Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Dog's Contribution

Last November, our household "zoo" added a new member, a puppy. Raiden joined the finches, tortoise, bearded dragon, and two cats (I don't think the cats were too happy about the newcomer).

Until getting him, I had forgotten how much I tend to rely on dogs when they are present for certain sounds. When there is a dog in the vicinity and I hear a strange sound, I look at the dog first. Their reaction will tell me a lot about the sound that I wouldn't otherwise realize without investigating it myself.

Morning Raiden
I also managed to inadvertently train Raiden to let me know when the microwave and oven timers go off. When we first got him, we fed him in four intervals during the day. I would soak his food in water and set the timer on the microwave or oven. He quickly grew to associate the sound of the timer with food and now, even though he has a bowl of food always set out for him, he will go running into the kitchen. It can be very handy when I am watching television and have something timed. He lets me know if I miss it.

His excited movements let me know if someone is at the door. Conversely, he also lets me know if a sound is no big deal. I was playing a video game the other day and kept hearing something odd. I couldn't tell if it was from the game, from the house, or outside in the neighborhood. I paused the game, and looked at Raiden. He hadn't reacted much to the sound at all, which I took to be a clue it was not very close by or important. It turned out to be a neighbor using an oddly pitched power tool in their backyard.

Raiden may not be a hearing dog, but having him around, I have realized how much dogs can contribute to my awareness of the world. (I love cats, too... but let's face it, they ignore a lot more things than dogs do.) I think I will start some training for him to let me know when my phone rings!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Going Back to School

Last week I made the decision to go back to college for the 2012-2013 school year and complete my degree in Technical Communication.

I am really excited about it, although I know there will be some challenges. I need to take two science courses and then all I have left are core classes directly related to the degree. I'll be going part-time, though, because I work full-time, and it will take a bit longer for me.

In the past thinking about finishing school, with all of the classes as well as work and housework, was a bit overwhelming for me. But now I feel much more settled and I know having a bachelor's degree will help me move up in my field. Maybe eventually I can even go on for my master's degree in Library Science.

The university I will be attending made this degree entirely online along with a few others. I'm a little relieved I won't have to deal with large echoey lecture halls, trying to navigate around campus, or having to talk to a bunch of new people in each class. (My brain gets enough of a workout trying to listen to patrons while I'm at work.)

My blogging here may become more sparse in the fall but I'm thinking these classes will give me more to write about. It's not a new experience for me because I'm almost done with the degree, but I will be learning new and (hopefully) interesting things in my classes.

Looking forward to it!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Article on Hearing Aids in the Arizona Republic

This morning, as usual, I put out the newspapers for our library patrons to peruse over the course of the day. This morning when I opened up the Arizona Republic, I saw a huge front page article about the digital revolution in hearing aids.

Of course, I was interested. The article discusses the advances in hearing aids from the 19th century until today. It emphasizes that hearing aids today are small, slim, and very advanced compared to hearing aids from the past. And, happily enough, the article also points out that it is not just the elderly who may need hearing aids.

Elsewhere in the paper the Republic profiles two hearing aid users, age 39 and 45. Michael Meyer of Phoenix lost his hearing in his early teens after suffering from meningitis, while Kelly Clays had an undiagnosed hearing loss from childhood and got hearing aids when she was 30. Both are open and honest about the challenges and advantages of wearing hearing aids.

I do wish the article had profiled someone even younger. A 20-something individual with hearing loss is a person with a unique perspective in addition to older people - plus I enjoy reading about other people my age who are deaf.

The "hearing aid museum" slideshow linked to in the article (see it here) is also interesting. My audiologist has a display in the waiting room of the timeline of the development of hearing aids. It's really fascinating to look at.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Disney Event: SIGNin' in the Street

I just read about this great event on Speak Up Librarian's blog and wanted to share it with you.

At Downtown Disney District in California Orlando, Florida (sorry for the mistake!), on March 17 and 18th, Disney will be hosting "SIGNin' in the Street." According to Disney's page on the event, it will "embrace the social, technological and artistic accomplishments of world-renowned Deaf talent and local community organizations."

Photo via Flickr user Miss Kels.
The event looks pretty fun! Activities include screenings of two episodes of Switched at Birth along with See What I'm Saying and The Hammer, Q&A sessions with the cast of Switched at Birth and Matt Hamill, and giveaways.

Check out the full schedule here.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Raising Awareness of the Link Between Kidney Disease and Hearing Loss

March is National Kidney Month, and the Better Hearing Institute has decided to use this month to raise awareness of the link between kidney disease and hearing loss.

According to the article in the Wall Street Journal's Market Watch, researchers in Australia found that adults over 50 with moderate chronic kidney disease are more likely to have hearing loss than other adults who don't have kidney disease.

Now that the link has been found, doctors may be able to recognize the likelihood of hearing loss occurring in their patients with kidney disease and assess hearing before it becomes a problem with the patients' quality of life.

In recognition of National Kidney Month and World Kidney Day on March 8th, the Better Hearing Institute has put up an online hearing check here. The simple test can help people recognize if they may have a hearing loss and it recommends seeing an audiologist after the test if there is a possibility of hearing loss.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Netflix and Captioning: My Initial Experiences

A couple of weeks ago, on a whim, I decided to sign up for Netflix streaming service through our PlayStation 3. My mom had just let me know that they had increased their captioning and also that captioning is now available through more devices than it used to be.

I hope to write a longer post once I have used Netflix more widely, but I wanted to write about my initial first impressions.

I signed up for Netflix online. They have a 30 day free trial and after that it costs $7.99 a month for unlimited streaming. (You can stream through your computer or through your TV.) There is an additional cost if you want physical discs delivered, which I opted against.

You can queue up TV shows, movies, and documentaries through your PC or TV. In your browser, you can see if a show has captions by going to the show's page and scrolling down. Usually, under "Streaming Details," you can see if a show has subtitles. Some shows have none, some list "English," and some list both "English" and "English (CC)." I actually haven't noticed a difference between "English" and "English (CC)" but I would assume that "CC" captions sounds as well as dialogue.

While the majority of TV shows I want to watch have been captioned, I have been less lucky with movies. It seems that movies added to Netflix's library are more likely to have subtitles vs. older movies. Many documentaries are also not subtitled. I was disappointed to see many Nova/PBS documentaries I was interested in aren't subtitled. That disappointed me because PBS is usually so on-the-ball about captioning.

I did notice one odd thing about a couple of shows I wanted to watch. In both cases the first episode was not captioned but every episode after that was. Strange. (The shows were Star Trek: Voyager and Quantum Leap. Don't judge me!)

Sometimes the captions get badly corrupted. I think this is probably a problem with streaming or buffering, but sometimes it is ridiculously garbled while the picture is fine.

Another annoying thing about captioning on Netflix is that you have to set captions every time you start to watch an episode of a show or a movie. If you accidentally back out of the menu to watch the show, you have to set it again. You also have to set it for every episode of a show. It gets tedious. I wish there were a global preference to always have captions on.

Those are my thoughts so far... has anyone else had experiences with Netflix?