Don’t Eat my Hearing Aid!

One of the most common accidents with hearing aids is a pet thinking it’s lunch.*

If you Google the phrase “pets eating hearing aids,” you will find endless articles and pet shaming photographs detailing this horror. No matter how often I read these stories however, I never believed it would happen to me. Throughout my life as a hearing aid user, I never had problems with my dog, Daisy, or my cat, Greta, going near my hearing aids. I could leave them on my bureau every night and know they will be in the same place the next morning. Although Greta and Daisy were senior animals when I received my Audèo V, both of them were in the prime of their youth at ages eight and three, respectively, when I received my first hearing aids at age 12. I was lucky that even then, they never once mistook my hearing aid for a meal.

“Does phonak have a replacement policy for when the ‘dog ate my hearing aid?” Photo: Phonak Facebook Page

My views on pet behavior around hearing aids, however, changed when I started taking live-in pet sitting jobs at age twenty-two when I met a cat named Neeley.

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Eloise Garland “takes over” Phonak’s Instagram

At Phonak, we are committed to fighting the stigma attached to hearing loss, to tearing down barriers for the hearing-impaired and to finding new and innovative ways to help everyone reconnect to the beauty of sound. We also know that individuals play a strong role in breaking down those stigmas.

To celebrate those in our community who are being open and proud of their hearing situations, we’ve teamed up with some of our favorite Instagrammers, and asked them to capture their personality and signature looks, and show us what it really means to live with hearing loss.

Last week, we featured 20-year-old Eloise Garland, a music student from the UK.

She is an inspiration to many people – especially teens – with hearing loss, both in what she’s accomplished in her personal life, as well as the unique way she shows of her hearing aids with cool stickers and decorations that she sells on her Etsy.com store, Rainbow Tubes.

You can share your story with us too using the hashtag #lifeison on Instagram! Together we can break down the stigmas of hearing loss.

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How About A Sport Hearing Aid?

I love thinking about new features for hearing aids. OK — I guess that makes me a little bit weird, but when something is such an important lifeline to communication, it is probably worth thinking about from time to time. A few months ago I wrote a blog post detailing some ideas I had for improving today’s hearing aids. These included:

  1. Have sound recognition: I’m not sure if that is a real term, but what I mean is that the hearing aid could be taught to identify the specific sounds or voices that are most important to you. For example, you could use a wand or app to record your family members’ voices, and the hearing aid would then know that these were critical sounds for you to hear. Right now most hearing aids are only programmable by frequency. Programming by “sound” could be much more accurate.
  2. Identify sounds to avoid: Part two of the sound recognition described above would allow you to teach your hearing aid sounds you want to avoid, like the sound of your air conditioner or refrigerator. This could help alleviate the issue of amplification of all sounds rather than just the important ones.
  3. Have a mute button: Wouldn’t it be nice to turn the sound off every once in a while without having to remove the aids?
  4. Send low battery alert emails: Even my Fitbit sends me an email, when the battery is running low, so it can’t be that hard. This way we could avoid the need to swap batteries on the fly or during an important meeting.
  5. Be directional: I would like to be able to adjust the hearing aid’s microphone to highlight sounds coming from a certain direction or area of the room. This would help in meetings and at restaurants. Ideally, this would be controlled through a wand or smartphone app.

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Listening to Josef: A hearing aid wearer we can all relate with

As a social media community manager, I get to talk to a lot of people about their hearing loss. It’s been amazing to hear people’s stories – whether it’s a mom sharing an Instagram video from the first time her child’s hearing aids turned on, or a post about how new technologies are allowing a hearing aid wearer to enjoy sounds in situations they never before thought possible.

While most of my interactions have been virtual, the raw emotions are still there. I still feel a closeness with anyone whom I can answer a question for or connect them with our community of people facing similar hearing situations.

A few weeks ago, however, I had the opportunity to go offline and connect with a Phonak user in person, during filming for the new Phonak Virto V custom hearing aid testimonial video.

When I first met Josef, I was immediately warmed by his presence. His friendly demeanor and grandfatherly characteristics makes him someone you could sit down with for hours and listen to the stories he could share from his 81 years of life.

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Teen aims to make Californian city more hearing loss-friendly

Imagine a world where every newly constructed building would include accommodations for those with hearing loss, including acoustically-friendly designs, captioning and the latest hearing assistive technology.

While it seems like a lofty goal, one 16-year-old from California is encouraging his community to do just that.

Johnny Butchko knows too well what it’s like to not be able to understand people in public spaces.

“Every day that I am in school I have difficulty hearing in the halls, the cafeteria and the courtyards, because there is a lot of background noise,” he said.

Johnny was born severe-to-profoundly deaf. Equipped with Phonak Naida Q 50 UP hearing aids, he uses an FM system and captioning in the classroom, and a caption phone at home, but in public spaces, the feeling of being lost in translation is all too common.

So, he decided to do something about it.

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#ShowYourAids: Texan Beauty Queen Shows Us How to Live Proudly with Hearing Loss

If you’re active on social media, you probably have a list of hashtags you use when sharing photos about hearing loss. #HearingLoss, of course, #LifeIsOn – the official Phonak hashtag – and others such as #hardofhearing #deafkidsrock and #hearingaids. One hashtag campaign, however, recently gained international attention, with the important message: #ShowYourAids.

The #ShowYourAids social media campaign exploded this summer thanks to one young woman, Emma Rudkin, who knows from experience how tough it can be to wear hearing aids proudly.

Emma, a 19-year-old Texas native and this year’s Miss San Antonio, started the social media movement and non-profit, Aid The Silent, to raise awareness and support for the deaf community.

I talked with her about the #ShowYourAids movement and how she gained the courage to show off her Phonak hearing aids.

11375819_1750491521883670_2081477159_n(1)        3bellamich Continue reading “#ShowYourAids: Texan Beauty Queen Shows Us How to Live Proudly with Hearing Loss”

Training and Straining

A few weeks ago I wrote about how I take my ears on and off all the time in my day-to-day life, and Beverly commented something that hit home:

The key to hearing better longer is to keep your auditory nerves and brain active and NOT let them atrophy. Through the use of hearing aids you’ll enjoy a better quality of hearing longer. Put them in and forget about them.

It reminded me of my father’s first time with glasses. Something like twenty years ago, he had to begin to wear glasses; at the normal age when eyes become less flexible and arms need to be longer and longer because you can’t adjust your eyesight the way you did when you were younger.

His first reaction was “Oh wow, it’s better” and then went on to “Actually no, wait now, we have to talk it through again”. Ring any bells?

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Participate in a Co-Creation Workshop to Design Future Hearing Aids

Have you ever wondered how hearing aids were designed? One step in the process is getting designers and hearing aid users together in a co-creation workshop. You can be a part of this.

At Phonak, the person who manages design of new products is Martyn. He works with the top design and innovation experts from around the world to create the hearing aids of the future: look and feel, colours, interaction — pretty much all that makes our hearing aids quasi an extension of ourselves, in addition to processing sound in a way that improves our daily lives.

I spent some time on the phone yesterday with Nataliya, an independent innovation consultant who is going to be running some of these co-creation workshops in New York as part of the design process for the next generation of hearing aids. Continue reading “Participate in a Co-Creation Workshop to Design Future Hearing Aids”

The On-And-Off Relationship

As a relatively new user of hearing aids (three years), and since I’m only mildly hard of hearing (without them, the spoken word is a bit blurry; with them it’s crisp), I don’t feel the need to wear my hearing aids all the time.

Oh, of course at the beginning my audiologist told me to get used to them by putting them on in the morning, not minding them all day long (pretending they’re not there and acting naturally), and taking them off in the evening. Beginners do as they’re told, don’t they? But my days are quite long (6:30 to midnight, I don’t sleep much) and my batteries ran out after 5 to 6 days.

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What Colour Are Yours?

I’m always interested to know what motivates people to choose a particular colour of hearing aid. My first one was a flesh-coloured NHS in-the-ear device. My first pair were also what passes as ‘flesh-coloured’ and were the only colour available. But when I went to buy my first pair of Phonaks, there was a choice of colours — but I didn’t get to choose. I was given a pair on loan and when I liked what they did for me acoustically, I just got to keep them.

My audiologist chose the colour closest to my hair colouring, which seemed a logical choice at the time, but the trouble with having chestnut brown hearing aids is that when you put them down on dark wooden furniture, they’re pretty hard to spot.

Also, if they fall on the floor onto a dark carpet, they’re also hard to find. I’ve had this happen when brushing my hair, as the CROS aid can easily be flipped off the ear and onto the floor. (This is because I opted for a tiny retainer rather than a dummy in ear dome/CROS tip fitting to secure the aid.)

Once, when looking for the CROS, which I’d dropped on the floor, I noticed my dog had something in her mouth. Eek! It was my aid!

Continue reading “What Colour Are Yours?”