can switch between a number of external sources, I can still do that.
I can’t be happier. I’m hearing like I haven’t heard in years, and now I’m getting sound from my computers and iPhone like I haven’t had from a hearing aid before.
Not everyone reading this uses the same aids I do, and hearing loss is personal to the individual. But again, the message I want to convey is just how important the partnership is between a hearing aid user and the professional. I couldn’t have asked for more from the people working with me than what I’ve received.
Best of luck to everyone who is seeking to maximise their hearing potential, no matter what technology you choose. Hang in there.