Lary's Speakeasy

The Telephone: Frenemy to Laryngectomees

Yesterday was a banner day in the world of telephone communications!

Earlier this week on a Zoom meeting there was a big discussion on the horror story that is trying to use and be understood on a telephone, especially when computer systems are engaged. Some of the stories were humorous, some were just tragic. Everyone had something to share.

Our Voice Is Our Identity

Our voices are the unique way that most of the world identifies us and finds a link to us and our needs. Our surgery and treatment redefine us with a voice that is mostly ours, with an overlay of technology of some sort, from using an EL to a TEP, to esophageal speech to a fully automated text to speech application. 

Understand the ways a laryngectomee can regain their voice here.

Society has been slow and downright resistant to recognizing alternative forms of communication, insisting that the out loud expression of information, ideas and emotions is the only one that is valuable. We are a small percentage of the population but if you add in stroke patients, cognitive and brain injury patients and the general head and neck cancer patient population we are quite a large bunch who need to be heard.

Most of us struggle to figure out where and when we can speak with confidence that we  will be understood. Being on the telephone is rock bottom, maybe even buried beneath all hope of it happening. So here is last night’s amazing phone story.

It All Started With A Crappy Computer

My lovely rose gold HP Laptop is crap on Zoom meetings, the sound cuts in and out, it’s muffled or so low that no one is willing to try and hear me. I have tried getting closer, changing the location to try and get better WiFi, using a headset, or an amplifier. Believe me, I and my pals have tried it all. Changed settings, rechanged settings, cleared settings and started over. You name the computer option and I have tried with only a bit of improvement and really not much at all.

So, the IT guru of one of the Zoom groups, Dan, who has only recently gotten his EL with an oral adaptor to work for himself, offers to troubleshoot the computer. We downloaded some software, I turned over the screen to him and he set off on the adventure of checking it out. He’s so happy at what I have, texts me to not even think of getting rid of this baby, he says it’s dope! And then bang, the dreaded Windows 11 as the operating system pops up. 

His and my enthusiasm tanks fast. We start looking for drivers for the sound set up and are defeated over and over. We are using text messages and notes on the computer screen to go over things. Then my telephone rings and we use the telephone for what it is intended. We speak! We understand each other, we are able to be funny about the problem, we get stuff done, we are being normal. 

It feels like a miracle. If felt like it should. It felt happy. It felt amazing. 

It was amazing.

Now I Can Look Forward To The Telephone Ringing

Brooke's Telephone
Back of Brooke's phone

To so many people the ring of the telephone is a happy sound, it means they can connect with someone or solve a problem. For most of us it’s a trigger for anxiety and upset and the worry that if we do answer and can’t be understood it just reinforces our failure and frustration. But, yesterday the ringing of the telephone was joyous and such an uplifting moment for both of us. He told me that up until that moment only his wife understood him on the telephone and he had tried it on a whim to see if it would help us. Boy did it ever!

So as of last night my telephone is newly designated as a Frenemy, that friend who is sort of an enemy but has redeeming qualities that keep it an option. Who knows, I may even try an automated system again. And Dan is deep diving to find the driver that may make me understandable on Zoom! 

The Saga Continues

The sound story has continued for another week. Removing potential conflicts, updating apps, reinstalling Zoom (that has had some effect), and searching the universe for a solution. I am determined that if others are able to just hang in front of their computer and speak and be understood that I, with the help of the ever optimistic Dan will be able to do so as well!! 

See you all in the Zooms and let’s hope it will be a hear ya as well.

BONUS Comment

For any of you who think that participating in Zoom groups is depressing or a waste of time, or just not for you, think again. This connection came from participation. My experience is that there is always something to learn, something to hear and see and it’s more the feeling of hanging out like in a dorm lounge than it is strictly therapeutic. Maybe it’s being the only girl in a large family of boys all around that has made me so comfy in the environment but hey give one or two a try and you may find that you have a bunch of new friends too.

Brooke Elkan-Moore lives in the beautiful Hudson Valley with her Newfoundland Dahlia.
She is a photographer, writer and devoted gardener. A Larry since January of 2021, 
Brooke has embraced her changed life and continues to take on new challenges.

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Lynda Dana
Lynda Dana
1 month ago

Great job! One of these times I hope to join in on a zoom meeting.

Doug Sullivan
Doug Sullivan
1 month ago

Excellent I think we can all relate to that in one way or another.

Phil Holveck
Phil Holveck
1 month ago

What was the software that you downloaded? I have a work issued laptop and my boss says he can’t hear me or understand me, any tips would be appreciated, Thank you!!!!

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