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How Hearing Aids with AutoSense OS Affected my Travels

my experience with phonak hearing aids with phonak autosenseos

As a hearing aid wearer with 40 years of exposure to the developing technologies, it’s been fascinating to experience Phonak’s AutoSense OS operating system in my new hearing aids. 

I have worn hearing aids since I was two years old, so my entire life has been formed by what I hear through technology’s advances. Every new generation of hearing aids has been a new learning curve, as my brain remaps the sounds I hear and I figure things out again.

So, you can imagine, then, I was hesitant when my audiologist told me my new Phonak Naida V90-SP hearing aids were both the most powerful I’d ever worn, and also the “smartest.” He explained that AutoSense OS would “listen” to the environments around me and auto-adjust based on what I heard.

Well, let’s not mince words here, kids: I’m kinda a control freak. I worried about technology taking control out of my hands. But I also didn’t want to be “that person” who refuses to trust technology either, so I said “let’s do this!”

The Nitty-Gritty of My AutoSense OS Experience

Let’s get to the punchline first: After more than 6 months with my AutoSense OS, I’m blown away with how valuable environmental-detection ability can be. I consider myself fortunate to have this technology, and I think it’s more important than most people realize.

The AutoSense OS operating system works by automatically sensing surroundings and adjusting the hearing aids. It analyzes sounds around you every 0.4 seconds and can identify whether you’re in a noisy restaurant, car, concert hall or at home. It then draws upon multiple features, blending them to create more than 200 distinct settings to precisely match your exact sound environment, without having to adjust your hearing aids manually, according to Phonak. 

What does all that mean?

For me, for example, I’m really starting to notice what’s behind me. 

See, the Naida V90-SP has the best behind-me-hearing I’ve ever had in a hearing aid. All my life, if something happened behind me I only heard part of the sound, or it was poor quality. These hearing aids have terrific pick-up on sounds behind me.

“All my life, if something happened behind me, I only heard part of the sound, or it was poor quality. These hearing aids have terrific pick-up on sounds behind me.”

But, even better than that, the AutoSense OS knows when to focus specifically on what’s behind me. 

AutoSense OS and the Traveler’s Life

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In a nutshell, I’m a traveler. I sold everything I own and I’m 15 months into the biggest risk, most amazing adventure of my life. I’ve traveled to 10 countries so far, and walked more roads in more cities than I’d ever dreamed possible. And with all that comes learning curves every week. I seldom see the same streets more than a couple times, and every city, every country, handles traffic and pedestrian right-of-way differently. Many places don’t even have safe sidewalks, let alone crosswalks or crossing lights.

Imagine, then, having poor hearing and not hearing behind you as a car approaches. Picture unexpectedly poor lighting and difficult visibility for drivers on a surprisingly bad-weather night. Imagine countries where sidewalks barely exist, and you’re forced to walk in the middle of the street to avoid holes and unsafe patches.

Welcome to my life.

Now, though, that risk is reduced when I walk poorly lit, sketchy streets. My hearing aids can tell that it’s a quiet city street. And I can tell when my hearing aids realize there’s a car somewhere far behind me and approaching me, because, subtly, the sound switches. Then the “back speaker” becomes the dominate sound feed in my hearing aids. Those tires slapping cobblestones 200 feet behind me warn me: Get off the road and wait for the car to pass!

“…I can tell when my hearing aids realize there’s a car somewhere far behind me and approaching me, because, subtly, the sound switches. Then the “back speaker” becomes the dominate sound feed in my hearing aids.”

Have they saved my life yet? Probably. 

But It’s Not All Sunshine and Roses

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That said, there are times when it’s frustratingly obvious that the sound quality has changed in my hearing aids. It’s usually when I’m behaving badly by way of blasting a car stereo for Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” or Hozier’s “Take Me to Church” gets speaker-thumping loud.

In these instances, I can tell that my hearing aids think I’m in a hazardously loud situation and they dampen the sound. SIGH. But, you know, it’s probably wise. Thanks, Mom… err, I mean, AutoSense.

There are other instances, too, when the AutoSense OS gets a little confused by what to amplify and what to dampen. For example, someone’s talking VERY LOUDLY over a rumbling train or jet engine, and AutoSense tries to quiet it all.

Still, AutoSense OS is a Tech Winner

Most of the time, though, AutoSense OS makes surprisingly wise judgment calls and I seldom bother to manually toggle through settings. And that, I guess, is the best compliment I can pay it… you know, as a stubborn control freak.

We’re blessed to be hearing-impaired in an era when technology has come so far, so fast. It’s literally life-changing, especially for this nomad roaming so many foreign, weird roads. I can’t tell you how important it is that I hear traffic as well as I do now. I feel so much safer on a day-to-day basis.

“We’re blessed to be hearing-impaired in an era when technology has come so far, so fast. It’s literally life-changing…”

That’s a strange thing to be grateful for, hearing traffic better, but I guess you wouldn’t relate until you’ve walked a few miles in my nomadic shoes. AutoSense OS gets a big thumbs-up from me!

Do your hearing aids have AutoSense OS™ operating system? Have you noticed it automatically switching to listening environments? Did you like it? 

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Author Details
Steffani Cameron is a writer and photographer from Vancouver, Canada, who’s gone “Full Nomad” and sold everything she owned to travel the world for five years. She’s working as a digital nomad wherever there’s a reasonably decent internet connection. She’s worn hearing aids since she was two, and currently wears Phonak Naída V90-SPs.
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Steffani Cameron is a writer and photographer from Vancouver, Canada, who’s gone “Full Nomad” and sold everything she owned to travel the world for five years. She’s working as a digital nomad wherever there’s a reasonably decent internet connection. She’s worn hearing aids since she was two, and currently wears Phonak Naída V90-SPs.