Friday, July 29, 2011

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

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).