A cautionary tale of a hearing aid lost and found during Covid 19
By Jim Johnston, Oak Bay Hearing Clinic client
Face masks are highly recommended and vital in these pandemic times but as most of you will have found out, donning and removing them poses special hazards for your hearing aids and possibly your wallet.
I have just gone through the experience of losing one in, or adjacent to, a Capital Iron and going through conniptions. Luckily, I found my hearing aid after a two-hour search, all thanks to great advice from Dr. Erin Wright and Tracy at the Oak Bay Hearing Clinic, my hearing aid’s smartphone app and three Capital Iron staff who gave me lots of help, advice and encouragement. So I thought you might appreciate the lessons I have learned and some tips.
"Being prepared to lose your hearing aids
will lessen your panic if this ever occurs."
Be careful putting on your mask
I’m generally careful donning and removing my mask, but it’s easy to slip up. My first mistake that morning was putting it on as I walked to the store across the car park, road and sidewalk. My second mistake was my failure to stop inside the entrance to the store and check that both of my hearing aids were firmly in place, were working and that my jacket collar was turned down. If I had dislodged my hearing aid in my 30-metre approach to the store, it would have been almost impossible to find it amongst the leaves and mud.
Lesson 1: put on your mask in a controlled location
Put your mask on in a location where:
- You can check that your hearing aids are still in place.
- You can easily find and pick up the hearing aids if they have been dislodged.
My left hearing aid must have fallen from my ear as I put the mask on, fiddled with the straps and then got caught up in my collar from where it fell some 5 to 10 minutes after I entered the store and talked with an attendant. (Since he was on my right I didn’t notice the loss of my left aid while talking with him.)
I then spent another 20 minutes looking for other merchandise in several departments before leaving the store, removing my mask twenty metres along the sidewalk, and realizing, Oh hell! I’ve lost my hearing aid. I began retracing my steps, focusing initially on the locations where I had put on my mask and removed it. No sign of it. Then I retraced my steps throughout the store. Still no hearing aid. By this stage, three shop assistants who had helped me initially with my shopping were now diligently searching for my hearing aid in between helping customers.
Then I remembered that there was some sort of assistance for lost aids; I called the Oak Bay Hearing Clinic.
Lesson 2: don’t panic
- If you have lost an aid, DON’T PANIC. There is hope.
Dr. Erin Wright advised that:
- My ReSound hearing aid Smart app with the Find My Hearing Aid function might help.
- I was covered by insurance with a $300 deductible because my hearing aids were less than three years old.
- The effectiveness of the Find My Hearing Aid function might depend on whether I had activated the Phone app since turning on my hearing aids that morning.
- And of course, it would depend on me having Bluetooth® switched on.
Oh, no, I thought, I haven’t switched on my ReSound Smart app for at least a month.
Using Find My Hearing Aid, Status, and other smartphone functions
I opened the Smart app, and then selected Find My Hearing Aids under the Features section. The signal strength for the left hearing aid was zero, and its location on the map was blank. It said it had last seen my left hearing aid in February! OH GREAT.
I was saved by the fact that I had a good idea where I had walked. Once I entered Capital Iron, I started to get a faint (but highly fluctuating) signal for my left hearing aid. This increased in strength as I climbed the stairs to the first department I visited, although it continued to fluctuate wildly and wasn’t easy to infer the average signal strength.
The Status panel also indicated that both hearing aids were connected. Eventually, I worked out how the “in-store map” (just a blank graph grid) was oriented relative to the indicated flags for each hearing aid and the dot for the phone (by leaving the right hearing aid in another department and moving my phone around). However, the spatial accuracy was poor so I spent 40 minutes searching through every bit of merchandise on a shelf where the map showed the left hearing aid to be—and where I had first made enquiries—only to find the hearing aid in the middle of the aisle 15 feet away. Luckily it was in perfect condition with no apparent damage from passing shoes and boots (including mine which had passed over it at least three times as I retraced my steps).
One of the shop attendants suggested an additional strategy to pin down its location. Open up a song on the phone, turn up the volume and see if I, or someone with good hearing helping me, could hear the music on the lost hearing aid in the search zone. I wasn’t able to test this approach at the time because I don’t have songs on my phone and I was having trouble getting WIFI reception to open a streaming service (and my phone was getting low on charge). I have since found the external sound from my left hearing aid is very faint even when the phone is at maximum volume.
Lesson 3: practice finding a lost hearing aid
- Determine your insurance coverage and deductible so you can make an informed decision about what sort of search time you want to engage in.
- Familiarize yourself with your phone app and whether it has a Find My Hearing Aid app. Even if it doesn’t, the Status function on most phones should tell you if the lost hearing aid is in Bluetooth range.
- Familiarize yourself with how the Find My Hearing Aid function works, including the Map and Signal Strength screens. Simulate a search situation within your home. Try and determine its accuracy.
- Get into the habit of turning on the phone app each morning after you put your hearing aids in, even if you then turn it off.
- Record a sound memo that is loud and piercing from a distance of several feet from your hearing aids when the phone volume is cranked up that you can play just in situations like this.
Being prepared to lose your hearing aids will lessen your panic if this ever occurs. Be mindful of putting your mask on in a controlled environment. Become familiar with the smartphone apps that can help you locate your hearing aids. Practice – just like a fire drill, preparing for the situation will increase your chances of retrieving the lost hearing aids. And remember that you can call your Audiologist at the Oak Bay Hearing Clinic or Broadmead Hearing Clinic for help.