I wrote the following to the “In Touch” magazine, which is the magazine of the Hearing Dogs and Hearing Link Services communities.
Speech to Text Apps. In Touch. Issue 24.
“I am now 89. When I was about 8 I had Scarlet Fever immediately followed by German Measles. In those days before Penicillin etc (although I was given Sulphonamide drugs) one frequently got “complications”. Mine took the form of a middle ear infection, large abscesses came up behind my ears, I believe I became delirious, and the family Doctor sent me off to an isolation hospital that had an operating theatre where I had a double mastoid operation (I can still smell the ether !) and remained there for many weeks. My parents were told I might be deaf, but luckily I wasn’t, and indeed, in the fullness of time I was able to join the Royal Air Force as aircrew.
During the ensuing years my ear passages slowly got narrower and narrower. I asked if this might be the result of the operations and was told it might be, but that it was not certain. About 25 years ago the ENT Consultant at our local hospital said he could attempt to widen the ear canal of my left ear, but he predicted no more than 30 to 40% chance of success. I had the surgery, had a thing like a jelly bean in my ear for six weeks, but on examination he pronounced that the surgery had not been successful.
I eventually got an in-ear hearing aid for my left ear, as my neural hearing had decreased with old age, but my right ear is so closed up that nothing can be done on that side.
When I learnt about the speech-to-text app, “Live Transcribe”, I installed it on my Motorola ‘smart’ phone and was delighted by the result. I found that very few people in the Scottish NHS knew about it and were as intrigued as I was. But then, calamity ! – along came Covid and the wearing of masks. The mask on top of the accents of South West Scotland were altogether too much for it, and – as you may guess – our lovely Dentist lady, a Romanian, in her protective clothing was incomprehensible !
My other discovery was that on attending an Audiology Clinic at our Mountainhall Treatment Centre in Dumfries I sought to show off the app to the Audiologist, only to find it was totally dead. As left the building I tested it again in the car park and it worked fine, so I realised that it needed to be able to get a phone signal to make it work.
Now that the wearing of masks is less common I shall try using it again, because when it DOES work it is invaluable, and the speaker is as excited as the listener.”