Updated: Aug 20
Vanessa Lorraine Chea was born into the world as a child with normal hearing. She lived a normal life with her parents for a couple of years until they noticed that Vanessa wasn’t responding well to sounds. Her parents, filled with worry, took Vanessa to a doctor. However, the doctor later told her parents that she was suffering from mild hearing loss.
That was the first time Vanessa had to use hearing aids. According to her, it was normal for students with special needs like her to use assistive technology such as hearing aids to catch up in class. However, Vanessa found them too bulky and inconvenient due to the multitude of wires. Although she didn’t like her hearing aids, she wouldn’t be able to do well at school without them. Thus, she learned to live with her bulky hearing aids.
However, advancements in technology would soon help people like Vanessa in the form of a simple pen – the Roger Pen, specifically.
Vanessa first heard about the Roger System from her social worker. At that time, she recently started studying biological sciences at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. For those unfamiliar, the Roger System is a wireless system from Phonak that significantly improves how well people with hearing impairments hear in the classroom. Phonak, meanwhile, is a company that specializes in manufacturing hearing aids. They even have an online hearing test on their website to check how good one’s hearing is.
The Roger Pen was a great help to Vanessa as she was able to hear and participate better in her classes while using it. The pen even allowed her to ask questions to the lecturers, which Vanessa took as a sign that she actually understands what’s going on in classes. The fact that she, a woman with hearing impairments, was able to help clarify her classmates’ questions is something that gives Vanessa a sense of achievement.
Such an advantage couldn’t have come at a better time for her as the COVID-19 pandemic forced students to stay home and attend online classes. Instead of relying on her hearing aid, she only needed to connect her Roger Pen to her laptop via Bluetooth to participate in video calls.
Vanessa happily recounted her experience with the Roger Pen during an online job interview. “I was able to catch what the interviewer was saying,” she said. She would later credit her use of the Roger Pen as one of the key factors in getting the internship placement, praising the device as “great and useful” at the same time.
With how great of a device the Roger Pen has been to Vanessa, it’s not hard to wish that people from all walks of life can get the same opportunity that Vanessa is enjoying. To that, she said that she hopes that assistive technology “gets better over time” in the future, but also that new and current users will be able to access “this amazing piece of technology not just to catch up in classes, but also to better integrate themselves into the hearing society”.
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