Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pissed off at Phonak.

My last set of hearing aids were from Phonak. I will say that when they worked, they worked great. The problem is, I had one that frequently didn't work, and like all things that fail intermittently, it was nearly impossible to figure out why it wasn't working correctly. After a few times sending it back for 1-2 weeks at a time, I got pissed off and told my Audiologist to simply have them replace it, or deal with my wrath.

Fast forward to today. My new Rexton aids work wonderfully and I am happy. Except...

My son has Phonaks (Sigh). We got his first pair when he was around 3 months old, and they were new loaners from CHOP--Phonak Una models. Very big, and very sturdy. He finally got his state-insurance-funded aids a few months ago and they are technically better than the Una, but far smaller and seemingly designed more for an adult. The aids themselves are tiny (making them impossible to find every 10 minutes when he chucks them somewhere) and the earhooks are held on only by friction, unlike the Una screw-on earhook. So his favorite pastime is pulling them out of his ears, pulling the earhook off, and chucking those two things in different directions, and/or trying to eat them. This is all not to mention they've stopped working like 3-4 times in a few months.

Phonak has refused to exchange these for a model more suitable to a 12 month-old infant. And although we didn't choose the model (presumably the state did) this is now somehow our problem.

Shame on you Phonak.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Universal Signs - good movie

I saw this movie yesterday at the Keswick in Philadelphia and was very impressed. I went to the 1pm show and there was a pretty good turnout, although I'm sure lots more went to the 7pm show. The movie had a good plot, nice directing, and a few good laughs. It was great to see such a varied audience, too. Lots of Deaf, HoH, and Hearing all enjoying the film. It was great to be around so many signers. The writer/director and main actors were all there, also.

Definitely buy the DVD when it comes out in September!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Rexton Cobalt - Retuned, WOW

I went in today for a followup tuning of my new hearing aids. My main issues that I needed addressed:

1) There was heavy distortion on the main programs in loud environments, making speech very difficult to interpret
2) Certain types of loud sounds were overwhelming me in my normal programs
3) We forgot to add the programs for Bluetooth phone and Direct audio connections during the first fitting

We took out most of the compression in the main program, removing all traces of distortion, but that still left the overwhelming sounds. We walked through various frequencies over the speakers and found that I had a huge peak at about 1000Hz, right in the middle of the speech range, so we knocked the gain down at that frequency and everything was PERFECT. My main program is really great now.

Took a couple times to get the Bluetooth and Direct audio programs to sound right, and I think I will still need one more visit to get these a little better, but overall they sound pretty good. Hooked my iPod to my bluetooth unit and even though music sounds a little on the tinny side, everything is very clear, which makes me happy. For those of you that don't know, listening to music from speakers or televisions normally sounds bad with hearing aids. There is something about electronic sources going through another electronic circuit (the hearing aid) that kills quality. So the direct audio program bypasses the microphones and passes music directly from a TV or iPod to your hearing aid speakers--WONDERFUL!

Overall, I am pretty happy now. I will probably go back in for another retune in a couple months and see if we can get music to sound a little more natural.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Followup Opinion - Rexton Cobalts

So I've worn my new hearing aids a few full days now. They are nice, but they definitely need a re-tuning badly. I am going back in a week from today.

Biggest complaints so far:
-Music sounds like total crap while I'm driving. Maybe it's all the compression, but it just sounds like it runs through a tiny AM radio first and then through my speakers. The "Music" program makes things sound better, but road noise is unbearable. I didn't really have this problem with my old ears, but then my gain wasn't as high.
-Voices also tend to sound really distorted in loud environments--again I think this is the huge amount of compression we put on. I want clear sound in all environments, but I want my aids to supress sounds that are too loud.
-The remote is very nice, if not a tad heavy. Funny, people wants phones heavy like the iphone because that makes them feel "substantial". This remote definitely doesn't fall into that category--I want it LIGHT.
-Of course, we need to configure bluetooth and direct audio still.

High points:
-These things are tiny. My right ear canal is having a little soreness, but then this happened with every new set of aids I have ever had. I think my canals just need to acclimate.
-The compression does a far job at supressing loud, sharp sounds like something falling on the floor (or me coughing, hah)

I can't wait to get them retuned. I have high hopes for them, and they seem to be up to the challenge.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Pictures of my Rexton Cobalts

I ordered my new Rexton hearing aids in silver and also ordered a an optional kit to convert them to blue. I wanted half and half, so I exchanged a couple of the silver parts out with blue parts. Here is what they look like now (dime shows just how tiny these things are):

Saturday, April 18, 2009

New hearing aids - Rexton Cobalt 16

I picked up my new hearing aids today and thought I would post my initial thoughts. First, let's take a little journey back in time to understand some of my history.

I got my first set of ears 10 years ago. They were the Senso+ model in the CIC (completely-in-the-canal) size, made by Widex. They were almost invisible and functioned fairly well, but after four years they were no longer powerful enough to keep up with my progressive loss, so I got a new set.

The new set were Phonak Claro ITE (in-the-ear) models, and were far more technologically advanced, and also far larger and more noticeable. I was able to control the volume and choose programs using my Phonak wristwatch. I have worn these for about five years now, but again my hearing loss has outgrown the volume possible with these models.

Fast forward to present day. I recently bought a pair of Rexton Cobalt 16 (same as Siemens Pure 700) and a bluetooth remote control that Rexton calls an RCU (same as the Siemens Tek). The Rexton aids are the same exact instruments as the corresponding Siemens models for a much smaller cost. I'm not sure why they do this, but it's true. The hearing aids also feature standard size 312 rechargeable batteries and a charger that also dries the aids overnight. This is really convenient because if I forget to charge my batteries, or find myself somewhere for days without a charger, I can use normal-size 312 batteries.

The Cobalts can be ordered with 45dB or 55dB receivers that use open or closed domes, or with a 65dB receiver that requires a custom micro mold. After a few failed open and closed-dome RIC fittings with a 55db receiver, I went with a micro custom mold RIC and the 65db receivers. Fitting was fairly painless since I am a very experienced user and have a strong knowledge of frequencies and how hearing aids and signal processing works. With the custom mold, they seem to have PLENTY of power--certainly more than I need now.

The sound quality seems pretty good, but I had my audiologist put quite a lot of compression on my main program because my hearing threshold is so close to my pain threshold. I believe my HL number is around 85dB in the speech range, so although I need lots of gain, I am easily overwhelmed by sounds not much louder than that. The compression seems to make things sound distorted, especially in environments where background-noise is high. The music program is pretty much compression-free and music so far sounds pretty good.

Thankfully, the wind reduction system works pretty much as advertised. One of the most annoying things about my Phonak aids was not being able to hear ANYTHING in windy conditions. Everything just sounds like a "camcorder in the wind". The Cobalts produce some wind noise, but not loud enough to be annoying at all.

Unfortunately, we didn't set something up right, so I cannot pair my remote with my bluetooth phone or iPod yet. We'll have to fix this when I go back in a couple weeks.

Overall, like every time my hearing has outgrown my hearing aids, a new set of aids basically means learning to hear again. Things sound very unfamiliar, including my own voice. I will post more in a week or so when I acclimate a little more to my new world of weird sounds.

--Note on the bluetooth remote: it's really a pretty cool feature, and one of the main reasons I chose these aids. The remote is roughly the size of a very small mobile phone, and has 5 program buttons, ON, OFF, volume control, treble control, and status button. There is also a LOCK button that disables all buttons (think about having it in your pocket/purse/etc). The remote also pairs with mobile phones and will send audio binaurally to the aids, and sends your voice to the phone. It has a direct audio jack for iPods, TVs, and basically any other device that can output analog audio. I am truly impressed with the remote--it was well worth $300 as an optional item.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

DVD Captions - what is going on??

I tend to watch a lot of movies and not so much TV. Why does it seem as though captions are getting worse as time goes on, even though technology is clearly getting better?

Over the last few weeks, I have rented a couple DVDs that do not give the option to turn on English captions in the menus, even though they are CC movies. I have a very recent Blu-Ray player, hooked to a very new TV model, using an HDMI cable. I am not somehow lagging behind the technology curve. But even with my CC turned on in my TV settings, no captions show for these movies, so I must resort to watching movies like this on my Macbook, which will display the closed-captions.

Is it really this difficult to put an option in the DVD menu to turn on English captions??? To add insult to injury, both of these movies had menu options to turn on foreign subtitles like Spanish and French. I'm very annoyed to be using state-of-the-art equipment on brand new movies, and still cannot see captions. *sigh*

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Update on New-Year Health Goals

My New-Year health goals have been somewhat successful. On one hand, I have already shed 20 of the 25 pounds for my weight goal by simply making better food choices. I find this part incredibly easy. On the other hand, I am the perennial cardio-slacker and have only put 28 miles on my bike odometer.

I can give myself a little leeway here because I have been sick 3 weeks this year already--have I mentioned that my kids apparently carry the plague with them? It also takes a little more discipline than in the past because I can only ride if I wake up well before the kids, or if I bike after work, which I hate doing so late at night.

I'll be happy if I can make the weight goal and maybe approach the bike goal. Can't win all the battles sometimes. Maybe a compromise by losing more than 25 pounds to make up for my bike goal??

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Genetics - The Final Frontier

It's so funny how sometimes a medical professional can peer into your life and immediately put together pieces that you would have never seen. We went to see a geneticist yesterday, among other doctors, and he was able to quickly identify a highly likely cause of my and my son's hearing loss. Turns out Waardenburg Syndrome almost certainly runs in my family, but because people had attributed hearing loss to other factors, nobody ever put the pieces together. It wasn't easy because the hearing loss symptom skipped a generation, but the pigmentation alteration did not, allowing us to easily trace it back 5 generations.

Not that any of this helps, since there is no known treatment, but it made for an interesting day.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year! ...and some health goals

Okay, I'm gonna take the bait. I am not one to make New Year's resolutions, but this year it seems right. In 2007 I lost 45 pounds by eating right and getting a pretty small amount of exercise. In 2008 I completely slacked off and gained 25 of it back. So I will make goals in 2 levels: level 1 will be completely achievable, and level 2 will be difficult to achieve:

Level 1 goals:
-drop 25 pounds by 12/31/2009
-ride 450 miles by 12/31/2009

Level 2 goals:
-drop 50 pounds by 12/31/2009
-ride 600 miles by 12/31/2009

My bike computer odometer currently reads: 96.7