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

November and December 2019

Local Cinema Hopes to Obtain Captions for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing

I stopped by the B & B Cinema in Venice the other day to check on its promise to provide Closed Captioning (CC) or Open Captioning (OC) for the deaf/hard of hearing. I spoke to a couple of employees who said captions will be available soon – possibly within the next three months.

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 live 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 they are not working during the previews.

Occasionally, movie theaters show a movie with OC – meaning that the text is there for everyone to see. Open captions are an inexpensive easy way to provide captioning for persons with hearing loss. I am told that OC is already there on most movies. Pressing a button is all it takes to activate it.

Many Regal and AMC theaters 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 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.

Rear Window Captioning (RWC) is another option. The movie goer picks up a reflective plastic panel mounted on a flexible stalk which sits in the cup holder. A large LED display is mounted on a rear wall that displays the captions in mirror image.

While captioning is a savior for persons with hearing loss, there are some downsides.

The glasses are heavy and after a two-hour movie, they leave dents in the nose. Personally, I do not mind the dents – a small price to pay to understand the movie.

The CaptiView does not always stay upright for the length of the movie. The bendable arm falls over. CaptiView sometimes has a missing third line causing the viewer to miss some dialogue.

The RWC captions need readjusting each time someone walks by the reflector.

The glasses, CaptiView and the RWC are for one person use at a time and are expensive. The movie goer really cannot move too much as the captions on the glasses tilt. Also, captions may disappear on CaptiView and RWC if the bendable arm is moved when reaching for a drink or eating popcorn. Not very relaxing to say the least. There is sometimes a problem with batteries and the wrong movie being programmed into the device. The movie goer must go back to the lobby, explain the problem and get it fixed – all the while missing the movie.

The OC is definitely the favorite for people with hearing loss – it is already available on the movie file, efficient and less expensive than the captioning devices. So, why do movie theaters choose to not use OC frequently? The answer – because some folks are distracted by the captions.

After many years of not being able to enjoy movies on the big screen, I and many friends work around the problems of the captioning devices and are happy to “hear”. Also, we make a point of letting the staff know how much we appreciate their support of persons with hearing loss in the community.

I’ll be first in line when the B & B Theater in Venice gets the CC or OC. Won’t you join me?

September and October 2019

Hearing Loss Can Be Frustrating, says HLAA Board Member

I recently talked with Lakewood Ranch Attorney Richard Williams, a member of the Board of the Hearing Loss Association of America – Sarasota/Manatee Chapter, the Florida Bar, and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Bar Association, regarding his experience living with hearing loss.

Anne: Richard, tell me about the frustrations of hearing loss.

Richard: Frustrations are part of daily life. Those of us with hearing loss can add a few more than folks who hear. There are three annoyances that affect me and other people with hearing loss.

I have the most common hearing loss, sensorineural, which cannot be fixed. There are many devices which help folks with hearing problems continue to live an active lifestyle and remain involved. We must understand that hearing aids are not like eyeglasses. We do not put them on and get 20/20 hearing. There is no magic correction – it is difficult to process sound even when made louder.

Anne: So, sometimes loud makes our problem worse?

Richard: Yes, indeed. The hearing loss has affected the brain’s ability to process sound, which affects a person’s ability to understand speech.

Anne: Tell me about your frustrations with hearing loss.

Richard: One annoyance is the phrase, “Oh, Never Mind”.  As a person with hearing loss who needs near perfect listening conditions, my conversations with others are punctuated with “what”, “huh”, “please repeat”, “pardon me” and my stare of failure to understand.

Having to ask for the question to be repeated is something I do not enjoy doing. Generally, if I ask for a repetition once, it is given courteously. Ask twice and it’s repeated with concern. Ask three times and I sometimes get the eye roll and “Never mind, it’s not important.” Unfortunately, I and others with hearing loss just start doing the bluff, nod-and-smile.

Anne: Yes, all of us with hearing loss are guilty of bluffing. It is embarrassing to ask three times. What should we do?

Richard: I should say, “Please, do not say that to me. If you made the comment once, it was worth repeating”. I rarely push that response, unfortunately.

Anne: That is understandable, but we need to say if it was important for you to say it, then it’s important for me to hear it. What else bothers you?

Richard:  The second peeve is restaurant or sports bar music blasting from the overhead speakers. There must be a study that is presented at restaurant seminars that music creates ambiance and turns over the tables quicker. When we go out, my better half and I make it a point to request a booth in a far corner.

I often ask the manager to turn down the overhead music with a variance of results. I was embarrassed one time after making the request – there was a live band in the next room, not overhead music. Sometimes after asking for captions on the TV, I’m branded as trouble from the get-go.

Anne: Oh, sometimes it is challenging to figure out if the music is live or canned.

Richard: A recent newspaper article from the Washington Post stated, “Hard-of-hearing diners report a vast range of responses when they seek softer music or quieter seating. Sometimes the music is turned down or off, and sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it is even turned up. Maybe the volume is declared unchangeable, set by corporate overseers. Or there’s no available seating far from the clattering kitchen, the droning ventilation, or the hearty partyers.” (Fn1)

My “hearing” friends commiserate as they also find it difficult to converse in a restaurant with overhead noise. I know that my friends with hearing loss just avoid them. It would be wonderful if some establishments would install more noise baffling and advertise quiet dining.

Anne: I am often the only one who understands the waiter as I am an expert lipreader. I became deaf when I was five years old and lipreading was automatic. For folks who are late-deafened, it is usually challenging, if impossible, to read lips.

What else frustrates you? 

Richard: My third annoyance in the hearing loss category is the failure of the medical community to effectively recognize and deal with patients who have hearing loss. One-third of people over 60 have hearing loss. There are 150,000 people with hearing loss in our two-county area. One shortcoming of the medical profession is the failure to address that fact. It is likely in some practices that a majority of their patients are over 60. I must announce to the nurse, who leads the way down the hall while talking, that I have hearing loss and cannot hear or understand. I get weary of asking the doctor to repeat, speak slowly or to write down specific instructions.

Anne: During my hospital stay recently, I decided to confess to having hearing loss. I was promptly ignored as the staff asked my husband questions about me and my health. They seemed to think I had lost my IQ, not my hearing.

Richard: My family physician group was in the process of building a new medical office for their six doctors and staff. I brought in “hearing loop” brochures and discussed the advantages and economics of making a least one patient room a looped facility. The hearing loop installation did not happen. They installed a beautiful fish tank in the lobby but could not spend the $800 or $900 to install a hearing loop system.

Anne: That is very disappointing.

Richard: I recently had a bronchial thing that would not go away and went to the local hospital 24-hour outpatient office to get some antibiotics. Both the receptionist and the intake nurse had surgical masks on. I rely on lipreading more than I think and just could not have a conversation with either one. The nurse was extremely frustrated and treated me with an attitude. I always explain my hearing difficulties to medical personnel and find a variety of reactions, including speaking loudly (just more distortion) or just not talking. I don’t think addressing an older person with hearing difficulties is novel. They all need some training on speaking to hard of hearing folks.

Anne: Certainly, there is a need for training to deal with people with hearing loss. As you say, one third of folks over 60 have hearing loss. Most of us folks with hearing problems do hate those surgical masks. There is a mask out now which has a transparent window over the mouth. Hopefully, hospital employees and dentists will realize how helpful these are to folks who have trouble hearing. 

Richard: Another medical visit annoyance is the waiting room.

Anne: Oh, I know. You sit on the edge of your seat and hope you will hear your name.

I have often got up only to be told to sit and wait my turn. Sigh.

Richard: I must choose a seat near the door in order to maybe hear my name called. Sometimes there are two doors. I keep my eye on the door to attempt to hear the name. Flashed numbers or electronic signage would really help.

Anne: My mother’s doctor’s office does have monitors which flash the patient’s name and the number of the doctor’s room. 

Richard: One more. My wife has been accompanying me to medical visits as I have gone through some more serious health issues lately, including tests and treatments that require anesthesia or other limiting procedures. When speaking to the doctor or nurse, they address the hearing person, my spouse, rather than me. Sorry, I may have hearing limitations, but I am not stupid. I have specifically answered questions directed to her, as I am the patient and want to make that clear. The inquiry must be directed to me. I can go easy on self-advocating in many situations, but when my health is on the line, I do not compromise.

Anne: I hear you, Richard.

Fn1 – Cohen, Joyce, (2019, June 17) Restaurants-Discrimination, Washington Post

You do not need to face hearing loss alone. Please contact your local chapter of Hearing Loss Association of America where you will find education, information, support and advocacy from members and peer mentors. For more information regarding the HLAA Sarasota/Manatee chapter, please go to hlas.org or call 941 244 0452.

Previous Articles

August 2015 – March 2018

JULY 2015

JUNE 2015

MAY 2015

APRIL 2015

MARCH 2015

FEB 2015

JAN 2015

The Effects of Untreated Hearing Loss

Rocky to the Rescue – December 2014