Monday, April 30, 2012

A New, Invisible Implant

Hearing devices have consistently been getting smaller and smaller as scientists find ways to move away from clunky, large devices to nearly invisible aids. And it seems like the smaller they are, the more interest people have. My blog post on the Esteem implantable hearing aid has received dozens of comments over the course of two years since I published it and I've heard there continues to be a lot of interest in implants such as this.

Now researchers at the University of Utah have developed a tiny hearing aid which is implanted in the middle ear, totally invisible. The device has been tested on cadavers and the researchers plan to cut its size down to a third of a pencil eraser before they work on testing it on living patients. According to Professor Young, who is working on the project, it has an advantage over cochlear implants because there is nothing exterior to worry about damaging. However, because there would be a battery implanted as well, patients would need to "recharge" overnight by wearing a device behind their ear.

I can see a lot of interesting potential with this device. Whereas the Esteem can only help those with stable sensorineural hearing loss and normal ear anatomy, this device could help people who have degraded inner ear bones and possibly other types of hearing loss. However, the device hasn't been tested on a living person yet, so there is no knowledge of potential side effects or how well it works. This is something I definitely plan to keep an eye (or ear!) on.

(Thanks to my dad for sending along the Daily Mail article!)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

On Communicating That You're Deaf at Work

This post on got me thinking and I'd be interested to hear your opinion.

In the post, a man reported about his visit to Target. In the checkout line, his cashier had a sign which read "Cashier is Hearing Impaired." He was worried it was embarassing for the cashier and calling attention to something that might not be a big deal.

In my line of work, I work with the public a lot, although it's not retail. Usually at least 60% of my day is spent answering questions from people. This got me wondering if I would want such a sign at the computer I work from.

On the one hand, I want to say yes because I would like to have people aware when they come up to me. I have talked to my fair share of people who are irritated when they need to repeat themselves for me or when I appear to be ignoring them. It would be nice to have a sign to point to.

Mumble mumble mumble
Photo from Flickr user DrBacchus
On the other hand I know not many people read signs, and some people misinterpret deaf/hearing impaired/hard of hearing to mean they won't be able to communicate with the person. I've had that happen before. I told a person I was deaf and they said "well then how are you talking to me right now?"

If I decided to do something like this, I think it would be good to test it out first. I'd want to see people's reactions to see if I'm getting into something I'd rather not deal with. After all, 95% of my conversations go well and the person doesn't ever need to know I couldn't hear half of what they were saying...

Thinking about this reminded me of Speak Up Librarian's shop where she has some t-shirts and other gifts that communicate to people in a humorous way. Somehow I don't think I'd be allowed to post those around the desk... but I sure wish I could sometimes.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Two Great Webcomics Touching on Deafness & Hearing Loss

In the past week I've discovered two webcomics which touch on deafness and hearing loss, and wanted to share them with you.

The first one is That Deaf Guy by Matt and Kay Daigle. That Deaf Guy follows the lives of a Deaf man, his interpreter wife, and their son. I like That Deaf Guy for its gentle humor. There is not a lot of negativity here, just funny moments from everyday life.

The second one is a recent discovery called Runewriters. The comic is set in a magical world (think Lord of the Rings or Dungeons and Dragons). It follows a profoundly deaf girl and her bodyguard who seems to get into magical mishaps often. The girl uses sign language, although not many other people in her village know it. This comic is also funny, with a dash of geeky fantasy storylines that I like.

Do you know of any other good webcomics that touch on deafness and hearing loss?