One of the things I find most frustrating about being deaf in one of my ears is the experience I have listening to music on headphones. For many years technology companies ignored this problem, thinking that everybody who had headphones could hear the music in both ears. On recordings made in the 60’s and 70’s it was quite common, due to track limitations, for essential parts of a song to be heard either on the left or the right. This is called panning. One of my favorite songs is “Substitute” by The Who. The song opens with a strident guitar riff playing in the left channel, but because I’m deaf in my left ear all I usually get is a tickling sensation, the indication that sound is being pumped into my ear but indistinguishable. If I turn speakers on sure I can enjoy the song, but at work it’s next to impossible.
I recently purchased a new iPhone 5s from Apple, it now contains my entire music collection. This morning I was amazed to see how far along accessibility settings had come for the deaf and hard of hearing. They now include a setting for mono audio which will blend the sound from a stereo track into a mono track that can be heard in both earphones evenly. This has been an absolute godsend for me because I can only year out of one ear. Since I discovered it this morning, I’ve been sitting here listening to all of my old 60’s and 70’s songs on the iPhone enjoying every riff, every chord as if I were listening on speakers. The engineers at Apple have clearly responded to their customers by building in these exciting features. I imagine many partially deaf people have written to Apple imploring them to do something and they responded brilliantly in this software release.
Thank you Apple for enabling me to enjoy my music.