Thursday, June 28, 2012

Guest Post: 5 Reasons for Having Saliva Tests Done

The blog post below is from Jennifer Gonzales. Thanks to Jennifer for keeping us apprised of things we can do to help our health! For more information about guest posts on Hearing Sparks (I love them!), see here


U.S. Army Medical Research Unit - Improving malaria diagnostics, Kisumu, Kenya 05-2010Saliva tests can help diagnose a number of conditions. They are not as invasive as blood tests and offer more accurate results in some cases. They also cost less and can often be done at home. Saliva tests involve producing a small amount of saliva, which is then checked for certain abnormalities, such as high or low levels of proteins or hormones.

1. Thyroid Imbalances 
People who show signs of a thyroid imbalance, such as fatigue, weight changes, or hair loss, can have saliva tests done to help diagnose their condition. A saliva test checks a person's hormone levels. When the levels are high, this can indicate an overactive thyroid or hyperthyroidism. Low levels are associated with an under-active thyroid or hypothyroidism. Saliva tests might produce better results than blood tests since the amount of hormones in the bloodstream is much smaller than the amount found in a saliva sample.

2. Ovulation
Women who are trying to get pregnant can use a saliva test to find out if they're ovulating. The test involves placing saliva on a slide and looking at it through a microscope to see the pattern it forms when it dries. A pattern shaped like a fern indicates an increase in estrogen which is associated with ovulation. The most accurate results occur when the test is taken no earlier than two days before ovulation usually begins, or no later than two days after it typically starts. This test should not be used to help prevent pregnancy.

3. Food Allergies and Sensitivities 
People who suspect that they have a food allergy or sensitivity can have saliva tests done to help determine which food is causing the problem. The test works by showing the levels of antibodies produced in response to certain types of food. Abnormal levels of antibodies indicate a sensitivity or allergy. This type of test is less invasive than the blood tests and skin prick tests that are usually done to find out what is causing an allergic reaction.

4. Infectious Diseases 
Saliva tests can be used to determine whether or not a person has HIV-1. The test device is placed inside the mouth for up to five minutes and then is sent to a lab to be checked for antibodies to HIV-1. These tests produce highly accurate results and were officially approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration in 2004. Saliva tests have also shown potential for accurately diagnosing other infectious diseases, such as hepatitis C, parasitic infections, and Helicobacter pylori infections.

5. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Women who show signs of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), such as hair loss, irregular menstrual cycles, or infertility can have saliva tests done to help diagnose this condition. These tests measure the amount of hormones in the saliva sample. Results that show high levels of androgens, such as testosterone or DHEA, and low levels of progesterone are associated with PCOS.

Saliva tests generally provide a safe, accurate, and more comfortable way to detect certain conditions. People who use them should keep in mind that some conditions will also require other medical tests to confirm a positive diagnosis.

 Jennifer Gonzales is a freelance writer, who blogs about a diverse range of health-related topics. Jennifer recommends saliva testing as a fast and efficient way to be diagnosed for certain medical conditions.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sundance Channel's "Push Girls" - $2.99 if You Want Captions, Otherwise Free

Push Girls is a new show which premiered this month on the Sundance Channel. The show "trac[es] the lives of four dynamic, outspoken and beautiful women who, by accident or illness, have been paralyzed from the neck or the waist down" (from the site, here). It sounds like an interesting show, which would educate and advocate about disabilities.

An image from the Push Girls website.
However, according to this Consumerist post, you can only watch the show with captions if you buy the $2.99 episodes on iTunes. The show is captioned on television, or on iTunes, but not on Sundance's website here. In fact, when I looked at the player for the episode, it appears the player is not programmed to be able to provide captions at all.

This reminds me a lot of "rental versions" of DVDs you can get at Redbox and other rental companies which sometimes don't have captions. Captions are often considered a "special feature." (This seems to be getting better, but I still see it sometimes on 'rental DVDs' we get for the library I work for.)

This makes me sad. If a company is going to make a show available online, especially if it is a show about disabilities, I don't see any reason we should have to pay $2.99, or buy a cable/satellite television subscription, to be able to watch it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Automatic Captions on YouTube are Now Available in Spanish

Spanish-speakers who find captions useful can now take advantage of YouTube's automatic captions service.

Automatic captions use voice-recognition technology to transcribe captions without human input. Sometimes it works well, sometimes it doesn't. However, I think it is awesome that Google is making captions available in a wide variety of languages.

If you need captions in another language and automatic captions aren't doing it for you, take a look at Amara, formerly known as Universal Subtitles. You can request that a video be captioned or even help out captioning videos in your language.

For more information on YouTube's Spanish captions, visit their blog here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Made for iPhone Hearing Aids: Intriguing News About iOS 6

A screenshot of Apple's information on accessibility.
Click to enlarge.
Note: See update on November 25, 2013

Yesterday, Apple announced new features coming to their newest version of their operating system, iOS 6. On their website they have a preview of the new operating system, which promises to bring a host of accessibility features to the system along with other features. One of the comments on the preview that jumped out at me, though, is this line:
And Apple is working with top manufacturers to introduce Made for iPhone hearing aids that will deliver a power-efficient, high-quality digital audio experience.
I can't find much more information about this online (not even who the "top manufacturers" are). The wording of this comment seems ambiguous. It could mean there will be "iHearingAids" sometime soon, or the wording could imply an aid to hearing - more accessibility features programmed with the input from manufacturers of hearing aids.

Lastly, and what I think might be the most likely, is that Apple is providing certain specifications that hearing aid manufacturers can meet in order to brand their products "Made for iPhone." This is similar to the way speaker manufacturers and other companies can brand their products "Made for iPhone."

I'm not a big Apple fan (Linux through and through), but the idea of a computing company manufacturing its own brand of hearing aids intrigues me. It may not be happening here, but I could easily see it happening sometime in the future.

What do you think? Would you seek out hearing aids specifically branded "Made for iPhone?"

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Lou Ferrigno Receives Esteem Hearing Implant

Supanova Perth 2010 - Lou Ferrigno
Photo via Flickr user Nikita Kashner.
The Esteem is a fully implantable hearing aid device which gained FDA approval back in March of 2010. (I blogged about it here.) The device has been steadily gaining interest since its FDA approval. It is not for everyone - only for adults 18 and over and for people with a stable sensorineural hearing loss and normal ear anatomy.

In late May Lou Ferrigno announced that he has had the Esteem implanted in one ear. Lou is an actor who became profoundly deaf after ear infections in his very early childhood. He's currently on Celebrity Apprentice, and was on The Incredible Hulk and The King of Queens (as himself). I still remember my Dad pointing out Lou on The King of Queens and telling me that he was just like me.

I can't find a whole lot of information on Lou and the Esteem but this press release has some. Lou's wife Carla encouraged him to have the Esteem implant. As a result, Lou says he "hasn't felt this good since he won the Mr. Universe competition" and that "everything is so loud and so clear."

I'm really happy for Lou and glad the implant is working out for him. Hopefully it can find a place alongside conventional hearing aids and cochlear implants as helpful devices. I can't take advantage of the Esteem because I have a progressive hearing loss, but I find it very interesting. I anticipate a lot of interest in the Esteem as more people are implanted and we learn more about it.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Helen Keller in Love: Definitely a Book to Look Forward To

Cover of Helen Keller in Love.
Helen Keller in Love: A Novel* is a novel by Rosie Sultan, which came out April 26 of this year.

The book explores a romance between Helen Keller and her secretary Peter Fagan. Although this is a fictional piece of work, the author has researched Helen Keller's life and it has a basis in fact.

I find Helen Keller an absolutely fascinating historical figure beyond what people think of as her disabilities. After she learned to communicate with Anne Sullivan, she graduated from Radcliffe College and became the author of twelve books. She was a radical, with anti-capitalist views and a membership in the Socialist Party and the Industrial Workers of the World, and she was always an advocate for people with deafness and blindness. So she went far beyond what is often portrayed of her, as a feral child who learns to communicate. She was much more than that.

I haven't read this book yet, as I'll have to wait until it becomes available for me to request at the library. I'm very interested in its portrayal of Helen Keller and the difficulties she faced.

Have you read it? What do you think of it? 

*Affiliate link to Amazon

Friday, June 1, 2012

Some Tips for Convention-Going as a Deaf Person

This past month I was finally able to attend Phoenix Comicon after wanting to for several years. It was a brand new experience for me and although it was a little overwhelming at times, I really enjoyed it! I saw a lot of awesome people, bought some cool art, and overall had a very geeky time.

If you are not familiar with "comicons" (comic conventions), or similar conventions, essentially they serve as places for people with geeky interests (not just comics) to gather. Quite a few people dress up, celebrities make appearances and you can sit in on panels on various subjects. There is also an exhibit hall where you can spend every last dollar bill in your wallet on awesome stuff. (No regrets!)

I thought I would write a few suggestions for anyone who is deaf/Hard of Hearing and interested in attending a convention like this. Something new, with so many people, can be overwhelming. I will also share some of my pictures from the con so you can see how much fun it was!

Phoenix Comicon - Dalek

Sit up front
Unfortunately I didn't follow this advice in any of the panels I went to. I was a little nervous about being right up front. But, this was the biggest thing I would have done differently. The microphones were not always positioned correctly at various panels and some people didn't bother with them at all, unfortunately. Sitting up front would have improved my ability to hear immensely.

Phoenix Comicon - Video Games Panel
Not conducive to being able to hear.

Don't be afraid to ask people to speak up
This goes for panels, people at booths, and pretty much anyone at a convention. Everyone I met was immensely friendly and the place can be loud - so even people with typical hearing will need to speak loudly to make sure they are heard. Don't worry about asking people to repeat themselves or speak up. Chances are someone else in the audience or your group was about to ask the same thing.

Phoenix Comicon - Lego Guy

Utilize different settings on your hearing aids/devices
My hearing aids have a setting set up by my audiologist which decreases the amplification of sound to my left and right but keeps the correct amplification ahead and behind. This was a lifesaver my first day of the convention. The next couple of days I was more familiar with what to expect so I didn't need it. But this setting gave me just enough relief from the loud sounds of the crowd to be able to focus.

Check what special settings you may have on your hearing device and see if any can help you.

Familiarize yourself with the map and setting
You don't need hearing to navigate a building but I feel much better with a general idea of where to go. The Phoenix Comicon has a smartphone app which had maps of the buildings. They also have a handy programming booklet which includes maps, too. I found them very helpful.

Phoenix Comicon - Jack in the Void

Find a quiet spot you can relax in if you need it
I needed this especially a couple of times. It's good to have a spot to relax and recharge. Take a break from hearing. Even in a large building full of people, there is always a quiet spot to be found, even if it's the bathroom. Take advantage of it so you don't get overly stressed.

Go with friends

Friends/family members can always help you out if you need help communicating with someone or advocating for something. Plus I think the con is more fun with more people!

Phoenix Comicon - Us
Ask ahead of time about accessibility accommodations
The Phoenix Comicon seemed very accommodating and willing to help according to a couple of panelists I heard from over the course of the convention. If the information about accessibility accommodations (wheelchair ramps, captioned films, Braille signs, etc) is not available on the con's website, email them ahead of time. You may remind some very busy people of something they didn't mean to forget.

Request captions/subtitles

I didn't watch any films at this convention so I can't relate if subtitles were available. It may be a hassle to ask and then try to figure out how to turn them on, but if you need them, don't worry about it.

Phoenix Comicon - With the TARDIS

Don't be afraid to just sit and people-watch
I did this a few times with my husband during the convention. We would just find an empty space of wall and watch people for awhile. It helps your ears acclimate, and helps you get used to everything. You can spot when a crowd has left a booth so you can speak to the booth owner quietly. And you may be able to see when something interesting is about to happen that you wouldn't hear normally.

Phoenix Comicon - Young Sith Lord
There were a few things I felt the con could have improved on. Some were specific to certain booths (announcing a raffle without enough amplification), others could have been improved upon by the convention runners themselves (no text accompaniment to audio announcements, no way for those with visual difficulties to see what room certain panels were in). All in all I had a great time. Don't be worried if you are concerned about going to the con and not being able to hear. You'll have fun anyway!