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Welcome to 279.. 2

A User Review of the Seleste Smart Glasses. 3

Demonstration of an Accessible LG Washer Dryer 5

Microsoft CoPilot on Windows 10.. 12

Problems With Accessible YouTube Downloader 13

New Hearing Aids. 15

Review and Demonstration of the MyPhonak App.. 21

Review of the Phonak Roger On V2, and the MyRogerMic App.. 35

The Jonathan and Bonnie Bulletin.. 44

Closing and Contact Info.. 53




Welcome to 279


Voiceover: From Wellington, New Zealand, to the world, it’s Living Blindfully – living your best life with blindness or low vision. Here is your host, Jonathan Mosen.


On the show this week: user reviews of the Seleste Smart Glasses and an accessible LG washer dryer, we talk hearing aid technology, and as my Phonak Lumity trial continues, I’ll review and demonstrate the accessible MyPhonak app and the Roger On remote microphone, along with its companion app.

Unfortunately, the Beach Boys are unavailable to begin this episode. That’s unfortunate, isn’t it? I’m sure they’d be here if they could. So can I just say, I wish they all could be California episodes. I won’t even attempt to sing it.

But I will tell you that episode 279 is dedicated to California because area code 279 is for the capital of California, Sacramento and surrounding suburbs. So if you happen to be in the thriving metropolis of Sacramento, California, a very special welcome to you. Enjoy your Living Blindfully moment in the sun because who knows if we’ll get to your next area code, which is in the 900s somewhere, if I’m remembering correctly. It’s at 916, I think. Phew! Who knows what’ll happen between now and then?

What I can tell you with confidence, though, is that transcripts of Living Blindfully are brought to you by Pneuma Solutions. I’m really grateful for the resource that they make possible with their sponsorship because not only is it ensuring that this podcast is fully accessible to deaf-blind people (and we’re doing high-quality human-generated transcripts, none of this machine malarkey, so it’s accurate and it’s easy to read), but also, it’s a great resource if you want to search the past Living Blindfully episodes, even going back to the Mosen at Large days, to some degree, to find out about things. It’s all there. You can go to (]( and do a search, or you can go into the transcripts section and browse. It’s now becoming a handy repository over time of information.

Now, Pneuma Solutions do several great products, one of which is Scribe for Meetings. And in that context, they are reminding you about their call to action with respect to the Communications, Video, and Technology Accessibility Act (CVTAA) in the United States. It’s an exciting piece of legislation. And if you’re doing any advocacy on this, you may like to note that Scribe for Meetings exists to break barriers by providing fully accessible presentation content for Zoom and Teams meetings. Works a treat too, I can tell you.

As such, Pneuma Solutions is encouraging everybody in the United States to seize the opportunity to make their voice heard and urge Congress to adopt Scribe for Meetings and equal access in online meetings in general as a federal mandate, as they pass the Communications, Video, and Technology Accessibility Act.

If you want to find out how you can do this and play your part, visit Pneuma Solutions at Check their blog post where all of this is outlined in greater detail.

A User Review of the Seleste Smart Glasses

Elijah Massey is giving us a typically detailed Elijah Massey look at his Seleste glasses. He says:

“I received my Seleste Smart Glasses a few months ago. I apologize for taking so long to send this review.

They feel similar to regular sunglasses, except that the arms are thicker, to hold the electronics, and there is a small camera right between the eyes. There are also 2 buttons on the right arm, and a touch pad on the right arm near the hinge. Both arms have a wide and thick part near the front, and a significantly narrower part remaining above your ears that curves at the end. In addition, there’s a speaker built in to the right arm. The glasses come with a protective case, and they charge through the USB port on the right arm.

When I asked some sighted people what they look like, they said they look like regular sunglasses, and the camera is only noticeable if they look more closely. They said that the glasses don’t look odd at all, and it’s not obvious that they’re smart glasses.

After Seleste shipped the glasses, they emailed me a link to enroll in the TestFlight beta for the Seleste app. Currently, they only support iOS and not Android. But hopefully, that will be coming soon.

The setup process is pretty easy. After you create an account, the app will ask you to turn on the glasses by holding down the bottom button, the button farthest from the front. After that, the app will automatically find and connect to them over Bluetooth.

And then, it will ask you to connect the glasses to Wi-Fi. If you are at home, you can enter the details for your home network. Or if not, you can turn on your phone’s hotspot and enter the details for that. The app can store multiple Wi-Fi networks. And when you start the app again, the glasses will usually automatically connect to either your home network or your hotspot, depending on where you are. When you use the hotspot you need to make sure maximum compatibility is turned on in the settings for personal hotspot so it’ll create a 2.4 gigahertz network instead of a 5 gigahertz network, since the glasses only support 2.4 gigahertz. I think you also need to have the personal hotspot settings page open while the glasses connect.

To turn off the glasses, you hold the bottom button down until you hear the sound. And pressing that button will speak the remaining battery percentage.

Right now, the app has three main features – text scanning, scene description, and the smart assistant.

Text scanning can be triggered by pressing the top button on the glasses once, or by activating a button in the app. It will read any text that the camera sees. Although right now, it takes a few seconds for it to process. I think the way it works is it takes a picture, processes it, reads the text, and then repeats. There is no way to save the text, but you can review the result with voiceover.

Scene description can be triggered by pressing the top button twice quickly or from the app, and it will take a picture and send it to an AI based on GPT-4, and then speak the description. It only takes about 5 seconds now, and the descriptions are extremely detailed and accurate, just like the descriptions from Be My AI.

The smart assistant can be triggered by saying, ‘Ella’ or ‘Sam’, depending on the assistant name you set. And then, speak your question or you can type your question into the app. The assistant can answer questions about what the camera sees, and it will also remember previous images and let you ask about them, too. It can also take pictures repeatedly, for example, if you ask it to find something you’ve dropped or to describe people passing by.

They’ve also developed a Gmail integration, although it has not been released to the public yet.

There are 2 options for the voice. It can play through the speaker on the glasses, or through the phone. However, the voice from the glasses is very robotic, and people around you will be able to hear it easily. If you choose the phone, it will use an OpenAI voice which is a lot better, and you can also change the speech rate which is very helpful for listening to the long AI descriptions faster.

You can also use headphones, and I have tried the Shox Open Run Pro, Shox Open Fit, Sony LinkBuds, and AirPods Pro 2, all of which can fit on my head along with the glasses. I sometimes even wear the Open Run Pro and Open Fit at the same time when away from home, so I can hear both my phone and my Android watch, and the glasses still fit. My ears sometimes start hurting a little after a few hours, but it’s not too bad.

However, sometimes when I’m around traffic or my environment is loud for some other reason, the voice can be hard to hear, especially at higher speeds. Hopefully, they will allow you to increase the volume of the voice in the future, since it is quieter than VoiceOver right now.

I would estimate the battery life to be about 8 hours, and the glasses seem to charge pretty quickly.

Right now, you cannot use the glasses with other apps such as Oko or Seeing AI, or use them for video calling including Aira, and part of this is because of Apple’s limitations on what iOS apps can do. However, the company plans to allow third-party apps to interface with the glasses in the future.

Sometimes, the glasses will lose connection with my hotspot, making me have to restart the glasses and reconnect, although this happens less often now. Also, sometimes, I have to turn Bluetooth off and back on before the glasses will connect, and this could be because I usually have around 4 devices already connected to my phone. The reason the glasses need to connect to Wi-Fi is that the app retrieves the images from the glasses over HTTP, since Bluetooth bandwidth is very limited, although they said they would be switching to only Bluetooth in the future.

Even though the app doesn’t give me AI descriptions when running in the background, I have been able to run my GPS apps in the background while the Seleste app is in the foreground, although audio from BlindSquare seems to conflict with the Seleste app.

Besides the small issues I mentioned, I really like these glasses. They are useful for many different tasks including choosing and matching clothes, finding dropped items, reading labels, reading mail, etc. Since they use a general purpose AI model, what you can do with them is pretty much limited only by your imagination. I also like just having them describe what they can see in front of me, since there can often be a lot of visual information that I would normally miss, and it’s interesting to hear even when it’s not useful for anything.

The app is updated frequently with bug fixes and improvements.

There is also a mailing list for Seleste users, where the 2 main people in the company often respond and help people with issues they may be having and take feedback.

To get the glasses, you pay a deposit of $100, and then $50 per month after that, which is much cheaper than competitors like the Envision glasses or OrCam. And in the long run, probably even the Meta Glasses.

They will also send you new hardware for no extra cost when they release it.”

Thank you very much, Elijah. You do write very well, and I appreciate that.

If anyone wants to hear more about the Seleste Glasses, we had the company talking about them back in episode 265.

Demonstration of an Accessible LG Washer Dryer

Voice message: Hi, everyone! My name is Russell Solowoniuk, and I’m going to be doing a demo of my accessible LG washer and dryer.

The washer model is WM-3500CW. The dryer model is DLE-3500W.

I bought both units in October of 2020 at a cost of $945 each. Both models are now discontinued, but they’ve been replaced with washer model WM-3600HWA and dryer model DLE-3600W. Of course, the price has gone up. They now sell for $1,095 each. The W at the end of the models stands for the color, so they’re both white.

I’m using the iOS version of the LG ThinQ app on my iPhone. It’s also available for Android phones. and that’s spelt L-G T-H-I-N-Q.

I’m going to start by opening the LG app.

VoiceOver: LG ThinQ. LG ThinQ oven offline, 1 of 3. In list, button.

Russell: So I’ll just start at the top left.

VoiceOver: Russell Solowoniuk’s home. Selection list, button.

Russell: I’m just going to swipe through the app, and show you all what’s in here.

VoiceOver: Plus, button.

Search, button.

Notifications. New item, button.

LG oven, offline. 1 of 3, in list.

LG washer power off, 2 of 3, in list.

Dryer, power off, 3 of 3, in list.

Tab bar, selected. Home tab.

Report tab.

Menu tab.

LG oven, offline.

Russell: So as you can hear, the washer and dryer are offline at this point.

Both of the washer and dryer are quite accessible without the app.

I’ll just try to explain what the layout of the panel in the front of the washing machine is like. Sort of in the middle, but on the left side is a power button. So you hit that power button. Then there’s a dial that you can turn.

[clicking sound]

I don’t know if you can hear it clicking. I’m turning it around and around and around. The thing about the dial is it doesn’t have a stopping point. It just keeps turning around.

So the nice thing about it is every time you start the machine, the cycle defaults to the normal cycle.

Right now, I have a load of towels in my washing machine that I’m going to wash right at the moment. If I wanted to, I could hit the power button, turn that dial 4 times (because Sarah told me that turning it 4 times puts it on the towel cycle), and then there’s a start button to the right of that dial. So I could just press the start button, and that would do it without even touching the app, without touching my phone. So I could do that power button, the big dial, and then to the right of the big dial is the start button.

To the right of that is a touch screen that is not accessible at all. But what it does have on it is a remote button, which puts the washer in remote mode so that I can control it using the LG app on my phone.

So right now, I’m going to press the power button.

[power on musical tone]

You could probably hear that noise it makes.

Now, just for the heck of it, I’m going to turn that dial and you can hear how it makes a sound at each click. So…

[short beep]

one click,

[short beep]

two clicks,

[short beep]

three clicks,

[short beep]

four clicks.

At this point, if I wanted to, I could press the start button and I’d be on towels.

I’m going to power off, …

[power off musical tone]

and start over.

So Sarah marked the remote button with the Braille dot for me on the touch panel. I’m holding my finger just slightly above that dot, so I know where it is.

I’m gonna hit the power button.

[power on musical tone]

I’m gonna press down.

[short beep]

You probably heard that little beep. So now, if I go to the app, …

VoiceOver: LG washer, standby. 2 of 3. In list.

Russell: Now, you hear that LG washer is in standby mode. So I’m going to double tap on that.

VoiceOver: Normal cycle has been selected. Back, button.

Russell: And you heard it say normal cycle has been selected. That’s not what I want. I want the towel cycle, so I’m going to swipe to the right.

VoiceOver: LG washer, heading level 1.

Settings, button.

Normal, button.

Russell: So there’s a normal button. I’m going to double tap on that.

VoiceOver: Normal, heading level 1.

Favorite, heading level 2.

Manage, button.

Towels, button.

Russell: So my towels is one of the favorite cycles that I have, so I’m going to double tap on that.

VoiceOver: Towels, button.

Power on, button.


LG washer, heading level 1.

Russell: So now, if I go to LG washer and swipe to the right, you can hear it.

VoiceOver: Settings, button.

Towels, button.

Russell: It’s now set to towels.

So I’m going to swipe all the way to the right to the start button. But as I’m swiping through, you’ll hear the water temperature and other things.

VoiceOver: Power on, button.

Temp. Warm, button.

Russell: Water temperature is warm.

VoiceOver: Soil. Normal, button.

Spin. High, button.

Start, button.

Russell: And there’s the start button, so I’m going to double tap on that.

[3 ascending tones]

You might have heard that little sound it made. So right now, I’m downstairs, in front of my washing machine.

I’m going to go upstairs now. And when I get there, I’m going to check.

Well, I’ll check it right now and see what it’s doing.

VoiceOver: LG washer, heading level 1.



Power on, button


Russell: So right now, it’s detecting stuff.

So I’m heading upstairs.

VoiceOver: Pause, button.


Russell: There’s a pause button. I could pause the cycle if I decided oh, I forgot I want to throw something else in.

So I’m just going to wait for a minute or two, and see how long it takes to detect.

VoiceOver: Washing.

Russell: So now, it says washing. It went from detecting to washing.

VoiceOver: 0%.

Pause, button.

Soil. Normal, button.

Russell: So now, if I touch at the top left, …

VoiceOver: Back, button.

Russell: There’s a back button. I’ll tap on that.

VoiceOver: Russell Solowoniuk’s home.

Plus, button.

Russell: I’m going to swipe to the right.

VoiceOver: Search, button.


LG oven, offline. 1 of 3.

LG washer, 57 minutes left. 2 of 3. In list.

Russell: So there you go. It says LG washer, and there’s 57 minutes left in this wash. So it’s really a lot of good information.

It’s easy to use, and it’s great. I love it.

I’ll pause the recording now.

So my load of towels is almost done. I wanted to record the notification that comes in when the load is done.

I’m going to switch to the app first.

VoiceOver: LG ThinQ, active.

Dryer power, off. 3 of 3.

LG Washer, 1 minute left. 2 of 3. In list, button.

Russell: It says 1 minute left so I’m just going to leave the phone sitting here, and let the notification come in.

VoiceOver: LG ThinQ. Now. LG washer. LG washer’s wash is complete. LG washer, cycle finished. 2 of 3. In list, button.

Russell: So there. You heard that the notification came in, and I’m upstairs and nowhere near my washing machine. And the notification came in not only on my phone, but also on my Apple Watch. So that is super.

So now that my load of towels is washed, I’m going to dry them. Sort of the same routine. So I’m finding the remote button, which is also marked in Braille on the dryer touch panel. I’m going to hit the power button to turn the dryer on.

[power on musical tone]

I’m going to press the remote button.

[1 short beep]

Once you hear that ding, then you know that you can go to the app and see what it says. Bring up the app.

VoiceOver: LG ThinQ.

LG oven, offline. 1 of 3. In list.

LG washer, power off. 2 of 3. In list.

Russell: Now, you hear that the LG washer, the power is off.

VoiceOver: Dryer, standby. 3 of 3. In list.

Russell: And you hear that the dryer is now on standby, so I’ll double tap on that.

VoiceOver: Dryer standby.

Normal cycle has been selected.

Russell: Again, you hear the message that normal cycle has been selected. But I want the towel cycle, so…

VoiceOver: Dryer, heading level 1.

Settings, button.

Normal, button.

Russell: There’s the normal button. I’m going to double tap on that.

VoiceOver: Heading level 1.

Standard cycles.

Heavy duty.

Towels, tickbox. Radio button, unchecked.

Russell: There’s the towels button. I’m going to double tap on that.

Now, you can hear dryer, heading level 1. So if I swipe to the right, …

VoiceOver: Settings, button.

Towels, button.

Russell: you can hear that now, towels is selected. So I’ll swipe to the start button.

VoiceOver: Power on, button.

Dry level, normal, button.

Start, button.

[3 ascending tones]

Back, button.

Russell: You can hear the dryer starting.

So now, I’m going to head upstairs and wait for the dryer to finish.

VoiceOver: Dryer, heading level 1.

Russell: Let’s just see what it says.

VoiceOver: Settings.


Power on, button.

Drying, 0%. Pause, button.

Russell: So it says 0.%If you hit the back button on the top left, …

VoiceOver: Dryer. Back, button.

Russell Solowoniuk’s home.

Selection list.

Plus, button.



LG oven, offline.

LG washer, power off. 2 of 3.

Dryer, 55 minutes left. 3 of 3. In list.

Russell: So you hear that the dryer has 55 minutes left. It’s really good that way. So just wait for that to finish. I’ll pause the recording now.

So the load of towels should almost be dry now. I’m going to open the LG app again.

VoiceOver: App switcher. LG ThinQ, active.

LG ThinQ.

Dryer, 1 minute left. 3 of 3. In list.

Russell: So it says dryer, 1 minute left. I’m gonna wait for the notification to pop up. I’ll pause the recording.

VoiceOver: LG ThinQ. Now. Dryer. Dryer’s dry cycle is complete. Dry cycle finished. 3 of 3. In list, button.

Russell: And there you have it. The notification came up and let me know that the dryer was finished. I’m up here sitting in my living room on the couch and notified that my dryer is done. It’s really good that way.

I remember back in the day, I used to have to keep running down the basement to check if the wash was done yet, or check if the dryer was done yet. So for me, I really like the accessibility of the LG washer and dryer. And although my units are several years old now, I hope this demonstration gives you a good impression of how accessible modern appliances can be, as long as you have an accessible app to use with them.

Thanks for listening.

Microsoft CoPilot on Windows 10

Jonathan: Kathy Blackburn says:

“Is there any point in running CoPilot under Windows 10? And if there is, why would I want to?

I cautiously use Be My AI from time to time on iPhone 8. Will CoPilot do anything useful on a Windows 10 computer?

Thanks for your comments.”

One of the tricky things about talking CoPilot, Cathy, is that Microsoft’s calling so many things CoPilot these days.

You do have the CoPilot that’s built into Microsoft Office, and I’m pretty confident that’s not what you are talking about. That actually does some pretty slick things. And at some point, I would like to get into that in great detail because I do use CoPilot in Teams. I use it in Word. there are some pretty cool CoPilot features. Sadly, the one I’d really like to use doesn’t work with the classic Outlook, and the new Microsoft Outlook is not in a very good state at all in terms of accessibility and I’m quite concerned about that.

There is also just this general CoPilot service that you can use, and you can access it under Windows 10. That is similar to ChatGPT.

It may do some things differently, and some things better. You can turn on certain plug-ins for it like Suno AI, which we demonstrated towards the end of last year that generates music for you.

If you’ve got CoPilot there, you could try just having a chat to it. It can answer questions for you. Like for example, when you wrote into the podcast asking about medication, I was able to use ChatGPT to ask a question about the Health app. And I’m sure the CoPilot would have had a go at answering that question as well.

So you can ask it all sorts of things. It can draft things for you.

If you’ve got access to ChatGPT, that’s probably enough in my view, but others may have a different view.

If you use CoPilot and you also use ChatGPT, what are some of the relative merits that you perceive? Let us know. 864-60-Mosen on the phone. 864-606-6736. Or you can record something on your voice memos app or whatever, and attach it to an email, or write an email down and send it into

Problems With Accessible YouTube Downloader

Voice message: Hello, Jonathan and other Living Blindfully listeners! I very nearly said Mosen at Large there for a second. [laughs] Old habits die hard. It’s Gary here.

Jonathan, 2 questions for you.

First one, what do you think of the idea of creating an email group so if fellow Living Blindfully listeners have a question IT-related or how to do something, they can pop it on the email and someone else can answer it? That way, it saves time. It saves you from doing a bit of research if you don’t know it, and they don’t have to wait for the answer until the next episode. That’s the one question. I’m just putting that out there.

Secondly, I’ve got an app called Accessible YouTube Downloader that I heard a demo – a guy called Thomas Domville. He’s very active on the Applevis website and podcasts and that. He’s got another podcast as well called Seeing in the Dark. And he done a very nice demo of this particular Windows-based program.

However, I can only get version 1.1 and 1.2 to work.

Now, it’s a very accessible program.

When I say I can get it to work, it’s not entirely true because I can only get it to take me to the YouTube channel or open up the link in the browser. It doesn’t play from the program, it doesn’t download in any form, and it says to me either the link is bad or there’s a bad internet connection. But if I copy that same link to the browser, it works fine, which tells me it’s not the internet connection.

Anything above 1.2, when I install it, it doesn’t open the app – whether I run it normally, whether I run it as administrator, nothing happens. It’s like I’m just entering on an empty line in Notepad. That’s exactly what it does, absolutely nothing.

So if anyone else knows of this program, is using it, and has success, I’d love to know how you guys do it.

I got the app off GitHub. That’s the links that Thomas put in his description of the podcast notes. There’s a few versions on GitHub. But I loaded and tried all of them, and I could only get 1.1 or 1.2 to work.

I’m using Windows 10 32-bit.

Jonathan: Thanks for getting in touch, Gary!

To answer your first question, we did have an email list like the kind you’re describing for The Blindside, when we ran that podcast. What I found was that it detracted from the podcast itself because people would make contributions on the email list, rather than responding via the podcast itself.

We do have Mastodon, and that’s great. There’s a little bit of interaction there.

But I’m not going to set up an email list because really, what I like is all the engagement that we get from listeners like you all around the world. And if we had an email list detracting from that engagement, the podcast wouldn’t be as interesting. And the podcast obviously has to be the top priority.

I’m not familiar with this particular app that you mentioned. I should say that these things can break at any time because I don’t think they are strictly in keeping with YouTube’s terms of service. But they can be handy to download things to put onto blindness-related devices, for example.

And for many years now, I’ve used Pontes Media Downloader. It is a great app, works like a charm, very reliable, very fast. That’s the one that I use.

But if anybody’s familiar with this one that you were talking about and might be able to give you some guidance, hopefully, we will hear on, or 864-60-Mosen in the United States.

New Hearing Aids

Once again, we hear from the prolific Christopher Wright. He says:

“Hi, Jonathan,

Have you, or any of your listeners used Bluetooth LE audio devices yet? I know Apple doesn’t support it in software, and the hardware requirements are quite strict, but it greatly interests me.

I’ve noticed the transition to Bluetooth 5 appears to have made audio significantly more responsive, as long as both devices speak the same language. But LE Audio is supposed to be even better from what I’ve been reading, particularly for hearing aid users.

What’s the experience like when using the microphone? Has the horrible limitation of switching to the low-quality mono HFP/HSP profiles finally been removed for good?

The newest pair of Bluetooth headphones I have is the Beats Studio 3, but it only supports Bluetooth 5.2 with the SBC and AAC codecs. I’m waiting until 2027 to get new Bluetooth headphones, by which point we’ll hopefully get models with removable batteries. I also imagine LE audio devices will be much more commonplace by that point.

Any information you, or anyone else can provide, would be very interesting.”

Thanks, Christopher! This is something I’ve been looking into in the context of my new hearing aid search.

The new Oticon Intent hearing aids do support this Bluetooth LE protocol. As you say, Apple doesn’t yet. I guess they will catch up in the end.

Eventually, what will happen is that this protocol will also be used to broadcast signals to multiple hearing aid users in public environments.

It’ll be a high tech replacement for the hearing loop with its telecoil, although it’ll be many many years before that protocol becomes as ubiquitous as the telecoil is.

At the moment, it is quite early. But I can imagine the latency must be amazing because I’m experiencing incredibly good latency with the Phonak Roger technology that is built into Phonak hearing aids. I’m using it now, actually, as I record this, and it’s all connected to my mixer. The latency is down at about 17 milliseconds so somebody like me who’s a bit attuned to the sort of thing can hear it, but it’s negligible, It’s way down, and it’s definitely usable.

So while it is cool, I suspect it’s going to take a few more years yet before it becomes ubiquitous. So it’s not going to be the driving factor for me as I replace my current hearing aids. But if everything else were equal, if all the apps were equally accessible and various other things were true, that would be something to take into account for me, for sure. This protocol is the future, and I look forward to it rolling out.

If anybody’s using it in other contexts (they’ll probably be Android users if they are), then do let us know how it’s going for you.

Henry Macphillamy says:

“Hi, Jonathan,

I am not a regular listener.”

What? Oh well, I’ll take what I can get, Henry.

“But it was wonderful to hear you speak about your hearing aid journey and the challenges with hearing aid app accessibility.

I am an Oticon aid user myself, and also completely blind. I have some reflections of my own journey for you to share on the show, and would very much like to connect with you as well.


I am 38, completely blind, and have a moderate to severe hearing loss. I have a very active lifestyle, meaning that I need to hear in a variety of complex listening environments at work and socially.

Unlike you, I have opted to go rechargeable and Bluetooth for the following reasons:

I can’t stand the tiny batteries used in non-rechargeable aids. I am absolutely terrified of these batteries being ingested by small humans with sticky fingers, or by my dog.

For my needs, I have concluded that the fast-changing pace of technology and the better ability to manage speech and noise of the newer aids is worth sacrificing a physical connection with devices.

Admittedly, I am not producing a podcast, and don’t need to use mixing equipment.

I also can’t remember the last time I accessed an ATM for cash. However, I am in absolute agreement with you about how useful it is to do this independently, as the need arises.

Questions and reflections.

I’m curious to know whether you have tried Roger Connectivity Solutions with the equipment you need to connect to. My basic understanding is that the protocol used for these devices is pretty good. However, I am unsure just how good, or whether it would come close to a traditional wired connection.

Have you always had Oticon aids?

I have demonstrated Phonak aids a few times including the Paradise model, which came out a few years ago.

Appreciating that every hearing loss is different, while also appreciating the unique challenges faced by hearing aid users who are blind and who use hearing as a primary sense, I have found Oticon aids to be consistently very good at localizing sound. I am interested to hear how your demonstration of the Phonak aids go, and whether you think they do as good a job as Oticon in localizing sounds and giving you a real-world appreciation of where things are, in relation to your environment.

The third point I have is a general reflection for anyone who is blind and also a hearing aid user. I cannot overstate the importance of having access to a good independent audiologist who listens, and will work with you on your hearing aid journey.

Using hearing as a primary sense is a very different proposition to using hearing to supplement sight. It is important that your audiologist understand this point very well, in order to best support you.

For example, the audiologist who fitted me with my Phonak Paradise aids a few years back fitted me as he would have any one of his sighted patients. He switched a program on called AutoSense, which cuts out noise to the sides and behind when the aid thinks you’re speaking to someone in front of you. This sounds good in theory, until someone who is blind attempts to cross a busy road, with traffic noise coming from multiple directions.

My point is that if aids are set up too aggressively to change focus, you can lose spatial awareness. Needless to say, this is dangerous, and this is something your hearing care professional needs to intuitively understand. If they don’t, it is time to find someone else who will.

In choosing a hearing care professional, ask what hearing aid brands they are associated with. It is an industry rife with commission payments, and very difficult for you as the consumer to obtain good advice if it is not independent advice.

To your hearing aids app comment, app accessibility with the new Oticon Companion app is a disgrace. The previous Oticon On app was fully accessible. Oticon also had an app called Oticon Remote, which enabled you to book in and get the aids adjusted remotely. It was replaced with a single app, the Oticon Companion app. This app is not accessible at all with VoiceOver on the iPhone, including with screen recognition mode switched on. You can do some basic things with the Apple Watch such as change volume, program, and activate the speech booster function. Jonathan, I have been less than impressed with Oticon’s responses to my inquiries about app accessibility.

I would like to know from you what you can and can’t do with the MyPhonak app, as a point of comparison.

Finally, I am interested to hear from you, or anyone else on the show, who is in a similar position to myself. Do Roger Solutions work well in complex listening environments? I am coming to the realization that even with the best hearing aids available to man, I am still missing vital social interactions in difficult listening environments.”

Thanks very much, Henry!

I am going to go in shortly to a demonstration of some of these Phonak apps and talk quite a bit about the Roger technology, because I’m on the verge, on the verge of saying that these Phonak aids are going to be my new hearing aids.

I had a great follow-up session with my audiologist, and you know, they say that every cloud has a silver lining and all that kind of good stuff. If there is one silver lining to having to be in hospitals, and attending funerals, and being in noisy situations, it’s that I have been exposed to a very wide variety of listening situations in a very short space of time because I rushed up to be with my mum the day after I got these hearing aids. So I’ve certainly put them through the wringer in terms of a wide variety of situations.

My current aids, the Oticon Open S1, are only about 5 years old so they’re not ancient technology, but hearing aid technology does move very quickly. You’re right about that.

And I’m with you. I certainly wouldn’t hang on to the wired connection if I can get much better hearing in the complex listening environments that I’m in as well. Because as a chief executive, I can be in a lot of meetings. I can also be in social situations where I’m expected to mix and mingle. So it sounds like our situations are quite similar in that regard.

I respect your choice about going with rechargeable hearing aids, and the point you make about the batteries is a really important one. If you’ve got youngsters (particularly toddlers) around the house, and dogs as well, you have to be so careful with disposing of those batteries correctly.

But I still freak out about the possibility of running out of charge in a couple of situations.

When I’ve introduced this topic before, I mentioned flying for long periods. And flying from New Zealand, say to the United States or Europe, you can be looking at 24 to 40 hours of flying.

And when the hearing aid marketing types start touting all the benefits of a particular hearing aid that’s only available in a rechargeable version, it has been tempting for me to say, “Ah. What harm can it do?” But I realize that’s irresponsible, because I need to be in a position to hear at all times when I’m dependent on what hearing I have. And as someone who does a lot of international travel, that’s a very significant factor.

Of course, if people only do travel that might last, say, even 11, 12 hours, a rechargeable hearing aid would be fine. So my use case is a bit different living in this part of the world and traveling to the other part of the world a fair bit. I accept that.

But the other reason I’m reluctant to go with a rechargeable hearing aid is, as the voice says at the beginning of every Living Blindfully episode, I’m from Wellington, New Zealand. And Wellington, New Zealand is going to get a massive earthquake one day. It’s not a question of if it’s going to happen. It’s just a question of when. Is it going to happen in my lifetime or not? I’m not sure. But we know there will be a big one that happens at some point, and it will be devastating when it happens. And it could damage infrastructure, and we could be without power and essential services for a long period of time.

Now, some rechargeable hearing aids do now come with a case that holds some charge. So you can charge the case, and then you’ve got on-the-go charging wherever you are.

But eventually, if power outages are long enough, that case will run out of charge as well. And then what becomes of you? What becomes of you when you can’t charge your hearing aids anymore? You’re essentially completely unable to function normally as a deaf-blind person, and you’ve got no means of charging. I’m not prepared to take that risk in Wellington, New Zealand.

So again, yeah. I’ve been tempted by some of the things, particularly with Oticon Intent, which does not have a disposable battery version at the moment. I suspect they will come out with one in time. What tends to happen is because most people now do opt for the rechargeable version, it comes out first, and the disposable battery version is released in due course. So there’s no right or wrong answer to this.

But for me, I’m absolutely confident in my decision that a rechargeable option is not for me, given the international travel, and given where I live.

I’ve got to say, too, that these Phonak Lumity aids with disposable batteries are very new. The platform’s been around a while, but the disposable battery version is very new.

I am getting extraordinary battery life from these aids. I mean, I can be sitting here streaming with the Phonak Roger system, maybe for 8, 9 hours at a time. And then on top of that, I’m using my iPhone with Bluetooth when I’m away from this. So I’m doing a lot of streaming. And yet, I’m getting 10, 11, 12 days on a single battery. That is not bad at all. and it sure beats going flat when you’re in the middle of a long-haul international flight. [laughs]

As I was doing some evaluating to determine whether I would have a go at Oticon Intent despite my serious misgivings about the rechargeable battery thing, I did have a look at the Oticon Companion app because it’s compatible with the Oticon Open S1 hearing aids that I have at the moment. And you’re right, it’s a debacle. It’s a very concerning mess. It is such a shame that it can be so hard to get past the front line and talk to some of these engineers about these things like hearing aid apps.

And you make an absolutely vital point about making sure that your audiologist works with you to configure your hearing aids as a deaf-blind person, and not as a hearing person. It is amazing to me how many people rely on lip reading and don’t even know, for example. That’s the first thing. So people go to a restaurant, and they might get a bit of help with the speech and noise programs that are available. But a lot of the time, they are relying on lip reading. And when you take that lip reading away, it actually means that blind people are pretty good hearing aid testers because they’re really working the features hard.

You asked if I have used Phonak before? Yes, I have.

I’m a hearing aid chopper and changer. [laughs] I do an evaluation whenever it’s time to get new technology, and I check the lay of the land. And then, I go with the hearing aid that I think meets my needs at the time.

I’ve used quite a few Phonak products in the past. I have also used Widex.

Actually, the Oticon Open S1 is the first Oticon product that I’ve used. And I agree with you about their philosophy of open hearing, they used to call it. I think they’ve abandoned that phrase with some of the newer technologies. It makes a lot of sense from a blind person’s point of view because it’s not necessarily trying to filter things out. It’s trying to accentuate the right things. And there is a difference there.

That said, I am really getting on very well with the latest version of AutoSense in the Lumity.

For example, I was sitting in the waiting room in my audiologist’s office the other day. And when the receptionist was answering calls and doing that kind of thing, I could hear what she was saying remarkably well. It was really good because she was the only person speaking in the room so it was focusing on her, equalizing to her voice, and amplifying her. And there was a radio on through speakers that sounded like they were suspended in the ceiling. And that was being turned down by the hearing aids when she was talking, because it was interpreting that as unnecessary background noise. I could still hear it, but it sounded a lot fainter.

When she put the phone down and there was nothing happening, she was just sitting behind her desk, perhaps working away or whatever, then the music was the only real sound in the room. And at that point, it EQ’d the music and emphasized the music. And I thought, you know, this is pretty cool.

But again, Henry, you’re absolutely 100% correct when you say you don’t want that sort of palaver going on when you’re trying to cross a street. You just don’t. It is dangerous.

What you can do is have your audiologist set up a program that is pretty linear. And by that, I mean you don’t want the hearing aids filtering out sounds because when you’re trying to cross a street, sound is critical. You may want to apply a gentle bit of limiting so that the traffic isn’t painfully loud for you, but you want to be able to hear that traffic.

You want to switch off all of the technology that tries to put things into mono when it detects that you should be focusing on something, and all of that. Just switch all that stuff off.

But your audiologist can create a program while leaving AutoSense on for when you’re just walking through life, and you’re not outside traveling and trying to cross streets. So you do want to try and get the best of both worlds. And you can have it all if you’ve got a cooperative audiologist who will work with you.

And I am fortunate, I suppose, that I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to this stuff.

I’ve been working with this particular audiologist for years. She tells me she finds me challenging, I think in a good way, and she looks forward to our interactions because I want every feature. I’m trying to work these hearing aids really hard, and I can give her pretty immediate feedback about what she’s doing.

One thing I also like to do (and I totally accept that this is probably outside the comfort zone of most people listening), but I scour around and find the user guide for the software that the audiologist uses. So in the case of this current trial, it’s called Target, and it is this amazing piece of software that allows audiologists to work magic. And I sat there with the Target user guide and I absorbed it. I could probably sit here and do a tutorial for you, except that they won’t give me the software. [laughs]

But I understand how it works. And I understand broadly anyway, how the different features interact with each other. So that when I’m having a conversation with the audiologist, I know where she’s going in the software. I know the kind of things that she can do. And hopefully, I have, at the very least, a rudimentary understanding of what the software can do and how the parameters interact with one another. Because if you tweak one thing, you potentially might affect another. There’s a lot of interlocking parameters with the software, and it’s kind of an adventure. It is a pretty stressful adventure, but you know, I’m up for that. I want to get the best hearing I can out of this technology.


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Review and Demonstration of the MyPhonak App

When the topic of hearing aids comes up on this podcast, one of the things that we hear regularly is that there is a problem in the industry in general with the accessibility of hearing aid apps. So I thought I’d give you a bit of a demo of what I’m trialing at the moment, because the MyPhonak app from Phonak, which is one of the largest hearing aid manufacturers in the world, is 100% accessible. I’ll show you how this works and some of its functionality.

I’ve been commenting on some of the VoiceOver-related quirks of the MyPhonak app in the last few weeks, as I’ve been chronicling my hearing aid journey here on Living Blindfully. But for the sake of completeness, I’ll just go over some of this again.

With Phonak aids, at least the Lumity aids that I have, when you are using VoiceOver, it switches to a dedicated Bluetooth streaming program that has been set up by your audiologist in the hearing aids. With Phonak, if you make your screen reader talk and you’ve got a device that’s connected via Bluetooth, the Bluetooth program will be activated. And after a short period of silence, the Bluetooth program is switched off and you’re back to the program that you were in before.

It’s important to understand this because this does have some ramifications if you’re using the MyPhonak app with your smartphone which is also paired to the hearing aids, as a blind person who uses a screen reader. And this will apply whether you’re using VoiceOver on iOS, or TalkBack, or some other screen reader on Android. Because when you change to a program, obviously, that change will take effect right away. But then VoiceOver or TalkBack will tell you that the change has occurred. So you’re switched back into the Bluetooth protocol, and you’ve got to wait for your screen readers to stop talking for it to change back to the program that you selected.

So in practical terms, if you’re just changing programs, it’s probably better to do it from the hearing aids, or using a dedicated gadget. There’s another one called the Phonak Remote that is also available.

But if you’re configuring things, then there’s no other way to do it than to use the MyPhonak app. If you’re going to be doing some serious configuring such as setting up programs, which I’ll show you shortly, then it’s essential that during that process, you disconnect your iPhone from your hearing aids so that the phone is coming over VoiceOver speaker. Or if you have another speaker you like to use, you might want to route it to that, and then you’ll be able to do some serious configuration.

If you are a deaf-blind person who can’t hear your text-to-speech engine very well, then what you’d want to do is invoke sound curtain which is a relatively new feature in iOS, and just use your Braille display. Because the moment VoiceOver starts making a sound, even if you double tap to activate something, that noise is going to trigger the Bluetooth protocol and pop you out of the program that you’re configuring.

So it is not straightforward, I guess, in some respects. But it is fully accessible, which is a considerable advantage over some of the other options out there.

With all those caveats, I’m now in the MyPhonak app and I have VoiceOver connected to my mixer right now, for the purposes of this demo. I don’t have VoiceOver coming directly through my hearing aids, so we’re going to be good as we go through this demonstration.

There are two different types of Bluetooth connection that you will establish between your hearing aids and your phone. And thankfully, they are mutually exclusive.

The first is the audio connection between your phone and your hearing aids. And that’s what allows you to hear VoiceOver through your hearing aids. It allows you to take and make phone calls, and listen to music.

And as I’ve said when I’ve been reflecting on this journey, music sounds absolutely outstanding. I mean, it’s a really big leap up for me from the Oticon Open S1 aids that I have been using. And I know that a lot of hearing aid manufacturers have made considerable progress in this regard over the last few years.

You also have a separate connection for remote control for both your left and your right hearing aids, assuming that you’re using bilateral hearing aids. And that connection is still active. We need it to be because that’s what gives us the remote control capability.

So I’m going to show you the tab bar at the bottom of the screen first. Fully accessible.

VoiceOver: Tab bar, selected. Home, tab. 1 of 5.

Jonathan: When you land in the Phonak app, you’ll be on this home tab, and this is where a lot of the action happens.

VoiceOver: Health, tab. 2 of 5.

Jonathan: Some Phonak hearing aids (and indeed, hearing aids in general these days), offer health capabilities, and this will vary depending on the fitting of the hearing aid and the model of the hearing aid that you have. Having a device in your ear can give you a remarkable amount of health data that can be useful. So if you have hearing aids that make the most of this, you can set this up.

VoiceOver: Devices, tab. 3 of 5.

Support, tab. 4 of 5.

Jonathan: If you go into the support tab, this will allow you to set up a remote session with your audiologist. I’ve not tried this yet, but the principle of it sounds really cool. The idea that you could be half a world away and encountering some sort of difficult situation that requires some urgent attention, you and your audiologist can get together on a video call, and the audiologist can tweak away. And in real time, you will be able to respond and let them know what effect those tweaks are having.

VoiceOver: Profile, tab. 5 of 5.

Jonathan: We’re going to spend most of our time in this short demo in the home tab, and probably also the devices tab.

So we’re on the home tab right now that has focus when you open the app. So I’ll go to the top of the screen.

VoiceOver: Automatic program.

Jonathan: Now, that is not currently selected. But the automatic program is typically what your hearing aid will boot up into, and Phonak has some pretty sophisticated algorithms going on. I’ve actually become more relaxed about not trying to second guess it, unless I’m in traffic which we’ve talked about earlier in the episode.

But I found that when I’m walking around going into different environments, the AutoSense operating system 5.0 is really doing a good job. So you put it in automatic, you will get that program. If I double tap, it will switch me there.

The reason why I’m not going to double tap at the moment is because that will take me out of the program that I’m hearing, which allows me to connect my iPhone to my mixer. More about that as we move through.

This is a fun demonstration.

VoiceOver: Speech and noise program.

Jonathan: If you think that the AutoSense OS is not getting it right and that it’s too noisy for you, you can manually switch into the speech and noise program. Just double tap. It will do that.

VoiceOver: Music program.

Jonathan: And that’s self-explanatory. music sounds fantastic on these.

VoiceOver: Public T-coil+mic program.

Jonathan: I should explain this for those who are not hearing aid wearers, and perhaps just listening for interest’s sake. There are public facilities that offer a telecoil facility, a hearing loop. And when you switch into this, you may be able to hear audio coming directly from the sound source.

For example, if you go to a movie theatre, you may find a movie theatre with a telecoil, although a lot of them are distributing assistive listening devices now. Some churches have them. Public facilities in general can have them.

You can go in here and it will enable the telecoil and the microphone. But if you want to, you can mute the microphone. You can do that either from the app, or from the hearing aids. And as I’ll demonstrate in a minute, you can actually adjust the environmental balance between how much telecoil you’re getting and how much microphone you’re getting, which is a great feature of these aids.

VoiceOver: Acoustic phone program.

Jonathan: This is where if you ever have to use a landline phone, you can switch to this. You can put the landline phone to your ear and the phone will come through both ears at once, which certainly helps me and can help other people who perhaps will struggle to hear if the phone is only coming out of one ear.

VoiceOver: Selected. Roger direct+mic, 6 of 10.

Jonathan: As you hear, you do hear very clearly when a program is selected, and this is Roger direct+mic. if I change out of this program, then I won’t be able to hear what’s happening in my mixer. I am going to have to do this sooner rather than later in this demo, but we’ll Stick with it for now.

VoiceOver: Restaurant program.

Jonathan: This is based on speech and noise, and it’s something that my audiologist has set up.

VoiceOver: Music program.

Jonathan: That one’s similar.

VoiceOver: TV program.

Jonathan: Like most of the big hearing aid manufacturers, Phonak has a range of accessories available including one called TV Connect. TV Connect has a 3.5 analog jack. It also uses Toslink, if you want to make a digital connection to your TV or other audio-video accessory. And when a signal is sensed from this device, it will, by default, automatically switch to the TV program. Although you can change that so that it just beeps at you to let you know that a TV signal is available. And the audio quality and the latency are both superb.

VoiceOver: Quiet meeting program.

Jonathan: This is one of the coolest features of this app and these hearing aids. The Quiet Meeting program is something that I set up. When I originally got these hearing aids (and I’m still in the trial as I put this demo together), I was struggling to hear people in very quiet environments which is quite strange, because typically, it’s the noisy environments that cause the issues. But I was in a lot of hospital settings where people were talking quietly, and other meeting settings, and it really wasn’t easy.

So I decided to create this program. You don’t get the full functionality that an audiologist does in the case of Phonak through the Phonak target software, but you do get quite a bit of configurability, and I will find a way of showing you this soon.

VoiceOver: Left slider. Left volume, 0. Adjustable.

Jonathan: Here’s the volume control. So that’s for the left hearing aid.

And if I just flick up, …

VoiceOver: Left volume, 1. Left volume, 2.

Jonathan: You’re not hearing any difference. But oh boy! I am. That’s a lot louder in my left ear, …

VoiceOver: Left volume, 0.

Jonathan: So I take it down to 0, and I’ll just mute the microphone again. There we go.

VoiceOver: Left slider. Left volume, 0.

Right slider. Right volume, 0. Right slider.

Jonathan: And then, we get…

VoiceOver: Unmute, button.

Jonathan: If I double tap that, I will unmute the microphones. Currently, I’m just listening to what’s coming through my mixer, which is really great.

VoiceOver: Ambient balance, button.

Jonathan: I’ll double tap this.

VoiceOver: Ambient balance, heading. Ambient balance, 2.5. Adjustable.

Jonathan: This is another slider control. So if I slide this downwards, …

VoiceOver: 2. 1.5. 1. 0.5.

Jonathan: I think you can, … No, you won’t hear that. What it’s doing in my ear is it’s making the speech quieter. So it’s making what’s coming from the Roger device quieter. I can’t hear it at all now.

If I crank it up, that’s back at 2.5.

If I keep going, …

VoiceOver: 3. 3.5. 4.

Jonathan: what’s happening now is that the microphones on the hearing aids, which did get unmuted by themselves when we started this process, are becoming much quieter and the source, the Roger source is now much much louder.

VoiceOver: 3.5. 3. 2.5.

Jonathan: So i’ll take it down to 2.5, which is a pretty good balance. If i flick right, …

VoiceOver: Ambient balance, 2.5. Adjustable.

Jonathan: I don’t know why sometimes these controls appear twice, but I’ll take it over them not appearing at all.

VoiceOver: Close, button.

Jonathan: And now, if I double tap the close button, …

VoiceOver: Restaurant program.

Jonathan: Let’s just go back to the bottom of the screen.

VoiceOver: Merge volume sliders, button.

Jonathan: There’s only one more button on the screen, and that’s to merge the volume sliders so that when you increase the volume, the left and right will increase at the same time.

And those are all the settings available in this particular program, namely the Roger Direct program. And we’ll talk a lot more about Roger a little bit later.

It is unfortunate that there’s no treble and bass, and other options that are available in this program. That is a real shortcoming of the MyPhonak app which I hope might be addressed in future.

Currently, if you want to make any EQ changes, you may be able to do that from your phone or the device that you’re connected to. For example, I’m using a mixer at the moment, and I’ve got all sorts of equalization options on every channel on this mixer. But that is not something that is commonly available to everybody.

Now, this is where things get a bit adventurous. [laughs]

I’m going to go to the top of the screen, …

VoiceOver: Automatic program.

Jonathan: and I’ll flick right.

VoiceOver: Speech and noise program.

Jonathan: and we’re going to switch to the speech and noise program.

VoiceOver: Selected. Speech and noise program.

Jonathan: Now, what that’s done is switched to the program. And it also means that I cannot hear anything anymore coming from my phone or my mixer because we’re in a different program now.

So I’m going to pause the recording, pop on a pair of headphones which will hopefully work well enough for me to complete this demo, and keep going.

Alright, the things we do for Living Blindfully.

So now, I’m hearing through headphones rather than hearing directly, and I’m in the speech and noise program.

I’m just going to flick through now.

VoiceOver: Music program.

Public T-coil+mic.

Acoustic phone program.

Restaurant program.

Music program.

TV program.

Quiet meeting program.

Left slider. Left volume, 0.

Right slider. Right volume.

Jonathan: So once again, we have those 2 copies of the control which as far as I am aware, do the same thing.

Right slider. Mute, button.

Adjust program, button.

Jonathan: This is where we have something new compared to when we last looked at this, and it’s very powerful. This is called adjust program.

I’m going to double tap that.

VoiceOver: Adjust speech and noise. Program settings, heading.

Jonathan: I’ll flick right.

VoiceOver: Close, button.

Information, button.

Jonathan: There is a bit of context-sensitive help here. So let’s double tap.

VoiceOver: Advanced settings.

Jonathan: And I’m just going to perform a say all.

VoiceOver: Customize the sound of your hearing aids by adjusting the following settings of your programs. Then, create a new custom program or update an existing one to use this whenever you like.

Equalizer presets.


Noise reduction

Speech focus


Close, button.

Jonathan: So a nice touch there that you’ve got that help. And it’s all fully accessible, which is a lovely rarity in hearing aid apps, I’m afraid to say.

I’ll double tap close.

VoiceOver: Close, button.

Jonathan: And there’s another close button, but we’re in the right place.

VoiceOver: Equalizer presets, heading.

Jonathan: If you want to, you can just change this program through a set of equalizer presets. You often see this when you’re going through equalizers. They offer a series of presets with cool funky names.

So if I flick right, …

VoiceOver: Adjust current preset, button.

Jonathan: I’m going to double tap.

VoiceOver: Equalizer, heading. Adjust the pitch of the sound.

Bass, 0. Adjustable.

Jonathan: I’m not going to tweak these because there’s no way I can let you hear what I’m hearing. It’s like the old Christmas song. Do you hear what I hear? [laughs] So we’ll just show you what’s here.

VoiceOver: Middle, 0. Adjustable.

Treble, 0. Adjustable.

Close, button.

Jonathan: So this is a basic 3-band graphic equalizer. This is nothing like what your audiologist has access to in the Phonak Target app. But I guess they’re trying to make it relatively friendly, and they’re coming up with a mix that they believe is the right combination of power without making the whole user experience too complex. But mate, it would be amazing if they had an advanced mode where we could do much finer tuning than this. But again, I’ll take what I can get.

VoiceOver: Close, button.

Jonathan: Now I’m back in the previous screen.

And if I keep going, …

VoiceOver: Adjust the pitch of the sound . Use the pre-adjusted setting for quick access.

Jonathan: I don’t think pitch is the right word at all here. It’s not like you can make somebody sound squeakier or lower.

VoiceOver: Selected. Default. 1 of 5.





Jonathan: So this is another way of getting some change. If you double tap one of these things, then things definitely sound different. And you can play with this in an environment to see what works best.

If you are in a loud situation, …

So at the moment, for the purposes of this demo, I’m configuring the speech and noise program. This is not perfect for a blind person if you’re reliant on text-to-speech, because you’re going to have to have your iPhone talking to you via its own speaker, or you’re going to run into those issues I mentioned earlier.

If you’re a Braille display user, you’re in a much better position because then, you can just read along on the Braille display and not have your phone talking to you. That’s the best possible option, I think if you’re in a noisy environment, and you’re doing all sorts of adjustments. And you can do that with a Braille display. This is a pretty epic thing.

VoiceOver: Volume, heading. Reduce or increase sound.

Volume, 0. Adjustable.

Jonathan: If you apply more compression and make some other changes to equalization, everything may sound louder to you. And if that’s the case, you can tweak the program so that the overall volume is lower.

VoiceOver: Noise reduction, heading. Pick up or reduce background sounds.

Noise reduction, 2. Adjustable.

Jonathan: So currently, we’ve got a little bit of noise reduction here. But in a very noisy environment, if your primary objective is understanding speech and you don’t mind about cutting out environmental sounds some more, we can crank this up.

VoiceOver: 2.5.



Jonathan: 5 is as high as it goes, and I’m not really hearing any difference here because I’m in a very quiet studio environment.

I’ll take it back to 2.5, but you might want to play with this in extremely noisy environments.

VoiceOver: Noise reduction, 2.5. Adjustable.

Speech focus, heading. Listen to surroundings, or directly in front.

Speech focus, 2.5. Adjustable.

Jonathan: The higher you go with this, … So if you flick up, you will eliminate a lot of sounds around you, and it’s going to become much more omnidirectional.

So it’s important to think about your current situation when you make these adjustments. If you go out with your significant other, or you go out to noisy environments for a business meeting and you don’t want to use any kind of external device like a Roger device (and we’ll cover those soon) and you just want to focus on the person directly in front of you, then if you crank up the noise reduction and you crank up the focus to make the hearing aids extremely directional, you should get appreciable change in those sorts of environments.

VoiceOver: Dynamic, heading. Reduce loud sounds, or increase soft sounds.

Dynamic, 0. Adjustable.

Jonathan: I am a compression junkie. I like compression. I like talking and hearing myself being compressed. [laughs] So I’m inclined to crank this up anyway and add a lot of compression. If that’s not what you want, you can make it a lot more linear by turning the slider down.

The best way to understand these settings is to actually play with them. And the thing is, this is all fully accessible, so you can play to your heart’s content. You can’t break anything. So why not?

VoiceOver: Dynamic, 0.

Save as new, button.

Jonathan: If you double tap save as new, you will create a new program, and that will get stored in your hearing aids.

So we’ve currently used the speech and noise program as the base. It’s important to make it clear that the base program and the parameters of that base program do have an influence on what you’re doing here. So if you’ve made a change to a bass program in this case, speech and noise, you could make other changes as well.

For example, if you have gone into the music program and you’ve decided that you like a lot more bass when you’re listening to your music or whatever and you save that as a new program, then if your audiologist makes a change to the bass music program or the bass speech and noise program (the one that they have set up that’s built into the hearing aids), that will have a flow-on effect in terms of what happens to the program that you’ve created. So it is important to understand the relationship here. What you have with all these customizations is just the tiniest of user-friendly subsets of the things that your audiologist can do to these hearing aids.

I’m not going to save this.

VoiceOver: Close, button.

Jonathan: I’ll double tap close.

VoiceOver: Close.

Alert. Close without saving? Are you sure you want to close this page?

Yes, button.

Jonathan: I’ll double tap yes, and we are out of there.

So I am now going to pause the recording and switch back, so I can hear what’s going on on the phone through my hearing aids again, and we’ll keep going with the final bit of this demo.

Whew! Okay, that’s better. [laughs]

Let’s go down to the tab bar.

VoiceOver: Tab bar. Selected. Home.


Devices, tab.

Jonathan: And we’ll just take a look at the devices tab briefly.

VoiceOver: My hearing aids, heading.

Left hearing aid, connected.

Right hearing aid, connected.

Jonathan: That ensures that both devices are connected so that any configuration we do will apply to both.

VoiceOver: Program management, heading.

Hearing aid programs.

Current, Roger direct+mic, button.

Jonathan: If I double tap this, …

VoiceOver: Hearing aid programs, heading.

Jonathan: I’ll just do a say all.

VoiceOver: Hearing aid programs, heading.

Information, button.

Automatic, button.

Fitted by hearing care professional, heading.

Speech and noise, button.

Music, button.

Public t-coil+mic.

Jonathan: So that’s just going through all of the programs. And if we double tap any of those buttons, all you can do here is change their name. So if you want a more user-friendly name for your programs, perhaps they might take up a bit less real estate on your Braille display, or take a shorter period of time to say, you can do that.

We’ll go back to the top of the screen because there’s another of those information buttons there.

VoiceOver: Back, button.

Hearing aid programs.

Information, button.

Jonathan: We’ll have a look at what’s in here.

VoiceOver: Hearing aid programs, heading.

You can use MyPhonak to select different types of hearing aid programs to best suit your situation and your hearing needs. Automatic.

Fitted programs.

Personalized adjustments.


Close, button.

Jonathan: And we’ll close that.

VoiceOver: Back.

Jonathan: I’ll go back.

VoiceOver: My hearing aids, heading.


Right hearing aid.


Hearing aid programs.

Your hearing aids, heading.

Product information.


Right, button.

Jonathan: If you double tap this button, you’ll get information about the firmware that your hearing aids are running. And also, the firmware of your Roger direct receivers, if you have those. Unfortunately, you can’t update the firmware yourself.

I just did a bit of Googling and found that the firmware that I have in these hearing aids, which are still on trial as I record this, is not the latest firmware. So that will be top of my list next time I go to the audiologist.

Next, we have another heading.

VoiceOver: Hearing aid settings, heading.

Bluetooth phone calls. Select connection, button.

Jonathan: You’ve got a bit of configurability here.

I’ll double tap.

VoiceOver: Bluetooth phone call, heading.

Information, button.

Jonathan: And if I double tap this, we’ll get some information.

VoiceOver: Bluetooth phone call, heading.

Bluetooth allows you to make and receive phone calls directly through your hearing aids. Your hearing aids must be in range and connected to your smartphone to make and receive phone calls.

Normal sound quality.

Enhanced sound quality.

Close, button.

Jonathan: We’ll close that.

And those are the choices you have. You have normal quality and enhanced sound quality, and both seem to work pretty well, actually, with the iPhone.

Those are the key settings in this particular tab.

And that’s an overview of the MyPhonak app. As you’ve heard, despite the quirks that we sometimes have to go through, this is a gloriously accessible app. And that is a rarity, unfortunately, far too rare when it comes to hearing aids.

It is gravely concerning that our choice with something as critical to blind people as hearing may be constrained by how accessible a particular manufacturer’s app is. We should not allow that to stand. And if it takes legal action to get some of these key people out of their shells and actually talking to us about this, then so be it. Our hearing is so critical. We should not be constrained by fixable accessibility barriers.

But it is good to know that the MyPhonak app is in superb shape from an accessibility point of view. I should say I have not tried the Android version of the app. I hope that it is equally accessible. If someone’s able to confirm that for us, for those who choose to use Android, that would be super.

The MyPhonak app is available from the iOS App Store and from Google Play.

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Review of the Phonak Roger On V2, and the MyRogerMic App

I want to talk now about the Roger On version 2 remote microphone from Phonak.

I think it’s generally widely acknowledged that Phonak are the leaders in these sorts of accessories – remote microphones that you can place on a table or clip onto someone, but then wirelessly transmit the sound of a single voice or the sound of several voices in a meeting to your hearing aids. It provides extra clarity, and a lot of these devices have some pretty complex processing going on, so that background noise is eliminated and the microphones are focusing on the person who’s speaking at any given time. They’re very widely used, and they help a lot of people in meeting environments and noisy environments.

This concept of a wireless microphone is not particularly new. I’ve been wearing hearing aids for a long time now. And I remember older technologies based on FM, so they weren’t digital. And if you went out of range, if you started to move away too far, you’d start to get FM crackle, and the signal would break up in the way that analog signals used to do.

For a long time behind the scenes, Phonak were working on a new technology based on 2.4 gigahertz digital technology (That’s roughly the same sort of spectrum that Wi-Fi uses.), and they called it Roger. And I was curious about this, so I did some research.

Why did they call it Roger? Is it because some of these gadgets are very James Bond-like, particularly the Roger Pen, which was the first Roger accessory that I ever owned? Was it named after somebody else called Roger? Was the person who designed the technology simply called Roger?

And I was completely on the wrong track. The reason why they call it Roger is that Roger, in many languages, is understood in radio terms as message received and understood. And that’s exactly what this technology is about – making sure that you hear clearly in a wide range of environments. So if you were ever curious, that’s why it was called Roger.

As I said, the first device that I owned in this range was quite some years ago (maybe 5 or 6 years ago) and it was called a Roger pen. It really does look like a pen, and you could lie it on the table. It looked quite unobtrusive because of its form factor. It had several microphones in, and a lot of people had them.

I remember when I just started in the CEO role I currently occupy, and I was in a meeting of one of the governing entities of the organization.

One of the members got a phone call (She also has a hearing impairment.), and she ran out of the room with a Roger pen. Only trouble is, it was my roger pen instead of hers. That’s how ubiquitous they were. [laughs]

So I could hear her talking away saying, “Hello? Hello? Can you hear me?” And of course, because she’d taken the wrong Roger pen, the person on the other end of the call couldn’t hear her. it was quite hilarious.

One of the challenges for blind hearing aid wearers of the Roger pen was that there was no physical switch on it at all. They were all physical buttons. It’s not a problem to memorize the order of push buttons. All of us who are blind have been doing that forever. But the problem is that they didn’t push into a particular place. So when you pressed a button, it didn’t stay down or anything like that. And that meant that it could sometimes be difficult to know when something was on. If you can see, you can see the lights on the device. But we don’t have that option.

So if things weren’t working as I had hoped, I’d resort to putting it to my ear, switching to the telecoil. And if I was picking up some sort of electromagnetic interference from the Roger pen, I knew it was on. Not the best, really.

Then, I got a Roger, I think it was a table mic to trial, and that was a disaster from a blind person’s point of view because it basically comprised of various touch-sensitive segments. So as you were touching the microphone, it would be doing different things. And it was quite hard as a blind person to make it behave, unless of course you paired it with the MyRoger app, and we’ll be talking about that app extensively in this review.

Then, I heard about the Roger On. I got version 1 of the Roger On, and it’s a fantastic device. This will fit in the smallest of pockets, and it weighs just 27 grams. That is 0.9 ounces, not even one ounce. This thing is so tiny and light, it can go with you anywhere.

The only thing I worry about sometimes is potentially losing it, so I have a system where I’m always keeping it in a safe place.

It has a physical on-off switch. For a blind person, this is a big deal. It means that you can feel when it’s slid in the on position, you can feel when it’s slid in the off position.

The device has a series of microphones. I believe there are 4 microphones, and they can form various beam formations or polar patterns, depending on what you want to do with the device. We’ll cover those different modes in just a moment.

It has a USB-C port in the bottom. You can use that for charging, but you can also use it for so much more.

And this is one of the key differences between version 2 of the Roger On, which I’m currently trialing, and version 1. If you connect the Roger On version 2 to a computer, you’ll be able to use it as a headset. When you’re on a conference call with Zoom, or Teams, or similar technology, you can just clip the Roger On to your pocket or some part of your clothing, and it will go into super directional mode. It will filter out a lot of the background noise, and use digital signal processing to give you a signal that’s suitable for audio conferencing.

It also comes with a docking station. You can put the Roger On in this little dock and use it all day long if you want to. And as a blind person, this is where it gets exciting because in that docking station, there is a socket which takes a Toslink connection which is a digital form of connection, but it also takes a standard 3.5 millimeter jack. So if you want to connect to a computer or some other device, you can run a cable from the 3.5 jack or the Toslink jack of the Roger On to whatever the appropriate other end is to connect to. It could be RCAs at the other end. It could be another 3.5 millimeter plug.

You can also use this to connect to your TV. If for some reason you don’t want to purchase the dedicated Phonak TV accessory, this will also do pretty much the same job for you if you want to have the audio from TV piped directly into your hearing aids.

You can use Roger On with pretty much any major hearing aid manufacturer.

Roger accessories are ubiquitous in the hearing care industry. How you get the Roger signal to your hearing aids will vary depending on your hearing aid type.

The Oticon Open S1s that I’m coming from required you to connect the little audio shoe to the base of your hearing aids, which acted as a Roger receiver. And that meant that every time I wanted to use Roger, I would have to make a point of connecting that accessory to my hearing aids.

So there was a little bit of friction there, in terms of how likely I was to use it. If I was going into a meeting where I knew that it would be useful, I’d go ahead and cable up.

But the downside of attaching the audio shoes to the Oticon Open S1 was that once you cable up your accessory, you lost your Bluetooth connectivity to your smartphone.

Since Phonak make the Roger range and they also make hearing aids, it’s understandable that the experience of using Roger with Phonak aids is wonderfully seamless. You can have your audiologist install Roger receivers into your hearing aids, and then there’s nothing to do. When you switch the Roger device on, it will just simply start working through your hearing aids and you don’t lose any functionality while you’re using Roger. So because of that lack of friction, you are more likely to use it.

Another example of why the combination of Phonak hearing aids and Roger accessories is so compelling is latency. That’s a fancy word for delay, really.

If you’ve used one of these digital remote microphones before, you may have felt like there’s a little bit of a delay, a little bit of an echo between when you talk and when you hear yourself coming back. Now, if you’ve been listening to my podcast for any length of time, you will know that I’m just way fussy when it comes to issues like latency. [laughs] Latency bothers me.

And I can tell you that this latency is incredible. I can hear it a little bit, but it is so negligible that it’s not bothersome. I think they’re saying that it’s about 17 to 20 milliseconds of latency, and that is just virtually nothing. It’s almost imperceptible. I can perceive it, but I’m pretty attuned to perceiving these things.

Finally, I’ve saved the best for last. There is one feature whose consequences I didn’t fully appreciate until just the other day. And when I twigged to what this meant, I knew I had to produce this demo for you this week.

Since I’ve been using remote microphone solutions, I’ve been telling audiologists and representatives of hearing aid manufacturers who will talk to me that one of the downsides of these remote microphones for blind people is that you lose any sense of direction. So let’s say that you’re going into a critical meeting, or even a job interview, and you take your accessory because you want to perform at your best. You put this accessory in the middle of the table, and you switch to it. All the voices are in mono.

We have enough stigma as it is. We don’t want to add to it by failing to face the person talking to us. But if we can’t hear where that person is speaking from, it makes it difficult.

What I’ve tended to do is when I’ve gone into a meeting and people are making their introductions, I’ve made a mental map in my mind of where people are sitting. I switch to my hearing aid accessory when I think I’ve got that map in my mind, and hope like crazy that I’ve remembered correctly where everybody is. And in a busy meeting in the heat of the moment, it is possible to forget.

If you have Roger Direct receivers in your hearing aids which you will have, or which you can get installed if you own a Phonak hearing aid, then you can go into the MyRoger app and enable a feature called MultiBeam 2.0. When you hear a jargony markety name like that, it doesn’t convey what it means. But I’ll tell you what it means. And if you wear hearing aids, I hope this excites you as much as it did me. I phoned everybody I could think of who I thought might be interested when I worked this out. [laughs]

MultiBeam 2.0 means that when you put your Roger accessory in the middle of the table, it will go into table mode by default. If you’re in automatic mode, it will still give you all the filtering that makes Roger so great, but it does it in stereo.

The way to get this right is that you make sure you place the Roger On with the USB port facing you. That way, you’ll get the correct left-right balance, and you will then be able to hear where people are speaking from and face in their general direction when they talk to you.

This is a huge deal, a game changer for blind people who wear hearing aids who want to present well at meetings.

Another thing you can do with Roger accessories is create a network of them.

Now, these Roger accessories are not cheap. Like a lot of assistive technology, they come at a bit of a price tag, so not everybody’s going to be in a position to own more than one Roger accessory.

At the moment, I’m evaluating the Roger On version 2, and I already owned a Roger On version 1. What I’ve been able to do is network those 2 accessories. and when you do this, both microphones will go into the unidirectional mode.

So if you’re going out to dinner and there are three of you, and you have 2 Roger accessories, you can create this network and give each of your dinner guests a mic. They will clip it to them, and you’ll be able to hear them extremely clearly.

The way to do this certainly with the Roger On is on the back of the unit, there’s a tiny button. It can be a little bit tactfully indistinctive but it’s towards the bottom of the device, and you should be able to find it. You turn on the 2 Roger accessories, bring them quite close together, and you press that small button, which is a kind of a pairing button. It serves various pairing functions on the Roger device that you want to be the primary device. It will then create the network, and you’re good to go.

Now, there are a couple of things to note about this process.

The first is that that button is also how you pair with your Roger receivers. So if you try to do this when you’re too close to your hearing aids, it will re-establish the pairing with your hearing aids, rather than with the other Roger accessory. The only way I could get this to work doing it myself was to switch my hearing aids off for the duration of creating that pairing with the other Roger device.

The other thing you need to know is that when this network is created, the capabilities of both Roger accessories are quite restricted. It took me a couple of hours of frustration and perplexity to work out that once I had created this network, the Roger On was in mono. Even when I connected it in USB headset mode, I was getting mono from my computer, which I don’t want, as you can appreciate. And I found that the only way to stop this was to reset all of the pairings on the device by holding that pairing button down for around about 8 seconds, and that will clear the pairings. Again, I did this with my hearing aid switched off for it to take effect.

You can actually go on and pair a large number of Roger accessories together. You have to do them one at a time, but you would probably only want to do this when you expressly know that you’re going into an environment where multiple microphones will be helpful. When that work is done, you will want to disestablish the network and get your Roger devices back to normal service.

If you do have multiple Roger devices, a receiver can only have one Roger accessory paired with it at a time. Because I have the V1 and the V2, I thought oh well, I’ll keep the V1 down here in the studio, and just use the V2 when I’m going out. You can do that, but then you have to pair the accessory each time you chop and change, so it’s not particularly seamless.

If you pair your Roger accessory with your phone, then you can use the MyRoger app to control it. There is a very straightforward push button on the front of the MyRoger mic. It’s extremely prominent. It’s the only thing on the front of it. You can cycle through the different modes that way, but this gives you some assurity of what you’re doing.

The first time you run the MyRoger app, it talks you through the process of pairing it with your phone. It is effortless. It really is a simple process.

I’ve done that, and I’m in the MyRoger Mic app now. So let’s have a look at what happens when we open the app.

VoiceOver: Hamburger menu, button.

Jonathan: There’s a menu at the top, and we’ll explore that a little bit soon.

VoiceOver: Roger On. Roger On, V2. 100%.

Jonathan: It tells me that I’ve got 100% charge. They reckon you’ll get about 8 hours of continuous use with this. You can, if you’re concerned about that, take a USB battery pack with you and charge it during your lunch hour or something like that.

Obviously, if you’re using it in USB headset mode with your computer, it’ll be charging at that point as well as being functional to you because it’s getting power to charge from the USB port.

And while I remember to point this out, if you are in USB headset mode (so it’s plugged into your computer, but you’re not recording anything), you can unmute the microphone. So that means that if you’re taking notes on your computer, you can use the Roger On for microphone purposes, but not all the functions will be available to you.

I’ll flick right.

VoiceOver: Auto. Dimmed, button.

Jonathan: The reason why these buttons are dimmed is that at the moment, I have the Roger On sitting in its dock because I’m monitoring myself and recording this using the MyRoger that we’re looking at now. If we were to take it out of the dock, these buttons would not be dimmed.

Automatic mode senses, I guess using a gyroscope, what mode it should be in based on the position of the microphone, and also what might be going on in the environment. So for example, if you hold it upright or can tell that it’s being clipped to something, then it’s going to get very directional because clearly, you’re wanting a situation where you don’t want a lot of background noise.

One thing (now that it’s so much easier to use Roger with these hearing aids) that I’ve started doing is if I’ve got a particularly chatty Uber driver and I’m feeling chatty back, I can say here, have this Roger microphone and clip it to your collar, or to your shirt pocket or something.

The trick is do not forget it when you get out of the Uber. [laughs] That could be a bit of a disaster.

But it is sensitive to position. If you lay it on a table, it will go into the multifunctional beam mode, if you’ve enabled that. And it is important to emphasize that that multifunctional beam mode, the thing that gives you stereo, is only available when you’re using the Roger accessory with Phonak Roger Direct receivers such as those built into Paradise and Lumity hearing aids. So you can use a lot of these features without the hearing aids, but you’re not going to get that amazing stereo feature.

VoiceOver: Table. Dimmed, button.

Jonathan: If we double tap this, you would go into table mode.

VoiceOver: Pointing. Dimmed, button.

Jonathan: Put your Roger On in pointing mode and aim it at the person who is talking to you. It will filter out a lot of background noise, and focus just on that person.

VoiceOver: Presenter. Dimmed, button.

Jonathan: When you put it in presenter mode, somebody can wear the Roger microphone or perhaps put it on a lectern, and it will focus on that person who is speaking.

It’s extremely effective. You hear a lot of DSP technology at work trying to amplify the correct voice, depending on the mode that you’ve chosen.

VoiceOver: Audio mode.

Jonathan: Now, we’re currently in audio mode because it’s connected to the docking station.

I should also mention that there’s another way to get audio into the Roger device, and that is that it does come with a little cable that has a USB-C port at one end, and a 3.5 millimeter jack at the other. That makes it super easy to connect to a headphone jack.

You remember that I was talking when I was beginning this hearing aid journey about how I liked my direct audio input cable because I could just plug into an ATM or anything with a headphone jack and get things done? This really does replace that because of the low latency. It’s stereo as well. You can just plug that cable into the USB-C jack, plug into a 3.5 millimeter headphone jack, and you’re away laughing. It’s pretty cool.

You can also mute and unmute either the audio, or the microphone from the app. And you can do that on the push button as well, at least unmute the microphone. You just press and hold to mute and unmute, similar to the multifunction button on a Phonak hearing aid.

Now, I’ll go to the top.

VoiceOver: Hamburger menu, button.

Jonathan: And we’ll go back to this menu.

VoiceOver: MyRoger mic. Roger On.

Roger On settings.

Jonathan: Here’s Roger On settings, so I’ll double tap that.

VoiceOver: Roger On settings.

Paired devices.

Roger On V2, connected.

Jonathan: That’s the one that I want, so I’ll double tap.

VoiceOver: Back, button.

Jonathan: And let’s have a look at what we can do in the settings.

VoiceOver: Configure your device. Display name, text field. Edit, button. Possibly, compose.

Jonathan: If we double tap this button, we can change the name to something personal if that makes it easier for you.

VoiceOver: Roger On, v2. Text field.

MultiBeam 2.0 switch button, on.

Jonathan: This is available to me because it’s paired with Phonak Roger Direct receivers – the MultiBeam 2.0 that gives you stereo in table mode. Wow! It makes me smile every time i say that. That’s amazing.

VoiceOver: With MultiBeam 2.0, you will hear from what direction someone is talking when you place the roger on in the center of a table. For best results, make sure the USB port of Roger On is facing you when placed on the table, to perceive correct spatialization. MultiBeam 2.0 will be active when you lock your Roger On in table mode with all beams selected.

Do not activate MultiBeam 2.0 when using a single hearing aid.

Jonathan: I’ll flick right.

VoiceOver: Range extender, switch button, on.

Range extender increases the wireless transmission distance between your Roger On and your hearing device, allowing you to hear sounds from further distances. Please note that when you enable range extender, the operating time of your Roger On is reduced to approximately 6 hours.

Jonathan: The reason why I have range extender on at the moment is that I’ve become a bit spoiled. One advantage over the old cable system that I used to use is that I can now wander around. So if I need to wander upstairs and get a quick drink of water or something, I can do that while I’m listening to a paper that’s coming from my computer down here in the studio. The range extender gives me just enough range to make that possible.

If I disable range extender, I don’t get the range I want to do that.

But of course, I do disable range extender when I know I’m heading out to a meeting. I’m not going to be too far from the Roger On, and I want as much battery life as possible.

And then we have…

VoiceOver: Forget device, button.

Jonathan: So that’s what you have in the Roger On app.

For most of the trial of these hearing aids, I’ve connected my Lenovo ThinkPad to the hearing aids via Bluetooth. And this is one of the benefits of Phonax technology. It’s just using generic Bluetooth. It’s not made for anything specific, and that gives you a lot of flexibility.

The downside, and I think this is really disappointing, is that it’s only Bluetooth 4.2. And that means that if you’re connected to your PC or your iPhone and you’re quickly trying to navigate as a screen reader user, it is sluggish. See, I told you I was fussy about latency. It’s not completely intolerably sluggish, but it’s noticeably sluggish. And that sort of stuff bothers me.

However, if you connect via USB headset mode (and you can do this with an iPhone 15 because it’s got a USB-C port, and you can also do it with any laptop either through a USB-A or USB-C port), the latency is fantastic. It’s super responsive. And that allows you to take advantage of the headset mode that I mentioned earlier.

I thought I’d jump on CleanFeed, which is a high-quality service that we’ve talked about on Living Blindfully before with the Phonak Roger On in headset mode, so you can get a bit of a feel for what it sounds like.

Now, you’re hearing me recording on my ThinkPad. I’ve got the Roger On connected to the USB-C port. And actually, I just grabbed the cable that comes with my iPhone 15 Pro Max. This is one of the big advantages of iPhone going to USB-C finally. So we’re recording on the ThinkPad. I have Roger On clipped to my shirt pocket. And when you put it into headset mode like this, the functionality is actually fairly limited.

I can see on the MyRoger app that it is in audio mode, and that means that all the other modes to switch to that we’ve talked about are no longer available.

And I think what’s happening is that this is quite a directional mode. It’s probably a version of presenter mode, I suspect, and it’s honing in on my voice and using DSP processing to try and make it sound good.

Now, this is obviously not going to win any prizes for major top-of-the-line quality microphones, but it is a pretty good sound for audio conferencing and telephone.

This is actually a significant feature for people who use smartphones as well. I have connected this to the iPhone 15 Pro Max, and that’s good because when you connect Phonak hearing aids to your smartphone, you do not have any choice about whether you use the built-in mic of your phone or the microphones of your hearing aids. Phonak forces you to use the microphones of your hearing aids. Now, I found that most of the time that works okay. It’s actually working better than I was anticipating.

But in noisy environments, it may be difficult. And if you want to cable the Roger On version 2 to your smartphone, you’re able to use this as a microphone for phone calls. It also works really well on FaceTime.

And that’s my quick look at the Roger On version 2, in conjunction with Phonak direct receivers, which are built into Phonak hearing aids. I find that this makes an appreciable difference in difficult listening environments. And while no hearing aid combination will ever be perfect especially for a fussy person like I am who’s living quite an active lifestyle and relies on these things entirely, I don’t have any sight to help compensate for the shortcomings of these things. The Roger accessories in particular are a very compelling proposition, particularly now that we can get stereo like this.


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The Jonathan and Bonnie Bulletin


Jonathan: Welcome to this multipurpose section of the show.

It actually serves 3 distinct purposes.

First, I’m recording on the Zoom H6 Essential for the first time with the Roger device connected to see what that’s like, and it seems to be good.

Second, we are testing new microphones. Welcome to the future of Living Blindfully! We have got a series now of Sennheiser MD46 microphones. These are a step up from the Samson Q2use that we have been using. These are broadcast-quality mics. They’re used in the radio industry, and I thought I would get some of these for Living Blindfully. We have 4 of them, actually, so we can plug them into all 4 inputs of the Zoom H6 Essential when we go to NFB, if needed, and get really good quality audio from there. There’s a story behind these, and we’ll talk about that a bit later.

And the third purpose is that here we are, sitting on the couch at Mosen Towers, updating us with the Bonnie bulletin because if we don’t do them often enough, I get people complaining saying, where are the Bonnie bulletins? So welcome to you, Bonnie Mosen!

Bonnie: [laughs] Hello! kia ora!

Jonathan: kia ora to you!

In the previous installment, you were just about to start your new job. How’s that going?

Bonnie: Going great. Been there a little over a month. It’s hard to believe. Lots to learn.

For those that don’t know, I am accessibility lead for Wellington City Council. So, uh, going really well. A lot to learn. [laughs]

I haven’t worked in government in about 11 years. So you don’t really think about how big your city council is, and all the teams and departments that make it run. So just getting familiar with all of that, and all the processes. And there hasn’t been anyone in the role for a while, so very very busy, and it’s going great.

Jonathan: And then when you get into a cab, or an Uber or something like that, people know who you work for.

Bonnie: Yeah. I no longer tell people.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Bonnie: You can’t because then, they start telling you what they think. And so now, I have a random job in that area.

[laughs] Because I called a cab the other week to go home, and the guy starts telling me about a water leak on one of the streets. And can I tell someone about it? Um, I’m like, no.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Bonnie: I said, I have no idea. I mean, we have over 2,000 employees. I said, you need to call the contact center.

And he said well, can’t you just get the message?

So I’m like, No, I can’t.


I mean, I’m in an 18-floor building. I can’t just start running down the hall and saying, who takes care of water? [laughs] I mean, there’s a process you have to go through.

Jonathan: Well, I’m glad that the job’s good, though because you’re enjoying it, and you’ve got great people to work with.

Bonnie: I do. I have a really nice team. Everybody’s really nice.

Jonathan: And this is your first time with Microsoft Teams and some of that technology.

Bonnie: Mmm-hmm. SharePoint.

Jonathan: Yeah. And quite a bit been going on, I should say, just in terms of the technical things, and I should do a disclaimer because this is more of a Jonathan and Bonnie bulletin than a Bonnie bulletin because this is a chance to catch people up on some technical things.

So we got these Sennheiser MD46 mics. I did quite a bit of research and I found that for interviews, these mics are great. As I say, they’re used in a number of media outlets.

There are 2 versions of them. I’ve got the other version which is omnidirectional. Gary O’Donoghue recommended that one to me when we went on our holiday to Europe a couple of years ago.

I said Gary, I want to capture some audio. I’ve got some great recordings in 32-bit float of our trip, and I said to him, “What would you recommend for a good mic?”

And he said get this one. It picks up everything.

But it feels identical to the 4 Sennheiser MD46s that we now have, 2 of which we’re now talking into. So you have to label them. Otherwise, …

Unless you plug them in, and kind of wave them around a little bit, because these are very directional, you see. I just move the mic a bit and I’m right off mic. So that’s great. So you can tell the difference, but you’ve got to be careful to make sure that you don’t confuse the microphones.

The other story I wanted to tell, … We’ve had a really bad run with New zealand post and the UShop service. The last time we did the bonnie bulletin, … (I had to check the transcript to find out what we last said), and that was just after our 6-dot Braille label maker from Logan Tech got stolen from UShop. [laughs] So that was a while ago now.

Bonnie: I hope they enjoy it.

Jonathan: Yeah, yeah. I wonder if they’re Brailling all sorts of things for their friends.

We ordered another one, and I also ordered 4 of these microphones.

And for whatever reason, Amazon wouldn’t ship them here. Amazon ships a lot of things here, and I have no idea, given that these are just microphones, why they wouldn’t ship directly. But they wouldn’t, so we had to use this UShop service, which is an intermediary thing. They give you an address in Oregon, and Amazon, or anywhere you buy from, ships to that address.

And then for a consideration, for quite a large fee, actually, New Zealand Post ships them to us. And it’s quite good. Well, it used to be quite good.

But what we found was that Amazon shipped these 4 microphones in 3 different packages. Yeah, I guess they were coming from different suppliers or whatever. And they were the last 4 microphones that Amazon had in stock of this type, the Sennheiser MD46.

So they arrived in 3 different packages, and I had to go through all the process of explaining to the UShop people, this is one order, but 3 different packages. And they arrived in New Zealand, and I had to go through the same explanation again to get them through customs.

But what was odd about this was that the first microphone, one of them arrived really quickly, and I was able to use it and confirm that it’s everything I hoped it would be. It’s a really nice mic. But they held on to the other 2 packages, which contained 3 of the microphones for over 2 weeks. And it’s one of those things where you just get given the run-around.

So eventually, I started following up and saying, “Why did one get customs clearance so quickly, and the other 3 microphones are stuck for 2 weeks?”

And when I called UShop about it, they said ah well, customs is just sitting on it. Customs are useless. Useless, those customs people.

So I called the customs people and I said to them, “Why haven’t you cleared these other 3 microphones, given that you cleared the first one so quickly?”

And they said we have.

And I said well, New Zealand Post says you haven’t.

And customs are like ah, they’re useless, those New Zealand Post people. Useless.

So I was kind of caught in the middle, and I decided the only way to really make progress was to just keep calling New Zealand Post until they finally got sick of me, and released it, and sent me the microphone.

And that happened again with our second 6-dot Braille label maker. They sat on it for 2 weeks, and I had to follow up to get it released.

So I’ve now found an alternative to UShop, and I’m going to use that instead because it’s really become unreliable.

The other interesting thing about the Zoom H6 Essential was that it was powering, if you will, the audio that we did for my mum’s funeral, your mother-in-law’s funeral.

Bonnie: Yeah.

Jonathan: As we’re recording this, it was just under a week ago.

Bonnie: Almost a week tomorrow.

Jonathan: Yeah.

And it did such a good job.

Richard, my son who’s an audio engineer who’s appeared on this podcast, I left him in charge of the audio, but we worked on it together. I put the music together, and we got a soundboard app for his Android phone. He’s an Android user. So he found a soundboard. This basically means you can load files into different quadrants on the screen, and just tap the file when it’s the right time to play the file.

And that was connected to inputs 1 and 2. We linked the two inputs of the Zoom H6 Essential, so we had stereo.

Then, we had a single microphone, one of the Sennheisers, because they’re so directional that they didn’t give feedback. You had to talk right into it. And that was a really good fit for this particular use case.

And then, we had, going from the line out jack of the H6 Essential, some really good monitor speakers, so no latency at all there. And Richard was able to use the Zoom H6 as a mixer, so we could mix the balance between the mic and the sound from his soundboard app. And we recorded the whole thing in 32-bit float, music in a stereo track, the audio in another, and we’ve got that for the family now.

So the Zoom H6, I just wanted to report, did a fantastic job in those circumstances.

And what’s your take, from a third-party perspective, on these new Phonak Lumity hearing aids?

Bonnie: They’re very good. You know, you’ve certainly had a lot of whammies thrown at you in the past couple of weeks. They’ve certainly got their work out, that’s for sure. Being in so many different environments – the airport, small planes, small noisy planes, hotel, restaurant, that sort of thing. So they’ve definitely gotten their work out, and I think they’re doing really well, you know, particularly after you’ve had them reconfigured last week with the audiologist.

Jonathan: Yes. You came along to that.

Bonnie: I did.

Jonathan: So that was good. So we went to the audiologist, and I thought it would be useful to take you because she, the audiologist, has a very trebly sort of clear voice, and she speaks clearly as well.

Bonnie: She has to. [laughs]

Jonathan: Yeah. [laughs]

And so I thought I’d take you along as another person to talk to because as I mentioned on the show before, the odd thing about it all was that it was the quieter environments where there were some issues.

Bonnie: Yeah.

Jonathan: So that’s been addressed to some degree.

I’ll have to go to some more meetings and stuff. I took the week off, actually, just to kind of process, really.

Bonnie: Yeah.

Jonathan: So I took the week off, and back into the swing of it next week. And it will be interesting to see how that goes in meetings.

But we went out to dinner at, I mean we didn’t deliberately choose it, but it was an inspired choice in retrospect because man, it was hella noisy there.

Bonnie: It was very noisy.

Jonathan: [laughs]

Bonnie: It was a little bistro, and the tables are very close together. And I don’t think it’s a very big place, and they had wooden floors. I had trouble hearing. Food was good, though.

Jonathan: Yeah, the food was fantastic. And it was a good combination because what I found was that some of those options that I demonstrated earlier in the episode with the app were very effective. I was able to go into the MyPhonak app and narrow the beam, if you like, of what the hearing aid was picking up, and also adjust the noise cancellation.

It’s kind of like the HeardThat app, which we’ve talked about on the show before as well in that if you increase the noise cancellation enough, it does reduce the noise. But you also start to get gurgly artifacts.

But we also had the Roger microphone. And in the end, I said to you, “Look, just pin this on you somewhere, and we’ll put it in directional mode.” And that was pretty effective as well.

The thing you have to watch also though, as a blind person, is if you do that and if you pin the Roger mic to somebody like you, your dinner companion or whatever, then if the waiter comes along, it can be so directional. You might not hear the waiter.

Bonnie: Yeah. But it was good. It worked really well so you know, looking forward to see how they continue to work for you.

Jonathan: Yeah. There are a few things I’d still like them to tweak, but we’re making progress.

Bonnie: Yeah.

Jonathan: And are there any other technological discoveries that you’ve made on the job and stuff? Because you know, working in a new environment, you get used to their systems.

And so, I guess it’s more or less a Microsoft shock.

Bonnie: It’s a Microsoft shock, yeah. Sharepoint is a pain in the butt, and everybody that I talk to says Sharepoint’s been the butt.

Jonathan: But blind people, or just people?

Bonnie: Blind people. Even some sighted people don’t particularly like it. But that’s what they use.

So microsoft, if you’re listening (and I think you do listen to this podcast)…

Jonathan: Yes, go on.

Bonnie: Can you please make it completely accessible? Because it’s not. [laughs]

Jonathan: So what are the issues you’re having with it?

Bonnie: It’s just, it’s what I refer to as floaty, which may be because it’s web-based. That’s, it’s just, it’s, (and maybe it’s the way they have it set up. It’s hard to know.), but it’s all web-based, and there’s a lot of busyness on the screen where you can’t, you’re seeing a lot of the editing stuff, like bold, italics, that sort of thing.

Jonathan: Oh, right. So you’re like opening a Word document, that kind of thing?

Bonnie: Yeah.

Jonathan: But you should be able to open it up in the standard Word.

Bonnie: I think you can, but finding it is the trick.

Jonathan: You should be able to configure it so that by default, it opens your document in the standard on Word.

Bonnie: Yeah, maybe I just need to talk to our IT folks.

Jonathan: Yeah. And the other thing you can do that may help is that if you’re dealing with specific folders a lot, you should be able (I don’t think there’s a security setting that prevents this), but you should be able to synchronize Dropbox style that whole folder to your hard drive, so that you can just browse to it in File Explorer.

Bonnie: I do have it in Favorites. I do have one of my folders in Favorites.

Jonathan: In File Explorer, or?

Bonnie: Just in the browser.

Jonathan: Right.

I believe, certainly in our installation, you can synchronize the whole folders to File Explorer so that you just press Windows with E and navigate to it and it all should still be there. And the combination of doing that and opening up documents in Microsoft Word by default should help.

I think you should give the Disability Answer Desk a try and see if they can help you, because Microsoft’s Disability Answer Desk is pretty good, you know.

Bonnie: Yeah. Another thing I’ve discovered is PictureSmart.

Jonathan: Oh, yes. Did you hear about that on Living Blindfully, or somewhere else? Because we did a big thing about it.

Bonnie: Yeah, Living Blindfully.

And then, I listened to Freedom Scientific Training.

Jonathan: They do a good job, don’t they?

Bonnie: I really like them.

Jonathan: Liz and Rachel.

Bonnie: Yeah. I’ve had to use them a lot lately.

Jonathan: They’re doing a fantastic job.

Bonnie: They do the power tips.

Jonathan: Yeah, yeah. Super job. Well done.

Bonnie: They do a really good job. You guys have come in very handy lately.

Jonathan: And of course, my old colleague Ron Miller is there, too.

Bonnie: Yeah. They did something recently on it, and I listened to that.

I deal with a lot of architects. I deal with a lot of different teams. And I deal with a lot of plans, which, you know… [laughs] So the PictureSmart has really come in handy when looking at design plans.

Recently, I had to look at something for what they call a low-traffic neighborhood – traffic calming plan. And uh, so got it to look at it. Gemini was okay, but Chat GPT really knew what it was talking about, and explained this is traffic calming, and it had a before and after picture. It explained both of them, so i was really able to get an idea on what I was doing.

And the same thing with the cycle way recently.

Jonathan: Yeah, it’s really nice, the implementation.

And also, Perplexity does a good job. You can upload pictures to perplexity. And if you’ve got the pro plan, which I have, you can do all sorts of analysis with that as well.

Bonnie: I wonder if council would pay for that.

Jonathan: Yeah, I wonder if they would.

Before we go, I’ve saved the most important question for last.

What, for you, are the best songs on the Tortured Poets department?

Bonnie: I like Florida.

Jonathan: See, that one doesn’t grab me.

Bonnie: I mean, somewhat at work, it’s the combination we never knew we needed, Taylor Swift and Florence plus the Machine.

Jonathan: Yeah, I suppose it’ll be popular for people going to either convention in the United States this year, the blindness conventions.

Bonnie: Yeah. I mean, it’s if you’ve spent any time in florida, …

Jonathan: I have, yes.

Bonnie: You get it.

Jonathan: Okay.

Bonnie: You know, it’s a bizarre song, but I think it’s all about the folks that maybe go down there on spring break, or girls trips, that sort of thing, kind of like what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas kind of that sort of thing. [laughs]

Jonathan: Yes.

Bonnie: But there’s some really good lines in it.

Jonathan: She is a great poet, isn’t she? I mean, you read the lyrics, they’re very intense. But she’s a great poet.

The thing is though, every time I hear a Taylor Swift album, I just sort of want to give her a hug and, you know, are you all right? [laughs] I mean, she’s just all very intense, isn’t it?

Bonnie: I’m not sure I’d give her a hug. It’d probably wind up in a song.

Jonathan: [laughs]

I like Down Bad. I think that’s great. And I really think that I’m Going to Get You Back is a typical catchy Taylor Swift-style earworm. That’s a great song, too.

Well, thank you for inaugurating for Living Blindfully these new Sennheiser MD46 microphones. I think they’re very nice mics.

Bonnie: Yeah.

Jonathan: Thank you very much for giving us your valuable time.

Bonnie: Thank you!

Jonathan: Goodbye!

Bonnie: Good to be here. Bye!

Jonathan: Bye!

Closing and Contact Info

That just about wraps it up for another episode.

Before I go though, I would like to thank sincerely everyone who has sent such lovely messages of condolence following the death of my mum, as I mentioned last week. I haven’t included them on the podcast but every one of them has meant a great deal, and I think I’ve replied to everybody. So thank you, it means an awful lot, and I appreciate your kindness very very much.

I will be back next week. Until then, have a good one!

Remember that when you’re out there with your guide dog, you’ve harnessed success. And with your cane, you’re able.


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