A few weeks ago, I spent two days at the Phonak headquarters in Stäfa, near Zurich. If managing a blog and writing for it can be done remotely, meeting people can’t.
People are sometimes surprised that I value face-to-face exchanges so much when I am such a “digital” person. Well, I do — you get something out of spending an hour in the same room as somebody that is very hard to reproduce at a distance. I sometimes wonder if it has anything to do with my hearing loss: I need to see people, probably because in my 38 years without hearing aids, I’ve relied a lot on non-verbal communication. I don’t like talking on the phone with people I’ve never met or don’t know well (close friends is another story, I can talk on the phone for hours with them). And as for video conferencing… give me good sound quality and high-quality video which doesn’t freeze or lag, and I might start taking it seriously.
For my third visit, Vincent had set up meetings with various people inside the company, as well as a guided visit of the production centre. I could have stayed in there the whole day, actually — the geek/engineer in me just loves big machines and production chains, obviously.
Continue reading “Two Days in Stäfa”
“I don’t hear very well.” This is what I’d been saying since I discovered, age 13, that I didn’t hear very well. “I don’t hear very well.” My hearing was checked, I was given the verdict “yeah, so you have some hearing loss, we’re going to give you hearing aids”, and sent to an audiologist to be fitted. They took some measurements, filled my ears with pink stuff, and next time I went there I left with a rather big pair of skin-coloured inside-the-ear aids.
They felt uncomfortable, I could hear background noise, the world was too loud, and girls at school made fun of me. I wore them two days, maybe three, then put them back in their box, never to be taken out again. I decided that it wasn’t that bad after all to “not hear very well”, and that I would cope.
And I did, for the next 25 years.
In 2012, after a couple of years of “getting there”, I finally decided to get fitted again. My brother had got hearing aids a few years before and what he told me of the process and the changes in his life really encouraged me. (We have similar hearing loss, hereditary.) I shared some of my thoughts on my blog right after getting my hearing aids (“A Week With My Superpower”) and a month or so later (“More About Hearing Aids…”).
Nearly two years later, my hearing aids are part of my life, and I wonder why I waited so long. I still end up saying “I don’t hear very well” every now and again, but now I can add “I’m not wearing my hearing aids just now,” or “Even with hearing aids, I don’t hear as well as you.” The impact is different!
One of the things I’ve been doing these last weeks is hunting down all sorts of online publications and communities that have to do with hearing loss, deafness, hearing aids, implants, audiology… The field is vast and the number of online spaces to discover event vaster!
I just discovered The Secret Deafie, an anonymous and multi-author column on The Limping Chicken. It’s a collection of personal anecdotes, from funny to poignant, and I had a really great time reading through them.
You’ll hear about using the Deaf Card to outsmart an angry man, signing on the Tube during rush hour, how forgetting to wear one’s hearing aids can be a good thing, a deaf person who gets a deaf awareness lesson, how missing subtitles in a Sky subscription push a deaf sci-fi fan into downloading, losing sight when you’re deaf, and yes, even fare-dodging (my personal favorite so far I would say).
Reading these stories makes it obvious to me how different the lives and challenges of these Secret Deafies and mine are, pointing out how wide a spectrum the expression “hearing loss” may cover. Expect more musings about vocabulary in a later post.
My hearing has been stable since birth, and chances are it will probably stay that way until age-related hearing loss catches up with me. I was fitted reasonably late in life, at 38 (two years ago) and so my interest for audiology and hearing loss in general is quite fresh. I’m a bit of a geek, so I did my homework when I was fitted, but hearing loss wasn’t really a big part of my life growing up (I considered it a detail), and as my loss is mild to medium I clearly approach things from another angle than people with severe hearing loss or profound deafness. Hence the variety of contributors that we are currently getting in touch with for this blog.
I’m aware the field of hearing loss/audiology is fraught with occasions to say things the wrong way, so I hope you’ll forgive me (and gently let me know) if I blunder into an issue with big uninformed boots. I’ll do my best not to, of course!
Continue reading “A Little Bit of Background”
When I was fitted nearly two years ago, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that hearing aids now came in quite a range of fun colours and textures. Blue, pink, metallic silver, green, you name it. Quite a change from the plastic skin-tones that where the only option available at the time of my first (failed) fitting many years ago as a teenager. Needless to say, I picked pink — my trademark colour — and I’m never shy of showing them off around me.
I discovered more recently that many people go a step further with their hearing aids and implants, decorating them with stickers and gems, nail foils, shoe charms, you name it. The results are fantastic! Vincent regularly shows off his favourites on the Phonak Facebook page. Here are some of those I particularly like.
Continue reading “Hearing Aids Can Look Cool”
You’re reading the first post of Phonak’s “Community Blog”. We’re calling it a community blog because it focuses on the interests of the community at large, rather than serving as the official voice of the company, like a regular “corporate blog”.
It is a growing collection of individual voices, some from inside the Phonak company, others from the larger “hearing” community. We will bring to you personal experiences, as people with hearing loss or audiology professionals, as well as interesting news from the hearing aid and audiology industry, and last but not least, behind-the-scenes information, testimonials and stories from Phonak employees and experts.
As for who is behind this: Vincent Tervooren, Social Media Interactions Manager at Phonak, and Stephanie Booth (yours truly), shipped in to share my blogging expertise and my stories as a hearing aid user. With time, you’ll see other names appear, as we’re starting to round up bloggers and employees interested in contributing to this blog. If it’s your case, let us know!