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The 't' switch

For most of my hearing aid wearing life, there has been an option on my hearing aid called the 't' switch. I can switch it to this setting when using the phone, over the counter in shops/banks/libraries where there is a 't' switch sign, listening to music on headphones, for the TV and places that use a loop system. A hearing loop (sometimes called an audio induction loop) is a special type of sound system for use by people with hearing aids. The loop system is something that is installed in a room or particular place which amplifies noise in that particular area and cuts out background noise and it links to my hearing aid via a magnetic field. Without the 't' switch on, if there is background music playing or someone has the radio on, that sounds just as loud as someone standing in front of me. Its very difficult sometimes to be able to differentiate between the two noises. Hearing aids are very good at amplifying background noise. The idea is that I can hear the clerks in the banks, or the woman at the reception desk or the TV better with no other noise distractions.

I used to love having the 't' switch on when I listened to the Walkman because I couldn't hear anything but the music. I had some very good school friends who along with my sister, used to write out the lyrics of songs for me as I couldn't hear what the words were. If I bought a cassette or record, I would only buy the ones that had lyrics printed inside or on the cover. I used to play my favourite songs very loudly to the annoyance of my sister!!

I remember I was so excited when 'closed captioning' became a thing with videos (basically subtitles). As I grew up, I remember sitting very close to the TV trying to hear what was going on, probably why I had glasses from such a young age! Now, if a programme or film doesn't have subtitles, I just don't watch it. We did have a loop system for the TV so I could cut out background noise, but that also meant I couldn't hear any conversations that were going on the room. I do enjoy going to the cinema (I usually read up about the plot beforehand so I get the gist) but I'm forever interrupting my kids/husband asking what was going on. I did use the 't switch in the cinema once but it worked so well that I could hear what was playing on the screen next door too!! Very distracting!

I also remember walking near where I lived and I had my Walkman on listening to my favourite 80's songs when I realised I'd picked up someone talking. I worked out that somehow I'd managed to pick up a vicar giving a sermon in the church opposite as I walked along the road!

I also remember at primary school that for assembly I would wear a loop unit which was basically the box style hearing aids on my chest with a collar round my neck - it looked like a really badly fitted bra! I absolutely hated wearing it as it was so obvious. Anyway, the head teacher would have to clip a similar box to her waist which was then attached to a microphone which she attached to her blouse. I remember her saying in front of the whole school - can you hear me? Meaning me. I wanted the ground to swallow me up. She called it her 'Jan Leeming' set - showing my age here!

When I first moved to London in the 90's, I had a mobile phone and I managed to find a loop system that was hearing aid compatible with the 't' switch - it had a tiny microphone on the loop round my neck and I remember the puzzled glances I got when I could be seen talking to someone but the mobile phone was in my pocket!! They must have thought I was crazy. I've never really got on with the 't' switch for phones, I hate using the phone and will not use it unless I absolutely have to. I'm comfortable using it with family as I know their voices really well, but generally, its something I've never got comfortable with. Apparently SMS texts were originally invented as a way for deaf people to communicate but then became popular with hearing people too. I love texting and emailing :)

Unfortunately, with my new hearing aids, the audiologist gave me the option of having either the 't' switch or volume control. Because the hearing aids are being made smaller, it means that the capacity to have more controls on it are gone (or so I was told). So a couple of years ago, I had to make the decision to choose one over the other - I had got so used to having both volume control and the 't' switch it was a really difficult decision. I tried it with the 't' switch but found it really difficult as I had to attend two conferences for work and I couldn't hear what was being said. I didn't have the capacity to turn up the volume. So I went back to the audiologist and explained that I needed the volume control instead. So I now no longer have the 't' function on my hearing aid, which makes me feel quite sad. But saying that it's handy to have volume control when the kids are arguing......


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