Kazzy's Assistive Devices
Life doesn’t stop just because you lose one of your senses. It continues, and unless you’re careful, you can miss out on some or all of the fun. Losing your hearing can mean a lot of difficulties. People with hearing loss may feel that withdrawing from some aspects of life is easier than struggling on – they may withdraw from a previously active social life, because they can’t hear in social situations, or can’t hear when friends come to the door, or when they ring up for a chat. Deafened/hearing-impaired people may also have problems holding down a job because they find it hard waking up in time to get to work because they can’t hear the alarm clock, or because they are so very tired from struggling to hear all the time.
I know this, because it all happened to me. There came a time when I could no longer ignore the fact that I had hearing problems. I couldn’t hear the doorbell. I slept in for work many times because I couldn’t hear the alarm clock. I couldn’t cope with going to pubs and clubs. I pretty much stopped using the phone as I couldn’t always hear on it when friends or family rang, and on the occasions I could hear, my outer ears were so badly infected and inflamed that it physically hurt to hold the phone to my ear. In respect of the phone, I turned to texting, but it’s not the same. Things had to change. I had to change and in order to do so, I needed some help.
On speaking with other deaf/hearing-impaired friends at the local deaf club and in the hospital clinic I attend, I learned about the various Assistive Devices available to deaf, deafened, hard-of-hearing and hearing-impaired people, and specifically, I learned about the Kent Social Services’ Assistive Device Loan Programme, whereby residents of Kent with hearing loss are loaned the assistive devices they need to allow them to lead a normal life.
I contacted my local Social Services office and made an appointment for a lady called Anne, who subsequently became my Social Worker, to come to visit me. It was necessary that she see me in my home in order to work out what I needed. She knew what equipment was available to help me live in my home as a hearing person would live in theirs.
On the agreed day, Anne brought with her an array of boxes, each containing goodies she was prepared to leave with me if we felt I needed them. They would be on permanent loan to me for as long as I lived in the county of Kent. We looked at a pager system, a charger unit for said pager, a transceiver box and a smoke detector.
This pager unit is a small vibrating unit (powered by re-chargeable batteries) which I clip onto the waistband of my clothes during waking hours, so that I am alerted to whatever sound is being made. The pager unit works in conjunction with a transceiver unit that is affixed onto the normal doorbell sounder in my lounge.
The pager unit has four possible connections: doorbell, smoke detector, baby alarm and phone, each with a small red light beneath a picture of the item it refers to, so I can see which alert has been activated. When the doorbell sounds, the transceiver unit receives a signal from the doorbell’s transmitter, and then sends a signal to the pager telling it to vibrate. (Well, that’s how I understand it, anyway.) The charger unit for this is plugged into the mains and sits on my bedside cabinet. This charger unit has a cable attached to it, which connects to a vibrating paddle, which in turn sits under my mattress.
We then looked at the smoke detector for deaf people. It looks just like a hearing person’s smoke detector, only it has a wire hanging out of it. This is so that it can send a signal to the pager unit. (A good point to make in respect of my smoke detector for the deaf is that when triggered, it also emits sounds just like a 'normal' smoke detector does, so that hearing people staying in my house are also alerted.) So, if during the night someone were to ring the doorbell, the smoke detector were to go off or the phone were to ring (I don’t have the baby alarm set up on it, as I don’t have kiddies), the pager unit sitting in the charger would pick up the signal transmitted to it (by the doorbell or smoke detector, etc.), and would then send a signal down the cable to the paddle under my mattress, making the paddle vibrate, waking me up.
So, if during the night someone were to ring the doorbell, the smoke detector were to go off or the phone were to ring (I don’t have the baby alarm set up on it, as I don’t have kiddies), the pager unit sitting in the charger would pick up the signal transmitted to it (by the doorbell or smoke detector, etc.), and would then send a signal down the cable to the paddle under my mattress, making the paddle vibrate, waking me up.
Anne explained that, although she couldn't offer me one, there were various alarm clocks for the deaf available and she gave me the names of suppliers and some links to contact in order that I could get one. These alarm clocks for the deaf work in much the same way as the pager unit alerting system, with a paddle placed under the mattress.
Cochlear (the Baha manufacturer) has come up with some accessories to benefit Baha users. If you have problems coping in various situations, it’s worth considering getting an accessory to help.
As a Baha user, you accept that your ears don’t work. You can’t hold a phone to your ear and expect to hear the caller. Furthermore, you can’t hold the phone to your sound processor, because the microphone squeals of course, if anything is too close to it. Cochlear has manufactured the Phone Clip to help Baha users. It pairs with your iPhone and your sound processor, and hey presto, you can control your phone through it - answering and disconnecting from calls, adjusting the volume of the call, muting the call, and redialling the last number dialled. Without the Phone Clip, you need to speak directly into the phone, whereas with the Phone Clip clipped unobtrusively to your collar, you can leave your phone in your pocket.
Of course, with the iPhone able to pair directly to the Baha 5, you don’t actually need the Phone Clip, but it’s a great additional extra to have if you can afford it.
Watching TV can be problematical, especially if you live with a hearing person who doesn’t need the TV as loud as you do.
Cochlear has come up with a TV Streamer, which you connect to your TV and which, when paired with your Baha, streams TV sound direct to your Baha. The volume of the Baha can be adjusted using your iPhone, and as such, any hearing person watching TV with you doesn’t get blasted out with the volume, because the TV volume is normal, whilst it is your Baha volume that is high, but not affecting the hearing person.
If you have a meeting at work, it’s likely you have problems hearing everything that is said; much is just out of hearing. Pair your Mini-Mic to your Baha and iPhone, then place the Mini-Mic in front of the small group of speakers and you will be able to hear the sounds directly from your Baha. You can adjust the volume of the sounds that are streamed directly to your sound processor using your iPhone.
I also use my Mini-Mic as a TV Streamer - I plug it in to my TV, pair it to my iPhone and Baha, and enjoy the direct feed of sound, most especially useful later at night as I live in a flat and don’t want to disturb my neighbours by having the TV on too loud.
A Remote Control unit is available if you don’t have a compatible iPhone to use to control your Baha. Once it is paired with your Baha, you can use the Remote Control to control all aspects of the Baha - you can adjust the Baha volume and also change the programme of your Baha. You can even use it as a TV Streamer or Mini-Mic.
Acceptance of hearing loss is not easy – as the saying goes: “You don’t know what you’ve got until you’ve lost it.” I must admit to having gone through a bit of a tough time, just because my ears don’t work as they used to. Once I accepted the hearing loss, I could accept the assistance I so clearly needed, and with that assistance in the form of the various Assistive Devices I now have, life is great.
Everyday life for a deafened/hearing-impaired person is almost the same as everyday life for a hearing person – almost the same, but a little different, if you know what I mean.