Sight, Sound and Beyond

Archive for the ‘Vision and Hearing’ Category

My True Love

2000px-Heart_corazón.svgSo I a couple months ago, I was practicing with my band, which consists of a few parishioners from my parish.  Two of my bandmates are members of the Knights of Columbus, and one of them mentioned that the knights would like for us to play at their Valentine’s Day Diner.

“I can do it!” I said in excitement, “I never have plans on Valentine’s Day!”  Despite my happy disposition, I was admitting to what seemed to be an unfortunate truth.  I have never that special kind of love. Well, I have had many but all of them were unrequited loves.

I was a late bloomer in life and didn’t go out on my first date until I was nearly 23 years old. Were my parents strict about dating?  Heck no! That’s seriously how long it took me to get a date.  In high school, I had many crushes but because of my unpopularity, I was shy around the opposite sex.  In college, I had many interests but many of the guys on campus were either taken or gay.

I have never had a steady boyfriend.  I came close a few times, but it never worked out the way I hoped it would.  So as you can see, I have never earned the title as being a man’s girlfriend or sweetheart.  When it comes to that kind of love, my life has been a series of disappointments and it started at a fairly young age.  When I was about eleven years old, I had my first broken heart when my childhood friend of many years rejected my idea of us marrying in the future because of my poor vision.  Yes, I know I was just a kid and he was just a kid as well, but those words pierced my heart because I was rejected based on something that I could not help.  Being born with both a hearing and visual impairment just happened to me.  It was not something I chose.  It simply just is and I prefer to be defined by my choices, not by my circumstances.

I always thought that unrequited love would get easier with age, but I have learned that is not always the case. I can remember one instance that wasn’t all that long ago in which the pain of unrequited love was almost unbearable. In fact it was so painful that the emotional hurt and stress caused me to experience physical pain in my chest. At one point I thought that the pain would lead to a heart attack.  I kept praying to God to help heal both the physical and emotional pain go away.  It took months and many nights of crying before I began heal.  I remember pleading with Him: “Lord, please do not allow me to ever fall in love ever again, unless the guy actually wants to be in a relationship with me.”

Then a light went off in my head. God wants to be in a relationship with each one of us. God loves each of us so much, but do we all respond to His call to be in a relationship with Him?  Only one who loves us so much would come down into our existence, suffer and die so that we could live in eternal love with Him.  I can recall what a Franciscan Friar once told me on my 34th birthday: “Jennifer, always remember that Jesus loves you.  He died for you.”

During that time that I was dealing with the chest pain, which was clearly due to a broken heart, I had a very powerful dream one night that was the source of great healing that began to take place in my life.  I was standing outside my home when I suddenly saw Jesus, Himself standing before me. He stood tall, clothed in red garments that had gold trim and I, like a little child, ran to Him and He scooped me up in His arms and held me close to His heart.  My eyes filled with tears as I held my arms around Him, my chin resting on His shoulder.  I felt so small and yet so precious to Him and as He held me I noticed how high off the ground I was. It was a very beautiful and emotional encounter, and the interesting part is that no words were spoken. No words were spoken at all, and yet I knew He truly loved me.  I also felt a deep sense of understanding from Him for He knew all too well the pain of unrequited love.  He knew what it was like to have His love handed back to Him.  He knew what the sting of humiliation felt like.  Our pains became united because we both understood each others suffering.

From that experience on, I have focused less on trying to win the heart of a man, but rather to focus on the heart of He who already gave me His heart in His death and resurrection.  He is the one who still continues to love me despite my faults and mistakes, and He has not forsaken me.  I want so much to please Him not because I want Him to love me but because He already does love me.  He loved me then, He loves me now and He will love me in the future.

Why must I concern myself with finding the love of my life when I already have a Great Love in my life already?  Yes, finding love in this life is a good thing, but it is not needed for survival.  Without my Lord, I am dead.  He is the reason I exist and He is the source of everything I have for He is the ultimate gift giver.  He gave me my music, my birds, my friends, my parents, my family, etc.

Therefore, I do not make it my life goal to find a guy and get married.  If it happens, it happens, but if doesn’t that is fine too.  Being single is not the worst thing that can happen to a person and it doesn’t make a person less lovable than someone who is married or in a romantic relationship.  Unfortunately, it took me a long time to realize this.

People have asked me: “Why don’t you have a boyfriend?” or “Why aren’t you married yet?”  I answer them by saying: “I don’t need a man because I have the Lord.” They give a little laugh and a smile, but I am actually being serious.  All my life, I wanted a love that’s eternal and I have had it this entire time. I am sorry it took me so long to figure it out.


On Being Special

you-are-special_2500_1024x768I have a confession to make. Quite often in my life, I feel the need to be special. Yes, at my age, I still dream of being special and influential. I dream of being loved or just being liked by other people. I still enjoy being praised for a job well done and yes, I even enjoy a complement. I also enjoy receiving physical affection from those I care about. Children are not the only ones who like to be kissed, cuddled and fussed over.  I am very fortunate that Sunny and Nikki give me little feathered cuddles, beaky kisses. and greet me with happy chirps when I walk through the door.

When I was a child, I would dream about being liked and recognized as a great person.  I was the only one in my class who had both a hearing and visual impairment, but I wanted to show everyone that I could still be great despite my physical challenges.

As I teenager, I dreamt about being a hero and making a difference.  I am sad to admit that my motivation for greatness was for my own personal pleasure.  I always felt like I was standing in the shadows and I wanted so badly to stand in the light. I wanted to be valuable and viewed myself as a kind of diamond in the rough.

I think all of us want to have an interesting story to share with the world.  I did and a lot of times I still do. I am the youngest of three girls and my eldest sister was often hailed as a legend and inspiration.  Like me, she has a hearing and visual impairment, but the oldest child always goes first and she did everything before me.  I grew up hearing about how wonderful she was from teachers and would be greeted with phrases like “I don’t know you, but I know your sister.  She is a amazing.” After hearing that, I wanted to be amazing too.

In my twenties, I become more competitive trying to make my mark. It was during my twenties when I become very serious about my music and wanted to be recognized as a pianist and composer. I wanted to get ahead, and I still wanted so much for others to like me. I have learned that getting people to like me or what I do isn’t that easy.  However, ticking people off is a piece of cake!

Even at the age of 34, I sometimes still find myself wishing to be special and when this happens, I stop dead in my tracks because I don’t want to get caught in that vicious cycle again. To run after this idea of being special is foolish because while we think that achieving it will bring us piece, it really does not. It is a trick, an illusion, much like many of the commercials we see on television that convince us to buy stuff we really do not need.

Yes, we all experience this need to be special at some point in our lives. Being special is linked to wanting to be loved and everyone wants to be loved. But I have noticed how the things of this world change and if we cling to the things of this world, we will never find peace.  We must seek something or more specifically Someone who is unchanging and remains constant in our lives and this Someone is beyond this physical world.

It is amazing how many people have come in and out of my life and how my dreams and life circumstances have changed throughout the years. As a child I dreamt of being accepted and liked by everyone. As a teen and as a young adult, I dreamt of challenging the conventional ideas held by our society and making a difference in the world. And now as I emerge into a fuller adulthood, my goal is be to know, love and serve God and to demonstrate Christ’s love through acts of kindness and service to others.  My dream is to become a saint and to go to heaven.  To achieve these things will be very difficult, but in the end it will be well worth the effort.

I often still recall the words my mother said when I was a young: It all adds up in the end. Yes, God has last word in the end, not the world and for the last couple years, I have been asking our Lord for His much needed assistance:

Lord, help me to see myself as you see me, not as the world sees me and help me to become the person that You created me to be.

Perhaps we all should stop concerning ourselves with being special to the world and focus more on the reality that we are already special to God. We are all so small compared to Him and yet He loves us so much. Compared to the infinite power and wisdom of God, we are a bunch of airheads and yet He loves each one of us. To him we are so precious, so precious that He came down into our own existence and died for every one of us. If that cannot make each one of us feel special, I do not know what else can.  It is the perfect love story.

After leaving this world, I wish to be remembered, recognized and loved by none other than the one who is responsible for my existence in the first place, the one who died for me so that I could live forever with Him. I hope that what I do in this world does not matter so much to those who live in this world, but to He and all those who live in Heaven because in the end, that is where I want to be.

The Competition

my name tag

Last Sunday was the New Jersey Music Teachers Association (NJMTA) Commissioned Composer Competition.  Just to recap, I was selected to be this year’s commissioned composer.  I wrote 4 student works: Peaceful Pause (beginner piano solo), Avian Adventures (intermediate piano solo), Modern Dance (advanced piano solo) and Shades of Blue (intermediate/advanced violin and piano duo).  On Sunday, November 11th, I was a judge for this competition where I heard student performances of my new works.  After hearing these performances, I selected 1st, 2nd, 3rd and honorable mentions for each of the four categories.  The winners in each category will be premiering the works this Saturday at the NJMTA State Conference.

It was quite the experience to serve as a judge.  I was the only judge so I guess you could say that I felt like the weight of the world rested on my shoulders.  Every student I heard played very well and were all winners in my book.  It is not an easy task to pick what you consider to be the best performance of your work.  As a composer, I have a vision of what my work sounds like.  I have the whole piece in my head before ever hearing it performed live.  Everyone fulfilled my expectations, but there was that one person who took the performance beyond what I envisioned it to be and that is how I based my decisions.

After the competition, I went through a period of reflection on what competitions meant to me.  I felt like my whole life has been one never ending competition.  Perhaps everyone’s life can be viewed as an ongoing competition.  My competition began at the age of six years old when I realized that I was unlike my other classmates.  After my first day of Kindergarten, I came home asking my mother why people were making fun of my eyes.  That’s when I learned about my visual impairment and that I was different from all the kids in my grade.

Two years later, I began private lessons in classical piano and was told that I had a very strong musical ear and learned that I have perfect pitch.  However, school was a different story.  My teachers had commented to my parents that it appeared that I was not paying attention in class.  Then, a recent school hearing test showed that my hearing was not normal.  I was finally diagnosed with having hearing loss.  This made sense since I didn’t learn how to speak until I was three and a half years old.  Why did the diagnosis take so long?  I have no idea, but according to my parents, I was a late bloomer at everything, so learning to talk late wasn’t so out of the ordinary.   For example, I didn’t begin to walk independently until I was two years old.  My learning to speak late caused a delay in my social skills.  Because of this, I began Kindergarten at the age of six as opposed to the typical age of five years old.

Making friends was a competition, and I always felt like the least likable person in my class.  I spent years trying to win approval and acceptance of my classmates, trying to show them that I could still be there friend despite our apparent differences.  When you are born with any type of medical condition, life, as you know it, is normal.  As far as I knew, I could see and hear like everyone else.  I knew what colors and sounds were and delighted in the same things as anyone else.  If I weren’t trying to win friends over, I was trying to win the approval and praise of my teachers and professors, which was actually easier then making friends.

When I entered the work force, I began competing for jobs.  This is probably the most difficult competition since prospective employers always go by first impressions.  I realize that everyone goes through this, but for me, I felt that I had to prove twice as much as my competitors.  I not only had to prove that I had the abilities and capabilities to perform the job tasks, but I had to prove that my abilities matched or even went beyond those of a fully sighted and hearing person.  I had to prove that my physical challenges did not interfere with my level of inelegance as a human being.

Like many aspiring musicians, I had competed in music competitions.  In college, I competed in a couple competitions and after I graduated, I competed for a performance appearances in concerts and festivals.  I have never won any of these competitions and at the time it was heartbreaking.  There were a couple ones that if selected, I would have the opportunity to perform in Washing D.C.  It would be a chance to perform with other musicians from all over the world, who had disabilities as well.

Looking back, I remember what was once said to me and my fellow competitors by one of the judges at a college music competition: “There are no losers.”  When I first heard this statement, I immediately thought: “Yeah right, he is just saying that.”  But after standing on the other side and being a judge at Sunday’s competition, I suddenly realized that he was right.  Not winning at a competition does not signify losing.  To truly lose would be to quit.  In my life, I have had many supporters who helped me along the way, but it was the adversity I faced which pushed me to work harder.  As a result I have gone much further than I could ever imagine.  As a child, I felt that I my life was a constant competition in which I showed no signs of ever winning, but my childhood years proved to be the very opposite.  They allowed me to grow into a much stronger and more compassionate human being.

Remember that a loss is only a loss if one allows it to remain so and from a loss can come great gain.  Like a phoenix that rises from the ashes, we all rise again, too.

Is Summer Really Over?

Well, summer doesn’t officially end until the first day of autumn, which is September 22nd so I have a few days left, but seriously, where did the time go?  I think it went to the same place that my twenties went.  What I love most about the summer is the long hours of daylight.  I will miss how how it would still be light out at 7pm.  However, I won’t miss the heat and humidity.  We had a lot of that, and it was pretty uncomfortable.

So what did I do over these past few months other than get an iPhone?  Well, I thought I give you a recap of some of the exciting things that I did so here we go!

Gold Master Disc

     Piano Duo Venti Dita

Marvin and I recorded our CD.  Yes, we have the gold master disc and we are in the early stages of production.  We are quite happy with how the master sounds and are looking forward to the finished product.  We also have an official name now: Piano Duo Venti Dita (It. Twenty Fingers).  We are playing in a concert together this Sunday, September 23 in Bristol Chapel at Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton, NJ.  Actually it’s Marvin’s concert.  I will be acting as his sidekick, but hey, I am still in it.  Yea!  I love being included!

Squawk Back (excerpt)

     Squawk Back

I composed a piece for flute and tape called Squawk Back.  The girls, as usual, managed to squeeze in to this project.  The work was written for flutist, Meerenai Shim, who is looking for new works to perform and possibly record.  I don’t know if this work will be chosen but I am quite happy with how it turned out.  The tape consists Sunny and Nikki’s squawks altered to sound like a drum track.  It is a rhythmic ostinato that repeats through out.  In addition, Sunny and Nikki’s natural calls are mixed in to add an avian flavor.  The flutist plays along with the tape.  It is quite unique but then again, the girls always bring something unique to the table don’t they?


An Avian House Guest

I birdsat a 20-year old White-Eyed Conure named Vito.  He stayed with us for two weeks while his family visited Italy.  H and the girls squawked back and fourth.  I have birdsat Vito several times and it is always an experience because he he sounds like a bugle.

T-Coil Headphones

For years, I have always had trouble listening to music with headphones.  Because I wear hearing aids, that go behind the ear. wearing tradition headphones often both my ears.  Everything would sound distorted.  I also often get some interference and sometimes even feedback, depending on what I am listening.  I obviously can’t wear earbuds since I already have the earmolds that attach to my hearing aids in my ears.  So what did I do?  I purchased my very first pair of headphones from TecEar, which are designed for people who wear hearing aids that have a telecoil program.  Telecoils, also known as T-coils, are nifty little devices that are found inside a hearing.  T-coils allow sound to bypassthe hearing aid microphones and travel directly to the hearing aid via a magnetic field.  In the past I would wear a pair of headphones over my hearing aids, the sounds would travel through the microphones and thus become amplified.   Telecoil or T-coil headphones allow the sounds to bypass the microphones and travel directly to the hearing aid itself.  What is the result, crystal clear sound.

This is how the T-coil headphones are worn.

Yes!  I love these things.  I use them on my iPhone religiously and they work on any audio source that have a standard headphone jack.  My T-coil program is set to a t-coil and microphones mixture in both ears.  So I can listen to music on my headset and still hear environmental sounds around me.  It’s a win win situation!

T-coil headphones don’t look like conventional headphones.  In fact it is kind of like wearing coat hangers on your hears.  Okay, maybe not quite like that, but the ear hooks that sit behind your ears resembles that of a hook that you find on a coat hanger.  There are colored markering on each of the hooks: the blue is for the left ear and the red is for the right.  These are the standard colored markings used on hearing aids so people don’t try putting the left hearing aid on their right ear and vice versa.  It took me a while to get used to putting on and and taking off my t-coild headphones, but after a few days I became a pro and use them whenever needed.  They are a great invention and I am very happy with them.

Hearing Loss 101

I have decided to write about a topic very near and dear to me that so many people do not know much about: hearing loss.  It is really interesting when you meet other adults that still lack the basic understanding of hearing loss and understanding the available treatments.  I am going to answer some of the most of the frequently asked questions I receive from people whom I know both personally and professionally   Hopefully you will find my own personal account to be quite educational.

1.  I notice that even with your hearing aids on, you still don’t hear everything.  How come?

A hearing aid does not restore normal hearing the way prescription eyeglasses can restore normal vision for most wearers (my glasses don’t do that but that is another topic of discussion).  Hearing aids are called hearing aids for a reason.  They simply act as an aid or a helper to the person who wears them.  My hearing loss is the result of nerve damage inside the cochlea, which is where all the hearing magic takes place.   When a person hears something, sound waves travel inside the ear until they reach the cochlea which is located deep inside the ear, way past the ear drum.  The cochlea has fluid-filled ducts that are lined with hair cells.  These hair cells translate the sound waves into nerve impulses that the brain can understand.  Many of the hair cells in my cochlea are damaged, which causes deafness.  Because there is damage, a hearing aid cannot allow me to hear like a normal person would.  Because I have some residual hearing, the hearing aid allows me to hear the sounds better by using amplification.

2.  Why not get a cochlear implant?

Although hearing aids do not correct my hearing loss, they do manage to help me a lot.  I can communicate with people through speech rather than sign language.  Because my hearing aids are helpful, there is no need for me to have a cochlear implant.  A cochlea implant is more suitable for one who does not benefit from hearing aids at all.  A person who receives a cochlear implant often has very limited residual hearing or no hearing at all.

3.  What do you hear when you are not wearing your hearing aids?

My hearing loss is most severe in the middle frequencies.  That means that I can detect high and low sounds better than sounds that fall in between.  This type of hearing loss is called a cookie-bite loss because of how it appears on an audiogram.  Speech falls into the middle frequencies category.  Therefore, when I am not wearing my hearing aids I have difficulty hearing and understanding speech.  I may hear you faintly babbling things to me, but I won’t have the slightest clue what you are saying unless you are inches from my ear and speaking in a strong voice.  I have no problem hearing the high pitch calls of Sunny and Nikki though:-)

4.  Your speech is so clear.  How did you learn to speak so well?

Just a little background: I was not diagnosed with hearing loss until I was 8 years old.  This is due to the shape of my hearing loss.  When I was 3 1/2 years old, my mother took me to a speech therapist because I still wasn’t talking.  It was assumed that my speech delay was due to my visual impairment.  After all, I didn’t learn how to walk until I was 2 years old.  Since there was no knowledge of my hearing loss, my mother was told that I would learn to talk when I was ready.  My great aunt even added that I would learn how to talk and once I did learn, I would never stop.  P.S. She was right LOL!

Somehow, I managed to pick up the English language even though I would pronounce many words wrong.  Many members of my family speak at a higher decibel level than the average person so that helped me learn to pick up words.  As for the clarity of my speech, I would have to say that I owe that to my 15 years of singing in the school choir.  All through elementary school, junior high school, high school, college and even a year in grad school, I sang in the choir with my fellow classmates.  It was there I learned how to enunciate, which definitely enhanced the clarity of my speech.

5.  What is an FM system?

It is amazing that even those who live with hearing loss have never heard of an FM system.  My audiologist was shocked when I had told her that I had went through all my years of public schooling without the use of an FM system.  I was never offered one.  She had made the conclusion that I was just so smart and had all my teachers fooled.  Now, that’s a nice way to look at things!  Anyway, the classroom is the worst listening environment and in my final semester of graduate school, I experienced that challenge to its extreme when I took a course that met twice a week in the choral hall.  Yes, a choral hall!  It was like sitting in a large bathroom LOL!  I found myself straining to hear my professor and feeling very frustrated.  I would leave the class feeling exhausted due to my intense concentration.  It was then when I learned what an FM system was.  Finally, at the age of 26, I was learning what was available to me besides hearing aids.  It was an eye opening experience!

An FM System is simply a wireless microphone that wireless transmits sounds to a pair of headphones or hearing aids.  My FM system works with my hearing aids and allows me to hear sounds that are either far away or that are surrounded by unwanted background nose.  For more about the the FM system, you can read my post entitled What is an FM System? 

Blind or Deaf?

Helen Keller (1881-1968)

I have been asked the following question many times: If you were forced to choose, would you rather be completely blind or completely deaf?  This recently came up in a conversation and has been on my mind ever since.  One of my mother’s friends commented that she could never cope with being blind and would prefer to be deaf.  Last night I googled: “Would you rather be blind or deaf?” and was amazed to learn that most people would prefer to be completely deaf rather than being completely blind.

Of course, I would not want to be either.  Since I have both a hearing and visual impairment I know firsthand how the loss of these senses can affect a person.  Of course for me, having both these senses impaired creates a whole new experience.  What do I mean by that?  Well, when a person is blind, they often depend on their hearing.  This helps them gather a sense of what is happening in the world around them.  Likewise, a person who is deaf will often depend on their vision to collect information.  As someone who has both a vision and hearing loss, what do I depend on more: my hearing or my vision?  I don’t depend much on either.  I often depend on touch and memory, especially when it comes to music making.  I guess you could also say I have a sixth sense at times and often go with my intuition.  I pay close attention, too, which is why it has been said that I am a very intense person.  I can really get focused on what I am doing.

If I were completely blind, I would not be able to see the beautiful colors of my two parrots, the beauty of nature and all the other things that people love to look at.  Without hearing, I would not be able to communicate through spoken language.  Although many learn to read lips, this is not the case for everyone.  I would not be able to hear my friends voices on the telephone or the calls of my parrots when they tell me they want to eat.  I would not be able to hear the sounds that are supposed to alert me of danger such as the sound of a fire alarm

While being blind would rob me of seeing many things, being deaf would rob me of staying in close connection with the people I love.  To me, there is something beautiful when it comes to the sound of laughter.  I love to hear laughter and I love when I say something that can send a person laughing out loud.

Of course, there are ways to overcome both blindness and deafness, but knowing what I know now and remembering what I have experienced, I will tell you that I have had more frustration when I could not hear something rather than when I could not see something.  Yes, I was frustrated to learn that I would never be able to drive, and I would feel left out in school when I was the only student in class who could not see what was written on the chalkboard.  However, I would become more frustrated and emotional when I could not hear what was said to me.  Also, when I was in college, I lived in a campus dormitory where there would be frequent fire drills at any hour of the day or night.  Whenever I took a shower, I would have to take my hearing aids out, and I would always worry that I would not be able to hear the alarm go off.  Also when I was a child, our fire alarm went off during the night.  There was not a fire.  The alarm was not working properly or something like that.  Anyway, it went off at 5am and everyone in the house woke up because they had heard it go off except me.  It didn’t wake me up.  What if there had been a real fire?

In my opinion, hearing and vision are both important senses and to choose one over the other is extremely difficult but if I were forced to chose, I would say I would rather be blind than deaf.  The great Helen Keller once said: “I am just as deaf as I am blind. The problems of deafness are deeper and more complex, If not more important, than those of blindness.  Deafness is a much worse misfortune. For it means the loss of the most vital stimulus – the sound of the voice that brings language, sets thoughts astir, and keeps us in the intellectual company of man.”

Of course, the 21st century is an exciting time for anyone to be living because of the advances in medicine and technology.  There are more treatments to help deafness and blindness today than there were ever before.  I feel very fortunate to live in a time when I was able to receive corneal transplants in both my eyes to help improve my vision.  Yes, my vision is not 20/20, but it is better than before and I am happy with that.  I am also happy to be living in a time that has wonderful technology, which help me to be successful on a daily basis.  For vision, this includes my Closed Circuit Television (CCTV), my magnifiers, and telescopes.  For hearing this includes my digital hearing aids, my FM system and my sonic boom alarm clock which wakes me up through vibrations rather than sound.

I couldn’t be born in a better time period and so I end by saying “viva 21st century!”

What is an FM System?

Sound Waves by Ofelia Uz

I thought that I would write this article to raise some awareness.about FM Systems. Many people do not know what an FM system is and wouldn’t even recognize one. In fact, I have been asked if it is some type of recording device. This is pretty normal because you don’t really hear the topic of FM systems com up on everyday conversation.  Although, it did happen to come up in a conversation this past week while I was at work.

Before I get into the specifics, let me start with a story that happened several months ago wnile I was at handbell choir rehearsal (I am in my church’s handbell choir).  Some of the members were wondering what our music director, Nadia, was wearing around her neck and what it does. Nadia directed the question to me to answer since it was my listening device that she was wearing. “Nadia is wearing a microphone around her neck so that I can hear her when she talks. You see, when she speaks, the sound of her voice goes directly to my hearing aids.” I said while pointing to one of my hearing aids. One of the members was very impressed with this type of technology.

The is what an FM system is on a very basic level. An FM system consists of two components: a transmitter and a receiver. The transmitter is what Nadia wears around her neck. It has a microphone which picks up her voice as she speaks. The sounds of her voice travel wirelessly to two receivers which are attached to each of my hearing aids. Some receivers easily snap on a hearing aid for easy application and removal. However, my receivers are permanently attached to my hearing aids and are located where the battery door is. When I am not using my FM system the receivers are powered off and I am just listening to sounds through the hearing aid mics alone. I am literally like a human radio because an FM system operates the same way as a radio, using frequency modulation (FM) waves.

This is my FM transmitter. The built-in microphone is located on the upper-left side.

Here is what my receiver looks like. It is attached to my hearing aid.

FM transmitters come in many varieties. There are some that work with a person’s hearing aids. This is how mine works. Both my hearing aids and FM system are made by Phonak and are compatible with one another. There are some FM systems that work independently. That is, you don’t need to wear a hearing aid to use it. The person receiving the sounds would wear a headset.

 Why is an FM system so beneficial? For starters, it allows a person to hear at far distances and in noisy situations. Let’s use handbell choir as an example. Rehearsals are held inside a church, so there is the added echo when hearing someone speak. Plus, the music director stands at least two feet away from me. For some that may seem like not much, but when you are in a church and have a hearing loss, that can be quite a distance.

 As Nadia talks, I can hear her as if she were standing a few inches away from me. My receivers pick up her speech and the microphones on my hearing aids pick up the other sounds around me like the sounds of our music making. If someone next to me says something to me, I can hear that, too, but no matter how noisy it gets around me, I can always hear Nadia’s instructions.

Another benefit of having an FM system is that It can plug the transmitter into audio devices via an aux cable. You simply plug one end of the cable into the FM transmitter and the other end into a headphone jack of your audio source. I often have a hard time hearing the television so I sometimes hook my FM transmitter up to it for easier listening. If I am watching television with other people in the room, I just turn the transmitter on, and place it near the speaker of the television so that the microphone pics up and amplifies all the sounds. Now I can enjoy watching television with other people.

An FM system is very helpful in situations where I feel that I need a “third ear”. I have used it in noisy settings, music rehearsals, listening to far away sounds and more.

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