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, 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

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!