Handling hearing aids with care

Wearing hearing aids first and then placing the face mask over the hearing aids helps secure hearing aids in place. It is helpful to frequently check that the hearing aids are still securely positioned during donning and removal of the face mask.

When removing your face mask, carefully remove one side at a time. Do not pull the mask off. Hold the body of the hearing aid with one hand while removing the strap with the other hand so that the hearing aid does not fall off.  It is better to remove the hearing aids at one spot while seated so that it is easier to locate the hearing aids even if they fall off. 
Summer has arrived, and with it comes warmer weather, longer days, and—hopefully—some much-needed time off.

To make the most of the summer months, many people are getting out their bikes for a tune-up. But as a cyclist, whether you're riding on a mountain trail, through the parks, or on the road, there's one thing you need to keep in mind. Always pay attention to your surroundings. 

Always be on the lookout for oncoming traffic, other cyclists, animals, and pedestrians. 

Unfortunately, for deaf cyclists, this is often easier said than done. They're working with one less sense than the rest of us. And peripheral vision only goes so far when it comes to keeping an eye out for risks and threats. 

Hearing aids aren't much help, either. For the profoundly deaf, the amplification they provide is functionally meaningless. And for everyone else, they're typically susceptible to a great deal of interference and distortion due to wind and noise from traffic. 

It's a problem. And it's one that industrial designer Divine Okoroji may have just solved. A 22-year-old student at London's Brunel Design School, Okoroji has developed a new head-mounted safety device that will allow its wearer to 'feel' their surroundings. 

Okoroji's idea for the device stemmed from personal experience. Born completely deaf in one ear, he frequently found himself avoiding any form of road cycling. At a certain point, he decided that he wanted to change that—for himself as well as others. 

“I never really used to cycle on the road,” Okoroji explained in an interview with Brunel. "I felt like I was always getting myself into positions where I was having near-misses, and that I’d probably be more confident and aware on the road if I could hear better.”

The device, named SONEAR by Okoroji, monitors the wearer's environment through a series of ultrasonic sensors. When these sensors detect the sound of approaching traffic, they calculate the distance between the cyclist and the vehicle and then translate the sound into haptic feedback. The device's vibrations grow progressively stronger as the vehicle gets closer, allowing the wearer ample time to move out of the way—meaning no more near misses. 

Prior to developing SONEAR, Okoroji first carried out extensive research into the needs of other cyclists, speaking to multiple people from the Deaf community.  It was from these interviews that he made what may well be the most controversial design choice that defines SONEAR. Namely, the fact that it's designed to be worn without a helmet. 

“The most impactful findings were from the deaf community, as some members expressed that they choose not to wear helmets when cycling because they feel that cars give them more space. It makes them feel much more comfortable whilst cycling on the road,” said Okoroji. “SONEAR is designed to be worn without a helmet and this approach appeals to the target audience, and respects and understands the needs and wants of deaf cyclists.”

It wasn't solely personal frustration that led Okoroji to develop SONEAR, either. He noted that, in the wake of COVID-19, many people were choosing to forego public transit in favor of more economical transportation methods. Bicycles were chief among these—and Okoroji wanted to ensure that deaf individuals were not precluded from participating in this boom. 

“There’s been a big rise in cycling because people don’t want to catch public transport anymore," he continued. "This has triggered a healthier lifestyle in some people – I think SONEAR can start to include more people in that.”

SONEAR recently made its debut at the Made in Brunel Design Show at London's Oxo Tower, which ran from June 16-19.  From there, Okoroji hopes to eventually work with agencies such as the Royal National Institute for the Deaf to develop SONEAR from its current experimental design into a commercially-viable product. 

It's always heartening to see inventions like SONEAR. Deafness should never prevent someone from doing what they want to do. And thanks to designers like Okoroji, there's a very good chance that someday, in the not so distant future, it no longer will. 

In the meantime, we'd suggest booking an appointment with your audiologist. That way, if you eventually end up experiencing hearing impairment, you'll at least be prepared for it.