Health Aids and Technology

Since moving into our retirement community, Sarah and I have had more than the usual contact with people who have a wide variety of health issues. I have to admit that we have our own to deal with. Sarah’s primary problem is her Alzheimer’s, but she was also hospitalized with Covid three years ago and had a stroke two years ago in February.

I’ve been relatively fortunate. My biggest problem has been dry eyes which makes reading a challenge. For the past two or three years, my hearing has also become a problem. Like so many things, I found it easy to postpone taking any action; however, my hearing has deteriorated during the past year or so. It has been especially difficult to hear the speakers at my Rotary meeting and other large gatherings. Even in a group of one or two friends at lunch, I’ve found it hard to hear.

I finally decided to take action. After speaking with several people about their own experience with hearing aids, I called a few places for an appointment. I quickly discovered that I wouldn’t be able to get in right away. When our son and his wife were here a few weeks ago, I went with them to Costco. I was able to set up an appointment for the following week. Within two weeks, I had my hearing aids.

The next step is getting used to them. Upon leaving the hearing office at Costco, I was immediately struck by the noise in the store itself. As I walked to my car in the parking lot, I heard a loud crashing sound behind me. When I looked, it was simply a man and his wife pushing their cart with their purchases. Then I passed a couple about twenty feet away who were putting their items in their car. I could hear every word they were saying.

At home, I hear lots of noises I hadn’t noticed before. Simple things like water flowing from a faucet and taking items from cellophane wrappings are much louder now. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that my own voice is the loudest voice I hear. After all, I am closer to the mike than anyone else. I had been missing more than I thought. Some of those I could live without. The good news is that I can hear, and I am told that my brain will adapt to these new sounds in a month or so. I hope that’s the case.

It wasn’t much of a surprise to learn that current technology has had an impact on getting and using hearing aids. That began with the initial hearing test itself but has become a new addition to my daily living. That involves two new devices to charge. The hearing aids themselves require a daily charge, and they also come with a portable charger that needs to be charged every few days.

Of course, the hearing aids come with an app for my phone. That allows me to raise and lower the volume, and block out (not perfectly) sounds behind, in front, or to the right or left of me.

In addition to my hearing aids, I am now wearing a heart monitor for a month. I am hoping this is just an irregularity in my watch and phone, but the monitor should soon provide an answer.

This began a month or two ago when I noticed that (according to my watch) my heart rate made a number of unusual changes during my exercise on the seated elliptical. Normally, my exercising heart rate ranges between 85 and 100, but I noticed a few occasions when it would jump to 135, or 155, and twice 195. I thought this was peculiar for a couple of reasons. First, I hadn’t observed changes of this magnitude before. I also thought the changes were dramatic enough that I should have felt something, but I didn’t. As far as I could tell, my heart rate had remained within the limited range my watch had measured previously.

At a regular appointment with my doctor, she referred me to a cardiologist for a heart monitor that I am wearing for a month that ends next week. This involves two devices. One looks like a mobile phone and is called the monitor. The other is the sensor that is attached to my chest. The sensor is connected to the monitor by Bluetooth. The monitor transfers the data about my heart via Wi-Fi to the company that owns the monitor. They forward the information to my cardiologist.

As you might guess, this involves more devices that have to be charged. The monitor needs to be charged daily. The sensor requires a 4-5-hour charge every five days. As a result, I now have to charge 8 different devices – my computer, my phone, my iPad, a Bluetooth speaker, the hearing aids, the charging case for the hearing aids, the heart monitor, and the sensor. At least, I live in an apartment where the utilities are included.

One of the nice things is that that this is a completely wireless system. That allows me to take a shower without taking off the monitor. That assumes I don’t drench it. A few splashes are all right. I should say that devoting my attention to technological issues keeps me from worrying about any negative health news I could receive based on the data being collected. At this point, all is well.