Smart phones to help hard of hearing
Being close to her family is what matters most to Sarah Krammer.
The sound of her daughter’s voice over FaceTime and the crack of leather on willow at her son’s cricket matches are what she desperately wanted to hear and couldn’t, until now.
The 51-year-old Lower Hutt nurse’s hearing had been getting progressively worse since her 20s but a new hearing device that links up to her smartphone will hopefully make her life just a little bit easier.
On October 18 she underwent the two-hour cochlear implant surgery that cost, along with the device and support costs, close to $50,000.
However, the Ministry of Health covered Krammer’s costs after they announced a $6.5 million funding boost for the cochlear implants in August.
The increase meant the total number of adults able to receive funding for the surgery, equipment and support grew from 40 to 100.
The prospect of reconnecting with family, friends and colleagues motivated her to undergo the surgery as she had become self-conscious about her deteriorating hearing.
She felt she had ‘‘missed out on so much’’ as she often tried to avoid conversations and social situations.
The implant works in conjunction with a sound processor worn behind the ear.
Rather than making sounds louder like a hearing aid, the device replaces the function of the damaged inner ear which sends sound signals to the brain.
Cochlear implants have been available for more than 20 years.
However, the latest development in the technology is the Nucleus 7 sound processor which can stream sound directly from an Apple device such as an iPhone or iPad via a special app.
The user’s processor can connect directly with the device when taking calls or using services such as Facetime or Skype. The Nucleus 7 can also be used to listen to music, watch videos and play games.
Her implant was switched on a week ago, and she is already noticing improvements in her hearing.
‘‘I had no idea my car beeped when it was in reverse.’’
She has owned the car for five years.
Southern Cochlear Implant Programme audiologist Hatten Howard said Krammer was one of the first patients in the programme to get the Nucleus 7.
He said the main advantage of the new technology was the ability to adjust and monitor the implant and processor from a mobile device such as a phone.
The mobile device replaced the need to carry a separate remote control as used in previous versions of the Nucleus.
‘‘It’s a matter of convenience. A lot of people are put off by having to carry another gadget. It allows a listener to change settings in more challenging scenarios.’’
Although the implant and processor were still being finetuned to her needs, Krammer had been impressed by the improvement it had made.
She had already tested it out by talking to her daughter, Rosina, who lives in Melbourne, on Facetime.
‘‘It’s amazing to be able to talk to her. It’s been quite overwhelming.
She had also been able to approach her work with much more confidence.
‘‘I was a good nurse before, but with this, I’ll be invincible!’’
Sarah Krammer is one of the first recipients to receive the Nucleus 7 implant, which allows a listener to stream calls from a smartphone or tablet.