Even if you don’t know anything about me, you can probably guess that I’m a geek. I have to have the latest gadget, tool, software or machine. I like to stay on top of technologies that can improve my life, save me time or entertain me.
For 2014, it was an excellent year for technologies, but only one technology acquisition literally changed my life.
Now you may think that my Windows 8.1 ASUS VivoTab Note 8 8-Inch 64 GB Tablet (Black) with Integrated Professional Wacom Stylus would be the one.
I carry it with me everywhere. I read my 1700 kindle books on this device. I handwrite notes with OneNote with the Wacom stylus. I keep up to date on news with Bing NewsReader, I write Word documents, PowerPoint, Excel and email. I use it to track my fitness steps and weight with FitBit and so many other things. I really can’t live without it, though it hasn’t truly changed my life.
Now you may think that my new Microsoft Band Fitness Tracker Smartwatch Health Monitor would be the one.
The minute I put it on, I realized very quickly what an awesome tool this really is. I’d been wearing a Pebble watch which never did much for me besides have BIGTEXT watch face and alert me when it was raining. I was also wearing various FitBits, to measure steps and calories. But the Microsoft Band gave me one wrist device that let’s me get email, calendar, facebook alerts, texts, phone call alerts. It tracks steps, heart rate, calories and exercise routines with a GPS built in. It gives me access to Cortana to get directions from my phone. It even has my Starbucks number handy. During the workday, I almost never need to take out my phone because any important alerts can be read right from the band. It is such an amazing productivity and health tracking tool, however, it also hasn’t literally changed my life.
Something that most people wouldn’t know about me is that I was born completely deaf in one ear and over time I was losing some hearing in my right ear. I was specifically losing the ability to hear high frequency sounds, making it difficult to hear speech especially consonants. Over my lifetime I would learn to read lips, sit at the leftmost seat at a table or conference room. If I was walking with someone on the street, I would subtly move to be on their left so I could hear them without turning my head to lip read. Without doing so, I couldn’t listen and see where I was walking. Thankfully, many people I would work with would never notice these odd behaviors or “workarounds” I would do. Some would notice and ask politely then would accommodate without embarrassing me.
I am a composer and musician who never heard stereo. I used to turn up the base (thanks to our 27″ woofers) so I could hear depth to music and movies since I was missing the upper range. After years of doctors saying there really was nothing to do to help the left ear, I was frustrated and stopped getting hearing tests.
Until May of 2014. I finally bit the bullet and went to see my ENT. He said to me, you would be amazed at what can be done now. So I got fitted for Phonak Audeo Q Hearing Aids with Cross. I put one device in my left ear that has two microphones with a wireless FM transmitter and another device in my right ear that has 2 mics and a receiver from the left ear. They are very discreet, matching my hair color and very hidden unless I purposely pull down my ear to show people.
They allow me to discern sounds coming from either side. I can hear someone whisper behind me on my left side. I’m able to focus on the voice of the person in front of me without being distracted by background noise. I’m able with the tap of a tiny button on the hearing aid to raise/lower the volume depending on the loudness of the environment.
I’m able to connect via Bluetooth to my cell phone and laptop audio allowing me to hear the sound directly through the electronics in the hearing aid. I even used it on tours where the tour guide would use wireless headsets.. This helped ensure that I could continue to hear sounds around me as well as the tour guide while we were on a walking tour.
When I watch movies, the sound is so clear, I realize how much sound I’ve been missing all my life. After all, you don’t know what you are missing, if you’ve never heard the sound before. I’m struck in awe sometimes when I pull out the hearing aide and realize how muffled and undistinguished sounds have been for me.
Apparently 5 years ago, this technology didn’t really exist. Most hearing aids were bulky and required a wire to run from ear to ear, making it difficult to live a professional life without being self conscience. The audio devices(mics) were not designed to address the specific loss I had until the electronics became more sophisticated. So until recently, it was not possible for me to live a normal hearing life.
This is why my hearing aid is THE technology that literally changed my life this year.
Now I share this story for those who have struggled their lives like I have or even only recently are experiencing hearing loss. There is hope, there is a technology that can help you live a normal hearing life.