In the last two posts I’ve been talking about my experiments with a Roger pen – trying it out whilst driving, being a passenger in a car, and eating out. The next thing I tried was the television.
Watching the television doesn’t, in fact, normally cause me any problems – I just use the subtitles. But subtitling doesn’t work for me if it is a live programme rather than a pre-recorded one, because simultaneous captioning is still pretty poor. So I don’t usually watch the news on TV, for example, I follow it on an iPad instead.
I do like the occasional sports programme – athletics mainly – but that can be a struggle. To know what’s happening I need the live captioning (no matter how awful) but the pesky subtitles always seem to be just where the action is. Mo Farah is surging down the back strait, being hotly challenged by the Kenyans, will he do it???? Well, who knows – because all you see are the incomprehensible captions with little figures running behind them. This is even more of an irritation for Nigel, who can hear perfectly well but now he can’t see the race.
I gave the Roger pen a go. It works with a TV by being plugged directly into the headphones socket. I put the receiver round my neck, go into loop mode and the sound goes directly from the television into my hearing aids.
I tried the BBC News. Sometimes I DO watch the news, if there is some breaking event of great importance (there have been a few of those in the UK recently……). I would normally have the live captioning activated, and alternate between trying to make some sense of that and lip reading when the newscaster or person being interviewed features prominently on the screen. This time I left the subtitles off, to see what happened. The Roger pen worked well for the situations where I could lip read as well as hear – I understood more and with less concentration involved. But I couldn’t make any more sense of the off-screen speech than I normally do. Perhaps some more sounds were getting through (?) but not enough to make a difference.
I tried watching some football but the pen didn’t help with the commentary. It’s not really surprising. A situation where someone is talking rapidly and excitedly off-screen was always going to be a big ask.
Overall, then, for the Roger pen and television? I’ll keep on relying on subtitles whenever I can. Perhaps the pen will come into play (with the subtitles on) when I want to watch a news programme.
The whole process of experimentation so far has lead me to think quite a lot about how I understand speech. I was very sceptical that the Roger pen would be of any help because I know how much I rely on lip reading. What I hadn’t factored in, in my scepticism, was that the device’s impact on what I hear would make such a difference WHEN I am able to lip read at the same time. Does that makes sense? The Roger pen isn’t improving the amount of speech information my brain is receiving sufficiently to understand conversation just by listening, but WHEN I CAN LIP READ AS WELL it can make comprehension significantly easier, especially in background noise.
So where does that leave things? Nigel and I sat down to talk about our various Roger pen trials.
We’d already decided that the pen isn’t going back. The 28-day sale or return period is almost over and Roger is a keeper, as the clothing websites say. We got into a general conversation about the benefits and….well….I’ll let Nigel speak for himself. Here he is…..
“For me, there were big benefits when we were eating out and when we were driving somewhere together. When we were eating out in the pubs in Suffolk, you could hear most of the conversation and we had a much better time than we would have done previously. A key part of going out for a meal is to talk. When you can’t comfortably do that it rather defeats the object of being there. In the car, when I was driving, we were having a pretty normal conversation, for the first time in a long while. You weren’t hearing everything and I don’t think we could have had a very detailed conversation, but it was massively better. Previously we had been limited to shouted bits of essential information – “do you need something to eat?” or “I’m stopping for petrol”. When you were driving things were a bit better, but not so much – I think we’ll stick to you being the passenger!”
He went on, “but there’s something more important than just how much help the Roger pen makes in different situations. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. For both of us, the loss of your hearing has created barriers to communication. It’s hard not to be able to say things to you whenever I want to and I feel the loss of that keenly. Anything that gives us back some spontaneity in our communication is so important, so thank you Roger pen.”
So, if you are reading this and thinking a Roger pen (or one of the other listening devices on the market) might help you, I’d say definitely give it a go. Nigel and I will carry on experimenting, but after three Roger pen posts in a row probably time to move on to something else now……
Speak to you soon.