The Cat

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Meet Squeaker. He’s my constant companion while I’m home and he’s claims this spot on my desk. He’s catching the afternoon sun while he keeps an eye on me.
Why is he named Squeaker? We picked him up from the vet as a kitten. After a week or so I never heard a proper meow out of him so he became Squeaker. All 3 of my kids accepted his name without question.
Months later I brought up why Squeaker earned his name and all 3 kids looked at me with blank faces. “What,” I asked. One of them explained his meow was fine, maybe it was my hearing? Geeze! Too late to change his name now. At least he talks enough the name kinda fits.
Since he is usually around me, he acts as my ears. He hears the back door (I don’t), lifting his head and looking that way. I know when he hears my 4 year old grandson enter the house too. He’s all claws scritching across the desk surface bunching the towel up against the window. He makes it under the bed well before my grandson gets to my office.
At night, Squeaker generally sleeps next to me. Sometimes I think I hear weird noises and he keeps his head down so I know it’s a common noise and go back to sleep. If he lifts his head and looks after a strange sound, I will get up to explore while he follows me.
He’s my faithful sidekick and my best ever cat. He’s ten years old and I’m hoping I get another ten years with him.

Coming soon…

It’s a quick post tonight. It’s something I want to do, no, have to do. I think about about my blog all the time and I have things I want to share but I’ve run out if time to write. My blog was/is a passion and something I always enjoyed doing never feeling I had to do it. I miss it. I miss sharing.
I’m out of balance and I mean to correct it soon. I have over volunteered myself and I didn’t realize how stressed I was becoming…but my body has a way of showing me. When cold sores pop up it’s a warning, nasty little reminders but that’s what it takes to get my attention I guess. I want to do it all but reality says I can’t.
It will take me a few months to fulfill my responsibilities but then I will take my outgoing energy and bring it back in. There’s other things I want to accomplish and have wanted to accomplish for a long time. This post is mainly a promise to set myself on the path again.
In the meantime, here’s a picture of me that has nothing to do with hearing loss. One taken a few weeks ago on the Colorado River about 9 miles below Hoover Dam. We took the canoe upriver from Willow Beach. Blue skies. Green or blue water depending on you look at it. Me relaxed and enjoying the great outdoors.

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Correctly Fitted Hearing Aid Molds Make a Big Difference

Who knew hearing aids could were so important? Most all of us have experienced old, cracked tubes which reduce hearing aid output and moisture in the tubes can play havoc with our hearing aids too. Other than that, I think we take our hearing aid molds for granted but lately I’ve learned bad fitting ear molds can make or break or a hearing aid’s potential.

Last August I received new hearing aids, Siemens Carats and I’ve posted some about my problems with them. One of the biggest problems was bad fitting ear molds made my Siemens. Right from the start my ear molds kept working out of my ear and I kept having to push them back in. Then I noticed if I pushed them in and held them in tightly, I heard differently…better. So I went back to my audiologist who ordered another pair and they didn’t fit well either so he suggested using fingernail polish to thicken it up a little. I applied 2 coats of red fingernail polish(my favorite color) and it helped some. I really liked having red mold since I couldn’t have red hearing aids. My new pair of ear molds came in with the same problem so I painted them too.

Other problems included a software update that crashed my t-coil program along with making all my programs sound the same. I continued to have feedback problems when going to hug people, which made me pull back. Who likes to hear squealing hearing aids? There were troubles with the bluetooth and not hearing right through that program. There’s a huge disappointment in the iPhone app for the EasyTek which at first seemed cool but ended up feeling more like a tease. (I hardly ever open that up anymore.)  Then my ears started getting sore on the inside from constantly pushing them back in so I let my audi know I just about hated these new hearing aids. This is my fifth pair of hearing aids and the only ones I haven’t had a ‘wow’ factor when getting new hearing aids. I couldn’t recommend them to anyone and didn’t feel like talking about them. I don’t like being a complainer so I quit writing about them too.  

My audiologist listened to my complaints and offered to order me new hearing aid molds from another company. We agreed on the soft rubbery ones which I remember working with my Widex hearing aids 10 or so years ago when they had to crank up the power after a big drop in hearing. He knows I like red so he ordered me red hearing aid molds too.

We switched out the hard plastic molds for the rubbery, soft, red molds a couple of weeks ago. There was a little of the stuffed up sound that I remembered with the old molds back when but it wasn’t as bad because there is a little vent hole. They felt comfortable right away and had a snug fit.

Now I have to back up a little. With my Phonak Naidas my best word discrimination score was 50%. With the Siemens I had 60% right away but with all the troubles I had, I couldn’t get excited. With the new, better fitting rubbery molds my word discrimination shot up to 72%. That’s a huge jump! I haven’t seen a 72% word discrimination score in years. Six months later I can finally see what my audi kept bragging about with these hearing aids. They have a lot of potential with a proper fitting ear mold.

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Now as I watch tv, I pick up words here and there. That hasn’t happened in years either. I noticed in a classroom setting the other day I could look down and take notes and still understand most of what was being said. Finally, after 6 months, I get my wow factor and I’m excited about wearing them again.

We worked out a few more bugs on the programs adding a specific bluetooth program to my aids because last week I realized I could not understand my mom on the phone without captions. My mom has a strong, clear voice and usually I can understand her above anyone else. Not through the bluetooth program and I even tried the bass from the iPhone app (another tease, it wouldn’t let me). Last night I called my mom as a test and talked to her for over an hour without captions and only needed a repeat about 5 times. Another major improvement.

I wouldn’t trade my audiologist for anything. He’s been very patient through the whole thing and he can program like no audi I’ve ever known. Maybe now I can start going back every 3 months or so instead 2 or 3 times a month. That would sure be nice. I have one more visit first. My right ear mold works out still but not as bad as with the hard plastic kind. I’m pushing it in maybe 3 times a day compared to 3 times an hour. He’s making me a thicker mold on that side to help keep it in. I must have the strongest ear muscles in the world.

2014 in review

I just wanted to post this so I could compare next year.  Thanks to all of you out there reading my blog!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

New Hearing Aids on the Market

One of the cool things about working at the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Center is I get to try out new products. They have a great demo room with a lot of technology and I get to play with it along the way to familiarize myself with it. Another great thing about working there is I run across some great people too. A few months ago someone called our information number and left a message wanting to learn more about financial aid for those wanting hearing aids.

 I was forced to call him. Even with CaptionCall I am not comfortable on the phone because I’m never sure how good the captions will be and I often interrupt people when they are talking thinking they are done. During the awkward phone (the captions weren’t the best), I found out he works at a local hearing aid manufacturer. I didn’t know we had one in the city. He’s a marketing guy for ClearFlex, a new hearing aid being introduced through Harris hearing aids.  He knew people who needed financial help in obtaining hearing aids and I’m always willing to help however I can.  I gave him my email at the end of the phone call and shared our financial resources with him.

Through a number of emails, I learned more about their hearing aids. They don’t use a middle man (an audiologist) so their hearing aids go straight to the client. They come with a tablet so people can program their own hearing aids. There’s the typical beeping hearing test to take through the hearing aids from the tablet to form the basis of the hearing program. Or they can program an audiogram into it. Did I want to try it? You bet! Especially since about this time I was sick of my Siemens.

He sent me his website and I watched their video at  www.clearflex.com   which had no captions at the time. I could follow the speaker as long he faced the camera but as soon as he turned away I started to lose words so I emailed the marketing guy telling him captions would be good. His response was, “It’s on YouTube, they have automatic captions already.” It was hard not to laugh because only the hard of hearing know how bad YouTube captions are  so I told him, “YouTube is notorious for bad captions, try it yourself.” If he wanted he could watch ‘Caption Fail’ videos on YouTube for fun. The next day he said, “You’re right. We’re going to work on that.” They have and it’s now properly captioned.

He came in a week or so later to let me take the hearing test right off the tablet and when I pulled out my own audiogram, it was pretty much right on. He had only domes for me to use with the receiver in the ear (RIC) aids and domes and I don’t get along we found out with the Siemens. The feedback was horrible so he took me into the adjustment part of the tablet to play with that and I did until the feedback was minimal. It was great to play with the programming. They have 5 categories to play with: volume, tinny sound, background, compression and feedback management. I smile at the “tinny sound” name. That’s something everyone who wears hearing aids can understand.

A co-worker came in while I was playing with it all and expressed interest in the product. She had just given back the Siemens she tried out (same hearing aid as mine) because they couldn’t make a good enough ear mold to control the feedback. She had work to do so I filled her in later.

I had questions. How long have they been making these hearing aids. About 4 months then, 6 months now. Do they have a warranty? Yes, a 3 year warranty. How expensive are they? Half of normal hearing aids because they don’t use the middle man so about $2200 for two hearing aids. Yes, they are worldwide and can sell all over. How does it work for people who aren’t technology inclined? They can program an audiogram into the hearing aids before shipping. They have people watch the video and the person will either say, “Yes, I can do that or no I can’t.” How many programs does it store? There’s currently 3 program memories. They come with a t-coil but a person needs to request it be turned on. 

He went back to the office and wanted to see if he could let me and my co-worker have a trial run with the hearing aids. After that it took him forever to pin me down for a time to come back as I was off getting married and I needed to coordinate with my co-worker too. A few weeks ago we able to get together and this time he brought the CEO of the company in with him! How cool is that? This guy knows his hearing aids.   He told us about all the work he’s done prior to these hearing aids having worked within in the industry for years with an impressive background in the component parts themselves. He knew our current hearing aids by looking at the brand and model and right away he knew we had to have custom made molds to be able to hear with the ClearFlex. They brought only domes with them. (My co-worker has a severe hearing loss while I have a mild to profound sensorineural hearing loss.) We tried the hearing aids anyway, eager to play with the tablet. Unfortunately neither of us could hear well, as he predicted, so he made an appointment with us the following week to get ear impressions and have ear molds made.

This little experiment didn’t dampen our enthusiasm as we had so much troubles already with the Siemens we expect adjustments and special fittings. They showed up the following week, took the impressions and sometime after the holidays we will get to try them.

I see many advantages to these hearing aids and I can’t see audiologists happy about this product either. I’d love to be able to play with my own programming when needed instead of making an appointment with the audiologist and waiting. People with some computer know how would probably like being able to fiddle with their programs getting it to their liking. If they are new to hearing aids, they can sit and tweak for hours as long as they have patience for that and they can tweak them in all possible settings. Maybe less hearing aids would end up in drawers? We know how we like the world to sound and sometimes it’s hard to describe them to our audiologists. There are some advantages here. Maybe it excites me because I have some know how. The disadvantages I see is it could intimidate people who don’t like messing with technology. Some newbies to hearing aids might feel lost but I think the basic descriptions such as “tinny sound” might make it easy. They hope to get rid of the connecting wires from the aids to the tablet (only used for programming) soon with bluetooth in the hearing aids. That’s a drawback for people who don’t have the dexterity to plug the tiny wires in. It’s not for everyone, to each his own. One person might appreciate this kind of thing while another would rather let someone else deal with it for them. I’m excited to give it a go and I will write about it afterwards.

My Hearing Accessible Wedding

Last October we went to Ken’s nephew’s wedding. It was gorgeous with the bride in a trailing white gown, 3 beautiful bride maids and 3 good looking guys in tuxedos as best men. The hall had extra high ceilings with wood timbers, large windows ran along the walls so we could see fall colors outside and the dinning area had the same appeal with fall decorations on all the tables. What a beautiful place to be married. It was a wedding little girls dream of and it was so good to be there, to witness it. Even though I’d just met the bride and only known his nephew for a little while, I wished them a happy life and all the best. Both are very sweet people.

We’d known about this wedding for months and for some reason I never thought to prepare hearing wise. When I’m home and going to an event not only do I think about what I’m going to wear but I think about how I’m going to hear. Hearing never entered my mind for the wedding and I don’t know why I didn’t think about it once, not once! If I had made some inquiries I’m sure the family would have helped me hear. As it was, I sat through the whole ceremony and the dinner speeches not hearing a single word.

Sometimes these kind of events make me cry because not only am I happy for the people getting married but also because I want so badly to hear. As I sat watching the ceremony this time, I was too mad at myself to cry. DUH!!! Why hadn’t I thought of trying to hear? I deserve to sit here and not hear, I did this to myself! What happened to all my advocating skills?

The evening progressed and I did much better at the round dinner table where I could see everyone’s face and I did not feel deaf. We moved around the room after dinner talking to everyone and I held up my end of the conversation fairly well. It was not a total loss.

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A few days later the family cornered Ken and I asking when we were going to get married. Ken and I had talked about it but couldn’t agree on a date and things were fine so we kept bringing it up now and then saying we should and letting it go. We’ve been through the good, the bad and the ugly coming back around and were now secure in our relationship, married or not. Marriage has a few more advantages legal wise but we already knew we had what it takes to be a couple. The point-blank questions by a certain family member and with the eyes of the rest of the family on us, we agreed we should get married.

“When?”

Soon? We’ll look into getting it done this year…we said at the beginning of October.

The mad rush was on. Our girlfriend, Melissa, who introduced us at Burning Man back in 2007 became an ordained minister a few years ago so we knew who we wanted but had to find a date good for us all. The day became Dec. 6th. We wanted to do it near Vegas since a good portion of our family and our friends live near plus it’s easy to fly into if needed. With the ‘when’ settled, Ken came up with the how, western style! Now for the where. Scouting locations a few weeks later we came up with the Techatticup Mine near Nelson, NV thanks to tips from friends of Melissa. All that settled by the beginning of November. Time flies.

Red Rocks was a possibility.

Red Rocks was a possibility.

Techatticup Mine won out however.

Techatticup Mine won out however.

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The outside of the wedding barn.

The wedding barn.

The wedding barn from another angle.

Inside the barn, a vw van....a good omen!

Inside the barn a VW van….a good omen!

Lots of photo opportunities here.

Lots of photo opportunities here.

Neither Ken nor I are the formal type and both us wanted to keep it small and simple. Ha. I had no idea how much work even a simple wedding would take. I didn’t know how much input other people would have. Questions kept popping up to which I research or ask others. I wouldn’t say we were under prepared but we weren’t on top of it all either but we got through it okay, especially in such a short time.

One thing I prepared for was my hearing. A few weeks before the wedding I told Ken, “It will really piss me off if I can’t hear at my own wedding. I will take my FM system but we need to figure out if we have a PA system at the Friday night dinner.” No one knew for sure so Ken set up a small stereo system from all the parts of other systems hidden in corners in the basement. Shopping together we found a microphone and we would tape the FM system to the microphone like we have a ski patrol banquets.

My Phonak Smartlink

After weeks and days of scurrying around to get things done, the time had come and we were as done as were going to get. The Friday night ‘rehearsal’ dinner came. It was a small crowd of about 22 of us, our families meeting for the first time. Since it was small crowd, no PA system was needed (although Ken was prepared) since everyone else could hear. Right before the speeches began, Ken got up with my FM transmitter and told everyone to speak into it so I could hear. Ken’s dad was the first to get up and he gave a warm, funny speech about how after 57 years, someone finally caught up to Ken. He never thought this day would come… 57 years! My FM transmitter went around from person to person and I heard everything. No one forgot to use it, including me. For some reason I held it up to my mouth as I talked too and afterward Ken reminded I didn’t need to do that to hear myself.

Me with my mom and and very soon to be sweet mother in law.

Me with my mom and and very soon to be sweet mother in law.

Ken having fun with my dad and his dad.

Ken having fun with my dad and his dad.

Sean and Tara at our rehearsal dinner.

Sean and Tara at our rehearsal dinner.

The rest of the evening passed in music, dancing and talking to family and friends. I smiled the whole time and I know that because I could feel my hearing aid ear molds digging into my ear. When my ears hurt I know I’ve had a good time.

The days had been rainy, misty, foggy but on Saturday morning we had clear blue skies in Nelson. As the morning got closer to afternoon, the temperature climbed into a comfortable 70 degrees. What a beautiful day, what great timing. We set up the picnic tables with vases of roses and baby’s breath, we set up the pulled pork lunch we made the night before and started greeting guests as they arrived.

Melissa came and we practiced our vows in the sunlight which was good because she wanted us facing the audience with her standing to the side. This was a good trial of how well I’d hear her because I didn’t put my hearing aids in that morning. My hat sits right on top of my ears/hearing aids and every time I moved or turned my hair or hat would swish on the microphones which is kind of distracting and leaves holes in words.

At 11:00 everyone moved to the large barn and all was quiet. No traffic noise, no heating/ac noise, just quiet, perfect for hearing. No need for microphones here either even though we brought it all with us again. Melissa started the ceremony and I stood facing her sure to catch every word. Part way through the ceremony, however, Ken turned me to face the audience/camera more and I lost sight of Melissa so there was a moment of panic as I thought about turning back anyway. Luckily her voice carried over clear and I had no problem as long as my mind didn’t wander. Again I heard every word. It helped that Ken and I put the ceremony together ourselves so I knew what to expect too.

Our friend Melissa leading the ceremony.

Our friend Melissa leading the ceremony.  You can see the camera sitting on the table in front.  This is before  being turned to face it.

The ceremony was short and sweet, about twenty minutes saying everything we wanted. Melissa cried for us as Ken and I stood smiling at each other. We had a ring warming passing our rings to the guests for good wishes and my grandson brought the rings up. As he brought them up, he took the rings out of the box and an image of him dropping them in the dust appeared in my head which would make things interesting. As I watched every step he took, he kept the rings in hand and then I wondered if he was going to keep the rings but he handed them to me wanting only to keep the box they were in. We slipped our rings on each other one at a time and made a nice long kiss for the crowd. We were married.

My 4 yr old grandson, Chase, the ring bearer.

My 4 yr old grandson, Chase, the ring bearer.

What a relief to have heard everything I wanted. What a relief it was done! After lunch was scraped clean, guests dispersed to wander around the fascinating remake of an old west town to take pictures and go on the guided mine tour. We went on a tour too and I explained to the guide I was hard of hearing and needed to be near him to lipread and hear so I heard there too (I put my hearing aids back in for this). What a delightful day and I’m so pleased it turned out the way it did.

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vows

The kiss

The kiss

The happy couple

The happy couple

If we the hard of hearing plan things out and step up for our needs we too can enjoy a good portion of life without feeling left out. Thinking things through before hand helps. Speaking out with our needs is another key. Most people want to help and most people want us to hear too.

A fantastic lunch.

A fantastic lunch.

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The end of the day at Techatticup.

The end of the day at Techatticup.

How to Tackle Thanksgiving Dinner When You Have Hearing Loss

Originally posted on Living With Hearing Loss:

A few months ago, I started a blog Living With Hearing Loss, but It has been a while since my last post. I find it unsettling to talk about my hearing loss, maybe that is why. But as Thanksgiving approaches, I thought it was time to post again, as there might be others out there with hearing loss worrying about the upcoming holiday. Maybe reading this post will help them approach the holiday with more joy and less fear. I hope so.

I always go to my in-laws for Thanksgiving, which is a lot of fun. It is a big group event, with lots of cousins, grown children and seniors. We can sometimes have up to 20 at any given Thanksgiving family meal.  There is a lot of energy, but also a lot of noise, with people all talking at once and kids laughing and joking in the background.  This is…

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