Roger That: My first experience with my Roger Pen
As a trainer, I have often worried that my hearing loss might be a barrier to communication when delivering sessions, so I was keen to explore assistive technology to see how I might overcome such problems as taking audience questions.
I had read about the Phonak Roger Pen and was interested to see if it might be able to help me. What is a Roger Pen? I hear you ask. It’s a microphone and transmitter, which beams the sound it picks up directly into your hearing aids. It looks like a stylish pen – something from a James Bond movie – and using it is so discreet that I can see where the spy-tool comparison comes from. When lying on a table, it acts as a 360 degree microphone, and when picked up it cleverly switches over to working as a directional microphone.
When testing the equipment at home prior to my first training session, I was hearing what sounded like a telephone ‘engaged’ tone once the ComPilot and Roger Pen were paired with my Phonak CROS hearing aids, but I couldn’t get it to activate. After contacting my audiologist, we realized my instructions were missing a vital step in the process: once everything is switched on, I needed to press the big button on the ComPilot to start it working. Once I did this, I was connected and ready to go.
Using my husband as a test subject, I practiced both the directional microphone and the 360° modes. I found that I could hold the Roger Pen like I hold a pen when not actually writing and nonchalantly wave it around while speaking; then, when listening, I could just stop the waving and hold it in place, pointing at my husband, surreptitiously zooming in on his voice. (Just call me ‘Bond!’) We practiced this until I was told it looked perfectly natural.
I was interested to see if I could use the Roger Pen/ComPilot combination in real life discreetly enough for no one to notice. As the ComPilot needs to be worn around the neck, I covered this with a silk scarf and I duly waved my ‘pen’ around when I was speaking so it wouldn’t look odd when I did the same while listening: no one suspected a thing. And when, as part of a presentation I was giving (about accessibility and hearing loss), I revealed the true nature of the pen, everyone was astounded.
The only difficulty I had on that day was that every so often, I would hear the alerting voice say, “Microphone lost,” when in fact it was working fine. I made a note to ask my audiologist about it later. Some investigation by my audiologist revealed that there was a setting that she could adjust to change its sensitivity and, after a quick adjustment, the problem went away.
Now my only problem is making sure no one mistakes my Roger Pen for an actual pen and walks away with it at the end of the day!