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The Listening Tube Barrier: My Journey to Accessibiliy

Throughout my entire life, I have faced numerous barriers due to my hearing loss. It has been a constant battle to advocate and fight for my needs to simply create an equal learning environment. Entering into the Audiology field, I assumed that I would no longer need to fight, and that devices and technologies would be readily available to perform the hearing-related tasks an Audiologist completes. However, I quickly learned, having hearing loss means that the fight never stops.


During one of my first second year classes, we had a lab to practice using listening tubes. Everyone in the group was given a listening tube and instructed to practice using them with several demo hearing aids. I watched everyones’ eyes light up as they listened to hearing aids, most for the first time, while my heart sank as I looked at my designated tube on the table in front of me, untouched.


Typical Listening Tube Example (Picture Taken from Amazon.ca)


For my non-audiology peeps out there, here’s a picture of a typical listening tube. They are used to listen to a person’s hearing aid to ensure that it is working correctly. The problem is, for a hearing aid user, we would have to take our hearing aids out to be able to place the top portion in our ears.


This lab was the first time that I had to say “I can’t do that” and unfortunately that day, no one seemed to have an answer for how I could complete it either. Following this, I talked with several others about this barrier and while everyone tried to be as helpful as possible, there just wasn’t anything that could be suggested that would be a solution. One recommended relying on VERIFIT measures while another gave me references of hard of hearing audiologists across Canada that might be able to help. While all of these suggestions were so appreciated, I still didn’t have a solution that would minimize the feeling of inferiority.


We also had multiple classes that stressed the importance and ease of using listening tubes at every hearing aid check appointment. My professor understood how I was feeling as she taught it and talked to me after class. On the verge of tears, I expressed my worries and uncertainty of performing listening checks and she supported me as much as she could.


I went home that night and figured that it would be simple to find a solution online, especially in a field that is dedicated to helping hard of hearing people. This was surprisingly not at all the case. The only information that I was able to find was of an audiologist in the States that wrote a blog post about an adaptive silicone listening tube that was produced to fit over her cochlear implant, along with the information to order one (https://aubankaitis.com/listening-tube-for-audiologists-with-hearing-loss/). The only issue was that this post was made in 2020 and after contacting her and the manufacturer, I unfortunately learned that they were not being produced anymore.


Little did I know, this would start a 10-month long journey to find a possible solution for this listening tube dilemma because I really didn’t want to settle with the idea that “I just can’t do it.” I searched the internet for hours to try and find any sort of information that could possibly help me. I found amplified stethoscopes and other amplified medical technologies, but nothing at all audiology-related.


News came out that a hearing aid brand was very generously funding custom listening tubes for our entire class. I reached out to the hearing aid representative and thanked her for the generosity but explained why I would not be able to use the tube due to my hearing loss. She consulted with the company and presented the option of making a custom mold that would fit over my hearing aid receiver with the listening tube attached. While I was grateful that another person attempted to help find a solution to this problem, a mold wouldn’t solve the issue as it would not provide any amplification at all.


I continued my online research and came across a blog post about using a lapel microphone to connect with a Bluetooth adapter and stream directly to the hearing aids, which gave me the first bit of real hope (https://www.audiologyonline.com/ask-the-experts/stethoset-options-for-hearing-aid-46). I excitedly brought the news to class the next day and ordered all of the equipment I would need for this set up.


Using my Oticon Connect Microphone as the bluetooth streamer, I attached all of the equipment and anxiously turned on the set up to test it out. This is what the set up looked like:



Nothing happened. The issue with having multiple connecting points with a device that seemed to never be tested before- it’s quite hard to troubleshoot. To no avail, I tested the lapel microphone first using my laptop and thus, the issue was discovered: the lapel microphone was broken.


An Amazon return and another order later, the set up was ready to be tested again- this time with a better (and more expensive) lapel microphone. Nothing happened. I tested the lapel microphone again, this time with a bit of anger assuming it was the same issue, and discovered that the mic was actually working great. My Connect microphone just wasn’t built to redirect sound and it wouldn’t be the solution I was hoping for.


I very generously received a donated Oticon EduMic a few weeks later that has an auxiliary attachment included and thus, I was given more hope. This time, I tested the set-up at school during a study session as several of my classmates became invested in my “listening tube adventure” (or more so nightmare). Here was the set-up for this one:



Nothing happened again. Every step of my set up seemed to be working, the microphone indicator on the Mic changed colour to indicate that there was a redirected attachment, it just wasn’t redirecting the lapel microphone to my hearing aids. I even reached out during an Oticon presentation about EduMics to ask if they had any ideas and then learned that the auxiliary port is only made to redirect sound to a laptop or sound system.


At this point, I hit a long roadblock. In all honestly, I was a bit tired of fighting. I still wasn’t okay with settling but I was really frustrated about putting so much hope into these set ups and being crushed when they wouldn’t work.


In June, I attended a conference with several Audiologists and hearing aid brand representatives. I networked and approached several clinicians to ask them what they thought of this barrier and if they knew of any solutions. Many were eager to give me their emails and work with me, but none had an answer. Brand representatives told me that they would love to help, but were not confident an adaptive listening tube would be funded.


After this conference, I sent out a few emails with ideas of connections or cases that could be made to fit my Connect Microphone, and that I just needed a way to attach the tubing of a listening tube to it.


At the end of June, I received a very exciting email from a rep that I had been contacting for a while, and who has been extremely helpful and generous through this whole process. She told me that the Oticon Audiology team has been working on something that they think will work and will be sending it to her shortly.


On June 27th, I tried not to get my hopes up as I was awaiting my meeting time to receive this new potential solution. Once I received it, I couldn’t stop smiling. When I say I am extremely grateful, I really mean it. The audiology department at Oticon secured a cap over a Connect Mic that could have a tube placed over it to redirect the sound- in other words, it could possibly solve this whole dilemma.



While this device isn’t perfect, and the tube is only secured with a bit of glue, it gives me the ability to perform listening checks, to not become emotional whenever someone mentions the importance of listening to client hearing aids, to be equal and not inferior. This device gave me hope.


A week later, I secured the listening tube (which took several hours and a whole lot of crazy glue), set up three demo hearing aids, all with varying “hearing losses”, and tested them out. In all honesty, I cried tears of joy. For the first time, I heard a hearing aid that wasn’t my own. While my classmates have heard several through our labs and classes, I heard my very first one nearly a year later.


I was able to hear the differences in the varying programmed losses- even the slight to mild loss. While this device is likely only temporary as the tube is bound to break or fall off at some point, it shows how possible accessibility can be. This is the starting point of a huge range of possibilities to make clinicians, professionals, and students who face barriers regarding accessibility, equal.


I am so incredibly excited to start working in this field and mentoring and advocating for others who likely face several of the barriers that I do. While this listening tube dilemma has only been one of the many other barriers that I have had to fight for, it shows you the drive and passion I have to find solutions.


I am sincerely grateful for every single person who helped me, listened to my frustrations, cheered me on, and helped find solutions. This journey is likely not over, but I am so incredibly happy with the current outcome and can’t wait to enter my final year being able to cross one barrier off the list. I would absolutely love to hear any comments or questions you might have about my experience. Please feel free to fill out the comment form below.

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