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Anne Taylor is a bilateral cochlear implant user, a Gallaudet Certified Peer Mentor for the Hard of Hearing. She is Vice President of the Hearing Loss Association of America – Sarasota/Manatee Chapter and writes a monthly column. Here is last month’s column.

Let’s Help Pass the Over-The-Counter Hearing Aids Act 0f 2017

If you are an adult with a mild to moderate hearing loss, you may soon have the option to obtain affordable and easily accessible hearing aids. The growing influence of big box stores such as Costco may make buying a hearing aid easier. You are in the store anyway and you can wander over to the hearing aid department. You find the prices very reasonable and decide ‘what the heck, I can bring them back if they don’t work for me’. By the way, Costco’s optical and hearing aid departments both have independent licensed optometrists and hearing aid dispensers who are independent contractors and not Costco employees.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did not yet approve over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NAS) published its report Hearing Health Care for Adults: Priorities for Improving Access and Affordability (recommendation # 7) states “The FDA should establish a new category of over-the-counter (OTC) wearable hearing devices. This device classification would be defined as wearable over-the-counter devices that can assist adults with mild to moderate hearing loss”. OTC hearing devices should not be permitted for children, who may be at risk for severe complications. (American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association).

Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAPs)

PSAPs are available and are intended for people with normal hearing. The FDA prohibits manufacturers from marketing their products as hearing aids to people with hearing loss. One example of how PSAPs are marketed is for hunters who want to hear deer in the woods. PSAPs should not be confused with OTC hearing devices. OTC hearing devices are a classification that the FDA must approve before they will become available to consumers. While hearing aids remain around $6,000 and Medicare refuses to reimburse the cost of them, people with mild hearing loss are going to continue to ignore it, or go elsewhere for hearing help. PSAPs, while not approved by the FDA, are much more affordable and may allow folks with a mild hearing loss to get by until a real hearing aid becomes necessary.

According to the American Academy of Audiology, hearing loss is the third major health issue in the United States – following heart disease (# 1) and arthritis (# 2) – affecting almost 50 million Americans.

The Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017, sponsored by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), would allow certain hearing aids to be sold over the counter and would eliminate the “burdensome requirement” that consumers get a medical evaluation or sign a medical waiver before purchasing OTC hearing aids. The Act would also require the FDA to issue regulations containing safety and labeling requirements for OTC hearing aids and to update its draft guidance on Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAPs).

Senator Grassley says that if you can buy non-prescription reading glasses over the counter, it makes sense that you should be able to buy basic, safe hearing aids, too. The goal is that by making more products more easily available to consumers, competition will increase and lead to lower costs. (HearingTracker.com) Posted November 8th, 2016 by David Copithorne – Hearing Aids.

Why Does Medicare Not Cover Hearing Aids?

‘When Medicare was enacted by Congress in 1965, hearing aids were statutorily excluded from coverage, and reimbursement for rehabilitative audiological services for the programming and fitting of hearing aids was similarly excluded. Audiologists could be reimbursed only for diagnostic tests (such as audiograms) and that continues to this day.

Twelve years later, in 1977, the FDA developed specific regulations for hearing aids that mandated special controls such as a medical exam requirement or waiver before purchasing a hearing aid. Thus, every state audiological board stipulates that hearing aids cannot be sold over the counter and can only be obtained through a state-licensed provider such as an audiologist, hearing instrument specialist, or in many states, a physician.’ (Frank R. Lin, M.D., Board Member of HLAA and an associate professor of otolaryngology, geriatric medicine, mental health and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University.

Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) continues to work on insurance and Medicare coverage for hearing aids which is complicated and takes a long time. According to HLAA, “Medicare coverage for hearing aids and rehab services will take major legislation changes to a Medicare statute that specifically excludes hearing aids.”

HLAA states “it has long supported the gold standard of care which is to seek the services of a hearing health care professional before buying hearing aids. Many people with severe to profound hearing loss would be lost without the help of their audiologists or hearing aid dispensers.”

HLAA acknowledges, “however, approximately 86% people with mild to moderate hearing loss are simply ignoring their hearing loss and are not seeking the help of a professional.” HLAA believes OTC hearing aids would be the first step that many adults would take to address their hearing loss.

“HLAA has embarked on a campaign to support new legislation that, if passed, would require the FDA to create a new category of OTC hearing aids and remove the unnecessary barriers to getting hearing aids”, says Lise Hamlin (director of public policy at HLAA).

Lise offered the following suggestions for how we can help get the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Bill of 2017 passed:

Contact your Congressmen and let them know you support the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017.

Here is how:

Senator Bill Nelson (Florida)
https://www.billnelson.senate.gov/contact-bill
Senator Mark Rubio (Florida)
https://www.rubio.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contact
Rep. Vern Buchanan (Manatee County and northern Sarasota County) https://buchanan.house.gov/contact/email-me
Rep. Tom Rooney (southern Sarasota County and Charlotte County)
https://rooney.house.gov/contact/email-me

Or if you are not from Sarasota, Manatee or Charlotte Counties:

1. To find out who represents you in the House, go to house.gov/representatives/find
2. To find your Senator, go to senate.gov/senators/contact
3. Once you have found them, there will be links to their website or directly to a contact page. You will be asked information about where you live and what topic you are writing about. Choose ‘Health” from the dropdown list.
4. You can fill out the form by copying and pasting one of the sample letters we have drafted (hearingloss.org/content/call-to-action-otc ). Or you can write your own story in your own words, send a message to Congress showing your support of the Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017.
Your letters will make a difference to legislators who have no background in hearing loss and probably do not know that Medicare does not cover hearing aids.

Traveling with Hearing Loss

Because we do not look deaf, we must be prepared to admit (repeatedly) that we cannot hear. If people do not know we have hearing loss, then they do not know how to communicate with us. We may give the wrong impression when we do not answer appropriately, when we ignore people, or we may appear to be stupid or not very bright.
Many of my friends wear a big bright yellow button that says ‘Face Me, I Read Lips’ with positive results. People are interested in the button and usually go out of their way to help the wearer. For some reason, I am not brave or confident enough to wear this button. I need to get over my silly self and wear it. I do wear it to the HLAA meetings as most of the members are hard of hearing and understand.
Traveling with hearing loss can be challenging – standing in long lines at security, worrying that we might miss our connection, failing to hear or understand announcements at train stations, airports and cruise ports. How about when we get pulled over by the police while driving and we don’t understand what they say?
Knowing that we may encounter problems while traveling, planning ahead of time could make our journeys less stressful and more pleasant.

How to Plan Ahead Before You Go!

Train Station
Before making your reservation, you may be able to get a discount when reserving your ticket with proof of disability. The conductor places a coded card above your seat. Only the conductor knows that it means you can’t hear. At most stations, there is a map of where the train stops. Knowing the name of the stop prior to your destination would be helpful.
In any case, be sure to ask the conductor to let you know when you arrive at your destination. Remind him frequently and ask every time you see him. They are busy people and might forget. Also, keep an eye out each time you come into a station for the name of the town. I would choose to stay awake to be sure that I didn’t pass my destination.
Airports
According to Lisa Packer, staff writer for “Healthy Hearing”, you have the right to request disability seating. This usually means close to the front of the aircraft. This seating allows you to pre-board as well as to see the attendants clearly so you are better able to understand them as they make in-flight announcements. When you book your flight, be sure to ask about disability seating. If it is available, it must be given to you at no extra cost. Rosie Geer, a flight attendant and member of the Say What Club, advises that we identify ourselves as ‘deaf’ when purchasing our tickets.
Ms. Geer adds that if we have already purchased our tickets, we can update our reservation online, by telephone or through the travel agent.
Just know that you can walk through the metal detectors while wearing hearing aids or/and cochlear implants. In fact, the TSA suggests keeping your hearing equipment on.
If you are carrying spare processors for your cochlear implant, then put them in their cases inside another bag and remove the batteries.
When walking through the detectors, you may hear distorted sounds. Be prepared to turn your hearing equipment down.
You can always ask for a pat down to avoid the detectors.
When you check in, let the staff know that you have hearing loss and see that they put it in your traveler profile. Sign up for alerts to go to your Smart/cell phone.
Remember hearing loss is invisible. It is up to you to let the gate staff know that you have a hearing loss and request that an agent bring you the information when gate changes, flight times and cancellations occur. Help the staff to help you.
In many airports, monitors have written information to keep us informed about flight and gate changes. Until all airports use the monitors, be prepared to ask again and again. It’s not a time to be shy.
Hearing aids and cochlear implants will not affect the plane’s navigational instruments.
If you are traveling alone, let your seat partner know that you have a hearing loss and to advise you of emergency announcements. Provide a pen and paper, and ask him to write it down to be sure you understand.
We folks who are hard of hearing often do not understand the menu choices. Ask for a written one. Simple as that and you get what you like to eat. Keep a notepad and pen with you. Jot down directions, addresses, boarding times, etc. It is easier to show an employee than try to shout over the noise in the airport.
Assume your baggage will get lost. Keep your hearing equipment (along with keys and medicines) in the overhead bag, not in the checked luggage.

Cruise Ports

Fill out accessibility forms when you make your cruise reservation, noting the assistive listening devices you may need to hear at your best.
Before your cruise, check out the parking arrangements – are they at the terminal? Is a shuttle needed?
When aboard, you will find the Safety Drill information on the back of the door. You will find the time and location of the drill on the ship’s newsletter (Cruise Compass) on the bed. You will be required to attend the mandatory drill. The directions are challenging to hear. Not to worry, you will be able to read it in your cabin.
Introduce yourself to the cabin steward and let him/her know that you have a hearing loss. He/she can help you with assistive devices such as a flashing door knocker, fire alarms, vibrating alarm clocks, and closed captions for the television. With advanced notice (two months ahead of time), the ship’s staff can often provide captions for the shows.
Dining areas can be noisy. You can request a table for two or a round table for more. It is easier to hear at a round table. Try to obtain a table near the wall, away from the kitchen. Ask the servers to look at you when they are speaking to you. Explain that you need to lip-read.

Driving

What if you are pulled over by the police? Place a card saying you are hard of hearing with your drivers’ license. You can simply show it at the same time.
Keep a larger card on the visor saying ‘I Am Hard of Hearing’. You can download these at: http://hearinglosshelp.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/visorcardhoh.pdf.
Laminate the card and place it on the visor, secured by elastic bands. When you are pulled over, simply motion to show the card to the officer. Do not make any moves without telling him what you are doing. (He may think you are reaching for a gun). Ask him to read the directions on the back so he will understand how best to communicate with you.
If you are pulled over at night, then share with the officer that flash lights in your eyes prevent you from lip-reading. Tell the officer you are not ignoring his directions, you cannot hear.
Planning ahead is the key to less stress and more success when traveling with hearing loss.
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You do not need to face hearing loss alone.
Please contact the local chapter of Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) where you will find information, support and advocacy from the peer mentors and members. For more information, contact http://info@hlas.org or call 941-320-8825.

 

My hearing loss went with me to the hospital

I went into the Venice Regional hospital recently for surgery, which was relatively pain-free and successful. Within a few minutes of arriving home, I fell heavily on the tile in the bathroom. I hoped the pain would go away. After several days, our daughter texted that I needed an X-Ray. The X-Ray showed a six-inch crack in the hip. Ugh. Hence, surgery number two.

The health care I received was excellent. The hospital was clean. The only problem for me was their lack of awareness how to handle patients with hearing loss.

Going to the hospital can be scary. I was anxious about my health condition and the pending surgery. I have profound hearing loss, which insisted on going with me. I was also concerned that I would not hear important information from masked doctors and nurses as they hurried back and forth with my chart.

I was worried about not hearing my name while waiting in the waiting room. I asked,

“I have a hearing loss. Did you call me?”

“No. Please sit down until your name is called.”

Sigh. “I have a hearing problem. Sorry.” 

My hearing husband was with me, and I decided to not stress any further and have him tell me when my name was called.  

I had no idea what the check-in man said. I told him I had hearing difficulties and he promptly turned his back on me and proceeded to explain the details to my husband. You can imagine how I felt. Sigh again. 

Once settled in the room, I asked for a poster to be put on my door so that people would know I have hearing problems. My request was denied because of privacy rights – even though I had given permission for my information to be shared. 

I could not hear what was said behind glass partitions. I was embarrassed to ask for frequent repeats. 

I pressed the intercom button and could not hear whether I was being spoken to or not. The nurse came down and said, “I was talking to you.” “Oh, so sorry. I have hearing difficulties”. Sigh again. 

I told her I need to read lips and things were better from then on. Maybe she made a note on my intercom button. 

I could not hear what the night nurse said in the dark. Was it important? I put on the lights and my hearing equipment. She understood and faced me until I understood what she said. 

Scary? You bet. It is not surprising I felt alone, cut-off and scared.  

I work with Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) and I know all about preparing ahead of time for problems associated with hearing loss. I did not prepare as everything happened so fast. 

Many chapter volunteers of HLAA have made hospital kits and have offered them for free or for a nominal charge. Over the years, HLAA has attempted to share these kits with hospitals to use when a patient with hearing loss enters the hospital. Unfortunately, these kits are declined for various reasons. (Lack of space, hygiene etc.) 

A hospital kit may be the solution to a person with hearing loss when entering a hospital. I would suggest that we make our own and keep them handy for when we do need to visit a hospital. 

Hearing loss is invisible and those of us with hearing difficulties should be proactive to get the help we need to communicate. We have to tell people. Otherwise, how will they know we cannot hear? If we do not tell people about our hearing loss, then we may be regarded as snobbish, stupid or rude. 

A hospital kit can make a big difference to good communication while in the hospital. It can be placed in a zip-lock bag and may contain: 

Poster which reads: “I am hard of hearing!” along with the international hard of hearing symbol. Include sticky pads so you can stick it over your bed without ruining the wall.

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Hearing Loss Stickers (in bright fluorescent colors) with the international hard of hearing symbol. Ask the staff to stick them in your chart, on the intercom button in the nurses’ station, on your hospital ID bracelet.

A friend was recently in the hospital and mentioned that the bright yellow fluorescent sticker on her bracelet (I am hard of hearing) was appreciated by the staff.

“I read lips. Please face me” Button. Pin it onto your gown to remind the staff of your needs.

Communication Tips Card offers helpful advice on how best to communicate with you:

Face me

Get our attention first

Avoid shouting – it does not help

Please close the shades so we can see your face

Avoid excessive noise when speaking to us – turn off the television

Special Needs Cards

I am hard of hearing

I need Closed Captioning on the television

I wear hearing aids/cochlear implants

I wear cochlear implants and cannot have an MRI

Writing Pad and Pen

If all else fails, ask for important information to be written down.

Small Rigid Plastic Container

Use this to store hearing aids or cochlear implant processors. Never wrap them up in a tissue – they may get accidentally thrown away! Insert a postcard with instructions how to remove the batteries, how to remove the aids from ears, how to put them back on and how to store them. Label the container with your name and room number. Place the container on a side table, rather than the eating table to avoid possible water spillage. Hearing aids/processors do not like to get wet. 

Be prepared! Be proactive!

Speak up for yourself! Tell people how best to communicate with you.

The next hospital visit may just be a little less stressful.

I think “Communicating with Patients with Hearing Loss” could and should be included in the disability training.

Sources:   www.hearinglosshelp.com/articles/hospitalkits

Confused about Hearing Devices?  

Try Out and Compare the Latest Hearing Technology at the Hearing Tech Clinic!

Do you hear only bits and pieces of conversation?

Are you overwhelmed by the huge variety of hearing devices?

Are you aware that there are 48 million Americans with hearing loss and only 7 million benefit from hearing aids? (John Hopkins Medical Research)

Do you worry about stigma attached to hearing loss, the high cost of hearing aids, being pressured to buy?

Are you wondering where to begin to improve your hearing?

You may want to consider this ….

The local chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America has come up with its
first-ever Hearing Tech Clinic on March 11th. This will be a one-day opportunity to try and compare as many hearing devices as you like – without pressure to buy.

The four leading hearing aid manufacturers will be on hand to explain how the latest hearing technology may help you to improve your hearing. Hearing aids have come a long way since the ear trumpet and even offer new advanced features such as tinnitus therapy software.

The Hearing Tech Clinic’s product stations will offer you the opportunity to try out numerous wireless accessories. Sometimes, hearing aids are not enough and wireless accessories can help connect you directly to phones, televisions, people’s voices across the table in noisy restaurants.

As well as trying wireless and other assistive listening devices (ALDs), you will have the opportunity to check out captioned phones and home loop systems.

There will be hearing screenings and balance screenings. Audiologists and mentors will guide you through the process. This event will be free and nothing will be sold!

However, people with hearing loss can obtain a free captioned or amplified telephone of their choice.

The Hearing Loss Association of America suggests you bring a copy of your last hearing test or, if you have never had one, take advantage of the free hearing screening. Audiologists will be available to discuss the best hearing devices to meet your needs and lifestyle.

Hearing Tech Clinic
Saturday, March 11th, from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM
Community Foundation of Sarasota County
2635 Fruitville Road, Sarasota

For more information, please call 941-706-4312

 

Hints (with a little added Humor) for
Happier, Healthier Hearing in the New Year!

The holidays are over now. The twinkling lights are gone. It’s a bit quieter in the streets.

Even though the holidays were special, they may have been stressful especially, for those of us with hearing loss. Not just at holiday times … parties and large gatherings are particularly challenging, as there are many people talking at the same time, and often with music in the background.

So, in the New Year, as we make resolutions to better our lives, we include focusing on what we can do, not on what we can’t do.

1. Do not hide your hearing loss. It could make you appear snobbish, as if you are ignoring others, or as if you are not very bright. Wear your hearing aids and cochlear implants and let people see you have trouble hearing. They might say, ‘What are those things on your ears?’ There is your opportunity to educate them about hearing help equipment. They might say, ‘Ah, but you don’t look deaf!’

2. Carry spare batteries and don’t lose them. Your equipment will not work without them. I lost a pouch containing 3 batteries recently and needed to wait for insurance to approve the $850! In the meantime, I was recharging my only two batteries and, of course, was totally deaf for the recharging time.

3. Use your assistive listening devices. While hearing aids and cochlear implants are great, they may not be quite enough to understand everything. For example, Closed Captioning on the television saves many a marriage. ‘Honey, do you have to have the television on so loud?’

4. Ask people to face you when they speak to you. Explain that you need to read lips – you are not thinking they have something on their face or flirting with them. So many people become self-conscious when I read their lips.

5. Let the hostess know ahead of time that you have difficulty hearing in a group situation and ask to be seated to your preference. Do you have a better side? Ask to be seated with people on that side. Ask to sit next to someone you find easy to hear. Remember it is hard to hear someone with a mustache or beard. And, no, it is not polite to ask if he will shave it off! Recently at one party I sat across a guy with a long white beard. You know the one I mean – he wears a red suit and has a belly that jiggles like jelly. Anyway, I asked him if I could cut his beard off so I could read his lips. I think he said, ‘No, No, No’. Or, maybe it was ‘Ho Ho Ho!’

6. Politely ask if the music could be turned down.

7. Try not to bluff. Be careful what you say ‘yes’ to. You may find yourself volunteering five days a week at the hospital.

8. Position yourself with your back to the light, otherwise you are facing a dark shadowy face and cannot read lips.

9. Pay attention to the speaker – if you can’t hear, there is no way you can look around the room and understand what the speaker is saying.

10. Tell people (nicely) how best to communicate with you. And then thank them for their efforts. Say, ‘it would help me if you would look at me and speak a bit slower’. A guy once responded to me by SLOWLY, OVER-EXAGGERATING, Are- you-from-London?’ I forgot to thank him for his efforts!

11. Look for visual clues. Watch for facial expressions and gestures. You know not to laugh if he has a sad face while he is telling you something. He might have said, ‘my cat just died’.

12. If the noise gets too much for you, find a relative to talk to in another room. Play a game with a child. Pat the dog. Help in the kitchen. Help with food rather than wash dishes. (You would have your back to people). If all else fails, turn off your equipment or turn it down!

13. You are not going to hear everything. Talk to people nearest to you and ask them to let you know what you missed. Of course, you are at risk of your neighbor saying, ‘Shhh, I’m listening’. Sigh!

14. Have a relative or close friend signal to you when the topic changes. A big nudge with the elbow can bring us back into reality.

15. If you miss something, try not to say ‘what?’ Repeat the bits you heard and ask for the bits you did not hear. For some reason, folks can get irritated when they have told us a long story and we say ‘what?’ ‘Which bit did you not hear?’ “Uhmmm, most of it’.

16. Drink if it relaxes you and you can still lip-read. If you find your lip-reading skills are not so good after drinking, then you may want assess if you want to hear or not. I was sitting next to a realtor recently who repeatedly told me how wonderful he was. He was the best realtor in the world. I had another drink!

17. Remember hearing loss is invisible. Try to be assertive in a pleasant, positive way and let people know how they may help you. If they don’t know, then they can’t help you. Folks forget you can’t hear and sometimes need to be reminded.

18. Finally, try not to let hearing loss hamper your happiness. Show up, smile and do the best you can!

Happy Healthy Hearing New Year!

One Woman’s Experience of Hearing Again with Cochlear Implants

A review of Hear Again and Listening Closely by Arlene Romoff

Arlene Romoff began losing her hearing during her late teens. Up until then, she had had normal hearing. Her hearing declined gradually until, almost twenty-five years later, she was left profoundly deaf. When hearing aids no longer worked for her in 1997, she elected to get her first cochlear implant, which is a computerized device that bypasses the damaged portion of the cochlea and stimulates the auditory nerve directly.
In Hear Again, Arlene shares her extraordinary story with outstanding insight, candor and humor. The book describes clearly the impact of Arlene’s severe hearing loss and subsequent cochlear implantation on her daily life, family and professional interactions. The insights provided by the author will give the hearing-impaired individual (or family member) a better understanding of what it’s like to cope with hearing loss, while providing professionals with a more compassionate comprehension of the feelings, trials and tribulations of the hearing-impaired population.

Arlene shares all her emotions with the reader, telling us what it is really like to experience hearing loss and then sound again. As she details daily experiences following the cochlear implantation, we are able to see how her nervous system adapts to the implant, as it improves her ability to hear.

Unlike Arlene, I experienced profound deafness since early childhood. However, like Arlene, I experienced years of depressing, isolating deafness, despite the use of high-powered hearing aids.

In 2009, my husband and I moved to Atlanta, Georgia where I found myself avoiding people as I knew I would not be able to understand what they said. I had no friends and no family. I was desperate to meet people, so I googled hearing loss groups. I found the Hearing Loss Association of America and ventured to my first meeting, where I was welcomed with open arms. There were about 20 people at that meeting and I noticed that quite a few of them were wearing cochlear implants and appeared to hear well. Some were not even lip-reading. Of course, I began to wonder if cochlear implants would work for me.

After various medical tests, the doctor said, “The bad news is that your hearing is terrible! You have no hearing at all in the right ear and 8% in the left ear”. However, the good news is that you qualify to receive a cochlear implant!”

I received my first cochlear implant in August 2009 and the second one in September 2010.

Like Arlene, I now take immense pleasure in hearing the pattering of rain, the ping of an elevator button, the jingling of keys, taking part in family and social gatherings, the sound of reversing lights on vehicles, the sound of my husband’s voice, and the voices of my grandchildren. Oh, and I can hear the sirens of emergency vehicles.

After Arlene received her 2nd cochlear implant in 2008, she describes the experience of hearing bilaterally in Listening Closely.

Hear Again and Listening Closely are books celebrating Arlene’s experiences as a woman no longer walking through the day, hoping no one will speak to her. She feels a part of the world around her, not isolated in silence.

As for me, I feel like I was ‘out of this world’ for a long time. Cochlear implants have turned my life around and hearing again is an ‘out of this world’ experience.

If you are thinking a cochlear implant may be for you, ask yourself the following questions. Even with powerful hearing aids, do you:

• Hear but don’t understand?
• Have to ask people to repeat themselves on one-on-one conversations even in a quiet room?
• Need captions displayed to understand TV programs?
• Avoid social activities because you don’t know what is being said and are afraid you will respond incorrectly?
• Depend on speech-reading to understand a conversation?
• Find yourself exhausted at the end of the day because communication requires such a high degree of concentration?
• Have a hard time keeping up at work?
• Have trouble hearing on the phone?
• Avoid making and answering phone calls?
• No longer enjoy listening to music?
• When tested by an audiologist with your hearing aids on, you score less than 60% on your ability to repeat sentences?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be a good candidate for a cochlear implant.

Excerpted from Successful Aging and Our Hearing by John K. Niparko, M.D., and Courtney Carver, Au.D., CCC-A,
Hearing Loss Magazine.

Arlene’s books may be purchased online from Amazon.com. All proceeds from Arlene’s books go to the Center for Hearing and Communication.

Quotes by Hearing and Communication Publications Department, Susan B. Wetzman Ph.D, Carol Uckar M.A, Jerome D. Schein Ph.D, and F. Terry Hambrecht MD were used in this article.

You do not need to face hearing loss alone. Please contact your local chapter of Hearing Loss Association of America, where you will find support, education and advocacy from the members and peer mentors. For more information, call 941-320-8825 or info@hlas.org.

Can Hearing Loss Be Cured?

Umm, no not at the moment.

Those of us with hearing loss have been told for decades that sensorineural hearing loss cannot be cured. Only by wearing hearing aids or cochlear implants can it be helped. Most people with hearing loss are exhausted at the end of the day by simply trying to hear and would welcome a cure.

How About a Pill?
While the hearing field has come a long way over the last few decades in understanding the biology of the inner ear and the causes of hearing loss, there are still no approved drugs to treat deafness.

‘However, new research being conducted into nutraceuticals by a research team at Henry Ford Hospital in the US offers hope for soldiers returning from war zones with hearing problems. It has been found that some nutraceuticals may prevent and even reverse certain hearing losses in soldiers. Antioxidants such as acetyl-l-carnitine, alpha lipoic acid and resveratrol – a substance found in common food and drink sources such as red grapes and red wine.

The research team is said to be the first to identify how acoustic trauma from machinery and explosive devices damages the inner ear cells, breaks down and stops cell growth. According to Dr. Seidman, who leads the research team, a pill could soon be developed that could possibly prevent hearing trauma in military forces. The research has been successful on animal subjects, and will soon be tested with humans.

If the new research works well in humans, then the quality of life of returning soldiers, and, of course, civilians, would be much improved, as noise-induced hearing loss impacts not only on hearing ability, but also balance, quality of sleep, ability to communicate and participate normally in everyday life. The stresses of living with a hearing loss can also affect blood pressure and lipid and blood sugar levels, increasing the risk of heart disease and diabetes’.

Hidden Hearing posted on November 12th 2012. http://www.hiddenhearing.co.uk/hearing-health/241/preventing-and-reducing-hearing-loss-in-the-military/

According to National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), there are 48 million Americans with some level of hearing loss who struggle with imperfect devices in order to hear. Hearing loss is the nation’s third biggest health issue behind heart disease and arthritis. This number is expected to grow as our soldiers return with hearing loss, among other injuries.

National Hearing Test Staff posted on April 6, 2016:

‘Inside our temporal bone is the inner ear, or cochlea (Greek for snail). The healthy cochlea contains thousands of hair cells, which are put into motion by sounds we hear, which then transmit signals via the eighth cranial nerve to our brain. However, hair cells that have been damaged by excessive exposure to loud noise, injury, toxins or genetic conditions, are no longer able to transmit sounds to the brain. Unfortunately, once the cells are damaged, those cells are irreplaceable’.
http://www.nationalhearingtest.org/wordpress/

How About Stem Cell Therapy?

Stanford Initiative to Cure Hearing Loss asks if doctors could grow a new working inner ear from a person’s own skin cells, or repair the damaged ear from within. “Solving this profound mystery is the driving force behind stem cell research and the promise of tissue engineering in otolaryngology. While hearing aids and cochlear implants can provide good recovery of hearing function, the development of a biological method to repair the damaged cochlea has the potential to restore normal hearing without any type of prosthesis.

One approach to restore hearing might be to surgically place stem cells within the cochlea in such a way that they would fuse with the remaining cochlear structures and develop and function as hair cells. Scientists believe this is a viable approach because, unlike most organs that are destroyed by disease, the inner ear remains structurally intact—only the hair cells are lost. By mimicking the steps involved in the formation of embryonic mouse ears, Stanford scientists have produced stem cells in the laboratory that look and act very much like hair cells, the sensory cells that normally reside in the inner ear. If they can generate hair cells in the millions, it could lead to significant scientific and clinical advances along the path to curing deafness in the future.

A promising source of creating hair cells comes from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS)—adult cells, taken for example from a patient’s own skin that have been genetically reprogrammed to revert back to stem cells. This breakthrough process represents a major opportunity to eventually treat a patient with his or her own cells.

Currently, our research team is working toward producing human hair cells for the first time in a culture dish. This work could lead, in the long run, to novel therapies based on cell transplantation. Equally exciting is an ongoing approach to use embryonic stem cell-based approaches for discovery of novel drugs that could be used for treatment for deafness”.
Stanford Initiative to Cure Hearing Loss
http://hearinglosscure.stanford.edu/research/stem-cell-therapy

How about Cell Regeneration?

I am amazed to find that chickens can regenerate their inner ear hair cells where humans cannot. In fact, according to Hearing Health Foundation, most animals other than mammals can regenerate these delicate cells – restoring their hearing spontaneously after damage.

‘The Hearing Health Foundation’s goal is to translate regeneration to humans. The Hearing Restoration Project (HRP) is funding research to translate what they know about chickens and other animals to people, leading to a cure for hearing loss. Hearing Health Foundation has seen early success in mice.

“Regenerating inner ear hair cells has already proven successful with mice. A recent discovery by one of the HRP scientists revealed that mice could be stimulated to regenerate hair cells and partially restore hearing. This was done by using a drug to block a certain auditory pathway that prevents hair cell regeneration in mammals. Once blocked, the supporting cells in the cochlea were free to transform into hair cells, partially restoring hearing. While much work remains, this proof of concept indicates that hair cell regeneration can be made in mammals”.

I am one of 48 million Americans who hope that one day we will be able to hear and that hearing loss will be a thing of the past.

In the meantime, please pass me my cochlear implants.

Ears plead, “Please do not poke me with Q-tips”

I have a confession to make. I do not buy Q-tips or potato chips. Potato chips call me to eat them. We all know that eating potato chips is fun – they are delicious, but perhaps not good for our health, especially for our weight. Q-tips beg me to poke them into my ears. I can’t help it. My ears itch.

Now, cleaning out our ears with Q-tips may feel good. But, according to William H. Shapiro, an audiologist and clinical associate professor at NYU Langone Medical Center, poking inside your ears with Q-tips can affect your hearing, as wax (cerumen) gets pushed up against the eardrums.

Audiologists like to say ‘Never put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear’. Poking a Q-tip (or a finger) in your ear could damage the sensitive skin of the ear canal, cause bacteria to grow or even rupture the eardrum. A ruptured eardrum is very painful and sends approximately half of the U.S. population to emergency rooms, according to Dr. Peter Svider, an otolaryngology resident at Wayne State University in Michigan.

Audiologists can always tell if you have been using Q-tips. It is satisfying to see wax on the end of the Q-tip, but you tend to push more in than you pull out. ‘If you get enough wax back there, it can completely block the ear canal and cause muffled hearing’, says Dr. Brett Comer, an assistant professor of head and neck surgery at the University of Kentucky. Clearing the blockage requires a doctor or specialist’s intervention. If the wax is so tightly packed, it may require surgery when normal methods cannot remove it.

Just how do you clean our ears? You don’t. You can use a wet washcloth to clean the outside and behind your ears, but nothing should be put in your ear canal. No, especially not Q-tips! Some people do produce more wax than others and may need to visit a doctor for a regular ear cleaning. This is the only safe way to clean your ears.

Why do we have wax in our ears? Wax is there to protect our ears. It keeps out foreign objects (candy paper, bugs, dirt and dust). Earwax is also antibacterial, says Dr. Svider. It is composed of dead skin cells and a little cholesterol and is effective at trapping and killing illness-causing microorganisms. ‘Some people say their ears itch because of the wax buildup, but it is usually the opposite,’ he says. ‘If you clean all the wax away, your ear canal can get dried out and irritated, and then it starts to itch”.

Dr. Svider says that you do not want all that wax to linger forever. But the body has a very effective, built-in “conveyor belt mechanism” for removing wax without the aid of a Q-tip. The everyday act of chewing and talking naturally shuffles the wax away from your inner ear to the outside of its canal, where the wax falls away on its own or is washed away when you shower. He adds, ‘For 99% of people that conveyor belt system works well’.

Why do we have Q-tips? In the 1920s, the American Leo Gerstenzang invented the first cotton bud after seeing his wife wrapping cotton around a toothpick to clean the baby’s ears. He named them Baby Gays. Later, he renamed them to Q-tips – Q for quality, tips for the cotton tips. They were used for cleaning ears, removing makeup and nail polish, applying ointments, cleaning audio heads in cassette recorders, cleaning model railways and simply for crafts (Peltzgroup). According to the medical community, using cotton swabs in the ear canal has no medical benefits and poses definite risks.

Nowadays, the package of Q-tips plainly reads, ‘Do not insert swab into ear canal. Entering the ear canal could cause injury’. Yet despite warnings written directly on the package, as well as from doctors, many people still use cotton swabs. I know I would be tempted to use them if I had them in my house.

Do yourself a favor and keep them out of your ears, please.

Oh, you have potato chips? Sure, I will have just one!

 

Your First Appointment with a Hearing Health Professional

Congratulations! You have acknowledged that you have a hearing loss and have made the decision to do something about it.

In America, the average person waits 5 to 7 years before dealing with hearing loss. You should be aware that the sooner you act, the easier it will be to treat your loss.

The hearing health professional (audiologist or hearing instrument dispenser) will need relevant medical history, any recent problems and symptoms you have experienced related to your hearing loss.

It is a good idea to have a relative or a friend with you. This person can help with communication and write down information to help you remember later on. Also, some hearing health professionals use tests which involve hearing a familiar voice.

The hearing health professional will run some tests:

OTOSCOPY – The professional will look in your ear canal with an otoscope and a magnifying pen light to check for blockages, ear wax build-up, or any problems with your ear canal or ear drum.

TYMPANOMETRY This test is to check your middle ear function. The professional will be checking how well your ear drum responds to light pressure. The test would show anything that would inhibit movement of the ear drum (tympanic membrane), such as fluid, infection or problems with the eustachian tube.

AUDIOMETRY – the audiometry tests are conducted in a quiet soundproof room. Earphones will be placed on your head. The earphones are connected to a machine that will deliver tones and different sounds of speech to your ears. The professional will ask you to raise your hand, or press a button, when you hear a sound. The professional will record each tone at the lowest possible volume that you were able to hear it. He/she will mark a chart (audiogram) with red O’s indicating the right ear’s results and blue X’s the left ear’s results.
This test consists of two types of test – air conduction and bone conduction.
Air conduction determines the quietest sound you can hear through earphones at different pitches.
Bone conduction determines the quietest sound you can hear by stimulating the inner ear directly – through a bone vibrator which is placed behind the ear.
These tests should not feel uncomfortable or painful. Afterwards, the professional will explain the results to you and what services or referrals you may need.

Before your visit
*Write down a list of questions so you won’t forget when you get there
*Write down specific details on the situations where you need the most support – such as missing what someone is saying at the dinner table, on TV, in a noisy restaurant, or at a meeting – the more information the audiologist has, the more he/she will be able to help you to obtain the optimum results for your hearing loss
*Look up information about your problem before the appointment
*Bring a list of your medications
*Bring paper and pen
*Let the office know ahead of time, if you need an interpreter
Questions you may want to ask before your visit
* Do you accept insurance or Medicare?
* How long will the appointment take?

During your visit
*Ask your questions and describe your lifestyle focusing on the situations where you have the most hearing issues
*Ask the professional to write down words you don’t understand
*Repeat back to the professional what you think he/she said to make sure you understand.

Questions you may want to ask during your visit
* Would you explain the terms – sensorineural, conductive, mixed, mild, moderate, severe, profound, auditory neuropathy
* Will my hearing loss change, or get worse?
* Is the loss permanent?
* What could have caused my hearing loss?
* Do I need hearing aids?
* Will the hearing aids restore my hearing?
* Does the hearing aid you recommend have a t-coil?
* What besides hearing aids can I do to help improve my hearing?
* What are some tips for working with my family?

After your visit
*Go over your notes to make sure you understand what was said
*Check with your loved one to see if you both heard the same thing
*Call or email if you have other questions

Sources
www.asha.org/talkingwithaudorslp.htm
www.yourhearingcenter.com/audiology-blog-hamilton0oh
www.mayfieldclinic.com

 

 September 2016

You and Your Hearing Loss are Leaving on a Jet Plane

Traveling by air is challenging – standing in long lines at security, worrying we might miss the flight, dealing with unhappy fellow travelers, discovering oversold flights, accepting limited food service and experiencing minimal leg room leading to cramps.

For folks with hearing loss, airplane travel can be particularly stressful and challenging. Because I do not always – well, almost never – understand the announcements, I do not know if my gate has changed, if my flight is delayed and, of course, I do not understand the in-flight communications.

If I travel with hearing husband, family members or friends, I feel much more relaxed because I know they will tell me what the announcers are saying. However, if I travel alone, panic can set in. What did he/she just say? Many times, I have sat on the edge of my seat desperately trying to read the lips of the announcer, who invariably has a microphone covering the mouth.

Frequently I have walked up to the gate attendant and ‘confessed’ to having a hearing loss and would he/she please tell me what the announcer just said. Needless to say, there have been mixed reactions. ‘Oh, you are disabled. Do you need a wheelchair’ (sigh!). Or, “how about safety directions in braille?’

Aaah! I wish I was making this stuff up.

[Editor’s note—Seat accommodation is the law, 14 CFR Part 382, http://airconsumer.dot.gov/rules/382short.pdf . You can sit upfront in economy
at no additional cost, read on]

Monitors with written information at all airports would keep me informed and less worried. And, when on the flight, it would be helpful to have a host/hostess come to my seat, face me and tell me what the pilot just said. Or better still, a live-captioned video on the screen in front of my seat. As a person with hearing loss, I do not ask for perks or special attention – but, for my safety and comfort, I need to know what is being announced.

Many of the safety announcements are now relayed by captioned video, which is a godsend to persons with hearing loss. Captioning videos is technically possible, so why are the movies not captioned? Emirates Airlines have been offering closed captioned movies since 1998!

“With existing technology, there is no excuse for not providing captioning capability on in-flight entertainment (IFE)” said Howard Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD).

On many flights, I am able to watch foreign films with English subtitles. But, I (and 48 million other Americans with hearing loss) would like to have the same choice as everyone else. As we all know, a movie makes the flight more interesting. We folks with hearing loss are at a distinct disadvantage when captioning is not available.

According to Lisa Packer, staff writer, Healthy Hearing, ‘the Collaborative for Communication Access via Captioning (CCAC) is working with the Department of Transport (DOT) as well as the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) and is making great progress toward expanding captioning on airlines. Contact them at CCACaptioning@gmail.com to join their advocacy team”.

Ms. Packer continues to say that “you have the right to request disability seating. This usually means close to the front of the aircraft. This seating allows you to pre-board as well as to see the attendants clearly so you are better able to understand them as they make in-flight announcements. Be aware that online booking sites might not mention that these seats are available, as the airlines would rather sell these seats at economy comfort prices. Nevertheless, be sure to ask. If the seats are available, they have to give them to you at no extra cost. Disability seats are intended for all disability groups, not just those with mobility issues”.

How do we obtain Disability Seating?

Rosie Geer, a flight attendant and member of the Say What Club, shares her experiences and advises that we identify ourselves as ‘deaf’ when purchasing our tickets online, by telephone, or through a travel agent. Our ‘deaf’ declaration alerts the airline that we may need special assistance. Our name and special needs will be noted on the passenger manifest. The gate agents and flight attendants will be informed in advance that we will be onboard.

Ms. Geer adds that if we have already purchased our tickets, we are able to update our reservation online, by telephone, or ask the travel agent who booked our tickets.

If we choose to self-identify as ‘deaf’, we ask a hearing person to follow up with a phone call to the airline to request disability seating. Disability seating is located in the row or rows right after first class on many airplanes, unless that row also happens to be an emergency exit row. (Keep in mind that an emergency exit is not about leg room, it is about assisting passengers to evacuate a damaged plane. These exit row passengers must be able to hear the directions from the attendants and rapidly convey them to passengers). It is a reasonable accommodation for passengers with hearing loss to sit close to the front of the aircraft. We need to see the flight attendants making announcements in order to read the lips.

At least one row of those upgraded economy seats is a mandatory disability area. Should we be assigned an ‘economy comfort’ or ‘comfort plus’ seat based on our request for a disability seat, we do not have to pay the premium fee that someone else must pay to sit there.

We folks with hearing loss may not always feel comfortable choosing to self-identify as ‘deaf’, especially if our hearing is not all that bad. However, the available accommodations for our ‘special needs’ are invaluable. Usually, pre-boarding is included with the disability seating and has the advantage of space for carry-on luggage. The main reason for pre-boarding is to allow a flight attendant time to provide us with an individual safety briefing.

Ms. Geer also recommends that when we get to the gate, we should go directly to the gate agent, identify ourselves as ‘deaf’ or ‘hard of hearing’ and ask him/her to approach us when pre-boarding begins (a monitor with the written information may not always be available). And, we need to convey our special hearing-related needs at every point of contact and plane change-over. If we are brave enough, we wear a huge yellow button which says “Please Face Me. I Lip Read”.

The DOT has invited Lise Hamlin, HLAA director of public policy, to be part of an advisory committee on accessible transportation, which will be addressing in-flight communication and entertainment. Ms. Packer says, “they have their work cut out for them, however, as the airline industry is already challenging the DOT’s rights to make any changes”.

Lise Hamlin says,”‘ when DOT does not see complaints, they believe all is well, that people are getting what they need. If we are getting late information, wrong information, or no information, even after we have self-identified, then file a complaint with DOT”. The form can be found on the HLAA website at www.hearingloss.org. Go to the advocacy link. Or, you can fill out the official DOT form by visiting the DOT web page at http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/forms/382form.pdf. You can send this form directly to US Department of Transportation, Aviation Consumer Protection Division, C-75-D, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE. Washington, D.C. 20590. Lise Hamlin suggests, if you have any trouble at all, e-mail her at lhamlin@hearingloss.org HLAA will help you file your complaint.

By writing a simple e-mail, you can help bring equality in airline travel to those with hearing loss.
Hearing loss is invisible and some of us do our best to hide it. However, many of us do not realize that we are entitled to certain assistance and benefits. How about we be proactive, admit to our hearing loss and wear that huge yellow button ‘Please Face Me. I Read Lips. Flying might just become a little less stressful.

One last thought
We need to keep our hearing equipment and batteries (along with keys and medicines) in our overhead bag, not in the checked baggage.

Hearingloss.org www.hearingloss.org
Lisa Packer, Healthy Hearing www.healthyhearing.com
Rosie Greer, Flight Attendant and Say What Club Member www.saywhatclub.com

July/August 2016

We folks with hearing loss know that it is challenging to have a decent conversation with our friends and family. Sometimes, we are guilty of ‘tuning out’ because we are too tired and frustrated to try to understand any more. I know we may sometimes give the impression that we are being rude, or ignoring people, or are just plain stupid.

It is challenging also for those who love us and want to include us in the conversation. The hearing family members and friends are not sure if we have heard correctly or not – especially when we bluff, nod our heads – giving the impression that we have heard what they said.

I have been guilty of bluffing and suffered the dire consequences – such as meeting at the wrong place and time – or turning right instead of left.

There is no wonder people get frustrated and angry with us. “Why did you not say you did not understand?’ I guess we thought we had it right.

No big deal, right? Just say you did not understand. However, it is embarrassing to the person with hearing loss (HL) to ask for constant repeats. And, it is annoying and irritating for the hearing person to be asked for constant repeats – however, less so than taking corrective action.

 Understanding how people with hearing loss hear

Visualize a jigsaw puzzle. There are bits and pieces missing. The picture is not complete. The person with HL hears bits and pieces and tries to figure out how to make all these incomplete sounds fit into a comprehensible sentence. It is similar to knowing a little Spanish where you can understand some of it, but not all of it.

I remember being in a restroom and knowing (by her pink shoelaces) that the gym instructor was in the next cubicle. I could hear her talking, but did not understand what she said as I need to read lips. I was not even positive she was talking to me!

She came out and said, ‘Don’t you have your ears on? I was talking to you!’

It may be useful to know that hearing aids are not like eye glasses, which in many cases, provide 20/20 vision, or close to that. While hearing aids/cochlear implants amplify sound, they do not always provide the necessary clarity. (Background noises like the air conditioner, the dishwasher and noise in restaurants are also amplified, creating more challenges for the person with HL). I, like most people with hearing loss, am aware that someone is talking to me, I do not always understand the words spoken.

I need to pay attention and do my part also. Communicating is a two way street!

Tips to help people with normal hearing to communicate with persons who cannot hear well

 * Be sure you have the attention of the person with HL before talking to them. Use their name, or gently pat their arm. It is frustrating for you when you realize you have been talking and not understood properly. If you live with a person with HL, you probably already know that you are wasting your time talking while walking into another room.

*Face the person with HL. Many of us folks with hearing difficulties rely on lip reading and facial expressions to fill in the blanks of what we did not understand. Because of the need to see the lips and face, most folks with HL cannot hear in the dark.  (So, tell me you love me when the lights are on!) Maybe a flashlight would help. It is helpful to keep hands away from the mouth when speaking to a person with HL. If you hide behind your hand, then you will end up repeating yourself.

* Shouting does not help. It distorts the face and makes the person with HL think that you are angry. Speaking clearly at a moderate pace and not over-emphasizing the words will help the person with HL to keep up with you.

* Avoid noisy backgrounds. Noisy restaurants are challenging to people with and without HL. It is helpful to choose a quiet, well-lit place – or go at a less busy time.

* Repeat or rephrase. You will experience a few requests for repeats during the conversation. If the person with HL does not understand after a couple of repeats, then rephrasing, using different words may help the person, with HL to understand.

* Maintain a sense of humor. If there is a misunderstanding, try to see the funny side of it.

As I mentioned previously, we folks with HL must do our part too!

Tips to help us persons with HL communicate with people who do hear well

  • Pick our best spot where we have our back to the light. This way we can see the face of the person talking to us instead of a black shadow.
  • Pay attention. If we cannot hear well, then we must pay close attention to the speaker and concentrate on the visual clues given.
  • Ask for a written note to clarify important information.
  • Admit we have a hearing loss. I know it is not easy to do, but it is better than having people misunderstand our inappropriate behavior and incorrect answers because we did not hear correctly.
  • We try not to bluff and ask for a repeat when we do not understand. Instead of saying ‘uh’ or what? ask for a rephrase. Often the use of different words helps us to understand.
  • Wear our hearing aids/cochlear implants and use our assistive listening devices. If we leave them in a drawer, we are not hearing as well as we could and thus causing more frustrations for ourselves and the folks who want to communicate with us.
  • Politely tell people how best to communicate with us, then thank the speaker for his efforts.
  • Try not to interrupt. Let the conversation flow to allow time to fill in the blanks.
  • Avoid noisy restaurants. Go at less busy times with smaller groups. Most of us have difficulty keeping up when the group gets bigger.
  • Maintain a sense of humor, stay positive and relaxed.

June 2016

Closed Caption Glasses Make Movies Accessible to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Have you stopped going to the movie theater because you cannot understand what is being said?

Now is the time to start enjoying the movies on the big screen again – with help from Sony closed caption glasses. These glasses are totally awesome. They ensure that you will not miss a word.
A few years ago, it was such a thrill for me to be able to take my grandchildren to the movies for the first time. We went to see Planes (an animated movie about a crop dusting plane with a fear of heights lives its dream of competing in a famous around-the-world aerial race). As you know, it is very challenging trying to read lips on animated characters – err, in this case the lips of planes!

What was usually just noise for me became actual words by wearing the Closed Caption glasses.
As far as I understand, all Regal movie theaters in the country carry them. After purchasing your ticket, go to the service desk and ask for the closed caption glasses. They are free with your ticket and are programmed to the movie you wish to see. Bright green captioning appears to float on the screen when your chosen movie begins – so, no need to be concerned that they are not working during the previews. There are three adjustable positions at the side of the glasses for the captioning position to best suit your preference.

The glasses are oversized and can be worn over regular eyeglasses or over your eyes. For 3-D movies an extra pair of glasses is not necessary as a clip-on lens can be added. The closed caption viewing uses Sony’s unique holographic technology, which transmits closed caption data from a media server wirelessly to the glasses’ receiver box, and can be programmed to display subtitles in a choice of six languages.

The devices work best if you are sitting in the middle of the theater. It takes a few minutes to get the glasses, so it is a good idea to get to the theater early. 90% of the movies are closed captioned any time, any day. However, it is wise to check on fandango’s website (fandango.com) ahead of time.

Persons with hearing loss, including myself, have long hoped for an option like this in movie theaters. Previously, open captions (OC) – where the subtitles are on view to everyone – have been offered for some movies with limited screenings.

According to NPR in 2013, Regal’s chief administrative officer, Randy Smith Jr. worked for more than a decade to perfect the CC glasses. He told Arun Rath, host of All Things Considered, that he wanted ‘to develop a technology that would allow access to the deaf and blind for every show time for every feature’, It was helpful to him that he had his own ‘personal guinea pig’ at home – his son, Ryan, who is deaf. Smith said when the tech companies sent him new prototypes; he and Ryan would test them out at the movie theater together, with Ryan giving him feedback along the way. Smith said that he could not describe what it felt like to finally get to a point where he and Ryan were comfortable with the CC glasses.

The Sony devices also come with optional audio tracks on headphones that describe what is happening on the movie for persons with visual impairments. Patrons with hearing loss can also boost the volume of the sound to hear details better. The Los Angeles Times reported that the glasses cost theater owners $1750 for both a receiver and a transmitter, but are offered free to customers. The return on the investment would not likely take long, as persons with hearing loss may start going to the theater more frequently.

Approximately 48 million Americans have some level of hearing loss and, according to Syracuse, New York area reporter Geoff Herbert (he calls himself Deaf Geoff), only 34% went to a movie theater at least once a year before 2012.  In 2012, 72% Americans went to the movies at least once a year.

Many Regal theaters also offer an alternative captioning device called the Captiview (CV) – as well as the Sony captioned glasses. The CV system consists of an OLED (organic light-emitting diode – Wikipedia) display on a bendable support arm which fits into the cup holder. The captioning displays on a mini screen attached to the arm of the device. Many AMC theaters offer the Captiview system.

Since 2009, the search engine CaptionFish http.captionfish.com has been providing information about captioned movie theaters to persons with hearing loss. The CaptionFish website provides a glossary of important terms about movie captioning technologies as well as a list of theaters within any radius identified by the user.

The local Venice movie theater – Frank Theater, 2111 Tamiami Trail South, Venice – carries six headsets which amplify sound. Hollywood 20 Regal Cinema, 1993 Main Street, Sarasota and Port Charlotte Regal Cinema, 1441 Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte both carry the Sony captioned glasses.

After so many years of not being able to enjoy movies, join the movie crowd at the theater and ‘hear again’.  And, be sure to let the staff know how much you appreciate their supporting persons with hearing loss in the community.

 

May 2016

Mom says “Turn that down before you go deaf!”

Do you love to listen to music? All day, every day?
Do your ears sometimes ring?
Do you sometimes not hear so well after listening to music?
I notice that many people, even with normal hearing, like to listen to loud music. Does loud sound better? I honestly do not know. Maybe it’s a habit.
I see people every day who habitually listen to music during the morning commute, at the desk and while working out.
Frequent exposure to loud noise – from music, machinery, a jet plane taking off, firecrackers, lawn mowers, chainsaw, jackhammer – can cause temporary and also permanent hearing loss. Temporary hearing loss and/ or ringing in the ears (tinnitus) can occur after people have been exposed to loud noise for several hours – as in a rock concert. Frequently, hearing restores to normal the next day. But, there is a possibility of residual long-term damage to the hearing.
However, if people are frequently exposed to loud noises and over a long period of time, then permanent hearing loss can occur. Permanent hearing loss cannot be cured, but may be helped with the use of hearing aids, cochlear implants and assistive listening devices.

“With more and more people using MP3 players, and the increasing loudness of movies, concerts and sporting events, physicians need to take a proactive role in the prevention of a potential hearing loss epidemic”. Says Dr. David Hiltzik, director of otolaryngology at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City.

Researchers in a recently-published study, led by Dr. Wilko Grolman of the University Medical Center, Utrecht, Netherlands, found that the number of American teenagers with hearing loss has risen to 31% since 1988. One reason for that trend is the increased exposure to loud music at concerts, festivals, nightclubs, and sporting events.
We have seen in the news recently that AC/DC’s Brian Johnson of Bird Key announced his inability to perform in any of the band’s upcoming shows, or any show ever again, due to severe hearing damage caused by many years of exposure to loud music.

Pearl Jam’s bassist, Jeff Ament, recommended wearing hearing protection to prevent severe damage to the ears. Pearl Jam will be providing ear plugs at all of their upcoming shows this summer in an effort to protect its fans from permanent hearing loss.

Most sounds that we hear on a daily basis, such as the television, household appliances and traffic are at safe levels and do not damage our hearing. But, sounds that are too loud and/or long-lasting can damage the sensitive hair cells in our ears and lead to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).
NIHL affects people of all ages. The National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)estimates that approximately 15% of Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 have high frequency hearing loss due to exposure to noise at work, or during leisure activities – such as target-shooting, snowmobile riding, listening to MP3 players at high volume and attending loud concerts and sporting events.

NIHL can also be caused by extremely loud bursts of sound, such as a gunshot, or an explosion. These sounds may rupture the ear drum or damage the small bones in the middle ear. Many of our returning soldiers say that out of all their injuries, hearing loss is the most difficult to manage. Nearly 70,000 of the more than 1.3 million troops who have served in the two war zones – Iraq and Afghanistan – are collecting disability for tinnitus, a potentially debilitating ringing in the ears, and more than 58,000 are on disability for hearing loss, the VA says.
‘Sound is measured in units called decibels (dbs). Sounds of less than 75 decibels, even after long exposure, are unlikely to cause hearing loss. However, long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. The louder the sound, the shorter amount of time it takes for NIHL to occur’ – according to NIDCD.

Here are the average decibel ratings of some familiar sounds (NICDH)
Humming of a refrigerator 45dbs
Normal conversation 60 dbs
Noise from heavy city traffic 85 dbs
Motorcycles 95 dbs
An MP3 player at maximum volume 105 dbs
Sirens 120 dbs
Firecrackers and firearms 150 dbs
Can NIHL be prevented? (NIDCD)
NIHL is the only type of hearing loss that is completely preventable. If you understand the hazards of noise and how to practice good hearing health, you can protect your hearing for life.
Here’s how:
• Know which noises can cause damage (those at 85dbs or above)
• Wear earplugs or other protective devices when involved in a loud activity (activity-specific earplugs and earmuffs are available at hardware and sporting goods stores)
• If you can’t reduce the noise or protect yourself from it, then move away from it
• Be alert to hazardous noises in the environment
• Protect the ears of children who are too young to protect their own
• Make family, friends and colleagues aware of the hazards of noise
• Have your hearing tested if you think you might have hearing loss

April 2016

Misconceptions about Hearing Loss/Deafness
No one knows we have a hearing loss

People notice when we are not hearing by our communication behavior. We turn the television/radio up loud; we repeatedly ask for repeats; we may misunderstand what is said and react oddly.
We may be the last ones to know we have a hearing loss.

Hearing Aids are covered by insurance

No, they are not. Very few insurance companies cover hearing aids. However, cochlear implants are covered.

The sound we hear on the phone is the same as face to face.

That is not true. The frequency range of telephone transmission is limited. Even people with normal hearing have difficulty hearing on the phone sometimes. People who are hearing impaired are highly challenged when trying to understand on the phone, because we cannot observe facial clues and lip movement.

Nerve deafness can’t be cured or treated

Nerve deafness (sensorineural hearing loss) cannot be cured, but many of us with hearing loss may be helped to communicate by using hearing aids, cochlear implants, assistive listening technology, lip-reading, communication strategies and support services.

Hearing Aids are like glasses – they restore hearing to ‘20/20’
It would be nice if this were true. Most hearing aids amplify sound. Frequent visits to the audiologist are needed to tweak the hearing aid/cochlear implant to the comfort of its user. Even at their best, hearing aids/cochlear implants do not provide ‘20/20’ hearing.

Cochlear implants cure deafness
No. Cochlear implant users are still deaf. When the implants are removed, we hear nothing. However, the use of cochlear implants provides a sense of sound and does improve our quality of life and the ability to understand spoken language.

Hearing aids can damage our hearing
No, hearing aids are designed to prevent the amplification level from damaging our hearing.

All deaf/hard of hearing people can lip-read
No, that is not true. Often, we people who have been deafened since childhood automatically lip-read. Late-deafened people may need to take advantage of lip-reading instruction.

People with hearing loss are less competent
We people who are Deaf/hard of hearing develop greater concentration skills to compensate for lack of hearing. We are sometimes perceived as being incompetent, rude, snobbish – especially if we have not explained our hearing loss.

Deaf people can and should use sign language
Most people with hearing loss, especially late-deafened adults, have grown up in a hearing world and use spoken language. It would not be practical for most of them to learn American Sign Language (ASL), and to teach it to family and friends. The use of visual representations of spoken language – such as captioning, writing notes, texting, emailing – is more realistic.

Only old people are deaf or hard of hearing
This is false. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), 2 to 3 babies out of every 1,000 children in the United States are born with detectable hearing loss in one or both ears. People of all ages can become deaf, due to medical reasons or being exposed to loud noises.
Deaf people can see better
Deaf people do concentrate more on visual cues and can appear to have better vision. We use our eyes to compensate for not hearing.
Deaf people are silent
Deaf people tend to be noisier than people who hear well because we don’t always realize how much noise we are making. For example, we may drive people crazy by clattering the dishes or yelling, or even speaking too quietly.

Mild or moderate hearing loss is not something to worry about
Mild hearing loss should be taken seriously, as it can impact language and learning development in children. Children miss the basic knowledge being taught, their speech may be retarded, they may be teased because of speech and/or learning difficulties, and feel emotionally distressed. People with a mild hearing loss misunderstand conversation, have difficulty hearing on the phone and in noisy environments – leading to frustration and embarrassment.

***************************
Anne’s personal note

It is no misconception that hearing loss is invisible. We deaf/hard of hearing folks must be upfront about our hearing difficulties. I know it is not easy to admit to hearing loss. I have had hearing loss all my life and I still have problems telling people about it.

Recently, I went to the dentist who was wearing a mask. He said something that sounded like ‘ooo u aaaa eee aaaaa’. I bluffed with a noncommittal ‘uh uh’. He gently moved my face. He must have said move your face this way. This happened several times. After the examination, the dentist was explaining my dental problem. I could see his mask moving about and hear him talking. But, I had no idea what he was saying. Finally, I decided to tell him I am a lip-reader. He said, ‘what was that?’ I repeated I am a lip-reader. He pulled his mask off and ‘Oh, I am sorry’. Then, I felt badly for him

People are not able to help us unless we tell them we have hearing loss.
After all, we don’t look deaf, do we?

March 2016

Discover how much more you can hear at the Hearing Loss Expo on March 5th

Are you having trouble hearing?
Is anyone you know having trouble hearing?

You may find exactly what you need to improve your hearing at the 5th annual Hearing Tech Expo (sponsored by the Hearing Loss Association of America/Sarasota/Manatee chapter).

It’s free and is open to the community on March 5, 2016 from 9am to 3pm at Manatee Technical College, 6305 State Road 70, Bradenton –
Just one mile west of I-75 and exit 217B.

The Annual Hearing Loss Expo is the biggest hearing technology event of the year and will feature:

  • Over 35 major exhibitors
  • 5 educational seminars, which will be presented by experts in hearing loss and communication
  • Latest hearing technologies and solutions
  • Free hearing and health screenings
  • A chance to win prizes

This year, a special Veteran Q & A seminar will be featured at 10:30 AM. Come and learn what services are available for veterans with hearing loss.

The exhibitors will include a wide selection of national hearing device manufactures – including cochlear implants, hearing aids, free captioned phones and an array of assistive listening systems. Local loop providers, captioning services, hearing care practitioners and support groups will complement these exhibitors. The Expo will show attendees how to use the newest technologies at theatres, churches and community centers. These technologies have changed our area into one of the most hearing-friendly communities in America.

February 2016

Is there a difference between Deaf and deaf?
Have you ever noticed that sometimes the word deaf is spelled with a big ‘D’ – and sometimes is spelled with a little‘d’?

Does it matter which way it is spelled?

Little‘d’ deaf is generally used by hearing people for individuals who cannot hear well.
In 1979, Howard (Rocky) E. Stone found himself alone with a substantial hearing loss, amongst hearing people. He came up with the term ‘hard of hearing’ for folks who did not fit in the hearing world, or the totally deaf world.

Rocky founded the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), then named Self Help for Hard of Hearing (SHHH) to help people live well with hearing loss.

According to NLM.NIH (National Library of Medicine-National Institute of Health), “Hearing people regard people who cannot hear well from a medical perspective, seeing deafness simply as the inability to hear. Hearing people view deafness from a negative paradigm, as something that has been lost”.

According to Gallaudet University researchers, ‘the Deaf community views deafness from a cultural perspective. The Deaf community uses a positive paradigm when evaluating deafness, asserting that something has been gained’.

Big ‘D’ Deaf is used by people who cannot hear at all, consider themselves members of the Deaf community and use American Sign Language (ASL).

One of many myths about us people with hearing loss is that we know and use ASL. I, like most individuals who are hard of hearing – little‘d’ deaf – have been raised in the hearing world, speak and do not know ASL. I have been approached many times by well-meaning signers, who assume that because I am deaf (note the little‘d’) I understand ASL. I have considered learning ASL, which apparently is like any new language – challenging to learn. ASL is widely used, has its own grammar and word order.

People who are hard of hearing may use hearing aids, rely on lip-reading and use assistive listening devices such as captioned telephones, neck loops and FM systems. If hearing declines to nothing, then cochlear implants give a sense of sound.

People who are Deaf may have little or no speech and will often communicate through a sign language interpreter.

From the outside looking in, I am somewhat envious of the apparent warmth and closeness of the signing Deaf community. Many of us think the grass is greener on the other side. However, I would not choose to be totally deaf and if I were part of the Deaf community, I might be longing to get out of it. While the signing Deaf experience the small-town intimacy, they also often experience economic poverty and limited job options.

It is interesting to note that the signing Deaf view hearing people as robotic with not much body movement, animation or eye contact. If you watch signing Deaf people, they are full of body movement, animation, wide gestures, huge smiles, hugs and eye contact.

For many years, people have dreamed of making the Deaf hear. Only in the last 25-30 years the dream comes true – the deaf can ‘hear’ with cochlear implants. Sometimes, I struggle to hear with cochlear implants. Sometimes, I hear reasonably well. How well I hear depends on the acoustics of the room, speech clarity, tiredness and noisy backgrounds. Cochlear implants bring most profoundly deaf people up to the level of a mild or moderate hearing loss. We are still deaf. However, we get the miraculous sense of hearing and our options are broadened. We can hear on the phone, listen to music and join in conversations. With a little extra effort, we can become pretty much anything we want to be.

Many signing Deaf people worry that cochlear implants would turn their deaf children into unanimated robots. However, according to National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) 96% of deaf children in the US are born to hearing parents. When these hearing parents are given the choice of a safe and effective technology to give their child a sense of hearing, along with an excellent chance of speaking normally and remaining on grade level at school, it is easy to imagine they would choose to implant.

But, there are people who would rather remain Deaf. In the October 2010 documentary film ‘Sound and Fury’ covers the controversy of whether or not to implant Deaf children. Many family members were Deaf and belonged to the Deaf community. Some members of the family decided to pursue cochlear implants, while others thought the children were just fine with ASL and were afraid they would lose their culture and Deaf identity. The controversy tore the family apart.

Because of cochlear implants, fewer children enter the signing Deaf community. Even fewer schools are able to maintain ASL-only programs. Does this mean ASL will disappear in the future?

Five year old children who are currently in the signing Deaf community, will most likely still be using ASL 50 years from now. However, they may find as they age, there will be fewer younger people using ASL’, says Michael Chorost (author of Rebuilt).

The controversy is sometimes difficult to understand. Many hearing people assume that no one wants to be Deaf, or deaf, and would gladly take advantage of cochlear implants; the most advanced hearing technology available at the moment. However, ASL is part of the Deaf culture and when Deaf children receive cochlear implants; they will grow up learning a different language. Naturally, the Deaf see this as a cultural loss, which in many cases, has been passed down from generation to generation.

While hearing people see this as a gain, Deaf people see it as a loss.

January 2016

Causes of Hearing Loss

Do you ever think about how much hearing enhances your life in so many ways?

How about listening to music, going to the movies and plays?
How about relationships with family?
How about your job?
How about safety? Smoke alarms warn you about a possible fire. Emergency vehicles switch on the sirens to warn you of their approach.

Difficulty hearing affects all aspects of life. According to Hearing Loss Association of America, approximately 48 million Americans have some level of hearing loss, with only 20% doing anything about it. In Sarasota/Manatee counties alone, there are approximately 145,000 people with hearing loss.

Hearing loss in not always age-related. In fact, some of our soldiers are coming home from the wars with many life-changing injuries. Many of them say that the most challenging injury is hearing loss (most often caused by excess noise).

Personally, I lost most of my hearing at five years old. I contracted mumps and had a tonsillectomy a few months later. My ears became infected and medication was used. Very likely, my inner ear was damaged, causing hearing loss.
It may be helpful to understand the causes of hearing loss by knowing how you hear.
How You Hear

According to “Hearinglink”, there are three parts to the ear – the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear.
• Outer ear consists of the pinna, ear canal and eardrum
• Middle ear consists of the ossicles (malleus, incus, stapes) and ear drum
• Inner ear consists of the cochlea, the auditory (hearing) nerve and the brain. The inner ear is also called the cochlea. ‘Cochlea’ means snail in Latin and gets its name from its distinctive coiled up shape.

Sound waves enter the ear canal and make the ear drum vibrate. This action moves the small chain of bones (the ossicles – malleus, inca, stapes) in the middle ear. The last bone in this chain knocks on the membrane window of the cochlea and makes the fluid in the cochlea move. The fluid movement then triggers a response in the hearing nerve. Thousands of tiny hairs (cilia) are attached to the nerve cells in the cochlea. These hairs help translate sound vibrations into electrical signals that are transmitted to your brain. This is how you distinguish different sounds.

Causes of Hearing Loss

Damage to the Inner Ear – disease, aging (presbycusis), exposure to loud noise, head trauma, otosclerosis (a hereditary disorder in which a bony growth forms around a small bone in the middle ear),fluid in the middle ear, allergies and malformation of outer ear, ear canal or middle ear structures may damage the hair cells in the cochlea. The hearing mechanism is sensitive, delicate and easily damaged. When these hair cells are damaged, the electrical signals are not transmitted properly – resulting in hearing loss. It becomes more difficult for you to hear high-pitched sounds (ie. bird whistles, children’s voices) and also it may become more challenging to hear in noisy atmospheres. This is called sensorineural hearing loss and is permanent. It cannot be cured, but may be helped by the use of hearing aids, cochlear implants and/or assistive listening devices.
• Build-up of wax, or a foreign object in the ear can cause hearing loss. This hearing loss is called conductive hearing loss and hearing can very often be restored by having an ear, nose and throat doctor remove the blockage.
It is not a good idea to try to remove blockages yourself with a q-tip. Q-tips can push the wax further down and/or cause the ear drum to rupture (tympanic membrane perforation). Infection, loud blasts of noise and sudden changes in pressure can also cause your ear drum to rupture. Infection and abnormal bone growths or tumors in the outer or middle ear can also contribute to hearing loss.
• Untreated diabetes can cause hearing loss due to the inner ear depending on healthy blood flow. A study performed in 2008 by National Institutes of Health reported people with diabetes are twice as likely to experience hearing loss as non-diabetics.
• Some drugs come with severe side effects. According to Healthy Hearing, ototoxic drugs can damage the hearing mechanism (oto is the prefix for hearing sound and toxic means harmful). Some of the heavy-duty antibiotics are ototoxic. Be sure to check with your doctor if multiple drug combinations taken together cause hearing loss. You may be surprised to know that excessive amounts of aspirin can cause hearing loss.
• Smoking restricts blood flow. The cochlea requires a good oxygenated blood flow and over time damage occurs. Your cigarettes may be contributing to hearing loss.
• Sickle Cell Anemia patients experience fatigue, joint pain, hearing loss because the red blood cells are misshapen – curved like a sickle. This restricts the blood flow to the ears as well as other parts of the body. Again, the cochlea needs a good oxygenated blood flow.

Ways to Prevent Hearing Loss

In some cases (such as infection, abnormal bone growth, tumors, aging, or sickle cell anemia), it is challenging to prevent hearing loss. You follow the doctor’s advice and take care of your health issues as best you can.
However, in many other cases, it is possible to protect your hearing.

Reduce excess noise

Work places can be excessively noisy. Most manufacturers producing excessive noise are monitored by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and will require you to wear ear protection. Wear it. Wear those ear plugs or noise cancellation devices. They will help you to hold on to your hearing a bit longer.
MP3 Players and IPods can pour excessive amounts of noise into the ear. Hearing loss can be caused by long-term exposure to loud noise. When you put on your music, think about turning it down a bit and you can listen longer.
Driving open-top cars with the windows down and listening to music is great now, but it can lead to hearing loss down the road. The decibel level can exceed 90 and can damage the ears.

(60 decibels is about the range for conversation. 110 decibels for a rock concert and up to 180 for a rocket launch)

Take care of your general health

If you smoke, think about how cigarettes may affect your hearing in the long run, as well as your lungs.
If you need to take medications, talk to your doctor about possible combinations which may put your hearing at risk.

Follow your doctor’s advice for optimal health.

By making a few changes now, you may help yourself hear longer, and continue to enjoy a good quality of life well in to old age.

Go for it.

Happy, Healthy Hearing!

Sources:
http://www.hearinglink.org/how-the-ear-works
http://www.healthyhearing.com/report
Mayo Clinic www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hearing-loss/basics/causes/

December 2105

Hearing Loss is Frustrating for the Whole Family

What did he say?
I’m sorry I didn’t hear you
I can’t hear you in the dark
You are mumbling again
Why are you not facing me when you talk to me?
It is frustrating to say and to hear these phrases over and over again, isn’t it?
Hearing loss, whether caused by disease, exposure to loud noise, medication or old age, is stressful, isolating, depressing, frustrating and annoying.

From the view-point of folks with hearing loss
It is not fun to be with a crowd of people and miss the joke. What are they all laughing at?

We sit there and laugh with them, hoping no one will notice we did not get it.
Remember that time when we said something during a conversation and everyone rolled their eyes? ‘Ha ha’, we say, ‘that was funny!’ We thought our comment was appropriate, but unfortunately, it was not even anywhere near. After this has happened several times, it becomes more difficult to pretend it was amusing. It is just plain embarrassing.

We people with hearing loss worry we won’t get it right. We don’t always know if we got it right or not. We miss bits and pieces of the conversation, we misinterpret words. We often pretend we got it, rather than keep asking for repeats, which may irritate the speaker. We smile and nod (and hope it was not a question!).

Is there any wonder that we people with hearing problems avoid being with friends, going to parties, events, church services, movies? Don’t get me wrong, we want to be with others, it just becomes uncomfortable to the point where it is easier to stay home and watch captioned television.

From the view-point of folks with normal hearing

Living with a person with hearing loss is frustrating and tiresome for the family members, who need to repeat frequently. The family members are never sure if she/he got it or not. Is she/he just pretending? Is she/he ignoring me? Is she/he bluffing?

Discovering that a loved one has hearing loss is not easy. Family members may feel sad, angry, frustrated, anxious or even depressed. When someone close has hearing loss, sometimes that closeness can go away. Hearing problems impact everything from every day routine communications to personal issues. The spouse stops doing the things she/he used to enjoy. If the spouse with hearing problem does not want to go out, does the hearing spouse go alone? Personally, I feel as if I limit my husband’s social life. However, he says does not mind if we go to parties or not.

My personal examples of misunderstanding

Hearing husband says, ‘Why did you just turn right? I told you left! (I thought he said right)
Hearing husband says, ‘Anne, you are not talking loudly enough. I can’t hear you! (I can’t hear how loud or soft my voice is).

Hearing husband and I arranged to meet at a venue in Sarasota for our anniversary last year. Hearing husband was going on the bicycle and I was driving in the car. I waited at the venue for two hours. He did not show up. I became worried that something had happened to him. A kind Publix employee offered to call the police. The police came to the Publix store, took down the details of his age, weight, height and asked if he had ‘wandered off’ previously. A police vehicle was stationed at our venue point. A helicopter was dispatched to check the route home to Venice.

Hearing husband was spotted via the helicopter computer. The helicopter followed him all the way home to make sure it was indeed him as the computer image relayed to the police vehicle was fuzzy. When I arrived home some time later, I heard hearing husband’s side of the story. He said he was bathed in light from the helicopter as he bicycled back home. He began to figure that I had something to do with it. He let himself into the house and a few seconds later, there was a loud banging at the door. Yet another police vehicle was at the house to check on him.

Wouldn’t you guess that I had misheard, or misunderstood, the venue point! I was in fact waiting about one quarter mile from where we were supposed to meet. Hearing husband was there and waited over an hour, before deciding to go back home.

The police people were helpful and were relieved that all was well.
(Our cell phones were both out of order at the time – locked in airplane mode, from a recent trip abroad). Cell phones – ah there’s another frustration for both of us. Hearing husband needs to say one word at a time to make sure I get it. I usually repeat back to him what I think he said.

Tips to Make Things Better

Schedule a visit with a hearing professional, who will investigate the type and extent of hearing loss. The professional will advise if a hearing device will help.

Hearing aids have come a long way in the last few years. They are smaller and lighter than ever, with directional microphones, noise-blockers and automated feedback suppression so you can hear without the worry of whistling.
When our hearing is lost, cochlear implants give us a sense of hearing.

Sometimes, we find the hearing aids and/or cochlear implants are not enough. Assistive Listening Devices – such as hearing loops, captions on the phone and television, flashing door-bell ringers, vibrating alarm clocks, help fill in the gaps.

It may take a while to get used to a hearing device. Hearing aids, cochlear implants take practice, patience and time. It may take several visits to the hearing professional to reach the optimal hearing level. Sensorineural hearing loss (nerve deafness) is permanent and cannot be cured. It can be helped with the use of a hearing aid or cochlear implant.

• Patience and humor are needed on both sides. No one is to blame. Hearing loss is invisible and it is easy for others to forget.
• Shouting does not help. It distorts the face and makes us folks with hearing loss think you are angry, when in fact you are trying to make us hear.
• Avoid hurt feelings and misunderstandings by speaking normally and facing the HoH (hard of hearing person)
• Face-to-face conversations work well. The HoH can read your facial expressions and lips
• The HoH will see your face more clearly if she/he has back to the light
• Sit close to each other in noisy restaurants
• Calling out from room-to-room creates confusion. The sound bounces off the walls.
• Use a quiet room with no background noise when possible
• Take a break. Hearing loss is tiring for the HOH straining to hear all day and for those around them needing to make frequent repeats . Taking a break give us all time to recharge our batteries and give our brains a rest.
• Try to put things in perspective. It is frustrating to miss things. But, it is not the end of the world. We missed it. Perhaps our loved ones will fill us in on what we missed.
• Join a support group, like Hearing Loss Association of America, where you will find other HoHs and their hearing spouses. Sharing stories can be helpful in alleviating stress and tension.

Sources:
Myhearpod.com
http://www.webmd.cm/healthy-aging/features/emotions-hearing-loss
hearingloss.org

November 2015

Dealing with Hearing Loss at Work

When I was at work, I worried about my hearing loss. I had difficulty hearing on the phone and during meetings. I was concerned about losing my job because I found myself missing numbers and vital information.

What did I do? Did I tell the employer, or did I keep quiet, hope no one noticed and maybe l would get by?
It’s not easy to admit to hearing loss. We folks with hearing loss worry we will be considered stupid, incapable of doing our jobs, inefficient. Will we get fired if we tell? If we do get fired, how would we support our families?

Most jobs require that we are able to communicate effectively with supervisors, co-workers and the public. Often our hearing loss affects our employment status and, unfortunately, the higher the hearing loss, the lower the compensation. Hearing loss costs billions of dollars in the workforce.

According to Hearing Loss Association of America, 65% of people with hearing loss are younger than age 65 and are active in the workplace.  Hearing loss is invisible. In order to get the help we need, we have to tell our employers how to best help us on the job. He/she cannot help you until you tell them that you have a hearing loss!

ADA to the Rescue

ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act, title 1 requires that employers make ‘reasonable accommodations’ to the known disability of a qualified employee or applicant unless such accommodations would impose hardship on the employer.

Responsibilities of the Employee

Lise Hamlin, Director of Public Policy for the Hearing Loss Association of America, suggested the following responsibilities of the employee.
• We must be able to do the job. We have to be reasonable. We cannot apply to fly a plane or drive a train – if we do not know how!
• We must have a disability that limits a life function, like hearing.
• We must understand – and be prepared to research – the kinds of accommodation needed to do the best possible job possible. Once we have the information, then we can approach the employer with reasonable accommodations.

Reasonable Accommodations

Ask people to face you when they speak. It is easier to understand what people say if you can see their lips and facial expressions. Once people know what you need, they will be glad to help you.
We may have difficulty keeping up with group meetings. We can ask for text and/or emails covering the important content of the meeting.

We may find a personal listening device – such as an FM System – helpful.
If the door is behind us, we can install a mirror (with prior permission from the employer, of course) to create awareness when a co-worker or customer approaches.

If we are unable to hear in a noisy environment, we can ask to be moved to a quieter room. If a room is not available, then we could ask to be moved to a corner, which would be quieter.

We need to make a habit of getting to the meeting early and sitting with our backs to the light in order to see our speaker’s face. It is very challenging to try to read the lips of someone who has bright sunlight behind them. Their face becomes a mere shadow.

We can ask the staff (nicely!) to talk one at a time, not to cover their mouths and remove chewing gum when speaking to us.

We can ask for remote or on-site communication access real- time translation (CART). Larger companies like Microsoft have no problem providing and paying for CART. Smaller companies may need to send an email of the proceedings of the meeting.

We can ask for an amplified or captioned phone.

We can use Bluetooth technology, mobile phone amplification and clarity devices with cell phone.
If not able to hear the fire alarm, we can ask for strobe lights.

We can use a vibrating text pager that may be triggered by the emergency alerting system.

These accommodations are ‘reasonable’, help us folks with hearing difficulties keep our jobs and cause no undue hardship on the employer.

By admitting to hearing loss and asking nicely for accommodations, the employer keeps valuable employees and us folks with hearing loss keep our jobs.

Two Situations and Two Happy Solutions
{Jobs Accommodation Network (JAN)}

A nurse with a hearing impairment worked the night shift and had to talk to doctors who called for information. She was having difficulty hearing over the telephone. The employee asked to be moved to a dayshift where there would be other nurses who could talk to the doctors but there were not any openings on the dayshift. The employer purchased a telephone amplifier, which enabled the nurse to hear effectively over the telephone. According to the employer, the accommodation helped the employee serve patients better. Cost $50.

A medical technician who was deaf could not hear the buzz of a timer, which was necessary for specific laboratory tests. An indicator light was attached to the equipment. Cost $27.
Sources: — hearingloss.org, Job Accommodation Network (JAN)

October 2015

CDC Study Ignores People with Hearing Loss

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published the results of a study entitled Prevalence of Disability and Disability Type among Adults, US.2013 (http://www.cdc.gov/mmWR/preview/mmwrhtm/mm6429a.htm).

According to this study, more than 53 million Americans – about 1 in 5 adults – live with a disability. The CDC studied vision loss, cognition, limited mobility (such as difficulty walking or climbing stairs), self-care and independent living. But, the CDC ignored 48 million Americans with hearing loss.

In the CDC’s own words, “Understanding the prevalence of disability is important for public health programs to be able to address the needs of persons with disabilities”.

Hearing loss is a disability – albeit invisible. Hearing loss affects quality of life, ability to work, progress in school and participation in society. Hearing loss is a major public health issue – third most common behind arthritis and heart disease.

Arlene Romoff, the author of Hear Again and Listen Closely, past president of HLAA/New Jersey, called the CDC to ask why people with hearing loss were excluded from the study. She was told, ‘We would have loved to include data on people with hearing loss. The report is a telephone survey that does not reach people with hearing loss”.

Interesting! Many of us people with hearing problems do use a captioned telephone or/and telecoils to clarify voices on the phone.

Hearing Loss Association of America published the following article:
Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) is outraged by this lapse and is taking action with the White House and the CDC to ensure that steps will be taken to correct this oversight. “People with hearing loss have been denied communication access in hospitals and doctors’ offices, and by public programs such as Medicare which does not currently cover the cost of hearing aids,” said Anna Gilmore Hall, executive director of HLAA. “The release of the report comes on the heels of celebrations surrounding the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and we are stunned they failed to understand the impact of excluding hearing loss as a disability that needs to be addressed.”

Hearing loss has been shown to be linked to an increased risk of falls, dementia, depression and other conditions that lead to a poor health status, according to Frank Lin, M.D., Ph.D. of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health.
20 percent of people in the United States, 48 million, report some degree of hearing loss.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services specifically includes people with hearing loss in their guidance on standards of data collection for people with disabilities, which CDC chose to ignore.

In 1988, Congress authorized the formation of the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders, National Institutes of Health (Public Law 100-553), to conduct research and training on hearing and communication disorders.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), hearing loss is recognized as a disability that substantially limits a major life activity, and provides guidelines for communication access such as Telecommunications Relay Services, established under Title IV of the ADA.
The CDC itself devotes an entire section of their website to children with hearing loss and includes research papers on adults with hearing loss.

If you would like to take action against the CDC’s omission of people with hearing loss, contact Maria Town, White House Office of Public Engagement, Maria M Town@who.eop.gov
HLAA suggests you tell her:

• People with hearing loss cannot be ignored and must be included along with other disability groups in all studies that impact public policy and programs

• CDC must do a study on prevalence of hearing loss in the states

• CDC must partner with HLAA on future projects regarding people with disabilities to ensure that people with hearing loss are included and studies are presented in an accessible way

The Hearing Loss Association of America was founded in 1979 by Howard (Rocky) Stone and is the nation’s leading organization representing people with hearing loss. Its mission is to open the world of communication to people with hearing loss through information, education, support and advocacy. HLAA is working to eradicate the stigma associated with hearing loss and raise public awareness about the need for prevention, treatment and regular hearing screenings throughout life.

sources:
Hearingloss.org

 

August/September 2015

The Dangers of Untreated Hearing Loss

In Sarasota/Manatee counties, there are approximately 145,000 persons living with hearing loss. At age 65, one of three people has hearing loss.

Only 20% of individuals with hearing loss, who might benefit from treatment, actually seek help. Unfortunately, many people wait 7- 10 years before getting treatment, according to the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders – NIDCD.

Untreated hearing loss lowers your quality of life. You feel left out, angry, frustrated, isolated, depressed, irritated, fatigued from the strain of trying to hear.

Your psychological and overall health is diminished and untreated hearing loss increases the individual’s susceptibility to injury and consequent illnesses. This effect is especially high for those who live alone.

anne taylor photo

Dangers of Untreated Hearing Loss
You could face danger if you do not hear in the following situations.

Driving
• sirens of emergency vehicles trying to pass you
• warning honks of the horn
• failure to hear engine noises, indicating that something is wrong (also with lawnmowers) and keep on driving maybe making the problem worse
• scraping sound if you accidentally run into a building or parking block causing more damage than you would have if you heard
Walking
• Someone behind you trying to pass when they call ‘Passing on the left’ or ‘Bicycle approaching’
Skiing
• someone trying to pass you or that another skier is close to you
Swimming
• warnings and requests from the lifeguard
In the House
• fire alarm, doorbell and telephone ringing, pan sizzling on the stove, water running in the bathtub
• someone entering your house or unusual noises outside
Weather Warnings
• tornadoes, hurricanes, emergency radio announcements and thunder, which announces itself to those with normal hearing
Have you ever noticed; when emergency announcements interrupt normal TV programs the captions disappear?

Higher Chance of Falling

People with hearing loss are three times more likely to fall, or lose their balance, than others. Our balance is a complicated process which involves many parts of the body, but one of the most crucial parts is the one found within the inner ear according to Dr. Frank Lin, a professor of otolaryngology and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University.

Dr. Lin also says the extra effort of trying to hear causes fatigue the brain and take its focus away from other things.

Risk of Dementia

Dr. Lin’s research, and that of others, has shown that people with even mild untreated hearing loss are two times more likely to develop dementia and that people with severe hearing loss are five times more likely to develop dementia.

There is an excellent article – “Can getting a hearing aid prevent memory loss?” by Katherine Griffin, (AARP.org) which discusses the possibility that treating hearing loss more aggressively could help stave off cognitive decline and dementia.

http://www.aarp.org/health/brain-health/info-07-2013/hearing-loss-linked-to-dementia.html

What Exactly Is Dementia?

What’s confusing about dementia is that it’s not actually a disease. Rather, it’s a collection of symptoms that can be caused by various diseases. Dementia symptoms include impairments in thinking, communicating, and memory.
The leading cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia can also be caused by brain damage incurred from an injury or stroke, and from other diseases like Huntington’s or Lewy body dementia.
http://www.healthline.com/health/dementia/early-warning-signs#Communication4
Help is Available

The audiologist or ENT doctor may recommend hearing aids or cochlear implants which improve hearing. However, they may not always be enough. Assistive Listening Devices such as alarm clock, doorbell ringer, telephone, smoke alarms with flashing or strobe lights help fill in the gap when you take off your hearing aid or cochlear implant.

If you know someone with untreated hearing loss, encourage them to get help from an ENT doctor or an audiologist. The earlier the hearing loss is treated, the earlier the quality of life can be improved and the earlier the associated dangers can be reduced.

Sources
www.HLAA.org
http://www.healthyhearing.com/report/51633-Untreated-hearing-loss-an-overlooked-danger
http://phb.secondsensehearing.com/content/dangers/untreated-hearing-loss

You do not have to face hearing loss alone. Contact your local chapter of Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) where you will find support, education and advocacy from the members and peer mentors. For more information, contact info@hlas.org or call 941 320 8825.

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The Effects of Untreated Hearing Loss

Rocky to the Rescue – December 2014