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
Out of this World – Part 1
“You are deaf, aren’t you?”
I was six years old sitting in a classroom in elementary school when the teacher, Mrs. Emerson, said this.
I looked around and saw every kid in the class was looking at me! The teacher couldn’t have been talking to me, could she?
This was the first time I was actually made aware that I was different from most people – I had assumed that everyone read lips to understand speech. I remember telling my mom she was not listening to me as she had her eyes closed!
Oh, the embarrassment, the hurt, the pain of being told in front of the whole class that I was deaf.
Looking back now, I remember being in the five-year-old class, where I was wondering why we were all standing in a line. Maybe the other five-year olds did not know why either – or maybe did because they heard why.
Back then, hearing tests were not performed on children or babies. My parents were never sure if I could hear as a small child, or if I was ignoring them. But after a botched tonsillectomy and a bad case of mumps at five years old, my mom worried.
Mrs. Emerson’s “You are deaf, aren’t you?” confirmed mom’s suspicions that I could not hear well. My dad never could accept that his kid had something wrong with her and always said “she can hear when she wants to!”
What to do? England was recovering from World War II – rebuilding bombed-out towns, trying to feed people and finding employment for returning soldiers. Lack of money and technology meant there was very little progress in the field of hearing problems. There were no special schools in the area, so regular school was the order of the day. I was taunted by the other kids as not being very bright “does not even know her own name” and being excluded from games and school plays because “she doesn’t know what is going on”.
If the majority of the class raised its hand, then I would raise mine. Actually, I missed out on swimming lessons because of raising a hand when the teacher must have said “raise your hand if you can swim”.
Documentary films were shown (no captioning, of course). I was always amazed that my class mates knew the answers to questions asked by teachers at the end of the film. I just watched the picture while they were watching and listening, or shall I say, hearing.
I remember struggling to hear a children’s show – the volume turned all the way up and my ear pressed close to the radio. It was a two o’ clock show that came on every day. The lovely lady used to say “Are you sitting comfortably? Then we will begin”.
It was not much fun growing up deaf. But, help was on its way! At ten years old, I was fitted with my first hearing aid. Yeah, a hearing aid did exist back then! And, no, it was not a horn! It was a three-piece model – mold in the ear, attached to a curly wire leading to a five-inch square microphone, clipped onto the chest, and powered by two huge batteries in a leather case which was strapped around the waist. The teacher told the other students that the case was for my handkerchief.
Despite its impressive size, the hearing aid did not help me. When I moved, there was a rustling, static sound caused by my clothing. An unbearable noise! However, the teachers insisted I wear this aid and I did – with it switched off! At least they were satisfied.
That was elementary school.
Secondary school came next with different teachers and I took advantage of the wonderful opportunity to ditch this awful hearing aid! I made it through by sitting on the front row, reading lips and reading up on what I missed.
Reading lips came naturally to me and I was, and still am, a very good lip reader. Despite the deafness, I enjoyed foreign languages and took French and German and actually did well in those subjects – much better than math or science!
I did the usual teenage stuff – dated boys and “listened” to music. I memorized the words and followed along so as not to look too “square” – especially in dance halls.
After graduation, I successfully interviewed for a job at the local education office – lip reading all the way and hiding the deafness. Of course, my colleagues soon realized I had a severe hearing problem when I couldn’t hear on the phone. I was told that I would be registered ‘disabled’. However, in order to help me perform my duties, the education department obtained the necessary funds to fit me with my first analogue behind-the-ear hearing aid.
How was it?
“Out of this world” continues in the September Listen!Up.
Hearing Aids/Cochlear Implants Like to Be Dry
Summer time is filled with traveling, picnics, ball games, swimming, boating and having fun at the beach. And, summer time is filled with excess moisture from sweating, humidity from rain, falling or getting pushed into the swimming pool! Keep the fun going by keeping your hearing aids/cochlear implant processors DRY.
Remember: our hearing devices do not like to be wet or clogged with sand!
The following tips will keep your hearing aids/CI processors dry and in good working order during the summer.
* Soft, dry cloth or tissue to wipe the outside of hearing aids/cochlear implant processors daily, and especially after exercising.
* Dehumidifier box to keep the delicate inside parts of the hearing aids/cochlear implants dry. Simply put your hearing aids/CI processor (without the batteries) in the box overnight. And, the dehumidifier box is small enough to put in your suitcase when traveling!
Note: Most audiologists are able to provide them, and you can also find them in local pharmacies or at harriscomm.com.
* Umbrella and a waterproof hat.
* Sweat band when mowing the lawn, playing outdoor sports.
* Protective wrapper (e.g. Super Seals) or sleeves that help keep the moisture out of your hearing devices when you are outdoors. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Antimicrobial products can be applied to your hearing aids several times a week to help kill microbial germs. Ask your audiologist about these products.
* Tool to remove wax from the hearing aid/cochlear implant microphone screens (use only specific tools or brushes which come with hearing devices).
* Air – In addition to using the dehumidifier, “puffers”http://www.hearingukdirect.com/hearing-aid-cleaning-accessories/hearing-aid-tube-cleaner-puffer/ blow small amounts of air through the hearing aids or/and through the tubing and moldings to keep them free from obstruction. Your audiologist will have more information.
* Holding products (particularly for active children) such as Huggie Aids, Critter Clips, or SafenSound.
– Keep the battery compartment open when you are not using the hearing aids or when they are in the dehumidifier overnight.
– Remove batteries from the cochlear implant processor before placing the processor in the dehumidifier.
– Ask your audiologist to replace the tubing (in behind-the-ear hearing aids) more frequently in the hot summer months to avoid obstructions. If you are not sure how to clean your hearing aids/cochlear implant processor, talk to your audiologist.
– Be sure your hair & ears are dry before putting in your hearing aids or CI processor.
– Check online for waterproof and water-resistant hearing aids/cochlear implant processor.
Note: Water-resistant hearing aids/cochlear implants are able to handle splashes from the pool or a rain shower. They are not designed for total immersion in water. Waterproof hearing aids/cochlear implants are designed for total immersion in water.
– Take a zip-lock bag when you go to the amusement park to use as a container for your hearing device(s) while you are on the water rides and also as a place to keep them with you when you’re on the roller coaster. It would spoil your day if your devices flew off! And just imagine trying to find them.
– If your hearing aids or CI processor does get wet, try a Dri-Aid or a Dry and Store humidifier. They are intended to remove moisture from hearing devices, not for salvaging them. However, some people have been lucky enough to salvage their hearing device by using these kits – even after dropping them in the toilet! They were lucky!
– Do not dry hearing devices in the microwave or by using a hair dryer!
– Never leave your aids in the glove box of the car.
– Always take plenty of spare batteries.
– Try not to drop your hearing devices. (I have dropped my CI processors a few times and so far, I’ve been lucky they remained intact.)
Summer heat and humidity can be hard on your hearing devices. See your audiologist to ensure you are protecting them as best as possible.
Life is much better when you can hear!
Healthy Hearing TroubleshootingYourHearingAids – blog Jamie Berke
May is Better Hearing Month
Do you know that approximately 50 million Americans have some level of hearing loss?
From 2000 to 2015, the number of Americans with hearing loss has doubled.
1 in 5 adults has some degree of hearing loss (Hearing Health Foundation, 2015).
In Sarasota and Manatee counties, there are145,000 people with hearing loss. Only 14% seek treatment and less than 0.1% get support.
Most people wait 5 – 7 years before getting help for hearing loss. Family and friends often notice hearing loss before the person with hearing loss does.
Signs of Hearing Loss:
* Television is too loud
* Requests many repeats
* Not hearing the door bell and telephone
* Fading away from conversation
* ‘Jumps’ when you appear
* Can’t hear from another room
* Has trouble on the phone
Reasons for Not Getting Help with Hearing Loss:
* Denial – Person with hearing loss will accuse people of mumbling and say they hear
just fine … “If only you would speak up!”
* Vanity – Doesn’t want to wear a hearing aid in case it makes him/her look old or feeble.
* Cost – Concerned about the cost of hearing aids.
* Stigma – Stigma attached to hearing loss.
Hearing Loss and Brain Size:
Dr. Frank Lin and researchers from Johns Hopkins University, along with the Agency for the Aged, found that as we age, our brains shrink, and that the brains of people with hearing loss shrink more than those of people with normal hearing.
Untreated hearing loss can increase the risk of dementia, falls, hospitalization, diminished physical and mental health overall. The sooner hearing loss is treated, the less risk of dementia and brain damage.
Ways to Improve Your Hearing:
Seek Treatment – Go to your regular doctor and get a hearing test. If there is a problem,
the doctor will refer you to a hearing professional (audiologist or hearing aid dispenser). You will find out what kind of hearing loss you have and how you may be helped.
Conductive hearing loss can usually be fixed by removal of built-up wax, a foreign body (such as a bug, candy paper in the ear). Audiologists can always tell if you have been using q tips, as the wax is pushed down the ear canal, becomes compressed and painful. The audiologists like to say, “don’t put anything in your ear smaller than your elbow”.
Sensorineural hearing loss (nerve deafness) is usually permanent and cannot be cured, but can often be helped with hearing aids, cochlear implants and assistive listening devices.
Hearing Aids – We all would rather wear the cute little in-the-ear hearing aids. Generally, the small in-the-ear hearing aids are for a mild hearing loss and, most often, the bigger the hearing loss – the bigger the hearing aid. However, having said that, hearing aids have come a long way over the years and are much smaller, as well as more efficient, than they were years ago.
Cochlear Implants – If you get to the point where you lose your hearing and
hearing aids do not help any more, it may be time to check into a cochlear implant. A cochlear implant is an electronic device that can help provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf. Cochlear implants are covered by insurance.
Programming – Hearing aids and cochlear implants are not like glasses. You don’t put them on and experience ‘20/20’ hearing. Hearing aids and cochlear implants need patience, practice and programming. You need the patience to go back (often many times) to the provider for programming until you get the sound comfort and clarity that you can live with.
Communication Strategies for the Person with Hearing Loss:
* Try not to bluff; admit when you do not know what was said
* Hearing loss is invisible – tell people how they may best communicate with you
* Sit with your back to the light, so you can see the speaker’s face
* Choose a quiet table in a restaurant – away from the kitchen
* Go to a restaurant at non-busy times
* Wear a button that says, “Please face me. I read lips”
Communication Strategies for the Hearing Person When Communicating with a Person with Hearing Loss:
* Get his/her attention
* Face him/her
* Remove objects from your mouth
* Try not to put hands over mouth
* Speak slowly and clearly; shouting does not help
* Speak directly to the person – not to an intermediary
* Train the brain to hear sounds it has not heard in a long time
* Training exercises can be found online such as LACE (Language and Communication * Enhancement) and Read My Quips
* Some hearing aids/cochlear implants have the manufacturer’s online training programs
Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs):
Sometimes, a hearing aid/cochlear implant may not be enough and using ALDs helps to close the gap.
* Harris Communications is a good place to start:
> Bed Shaker Alarm Clock
> Strobe light fire alarms
> Flashing light door bell ringers
> Hearing Aid/Cochlear Implant dryer
* Captioned Glasses at all Regal movie theaters (FREE with your movie ticket!)
* Hearing Loop Systems
* Captioned and Amplified Phones (FREE for Florida residents by contacting Florida
Telecommunications Relay, Inc. (www.ftri.org) or call 800-222-3448 or 941-351-9545)
Look Into a Local Hearing Loss Support Group:
Hearing Loss Association of America is one such group. Its mission is to open the world of communication to persons with hearing loss by providing support, information, education and advocacy. You will meet others with hearing loss, be able to share stories and help each other by sharing information.
Helen Keller (blind and deaf author and political activist) said, “Blindness takes you away from things. Deafness takes you away from people”.
In this age of technology, people with hearing problems can choose to stay connected to people; to remain in this world of communication, instead of out of it.
Hearing Health Foundation
Hang on to your Hearing!
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?
Difficulty in hearing affects all aspects of life.
According to the 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 is Not Always Age-related
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).
About 2 to 3 out of every 1,000 babies in the United States are born with a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears. More than 90% of deaf or hard of hearing children are born to hearing parents. https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/statistics/quick-statistics-hearing
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.
How You Hear
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 (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 eardrum to rupture (tympanic membrane perforation). Infection, loud blasts of noise and sudden changes in pressure can also cause your eardrum 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, and 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 earplugs 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 that 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.
Here’s to Happy, Healthy Hearing!