Wednesday, September 20, 2017

September 20, 2017--Audiological Tale: Sound Czech (Part 1 of 2)

Toward the end of my recent hearing aid adjustment, Dr. Gary Scheartzberg said, "There's one more thing. You know the vocal prompts you get when the batteries need replacement or when you shift to restaurant mode?"

"Yes," I said, "There's a man, or a voice that says 'battery.' If you don't change them in half an hour you hear from him again. The second time he sounds more urgent."

"Do you like that voice?" Barry asked.

"It's fine. Why do you ask?"

"Because there are many other choices. Here, take a look." He directed my attention to the computer monitor.

In the meantime, Rona said, "I assume this is like our GPS where we have a women's voice prompting us--we call her 'Lola,' like from 'Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets.'"

Gary showed me a long list of possible voices that would remind me to change my batteries or would indicate I had turned on the restaurant setting.

"Where's your mother from?" I had told him earlier that she was born in Eastern Europe.

"From Poland," I said, curious to know why he was asking.

"Let's see," he was scrolling down the list. There were at least 50 male and female voices from England to Germany to Russia to Israel to Poland.

"Amazing," I said. I am so technically illiterate that even simple things like these overwhelm me.

He clicked on "Polish-Female" and I heard a voice that sounded like my mother's oldest sister, Bertha, who came to America when she was 15 and retained a distinctive Polish accent.

"It's a little too close to home," I said, speaking metaphorically, "I already have enough of my mother's voice in my head."

"OK," he said, "How about one from South Africa? You've been there a number of times, you told me, and liked the people you met and worked with." I nodded. He clicked on "South Africa--Male." A voice that sounded familiar to me said "battery" with an Africana accent.

"I'm not sure about that one," I said, "Africanas are not among my favorites. Maybe if you have someone who sounds like Nelson Mandela I might be interested. But again," I asked, "why are we doing this?"

"For a little variety," he said, "I thought maybe you're getting a little bored with the hearing aid adjustment process. I'm simply trying to keep you engaged and interested. To show you there are more bells and whistles associated with this technology."

"OK," I said, "I'm game. Try a few more. Something British might work."

So he clicked on "British-male" and I heard "battery" in an Oxbridge accent. "Not bad," I said, "But maybe it's a little pretentious for Maine."

Next, knowing my background, he suggested "Israeli-female."

"In some ways this makes me comfortable," I said, "but I'm so ambivalent about things Israeli that maybe I'll take a pass on this one."

"Then, what do you think about 'German-male'? It might interest for you."

But when I heard "battery" with a full-throated German accent, not my favorite language to begin with, especially when barked like a command--I could almost hear heals clicking--I indicated that it would set off too many upsetting reverberations from my past. 

"Can't we go back to the original one?" I asked, sounding a little whiney, "You have patients waiting and I don't want to take up too much more of your time."

"That's OK," he said and suggested one more. "How about Czech?"


"The Czech language from the former Czechoslovakia."

"Whatever you say," I said, frankly feeling this was dragging on beyond my interest. We had an hour's drive to get home and the weather forecast had indicated afternoon rain.

"I think you'll like it." He scrolled down the list of verbal prompts and selected "Czech-female. "See how this sounds to you."

I heard "battaria," and liked it enough to say, "Fine," in part to move on.

"That's it, then," Gary said, "Your new default. Ask Angie to give you another adjustment appointment in about a month."

A few days later, my virtual Czech hearing aid prompter whispered, "battaria," reminding me it was time to change my batteries. As I was working on this, Rona asked, "How did that go? I mean the new voice? I know you hate change of all kinds."

"I was skeptical when Gary wanted to switch to her, but I sort of like it. She's less strident that the one in American English. When she alerts me about changing the batteries, her softer tone is less jarring. So, I think I'm OK with this. I have to hand it to Gary--every time we see him he comes up with something good that either makes the devices function better or makes me more comfortable with the whole situation. I can't believe how reluctant I was to get hearing aids. But now, for the most part, I love having them. Especially after all that funky business with the loaner. You remember that? The one that was somehow all mixed up with Gary's other life. How he somehow got himself pulled into all sorts of sleuthy business.  

"It was sort of crazy," Rona said, "But also interesting and exciting. Who would have thought . . ."

But then, a day or two later, weird things again began to happen. 

To be concluded tomorrow . . .

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