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  • Ability to challenge outdated stereotypes of what it means to have a hearing loss.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!

Google Improves YouTube's Auto-Captions

In November 2009 Google introduced auto-captions for videos on YouTube, but it's not always accurate, leading to frustrating (and sometimes funny) errors. This interesting article from Scientific American takes a look at how Google is working to improve the technology; Google says they've reduced 20% of errors in their latest update.

While Google is working hard and I love having the option for auto captions, I don't think auto captions should be used in place of regularly captioning your videos. Sometimes auto captioning can fail and fail spectacularly - if I were putting a video on YouTube I would not want to rely on auto captions to accurately transcribe what is said.

Here are the directions for adding captions/subtitles to a YouTube video. Universal Subtitles is also a great way to provide subtitles in all languages for videos that aren't captioned yet.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

(!) Mark in Captions/Subtitles to Indicate Sarcasm?

I've just finished watching the first new series of Doctor Who (the season with Eccleston as the Doctor) and noticed an odd pattern in the subtitles of the episodes. Whenever a character's line indicated sarcasm in the tone, the line ended with the symbols (!). It was confusing at first - I've never seen (!) at the end of a line of dialogue in captions before and it took a few viewings to realize it only showed up when characters were being sarcastic.
23/11/2007 (Day 358) - Behind The Sofa
Photo from Flickr user Kaptain Kobold. Daleks are the best.
Image of Doctor Who figurines being menaced by a toy Dalek.

I only found a couple mentions of this on Google but I think it's really interesting. I guess it all comes down to the personal style of the person or company handling the captions/subtitles. Remember that story last year about the company that wanted to create a sarcasm mark, the SarcMark, which would cost money to use? It reminded me a bit of that.

Are there any other tone indicators used in subtitling or captioning? (!) is the only one I can think of.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Summertime, Sweat, and Water... Oh No!

It's that time again... summer! Where I live we have just reached 110 degrees with no sign of relief in sight. All we can look forward to are the monsoons and eventual cooling off in a few... okay... many months.

Summer means outdoor activities, even if you define "outdoor activities" as "running from your air conditioned house to your car" (as I tend to do). And summer activities often mean sweat and water, a deadly combination for your hearing aids.

Moisture is a big problem for any electronic device. Last year I wrote about keeping your hearing aids nice and dry over the hot months, in this post. Seeing the post reminded me of the comments on it about Ear Gear.

summer by Rosh PR on Flickr
Image of a silhouetted man shaking off water.
They're essentially socks for your hearing aid that keep them protected. According to Scott, who commented on my post then, "The first weekend I had them I taught martial arts classes outside all day. I was in the tidewater area of Virginia and it was VERY hot and VERY humid. They held up well and I was able to hear my students without any real problems." I haven't tried them myself but it is tempting!

What do you do to keep your hearing devices in good functioning order over the summer?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Hearing Aid Storage at Night

Over at ohdeedoh they are discussing hearing aid storage at night with children. The questioner is asking about a safe, appealing way for a child to be able to take charge of storing their hearing aids at night.

There are a bunch of suggestions in the comments, including my own, which is my current solution to storing my own hearing aids - a Dry & Store. I keep my Dry & Store on my nightstand and put my hearing aids into it every night, as well as while I am in the shower, or whenever I need to set my hearing aids aside.

01. Morning
My Dry & Store, to the left
I think moisture and dryness is a real concern with hearing aids. Where I live in Arizona, humidity is not a major concern, but getting sweaty when the weather heats up is.

The only downside to the Dry & Store is the cost of the Dry-Briks that need to be replaced every 3 months or so to keep drying the aids properly. I'll admit, I usually forget to replace them on time.

If I was not using the Dry & Store or another moisture solution, I think I would probably use a simple decorative box like the ones sold at Hobby Lobby. I really like this type of box and they usually have lots of sizes for sale in different styles. Maybe I would add a soft lining to the box as well.

Some of the commenters have the neat idea to create a drying box using dessicant beads, which would allow someone to decorate their box however they like.

Where do you store your hearing aids or other devices?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Around the Web Wednesday

  • Many people have experienced the sensation of being totally lost in a book, a project, or something else, and missing what's going on around them. I personally do this all the time. Now scientists are looking into what causes the phenomenon, called "inattentional deafness." There's more info about the study this way.  
  • Allergies can cause hearing loss? Yes, they can, and according to local hearing clinics, Boston is experiencing a large number of patients coming in with this problem. It's thought that excessively wet April and May months may be contributing towards worse allergies. Allergies can cause the middle ear to become inflamed and lead to hearing loss, which usually subsides as the symptoms are treated.
  • Wireless technology has become a major part of our lives with cellphones and computers connected wirelessly, but what if you could easily charge your devices without cords or cables? What if you could charge larger devices, too, like your microwave? Metamaterials could have the answer, according to 80beats. Metamaterials are definitely something out of science fiction - they have properties not found in nature. Everything is purely theoretical at the moment, but think about keeping your hearing aids fully charged without batteries or a charging station... very cool.
  • And your YouTube video for this week, no sound required. I feel for this dog some days:

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

My Thoughts on Switched at Birth, Premiere Episode

(Some very slight spoilers for the premiere episode of Switched at Birth follow. Other posts I write on the show will probably contain more spoilers than below, but I'll make sure to mark them.)

View Switched at Birth with captions on Hulu here.

I watched Switched at Birth last night with my husband. The show's premise is that two teenage girls were switched in the hospital, leading them to grow up with different families. One girl is a typical rebellious teenager, attending a prestigious private school, while the other is deaf, attending a school for deaf children.

The first episode was pretty enjoyable for me, providing its share of humor and a bit of drama. There are lots of nice lines - I tweeted the line "It's just her ears that don't work, not her brain" shortly after hearing it. I don't think that is a point that can be repeated enough.

There are definitely some characters who are more likeable than others. Some of the characters are definitely out of touch and a little clueless. My favorite characters so far are Daphne and her family (the family she grew up with, that is). Daphne is a funny, often random character who seems like somebody I would like to know. My husband surprised me by his vehement dislike for certain characters (Daphne's biological father for one).

I did think the show touched upon a lot of deaf issues all at once in the first episode, which might confuse some people, and turn others off. I mean, we got everything from sign language interpretation, to cochlear implants, to mainstreaming deaf children. I would like to see more attention paid over the course of several episodes to these topics instead of addressing them once or twice and then dropping them - but I am really glad they were touched upon.

I liked the way sign language was used and filmed for the show and I thought the show did a nice job of exploring the various languages the characters use (English, Spanish, and ASL). Daphne and her mother explained ASL and how she uses it in everyday life very well.

All in all this is definitely a show I will keep watching. I would like to see more of Daphne's personal reaction to the switch versus Bay's, and how each character grows. Hopefully the more annoying characters will grow and change over the course of this show and we will see a lot of interesting storylines.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Don't Forget: Switched at Birth Premiers Tonight on ABC Family

Tonight, June 6th, is the premier of the interesting-looking show Switched at Birth. The show follows two teenage girls who were switched at birth; one of the girls is deaf. The cast of the show features several deaf/hard of hearing actors such as Katie Leclerc and Sean Berdy with appearances by Marlee Matlin.

Will you be tuning in to the show? Here's the website with more information.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Does Deafness Give You Better Sight?

"Oh, you wear hearing aids! That must mean you can see very well!"

Super Eyes
From Flickr user John 'K'
Image of a young child, eyes, nose and ear visible.
For me, that isn't true. Not only do I wear glasses and see little but fuzz when I have them out, I get really disoriented in the dark. I'm visually oriented, sure - I like bright colors and movement and illustrations - but I don't think I'm any better at seeing than anybody else in particular.

However, a new study has shown that some deaf people, who were born deaf or became deafened early in life, actually do have better - or at least different - vision than other people. People who have this advantage have more of a focus on their vision towards the sides, while people with typical vision focus mostly on what is in front of them. Scientists discovered this by scanning the retinas of deaf people, and noticed a difference in the neurones on their retinas.

The study says that "a lifetime of sensory deprivation" can cause the physical parts of the body to reorganize themselves, to better cope. In addition to better side-vision, the study also mentions that deaf individuals communicating in American Sign Language show activation in the auditory cortex - not where you would expect activation to a visual stimulus.

I think this is all pretty cool. What do you think? Do you think you have better - or unique - vision compared to your hearing peers?

(via io9)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

What Relaxes You From the Strain of Listening?

I promise, I'm still here. I've just had a bit of a hectic week with my housewarming party this past weekend, but I hope to be back to regular blogging soon.

While I thoroughly enjoyed my housewarming party, and loved seeing everyone, giving tours and talking to people I don't see very often, I'll admit it was a bit draining on me. Being an introvert combined with working to hear everyone left me pretty drained after the party.

I am curious, what do you do to relax or bounce back from having to concentrate on hearing people speak? For example, going out to a restaurant, conference or other gathering. It feels like I always long for a reset button in my mind.

Up until recently I almost never removed my hearing aids during the day. They were always in unless I was sleeping, taking a shower, or swimming. Since getting my new aids, which amplify sounds a bit more for me, I am more likely to turn off my aids or take them out. I am also more likely to dig out my Streamer, which lets me listen to music without having a lot of background noise, and can sometimes relax me.

Other things that relax me in general include writing, spending time with my animals, and watching totally mindless television (with the captions on, of course, so I have to make zero effort). What helps to relax you?