Saturday, December 31, 2011

Just Like You: A New Book Promoting Acceptance, Not Bullying

Just Like You is a book by Robert Kroupa, exploring the issues of bullying and accepting people for who they are. The book follows Henry, a field mouse who is deaf, and Boris, a spider who has a bad leg. Together they learn to stick together through thick and thin.

The book is being published by the Just Like You Foundation and 100% of the profits are going to charities. When ordering the book, you can specify if you would like the profits from your purchase to go to a particular charity, or be distributed evenly amongst all three. The charities include PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center, the Hollyrod Foundation, The Art of Elysium, The Center for Discovery, and Dreams for Kids.

(via People)

Friday, December 30, 2011

Liebster Blog Award

I was awarded the Liebster Blog Award by two people, Sarah of Speak Up Librarian and Eh? What? Huh? Thank you both very much!


This award is given to bloggers with less than 200 followers who deserve more recognition.

Here are the rules:

  • Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog.
  • Link back to the blogger who awarded you.
  • Give your top 5 picks for the award.
  • Inform your top 5 by leaving a comment on their blog.
  • Post the award on your blog.
Here are my picks:

1. Cacophony to Symphony
2. Cochlear Kids
3. Arizona Writer (not deafness related - but wonderful pictures and stories)
4. Growing Up Hard of Hearing in a Hearing World
5. Life with a Hearing Dog




Thursday, December 29, 2011

Play It Down: A Free App for Teens To Educate About Hearing Loss

Listen To My Music, Listen To My Song (.238/365)
From Flickr user Miss Sydney Marie
When it comes to teenagers, it often seems like the more dire the warnings against something, the more likely they are to embrace it. Loud music is no exception. While there's no doubt many teenagers are aware of the dangers of hearing loss from noise exposure, the question is, does it actually make them turn down the music?

There's a new, free app for iPod and iPhone called Play It Down that is attempting to bring awareness of noise exposure to teens in a fresh and interesting way. The app contains three components:

  • Auto-Old My Music: Demonstrates how music loaded onto the player would sound to someone with loss in the higher frequencies, as experienced in age-related hearing loss  
  • The Ear Knob - A test to see who can detect the highest frequencies (high frequencies are the first to go as a person ages)  
  • The Volume Zone - Allows the user to measure the volume of the player's surroundings
The website, PlayItDown.org, contains a link to the app along with useful information about hearing loss and keeping your ears healthy. It's written in accessible language that teens will either enjoy, or roll their eyes to. Either way, it's useful for them to know.

I don't own any Apple products, so I can't try this out for myself and see what the songs sound like with the "Auto-Old My Music." I'm curious, though. For now, my favorite way to demonstrate types of hearing loss is this YouTube video, which takes a clip from The Flintstones and shows how it would sound with mild, moderate, and profound loss.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Holidays from Hearing Sparks!

I want to wish everyone a happy holiday season from my family (human, furry, scaled, and feathered) to yours.

And Genbu, too!

Happy holidays from Genbu
Created through Banfield Pet Hospital's adorable "Dress Your Pet" Facebook app :)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Couple of Funnies

I apologize for my recent lack of updates - although, looking at my last post, I didn't realize it had been that long!

A couple of funny moments to share today. They are both from my workplace.

A patron came in and told me he wanted to "renew his password." I was a bit confused, but I explained our password system (for computer access) and that they don't need renewal. He was persistent, repeating himself over and over, until my coworker at the desk heard our conversation and realized he was saying "passport!" Ah, it was much easier from there... even though we don't handle passport renewals.

The second was just from today. I was at my cubicle in the back and a coworker passed by making some noise - I didn't pay much attention. She returned to my desk and told me how she was singing to herself and hates it when she does it in front of an "audience" (me). I replied, "That's okay. You have a deaf audience, so it doesn't matter anyway!"

It's good to laugh at yourself...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Digital Divide and Disabilities

Cliftons Computer Lab
Photo from flickr user rex libris.
One of the many eye-opening experiences of working at a public library is seeing the number of people who do not have access to technology in their homes. Yes, there are your typical students and people whose internet access may be down at home or whose printer isn't working, but then there are people who come in who need to use computers daily but do not have the technology at home. They may need to find a job, conduct business, pay bills, or file for unemployment and have found themselves on one side of the digital divide. As more companies and government offices move to doing things entirely online, the digital divide becomes more pronounced and more people experience it.

The U.S. Department of Commerce released a report this week called "Exploring the Digital Nation: Computer and Internet Use at Home" (link is a PDF). According to the report, 72% of people without disabilities had broadband access to the internet at home, compared to 43% of those with disabilities. This is according to information from the Census Bureau. According to Disability Scoop,

Socioeconomic factors appear to be a major reason behind the lack of Internet access among those with disabilities, the report found. When researchers controlled for income, education, age and other demographic and geographic variables, the disparity in access between those with and without disabilities dropped to only about 6 percent.

Of course, in this economy, I think the digital divide is becoming even more of a concern. People may not have the ability to buy a computer and rely on places like libraries, which in turn are feeling the budget crunch and may not be able to provide those services or provide them at hours that people can use them. At the same time, jobs are increasingly require more computer skills, and to even fill out an application requires computer knowledge (and sometimes accessibility options companies don't always provide.)

What do you think?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Eventually, No More Moisture Problems?

Playing with water: The rabbit and the ball
Image from John 'K' on Flickr.
One of the most annoying things about owning a pair of hearing aids is dealing with the problems that can arise from excess moisture getting in the workings. I try to remember to take my hearing aids to my audiologist every few months to have them dried out, and I use a Dry and Store every night, but the problem still persists.

I was excited to see a company is working on the problem, and the solution sounds pretty cool (if you're geeky like me and like this kind of thing). According to a press release sent out recently, Clear-tone Hearing Aid Laboratories has developed "MPS Technology" to create a moisture-repellent bond that binds to the surface of an object. It's invisible and doesn't affect the acoustics of the device.

There's more information over at Nanowerk. Pretty cool!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Guest Post: Accessibility at College

 The below guest post is from Anthony Garcia. For more information about guest posts on Hearing Sparks (I love them!), see here.

--- 

Anthony recently completed his graduate education in English Literature. A New Mexico native, he currently resides and writes in Seattle, Washington. He writes primarily about education, travel, literature, and American culture.

Students who are deaf or hard of hearing have to consider many things when choosing a college. The most important aspect, whether you are looking for graduate programs online or at traditional campuses, is accessibility. For a student who is deaf or who has a hearing impairment, access to equal communication is key. Cultural and academic barriers can make the transition to higher education difficult even without hearing loss, so finding one that offers strong accessibility and support for you is vital.

One of the greatest obstacles for students who are deaf or hard of hearing is communication in the classroom. Even though some students may know how to lip read, some instructors can be difficult to follow during lecture in a large classroom. Look for a well-staffed and knowledgeable special services department that can help to provide an interpreter for you once you get in the classroom.

Many campuses also hire note takers through accessibility services offices. A note taker is usually another student in the room who writes the notes on a special type of paper. The paper makes a second copy that can be given to the student who is deaf at the end of the class, or the notes are photocopied and sent to the student who needs them through the accessibility office. This process can also be anonymous if desired by the student.

The school might be able to hire an interpreter to meet students’ language needs, whether the individual uses American Sign Language, requires translation or uses another form of communication, which is something to ask about in the student services or accessibility services office.

Another support tool to consider when you are searching for colleges is a support system for captions in the classroom, although once you arrive on campus, you should also discuss this need with each professor individually. When films are shown in class, they should have closed captioning, with a running script of the dialogue. This makes it easier for the student to get the right information and clearly understand the video’s content. Classes can also be open-captioned, which involves having someone type onto a screen what the presenter is saying. There are numerous services that can offer the school captioned videos for free. This reduces the cost the school may incur for using captioning.

Classrooms at the school should have the technology available that make use of visual aids and multi-media that are well-suited to the visual learning style of students with hearing loss. This includes videos, power point presentations, and interactive tasks.

Some colleges and universities put accessibility at the forefront of their priority list. Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. is an excellent example of a school mindful of students who are hard of hearing. This school has instructors who use sign, full captioning services, and support services for students. Activities and staff are set up for those who sign, use speech or other forms of communication.

The Rochester Institute of Technology, which features the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, is another example of wonderful accessibility. The school and its website incorporate universal design, which strives to make campuses and other user interfaces accessible to the broadest audience possible. The school has captioning services, interpretation and related support services.

The University of Vermont gives students who are deaf numerous support options, including note takers, interpreters and captioning. They also encourage instructors to utilize deaf-friendly teaching methods, such as a greater use of visual aids while teaching and repeating student questions and comments.

Students who are deaf or hard of hearing should make the first stop on their campus visit the special services office. This department can help them to communicate with instructors about accommodations, get resources and meet other challenges that may come up. If the school is serious about accessibility, they will offer a wide variety of options for the student to choose from.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Help FEMA Reach the Deaf Community, November 9th

On November 9th at 2PM Eastern, there will be a national test of the Emergency Broadcast System by FEMA. If you live in the US and have a Twitter account, you can help FEMA establish how well the alert reaches the Deaf/Hard of Hearing community. There is more information at the Xpressive Handz blog here.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

On PBS November 3rd: A Documentary About ASL Poetry

On November 6th on many PBS stations, Independent Lens will be showing a documentary about American Sign Language poetry called "Deaf Jam."

The documentary will follow Aneta Brodski, who is a high school student attending the Lexington School for the Deaf. She is involved with promoting ASL poetry and slam poetry and takes a look at Aneta's life and her schoolmates.

In my area "Deaf Jam" will be showing at 11PM on Thursday night, November 3rd, so I am not sure if I will be able to stay up till midnight to watch it, but I am very interested and I hope someone gets a chance to see it!

Below is a captioned trailer for the show:



(via Technorati)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Guest Post: The Beauty of Signing

The following guest post is from Isabella Woods. For more information about guest posts on Hearing Sparks (I love them!), see here

---

There are literally hundreds of different types of sign language around the world and these languages aren’t just used by the deaf/hard of hearing: there are military sign languages, sign languages for people with learning difficulties and a number of religious sign languages. However, they all represent a form on non-vocal communication that is expressed by the hands. As movements,
they are beautiful in themselves but they can provide a lifeline for people who would otherwise be unable to communicate: in effect, they are a bridge to the outside world.

Whilst children born with a hearing loss learn sign language from an early age, non-deaf children have traditionally only been taught to speak; to express themselves with words. And yet, there is so much to indicate that everyone would benefit from learning some basic sign language.

In recent years, baby signing has increased in popularity across America and Europe. It has been suggested that babies and toddlers can learn to communicate with sign language before they can talk and these simple signs can be an effective form of communication between the child and their carer. Whereas a young child can be frustrated when they can’t make themselves understood, signs for things like food, milk, sleep and toys can liberate them and make it easier for parents to understand what their child is trying to tell them or to ask for. Baby sign works in collaboration with a child’s developing speech and it can actually help them to talk sooner, as they become used to expressing themselves and articulating. If they need a drink or a snack or want to take a catnapper in their cot, signing is an effective and efficient way to tell someone.

If it works for babies, then surely it could be a good communication tool for everyone, regardless of any hearing loss. By looking at different forms of communication, people become more attuned to simple signs and signifiers that can cross language barriers. Signing can open up sensibilities and it encourages people to think in a more creative way, connecting movement to meaning. Some nurseries and schools now teach basic signs to children for precisely this reason. A lot of children (and adults) can find it particularly hard to express themselves verbally, whether for social or physical reasons and signing can help to engage them in potentially difficult situations.

Aside from developing social skills and providing a viable means through which deaf/hard of hearing children and adults can communicate with each other, sign language could be included in mainstream education as a way in which both hearing and deaf people could have a common means of communicating. If everyone learnt some form of basic international signing, it would help to break down the barriers and misunderstanding surrounding hearing loss. With so many different sign languages, it would never be possible to have a comprehensive international language. Plus, cultural nuances make it necessary to have different signs for the same things in different languages. However, a basic set of signs that everyone could use and understand would unite people with hearing problems, those with learning difficulties and those with social issues relating to speech and language. Everyone could communicate on the same level and appreciate the beauty of talking to each other without the need for words.

If baby signing continues to gain in popularity and schools are encouraged to introduce children to sign language, as another form of communication, then who knows – we might all be able to sign to each other in the future and language barriers will be a thing of the past.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Hearing Aid Battery Safety

My brand of hearing aid batteries.
Wearing hearing aids goes beyond just having something stuffed in your ear all the time and feeling like you are part cyborg. It can also bring a lot of clutter with it, from hearing aid batteries to Dry n Store units on your nightstand and special alarm clocks that vibrate the bed.

I have come up with a nice tidy way to keep my hearing aid packages together (and all it took was an Altoids tin and some felt!), but I admit I'm not always super careful about disposing of my hearing aid batteries. They sometimes end up at the bottom of my purse and between my car seats - not necessarily in the trash where they belong.

However, I plan to be more careful about my batteries. This blog post from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission highlights some of the dangers surrounding "button batteries," found in hearing aids, watches, remote controls, and other small devices. According to the blog post, injuries related to button batteries have increased sevenfold since 1985. Children can accidentally swallow the batteries, and elderly people or people with poor vision can mistake them for pills. Once inside the body they can cause chemical burns or choking. I would imagine the same problems exist for animals in the home, especially since pets sometimes like to get into the trash.

With that in mind I think it is a good idea to be careful about disposing of hearing aid batteries. According to what I've read online, to be safe, button batteries should be recycled by a hazardous waste recycling program, because they contain mercury. This site can help you find a center to recycle them near you.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The iPhone Sound Amplifier

I wanted to share with you a blog post I saw today from David Lee King. He was sent an iPhone Sound Amplifier from WirelessGround and did a short review of it. The blog post is here and he posted a video which is below; no captions but I added a transcript underneath which I hope is mostly accurate.

I think this is a neat device with a nice retro look to it. I don't have an iPhone but I might buy something like this for my Android phone if it was available. It amplifies about 12 dB, so not a lot, but it could be helpful. At $9.95 (sale), it's not a bad price.

 
 Transcript: Hey, David King here, davidleeking.com. Um, gonna show you something, then I'll tell you about it. First, let's take a listen to this. (Music playing on iPhone, which becomes amplified when placed in the iPhone Sound Amplifier) How does this work? Well, there are holes in the bottom here, you put your iPhone in there. The speakers connect to these little tubes, I don't know if you can see that really well, that goes out to this horn, and so basically it's just, um, sort of like a megaphone. It's boosting the sound naturally. Pretty cool. I'll put a link into my blog post so you can get to the website and check these out. Talk to you later.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Around the Web Wednesday

  • Sarah at Speak Up Librarian talks about her experience with her new Oticon hearing aids. I really enjoy reading this kind of personal testimonial. Good luck with your aids, Sarah!
  • This is an interesting, heartfelt article from Suzie Jones titled "Why do deaf people 'sound funny'?"
  • Here's an article with some interesting statistics about minority students with disabilities being suspended more often than white children.
  • And here is a touching video. Buffy, a black lab, fetches Benson, a deaf dog, when it is time to go home. There is uncaptioned audio in the video, but it is not totally necessary to see what's going on. I think it is really sweet!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Around the Web Wednesday

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

UnitedHealth to Offer Discounted Hearing Aids

HEARING AIDS AIDS AIDS AIDS AIDS AIDS AIDS
Image from quosquos on Flickr.
Soon, UnitedHealth Group, an insurance company, will be offering discounted hearing aids, even to people who do not have the insurance. The hearing aids will cost between $749 - $949 per aid, and will be available online, without a visit to the audiologist.

Cutting out the audiologist means UnitedHealth needs a way to program the aids, and they plan to do so through an online hearing test or through smartphones. The company will use your results from the test to send you a programmed aid.

I'm curious what you think about this. On one hand, I appreciate the cheaper price of hearing aids and I think that will help a lot of people. On the other hand, I think audiologists provide more than simply programming a hearing aid to a customer's needs. My audiologist has provided me with invaluable ways to handle my hearing loss, attention to detail, and communication that I think would be lost if you simply take a test and get some hearing aids in the mail.

What do you think?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Kay Blogs About the Esteem Hearing Implant

Back in 2010 I posted about the Esteem hearing implant receiving FDA approval. It is still one of my most popular blog posts and it's a topic a lot of people are interested in.

I wanted to share Kay's blog with you today. Kay has been posting comments on my blog post about her own experience with the Esteem and decided to create her own blog: Esteem Hearing Implant, my experience. There is a lot of useful information on the blog - be sure to take a look!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Variables of Hearing

Hearing loss can be a really tricky thing. One of the trickiest things I have found to grasp about hearing loss is how it's not always consistent.

For example, just because I heard someone speaking at a certain tone of voice once and was able to understand them doesn't mean I will be able to understand them the next time they speak. Or because I was able to tell where a sound came from once doesn't mean I can do it again. Sometimes I have an easy time of it and hear someone's question right away and sometimes I just can't make it out no matter how many times they repeat it.

Sound Design for Visual Media and Film Production students at dbc sound
Photo by vancouverfilmschool on Flickr.

I particularly notice this when talking to people I know, like my husband for example. He always sits in his big comfy chair in the living room and I am usually in the same spot on the couch - but sometimes I can hear him easily and sometimes I can't.

I think there are a lot of variables that go into whether or not I can hear something/someone on any given day: the noise level, the person's voice, the loudness of the noise, my position in reference to the person/thing making the noise, my familiarity with the noise the person/thing makes, whether I'm inside or outside, how large the room is, if there's carpet, and of course, my mood. My hearing aids might even factor into it, as sometimes when it's humid and they haven't gone through my audiologist's dehumidifier they act differently.

Sometimes it can lead to frustration. Not only on others' part but also on my own - it is embarassing for me to realize I completely missed a sound I usually notice.

I'd like to know your experiences with this and how consistent you find your ability to hear certain noises - what do you think?

Friday, September 23, 2011

It's Okay To Feel Worn Out

Lately I've been trying to give myself more permission to just be worn out. Tired of listening and trying to hear and figure out what's being said or what I'm missing.

It's only recently that I've begun to recognize that I work harder than other people in conversation. You would think it would be a given, but I really didn't think much about my deafness until I began writing this blog and thinking about how it affects me. Before I would just keep trying and blame it on other things, especially at school. I didn't have much self-awareness.

With that self-awareness, though, has come a secondary awareness of how tired listening makes me. For example, on the news channel I watch in the mornings, anything scripted is closed captioned but the banter between the various newscasters is not. I used to just try to listen to them, and feel annoyed when I couldn't hear them (not that any of it is ever vitally important). Now I just get annoyed that it isn't captioned, and ignore them or even change the channel.

I can tell it is starting to affect my mindset in other areas as well. At work when I have been trying to understand vague, mumbling people for hours at a time. At a store when I am trying to listen to someone talk to me and the intercom keeps blaring, equipment keeps driving by (especially hardware stores) or everything echoes. It is hard not to feel irritated.

I have been trying to become more accepting of it without the irritation. Trying to come up with ways to get people to talk to me clearly and not from 10 feet away or incredibly quiet. I am trying to accept that I won't be able to hear everything, that some stuff doesn't need to be heard and that it's going to wear me out sometimes.

Sometimes I can feel I haven't succeeded in the whole "acceptance" thing. I feel myself getting irritated with the library patron who can't hear a thing I'm saying either so we're both yelling at each other and not getting anywhere. I feel irritated at the intercom at the grocery store, the car driving by, the kids shouting in the parking lot when I try to go to my car. Sometimes I get home to total silence and just feel totally invigorated. Who needs noise?

How do you feel about noise and silence? Do you have any tips for dealing with this sort of thing - without getting irritated?

Monday, September 19, 2011

My Local "Accessible" Movie Theaters

I received a comment on my post Different Perspectives from Mickey, who lives in the UK. I replied to it on the post but wanted to write a post about this topic. Here is the comment:
Hello Megan
Great blog and interesting stuff here - just found your site. 
I was surprised by you saying "I'd really like to go see David Tennant in Fright Night, but am I going to be able to understand him?" 
In the UK we have captioned Cinema and I've set up a website to list all captioned Cinema in North West of England see http://accessibleevents.org.uk/north-west/ 
Surely with ADA you have captioned movies in the USA? Or are they just difficult to find or show so few films? 
Cheers
Mickey
I don't go to the movies often but I decided to take a look at my 3 local theaters to see what they have to offer.

Harkins Theatres has an Open Captioned link on their front page but the only message on the link is "There are no open captioned films currently playing." I mostly go to Harkins when I go to the movies but I have to say their attitude about captioning movies has frustrated me pretty often.

AMC Theatres is not that close to me but I go there pretty often when I do go to the movies. Their movies are listed under the Assisted Moviegoing link. Currently the only movie they are showing with "Closed Caption" is The Help. It is only showing in one location within 40 miles of me, in Glendale, Arizona.

Finally, Dickinson Theatres recently opened a location near me. They do not have a link specifically for accessible showtimes and none of the showtimes indicate Open Captioning.

I do think Dickinson has open captioning because my in-laws went to see The Help and accidentally saw an open captioned showing. I don't think they put them as part of their official showtimes on the website or as part of the board you see when you go to the theater.

In April of 2010 it was ruled that the ADA covers closed captioning at movies. Captioning falls under the heading of "auxiliary aids and services" to people. There is some debate over whether open-captioned movies fall under this ruling and I haven't heard much about the case since then.

I do wish theaters would do more for captioned movies. I don't like having to figure out what accents actors have just to have an expectation of whether or not I'll be able to understand a movie. And I don't like having to patronize locations that don't consider what I would prefer as a customer, Harkins especially. For awhile it looked like Harkins was getting better about providing captioned movies, but I haven't seen one available in a long time.

I think captioned movies fall under the heading of things people do not think about until they actually need them.

Are captioned movies available where you are located?

Friday, September 16, 2011

My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger

My Most Excellent Year is a young adult novel by Steve Kluger. It follows teenagers T.C., his brother Augie, and Alejandra, and is written in the form of diary entries, instant messages, and emails from them and other supporting characters.

My Most Excellent Year also features a very well-written and -rounded Deaf character named Hucky. Hucky is a six-year-old boy living in a residence for Deaf children after his mother abandoned him. Hucky is befriended by the three main characters, especially T.C.

Hucky is an excellent contrast to many deaf children in literature. He definitely stood out in comparison to the little boy in Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz, who is basically treated as a tragic, misunderstood character with little feelings of his own except what other characters lay onto him. Hucky, by contrast, definitely has his own personality, opinions, way of communicating, and outlook on life.

The little boy is allowed to grow over the course of the novel, along with the other three main characters. By the end of the novel Hucky is very different than he was at the start, and you can see him blossoming.

His communication "problems" are never actually a problem. The characters embrace learning American Sign Language, and there are some funny moments when they can't communicate properly or don't know the right signs. The novel even touches on the difference between ASL and British Sign Language through another character.

This is a really sweet novel that I think is a great example of the way d/Deaf/hard of hearing characters can be written so well. I really liked it and I hope you get the chance to pick it up, too.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Around the Web Wednesday: Accessible Beaches, Bob Williams, and School

  • Yahoo! Accessibility has an interesting real-world post about an actual situation faced at a beach in or near Vancouver. The beach has a marked handicapped-accessible spot but the only way to access the beach itself is by stairs. The author suggests adding a sign to the parking spot so that people will not be confused.
  • I really enjoyed this post on Disability Blog by Bob Williams, who is the new Associate Commissioner for the Social Security Administration's Office of Employment Support Programs. Can you imagine 6 million people with disabilities in the workforce? Only 4.5 million are employed today.
  • Jennifer, who has triplets, one of whom wears hearing aids and one of whom has a cochlear implant, shares the story of her sons at school and how they shared information about their hearing loss and technology with the class.
  • And finally, a very good guest post on Speak Up Librarian about supporting deaf/hard of hearing students in mainstream classrooms.
  • Life's been crazy lately so I don't have a video for this week, sorry!


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Congratulations to the 2011 Oticon Focus on People Award Winners!

I was very excited to see the winners of the 2011 Oticon Focus on People Awards! This award is given annually to people who "defy the stigma of hearing loss."

I was especially excited to see one winner, Sarah Wegley, the Advocacy winner. Sarah runs the great blog Speak Up Librarian which I love reading. I was so happy to see she won!

Congratulations to all of the winners!

Friday, September 2, 2011

How To Search Google & YouTube For Only Closed Captioned Videos

Today I wanted to share something cool that my friend told me about: how to search Google for videos with closed-captioning. I've already used it a few times and it is very useful.

1. Go to Google Videos here.
2. Click on Advanced Video Search (direct link).
3. Enter your search into the text field and make sure Subtitles - Search only closed captioned videos is checked (click to enlarge):


4. Click Search Videos.
5. All of your search results will have closed captions enabled.
6. To remove the closed captioned criteria from your search, click on the "X" that appears at the top of your search results on the next page:



It's that simple!

You can do the same thing with specifically YouTube videos:

1. Go to YouTube.com.
2. Type your search criteria in the top bar and click Search.
3. Click on Filter & Explore under the "Search results for..." text:



4. From here you can click on CC (closed caption):


An even easier way is to type in your search but add ,cc to the end of your search. For example:
lizard ,cc
deaf ,cc
asl ,cc
This automatically adds the filter. (I am going to be using this all the time!)

I hope this helps!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Around the Web Wednesday: CAPTCHAs, Whales, and Charging Hearing Aids With Your Feet?

  • If you have ever filled out a form on the Web, chances are you have seen the annoying-but-useful CAPTCHAs. The CAPTCHAs, which look like distorted, squiggly words or letter/number combinations, have to be entered at the end of many forms to ensure you are a human and not an automated bot filling out a form. The challenge comes when people with vision problems need to be able to fill out forms. An audio version of a CAPTCHA can help, but what if you have trouble with both vision and hearing? The Centered Librarian takes a look at the challenges behind CAPTCHAs and Section 508 compliance.
  • On the 80beats blog: scientists have discovered that ancient whales' twisted skulls actually allowed them to hear better underwater. The asymmetrical skull, similar to an owl, lends itself to hunting in 3D spaces without echolocation.
  • From the same blog (seriously, it's a really cool blog and you should check it out), the idea of shoes that power small electronics. As I read this post, I thought of how neat it would be to have shoes that could charge hearing aids as you walk. No more tiny batteries or even charging stations. It's questionable exactly how much power the devices could charge just from walking around, but I'm curious.
  • I liked this list from Suzie's blog deafcomm about 35 misconceptions about deafness.
  • Your video for today: a cute puppy!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Positive Communication for Accommodations

I was at the grocery store the other day waiting in line, and overheard a conversation between the next cashier over and a gentleman in a wheelchair. He was asking the cashier questions like, "Have you ever been in a wheelchair? Have you ever needed to use the handicapped stall in the bathroom? When you go into the restroom can you turn around easily to close the door? Would you ever use the restroom without closing the door?"

Talk
Photo from 5150fantast on Flickr.
The cashier couldn't figure out what he was getting at, but finally he made it clear that the door to the accessible stall in the restroom opened the wrong way. When a person in a wheelchair entered, the door was in such a position that made it very difficult to easily close the door. It was a problem that could easily be solved by switching the door to open outwards rather than inwards. The cashier promised to find out how to make a maintenance request to modify the door.

What struck me was how long the gentleman took to get his (perfectly valid) point across. The cashier was extremely confused by the end of his line of questioning and not sure at all what he was getting across. Had he simply approached the cashier or customer service desk and said "The door to the accessible stall in the restroom is opening in such a way that makes it difficult for me to close the door once I'm inside," he would have made his point more easily and with a minimum of confusion.

Going back to what I wrote in my blog post Different Perspectives, I think it is very easy for people to think that their experiences are shared by everyone or that everyone can see issues that may be more personal than they think. If you do not have experience with wheelchairs you may not think about the way the bathroom door opens - if you do not have experience with hearing loss you may not think about making captions available for people.

I think a lot of it goes two ways. Yes, people in businesses, the government, and organizations should be aware of what the laws require and how to be accessible for people, but at the same time we can only achieve what we want through education and increasing knowledge of what is needed. It's one thing to demand captions but another to actually explain why they are needed. Communication is important on both sides, and it's important to recognize areas where communication can break down, or when you're not approaching the right person, or when you may be causing more confusion than actually educating people.

When talking to someone at a business I think it is important to make sure you are talking to the right person and explain fully why you need some kind of accommodation. I usually explain I am deaf and it would help greatly for (whatever) to happen. I state things simply and don't repeat myself over and over (which I think is a major downfall of communication) unless it's needed. I don't give my whole back story or complain about other unrelated things. Thank-yous are always appreciated... working with the public I know what it is like to do something for someone and receive no acknowledgment in return.

What do you think? What are some strategies you have found for approaching people to get reasonable accommodations or explain a problem?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Different Perspectives

I was thinking the other day about my thought processes and the way your thoughts change when you have to deal with the loss of a sense (hearing, sight, etc) or mobility. I think it is so interesting how your perspective can change so completely when you suddenly have to deal with it for whatever reason.

I was mainly thinking about movies and having a conversation with my in-laws about captioned and the ADA requirements at theaters. The content of the conversation wasn't as important as was my realization about how I think about going to the movies.

When I want to go to the movies, I have to think about what actors are in the movie and how well I am going to be able to understand them. For example, if I know there are a lot of actors with accents unfamiliar to me, I usually don't go or pass it up. If I'm feeling hopeful I look online for open captioned movies, though this is usually hopeless. As the movie starts I end up worrying about the sound quality in the opening scenes. Is the music so loud it's drowning out the dialogue? Is the dialogue rushed and muddled and mumbled? Are they ever going to have a scene in daylight so I can see the actors' lips?

Usually I can understand many movies I go to. Some, like Push, become nearly impossible for reasons I'm not sure of. (I think I understood one sentence out of every five or six in that movie.) Some I avoid and miss out on seeing in the theater. (I'd really like to go see David Tennant in Fright Night, but am I going to be able to understand him?) I wait till they come out on DVD or Blu-Ray so I can watch it with subtitles at home and pause and rewind if need be.

But I understand the same thought process doesn't go through everyone's mind. A lot of people go see whatever movie they want to see. So it got me thinking about the things a lot of people take for granted, that some don't.

Like parking. I park wherever, and it might mean a few extra steps, but in the grand scheme of things it doesn't matter the way it matters to someone who has difficulty or experiences pain walking. I can go wherever and walk from the far end of the parking lot. Someone with mobility challenges has to consider whether there are adequate accessible parking spots, ramps, etc.

Or reading the menu at a restaurant. My sister-in-law brought up this one the other night. Just imagine having to carefully consider your accessibility options just to get some food. Are the people at McDonald's going to understand you can't see the tiny text on the glowing screen, or is the server at the restaurant going to patiently explain the menu options? And do you want to deal with the potential embarassment?

Or even walking around a store. There is a gentleman in my community who has a very large power scooter tricked out with an umbrella and some other cool stuff. It's larger than a wheelchair so he has to consider where he can go. The aisles at Wal-mart may not be a problem but he can't just go browse at a small bookstore or look around a little shop.

Not to mention other people's daily concerns such as the availability of bathrooms (I have IBS so I get that one completely), lighting, how easily a door opens, etc.

It's one reason I am so grateful to accommodating laws like the ADA. Not only does the ADA help provide guidelines and rules to follow but it also opens people's eyes to problems they may not even think about. Some perspective is always useful and I think thought exercises like this help me see how other people see the world.

As an aside, as I was writing this post, someone linked to this excellent post about the Spoon Theory. It is an excellent way to illustrate what I am talking about, and also provides another perspective of something I have rarely thought about, of life with chronic pain. A relevant quote:
Most people start the day with unlimited amount of possibilities, and energy to do whatever they desire, especially young people. For the most part, they do not need to worry about the effects of their actions. So for my explanation, I used spoons to convey this point. I wanted something for her to actually hold, for me to then take away, since most people who get sick feel a “loss” of a life they once knew. If I was in control of taking away the spoons, then she would know what it feels like to have someone or something else, in this case Lupus, being in control.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Around the Web Wednesday

  • A clever use of closed-captioning encoding: a man has come up with a system that searches closed captions for certain words, like "Kardashian" or "Lohan," and automatically mutes the television when those subjects are covered. I think this is hilarious. More info here.
  • Have you heard of DeafMD.org? It's health education in American Sign Language. According to a post at InMyLingo, it was created "to improve the health literacy, to eliminate health disparities, and to promote the overall health and wellness of our underserved population."
  • One of my favorite UFC fighters, Matt Hamill, has retired. He says, "The UFC has been extremely good to me and given me an opportunity to make a great living. That exposure has allowed me options outside the octagon as well. I just don't have it in me to fight anymore and my last two performances have shown that." I'm so sad!
  • And your video today... another bearded dragon video. (I just love them.) Here is a four-year-old beardie drinking from a juicebox straw. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Around the Web Wednesday

  • MSNBC shares 9 signs that your hearing loss is a problem. Definitely useful for anyone trying to convince a relative or friend to get a hearing test. Mine - if you find yourself complaining that everyone else is mumbling, it might not be them.
  • In my last Around the Web Wednesday I wrote about the "Caution Hearing Impaired Children" sign that was stolen from the family at the Cochlear Kids blog. Thanks to a neighbor, the sign was found in a ditch and has been put back in its rightful place.
  • Smell can definitely influence our sense of taste, but what about sound? This post at World of Psychology explores how sound affects how we perceive food.
  • And for this week's video - you may be aware I have a bearded dragon (named Loki). I also have a cat named Sneakers, who happens to look exactly like the cat in the video below. I think it is just adorable! If only my own lizard and cat got along so well. No sound/captions required. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Rayovac's Hearing Professional of the Year Contest - Plus $3 Coupon

Note: I received information on this contest from Rayovac. The company is hosting a contest for bloggers who write about the contest below.

First of all, who doesn't love coupons? In an email with information about this contest, Rayovac sent along a printable coupon for $3 off their brand of hearing aid batteries. Get the coupons here.

Hearing aid manufacturer Rayovac is hosting a competition similar to Oticon's Focus on People Awards. (Speaking of the Oticon awards, you can now cast your vote online here! There are some awesome people nominated, in particular Sarah from Speak Up Librarian.)

According to Rayovac:
The Hearing Professional of the Year contest is your chance to celebrate the professional skills and patient relations of your hearing professional by nominating them as the best in their field. Supported by Rayovac, the independent awards aim to recognize the difference that hearing professionals make in our lives. We want to hear inspirational stories about what your hearing professional has done for you.
There will be 5 winners who will receive a donation of $500 to a nonprofit hearing care charity, and one winner, named the National Hearing Professional of 2011, will receive an additional $1000.

Entries are accepted through September 30, 2011 and people can be nominated here.

Friday, August 12, 2011

New Blog: Accessible Reads

As I've been writing this blog, I've realized there are some things I enjoy writing about more than others. Anything geeky, for one - new hearing aid tech and smartphone apps and everything else just makes me happy. Another of my favorite subjects is deafness in books, or, rather, treatment of any kind of disability in books, particularly novels.

With that in mind I decided to start a second blog with book reviews and thoughts about books that contain a character with a disability (not just deafness, but other things like blindness, autism, mobility problems, etc). The blog is called Accessible Reads and can be found at http://accessiblereads.blogspot.com/.

I'm not just writing about novels, but also nonfiction books and memoirs. Although most of the books I have read treat the subject of various disabilities well, some of them can be cringe-inducing, and I'll be writing about those, too. The posts will be a combination of original posts and re-posts of reviews I've written elsewhere.

This blog is definitely not going to end, this is just a supplementary blog that deals with a different focus. I hope you enjoy it.

Friday, August 5, 2011

New Book Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick Features Deaf Characters

Image is of the cover of Wonderstruck.
Wonderstruck is a new novel by Brian Selznick which features deaf characters. The novel is set to be released September 13, 2011.

Having loved books all my life, I often wish for more characters with differing abilities/disabilities, especially in children's fiction. I've seen a lot of characters with autism and Asperger's syndrome, particularly in young adult fiction, but characters who are deaf, blind, have mobility issues, or have other challenges are not really depicted all that often. I wrote recently about a study done on 131 winners of the Newbery Medal and Honor awards and found that only 31 of the books contained a major or minor character with a disability - and most often were simply supporting characters included to develop the main character's moral values.

That's why I was excited to see Brian Selznick mention Deaf culture and deaf identity in a recent interview with Publisher's Weekly. In the article, Brian explains why he wanted to include Deaf characters and how he has spoken to Deaf individuals who appreciated the very visual nature of his previous, wonderful book The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Wonderstruck features entwining stories - one told in words, the other in pictures:
I started what became Wonderstruck while I was still working on Hugo. I had been thinking about Deaf culture after seeing this really, really good documentary, Through Deaf Eyes, which is about the history of Deaf culture. There was a line about how the deaf are a “people of the eye.” Most of the ways they communicate is visually. To me, that was the perfect reason to tell a story about a deaf person through illustrations. I had met deaf people who told me the thing they liked most about Hugo was the silence. Even when you’re reading words, you hear those words in your head but telling a story through pictures, there’s a feeling of silence about that and they really liked that.
Brian and the interviewer, Sue Corbett, also discuss the difficulty of "having to look for one’s culture outside of one’s biological family" that I think is really touching and interesting.

I'm really excited to read Wonderstruck now. Speaking of books with deaf characters, my friend Caris recently told me about Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz, in which the main character's little brother is deaf. I plan on picking this one up soon to take a look at how the character is handled - too bad I have to wait till September for Wonderstruck!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Around the Web Wednesday

  • A group of mandrill monkeys at the Colchester Zoo in England have developed a sign of their own - the first report of monkeys creating their own gesture that means something in their culture. The gesture involves the monkey covering their eyes, and the article at Scientific American says the gesture communicates "do not disturb."
  • Over at Cochlear Kids, the mom of Gage and Brook reports that the "Caution Hearing Impaired Children" sign she had by the road, along with a stop sign, has been stolen. I don't understand why people do things like this.
  • Have you been following Eh? What? Huh?'s entries on the silly censoring of Breaking Bad captions? There is a video clip and pictures of the censoring of swearing on this show here (which is not censored in the audible dialogue).
  • I was happy to learn about a local teen, who lives in my state, hiking the Grand Canyon for the Hear the World Sound Academy. I wrote about Hear the World back in January and the trip is now coming up soon! Like me, Jacob Gonzales (16 years old, from Chandler, AZ) was diagnosed with his hearing loss when he was four years old. Go, Jacob!
  • For the video today - I had no idea Thai insurance commercials could be so heartbreaking! This one was shared by Yahoo! Accessibility. It features a deaf-mute father and his bullied daughter. And it's a gut wrencher. It is subtitled/captioned.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Bluetooth Hearing Aid Accessories: As Mainstream as iPods?

Yesterday at work I met a man I really liked. He tried to take my Dr Pepper*, but I liked him anyway. He just needed a little direction to the nonfiction section. All in all, it was perfectly ordinary. Except for one thing - he had an Oticon Streamer around his neck.

If it weren't for the Streamer, I wouldn't have noticed he had a hearing loss. His hearing aids were practically invisible and, although he needed a few things repeated, it wasn't anything out of the ordinary. Seeing the Streamer made me smile, though. He was just wearing it around his neck - a bright white object that most people probably thought was a music player or maybe a cellphone.

Photo taken by me.
Image shows the white Oticon Streamer next to a computer keyboard.


It struck me that with the trend towards smaller and less visible hearing devices, hearing loss is becoming even more of an invisible disability for people. There is a lot of marketing for "invisible" devices.

Just go to any of the websites of major manufacturers of hearing aids. Lyric Hearing trumpets that it is 100% invisible. The Esteem website starts off saying "invisible hearing." Oticon's website says, "Once upon a time there was nothing discreet about hearing aids but now subtle design is paramount in any hearing aid development." Siemens touts their Pure hearing aid, "designed for utmost discretion."

I'm not saying it's a bad thing. Advances in hearing technology benefit everybody who uses it and making hearing technology more discreet can help people be convinced to buy something they might otherwise put off. However, my personal challenge with small hearing aids has been that, since they don't correct everything, people get more irritated with having to repeat things than they would if they had a visual cue indicating I have a hearing loss.

I wonder what would happen if more people wore Streamers (or comparative devices) around their neck all the time. People would slowly realize what they are, plus users would get the convenience of having the Bluetooth device there with them all the time. I'm sure these types of devices will also become smaller as technology advances (except devices designed for seniors or those with low mobility).

I just think it would be cool if Streamer-type devices became as acceptable as listening to an iPod with your headphones, or having your cellphone in a holster on your belt. Since more and more people are being diagnosed with hearing loss as they age, I think these types of things will become more mainstream in the future, as technology-oriented generations age.

* He was joking. Probably. But he did say next time he has a Dr Pepper and he's in the library, I can have some.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Why I Read, and How It Helps Me Deal with Deafness

Reading
Image from Flickr user paulbence
Image is of a young woman reading outside in an urban area.
For as long as I can remember, I have read books. Before that, my mother says she was reading to me constantly. In fact, our reading together helped her identify my hearing loss at an early age while it was still mild - she noticed that I wanted to sit on one side of her while she read to me, the side with my "good" ear. I believe her early identification of my hearing loss combined with my vocabulary development and listening skills helped me immensely in my daily life as an adult.

Now, I still read, constantly. I always have a book with me or have something I can read on my cellphone (like Twitter updates). Not only do I think reading is fun, one of my favorite hobbies, but I think it helps me deal with the challenges that come from being deaf. How?

Reading Increases My Vocabulary
By reading, I learn new and interesting words, which help me when strange words come up in conversation. By building up my vocabulary I can anticipate what people might say, which definitely helps me listen.

Reading Relates to my Job
I am lucky in this case and work in a public library. By reading a wide variety of books I can anticipate names of authors and titles of books that people are going to ask for. It definitely helps to know commonly-requested authors' names, especially when they aren't common names. I can't read while at work, though, so it's a good thing I like it on my own.

Reading Gives Me an "Ear" for Dialogue
Not all authors can write dialogue expressively, but I have found that reading exposes me to a lot of "conversations" that I might not have, which helps me when I am in conversations of my own. Some quirky turns of phrase might confuse me at first, but if I have read them ahead of time they won't throw me off as much. This particularly helps if an author is really good at writing accents or phrases key to a certain dialect.

Reading Gives My Ears a Break
While I'm reading, I don't have to be listening to anything. It helps relax my ears and gives my brain a break. Listening can be wearying when it doesn't come effortlessly, so having a couple of hours (more or less, depending on my schedule) a day where I simply don't have to listen to anything really helps.

Reading Introduces Me to New Thoughts and Concepts
Reading a book can definitely open your eyes to things you never thought about. Something you might reject coming from a talking head on TV can sound more reasonable in a line of engaging dialogue in a book. I love the way books have the power to create new ideas and give us new perspectives. When I read about someone who has a particular challenge in a book, I can put myself in their shoes and see how they overcame the challenge. I just wish there were more deaf/hard of hearing characters in books.

Now I'm not necessarily saying reading would be the same for everyone or have the same results. Reading is a personal thing - some people read, some people don't and what people do read is as varied as personality traits! However, I am very grateful for the influence books have had on my life.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Deaf Bicyclist Creates Deaf Bike Signs

Image from DeafBikeSigns.
Image is of a yellow patch saying "DEAF CYCLIST."
Lately I've been thinking more about getting a bike and exploring my new neighborhood. I loved biking as a kid and teenager - it seemed like a great way to explore larger distances than a walk, and I liked it. But my neighborhood doesn't have sidewalks and the thought has crossed my mind before - would I hear a car or another person behind me, or other sounds that might be important?

I was happy to see this article & interview with Portland bicyclist Carrie Brewer. She is a deaf bicyclist who created DeafBikeSigns, which are small, yellow patches that attach to bikes and say "DEAF" or "DEAF CYCLIST." They range from $6 to $8 and can be attached basically anywhere a patch can go. The site recommends that they be attached in an area easily visible, such as the back of a helmet, or behind the seat.

I think I might just pick one of these up after I buy my bicycle, and probably attach it behind the seat somewhere. According to Carrie in the article:
It was a solution to my own problem, a simple answer to the real problem. But then I know there are many other Deaf cyclists that face the same problems so I wanted to help them too, not just myself.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Super Easy, Crafty Storage for Hearing Accessories


Easy, Crafty Storage for Hearing Aids (Cover)


I saw this project over at the blog Charlotte's Fancy and immediately thought it would be an easy, fun way to create some storage for hearing accessories. It worked out really well! It would definitely be a fun project for kids too.

The project uses only the following:


Easy, Crafty Storage for Hearing Aids (Supplies)


  • An empty, clean Altoids tin
  • Felt with adhesive backing
  • Scissors
  • A pencil
  • Any adhesive decorations you like

Just trace out the shape of the Altoids tin on the back of the felt, cut it out, and apply. Then apply your decorations!

I decided I mainly want to use it for my battery storage. The packaging for my batteries usually end up all over the place in my purse, and I really needed an easier way to keep track of them.


Easy, Crafty Storage for Hearing Aids (And Batteries)


That's 4 packs of batteries and they fit perfectly in the Altoids tin. I think it will work out perfectly. I'm thinking of adding another piece of felt to cover the "Altoids" imprint in the top.

I also tried out my hearing aids themselves to see how well they fit. I added another piece of felt to the bottom of the case so they wouldn't slide around on the tin.


Easy, Crafty Storage for Hearing Aids


It worked out great! I can easily use this to store my aids, for example, when I'm camping. It's not waterproof but I might use this to hold my aids at the pool too. As well as for storing multiple other non-hearing-aid related items.

Hope you enjoyed!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Around the Web Wednesday

  • At the blog The Echo Chamber, the blog author posted about their experiences with the Disney handheld device, which displays scripts for the attractions. It's worth a look so you know what to expect if you are planning a trip to Disney World/Land.
  • Apache ASL Trails Apartments, which I have been hearing about on and off for years, has now opened in Tempe, AZ. It is a senior apartment community for the Deaf and hard of hearing, with video phones, visual doorbells, and other amenities designed with hard of hearing seniors in mind. This community is just about half an hour away from me and I am really curious about it! Think they'd let me take a tour?
  • Did you know Captain Chesley Sullenburger, who famously landed his jet safely in the Hudson River, also volunteers training guide dog puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind? There's more information on him and his inspiring family here.
  • AbleGamers has confirmed that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 will feature support for colorblind users.
  • I love cows. For some fun this Wednesday, in the video below you can see how one clever cow manages to escape being penned up all night. No sound/subtitles/captions required.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Being Aware Of Others' Hearing Loss

I've had two reminders in the past week that the problems I deal with are not necessarily mine alone... it was nice to be reminded, and I thought I would share the stories.


Honk!!! Honk!!! Honk!!! :)))
From Flickr user Dennis Collette
Image is of a flock of birds in a "V" formation.


The other day I was working and was approached by an older gentleman. He seemed to be having trouble with our automatic self-checkout machine. As he spoke, he turned to the machine and finished his sentence facing it, so that I completely missed the entirety of his question. I asked him to repeat himself and please face me. He laughed, apologized, and said, "That bothers me so much, too, and I'm always asking people to face me. Sorry about that."

The other moment was just today. A man needed change for his $5 bill. I got him five ones out of the drawer and handed them over. As I sat back down again, he mumbled something like "four." I only saw four bills in his hand, so I thought I had given him the wrong change. I got up, got him another one dollar bill, and tried to hand it back, only to see he had the fifth dollar bill in his own hand and was trying to give it to me. He was actually saying "four quarters" but the second word was so muffled I couldn't hear it. He said, "Sorry! I can only hear out of one ear and I always think people can hear what I say but most of the time only I can hear what I say."

Neither of these people wore hearing aids or had any visual indicator of their hearing difficulties. I have pretty good "hearing aid (or cochlear implant)" radar - if somebody is wearing a hearing aid, chances are I will notice it, mostly because it is relevant to me and I'm aware of them. However, it made me think about the fact that I usually don't think about whether the person I'm speaking to may have some difficulty and not have any indication of it. It really highlighted to me the need to try to be clear myself. It probably was an eye opener for the two men I spoke to as well, since they both realized I had trouble hearing them.

Over the course of my job I have met a few people who use ASL or other forms of signing. I always like to meet these folks and try to talk to them a bit. I don't know anyone else who signs, so it helps me a lot. One of these people was extremely brusque and rude, even mean, rolling his eyes constantly and acting as though I didn't know what I was doing. This was years ago but I always wonder how he would have reacted if he knew I was pretty much in the same boat, just with hearing aids. I don't know if it would have changed anything.

What do you readers think? Do you often notice when other people are having difficulty hearing or do you rely on your "hearing aid radar" like I do? To me, moments like those above are nice reminders I am not alone and a lot of people can sympathize and even find humor in sometimes difficult situations.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Seven Products for Protecting Your Hearing Devices from Moisture, Sweat and Water

As summer wears on, around here it starts to get very humid and I sweat a lot more often than usual. It's Arizona's monsoon season right now, which brings humidity, dust, and rain to the Valley where I live - all major problems for hearing aids.

This year I am curious about hearing aid covers and protection. These little devices are not only expensive, they're very important, so I want to protect them. I looked around online and wanted to share some of the protective covers I have found in my research. I don't mean this list to be exhaustive, but hopefully it is helpful. I haven't decided yet which I will order, and I haven't tried any of the products below.

If anyone has any opinions or experiences with these products, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments! Click on the product's name below to go to their website.

Custom Molded Hearing Aid Protection
This is a new one, one I'd never heard of before I started searching. For $50 (for 5), this company has a vinyl cover which will be custom molded to your hearing aid. This allows for changing the battery and settings without removing the cover.

The Deflector
I don't know if this product has a website of its own. It is a plastic "awning" type of device that slides over a behind the ear hearing aid and has a universal size. It is $24.95 at the above site.

Ear Band-It
This is designed for protection while swimming. The band wraps around the head, covering the ears. It was designed for children with ear tubes. I don't know if (and kind of doubt) this would work for hearing aids, but it is often sold at audiologists' offices.

Ear Gear
Ear Gears are "boots" made for hearing aids made of nylon-spandex. The site says the spandex material protects hearing devices from dirt and moisture. There are several different sizes, even Ear Gear for cochlear implants, and also a wide variety of colors for the "boot." The prices start in the $25 range.

Hearing Aid Sweatbands
This product is made of fabric and is used to protect the hearing aid from sweat and moisture, such as while outside or exercising. The sweatbands can be reused, and can be laundered. They are $22.95 to a pack, also with a variety of colors.

Super Seals
Super Seals are latex covers made for hearing aids. They are designed to stay on the hearing aid at all times, but need to be removed to replace the battery or change settings. The rubber can cause allergic reactions, and require an installation tool. A starter kit is $27.50.

Water Bombs
Okay, this is more of a "hack" or "DIY" solution than anything, but I found this post on the Hearing Aid Forums very funny/creative. There are photos and discussion at the link. And it probably only costs a few cents.


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Betty White "Gets It"

I'm reading Betty White's new book, If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won't), right now. This particular passage made me smile.

Okay, so you get your glasses and everyone is extremely supportive. "Oh, those are very pretty." "Those glasses look great on you!" Et cetera, et cetera.

Somehow it's a different story when your hearing starts to go. People can even seem a little annoyed when you say "What?" too many times. They'll repeat themselves, but frequently without making it one jot clearer or louder. You find you need to see faces. If someone turns away while still talking, you realize how much lip-reading you'd been doing without realizing it.

I can remember accusing my dad of selective hearing - hearing only what he wanted to hear. Shame on me. That was before I learned how isolated one can feel when she misses a key remark and loses track of the conversation but is loath to admit it.

My father never enjoyed parties and avoided them whenever possible. He always said he couldn't hear anybody in a crowd. I always thought it was because he just didn't like parties. But now I understand. Cocktail-party small talk may not be much worth hearing, but it's tough when you can't hear it at all.

Sorry, Daddy, for this late apology - now I understand.

Friday, July 1, 2011

No More Contact Form (Housekeeping)

Just a quick note to say I've decided to get rid of the Wufoo contact form previously on this blog. It seems that a lot of the times I replied to someone who got in touch through the form, I'd end up in their spam folder. Anyways, feel free to shoot me emails at the email address on my right hand sidebar over there (just put in the proper symbols when you send it).

Thanks!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Nominate Someone for Oticon's 14th Annual Focus on People Awards

Oticon's 14th annual Focus on People Awards are accepting nominations through July 27th for students, adults, advocates and hearing professionals to receive the award. Oticon is a hearing aid manufacturer with a long line of hearing devices like the Epoqs (my hearing aids), the Agil, and the Dual.

Their award is split up into 4 categories according to their website:
  • Student – for young people with hearing loss, ages 6 - 21 who are full-time students
  • Adults – for people with hearing loss, ages 21 and above
  • Hearing Care Practitioner – for hearing care professionals who are currently in practice
  • Advocacy – for adults with hearing loss, who are actively involved in support efforts for the hard-of-hearing and deaf community (full-time students in advocacy apply for Student category)
The prize for the Student, Adult, and Advocacy categories is $1,000, plus $1,000 donated to the charity of the winner's choice, and a set of Oticon hearing instruments. The Health Care Practitioner prize will get the $1,000 plus $1,000 donation.

To nominate a hearing professional, use this form.
To nominate an individual, use this form.

According to Oticon's website the judges are looking for:
  • Nominees with any degree of hearing loss from mild to moderate to more severe. 
  • Achievements and contributions in any of a broad range of community, civic and social areas.
  • Ability to challenge outdated stereotypes of what it means to have a hearing loss.
Thanks to live. love. hear. for posting about this contest! I think I already have a few entries in mind!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Around the Web Wednesday

I really enjoyed this article about Ann Clare LeZotte, a deaf librarian who works in Gainesville, Florida. She has written a book for deaf and hard of hearing children called Here Comes Julie Jack! and hopes to make it a series. I can tell you, just from reading the description of the book in the article, I would have loved it as a child.

Speaking of libraries - it's not deafness-related, but have you seen this article: 13 Things You Pay For That Your Library Has For Free? The library I work for has all of these and more. Check your local library out!

Researchers at the University of Southampton in the UK have received a grant to explore ways to make music more enjoyable for people with cochlear implants. According to the article, "Through a series of innovative music workshops, in conjunction with Southampton Community Music Project (SoCo), this project will explore aspects of music that can be appreciated by cochlear implant users through a variety of listening, computer-based and practical activities."

A funny story about an interesting subway ride from the blog Life is About Creating Yourself.

And your video for this Wednesday... Alabama's "Angels Among Us" (no subtitles, but here are the lyrics). I happened to be watching this video the other day and noticed the signing at one point:

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Invisible Gorilla Teaches Us About Human Illusions

Cover of The Invisible Gorilla
I just finished the book The Invisible Gorilla by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons and wanted to recommend it to everyone reading this blog, especially those who blog themselves.

The Invisible Gorilla is a psychology book dealing with the way humans often miss or wrongly perceive the world around them. The book takes its title from a famous psychology test created by the authors, which you can view here. The video easily illustrates the way we can become focused on a task which causes us to miss important things - for example, driving, working, etc.

Not only that, but the book also focuses on other "illusions" that we fall prey to every day. My favorites are the illusions of "cause" and "potential." The illusion of potential causes us to feel we have mental potential that, if tapped into, will cause us to become smarter in various ways. And the illusion of cause can lead us to draw cause-and-effect relationships between situations that do not actually correlate with each other.

I think as a blogger and blog reader it is very important to be aware of these illusions, especially when writing about scientific breakthroughs. Newspaper headlines often jump to conclusions when the actual study does not. Particularly when it comes to issues of deafness, there are a lot of current scientific breakthroughs and they often get a lot of press. It's important to be able to read between the lines of a sensationalist news article and try to get at what the scientific study is actually saying.

As a person with a disability, I think it really helped me to learn about the illusion of attention. Something blindingly obvious like a gorilla wandering into the middle of a basketball game seems like it would be seen, but it is missed by 50% of people. So wearing my hair up to indicate my hearing aid may not be as obvious as it seems like it should be. People are not expecting to see a hearing aid so they may bypass it entirely. It's the same thing with other signs that a person is deaf, blind, or has physical difficulties. People do not expect it so they may miss it.

I really recommend this book. Hope you enjoy it!