Archive for March 31, 2018

Happy Haptics

Back at the tail end of last year I was incredibly humbled to be support by The Molly Watt Trust and their Apple Watch Project.  Here is the article I wrote as a review on their blog.How is it that a few simple vibrations can give you SO VERY MUCH?

 

“If you had asked me the same question just a few months ago I would have probably said how I didn’t understand them.

Well, that was before I was fortunate enough to receive a Series 1, 42mm Apple Watch from the charity The Molly Watt Trust This was a piece of accessible technology I would never have been in a position to justify buying; even though I have seen the benefits others have gained from it.

So I took a chance, I applied to the charities project and crossed everything!The Apple Watch arrived at the end of November.  And after I plucked up the courage to open up the box it was like love at first sight! (If such a thing can happen with an inanimate object like a watch!)

The first fun was setting the Watch face.  Having previously had a Fitbit Surge I thought this would be easy…… it wasn’t!  That’s a bit of a fib, setting the Watch face was easy it was rather trying to decide on what ‘complications’ I wanted to be able to have for easy access on the Watch face that was the difficult part.  And it took just over a week to get the right mix, that I have continued to use ever since!i

Since wearing hearing aids in 2017 I am no longer able to wear in ear headphones, this posed a huge issue for me as an iPhone user who relies heavily on Apple maps and google maps to help support me to keep more independence.  Walking with my phone out in my hand wasn’t exactly safe either.

This is the one feature I was really excited about trying out for myself on the watch.  The ability to set a route on my phone in apple maps and then have the haptic (vibrations) go on my wrist to alert me to an instruction.

It took some getting used to, and if I am honest I tend to make use of my remaining sight to look at the instruction, but I am learning to be more trusting of it.  While my phone stays safely away in my pocket or bag.

Another feature I have found incredibly useful is text messaging.  Yes I can use my phone for most of my day to day messages (with the added support of zoom).

But if I am out and about (or even sat in a loud, busy venue) I can quickly scroll down to a pre-set message that simply says “struggling here”. This I find is enough to help raise the alert that I am not finding things easy.

This works particularly well with my friends who also have an Apple Watch, but for those who don’t, but who can quickly glance at their phones I am quickly able to find reassurance…… Or in the case of the other day; I am able to alert my friends that I have got lost on the way back to the table after going to the toilet (the waitress had kindly shown me where they were)

For me, the feeling of being safe in my surroundings is key; whether this is somewhere on my own, somewhere new or somewhere ‘different’ has always been important to me.  As my sight determinated this became event more important.  But when my hearing also started to fail me; I worried that I would loose myself with it.

In these past four months, I have felt like I have a new lease on life.  And I really do believe this is down to the support I have benefitted from from The Molly Watt Trust and The Apple Watch Project.

Thank you.”

What a difference a year makes

Selfie photograph of my face, with a scarve on that is blue with red popppies. I am wearing my glasses and my hearing aids with my hair

On 20th March 2017 I found myself sat in the audiologists office having my hearing aids fitted; which I wrote about in What does sound sound like?.

I had previously been told I would only need a hearing aid for my right ear, yet when I arrived at my appointment I was actually fitted with a hearing aid for both my left and right ear; a pleasant suprise, yet a very welcome on.  Because in giving me hearing aids for both ears the audiologist was able to programme the strength in each side differently so that I heard the same.

I wont’t lie, I hated wearing them.

It took me a long time to get used to ‘hearing’things again.  The little things, like the kitchen clock; the dogs gnawing on their bones; the sound of my feet on the pavement.  But (following the audiologists advice) I soon learnt to ‘not hear’ or rather ‘tune out’ these sounds; sounds that my brain had learnt to ignore (just as it does for most people who can hear perfectly well)

I also quickly learnt how little and inconspicuous my hearing aids were.  With very few people realising that I actually wore them.

When they were originally fitted, I had them set by the audiologist to automatically adjust with no input from me.  However this was not while I got used to them.

In July ((1 beep, 2 beep, 3 beep, 4) I had my hearing aids adjusted and since then I have gone from strength to strength in using them and wearing them each and every day, just as I would with my glasses (even though I now get so little from wearing them-wearing them is a daily habit)

I have also added to my ‘tech’ to go with my hearing aids, with my amplicomms personal t-loop system I am able to listen friends in busier environments, have calls streamed directly into my ears with the microphone around my neck; I am also able to listen to audible and music too.

My CPiC and I are working on using it as an aid to my climbing….. But that is a whole other blog post!!

So, what have I gained in the last year?

I have learnt that just like glasses for me, hearing aids to not ‘fix’ my hearing; however they do enable me to hear more and clearer than if I don’t wear them.

I have been able to feel safer out and about, especially with hearing traffic and its direction.  So much so, that in recent months I have gone back to enjoying walking into town (about 2.5 miles) with Fizz guiding me.

I have also learnt that I can ‘shut out’ noise if I want to sit quietly with a cuppa or a cold pint, then I can turn my hearing aids down, put them into the induction loop setting and I can sit peacefully.  So I can have ‘selective’ hearing too!!

Its been an interesting year of wearing hearing aids, I would be lying if I said I am getting used to them….. But I am finding the postitives with them, both with my own hearing and with the connections I have made with other people who have hearing and sight issues.

I am still wanting to work on fundraising for my own pair or ReSound Hearing Aids, which are so much more ‘tech’ friendly with my iPhone and Apple Watch, but that is a work in progress.

 

Silly Self-Consciousnesses

The sun is out and so are the sunglasses!

Hello Sun…….

This leaves me feeling a little ‘vunersble’ though.  You see I have continued to wear my glasses as a way of ‘hiding’ even though I gain very little from them when I am out and about.

It is a comfort, because I don’t like how my eyes look.  Having always worn glasses it feels like I have huge dark circles around them, that they are ‘sunken’ within my head.  And because it appears more ‘obvious’ that I have a sight issue when people can see the continual movement of my eyes.

Team these ‘anxieties’ with the fact that I feel that my hearing aids are ‘HUGE and OBVIOUS’ when really they aren’t and you can see where my self-consciousness comes from?

Today though, today was a small victory kinda day…..

Sat enjoying a cuppa, tea it’s Fizz curled up at my feet; it was only when a woman tapped me on the shoulder that I realised I was being spoke to.

You see, not only did I have my sunglasses on my head, butI also had my ‘Amplicomms’ personal T-Loop system around my neck like a large lanyard.

But to the ‘unknowning eye’ it wasn’t as ‘obvious’ !!!

Today for the first time in a long time I am also wearing my hair up in a ponytail (instead of the usual plaits) which to me makes it feel like my hearing aids are in full view of everyone; when in-fact they are hardly noticeable!

So, pausing the book I was listening to, I apologised to the woman for not hearing her and it was very pleasing to hear her reply

“I would have never guessed you had hearing aids in, or that you couldn’t see me, I couldn’t see you wearing headphones; I just thought you were ignoring me!”

Maybe I am the only one who feels self-conscious like this, or maybe this is a ‘common’ feeling amongst those with sight loss and hearing loss.

Either way, a strangers comments made me feel slightly happier with myself today.

Inspiration comes in MANY forms

Today marks International Women’s Day.  A day where social media and such goes CRAZY over ‘inspiring women’ well I am bucking that trend.  I think that inspiration can come from ANYONE.  Man, Woman, Human, Animal ….. You get the idea!

In recent months with my changing hearing and sight I have been working hard on myself.  On how I deal with a situation and how I do not allow my ‘disabilities’ to take away my sparkle, to rob me of my mood or emotions.

If I said it was an easy task I would be lying.  But it has been a task I have set about with great vigger and enthusiasm; not always successfully I may add.

Within my climbing, Be it with fellow Para climbers or (regular) climbers I am free, everyone at any wall is always happy to offer support or suggest a different move Or body position.  But some of my greatest inspiration has come from fellow Para-climbers.

From my very on CPiC who has Fibromyalgia and Aspergers, he is continually in pain or ‘foggy’ which high levels of medication can simply ‘reduce’ but not ‘cure’,  He finds a great strength from within to push through it and to climb his ass off, always pushing himself and yet still there to offer me continual support and help ME with my climbing.

There is also my dear friend Anoushé,  her ‘visable’ disability is that she has no arm from just below her elbow on her right side.  She also has many other health conditions that are ‘invisable’

Anoushé is climbing within a ‘chimney’ at Ratho Climbing centre, she is surrounded by pink jug and bicycles handlebar type holds, her left hand is about head hieght on a hold and she is just moving her right arm, which is covered in white tape at the end onto a similar hold

We first met in September 2016 in Ratho, the first paraclimbing competition for us both.  And we have grown closer upon each meeting and now regularly try to fit in training sessions together.

I look at Anoushé and feel humbled to watch her climb (mostly via videos or in photographs )  As a guide dog owner and a long cane user I am more often than not walking with either my right or left hand full (be it with a harness or a cane) but if I REALLY needed to use both my hands, I can.

I am not, nor will I ever compare my disabilities to another person (not even another hearing and visually impaired person) as just as humans we are unique; how we live with ‘differing-abilities’ is also unique.

My disabilities have been a platform for me to meet so many people from different backgrounds, and just as I believe there is something to learn from each of the people who have come and gone from my own life; I hope that others can look to me for those lessons and ‘alternative’ views.

So, today on International women’s day I want to say THANK YOU to all of those who have enabled me to grow.

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