How did you come to be CEO of the Play It Strange Trust?
I have had many roles in the music industry, including being a musician with Split Enz and Citizen band. I ran Mushroom Records NZ, was the GM of Sony Music Publishing NZ, and also spent 11 years as Director NZ Operations for APRA. The chap who conceived Play It Strange was talking to me one day and I said “Schools should be the first frontier for great songwriting. But they’re not!” He said “Let’s make them the last frontier and go and ring some bells!” and Play It Strange came to be. In 2004, we launched the national secondary schools songwriting competition.
What has your own personal journey been when it comes to hearing and hearing impairment?
My ten years in bands saw the arrival of large-scale high-volume sound systems. The first shows Split Enz played had small sound systems and no foldback – they are the speaker systems that send you various onstage instrumentals and vocals back at you so you can discern what’s going from all quarters.
The increasing sophistication brought with it sound levels shooting up to around 120db on a regular basis. From my point of view – being the bassist – I was beside the drummer. That meant cymbals, kick drums and snares were all whacking into me night after night after night. There was no ‘history of science’ about this. No warnings about what this volume would lead to.
It was only about three months ago when my darling mother said “You’re leaning in a lot. Why are you doing that?” that I thought. “Yes. Why am I leaning in?” So I had a hearing test. And the results were there in plain graphic proof.
The right air shows a marked frequency dip in the 1800Hz to 4000Hz which is the principle frequency range of snare drums and cymbals.
The left ear has an overall slide away of higher frequencies.
So the ReSound LiNX “cans” allow me to have my linear frequency restored meaning, I can hear all things as I used to when I was a kid. This is a magnificent success story!!
How do you think we as a society can shift the stigma associated with hearing impairment and hearing aids?
I think we need to drop the ‘hearing aid’ term. We don’t call them ‘spectacles’ anymore, we call them glasses. I call my hearing aids “cans” which is a music industry term for headphones. Everyone should call them cans. Cans are cool. As well – it reminds me of when I was involved in a TV campaign to de-stigmatise mental illness. This was 1999. I had 18 yrs with agoraphobia. No one ever talked about their phobic or anxiety disorder; it was ‘proof’ of a failing it seemed. I was on TV saying “I have a mental illness.” People started talking about it. They stopped me in the street. They said: “Can I talk about my problems with you?” and I listened. I want this to happen with cans because the difference they have made is profound.
Can you tell me a bit about the ReSound LiNX and the technology it uses? How does it work?
The ReSound LiNX is amazing in two respects. One – the quality of the new sound I am experiencing. The equalization correction on the ‘cans’ is beautifully detailed. It was immediately clear the minute I hopped into my car (after first putting them on) and listened to the stereo. It SHONE. Secondly – the flexibility of the LiNX ‘cans.’ You can adjust each individual volume and bass and treble from the iPhone 5.
You can locate the cans using the ‘Find my Hearing Aid ‘ app which works like a ‘hot/cold’ page on the phone or if they are in a different location they can be found using the LiNX Google Maps reference. And in noisy locations you can place your phone close to the person you are with (say in a noisy bar) and the phone microphone will pick up the voice and beam it via Bluetooth to your cans. And! You can listen to your iTunes tracks via the same Bluetooth. It’s like having wireless headphones – they’re brilliant and I love them.