Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Around the Web Wednesday

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Monday, November 25, 2013

An Update on Made for iPhone Hearing Aids

Image via Flickr user reticulating
Back in June of last year, I wrote about Apple's announcement of upcoming new features, including "made for iPhone hearing aids." Now it seems more information on this is coming out of Denmark - a country which supplies half of the world's hearing aids. GN Store Nord is the world's fourth largest manufacturer of hearing aids and the driving force behind hearing aids utilizing 2.4 GHz technology.

As it turns out, there will soon be an option for people to have sound relayed directly to their hearing aids via their Apple (iPhone, iPad, etc) product, without the need for an intermediary device such as the Oticon Streamer, which I just discussed this past week. According to the Reuters article linked above, Starkey Technologies is also working on a hearing aid that will work similarly for iPhones but there's no details as of yet.

It sounds like GN ReSound may be at the forefront of "iHearingAids," but it does remain to be seen whether the elderly market for hearing aids will actually want to take advantage of the technology. I think it may take a few more years - for people in their thirties and forties now - before this kind of connectivity is basically expected.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What's the Difference Between the Streamer and the Streamer Pro?

I recently received a question on my blog asking about the difference between the Oticon Streamer and the Streamer Pro. I wasn't aware there was a new version of the Streamer out, so I thought I'd take a look for myself.

For those unfamiliar, the Streamer is part of Oticon's ConnectLine series of products. If you have a compatible hearing aid (such as my Oticon Epoqs), you can take advantage of these products. They all utilize the hearing aids' Bluetooth connectivity, and the center of this gadget hub is the Streamer. It turns your hearing aids into a wireless headset; you can use it and the other ConnectLine devices to stream television, computer, mobile phone, tablet, and other device audio right into your ears.

I have a Streamer, and love it. At first glance, the Streamer Pro seems to vary in appearance from my Streamer (click to enlarge):


It looks like it is also shorter and wider than the original Streamer.

I took a look at both manuals (Streamer 1.2 and Streamer Pro) to find any more differences:

  • The microphone has been moved slightly in position at the top of the device.
  • The new Streamer Pro has flatter buttons on the front.
  • The volume control is on the side rather than the front. 
  • The Streamer Pro also has two connections for the neckloop where the original Streamer has one. 
  • The range the Streamer should be within appears to have expanded from .5 meters to 1.
  • The Streamer Pro uses micro USB to charge rather than mini.
  • The ConnectLine Microphone option appears to be new. You can use the Streamer to have a much easier one-on-one conversation with someone in a busy/loud area.
  • The Streamer Pro has an Aux Selector button on the side for use with an audio cable, or headset.
  • The Streamer Pro has telecoil functionality built-in.
  • There is an optional FM receiver device for the Streamer Pro (this is awesome!).
Are there any more differences between the two that I haven't noticed? I'd love to hear from you if you have experience with the Streamer Pro.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Thoughts on Parenting with Hearing Loss

As of this week, I have been a parent for six weeks. I'm still at home (I go back to work in two weeks), and it's been a very interesting, eye-opening experience to be taking care of a tiny little defenseless human being. I have to say it has been amazing but not without its challenges, some of which I know are related to my hearing loss.
That's my boy.

One challenge I have had is ensuring I can hear if the baby needs me from anywhere in the house. For the most part he stays in my visual range - he is either in my arms or in his swing or rocker beside me. But for when he's not, I have two options.

My dad found this great baby monitor, the Graco Direct Connect Digital Baby Monitor, which has a great speaker, and also vibrates and displays a light when triggered by sounds. It can clip onto my clothes, so I can feel the vibration even if I miss the crying sounds through the speaker.

My husband's coworkers also gifted us with a video monitor, actually a webcam, the Foscam FI8918W Wireless/Wired Pan & Tilt IP/Network Camera. I'd definitely recommend either, or both, to anybody who is worried about not being able to hear their baby. Or their puppy, or anything else they are taking care of that cries, really.

The other challenge has been figuring out what to do at night. I am often reminded of Myron Ulberg's recollections in his book Hands of My Father. Ulberg is a child of Deaf adults. He says that when he was small enough to be in a cradle, his parents tied a string to themselves and to the cradle (or was it him?) so they would feel his movements.

My husband is hearing, so I don't have to go quite that far, but I do worry when I take my hearing aids out at night. Most of the time, I take my right hearing aid out, and keep my left one in. It's already resulted in one trip to my audiologist to get it dried out after it started acting up. I know moisture is very bad for hearing aids, but I always feel more comfortable when I can actually hear the baby. Being able to hear at night, though, has made me less able to fall asleep quickly or stay asleep (not that I really can anyway, with a six-week-old baby). I'm so used to total quiet at night that any little sound keeps me awake, although I am getting better.

So far, though, so good. I'm adapting and we are doing well. I'm sure I will come across other surprises as we go along. I've already gained more of a perspective on myself, my hearing loss, how it will affect my little family in the future, and what my parents must have thought and dealt with when I was diagnosed with my loss. Especially how my mom must have felt trying to get my hearing loss diagnosed and knowing something was wrong. Even though Tripp does not have a hearing loss, I can now understand that sense of protectiveness and that mother's instinct.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

My Little Guy Is Here

My son Tripp was born July 27, 2013 at 7:13 PM. He weighed 6 pounds, 4.8 ounces. He passed his newborn hearing test.

Tripp's Birthday


As you can imagine, I'll probably be scarce around here for awhile.

I hope everything is wonderful with you and yours.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Kelly Dougher Shares "How Not To Be a Dick to Your Deaf Friend"

Just popping in to share an amusing, enlightening and ultimately very useful article, written by Kelly Dougher for xojane.com: "How Not To Be a Dick to Your Deaf Friend." Kelly seems to be around my age and also works in a library, but does not wear hearing aids or use a cochlear implant.

While every d/Deaf person is different, I really enjoyed this list. My brother actually told me a story about the first item on her list. He was telling a coworker that I am deaf. She said she was so sorry, and he asked why. Turns out she thought he said dead. Pretty funny!

 I'd add one more item to this list:

If I ask you to repeat something, don't just repeat what you think I missed.
I know this is easy to do, because I've caught myself doing it before, but it drives me bonkers. If I need something repeated, I probably need the whole sentence repeated. Chances are I actually caught the "important" word in the sentence that you're repeating back to me, but I need some context.

Thoughts on the article?

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Thoughts on Genetic Hearing Loss and My Son

My dad and I, on the day I was born
(First off, I apologize for not blogging more recently. Pregnancy, work, school and life in general have taken up the time I used to have for this blog, but I hope to still write when I can.)

I have heard a question from a few people over the course of my pregnancy wondering how possible it is for Tripp (our nickname for our son) to be deaf or have a degree of hearing loss. I thought I would ruminate on this subject a little bit.

I am not sure if I got a hearing test when I was born in 1986, but if I had I probably would have passed it. When diagnosed, my hearing loss was mild to moderate at age 4. The signs were fairly subtle and it was only thanks to my mom's observational skills and mother's instinct that I was tested for my hearing loss. I was fitted for hearing aids. Subsequent doctors/audiologists told my parents that my hearing loss was likely not genetic. This was in the 90s, of course, when genetics were not as well understood as they are today - now you can spend $99 on a genetics test and learn about your genes.

It is possible my hearing loss is not genetic, but I have a hunch that it might be. Nonsyndromic (i.e. I have no other symptoms that might point to a specific disorder) sensorineural progressive hearing loss doesn't seem to be common outside of a genetic disorder.

According to the genetic test I have taken (through 23andMe*) I do carry a mutation in the GJB2 gene linked to connexin-26 sensorineural hearing loss. I don't have the two mutations usually associated with connexin-26 hearing loss, but I can pass it down. If my husband, who has typical hearing, also has the mutation, he could pass it down, meaning Tripp might inherit two mutations and thus have connexin-26 hearing loss. He hasn't done 23andMe, so we don't know his carrier status.

So what it comes down to is basically what it comes down to with any child and any inherited condition - it's possible. Of all the genetics roll-of-the-dice that could wind up with Tripp having some kind of disorder or condition, if I had a choice to pick one, I'd take hearing loss, because I am more familiar with it and the resources our family would need to help him. But when it comes right down to it, the possibilities are there for any number of complications, hearing loss being just the one that happens to come to mind most often.

I just know that my job as a mom will be to love my kids no matter what. I'm surrounded by great role-models in that regard, and I know it's not going to be an issue for me. I can't wait to see what the genetic roll of the dice gives Tripp - his dad's hair, my nose, whose eyes? We will see, and that includes his hearing, as well. 

*referral link. Non-referral: 23andme.com

Friday, April 12, 2013

From NPR, "The Real Sounds of Hearing Loss"

One of the most difficult and sometimes aggravating parts of having a hearing loss is an inability to explain exactly what is wrong, why you can't hear certain things, and what certain sounds sound like to you. Through the Speak Up Librarian blog, I found this excellent article on NPR which breaks down three different types of hearing loss and provides examples of a phrase as it might sound to someone with that type of loss.

For me the most striking audio sample was the example of recruitment - when certain loud sounds suddenly become incredibly loud, nearly intolerable. This can be the most difficult thing to explain to people - why something that is merely loud is making me uncomfortable.

I couldn't actually understand any of the clips except for the last (normal) one. I rely a lot on lip reading and body language, so that probably explains why.

Another good example to use when trying to explain what hearing loss sounds like is this clip below from House Research Institute. It uses a Flintstones episode to demonstrate what mild, moderate, and severe hearing loss sounds like:

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Housekeeping (Guest Posts, and Spam)

Hello everyone, just some housekeeping for this post.

First off, I've had to temporarily stop accepting guest posts. With work, school and my pregnancy I am finding it difficult to be able to respond to people quickly. Eventually I hope to be able to accept guest posts again because I do very much enjoy being able to host other people's thoughts on my blog.

Secondly, like many other bloggers, I am seeing a huge rise in spam comments. Google filters most of these comments, and I have comment moderation turned on, but sometimes they still manage to get through. Spam comments typically use words, phrases or entire sentences culled from around the Web or even my own post to get around Google's spam filters. They then add a link to whatever it is they want to shill.

Although I can typically spot spam comments, some will still go through. If you see a comment that is spam, feel free to let me know (either email me - it's on the sidebar - or comment on the post, although your comment will disappear when I delete the original spam comment). However, please maintain a general tone of civility and remember the spammer is never going to come back to see your comment.

Thanks much, and I hope everyone is having a wonderful week so far.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Amara Announces Crowdsourced Subtitles for Your YouTube Videos

Amara, formerly Universal Subtitles, is one of the easiest and most useful tools for adding accessibility to your YouTube videos. Amara allows you to create a subtitle file, setting the wording and timing exactly as you want.

The Amara logo, a green hollow circle.
The Amara logo.
Now Amara has added a great new feature - crowdsourced subtitling. Any YouTube user can connect their account to Amara and request that viewers help. They can be synced right to the video, saving the video creator the time it takes to upload the file to YouTube.

Speaking of YouTube subtitles, if they've affected your life in any way, YouTube curious to hear your story. Check out this post on Google+ with information on how to share your story.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

3D Printing and Hearing Aids

Two men standing next to an example of a 3D printer
My photo of a 3D printer at an open source conference in 2011

3D printing is one of those things that still sounds like science fiction. A device that can create a three-dimensional object simply from a digital model? It sounds like the replicators on Star Trek, but really I think 3D printers are one of the coolest technologies to emerge in recent years. I even have a 3D printed d12 (12-sided die) at home to prove it.

There are many applications for 3D printing, from gaming to technology to the medical world. One example is this YouTube story (unfortunately only has automatic captions) of two-year-old Emma, who has a condition that prevents her from moving her arms. She has a 3D printed custom exoskeleton; the 3D printing aspect means that as she outgrows the skeleton, parts can be replaced on an as-needed basis. I can easily see the same potential in hearing aids.

The makers of the Roomba, the company iRobot, have filed a patent which would be able to print the entirety of an object made up of other objects. Currently 3D printers print out parts, which need to be assembled by a human. iRobot is looking to be able to print out an entire functioning object with the help of a new type of printer which would have robotic manipulators.

Hearing aids are also getting into the act. 3D technology is being utilized to customize hearing aids specifically to each patient, a process called CAMISHA (Computer Aided Manufacturing for Individual Shells for Hearing Aids). Widex holds the patent; there's more information about CAMISHA on their website.

In CAMISHA, laser technology makes an image of an individual's ear canal; that data can be used to produce a model by which computers can manufacture a perfectly fitted hearing aid shell or earmold. It sounds much nicer to me than the current process of fitting an earmold, which I get to experience next month when I get my current 3-year-old silicone molds replaced.

I can easily see 3D printing becoming a key component of producing hearing aids, not just earmolds or shells. The digital model for parts of hearing aids and cochlear implants could be easily modified to suit individual users, and items such as tubes and earmolds could easily be replaced as the user grows (for a child) or wears them out. We're definitely living in the future.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Some Exciting News

I have posted about this on my personal blog, but just today I realized I have never mentioned it here. So, here is my official announcement - I am expecting, and due in July (yep, right along with Kate Middleton. My baby will have a few less names than hers, though).

Here's the latest picture of the kiddo at 12 weeks 3 days:

Ultrasound Pictures (12w3d)

And one from two weeks earlier (10 weeks 3 days):

Ultrasound - 10w3d


My husband and I are very excited and I can't wait to meet the new little one. I will try to keep my personal blog a little more updated as things progress (I am just now entering the second trimester).

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

GN ReSound: The First Made for iPhone Accessory & App

Back in June I wrote about a tantalizing bit of information on Apple's website regarding "made for iPhone hearing aids." Now we are seeing the first results of this idea, in the form of GN ReSound's accessory, the Unite Phone Clip+, and a free app in the app store designed to allow users to adjust settings on their hearing aids through their iPhones.

The GN ReSound Unite Phone Clip+
An image of the ReSound Phone Clip.
The Phone Clip+ is similar to the Oticon Streamer and other Bluetooth accessories for hearing aids. The device clips onto your clothes and can assist in streaming audio from your phone to your hearing aids. 

ReSound Control App
This app is available in the Apple App Store and works with the Phone Clip to allow users to adjust settings on their hearing aid from their iPhones. ReSound says it will soon be available for Android phones as well. According to a press release from ReSound, "Users can control their hearing aids, phone conversations and wireless streaming accessories from their iPhone screen. No more fumbling behind the ear. No more toggling through programs. No more wishing it wasn’t so noticeable to use a hearing aid."

I'm excited to hear about new products and apps coming out in the wake of Apple's decision to touch on accessibility and hearing aids; I'm even happier to see Android apps won't be far behind.