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‘All I have to do is ask’: Hearing Technology Keeps Philosophy Professor ‘In the Loop’

Hearing technology keeps philosophy professor 'in the loop'

Lt. Col. Bill Uhl, assistant professor and deputy head of the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Philosophy Department, speaks to cadets in class, Sept. 8, 2016. Uhl says the hearing aids and assistive listening technology he uses daily has greatly improved the quality of his life. (U.S. Air Force photo/Darcie Ibidapo)

By Lt. Col. Bill Uhl, Philosophy Department / Published September 19, 2016

U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo. —In the movie, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” evil Lord Voldemort tries to kill Harry only to find himself flat on his back. “I don’t need your help!” Voldemort growls as he clumsily stands. Even He Who Must Not Be Named is too embarrassed to ask for help.

I was embarrassed to ask for help when my hearing began to deteriorate. I tried to hide it. I misinterpreted others, I grew tired at the effort it took to listen and I avoided social situations when I thought it would be hard to hear others clearly.

These days, my quality of hearing and my quality of life could not be better. I wear hearing aids and use assistive listening technology, technology that separates sounds and speech from background noise and improves the speech-to-noise ratio, according to the National Association of the Deaf website. In my case, this technology includes a remote control I use to adjust the volume of my hearing aids and change its programs, and a microphone I ask others to wear in noisy environments. I’ve also paired the remote with my cellphone via Bluetooth, and can take calls through my hearing aids.

I wear the remote via a neck loop that serves as a wireless antenna. It’s connected to an adapter slightly bigger than a deck of cards that plugs into the TV and sends a signal throughout the house to my hearing aids.

Along with using assistive listening technology on a personal basis, more and more businesses provide it to customers by installing an induction loop or wire that surrounds the audience in movie theaters, auditoriums and churches. The loop generates a magnetic field that sends a signal to a hearing aid’s embedded copper telecoil or “T-coil.” The press of a button on my remote activates this T-coil and any sound broadcast through the venue’s sound system is transmitted to my hearing aids. I’ve noticed greater clarity when I activate the T-coil at the Community Center Chapel and my local off-base parish.

I’ve worn hearing aids for almost a year and have used assistive listening technology for two months. Pretending I could hear when I couldn’t, denying I had a hearing problem and ignoring the need to be tested, was my way of saying “I don’t need your help.” I was scared to admit I suffered from hearing loss and imagined my audiologist would tell me it was only a matter of time before I became completely deaf. I feared people would treat me differently if I wore hearing aids. This couldn’t have been further from the truth.

My audiologist taught me how to use and care for my hearing aids and keeps me “in the loop” when it comes to hearing concerns, programs for my hearing aids and assistive listening technology upgrades. All I have to do is ask.

When it comes to conversation, people are eager to wear the microphone and learn about my hearing aids. I’m amazed at how much better I hear with this technology that’s continuously improving.  The mic works well in the classroom, too. During a recent training session, the instructor was more than happy to wear it. All I have to do is ask.

As I’ve said here and in other commentaries concerning my ongoing journey to hear better, my quality of life improved the moment I began wearing hearing aids. Assistive listening technology has improved it even further. Lord Voldemort might never ask for help but I certainly will continue to do so.

If you or someone you know could benefit from hearing aids, all you have to do is ask.

Call 333-5142 to chat with a hearing expert.

Editor’s note: 

— Call 333-5142 to chat with a hearing expert. 

–Visit www.usafa.af.mil/News/Commentaries/tabid/1488/Article/750910/listen-up.aspx and www.usafa.af.mil/News/Commentaries/Display/tabid/1526/Article/646718/a-world-of-difference-hearing-aids-improve-life-of-academy-officer.aspx for more information. 

— Check with your local movie theater and other places of business to see if they accommodate assistive listening technology