Like most long-married folks, Buck and I have little jokes together. One of ours is that since I can't see and he can't hear, it's a good thing we found each other. Actually, I can see up close okay, but you wouldn't want to be on the same highway with me if I was driving without my glasses. I'm quite near-sighted, plus I have this weird astigmatism that makes it difficult for me to tell which lane oncoming vehicles are in. Just imagine if you saw a driver lower their window, cover up one eye and inch slowly into the road. . . . yep. Other drivers get out of my way.
Buck's hearing impairment has worsened steadily over the years. He's a scary-good lip reader, but we are always on the look-out for new technologies that will give him bionic ears. He wears high-tech silver and black behind-the-ear digital hearing aids made by Phonac. We have a conference-style phone at home that makes it possible for him to have a comfortable conversation, but cell phones continue to be frustrating. Most cell phones these days are "hearing aid compatible," but in our experience, that hasn't meant much.
The newest, "bleeding edge," hearing aids can now be bought with built-in Bluetooth capabilities that can enable wearers to connect to cell phones, IPods, televisions, and other wireless devices. Hearing aids are very expensive, however, and so we were hopeful of finding a device to improve Buck's cell phone experience and "bridge" him over for another year or so while the latest greatest technology gets even better. As the huge baby boomer cohort enters the age of diminished natural hearing. . . well, you can assume the problem is going to get solved a lot faster. Suddenly, hearing aids aren't just for Granddad anymore. Plus, these days, almost everyone is wearing something on their ears. Hearing aids come in sexy colors now, too, just like Bluetooth headsets.
Buck's audiologist, Dr. Jennifer Reeves Sylvester, did some research for us. Enter the Artone Bluetooth Loopset, made by Westone. It's a nifty looking black and silver Bluetooth pendant on a black cord that can be worn over or under a person's shirt. It pairs with a cell phone, and the audio goes straight into the hearing aid wearer's ears, in stereo. And, at $167, it's a real bargain.
We were skeptical, but it works! So, today, we went out to Best Buy and bought a Plantronics Voyager Pro headset for me. I've never used a Bluetooth ear piece with my cell phone before. I am surprised how much I like it. Best of all, my voice is delivered via Bluetooth through Buck's hearing aids with perfect clarity. It's exhilarating to whisper to each other into the air and have the endearments arrive clear as pillow talk.
We hung out for awhile at Best Buy looking at gizmos. Now that we have the Bluetooth loopset template, we are looking at all sorts of wireless devices in a new way, with an eye toward using them to extend and enhance quality of life and independence. We even began to "blue sky" ideas for a new, smaller house that is truly a gee-whiz electronic cottage, with acoustics, lighting and computer design tailored to keep us plugged into this remarkable world until the day we matriculate to some other form of energy.