• rhlll

Challenges at workplace... and bit about me

After high school, I undertook higher education learning in my second language. I had problems hearing and learning to pronounce certain word (but, to be honest, it's the case in my first language). The thing that helped me the most, and I am not just talking about the immediate effect on learning language, was prononciation classes. In the begining, it was meant to be a single class in an course dedicated for English as a second language student... given to a rather small class. We started 4, and I ended up alone with the teacher few weeks after the first class. I realized that the particular class on prononciation was crucial for me, so did the teacher, so he changed the content of the class to concentrate on that subject. I still had trouble to understand subtilities in prononciation, but the teacher helped me overcome them by showing me pictures of the anatomy of the month (ex: to see where the tongue is placed). The class almost acted as a therapy, and after I could distinguish words better in a sentence.

I can hear well (still have to concentrate a lot) at frequencies 500 to 2000 Hz.  I will hear 80% of what  a person will say, and 15% of another... but it will radically drop if other people talking in the room or if there is noise (even low). I had hearing aids a few years ago, but they weren't so helpful. I had a student pair taking note for me during my studies, but now I am working and find it harder. I am an analyst programmer, mostly working with men, so it often fall outside my comfort zone (if I could call it like that). I get a strange look from some people when I say I'm deaf, as I can talk to them without hearing aids... and they would blame my lack of concentration for moment where I fail to hear what they say.

I got an evaluation done few months ago to get new hearing aids, and new technologies might give some hope. So, from the thousands of models available... we end up with 2 (it would be slightly more, if I didn't plan on buying a FM system): Naida V and IX. I just started working and paying my debts, so it's a bit challenging for me to come with 5000-7500$ for the aid. I tried asking foundations for money, but it didn't really give result... so I am finally going to get a loan.

I realized, it's too much stress to endure on a daily basis, not to hear anything in a conference, not to hear few people, having to ask assistance to take a phone call... when the solution might already exists. I feel a bit left with myself at moments, so I asked for an appointment in a readaptation center(in few weeks), to get professionnel advices for my workplace. The company I work for offered to pay for a new  phone, but even that was proven to be complicated (I didn't know exactly what to ask, and was getting conflicting information from the internet). The client uses IP phones from Cisco...and Cisco doesn't talk to individual. I am responsible for finding the specifications for the phone I need, and wasn't able to find  a clear answer from the web. I have finally been able to convince them to talk to me, even if this wasn't for a large purchase. I am consultant, so I have to get the phones approuved, before asking the firm I work for pay for the phone. The problem is the time elapsed between each step I took... it took 3 months for the client to answer that they would not provide the phone, that the consultation firm would have to pay. I hesitated between asking for a phone or simply an adaptor(Jabra). I saw many negative comments for the adapter, and I don't have that much time to lose (and my company won't pay twice). If other have comments on that or on Naida V and IX... it would be really welcomed.

  • metamel

Measuring effortfulness effects of hearing aids

I haven't been posting all my hearing aids notes because I didn't want to clog this group (of course, if people would rather be notified here when a new one pops up, I can do that too -- just let me know in the comments). However, last week's lecture was different enough that I thought I'd mention it; it's more on the cognitive side of things.

The topic was digital noise reduction (DNR) and we spent most of it talking about effortfulness, which I imagine most of us on this forum have a painfully intimate knowledge of. (It's the opposite of "effortlessness" and refers to how hard you need to work mentally to compensate for a hearing loss.)

The post is at http://blog.melchua.com/2012/09/25/hearing-aids-effortfulness-or-why-dnr-digital-noise-reduction-makes-a-difference-its-not-why-youd-think/ and two things that stood out for me:
  • intelligibility scores are not a measure of effortfulness; you might understand 100% of the words said because you can hear them easily, or you might understand 100% of the words said because your brain is churning furiously to decrypt the 60% you've heard, and you're a good guesser. This seems to be a fairly recent area of research -- instead of looking at intelligibility, what if we look at secondary task performance? ("how much extra mental bandwidth do you have to devote to doing things with the material vs trying to understand it being communicated?") For instance, DNR seems to improve an adult's ability to learn novel words (but not kids below age 10), which may be interesting to the polyglots here. Potentially useful ammo for advocating for assistive services when people go "but you cope so WELL you can LIPREAD and understand what I'm SAYING perfectly FINE!" (Yeah, but it's grueling.)
  • pupil dilation is one measure of effortfulness. (My boyfriend has told me that my eyes take on a certain look when I'm concentrating very, very hard on understanding something, but couldn't figure out exactly what it was that gave him the "ok, help adjust things for Mel" cue -- I think this might be it.)
  • metamel

Liveblogging my Hearing Aids II class

Howdy, Mel here again. I'm the engineering education PhD student with new Phonak Naida SPs and a background in electrical and computer engineering as well as open source hacking. And I'm liveblogging the Hearing Aids II class I'm taking this semester . Basically, this is The Class that audiology grad students at Purdue get about hearing aid technologies. I'm having a fantastic time.


Teaser preview: This week's lecture was an overview of historical trends and digital hearing aids, but there was also an interesting bit at the start where the professor talked about "what happened in hearing aid tech dev this summer" (short version: Apple patent, air-pressure controls let you switch modes by tapping your ear, lots of folks debating whether audiology can be outsourced to a remote clinician.)

If folks are particularly keen on the research literature out there, I can start also posting the citations for papers we come by; so far, Killion's 1979 PhD dissertation sounds... important, but not having read it yet I can't say why or what it's about, other than it answers (among other questions) why hearing-impaired listeners reject hearing aids.

Notes? Additions? Questions? It's a flood of data I'm just trying to keep up with at this point (it is also my first time with in-person CART, so that's taking a bit of adjusting-to) but if there is a way I can make this more useful to others in the hearing aid hacking sphere, I'd love to.

How have you hacked a hearing aid?

Hello all and apologies if I'm barging in slightly.
I'm a BBC journalist writing about the work folks are doing to hack hearing aids. I've chatted to Helga (hello!) and some other folks who are on this list and got lots of help with my story. Thanks to everyone who has let me ask daft questions about what they are doing.
I'm posting this message to find out what else folks have done to hack hearing aids and how they have got on. Is it about solving specific problems (such as connecting to Bluetooth headsets) or a more general dis-satisfaction with the help a hearing aid can give? Thanks to Helga and others I'm getting the sense that people are generally unhappy with their hearing aids and it can take a long time for them to be tuned/tailored and customised to improve hearing or cope with a specific hearing impairment.
I'm keen to find out what folks have discovered about how hearing aids work, what they have built to make things better and the success they have had.
I can be reached via the discussion board, PM or on mark.ward.01@bbc.co.uk
I'm new to Livejournal so can only apologise again if I've outraged etiquette by posting this.
Many thanks

In ear device

Hello All,

As I'm new here, I thought I'd introduce myself.  I'm Mike and own a small company.  I'm an EE and working on a small in-ear device akin to a bluetooth headset.  However, we want these to be completely custom and have some processing capability.  These will communicate with a portable electronics "pod" for speed recognition for command and control.

Think "Siri over Bluetooth" and you'll have a good approximation of what we are creating.  So I'm interested in microphones, receivers, encoding, wireless transmission (low power), etc.  I'm starting back through the archives so hope to catch up soon.


recording sound with a phonak smartlink

Hello everyone. I have a Phonak Smartlink+

which I use mainly in class/lectures and when listening to music. I just plug it into the laptop or my ipod and voilá, sweet music in my ears.
I'm also involved in fandom and I've gotten to the point where I want to try to record podfic (like audiobooks, but of fanfiction) and podcasts and I'm not very keen on spending a lot of money on a new microphone for the purpose when I already have a high-quality mic in my smartlink - I know it is; I use it every day.

THE PROBLEM: according to the manual, I can only make sound go from the smartlink to my hearing aids (well, the boots to be precise). What I want to do is in some way to use my smartlink as a microphone while using audacity on the laptop to record whatever I'm speaking into it. Unfortunately my laptop doesn't have bluetooth (though I reckon a USB-bluetooth receiver would be more inexpensive than a brand new microphone, so that's not an issue).
In short: I don't care if it's via a cord or bluetooth, as long as there is a way for me to use the smartlink as a microphone. Only, I don't really know how to go about it...according to the manual, the plugin on the smartlink with the neat 'microphone' symbol is only for external microphones, that is to say, not really helpful to my situation as it still just means sound transmitting to my hearing aids.

Solutions? Do you beautiful people know of a way to make this work?

(p.s. I know there's a built-in microphone in the laptop, but the sound quality is atrocious.)

Your voice heard!


Some of you might remember me, I posted several times about my project hackandhear.com and the talk I gave about hearing aids at a hacker conference in Berlin. 

Since I gave this talk, among others journalists and hearing aid vendors started to approach me. Seems that my talk raised quite some interested in and awareness of the problems of hearing-impaired.
Because I often get asked the same question "What are your wishes to the hearing aid industry", I wrote down a 10-point-wishlist. I chose these points because of my own experiences, but also what I learned from talking to other patients, audiologists and doctors.
I regularly point people to this wishlist and some things will get picked there:


I wanted to mention this here, because this might be a chance for you to also speak up and add your wishes / comments to the list. My blog has a comment function and I am happy about your opinions. This is a chance for us to tell the industry what sucks and the more we speak up, the more we might get heart. So, please have a look at my list and comment (positively as much critically) on the points.


Made a call: Phonak Ambra Power

Thanks to everyone for their questions/comments/everything on my last (and first) post! Met with my audiologist today and we are going for the Phonak Ambra Power. (Widex is too expensive for Voc Rehab, sorry. Maybe in a decade when I can afford them myself? Or at least I hope I can afford them myself then...) I'm hoping for the M H2O (water/mud/dirt/dust/ADHD-engineer-resistant) case because I'm running Muddy Buddy in the fall (and tend to do that sort of crazy thing). We're doing iCom, the FM unit that plugs into iCom, and I asked her to throw in a DAI cable as well. (She's awesome, and came back at me with "sure, 2 foot or 5 foot?")

So, adventures from here:
  1. Getting hearing aids! (Voc Rehab, please please please approve these.) I'm hoping to get them before the end of the semester (April 25) or at least before the start of summer term (May 14).
  2. Aural rehab + speech therapy...
  3. ...for learning German pronunciation. I've been teaching myself how to read and write German (I am awful at speaking and listening for obvious reasons), and a grad student in the languages department here happens to be doing her dissertation on the pronunciation of German by German language-learners, so we're going to experiment with that in conjunction with speech therapy, probably.
  4. Taking a hearing aid tech class here (Purdue) in the fall -- the one the audiology students take to learn how to evaluate/choose/test hearing aids. Involves playing with DSP and funky lab test equipment. Will keep y'all posted.
  5. Taking a qualitative research methods class here in the summer along with some classmates who know me and my hearing pretty well. And CART. Lots of CART. I hear the class has tons of reading, so that's good; I figured it would be the easiest way for me to test out my HAs "in the wild" where I'm going to use it (academia) because I could have (almost) simultaneous text (CART) and new-audio (HAs) on a subject know pretty well where I have supportive friends (yay, classmates!) to help me if I totally miss everything. (I read super-fast and often trade my reading skills with classmates for "what did the lecturer say again?" support.)
There's a way longer post detailing this morass on my blog. But it is going to be one heck of an adventure. I'm excited. (Just remind me to remember this in a month or so when I'm clawing at my ears screaming "sounds don't make SENSE anymore!" in agonized frustration.)

Whoa. I think I've found my tribe.

I'm sure others have had this reaction before, but... how in the world did I go this long without finding this group?

Hi, I'm Mel. http://blog.melchua.com/about has the detailed version, but I'm an electrical and computer engineer, open source hacker, and engineering education researcher currently mid-PhD at Purdue University (amazing audiology & speech department!). Audiogram here, though mid-tones have dropped around 15-30 dB since; I've had a severe high-freq bilateral sensorineural loss since age 2 thanks to mycin meds for pneumonia (I can't complain, though; I'm alive), was fitted with my first HAs at 5 but refused to wear them by the time I was 10.

Oral, lipread, have mainstreamed myself into the hearing world my whole life, just now learning about disability resource centers ("wait... CART? wait... this is weird, classes just got way easier") and am trying, in occasional spurts of awkward shyness, to learn more about the Deaf community I spent my entire childhood fighting against being stereotyped into (my family and practically everyone I know is hearing). I play piano (and a couple other instruments, but none as well as piano) and enjoy playing with foreign languages; thankfully I started doing both before they found out about my hearing or I would have believed the folks who are surprised that I can ever talk.

Anyway. I'm now 25, looking at getting my first pair of HAs since childhood. Consequently I've been geeking out about this on my own, and am psyched to find like-minded folks online... I've got six options and am torn between them. Reposting here for conciseness:
This selection is partially dictated by the constraint of having my HAs funded by Indiana's Voc Rehab office (I'm a grad student and can't possibly afford them on my own; I figure that 7 years from now I should at least be on something more than a barebones stipend and will solve the money problem then).

Looking through the past posts here, I see a lot of references to Phonak (including the Naida) and fewer Oticon. Tips? Thoughts? Good ways to think about selection? I'm tempted by the Phonak Solana because it comes with a water-resistant (or -proof, but I'm skeptical) casing and I'm pretty rough-and-tumble, though we're not sure that's going to get me the amplification I need. That's something for me and my audiologist to figure out, but I'm hoping that the folks here might have insight as to which manufacturers are friendlier/more receptive to technical inquiries, which things are more hackable/abusable/poke-around-able and better to learn on and with. I'm a Linux hacker and the sort of person who ran Gentoo in college (and switched to Fedora a few months later for maintenance sanity), if that gives you any indication.