If Only I Could Hear on My Phone

I received a phone call the other day and wasn’t prepared. My hearing aids and iPhone were not connected properly, leaving me with an inability to hear on the phone. Like many people with hearing loss, I am reliant on technology to hear. Luckily, my friend knew I suffered from hearing loss and he asked if I was hearing him okay before he began the conversation. I explained my predicament and promised to call him right back.

There’s a certain amount of frustration for those of us who are reliant on technology to hear. One’s phone and aids must be paired and then connected through an App where volume is controlled. These connections are not assured, and one must check on such connections periodically particularly if you step away from your devices or if you remove your hearing aids.

Even when my hearing aids and phone are connected, I have to make sure I’m in a quiet environment and prepared to listen intently. Most of us with hearing loss don’t hear every word, leaving us to piece together what we do hear into the context of what is being said, something that’s difficult to do when one doesn’t see facial expressions or body language. I often misinterpret what is being said on the phone. Given the choice, I find it easier to read a text or email.

Even with the frustrations of dealing with the telephone, I am grateful for what is available. People with hearing loss have many options with telephones. Captioned landline phones are now available. This technology allows the user to read what is being said on a screen. It works in the same way closed captions work on the television. Also, landlines typically have louder ringtones and devices can be added to one’s phone to make the ring louder.

Smart phones also have captioning abilities. It’s a matter of contracting with a captioning company that can work with a smart phone. My smart phone service provider offers captioned voicemail and I find it useful and easier than having to repeatedly listen to voicemails. There are many hearing aid manufacturers who have come out with Made For iPhone (MFIP) hearing aids. Such aids connect directly with apple products. For users of non-apple products there are devices that can be purchased that connect your devices with your hearing aids. Your audiologist is a good source in helping you determine what will work with the type of aids that you wear.

I find the sound quality on the smart phones a great improvement over landlines. For me having sound streamed directly into my ears enhances my ability to hear. Though far from perfect, it is an improvement. Still there are many times when I just can’t hear and I tell my callers what I think they said. If I’m wrong, my good friends end conversations with, “I’ll send you an email about that.” I’m always grateful to my friends and family who are patient with me.

There are no simple solutions when dealing with communications and hearing loss. Though I find the phone frustrating, I believe it is important for anyone with hearing loss to stay connected with friends and family. I try to keep in mind that technology is there to aid us, and I work with my audiologist on keeping up with the best available technology. For most of us with hearing loss, the phone will always be a challenge. All we can do is cope in the best way we know how as we meander through the hearing world.

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Linda Bilodeau

I’ve grappled with hearing loss since 1978. Through it all, I’ve faced periods of denial, acceptance, curiosity, trust and hope. But more often than not, I’ve felt annoyed, angry and frightened. I’ve encountered despair, loneliness and envy. I’ve experienced panic attacks. I’ve met understanding people, kind souls who helped me a great deal and others who thought I had nothing short of an invisible plague. As a way of coming to terms with my hearing loss, I’ve decided to put my feelings about my disability down on paper. My hope is to better understand myself and perhaps you’ll find a little something in my meanderings that will help you, too.

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