Sunday, July 29, 2012

Turn a Deaf Ear by Janet Horger (Giveaway!)

Update: The giveaway has closed and the winner is Jim. Jim, I'll be in contact with you.Thanks to everyone who entered!

I just finished an interesting book called Turn a Deaf Ear, by Janet Horger, and wanted to share my thoughts on it. Be sure to check the end of this post for the opportunity to win a copy of this book courtesy of the author.

Turn a Deaf Ear is the story of Linda and John, mostly focusing on Linda. The reader is taken through Linda's early life and experiences, complete with recipes for some of the amazing-sounding food that her Italian family dishes up. Linda meets John and in turn is introduced to the wider Deaf community and American Sign Language.

I really enjoyed this book. The writing is very personable and accessible, and it's a great multicultural experience. The challenges that Deaf people experienced during this time period (the '60s and '70s) and continue to experience are highlighted. There's also some nice humor from Linda's mother and other members of her family.

If you would like to win a copy of Turn a Deaf Ear for yourself, just enter a comment below (US/CAN only please). You can enter as often as you like, but please make sure you include some way for me to get in touch with you. I will choose a winner on August 2, 2012.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Deaf Participation in the 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony

Beijing 2008 Olympic Cupcake
Photo via Flickr user clevercupcakes
Like many others, I watched the 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony last night. I love the Olympics and especially like the opening and closing ceremonies. One thing that caught my eye was the inclusion of the deaf in the opening ceremonies. I did a little bit of research into those participants and thought I would share.

Evelyn Glennie (website)
Dame Evelyn Glennie led 1,000 drummers into the Industrial Revolution portion of the Opening Ceremonies with a catchy, thumping drum beat. It was very visually striking as Evelyn was above the actual stage while actors portrayed the movement into the Industrial Revolution.

Evelyn has been profoundly deaf since she was eleven years old. She is Scottish, and grew up in Aberdeenshire. According to Evelyn,
First and foremost I am a sound creator. Everything I do is derived from sound in spite of my profound deafness. I strive to explore every sound avenue and surface including design, technology and physicality. I enjoy the challenge of creating a 'no-fuss' approach and relish the idea of building a global legacy brand that will live long after I have departed the stage.
Evelyn has written an excellent essay that touches upon her deafness and how it is often misunderstood. Her Hearing Essay can be found here (pdf) and eloquently explains how both deaf and hearing people act upon their perceptions of the world around them.

Kaos Singing Choir for Deaf & Hearing Children (website)
This choir, dressed in pajamas, performed the British national anthem for the Queen during the Opening Ceremonies. They performed the anthem in English and BSL.

According to their website, the Kaos Singing Choir has over 200 participants and is "the only integrated deaf and hearing children’s choir in the UK."

They have some music tracks (Songs of Kaos) and videos on their website here to give a watch/listen.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Apple Working on Patenting a Social Network for Hearing Aids?

people talking in paris
Photo via Flickr user katiedee47.
It appears that Engadget has found an interesting concept from Apple in the United States Patent and Trademark Office database - a social network for hearing aid users.

According to Engadget, the idea is that a person's hearing aid could store a profile, or list of audio settings, which could then be "shared" when the user meets someone else wearing hearing aids. The hearing aids would then adjust dynamically to provide both wearers a good listening experience. This would all work with a computing device, maybe a tablet or smartphone, and the profile could be adjusted based on the user's preferences.

You can read Apple's actual filing here. What do you think? I think this is a neat idea - I would be really interested to see a demonstration and get an idea of how well something like this would actually work. This could be another example of how Apple is looking towards accessibility, in addition to its "Made for iPhone" hearing aids teased earlier.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Silent Star: The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer William Hoy (Giveaway Now Closed)

Update: The giveaway has closed and the winner is Maevy's Daddy. If this is you please get in touch with me so that I can send you your copy of the book. Thanks to everyone.

When I was a kid, I remember my dad telling me the story of the origin of the football huddle. The story goes that Gallaudet University quarterback Paul Hubbard invented the football huddle in the late 1800s, out of frustration that opposing teams could read sign language and gain knowledge of upcoming plays. I liked the story, both because it was interesting, and because it showed that deaf athletes could play and even influence sports.

When I was contacted by Lee & Low Books to ask if I would like to take a look at the book Silent Star: The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer William Hoy, I definitely appreciated the chance to be able to read about another deaf athlete. Lee & Low Books also sent me a copy to give away to one of my readers. If you would like to enter to win this copy, check the end of this post for instructions.

Silent Star, which is by Bill Wise (illustrations by Adam Gustavson), takes us through the life of William Hoy. William, or "Dummy" as he actually came to prefer to be called (the term was acceptable in the 19th century), was deafened by a bout with meningitis in his childhood. Hoy never gave up on his dream of playing baseball in the major leagues. This book vividly describes his experiences growing up and proving his abilities to be able to move up in the baseball ranks. Hoy retired from baseball over a century ago, but his accomplishments still rank up there with today's notable players. According to the book, he is "one of only three outfielders to record three assists to home plate in one game and is the only outfielder ever to lead a major league in assists, putouts, and fielding percentage in the same season."

In order to play, Hoy had to overcome initial skepticism as well as difficulty with the mechanics of the game itself (not being able to hear the umpire's calls meant he had to turn and look at him after each pitch, leaving him unable to see the pitcher getting ready to throw another ball). The book is an inspiration, showing how Hoy beat his obstacles and became very successful.

The book is available on Amazon here.

I would like to give away a copy of this book to one of my readers. To enter, leave me a comment below. After July 26, 2012, I will choose a winner randomly. Please make sure you leave a way for me to get in touch with you (email address) in your comment (or make sure you are logged in to Google to comment). US/Canadian address only, please.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Just Some Housekeeping

I have made a couple of changes to the blog in the last few days.

First off, Hearing Sparks now has its own domain, meaning you can reach it at The old blogspot URL still works just fine, but will redirect you to the domain. Now I want to make some business cards!

Also, I updated my logo slightly. As in, I actually made a logo rather than plain text! You may be wondering about the bulky headphones in my logo. I chose them for two reasons. First, they remind me of the headphones I wear at the audiologist to have my hearing tested. Second, if I want to listen to music and not use my Oticon Streamer, I have to use bulky headphones. At first I disliked wearing them, but now I find them really comfortable (or maybe I lucked out on my pair.)

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Guest Post: Simple Lifestyle Steps to Follow to Maintain Healthy Hearing

The post below is from John. Many thanks to John for sending me this post on how cleanliness can affect hearing health! For more information about guest posts on Hearing Sparks (I love them!), see here


Maintaining healthy hearing ability is something that is extremely important and can benefit an individual for a lifetime. Not everyone considers how to maintain good hearing ability. However, taking the time to learn about simple steps that can be taken to protect the ear, the ear cavity and ear drum can result in benefits that will be significant.

Lifestyle Choices and How These Choices Affect Your Hearing
Most people are familiar that a good diet and exercise are important for maintaining a healthy body, but these things are also extremely important for maintaining excellent hearing. While loss of hearing can result from numerous things, people who have diabetes or poor circulation are at a higher risk of losing hearing ability than people who do not have these health problems.

Clean homes and environments are also highly important to maintain a solid ability to hear well. Ear infections are one of the biggest causes of loss of hearing. If a person goes swimming in a pool that is not clean, if a person does not take proper care of personal hygiene, or does not visit a doctor regularly to take care of infections, these things can lead to partial or full loss of hearing if left unattended.

People that live in homes that are clean and who take good care of their personal hygiene have a lesser chance of getting infections in their ears. Other infections that can be caused by bacteria can also move around the body and potentially cause hearing problems. Keeping kitchens and bathrooms sanitized and keeping other rooms in the home regularly cleaned, dusted, scrubbed, and vacuumed will increase the person’s ability to manage their hearing health, as well as their overall physical health.

Know When to See a Medical Professional

Knowing how to recognize signs of potential hearing loss is the best way to take proactive measures to protect your hearing as much as possible. Hearing loss can be caused by being subject to loud noises on a consistent basis. Hearing loss can also be caused by ear infections, physical illnesses or a disease or tumor. In addition to these things, a blow to the ear or the head area can also affect how well a person is able to hear.

Each of these things will result in symptoms a person can report to a doctor. Seeking medical attention as soon as possible and accurately reporting the symptoms will help the physician to make a proper diagnosis. In some situations, it may be necessary to wear a hearing aid in order to regain full hearing or partial hearing ability.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

8 Dolls, Stuffed Animals, and Toys with Hearing Aids

For kids with hearing aids, sometimes having a toy "just like them" can really help. Here are eight such toys, stuffed animals, and dolls I found for purchase online.

1. Build-a-Bear
Build-a-Bear offers a plush hearing aid for their stuffed animals to wear. It's $2, and is red and silver.
Image of the Mr. BTE Doll
From Just Bekuz Products

2. Flaghouse
The website Flaghouse sells Just Like Me Dolls which can be outfitted with a variety of accessories, including hearing aids, leg braces, and even an assistive dog. The dolls come in a variety of appearances and skin colors. The hearing aid accessory costs $1.25.

3. Oticon
The hearing aid company Oticon offers Hearing Aid Care Kits when a hearing aid in their Safari line is purchased. The Hearing Aid Care Kit for ages 0-4 includes a stuffed animal, Otto, who has his own hearing aids. There is an adorable picture of a little boy with his "Otto" on the Team Espinoza blog.

4. American Girl
American Girl now offers hearing aids for their dolls. The removable aids cost $14 and require the doll to be sent to their "Doll Hospital" so that the doll's ear can be properly fitted for an aid on one or both ears. You can also order a doll complete with hearing aid from their website.

A MyTwinn Doll with hearing aid.
5. Just Bekuz Products Co.
Just Bekuz Products has a stuffed animal that IS a hearing aid! He costs $19.95 and comes with a built-in dehumidifier to store and dry a child's hearing aids.

6. Sign Language Doll
These dolls cost between $80-$100. They wear hearing aids and have manipulative hands so that they can form signs. They have a little girl, a little boy, and a rabbit doll for purchase, and also allow you to buy a doll for a nonprofit organization of your choice.

7. Lakeshore Learning
Lakeshore sells adaptive equipment for dolls, designed to fit their Multiethnic School Dolls. I've read these can also fit other dolls or stuffed animals. You can purchase two hearing aids and two pairs of eyeglasses for $9.95 on the site.

8. My Twinn
My Twinn dolls can be purchased with hearing aids. They cost $9 each and are beige.

I wasn't able to find any stuffed animals or dolls that have cochlear implants. Has anyone heard of any?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Google+ Hangouts Now Have Captioning Options

Google announced an exciting new feature at the National Association of the Deaf Conference this year: Google+ Hangouts now support live captioning, either through a professional service (StreamText) or via a participant in the Hangout typing a transcript for the benefit of other users.

An example of captions in Google+ Hangout, via Google.
 Hangouts are an important part of the Google+ social media platform and Google's attempt to distinguish Google+ from Facebook and other competitors. Hangouts allow people to video chat with groups, free, for up to 10 people. Users can also stream Hangouts from their profile for anyone to see.

Hangout Captions is an app which must be installed from this page. There's also a support forum for troubleshooting.

This follows the addition of an option to caption videos added to Google+ in May.

I'd be happy to see the addition of Google's automated captions technology to Hangouts as a third option, besides the transcript or professional captions options. Automated captions aren't perfect but they'd be very helpful, especially with the option to edit captions as they appear.

(via Mashable)