The Super Bowl as Hard of Hearing

For years I have mostly stayed home to watch the Super Bowl because I want to watch it the way I want to watch it.  Mainly I want to control the captions.  I don’t like the captions on during the game because they are often displayed right in the middle of screen where all the action is going on.  Or they put the captions over stats, times, scores, etc and sometimes I want to see all that too. However I like to turn the captions on during the commercials for they are half the fun!  So watching football with me means I push a lot of buttons.

This year I have the hearing loop to top it off.  Now I really don’t need or want captions during the game and I can hear the commercials that aren’t captioned.  This year it looks like all the commercials were captioned anyway but I was prepared.

We got an invite this year and Ken politely turned it down after talking to me (see my reasons above).  His friend came back and said he has 3 TVs so I could have the captions on one of them.  This is where I took over and thanked him for the offer then explained my remote control control use.  “I’d need to be the remote control queen.”  I also told him I have the hearing loop here at home and that’s an added benefit.  He came back with “You get to be remote control queen and bring your loop too.”  Wow!  That’s not an offer I get everyday.  I get to watch the game the way I want and get to be social too???  Okay then!

He sent Ken a picture of the back of his TV so we could figure out the connection ahead of time.  Funny enough, we used a spare connection from the Bluetooth TV streamer I have and don’t use (I can’t keep my necklace charged to use it).    We got there a little early and this is what I see as I walk into the living room.

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I’m near tears.

Ken pulls out the loop and it connects to the TV without a problem.

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And I’m all set with lots of options.  I can watch the game. I can hear the game.  I can socialize.  I can move in and out of captions especially fast because his remote control had a special CC button.  I was in Super Bowl heaven.

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With my phone of course.

Good food, good people and a pretty good game even though I wasn’t cheering for the team who won.  It was a unique experience and I was honored to be included, I was touched.

I think that was the first time I’ve told someone the full reason why I don’t go to Super Bowl parties.  It was also the first time someone asked why not?  Why haven’t told people that before?  Probably because I figured people would be irritated by it all but not so.  Of course there were other TVs in the house others watched it from our TV too.

A few things I want to remember…

One: I could be more proactive and not automatically assume it’s not going to happen.

Two: There are really good people out there and I think most people fall into that category. It’s not like I hang out with many bad people anyway.

Three: I want to make a hard of hearing party soon around a movie or something.  I want to invite my friends with hearing aids over.  If I had that much fun with hearing people, I want to do it with my hard of hearing friends too.

Advocating Within Family For Hearing Loss

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My family accommodates my hearing loss and I don’t acknowledge that enough because it’s my normal. So I want to say right now to my family, thank you for helping so much over the years. You are all wonderful people and I appreciate you. At work and in person, other hard of hearing people tell me they don’t get accommodations from their family. It makes me feel sad and then I wonder what I’ve done to make it possible in my family.

For instance; My now 3 adult kids and I played Cards Against Humanity a week or so ago. (Cards Against Humanity is the adult version of the Apples to Apples card game we played when they were little. You can look it up on Amazon and read the reviews which are funny themselves.) Each person takes turns being the ‘card czar’ which means they read out loud a black card with one, two or three blanks and the rest of the players fill in the blanks with the cards in their hands. Each kid as card czar automatically handed me the card to read when they finished reading it out loud. I didn’t make that a rule. Maybe I asked to read the card myself enough times it became a habit???

Am I just lucky? After talking to my mom it’s not luck, it’s a combination of things. She refreshed my memory which triggered other memories.

Anger once helped get my point across. Years ago we were out camping one night, sitting around the fire. It was my family, my sister’s family and our parents. We had a big fire so faces were lit and I probably only had a mild/moderate hearing loss back then so I could follow conversation filling in the gaps most of the time, except sometimes I couldn’t. I asked for a repeat and I got the dreaded “Never mind.” My mom said I became really angry and told everyone how unfair that was. I was trying to hear, I wanted to hear and that’s why I asked for a repeat. Don’t ignore me! My mom never said ‘never mind’ again and I don’t remember the rest of the family saying those words much either.

Anger is not the recommended way to get accommodations. I’m supposed to be nice when asking for help and most of the time I do. However, now and then I think anger is needed to make an impression. We can tell others how we feel but sometimes we’re not taken seriously until we blow up. That’s what happened while we were camping and it had a lasting affect.

Tears drove another point home. About ten years or so ago we had a family reunion in Colorado which required a full day of driving. At some point I took my turn at the wheel while my dad sat in the backseat directly behind me. He asked me to back off the car in front of me because a rope was flying loose on the trailer and he was afraid the load might come loose. I didn’t hear him after a few times so he reached out and smacked the back of my head to get my attention yelling out what he’d been saying. I felt my face flush and tried to keep the tears back. Here I was 30 something years old and getting smacked in the head for something that wasn’t my fault. My mom who was sitting in the front passenger seat yelled at my dad that I couldn’t hear and he needed to speak up. I could not wait to get out of the car and get out of the drivers seat. When reminiscing about it, she said, “It wasn’t the best way to get your attention but he was worried about an accident.”

Every since I was teenager I’ve had trouble hearing front to back or vice versa in the car. To top it off my dad doesn’t project his voice at all while he’s talking having learned as a kid, “kids are meant to be seen and not heard.” He grew up with that and still abides by it. As my hearing got worse, it was harder and harder to hear my dad anyway, never mind being in the car. I can’t remember him losing patience with my hearing since that incident.

Help from hearing people in my life made an impression on my kids. As typical kids, they tried getting away with things by staying just under my hearing threshhold. The older two kids tortured their little brother in the car making sure I couldn’t hear until he yelled thus making me yell at him. They loved pushing his buttons and knew how to do it quietly. The other adult passengers would tell me what really happened so I started keeping an eye on the kids with the rear view mirror. Another time my sister was with me and one of my kids started talking smack about me and of course I didn’t hear. My sister turned around and laid into them all telling them I was their mother and they had better respect me. It happened another time with my mom in pretty much the same fashion. That’s when the kids learned that not all adults had hearing loss.

Education has been the biggest key to getting other people to understand my hearing loss; what I can and can’t hear and why I hear the way I do. For 15 years I didn’t understand my own high frequency hearing loss for no doctor or audiologist took the time to explain it to me. All I knew was I couldn’t hear birds, bugs, children’s voices and some women. About 7 years ago I ran across the book Missing Words and it made a huge impact on me. Now I understood my hearing loss and why I could hear but not understand and why words had missing holes. After that, I could tell others how I heard and why. I shared the news with my family and when they understood where I was coming from they were better about facing me when talking with more patience than before. I also went on a writing spree opening this blog to try to share with others what hearing loss is like. Maybe there were other hard of hearing people who had never been told either so I wanted them to understand their hearing loss too. We aren’t alone and we can keep on sharing with each other. I haven’t stopped learning.

Persistence plays another role (within reason). Hearing people have hearing habits so it takes some time to break those habits to replace them with new ones. Most of the time it takes gentle reminders but occasionally it takes hitting the roof over a pet peeve that happens repeatedly. I hate to say it but it can take years to get those close to you to adapt totally but when it happens, it’s worth it.

Over the years I ran across hearing people who never understood hearing loss and didn’t want to learn about it either. The doors in the mind slammed shut. One of those was an ex-husband of mine who liked to use my hearing loss against me like asking me about getting a golf membership from across the house and when I didn’t answer that meant it was okay! Why bang my head against a brick wall my entire life? We had other issues as well so it was time to move on.

There was a lady I worked with who acted like hearing loss was contagious and it pained her to talk to me within 25 feet. I worked around her as much as possible doing us both a favor. There was another co-worker who thought I could hear because I did so well one on one that she insisted I answer the phone which was pure torture for me (before CaptionCall phones were available). I wound up quitting that job because I couldn’t make her understand and trying to manage the phone was stressing me out. That’s 3 bad people I’ve encountered in about 20 years. I don’t dwell on them nor do I let them color my world. Most people are good people and want to help.

That’s what has worked for me. After some personal memory mining with the help of my mom, it wasn’t the smoothest ride but it wasn’t the roughest either. It helps that I have such an open minded family who are willing to help.

How’s your family life? What’s helped you?

How to Build Self-Confidence as Hard of Hearing

Many people with hearing loss have low self-confidence. It is possible to take charge of hearing loss (instead of hearing loss ruling life) and build self-confidence up again. Begin building confidence in your personal environment. Starting small, choose something comfortable to work with and simply start.

Some of the suggestions for building confidence below require interaction with other people so make sure you have the right attitude. Make a pledge to be passive NO more and practice being assertive instead. Passive behavior is staying in the background not wanting to cause problems. Being assertive means to let people know your communication needs and ask for their help. Avoid being aggressive and demanding.

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We all awesome!

Here are some suggestions to work with.

Know your hearing loss. Educate yourself about your kind of hearing loss, why? To be able to describe to other people how you hear. Once you know this, you can accurately tell others how best to talk to you. This might seem hard at first but it gets easier with time and you will become more confident asking for accommodation.

  • Please face me when talking; I hear better when sound comes straight at me.”
  • I lipread, please face me.”
  • Background noise affects my hearing; can we turn the radio off or down?”

Educate yourself about abut Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs). Which ones work better for certain situations? Which public venues have devices to use? Ask for them, use them. Try them out first by getting a loaner from DSDHH so you know what works best for you.

  • The PockeTalker for a long drive?
  • The FM system for a wireless connection at a presentation?
  • How about trying the CaptiView at the theater?

Be prepared, anticipate. Think ahead. Where are you going and what will be the listening conditions? What can you do to make it better?  With anticipation it’s easier to get around the hearing loss obstacles and in learning this, we can feel more confident about doing new things

  • Take an assistive listening system?
  • Show up early to get the best possible seating?
  • Contact someone a head of time to find out the setup and let them know what you need?

Set a small goal and achieve it. Start small, think of one thing you can do to put yourself out there again. The small successes will make you braver and you can build on your goals.

  • Go to a presentation with a personal FM system and ask the speaker to wear it. (Show up early to talk to the presenter or email ahead of time.)
  • Find a class offered for those with hearing loss and take it; speechreading, sign language, etc. In fact, get in touch with your state Deaf and Hard of Hearing Center and see what they offer.
  • Go to a captioned Broadway show. There are lots of captioned shows around the country usually in the bigger cities. If you can’t find one near you, see if you can get in touch with someone like Turner Captioning who does captioning in many cities to see if she can help you find one or get play near you captioned.

Change a habit. It will seem hard at first but it will get easier with practice. Be patient with yourself and others but keep at it. Habits are hard to break but it can be done.

  • Be upfront about your hearing loss.
  • Ask people to rephrase instead of repeat
  • Mimic the way you want others to talk to you. Articulate with a moderate pace and always face them when talking.

Say what the heck and do it anyway. We tend to hole up and stay in our comfort zones. Once in a while say “yes” I’ll do it. Get out of your comfort zone and give it a try.  If it doesn’t pan out the way you planned, think about it. What could you do next time to make it better? What might seem like a failure could be a step to a success.

  • Go out to eat at a restaurant by yourself and practice ‘hearing’ alone.
  • Go to that party you usually avoid if only for an hour. Practice being assertive with your communication needs.
  • Go to see a movie and ask for an ALD.

Be who you are and stop being someone else. We are hard of hearing and it’s time to stop pretending to be hearing. We are hard of hearing and there’s no shame in that. It only means we have to do things in a different way.

  • Stop bluffing!
  • Ask for accommodations.
  • Use whatever you need to get by without feeling guilty or feeling weird.

Volunteer. Sometimes helping others is just what we need to feel better.

  • Volunteer for a hearing loss cause. There are several organizations to volunteer with; The Hearing Loss Association of America, Association of Late Deafened adults and the SayWhatClub.
  • Volunteer with hospice services. People in hospice care are Deaf and hard of hearing too.
  • Offer your specialty services with any organization and help teach them about hearing loss along the way.

More suggestions for building self-confidence:

  • Stay away from negative people; they are just going to drag you down. Find positive people to hang out with and find a group of hard of hearing people to hang out with to find positive role models.
  • Look good because when you look good, you feel good.
  • Stand tall. Straighten up and throw your shoulders back.
  • Start an exercise plan. Feeling healthy helps you feel good too.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others. For all you know they are comparing themselves to you and finding themselves lacking too.

When you advocate for yourself you will become more confident and self-assured. In gaining confidence within your personal environment, you can take it to the next level and advocate in public. Later, you may even feel confident enough to advocate at the legislative level as well.

Remember, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Be gentle with communication requests and don’t give up. As Dr. Seuss said, “And will you succeed? YES! You will indeed, 98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.”  Oh the places we can go if only we’ll try.

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My First Deaf Style Alarm Clcok

I rarely use alarm clocks, I’ve hated them with a passion since grade school when I had to wake up with the old fashioned alarm clock that clanged between two bells.  Early on I learned to wake up before the it went off to save myself the fright.  Since then I’ve been very good about waking up when I want to except when I have to get up real early, then  I use my phone as an alarm clock.  The problem is I don’t hear it over the half the time, instead Ken hears it and nudges me awake to turn it off.

Last week I needed to get up early but no Ken. I slept soundly the first 3 hours then woke up every hour afterward checking my phone afraid I’d miss the alarm.  I posted to Facebook about it the next day just saying I would be tired.  Wouldn’t you know one of my friends offered me a deaf style alarm clock.

Tonight I brought it out  and realized I had no idea how to set it up and what all the buttons were for (now I’m sounding old). I was astounded to learn the damn thing talked to me…in a foreign language!  I called Ken in and he started counting in French with the clock.  Why does a deaf person need a talking alarm clock and who thinks of this stuff?  I searched the internet until I found the instruction manual and downloaded it. It has four languages; somehow I bypassed German, found French, then came Spanish and finally English. Why does a deaf person need a talking clock? It took a while but I found a way to shut her voice off.

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It has a rechargeable, wireless shake awake (vibrator, that needs to charge), 90 decibels of alarm if I chose (never! it would scare me to death) or a flashing light. I’ll try the flashing light and the shake-awake at some point. I’m excited. (har har)


It took a long time just to set the time and the day of the week which made me use almost all the buttons on the front of the clock.  It’s now late and I need to get up early yet I’m afraid to use any of the functions tomorrow not knowing what to expect because there’s still knobs on the back I need to figure out. At least I can look over at the time now instead of checking my phone.


I was telling Ken about all the options when he went to bed.  “I’m going to be woken up rudely,” he asked.

“No,” I said. “I won’t use it while you are here because you  can make sure I wake up with my phone alarm.”

“So what I’m hearing is I’m going to wake up no matter what.”

“Uh, I guess so.”  I love you Ken – immensely.

Affordable Hearing Aids

Sound World Solutions contacted me via my blog. Over email, they told me more about their product and asked if I’d being willing to try it. They have been selling their hearing aids/hearing amplifiers in India and the Philippines but they recognized the need for affordable hearing aids in the USA. Their website states their mission as: “to create and deliver high quality, affordable hearing devices that allow people to rediscover the power of connection, no matter what their geographic location or economic circumstance happens to be.”

I agreed to try their hearing aids because I have many people come through at work who simply can’t afford hearing aids in the $3,000-$6,000 range and are seeking help financially. We have a list of funding sources at work that gives about 10 possible sources for adults. Our resources list places for easy credit terms, the Starkey “Hear Now” program (bless them), and places like United Way and the state vocational rehabilitation program for those who are at work or want to work. Most of the people I see, however, are older people on fixed incomes who really, really want to hear because they know they are missing all kinds of sounds but can’t afford the prices. The look at our funding sources and I tell them to try the Starkey program because I know they do good work.

Sound World shipped their hearing aids called the “Companion” to me. They came in a zippered protective case, a charger cord (no batteries), 3 different sizes of domes for the ear canal and a cleaner tool.

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Here’s a picture comparing the size to my tiny Siemens.

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There are some people who would be turned off by the size of the hearing aids but I was delighted because I had more room to decorate them! Before I charged them, before I performed the hearing test and before I put them in my ears, I decorated them with Duck Tape. My husband couldn’t believe I wanted to do that before heading out into some noisy environment to check them out. I have a tendency to show off my hearing aids and I was NOT going to show them off plain black.

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You may remember a post of mine from a year or so ago trying Harris Hearing aids. I was excited to have more control over what I hear through a phone app although something fell through in process and we were never able to pursue the project.

Sound World is the same way. Their hearing aids are Bluetooth (part of the reason why they are so big I’m guessing) and connect right to the phone. I found their free app in the Apple Store downloaded it with no problem. I turned on the Bluetooth option on my iPhone and proceeded to take their hearing test which turned out similar to the one I have from the audiologist office. (For those without a smart phone, the hearing aids can come already programmed and ready to go out of the box.)

the hearing test

the hearing test

The domes with the Harris hearing aids screamed because I need a lot of power being in the moderate/severe hearing loss zone. The domes with Siemens hearing aids screamed until I got custom-made molds so I kind of expected the same thing with the Companion. If I powered them up while trying to put them in, I had feedback but if I put them in and turned them on, I didn’t have the screaming and that’s doable. I occasionally have a chirp if my hand gets too close to the hearing while fiddling with my hair and that’s not so bad either but I’d like it not there at all. Another cool thing about the Companions is the wire that connects the hearing aids to the domes/speaker goes in and out of the hearing aid itself to its self adjusting.  Look at both pictures of the hearing aid decorated to see the difference in wire length.

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Different size domes and the cleaning tool.

There are 3 programs or settings: everyday, restaurant and entertainment. On my phone app I can choose the setting or I can change it through the buttons on the hearing aid.

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Likewise I can adjust the volume on the hearing aid or through the app. Even better, with the app I can adjust the treble, the mid ranges and the bass through the equalizer. I like that. A lot. Today’s world is all about options.

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Last week I tried the hearing aids in a health fair for work. It was a big test for these hearing aids in a large lunch room loaded with 300 people, with bad acoustics and someone on microphone trying to override all the noise. My boss took off her cochlear implant and then eased back into the noise with low volume which shows how harsh the noise was.   The Companion hearing aids did well in that environment, separating the speech from the noise well enough I could cope. Noisy settings are the number one complaint for hearing aid users.

They only lasted an hour. I thought I had just charged the hearing aids but on reflection it had been a week (time flies when busy). The charge generally lasts about 18 hours and should be charged once a week with light usage. I was really surprised to get an hour out of them in such a bad environment after a full week of no charging. I need to set a day every week to charge them since I’m a light user changing them out with my Siemens.

Why do I change them out? Because the Companion doesn’t have a T-coil as of yet and I am around looped environments enough which is my favorite listening system. I prefer that above all others because within a loop I feel like a normal hearing person. I also use neckloops at work to show clients how to use them so I need my T-coil hearing aids to make sure the devices work. The company has T-Coil on their list along with trying to get the size of the hearing aids down which might be good too.

The other issue I seem to have is keeping dome in the left ear. It works its way out continually and I have to poke it back in. I know from past experience this causes irritation and pretty soon I have a sore so I asked if they made custom molds for people like me. They do.

Supposedly I can pair the hearing aids to the TV streamer but I have yet to try that option. I’ve been watching TV with captions since the mid 90’s so it’s a hard habit. Depending on the movie, I still need captions to understand dialogue even with a steamer so it’s not a big bonus for me. It connects to my phone for music but I haven’t tried it for talking on the phone yet. (I’m phone shy because it can be a big struggle.)

For the first time my hearing aids talk to me. I’m not sure how I feel about that but at least I know what’s going on.

“Power on.”

“Power off.”

“Volume up.”

“Volume down.”

“Connected.” For Bluetooth options in my phone.

“Everyday.”

“Restaurant.”

“Entertainment.”

It’s a male voice. I might have to name him, any ideas for names?

I gave them another color today for their debut.

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Overall I would recommend these hearing aids to people who have a moderate or less hearing loss who can’t afford hearing aids out of an audiology office. Why not a severe/profound hearing loss? Because my moderate/severe hearing loss requires a lot of power which creates feedback. If I have some feedback, what will it be like for someone with a bigger hearing loss than mine? I think it would work fine for someone with my kind of hearing loss provided they are experienced with hearing aids and can work it but for someone totally new to hearing loss it might be a bit frustrating. If it’s a moderate or mild hearing loss I think the aids will work fine and not have a lot feedback issues.

Some hearing aids are better than none and these are certainly affordable and usable. The website says one hearing aids is $449 and $735 for two hearing aids. They don’t have all the bells and whistles (they tell me they are working to have more options in their hearing aids and making them smaller is a priority) but they do have the basics; noise settings, volume, connectivity through Bluetooth. Bonuses include not having to buy batteries and being able to make self adjustments through a smart phone. Thank  you World Solutions for letting me try your hearing aids.

Summer life

I have outlines and subjects galore to write about but since late July, life has been non-stop with traveling.  I thought I’d share some of it with you and then get serious about writing again.

Late July and into August we did a Vanagon trip to the Oregon/Washington coast but right before leaving, I hosted an HLAA-SLC social at my house.  Good people, a great night.

Our social

Our social

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We made it to the California Sierras to visit friends who also have a Vanagon. (Ours is blue.)

We made a quick tour of Mt. Lassen before hitting up the Giant Redwoods in California.

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Redwood National/State Park.

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Whale’s Head Beach, about an hour north of the California border in Oregon. Loved it because hardly anyone was there.

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Made it to the Rogue Brewery in Newport, OR. Their nut brown is awesome and they have a good chocolate one too.

This was about an hour before getting to Astoria., it's one of my favorite pictures.

This was about an hour before getting to Astoria., it’s one of my favorite pictures.

Then up to Ocean Park, WA to visit good friends.  Brrr!

Then up to Ocean Park, WA to visit good friends. Brrr!

Onto Seattle to visit family and the troll under the bridge...which has a VW bug under a hand by the way.

Onto Seattle to visit family and the troll under the bridge…which has a VW bug under a hand by the way.

While in the area we also visited Jimi Hendrix’s grave, Pike’s Market and Snowqualmie Falls.

Then back down through Oregon again where we traveled up the Columbia River Gorge, watched wind surfing at Hood River, OR.  We drove by Mt. Hood and camped along the Pacific Coast trail.  Then I had to go to Bend, OR to the visit Deschutes Brewery.

Their seasonal ale was good but River Ale is still my favorite.

Their seasonal ale was good but River Ale is still my favorite.

From there we toured the Lava Caves.  Brrr!  After that we found an abandoned campground nowhere close to a town.  It felt very Friday the 13th.  It was peaceful.

Our whole trip was blue skies and good weather, except traveling through NV to CA where we hit a thunderstorm with lots of rain and again on the way back through NV to Utah we got drenched.

I wasn’t home 12 hours from that trip before I took off to Arizona to be with my youngest son.  His living quarters was threatened by a rare wildfire in Mohave, AZ.  The fire actually went all the way around his place but left a good chunk of the neighborhood alone which was amazing!  We didn’t know that for 3 days however because they wouldn’t let people in until the hot spots were down, the propane tanks safe and downed wires back up.  It was 3 days of hell waiting to see if his cat made it through the 110 plus temperatures without electricity and a huge fire blazing all around.

The fire went down down the streets on both sides of the property.

The fire went down down the streets on both sides of the property.

Leo the Cat came through unharmed!

Leo the Cat came through unharmed!

I came back home 5 days later and went to work, tying up the speechreading and hearing aids 101 classes updates.  Ken and I found time to go camping in the High Uintas in eastern Utah at Spirit and Hoop Lakes.

The stream that fed into Spirit Lake.  This was about 10,000 ft.

The stream that fed into Spirit Lake. This was about 10,000 ft.

Tamarack Lake,  hike up from Spirit Lake.

Tamarack Lake, hike up from Spirit Lake.

That night was cold!  I broke out the down coat.

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And we still had fun.

Fishing at Hoop Lake which was about 9,000 feet.

Fishing at Hoop Lake which was about 9,000 feet.

So then I come home to work and visit with my grandkids for a few short weeks.

Riley who is about 4 months old here I think.

Riley who is about 4 months old here I think.

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From there I went to the ALDA convention, Association for Late Deafened Adults.  It was my first ALDA con and it deserves a post all on it’s own.  Here’s two of my favorite pictures from karaoke night.  (Yes the deaf can and will sing at the ALDA con.)

Taking a break from all the fun.

Taking a break from all the fun.

These two are feeling the music's vibrations through a balloon for the first time.

These two are feeling the music’s vibrations through a balloon for the first time.

So I’m home again, visit with kids and grandkids and we’re off again in less than two weeks.  This time we went up Gray Canyon on the Green River in Utah.  The one thing about having a ‘handicap’ is my National Parks pass card called Access.  It’s gotten us into the National Parks free and 1/2 off camping in most places.  I felt guilty about having one for a while but got over it.  I miss out on so much in the hearing world why not have this one perk in life?

Sunset on Swasey's Rapid

Sunset on Swasey’s Rapid

Campsite near practically right on the rapid.  It's great white noise for tinnitus.

Campsite near practically right on the rapid. It’s great white noise for tinnitus.

My hubby guiding us down the Green River.  We did two days on an 8 mile stretch of the river.

My hubby guiding us down the Green River. We did two days on an 8 mile stretch of the river.

I’m home again as of last night.  I have to be up early to travel to busy health fair to talk to people about the services Utah offers to those who are deaf and hard of hearing.  Then my parents are visiting for the weekend.  I have about a two week breather before my next planned trip to Montana to visit a dear friend.  After that, I hope to stay home for a little while. I hope to be able to post a couple of times before going. I have a lot of catching up to do!

Advice for New Hearing Aids

People often ask my advice on hearing aids. I’ve been wearing hearing aids for about 25 years now, starting with the old, awful analog ones and moved into the digital models.  I’m on my fifth pair of hearing aids. I also help teach a class at work called Hearing Aids 101 so I have some knowledge and experience.  Here’s a lot of what I saw but it by no means covers it all.

T-Coils are important! Here's what they look like in different sizes.

T-Coils are important! Here’s what they look like in different sizes. I picked this picture up through Loop Seattle.

  Make sure you get a tele-coil (t-coil) in your hearing aids.  Audiologists like to say it’s old technology and you’ll never use it but it’s NOT outdated technology.  A t-coil (originally developed for the telephone but it’s uses have grown) is a tiny coil of copper wire in a hearing aid. Most hearing aids have them but audiologists don’t always tell people about it.  If you already have hearing aids you may have one but the program is not turned on.  Ask your audiologist if you have one and if it can be turned on to experiment with.  

I used my t-coil setting a lot in the early years with my analog hearing aids to get by on the phone and I don’t think I would have lasted so long the phone without it. I held the top of the phone a little above and behind my ear hovering the edge of my hearing aid. It cut out my environmental background noise and focuses on what’s coming across on the phone only.  Unfortunately my environmental noise would bleed over into the phone at times because I worked in salons which could get noisy but even then the t-coil helped a great deal on the phone.

This picture came from Galluadet page: http://tap.gallaudet.edu/voice/wirelessandhearingaids.asp

This picture came from Galluadet page: http://tap.gallaudet.edu/voice/wirelessandhearingaids.asp

  These days I don’t use the phone much but when I do I use neckloop which also works with the t-coil. It has a jack that will fit into anything headphones can plug into. I use it with my iPhone and I hear the conversation in both my ears which gives me a little extra to work with in trying to understand the conversation. I also use it on my iPod to listen to music and I take it to venues who advertise ALDs to plug into their receivers since they usually only offer headphones. Headphones over the top of hearing aids will not work as well as a neckloop. I have this neckloop because it has a mic to use with my phone. I don’t know if this is the ‘best’ brand, it’s what I bought first and use.

Geemarc Powered Neckloop with Microphone.

Geemarc Powered Neckloop with Microphone.

  And then there’s the hearing loop that also works with the t-coil program.  It’s all over Europe and is just starting to make headway in the USA.  Basically if I walk into a looped room and turn on my t-coil program I can hear 90% of the conversation and I DON’T have to pick up any other devices to make it work. My word discrimination is 50-70% (or worse) with hearing aids depending on the environment.) I’m not sure why this assistive listening system works so much better than the usual FM and infrareds but it is a huge difference. It’s my preferred listening system. If you want to learn more about hearing loops I suggest going here. http://www.foxvalleyhearingloop.com/ Juliette Sterkens who is HLAA’s officially hearing loop advocate helped set up this site and she can say it a lot better than I can. Hearing loops are also available for cars, living rooms (for the TV) and simple counter loops for a small area.

bluetooth

Bluetooth technology.  Audiologists are big on this and it’s great for personal devices, I like listening to my music with it best. My current hearing aids came with a Bluetooth necklace which hooks me up to my phone and other devices once it’s paired (and pairing isn’t always easy). I have a streamer for my TV and I can hear more words however I still require captions to fill in the blanks. Bluetooth however draws on a lot of battery power and the more you use it the faster you will go through hearing aid batteries.  (T-coils require no extra battery power.)  You can’t use Bluetooth in big venues yet so it’s mainly for personal devices. With hearing aids, you can have both Bluetooth and a t-coil, why not have the best of both worlds? Ask your audiologist to make sure your new hearing aids have t-coil as well. People who go with Bluetooth only and regret not having t-coils later.  Hearing loops are not in wide use yet but when it’s available, it’s awesome.  The hearing loop movement is growing.

Hearing Aid Brands

   I get asked about the top brands all the time.  The most used hearing aids are: Widex, Phonak, Siemens, Starkey and Oticon.  There are several other brands out there but I have little personal experience with them. CostCo sells hearing aids cheaper and they are Phonak or Siemens but the model’s have different names.  They might not have all the bells and whistles the higher priced versions do but you’ll pay up to $3,000 less at CostCo.  The main problem I hear about them is that the hearing instrument specialists come and go fairly fast. People will get one who can program well and that person will leave and be replaced by someone who is so-so at programming.  Here’s a good website to compare brands of all kinds and read reviews from people who wear them. http://www.complete-hearing-aid-reviews.com/

Do Not Give Up Until Satisfied

You’re the boss. You paid for the hearing aids and you paid good money.  You paid in advance for all the tweaking of programs and minor upkeep of hearing aids. It’s called a bundle package which pays for the hearing aids, the services and minor repairs so keep going back until they get the programming right, until you are satisfied with them. Hearing aids will never replace true hearing but you should be able to wear them and notice a difference. Without my hearing aids in I have a 30% word discrimination at best. I went back with this last pair I bought twice a month for 6 months until I was satisfied and eventually wound up with a 72% word discrimination test, the highest I’ve had in years. The audiologist should make you feel comfortable to come as often as needed.

Prices

You can ask if they have unbundled deal. (Most audiologists do not offer this.) This option allows you to pay for the hearing aids alone and then pay a service fee each time you go in. For some people, this is the cheaper way to go but it is nice to go back as often as necessary without the worry of running up a bill.  

Haggle over the price of hearing aids, strike a bargain.  They should never ever be above $6,000 in my opinion but I know some pay $7,000. The prices aren’t set in stone and you may be able to bargain it lower. Shop around and compare, bring the best price quote back to the audiologist you like and see if he/she will work with you. Most audiologists want to make that sale but most of the time we are clueless and don’t question the price.

Hearing Aid Programs

There are several programs you can have in your hearing aids. I have 5 programs, 3 I use often and 2 I use here and there.  The number 1 setting is the main setting or the master program. Next I also have a program for noisy settings which focus my microphones extreme forward and drops the noise a few levels so I can tolerate noise better. The other one I use often is the ‘stroll’ program (I have Siemens hearing aids right now and different companies have different names for the programs.) It’s set up for walking next to someone and the microphones go from side to side as needed following voices. I use this program mainly in the car and it helped a great deal.

I have a dedicated Bluetooth program which I rarely use but it’s there when I want it. I also have a dedicated T-coil program which I use for the phone, neckloop and meetings in town with a hearing loop.  There are other programs that offered, ask your audiologist to read off what’s available and then experiment with them.  I might replace my Bluetooth program (I rarely use it) with the Zen program for tinnitus to see what it’s like.

Warranties and Batteries

  You should get a 2-3 year warranty on the hearing aids. Some audiologists might offer free batteries for that amount of time with the purchase of new hearing aids. If your audiologist doesn’t offer, ask. Tell him/her that you heard of someone who does and see if they will make you a deal.

  You should have 30-90 days to return the hearing aids for your money back (aside from ear mold prices).  If you really don’t like them don’t be afraid to return them and try another brand.  

  Smaller hearing aids may appeal to vanity but you won’t get all the cool programming options.  They also don’t last as long and go through more batteries than the bigger ones.

ald

All Audiologists Should Tell You About Assistive Technology

  Ask your audiologist about assistive listening technology and how it can complement your hearing aids.  Hearing aids are made for conversation within a 4-6 foot range, after that, their ability diminishes which is why you can’t hear well in church, the theater or at lectures.  Assistive listening devices that use FM or infrared technology will eliminate the distance and help you hear a lot better in public venues.  Look for the sign above when you are going out and inquire about the devices available.  It will create a much better experience for you.

Ear Molds

  Make sure your ear molds are snug but don’t hurt.  If they are a poor fit things will sound more tinny.  If they hurt, the audiologist can shave the bumpy parts down some.  There’s also different kind of mold materials, hard plastic and soft plastic. A lot of hearing aids now come with ‘domes’ a sort of one size fits all thing.  I had horrible feedback (squealing) with domes, they itched and I didn’t hear well with them. I also did badly with hard plastic ear molds that inserted into the canal only. They constantly worked their way out and I was poking them back in which made my ears sore. Next we tried custom molds made for me (red!) with soft rubber material and a little kickstand to help them stay in place. It worked!

  Ask for a ‘real ear measure’ test once you get your hearing aids.  It will help the audiologist measure how sounds are coming into your ear through the hearing aids.  (Not all audiologists do this but they should.) Once I could only tell my audiologist that things sounded harsh without specifics so he ran this test and was able to pin point the possible harsh noises and make it more bearable. It’s a small tube inserted into the hearing aids and just into the ear canal. It’s hooked up to the computer which then generates all tones of speech and measures it out.

 I’m sure there’s a lot more I missed.  If you questions ask and I will try to get you the answer.  Here’s a few links to check out if interested.

More information on t-coils: http://blog.widex.com/post/83699151141/telecoil.

HLAA talks about Unbundling Prices: http://www.hearingloss.org/sites/default/files/docs/HLM_SepOct2011_Unbundling_of_Hearing_Aid_Costs.pdf