By the end of the eight-day vacation, it was as I expected – we were all exhausted. But I would have been exhausted on a whole other level if not for my Phonak Roger devices and Marvel hearing aids.
We arrived in New York City around 4:00 pm and hit the ground running. That night, we had a Cirque show to see, and we wanted to do a bit of “walking around the city” after sitting on a plane all day. My wife Kate and my two boys, Oscar and Charlie, and I were all pretty tired, but we put on an extra layer of clothing and ventured out.
Within minutes of walking around, I think my Marvel hearing aids went into shock. Sirens blaring, horns honking, jackhammers jackhammering, cranes cranking, and people, so many people, so many languages, a symphony of voices, a chorus of humanity. That was all within the first two minutes of being in the city.
I’ve had my Phonak Marvel hearing aids for about a year, but I had no idea how they’d react to the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. Let’s just say they worked very, very hard over the vacation. They furiously switched from program to program—“Speech in Loud Noise” to “Calm Situation” back to “Speech in Loud Noise.” After the particularly busy and boisterous first evening in New York, just before I took them off and placed them on the charger for the night, my hearing aids made a plea.
“Next Christmas,” they said, completely out of breath. “Can we go to Billings, Montana, or, somewhere more quiet and peaceful?”
I told them to suck it up and get ready because we were going to be in New York for eight full days. And you know what? They ended up doing great. It helped that they had a couple of friends to help them out throughout the week. Roger devices, meet my Marvel hearing aids.
For our trip, I brought along two Roger accessories to help me understand voices better in difficult situations—the Roger Select and the Roger Pen. Phonak Roger technology have microphones in the devices that help reduce background noise and transmit a person’s voice right into my hearing aids. I thought of no better way to push the limits of the Roger accessories than in one of the loudest cities in the world.
The Roger Select device (or “Round Roger,” as my family calls it) is a small disc-shaped microphone that captures multiple sounds and streams them to my hearing aids. This particular Roger was used in situations where my family and I were seated across from each other, like at a restaurant. I also brought the Roger Pen (or “Skinny Roger,” as we call it), the writing utensil-shaped microphone that was mainly used by my nine-year-old son/tour guide who provided running commentary on the city. Throughout the week, I tried each Roger device in different situations.
Let’s take a look at how the Roger devices and Marvel hearing aids worked together.
It’s Christmas Eve in New York, and we’re right in the middle of the madness in Times Square. Charlie wears the Roger Pen around his neck, bombarding me with questions.
“Dad, is this where buddy the Elf came to find his dad?”
“Dad, how tall is that billboard of Mrs. Maisel?”
“Dad, I think I saw Tony Stark.”
“Dad, why are so many people talking to themselves?”
We walk side-by-side, his head looking up and bouncing left and right, trying to make sense of everything happening around him. He holds the Roger Pen up to his mouth. I remind him that I can hear him perfectly fine when he leaves it hanging on his chest. With pristine clarity, I understand every single question he asks about Times Square. He also provides running commentary about his surroundings, along with constant reminders about everything he still wants for Christmas. It is Christmas Eve after all, and in his nine-year-old mind, it’s one of his last chances to ask for an iPad for Christmas. For the one-thousandth time, I tell him, “No way.”
“He holds the Roger Pen up to his mouth. I remind him that I can hear him perfectly fine when he leaves it hanging on his chest. With pristine clarity, I understand every single question he asks about Times Square.”
After taking a ride on the Staten Island Ferry, we hop in a taxi headed to Central Park. Kate and the boys are in the back seat, and I’m in the front. I hear a voice in my hearing aids. Charlie still has the Roger Pen around his neck. New York taxi cabs have partitions that separate the front from the back, so it normally would be virtually impossible for me to hear conservation in the back of the cab. But with the Roger Pen, I can hear every word. Not just Charlie’s voice, but Oscar and Kate’s as well.
With the help of our friend “Skinny Roger,” we’re able to converse and plan our next city adventure, which is going to the American Museum of Natural History. Again, Charlie peppers me with questions about the taxi driver (What’s his name? Where’s he from? Does he smell?). I go to the myPhonak app on my iPhone, “switch off” the Roger Pen and change the program to “Calm Situation.” Traveling with kids can be fun, but at times, exhausting.
We’re in the massive “Marine Mammal” section of the museum. A giant life-sized whale swoops above us. We fight through the throngs of people to see the exhibits. I’m strolling by the elephant seals, amazed at the massiveness of the animals, when I again hear Charlie’s voice in my hearing aids. He’s somewhere in the crowd with my wife, commenting on the sea otters.
“They look like Pepper.”
Pepper is our four-year-old schnoodle, back in Portland, staying with a neighbor. I think of Pepper, and Charlie says in my ears what I’m thinking.
“I miss her,” he says.
Just like in Times Square, for a while anyway, I listen to Charlie’s running commentary in the museum via the Roger Pen hanging from his neck. What I find interesting about “Skinny Roger” is that I can still hear others even while I hear his voice. I walk around the museum with my older son Oscar, conversing with him along the way, all while “hearing” what Charlie is seeing as well. It’s a little maddening to listen to both sons simultaneously, but it’s certainly not out of the norm as a dad to two chatty boys.
Finally, we’re seated after an hour and a half wait. This hamburger joint is a popular destination in the SOHO neighborhood, mainly for its outrageous array of milkshakes. Shakes that include ice cream sandwiches. Shakes that literally come with a large-sized slice of birthday cake on top. These are $17 milkshakes! And they don’t disappoint.
Round Roger (the Roger Select device) doesn’t disappoint either. I plop the round disc in the middle of the table and easily hear my family in the crowded underground room. To tune out the background noise, I get on the myPhonak app on my iPhone and turn down the volume on my aids to -3. To my surprise, Round Roger still streams my family’s voices clearly into my aids. The background noise is significantly reduced. I clearly hear the pleading of Oscar to have the Birthday Cake milkshake all to himself. I mention to him, for the thousandth time, that we’re a sharing family.
When the waiter comes by to take our order, I can’t quite hear him. The volume is turned down too far. I then hand him the Roger Select disc. I explain that it is a microphone that streams right into my hearing aids. It performs brilliantly. From the waiter, I can clearly hear about all the wonderfully extravagant (and expensive) shakes my children want to devour, and exactly how much they are going to cost me.
If you look past the dirt, grime, and incredible loudness of the New York subway, it’s actually a fantastic service. I’m serious. My boys LOVE the subway. It’s so cool to go underground in one part of the city, then climb back out in a completely new part of town.
On our subway ride, we have both Roger devices going. Kate speaks into the Roger Direct and Oscar and Charlie share the Roger Pen. They are needed because we don’t want to yell at each other to communicate, not with all the other people around. It helps that my family can speak somewhat softly to me, right into my ears via the Roger devices.
We’re on top of a double-decker bus driving through Time Square, on our way to several more neighborhoods. There is no roof on the bus. It feels like you’re right in the middle of the action. It’s cool to see the mass of humanity walking around, fighting for space on the street. It makes me happy that I’m on a vehicle and not in the crowd. The bus goes all around the city. Our plan is to hop off in various neighborhoods that we want to check out. It’s a bit cold on top of the bus. It is December in New York, after all. We’re able to snag a front-row seat, behind the plastic windows on the top level. This protects us somewhat from the blustery wind. Wired in-ear headphones are passed out to help hear the tour guide. They don’t work for me because of my hearing aids. The guide is about eight rows behind me with a microphone. He’s loud, but I’m unable to catch every word.
When the bus stops to pick up more passengers, I walk back and ask him to wear my Roger Pen around his neck. At first, he’s reluctant. The other passengers in the area wonder what the heck I’m up to. I explain the technology to the guide and passengers in the area.
“It looks like a pen,” I say. “But it’s a microphone. I wear hearing aids and if you talk into it, your voice streams right into my ears.”
“It looks like a pen. But it’s a microphone. I wear hearing aids and if you talk into it, your voice streams right into my ears.”
The guide still says no. He has a job to do and he doesn’t feel comfortable putting some strange apparatus around his neck. I get it. Then, about 15 minutes later at the next stop, the guide comes up to me and says, “Give me that thing.” I put the Roger Pen around his neck and he goes back to his spot on the bus.
Then I hear every word of the tour. It’s like he’s right next to me. In fact, he’s quite loud. I learn how expensive NYU is as we travel through campus. The guide lists the celebrities that live in various neighborhoods and which buildings are historical sites. I learn all sorts of things about New York. All thanks to the Roger Pen.
While New York was incredibly loud, the Roger technology in specific situations was able to support my Phonak Marvel hearing aids. My Roger devices and Marvel hearing aids worked together in tandem to help me hear various voices through the noise of the city.