Coffee cup moment

4 02 2013

coffee key

Since I returned from the Middle East 3 weeks ago, I’ve been putting the heating on a lot to try to warm up the house. Don’t live in an open-plan house, folks!

I notice that when I put the oven on, a few minutes later, I hear a frighteningly loud thumping noise. The boiler outlet pipe outside has been dripping constantly, the pressure gauge is at 2.5 instead of around 1, and I’ve had lukewarm baths and showers. Ugh – it’s time to call a plumber!

I googled online for a local plumber and found this nice website, You post a job online and wait for the quotes to roll in, and you can contact tradesmen through the site. I signed up, checked out the reviews, and picked out a local plumber. Then I had to verify my phone number online. Ooo-eerr! This meant when I clicked the “verify” button, the site would call my phone and give me a code, which I would then have to enter online.

*deep breath*

I clicked “verify”, my phone rang, and I picked it up.  A robotic voice said ‘This is an automated call to verify your number, your code is 2596″. It repeated the message again. I input “2596” and it didn’t work.

I thought for a moment, then input “3596”.

YAY – it worked!

Such a simple thing for most people.

But such a BIG thing for me – thanks to my cochlear implants 🙂

Raisins and bacon on my anniversary

2 03 2011


When I spoke to B on the phone today, this threw up a couple of interesting confusions. B  gave me a list of the ingredients in the carrot cake she made;

  • 175g light muscovado sugar
  • 175ml sunflower oil
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 140g grated carrots
  • 100g raisins
  • grated zest of 1 large orange
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp grated nutmeg

I got them all right except for the words in red.

Instead of raisins, I kept getting bacon. In my head, I had this idea of 100g bacon and I just couldn’t get away from associating what I was hearing with the word bacon, even though I know bacon is never put into carrot cake, unless you’re a bit strange!  Raisins and bacon have a similar rhythm and the vowels are so similar, I have to really listen for the B in bacon.

Next! I kept getting egg instead of orange.  We laughed hard at grated zest of egg. Then of course, I wasn’t expecting nutmeg at all.

After the phone call, I got B to repeat random ingredients to me as I sat next to her, without lip reading. I didn’t get nutmeg the first time, but got it every time after that. Bacon and raisins was still a bit hard but I mostly got the right word.

I’m hungry after all that work! It’s time to celebrate my one year ear anniversary with some carrot cake (as B leaves the room saying Raisins-Bacon-Raisins). I can’t believe it’s been one year. I’ve found fabulous support within the CI community and have made some very dear friends. It’s wonderful to talk to people who know exactly what you’re talking about, what you’ve been through, and who are so positive about it all. A year ago, I didn’t believe for one second that a phone call would be possible, or that I would understand any speech without lip reading. I’m just completely floored.

TAG takes deaf telephone relay services campaign online

20 10 2010

TAG wants to hear from you!

The campaign to enable deaf and hard-of-hearing people to access the telephone as easily and at the same price as hearing people has gone online to reach a wider audience.

Anyone can find out more about the campaign on the new TAG website, on Facebook and on Twitter @DeafTAG. There is information about the newer types of relay services that ought by now to be widely available in the UK, case studies of the telecoms needs of deaf people, hints on how to contact and lobby MPs, latest campaign developments and much more.

Ruth Myers, Chairman of TAG, said: “We are taking the campaign to bring deaf telecoms into the 21st century online so that more deaf and hearing people will understand the issues and start lobbying their MPs for the changes that we so badly need. We are providing lots of campaign information online and giving people the chance to air their views and needs.

“We want to hear from deaf individuals who are frustrated through not having access to modernised relay services because of availability and/or cost. And we also want to hear from hearing people who also want to benefit from being able to contact deaf family, friends, colleagues and customers via the new types of relay that need to be made available in the UK.

“From being one of the leaders in deaf telecoms, the UK is now lagging behind many other countries where services like video relay and captioned relay are readily available at no extra cost to users. The UK urgently needs to catch up and give deaf and hard of hearing people a fair deal.

“TAG is very grateful to Geemarc for sponsoring the website. Any other organisation or individual who can contribute to the Campaign is very welcome to contact us!”

TAG is a consortium of the main UK deaf organisations concerned with electronic communications and is campaigning for improved electronic communications for deaf, deafened, hard-of-hearing, and deafblind people, and sign language users.

Follow TAG on TAGFacebook and Twitter @DeafTAG.

Media Contact
Stephen Fleming at Palam Communications
t 01635 299116

Phone call #10,11,12

11 09 2010


I really wanted more practice on my phone after my dip last week. I treated myself to an iPhone (do I NEED any more incentive? lol) and I had a hard time figuring out how to use the answerphone. I’ve never used one in my life! So I asked my stenographer Karen to listen to the answermachine instructions on the iPhone so I would know how to play, save, delete.  Then I proceeded to have fun … Yeah, this phone malarkey is a LOT of fun! – but you’ve got to keep it simple, or you’d be tearing your hair out in frustration.


Karen has an English accent, almost a BBC accent (she’s from Cambridge) so I thought this would be a good one for me to listen to on the phone. I grew up hearing the sound of the BBC News on TV every evening so I am familiar with the sound of vowels in the Queens’ English. I told her to talk to me about anything, went into the kitchen, and rang her phone. She chatted about her day so far and I understood everything she said except for one sentence. After this phone call, SHE was the one in tears, not me. (Ahhhhh, bless!)

Tip: Think about accents and familiarity.


I then had a voicemail message from Stu. I understood all of it but got stuck on 2 words, which meant I didn’t understand 2 sentences. He sent an email after the voicemail message and from this, I had some clues to the subject of the voicemail. I listened to it again and got the full message this time. Whoop! I also discovered that I had been holding the phone incorrectly – it doesn’t need to be halfway up my head – LOL – it sounds louder when aligned with my jaw.

Tip: Try different positions for your phone handset.


Michele then phoned me. ‘Our topic was ‘meeting up’ – place, time, what we’ll do, and a phone number. I was on a roll, and instead of letting the voicemail pick up, I picked up the phone instead – I was a bit nervous as I had no idea what she would say (having clean forgotten our agreed topic!), and Michele has a South African accent which is tricky for me. After the call, Michele said ~

Whoooooo !! Hoooooo!!!!!!

You practically sailed through!! Just a small hesitation on the ‘steps’ (as I said on top of the steps – on where we will meet)

That was some conversation! Hoo boy!!

You got stuck with just two numbers and that was the 1 when I had said 9. (similar again) The other number I had said 5 and you said 9. (again similar) but dang!! – so good!

What was interesting was that you were able to swing the conversation around to your questions too,  for example you asked me whether we would meet up before or at the wine bar on Tuesday – that took me by surprise! I’m soo excited!


Tip: Take the initiative and ask questions on the phone. You’re setting the context and increasing your confidence.

I discovered an interesting thing today. I was talking to a colleague Patrice, telling her about the quality of the voices I am hearing on the phone and the difficulty I am having with understanding. Voices sound different – echoey, tinny, and very artificial. Patrice said that voices sound like that to hearing people too!


To a hearing person, phone voices sound like they are speaking on a radio. Voices are being transmitted over the telephone lines so they are not heard as they are in real life. The bandwidth is limited and so what a person hears is compressed, losing frequencies and therefore richness of speech tones. Isn’t that interesting!

Here are a few ways to practice listening on the phone;

Speaking Clock

In the UK, the number is 0871 789 3642. If dialling from abroad the number is +44 871 789 3642. The cost of calling this number from a BT line is 10p per minute, maximum cost 15p. When dialled the clock will speak for 90 seconds, you can hang up before this time, but the line will be engaged until the 90 seconds has elapsed. The speaking clock service is not available on the Orange or 3 Mobile mobile telephone networks, as they use 123 as the number for their Answerphone services.

You can find the worldwide numbers for speaking clocks after the jump.

Cochlear implant manfacturers’ websites

Advanced Bionics provide materials giving you the opportunity to practice before you talk with your family, friends … and scarier people.

Cochlear offer telephone training (U.S. only).

Call centres

Think about who’s going to leave you on hold for hours while a recorded message is played. There’s your mobile phone network’s customer services number. Your bank is a good challenge, when they put you through to an Indian call centre. A good one is sales calls; keep saying ‘Pardon?’ and let the salesperson repeat themselves ad infinitum, then tell them sorry you’re not interested in buying. Tip from Pidge: Dial 1471 (UK only) to retrieve the last number that called you. This is also known as Last Call Return in other countries.


Ask everyone in your contacts list to leave a voicemail message on your mobile phone, save these, and practice listening to them.  Later on, do the same again with a landline phone which is likely to be of poorer audio quality.

Assistive devices

Use CapTel or to caption your phone calls and support your listening. Try Skype and repeat after your caller, then ask them to type their sentence if you get it wrong; the video facility is also very helpful for facial expressions (and cheating by lip reading!).  Try FM receivers and bluetooth devices, or a direct audio input lead which connects your cochlear implant directly to your phone.

If you have one cochlear implant, you can try using your hearing aid in the other ear; get a neck loop, set cochlear implant and hearing aid to telecoil, and use both ears when talking on the phone. In the US, try TechEar or ClearSounds, and in the UK, try Connevans for neck loops. (Thanks to Sylvia, Paul, and Patty for this tip)

Are there any more ideas or tips out there? I’d love to hear them!

Phone call #9 : FAIL

3 09 2010

PhotobucketThe phone lines seemed to be bad today. I couldn’t hear Michele on the mobile, then switched to landline. That was worse. I tried the landline again but it was still crackly. I have a Geemarc screenphone which I am guessing isn’t built for great audio quality.

I tried the mobile again. Then I had a thought. I checked my cochlear implant setting and it was set to 50% microphone instead of 100%.

I had felt sensitive to sounds this morning so had switched to the reduced microphone when taking the underground. I had then forgotten to switch back to 100%!

I tried the mobile again. Michele still didn’t make much sense and I was getting really confused. It has been a long time since I spoke to her on the phone and this sort of thing does need to be done regularly – weekends included. I need to ramp up a gear with my phone practice!

Michele thinks I did cool considering I haven’t spoken for a long time over the phone with her. (this is a big factor….) Michele’s sentences were;

1. I love camping in the Summer.
2. My favourite part of camping is the BARBECUES.
3. I hope that my AIR MATTRESS stays up.
4. I have a SIX man tent. It is big.

The capitalised words are the ones I got. More practice needed! All this rehab is really quite hard work.

Phone call #8

2 09 2010


I called Stu and guess what, he is a cochlear implant user as well! I find it amazing that two profoundly deaf people can just pick up the phone and talk to each other.

Stu gave me the name of a country and worked his way down the list above.

Then he made up a list of his own;

United States
New Zealand

This was a fun exercise to do, although I was distracted by the noise of my dog eating his breakfast and crunching on his biscuits. I managed to get all the countries – eventually – and the high point was being able to hear the difference between Uzbekistan, Pakistan, and Afghanistan! Stu thought I answered the vast majority with confidence. I found that the difficult words were ones which were a bit short, unusual, or unexpected. I had a problem with understanding Brazil (Br sound), Mexico (unusual x sound), and Fiji (too short and unexpected).

I had wondered if I was holding my phone wrong. I have a Blackberry and hold it with the keypad against my face. There is a little grille on the back so I turned the phone over, but Stu’s voice was too quiet so I switched back to talking into the keypad. All my phone calls are with an IDR of 70, ClearVoice medium, and 100% T-mic.

I think anticipation plays a large part in learning to trust your hearing; it plays such a large part in lipreading that I’m automatically working out what I think was said and making it fit, instead of believing I heard what was said. Tricky, this!

Phone call #7

25 08 2010

We decided to do….. NUMBERS! Well, we didn’t decide … I was pushed! Here’s feedback from the ever helpful Michele;

Hiya Tina as expected I thought you would have trouble with the numbers it was also difficult for me – BUT still you did better than me when I started, so take heart!

You heard the numbers spoken but trying to remember them is another issue altogether, particularly long telephone numbers. This is because you will need to work on your auditory memory, which has not been in much use (if at all).

If I had lipread those numbers to you, you would likely have remembered them in sequence, but because you are using voice only and no lipreading, information is coming in via another pathway into your brain….so another session of work for you to work on.

Later (much later) we can do short recipes in sequence (important to get sequence right!) which was also difficult for me. I could remember it if it was lipread to me, but with no lipreading I was totally flummoxed, can’t crack the eggs last can we????…gotta go in sequence or you’ll mess the cake!! Lol!!

Telephone numbers within a sentence – you will hear the numbers but you may have difficulty recalling them in sequence (particularly if the number is longer)….this was the hardest part of my rehabilitation!

In the end I just read out the numbers only… you got the first bit right or the last bits right but not altogether. But its damn good for first attempt!

Michele had called me on the landline first, the line was crackly and her voice wasn’t loud enough for me to catch it. We switched over to the mobile and that was much clearer and louder. I couldn’t stop laughing throughout the call  as I just couldn’t remember all the numbers. I could hear them fine, but repeating them back was so tricky!

Phone call #6

25 08 2010


My stenographer today, Susie, is a posh Londoner and usually works for Lord Jack Ashley in the House of Commons.  He has a cochlear implant so Susie knows loads about them.

She speaks very clearly in a south London accent and at a fairly slow pace so I find it easier to understand her with my tinny CI hearing.

Aha! I thought. – I’ll get her to do some phone practice with me. (Can you imagine it, ME, a deaf person, picking up a mobile phone to CALL someone?!! Surreal stuff!) I went into the kitchen and dialled Susie who stayed in my office, sprawled across my comfy armchairs.

She answered her phone and told me who she was, and said she is looking forward to going abroad next week (she’s off to Italy, lucky bum) and she got wet in the rain on the way to my office. She’s wearing black trousers today and had her hair done at the hairdresser’s. (Diddums) She told me she loves my dog, he’s very friendly. (Yeah, Susie’s normal! – I don’t understand people who don’t like animals.) She told me she is looking at the brown filing cabinet in my office with all the travel books in the bookcase. (I’ve got about 20 books, she’d need her eyes tested if she didn’t notice those.) My phone started ringing and Susie said my phone is ringing, I said ‘Yes, I can hear it!’ and rang off. I danced into my office with a huge grin on my face. (I do a lot of dancing these days, don’t I?)

Sooooo ….. I heard and understood all of the above, except for the bit about my dog. I’m floored. A computer chip is allowing me to understand just about an ENTIRE phone conversation. This is the first time in my life I have had any kind of sensible conversation with a hearing person without reading their lips. Whooo!

I decided to push a little more. I asked Susie to do another phone call with me. But this time, I asked her to give me one word out of the sentence ‘She sells sea shells on the sea shore’. I was to tell her which word she said. She gave me Shells, She, Sells, Sells, Sea, The. I got all of the words correct except for the last one. She had pronounced ‘The’ like ‘Thee’ – totally unexpected, and very difficult without any context. This particular exercise was not easy at all. But I did it! I’m thrilled!

Hello again Cloud Nine. I think I’ll be staying for a little while.

Phone call #5

24 08 2010


I called Michele today. Afterwards, she emailed;


You got them all right – just the tiniest pause on the mascara!!! *dancing the jig*!!

  1. My mascara is black.
  2. My lipstick is red.
  3. My eyeshadow is blue.
  4. My nail polish is pink.
  5. My hair brush is yellow.

Fabu fabu fabulouuuuuus!!!!

I have to say, it was tricky. Words just don’t sound like they used to. Of course they wouldn’t! It’s like listening to a robot talking (sorry Michele) but I’m being straight, that’s what a voice on the phone sounds like.

I’m digging out some samples of CI simulations so some of you can hear what I hear – stay tuned!

Phone call #4

14 08 2010


I phoned Michéle and asked her to name objects on my desk. Ooops! I mean HER desk – she’s not telepathic (yet). After the call, she said;

Ohh Tina you made me laugh it was soooo funny because you remind me of me when I first started listening on the telephone!

Things on my desk:

1.       On my desk is a stapler it is blue.

2.       On my desk is a coffee mug it is coloured white.

3.       On my desk is my iphone it is black

4.       On my desk is my lunch box it is pink.

5.       On my desk is my hard hat it is white.

You got only two words wrong and that was ‘coffee mug’ (you said calculator then second time I read out you said ‘coconut’ – how we both laughed!!!). It just shows that you are picking up the right sequence but they change ever so subtly.



See how similar they might be –  so that is pretty good going!!!

I then tried to change it to ’coffee cup’ so that the two c’s would make a more ‘hearable’ sound.

The last word you were stuck on was ‘hard hat’ (construction industry) I did say that this was going to be hard, I was going to say ‘ measuring tape’ –which I am sure that you would have got,  but because it is not an everyday word we use, ‘ hard hat’ would have been something really hard to figure.

– I mean put it this way Tina you have never actually heard ‘hard hat’ over the telephone in your life before so you must not worry.  However in a couple of months time we might  phone (and have progressed from there), and I might say “oh I am wearing my hard hat” – you WILL know because now that has gone into your auditory memory.

Two words – not bad…. Huh??!!

* Tina dances excitedly around her desk and telepathically around Michéle’s *