Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Human Factor

Today I had planned to use an assistive listening device to help me hear at a special meeting for work. The meeting took place at another university and I did all the right preparation. Two weeks ahead of time, I contacted the event organizer through email and asked him about the meeting room and whether there would be a single speaker or a panel of speakers. I was relieved when he told me it would be one speaker at a time with everyone in the same room listening. (I hate those meetings when people break up into groups and they all talk at once!) I told him about the small microphone I would bring and he said he would let the speakers know ahead of time about my request for them to wear it. Last night I carefully charged my Oticon Connectline microphone and streamer (the receiver unit which is worn like a necklace).

But I forgot to count in the human factor. Yep, that's me I'm referring to here. It took me longer than I expected to drive to the meeting's location. Instead of arriving early with time to introduce myself to the organizer and demonstrate my equipment, I came in to find the other attendees were already gathered in the auditorium and the lights were turned off in anticipation of the first PowerPoint presentation. I managed to make my way in the darkened room to the front row and grab an empty seat.

Fortunately, this auditorium was designed well for acoustics. Also in my favor, the first three people who spoke were men with strong voices that projected well. I could hear them from where I was sitting, perhaps ten to twelve feet away. There was a short break before the fourth speaker. When I saw that she was a woman, I decided I needed to approach her. While she was setting up her presentation, I asked her if she would be willing to wear my microphone. She graciously said yes and put it on immediately. Then I thought, I should test it while I'm still up here with her. So I put on my streamer and turned it on. Immediately my hearing aids switched over to their Bluetooth program. The woman spoke, but I could not hear her at all. I got flustered and decided to simply move to an empty seat closer to the podium. I retrieved my microphone and beat a hasty retreat.

I claimed a seat directly in front of the podium. I figured she already knew I couldn't hear well, so it wouldn't bother her to have me there. I was now within 6 feet of her. I learned at the HLAA convention, that 6 feet is about the maximum distance where hearing aids are effective (but I don't have a source for that, so please don't quote me).

When I looked down at the microphone, still clenched in my hand, I realized what I had done wrong. I had forgotten to tell the speaker to turn the microphone on. Oops. To compensate for my error, I turned my hearing aid volume up a notch and then one more and listened closely (eyes fixed on her mouth) as the presenter talked. She was followed by another woman. This presenter spoke a little more slowly and I followed her easily enough. After that, I was finished for the day. It had been two hours of intense listening, about the same amount of time as it took me to drive there and back home. It might have been made easier with an assistive listening device, if not for the human factor. But what can I say, I'm only human.


Liz Fisher said...

Oh dear Sarah. Frustrating I know at the time, but I hope you managed to laugh after, at what you done and just take it as a learning curve for next time. I did that once myself some years ago when I first had my Conversor, except it was what I was wearing that I forgot to turn on.

Anonymous said...

Hello Sarah! I just discovered your blog. I am curious to hear what you think of the ConnectLine products.

Sarah Wegley said...

Hi Anonymous,
I have not used them as much as I thought I would. So far the streamer was the most helpful.