Yesterday was the day. I had promised myself that I would try the new program on my hearing aid. Now, I got this program back in December or January. It took me this long to get up the courage to try it out.
First, let me explain a bit about where I work. I work at a public library and about 50-60% of my time is spent out in our new addition, a 10,000 square foot room. There are only a couple rooms in this large, cavernous area. The area has thin carpeting and two of the four massive walls are completely windowed. From my seat at the desk, I am in front of our booksale area and one of our entrances, as well as a staff entrance to the workroom and a busy Security area. To my left is the main entrance of the library and our very busy DVD section as well as a huge glass aquarium. To my right is a quieter area: our nonfiction wing and our cafe filled with people working quietly on laptops. Behind me is our main computer lab, which is open on the floor, our fiction shelving, and a seating area in the back of the room.
Now, as you might imagine, sitting at a desk that is basically in the center of all of this is hectic and loud. Sound bounces off every wall in the place, especially the glass windows. The many corners and high ceilings make it even more impossible to discern where sounds are coming from. Patrons do not have to be quiet in this library, and they certainly take advantage of that. Every day this area is filled with conversations, yelling children, people walking, people on their cell phones, etc. It is a difficult environment as far as hearing goes for anyone. It is a nightmare for someone with a hearing loss.
I mentioned this to my audiologist in one of my followup appointments with my new hearing aids. He set up a program on my aids that he said would help. The program muffles sounds to my right, left, and behind me. It amplifies sounds directly in front of me. That way, I would not have to deal with competing sounds as I tried to speak with patrons. I was excited about it and told myself I should try it right away, but I never did. At first I was just nervous about how to set the program. Then I was nervous that it wouldn't work properly and that people would get frustrated and cranky. Or that I myself would get frustrated and cranky.
I tried it out a couple weeks ago at a restaurant. Scotty and I were seated in the center of a loud and busy area, so I set the program. It worked very well. I could hear just Scotty and not all the other conversations going on around me. Then I tried it out again at another restaurant celebrating Easter with my dad and family. That also worked well, though I noticed that when someone did speak to me from the side they sounded like robots. It was kind of weird but not a big deal. I could still understand them.
Given these successes I told myself I had no excuse for not trying it at work. I decided to try it yesterday. Unfortunately the first half of the day was very quiet. I had no reason to set a different program because the room was silent most of the time, or close to it, and I doubted I would get a good idea of how the program was working. Towards the end of the day I had two hours to spend at the desk and it got very busy. So from 3:00-5:00 I set the program. (Which is very simple - I just have to hold down the volume button for two seconds and it switches.) Instantly, I noticed a difference.
The sounds behind me completely faded away. Even the air conditioning, which is constant and loud and annoying, was muffled. At the same time, I could hear everything in front of me with great clarity. I could even hear patrons' passing conversations to one another as they walked in front of the desk, like having a spy microphone hidden on them. When a patron approached the desk I could hear much better than normal. Typically I have a lot of difficulty if a patron is looking down, messing in their purse, mumbling, etc. I hardly had to ask anyone to repeat themselves. In fact, the first hour, I didn't have to ask at all. I was actually a bit worried my voice might get louder since I could hear it better.
It wasn't perfect. If someone was off to the side, even if they were still in front of me but just to the right or left a bit, they sounded like a robot. It wasn't so bad that I couldn't understand them but it was a bit disorienting. There was just this mechanical quality to their voice that was weird. And listening to two people talk at once or over each other was difficult, but then, I have that problem in my normal program, too.
All in all I really liked this program. I plan to use it whenever it gets loud out there on the desk. If you spend a lot of time in a situation like mine, and wear hearing aids, I would urge you to check your settings or ask your audiologist if he or she can program something like this for you.