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got my cell phone yesterday! and what's more, I actually managed to call customer service this morning to activate it, with minimal difficulties. I've never been able to do anything like that before. I feel giddy. Must keep self from getting overenthusiastic - must not run out and immediately assume phone-complete life (is that anything like NP-complete?...).

Must also find way to quiet the part of my brain that thinks everyone's going to think I'm a loser for not working on the whole phone problem until now. I know it's probably not necessary, but I'm going to try to explain anyway (for my own peace of mind if nothing else)

As most of you know, I'm hearing impaired. I have ~50% loss at lower frequencies, going up to 80-90% loss at higher frequencies. I forget the particular frequencies involved, but human voices are probably operating at a ~70% loss (more for female voices, less for male). I compensate in real life by lipreading, body language, and the like, not to mention my hearing aids, which correct partially for the frequency disparity and do some noise reduction. In any situation where I have only audio (telephone, tv cartoons, tv where the speaker is offscreen) I have to concentrate very hard to interpolate all the data. When I don't have a hearing aid to correct frequency and noise, as with the telephone, it's even worse.

So for most of my life, I have not used the telephone. I would occasionally call my parents or my husband, but even with them have to ask them to repeat themselves a lot. Those few times when I have attempted to expand my use of it, I've had bad experiences - people who were rude when I asked them to repeat themselves, speech I couldn't understand no matter how hard I tried - very frustrating. Also, because I have to concentrate so hard, it's exhausting, and nine times out of ten not worth the mental and emotional effort.

It developed to the point where I pretty much have a phobia of anything related to phone communication. If I have to make a TTY call, even, I'm likely to get really nervous, and half-panic. I have to be in a very stable frame of mind to even consider using the phone, which hasn't been all that common until recently.

Aren't there devices that let people wear their hearing aids while on the phone?
Supposedly, yes, but I haven't found any that actually work. There are amplifiers, but those don't have the frequency correction/noise reduction. Any headset makes my hearing aid feed back like crazy. One hearing aid I had had a 'T' switch that supposedly made it usable with telephones by turning down the feedback threshold - all it did was turn down the actual microphone, so I couldn't hear anything anyway.

(The frustrating thing about this is I know how the ideal device would work, but no one has made one - it would have to be a cup-style earpiece

It's a Jabra EarSet, which has an actual ear mold that fits over a relatively normal earbud. I'm pretty sure the difference is that the ear mold directs all of the sound deeper into the ear and blocks out noise because it's a tighter fit. It's still not as good as my hearing aid itself, but it's enough of an improvement to be worth trying again.

Yet again, it is revealed how much diagnosing and treating my ADD has improved my life. I'm now usually in that stable frame of mind needed to tackle something that is really hard for me. Over the past five months, I've been slowly getting my life in order; dealing with my organization issues, artwork, my relationships - the telephone problem is next!

Further excuses
It's still going to be a slow process. As I said, the earpiece still doesn't correct as well as my hearing aids do, and regardless I have less experience using the phone than your average 10-year-old. Plus I have the semi-phobia to deal with - obviously the way to do it is to start with small easy calls and just work my way up, but it has to be slow or I will bite too much off and reinforce the phobia. I don't know if I will ever get to the point where I can use the phone as easily as a 'normal' person, but we shall see.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 1st, 2002 09:04 am (UTC)

Congratulations and good luck. :)

And feel free to call me anytime to "practice." :)
Mar. 1st, 2002 10:39 am (UTC)
Woohoo! Better living through modern technology!

Many Congratulations to you, Heather! :)
Mar. 4th, 2002 07:45 pm (UTC)
I can sympathize. I used to have major phone phobia. Not sure exactly why, but I suspect my difficulty recognizing unfamiliar accents and patterns of speech, and my general awkwardness with modes of conversation, were both exacerbated by talking to the disembodied voice of an unknown person... too much asking people to repeat themselves, no nonverbal feedback on whether anything I was saying was or wasn't appropriate.

I've become a lot more comfortable with the phone, partly because I'm less socially awkward in general, and partly because I was thrown into doing phone support in my first job and the terror subsided with familiarity. But it wasn't easy, and I didn't have the hearing issue to deal with. Good luck.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )


firesea: self-portrait
Heather Keith Freeman
Fire Sea Studios

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