My advocacy work continues… I’m experimenting with assistive technology that can help people with hearing loss. While my cochlear implant helps me hear better it doesn’t solve all hearing challenges. In particular, noisy environments and large meetings.
Today I tested an infrared transmitter and receiver to hear better in meetings at work. It was pretty cool and did help. The equipment is on loan so I’m sending some questions to the vendor. In New Jersey I think.
They replied and signed their email “Everybody has the right to hear.” I love that statement and I’m gaining the experience and courage to believe it.
Again, I had a large meeting training event on my schedule in an on campus auditorium. I contacted the event organizer and asked if the space had an assistive listening system. They contacted AV, who was working the event, and found out that the auditorium had an FM assistive listening system. Not very often used but there and they could give me some headphones to try it out.
The headset had in-the-ear type earbuds and a sort of stethoscope type piece under your chin with a receiver in it to pick up the audio transmitted via FM. Anyone could use this system for amplification, it does not require hearing aid or cochlear implant. Problem: The design of the headset was not compatible with my implant’s processor, nor with most hearing aids that I’m familiar with. I would need headphones that go over the ear 😦
But I don’t give up so easy.
The day before the training I visited our AV department in person to confirm the headset issue and ask about other options. They were great and willing to work with me on solving the problem. I mentioned that my processors allow a direct connect with a standard 3.5 mm stereo jack to audio sources, like an ipod. At the moment, when I was chatting with them, there was another event in that same room. They offered me the option to test on the spot. As luck would have it the event was on lunch break. I ran over there, tested, and voila it worked!
On the day I was attending the training, the AV guys arranged a reserved seat for me with a very long cable and a special connector box that was under my seat. During the event all audio via microphone was mainlined to my cochlear implant. It really helped a lot.
While this solution isn’t as flexible as I like, nor is it scalable to more users who might need similar assistance, it worked dammit! Oh hallelujah! Finally a benefit that’s really making a difference for me. Assistive technology may be my new friend.
So now I need to find out what more portable, scalable options I can get my hands on and test. The AV guys at my workplace have been awesome and I know they will work with me. We will make MIT’s public spaces accessible to hard-of-hearing. I’m excited to make this happen!