Monday, 15 June 2015

Blog:    In the loop      14 June 2015

Wearing the Domino Pro loop and FM system has so far been wonderful. It is an amazing experience to plug in the loop into the laptop and switch over to T-coil and have the sound streamed directly into the hearing –aids bypassing the onboard microphones. It does have a few drawbacks, sometimes the signal is not strong enough to pick up the sound when wearing it on my neck as it  is intended to be worn, so I have found, and I know that I am not the only one who resorts to this, is to wear on my hear. It really looks ridiculous that way, but the signal is then strong. I just wonder if this has a health issue from wearing the loop wire right over my head. So far I have not found anything on google about that, yet.
It also plugs into my blackberry to pick up calls and music, but this phone has a faulty headphone jack, a problem that it has always had, maybe I will get it fixed. One thing that I have noticed is that the bass does not come through nicely, when I got the plug to work on a rare occasion. So, I am not particularly phased about not having this plug working.
Where the loop system really comes into its own, and this reason for existence, is in meetings, classrooms and in church. This is both a blessing and a curse. I will explain. In these places, it really does a great job of picking up voices and sounds from the mike box situated closer to the speakers. It is much stronger than my hearing-aid mikes in this way, and the fact that this is placed much closer to the action, really helps, and I have found that I am picking up much more speech than before. However, there is the curse of too much sound, in other words, like at the last meeting, I heard far more than I have ever heard in a meeting, it is a little disorientating because it is feeding me sound from that location, but that is not where I am, the middle of the table, in front of the main speaker, chairperson. So when I speak, I have found that it helps to reconnect the hearing-aid mike of one hearing-aid so that I can hear my own voice. Otherwise, like I discovered, I cannot hear myself speaking when both t-coils are selected. This is always a weird feeling, of not hearing myself, so I do not know the level and intelligibility of my speech. It is preferable to turn one hearing-aid to mike 1 program before I speak, but I do not always have an opportunity to do that beforehand, and must select while I am speaking. I hope that this is something that is endemic to the use of a FM system, but no-one told  me about that. Coming back to the second issue, the volume of sound is quite overwhelming. I do not mean the level of the sound only, but more in terms of its bit rate, if that term makes more sense. For example, with hearing aids I am running on a 56 K bit rate conversion, and this has been comfortable amount of sound being received and processed digitally, the FM loop system feel, this is my perception of it, is running at 128 K bit rate, and this double bandwidth of purer sound is frankly an huge jump in information. My brain is struggling to cope with this double level of soundstage information. While I am delighted to be able to access so much more sound from a stronger, central point, there is a downside that I need to understand and find ways to work through this for myself in the next meetings/classes and church sessions. While I can hear so much more, I am not under the delusion that I can hear perfectly now. I know that well enough, there are still things that are said that I do not hear. There are still some gaps in pickup of the words. Some people have easier to follow speech than others and some people are a real problem for me to follow. But there are less cases where this happens than before. This is important point to dwell on for a moment, when I am struggling to hear someone then it is more difficult for me to think along and think ahead in the meeting. Simply put, I need time to process what has been said and what it means, and then respond to it. For me, there is a wider gap between hearing and responding to the information. For most people in a meeting, this flow of conversation happens intuitively and almost simultaneously. To be honest, it does frustrate me that I am frequently not on the cusp of the to-ing and fro-ing of a fast flowing conversation. This makes me look dumb for not saying anything, or being just a bit too late with a response to a point/comment that has now been finished by the group. Sigh, that it what happens. Now that I have said that, what can be done to address this problem? I think that when I have a comment to make, it would be both more assertive and informative to say something on the lines that, “Do you mean (summary)…, because with the loop, which I love, however, there is a delay in receiving the sound and for me the process what was said, so I need a little extra time to think about things before I can respond”. No-one else has used a loop in these meetings, so it is up to me to clearly inform people there what I am hearing and what I need from them in the meeting, which means having a little more time to gather my thoughts so that I can also participate.               
So, the benefits of this technology far outweigh the difficulties. It is a powerful system, and I need to learn to control it.  
And this means being aware of my own deaf spots. Just like the blindspots we have in car mirrors; there are zones/spaces, places or situations in which I miss things. Instead of not seeing something, I am in danger of missing what was said, this is not the same as mishearing, which can also happen. I am afraid of missing things, or the importance of something said. There are times when I pick up the urgency of the message, but there are also times when I miss the clues that go with the way something was said because I did not see the way the person said it, or pick up on the hidden message between the speaker and the audience. Hearing and listening are two different things, and while listening is dependent on good hearing, it happens in the brain. But I am aware that I can still miss out on what is meant, immediately, or very quickly. I need to be extra aware to where, when, who and how I miss this in these deaf spots to remove these zones of silence and courageously make sure that I fill in the gaps as soon I can.