Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Seeing Movies at the Drive-In

66 Drive-In, Carthage, Missouri

This past Saturday, my husband and I went to a drive-in theater to see a double feature (Megamind and the newest Harry Potter). I hadn't been to a drive-in in years prior to this, and I was really curious about how it has changed and how easy it would be to hear the movie.

The theater we went to doesn't use the old speakers next to the cars. Instead, you tune your radio to the proper FM station when you drive in. So, the sound quality is limited to the quality of your car's stereo system (plus the quality of the theater's sound, of course). I also decided to bring along the Bluetooth accessory for my hearing aids (the Oticon Streamer) which could plug into my MP3 player and deliver the sound to my hearing aids in case I needed it.

Megamind was very easy to hear (and a very funny film overall). It was animated, which meant no lips to read, but I had no trouble hearing almost every line.

Unfortunately, I can't say the same for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. While I was very much looking forward to the movie, a combination of factors meant I could barely make out each line:
  • most of the movie takes place in darkness
  • there were loud sound effects or music in most scenes
  • all of the actors had accents (of course)
  • I was tired
  • most of the actors mumbled
Oh well. I still enjoyed the experience. By the time Harry Potter began, I thought of using my Streamer but I was honestly too tired to make the effort. I think when we go back, I will definitely try my Streamer.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Could a Gel Reverse Sudden Hearing Loss?

Gel Bubbles on Flickr
Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSHL) is the rapid loss of hearing, usually in one ear. Sometimes it clears up on its own, but other times steroids are used to treat the problem. Steroids can cause problems of their own, but what if there was a topical gel that could recover hearing?

Doctors are investigating the possibility that a gel could be used as therapy for SSHL. You can read more about it here. It's showing a lot of promise. 

(via io9)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

ASL Ally is Back Thanks to the Electronic Frontier Foundation

Earlier this month, the popular YouTube account belonging to Allyson Townsend (also known as ASL Ally) was shut down due to complaints that Ally's translations of the songs into American Sign Language were violating copyright.

Now Ally's YouTube account is back thanks to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which was founded in 1990, and "confront[s] cutting-edge issues defending free speech, privacy, innovation, and consumer rights today." Cindy Cohn argued that the music was clearly used under fair use and that the work was altruistic. She says, "The problem is that the various music groups hire zombies and trained monkeys who scour the Internet searching for any use of their licensed material regardless of the context or purpose. Often, this leads to flagged entries and complaints on sites like YouTube that really should have been approached with greater discretion."

Definitely check out Allison's YouTube account. It's great.

(via Houston Press Blogs and Boing Boing)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bono's Hearing Aid Inspiration

This past weekend some friends of mine introduced me to the board game Fact or Crap. It's a very fun game and worth a try. The object of the game is to win the most tokens by answering true or false questions correctly. It's fast paced and I really enjoyed it.

One of the questions mentioned that Bono (born Paul David Hewson) got his name from a billboard advertising hearing aids. I thought that was interesting but couldn't think of what brand of aids it could be advertising. Google to the rescue: Bono was (probably) inspired by Bonavox hearing aids. His nickname became "Bono Vox." Some people also attribute his name to a dog food or to the Latin translation ("good voice").

The things you learn playing board games!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Strategies of Deaf Athletes

Cornell University baseball poster
It's interesting to mention a deaf athlete to a hearing person. You tend to hear one of two responses: "But how can they play?" or "Being deaf would totally help! They can tune everything out." But how does it work in real life?

This article at ESPN takes a look at the strategies of five deaf athletes. It's very interesting to read.

Josh Hembrough, a hurdler at Purdue who wears a cochlear implant, once had a false start because he was so focused on listening to noise he reacted to the wrong thing. Curtis Pride, baseball coach at Gallaudet, recalls the standing ovation he got in the stands. Marcus Titus, a swimmer with the U.S. national team who went to U of A, has a strobe light instead of sound at matches. Derrick Coleman, a football player, has to deal with extra layers in his helmet because of his hearing aid. And Emily Cressy has an interpreter on the sidelines for her.

I really liked this article and wish all the best for the five athletes mentioned here.

Friday, November 19, 2010

MIT Research Could Lead to Better Hearing Aids

One of the most annoying things for me about being in a crowded restaurant or other location is being unable to distinguish the sounds I want to hear from the background noise. There are ways to deal with noisy places, but wouldn't it be nice to not have to worry about it?

This article at MIT's website details some of the ways the university's research into hearing could improve hearing aids in the future, in particular researching how the ear distinguishes sounds to improve aids.

Hearing aid
The part of your ear that distinguishes sounds is called the tectorial membrane. It's in your inner ear, and it works with your basilar membrane to do its job. MIT scientists discovered that there's an important role played by the proteins that make up the tectorial membrane. Remove one of them via genetics, and you can't distinguish sounds as well.

So how does that help with hearing aid technology? Well, the research could help develop devices that can focus on a specific range of frequencies (like the range of your companion speaking). I can imagine some kind of control device that could help mute outside sounds (especially traffic!) to focus on specific frequencies.

Read the MIT article for more. (They're the experts!)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The CDC's New Hearing Loss Widget for Websites

If you look on the right hand column of this blog you will notice a new widget. The widget is available for anyone's blog or website and can be downloaded here. It has information about symptoms of deafness and links to a hearing loss checklist.

(via examiner.com)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

More Detail on the Haunted House Effects at the OSD

If you were interested in the haunted house effects at the Oregon School for the Deaf featured on Extreme Makeover back in October, check out this link. It goes into more detail about the visual effects in the Haunted House and it's an interesting read if you like special effects.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Watch This Sweet Video (The Jubilee Project)

If you haven't seen this touching video, watch it below! (And if you have... why not watch it again? After all, each time you do, they'll donate 2 cents to charity!)

I really love this video. The Jubilee Project is all about the power of social media to do good. Check out their website for more.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Can Your Ear Identify You Better Than Your Fingerprints?

Did you know that, just like fingerprints, the way your ears are shaped is unique enough for a computer to be able to match your ears to who you are? Check out this Wired article, which explains why it may be true.

Scientists have developed a new algorithm called "image ray transform," which, according to a study presented at the IEEE Fourth International Conference on Biometrics, has a 99.6% accuracy rate. There are, however, limitations, like hair covering your ears. Hearing aids aren't mentioned, but I'd imagine that they would pose a similar problem. Critics also mention a lack of proof that the ear doesn't change shape over time.

There is a demo here.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Clogged Ears and Congestion... the Fun of a Cold

For most of October I found myself dealing with a cold, and everything that comes along with it: congestion, a sore throat, a cough, and, unfortunately, clogged ears. I don't remember having clogged ears during a cold much before, but recently it seems to happen all the time. I surprised myself with how frustrated I got over it. If you had asked me before, I would have said I surely could handle a little more hearing loss, especially if I knew it was temporary due to sickness. Unfortunately that isn't the case.

I know how to get along with my hearing loss as it is right now - and I think I am just sensitive to changes to it. I had to work extra hard to make sure I could understand people and most of the time I was guessing much more than I typically do. At work, interacting with patrons whose voices were unfamiliar to me, I would try my best to listen for certain keywords (like "renew," "movie," "empty case," "lost book") - words that would allow me to guess the rest of the sentence. Then, I would repeat what I thought the sentence was back to them. Luckily most people tend to say the same things and use the same phrasing over and over. I could probably hear about 30-40% of what they were saying depending on the clarity and quality of their voice. Luckily with my coworkers it was much easier because I know their voices.

Then my hearing aids started acting up. I'm not sure what it was, actually. My ears are no longer clogged and they are no longer acting up so I think it was something related to the cold. It was very strange, whatever it was. One minute they would be amplifying things strangely (I could hear something going on 10 feet to the left of me but not directly in front of me) and the next they would be muting everything down to very quiet levels. That's what really got me, not just the clogged ears. It was kind of interesting at first to pay attention to my hearing and see how things were changing, but when my husband and I tried to make a trip to the mall on a busy Saturday I just got too frustrated to handle everything. I tried to explain what was going on to my husband and it was just too difficult.

I wish there was an easy way to show people what I and other deaf people "hear" on a daily basis. We can try to describe it but there are so few parallels to hearing people that it is difficult. Sometimes I just stay quiet about it for so long that when I do express my frustration it feels silly to explain it has been going on for days. But I am pretty good at adapting to my surroundings. I just deal with it for as long as I can.

Luckily the clogged ears and fluctuating volume levels have gone away with my cold. I wonder if taking a trip to the audiologist would have done any good. I don't know if it was my hearing aids, my brain reacting to the decreased sound levels, or my ears themselves. It might have just been more frustrating than anything.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Don't Throw Away Your Hearing Aids, Donate Them

When I read blogs by people with hearing loss online, occasionally I see people mention, "hearing aids didn't work for me, so I threw them away." I know that people may not mean they literally threw the aids in the trash - they could have stuck them in a junk drawer or donated them - but I want to raise awareness that there are people who can benefit from the hearing aids that aren't helping you.

First, if an aid isn't working for you, check to see if you do have the option to return it or exchange it. Remember, audiologists can't get everything right the first time or even the second time they adjust settings. Depending on the audiologist and/or hearing aid company, you might be able to recoup some of your losses if they definitely aren't working for you.

If that doesn't work out, please consider donating your hearing aid.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Hearing Loss Might Be Responsible for Dolphin Strandings

Bottlenose Dolphin
Dolphins rely on echolocation to orient themselves in the water and find food, but what happens when a dolphin is deaf?

According to this story, researchers at the University of South Florida and Mote Marine Laboratory conducted a study on dolphins (bottlenose and rough-toothed) found stranded. They discovered that 57% of the bottlenose and 36% of the rough-toothed dolphins that were stranded were severely to profoundly deaf. The findings give new information to veterinarians and marine biologists, especially when considering releasing animals back into the wild.

I wonder what a hearing aid for a dolphin would look like?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Extreme Makeover: Oregon School for the Deaf

I'll admit, I don't usually watch Extreme Makeover. I like it when they help people in need, but it's such a high-energy, loud show that I usually don't stop on it when I'm flipping channels. I did, however, watch it on Sunday evening, because they were renovating the Oregon School for the Deaf. You can watch it here, supposedly with subtitles, although it doesn't want to load for me at the moment.

In the episode, they sent the boys away to receive free hearing aids from Starkey. I was actually sent a book (Heart and Soul by Robert L. Shook - I'll be writing a review later, and Speak Up Librarian also wrote about it) that talks about the Starkey Foundation a little bit.

While the boys were away, the team turned their former dormitory into a haunted house, and built a new dorm for them. The dorm featured some accessibility features like flashing lights to announce doorbells and a specially-made vibrating speaker system (though I was hoping for a vibrating floor, too).

I was curious about the Oregon School for the Deaf so I looked them up after the program. This is their website. The school was founded in 1870 by the Oregon Legislative Assembly. Naturally, since only the boys' dorm and the haunted house were renovated on the show, there are still parts of the school that were untouched; if you'd like to help them complete renovations, they've listed how to donate on this page.

I enjoyed the show and I think it did a lot to highlight the problems that schools like this face, and helped put the issue in the public eye. I hope the kids got enough time to learn about their new hearing aids, and I hope the show brings in plenty of donations for the school and others like it.

Monday, November 1, 2010

How Do You Do With the 12 Pillars of Wisdom Test?

First, a note: I decided to do NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month; their site has been up and down lately, so here's the Wikipedia article) this year, so my posts this month may be more sporadic. Or maybe they'll be more common if I procrastinate on my novel!

Secondly, I wanted to write about this brain science test, called the 12 Pillars of Wisdom. I took it last night and it is really a lot of fun. I am curious to know what you guys think of it and how you score. It takes about 30 minutes to complete but you can take a break between each of the 12 tests.

For the most part, my own scores were pretty average. However, I did very well on the verbal reasoning test, focused attention, mental rotation, and visuospatial processing. I did badly on working memory and deductive reasoning.

There is 1 test where sound is relatively important (you need to wait for a beep to enter your answer). The sound on the website is VERY loud, though. I only had to turn my speakers up a tiny bit to hear the beep easily.