Something old, something new Hearing speech and background noise I have lived independently for 20 years now and am dealing every day with the effects of ataxia. I am always striving to keep myself independent, and to make my life as easy and manageable as possible. If you feel that there is a device, adaptation or tip that could benefit others with ataxia, just let me know and I can discuss it here. Like many people that have ataxia, I have what is known as Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder which put simply means that I cannot distinguish the spoken word from other noises within my environment. This is a real problem when there is a lot of background noise, i.e. in a busy restaurant or pub, or in a full stadium/arena. It can also be a problem when the room you are in has an echo or if you are on the telephone with others talking in the same room or the TV on. If you are alone then just turning the TV sound off is an obvious solution, but this can be annoying for someone else in the same room. My solution is to use a headset with binaural headphones. Binaural means ‘two ears’, but is more than just stereo. Binaural headphones help to recreate the sense of space that sounds have with normal hearing, something that is useful for separating out speech sounds from background noise. Ordinary stereo headphones are not designed to do this. I recently bought a cordless binaural headset (below) which means I can continue a conversation from any room in the house. Wired ones are cheaper but I have found them to be unreliable. My main advantage gained by using the headset, though, is to be able to type on a keyboard whilst talking on the telephone. An old tip for teatime My house is full of little aids that make living on my own possible. They are all just second nature to me but visitors often ask what they are. One small but much needed device I’ve had for a long while is a kettle tipper. Pouring boiling water from a kettle into a cup had become difficult and dangerous years ago because of my increasingly uncoordinated arm movements. A kettle tipper is a simple device that enables the kettle to tilt whilst staying anchored in the same position. You still need the strength to tilt it but I have that so find it ideal. Or I could just give up drinking tea of course, but I like tea.