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July 29, 2014

Trying Something Different

It’s no secret that I’m not a Phonak customer, despite being the editor-in-chief of this blog. It could be argued that this is a good or a bad thing, but right now I’m actually not convinced that it’s all that important.

Fitting some Phonak hearing aids

Anyway, since I started working with Phonak, it’s been (kindly) joked about that something needed to be done about my hearing aids. To tell the truth, I’m very happy about my current hearing aids, and not just because of their colour. I like the sound quality, I like the way my voice sounds (important! I speak a lot!), I even find their operating noise soothing. They allow me to understand people so much better and have really changed my life.

My complaints? Well, restaurants, mainly (who doesn’t complain about restaurants?) and the crackling sound they make when faced with loud noises.

Last time I went to Phonak headquarters in Stäfa, we arranged an appointment with one of the audiologists there (Jennifer) so I could try out some Phonak hearing aids. This would allow me, well, to try out their technology and maybe talk about it (what I’m going to do in a bit), and also to play around with Phonak accessories. After all the horrible things I had to say about the M-DEX , my Phonak colleagues kept saying “oh, you should try the Roger Pen”. Well, my current hearing aids don’t let me do that. So, first step in that direction: for the last few weeks I’ve been walking around with Phonaks on my ears.

Overall, I like them. I’ll write another post about the acoustic/hearing stuff, but what I want to talk about now is differences. Differences in audiologists, fitting process, hearing aids. Is different good or bad? The answer is probably in the eye of the beholder.

First, I had a really interesting discussion with Jennifer about how to take an audiogramme. Jennifer is from the UK, and the process taught and used there is different from the French/Swiss one I’d experienced until now. She starts with a loud sound, so I know what I need to listen to. Then she makes it softer and softer. When I don’t hear it anymore she goes back up until I do again. Then back down until I don’t. In this way she pinpoints the exact spot where I lose the sound. I have to say this makes it less stressful than the “usual” (to me) beeping-sound-getting-louder process. Hearing tests and sound-proof booths are great environments for drowning in your tinnitus, and I always ended up realising that I’d been hearing the beeping sound for quite a bit before I actually realised I was hearing it (if that makes sense). “OMG that was a real sound!”

Now, does it make a huge difference in the resulting audiogramme… Not certain. But it was interesting to see that the way certain things are done is really a product of culture.

Steph all plugged in :-)Second, to program my hearing aids Jennifer plugged wires into the back of them. It felt strangely cyborgy, in a cool way. But in my opinion it’s a bit more cumbersome than a wireless solution. With Widex all I had to do is wear a kind of big necklace which connected wirelessly with both the computer and the hearing aids. (To be honest, I can’t remember if Phonak fitting is always wireful or if this was because we were in a test/trial/development environment.)

Third, the in-the-ear sound measurement sound is different: Widex uses some kind of breathy rythmic burts of noise (not very pleasant), whereas Phonak has a combination of background noise and human voices speaking a mash of languages. Pretty surreal to listen to, because bits and pieces feel familiar but the whole thing is of course unintelligible. A kind of audio “lorem ipsum”? As somebody with a strong interest in languages I found it quite fascinating.

At this stage, I feel a bit like somebody switching from Mac to PC or vice-versa. Change in ecosystem!

We all know that hearing aids require habituation. So I’ve left “my” hearing aids in a drawer these last weeks and stuck to the Phonaks. What I want to do (soon!) but am apprehending a bit is swap back. I’m used to the Phonaks now, and I have kind of forgotten what my Widex aids sound like. To compare, I need to go back to them.

Why the apprehension? Well, I feel a bit in a “damned if I do, damned if I don’t” situation. What if I prefer my old hearing aids? What if I prefer the test ones? But to be honest, I have the feeling it’ll be more nuanced. It’s not a clear-cut 10 to 1. But still, I’m apprehensive. I’ll probably do a first write-up before the swap, and another one afterwards. Interesting, no?

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Stephanie has been blogging since 2000, and is still at it. Sailing, skiing, judo-ing. Geek with social skills. Freelance consultant, speaker, trainer, thinker. Social media without the hype.
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Stephanie has been blogging since 2000, and is still at it. Sailing, skiing, judo-ing. Geek with social skills. Freelance consultant, speaker, trainer, thinker. Social media without the hype.