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A matter of the ears

Last week I had my first in-person interpreting assignment in a long time, and it was just wonderful. Everyone was so happy to be able to meet again, and with everyone I really mean everyone: the client, the participants, the technician, the hotel, we interpreters – it was like one big happy family reunion.

The only downside was that the technician had new headphones for us, thinking we’d be as excited as he was about the sound quality and comfort. But unfortunately, he didn’t know that we prefer lighter headphones with on-ear cups rather than the over-ear ones he had so proudly provided.

We had to explain to him how important it is to not only hear what the speaker is saying, but also what we ourselves are saying, to make sure it is correct and the sentences are complete. Plus, hearing your booth partner is also important, and with the headphones he had for us that was not possible.

While we were able to solve the not-hearing-anything-else problem by leaving one ear uncovered, the bigger issue was that the headphones were so heavy and tight that after a while our ears and our heads started hurting. For me, the discomfort was so great that I had to take the headphones off when I wasn’t interpreting and then hold one cup to my ear with one hand, so I could still hear and support my colleague as needed. Needless to say, that was far from ideal, especially when trying to quickly look something up…

However, I have my own pair of headphones, purchased for just such a situation, and I brought them with me the next day and used them for the remainder of the assignment. And I was so very glad I had them! The sound was perfect, neither my ears nor my head hurt, and I was able to fully concentrate on interpreting.

You can see the headphones the technician had provided in the picture on the right and my (foldable) pair on the left. The difference is obvious, I’d say. 😉

For those interested, my headphones are the Sennheiser PX 200-II foldable closed on-ear headphones with integrated volume control. They are headphones only, so you can only use them if a separate microphone is available. I wrote a post (in German) about them, which you can read here.

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