Category Archives: Uncategorized

Promoted to Hard of Hearing Specialist

It’s been a long time and I feel guilty about that. I love writing and my favorite topic is hearing loss and I get to do that all the time for work now. I was working part-time as a hard of hearing assistant, my boss decided to retire late last fall in December. When her job went up in December I applied and waited. I had to interview and I had to wait. Right before she left in late December, they came in and offered me a job. I collapsed on the desk when they told me because one of my weaknesses is not being fluent enough in sign language, but I had the rest of it down! I started full-time with benefitst the second week in January.

Working 40 hours a week took some getting used to and sitting in front of the computer all day made me not want to look at a computer in the evening which is why it’s taken me so long to write. I have a lot to say and I hardly know where to begin. I feel lucky feels like a good place to start. I have a lot of support from certain staff and I’m happy to go to work each day, none of that daily grind feel because I love my job.

Me under my desk during an earthquake drill last week.

I started this blog when I didn’t feel so lucky; I felt a little angry and depressed about not being able to hear. However, all that ‘bad’ was actually the beginning of this journey, where I am today. I look back at when I started going to the Sanderson Center to Deaf and Hard of Hearing in 2009. I was learning to cope again after a big drop in hearing. I felt lost and hardly knew where to begin. I was certainly depresse because I couldn’t cope as a hairdresser anymore hearing wise. I could probably do it now if I had to but that’s not my path anymore…but it was devasting to me back then. In 2009 I was shy, kept to myself and very unsure of my place in the world. Who knew that woman become the next hard of hearing specialist? I find it incredible at time, like I should pinch myself.

2009 was the lowest point in my hard of hearing life but that’s where I also learned the most. I attened local HLAA meetings and I re-joined SWC. I started small by being there only, finding mentors and slowly building my confidence back up. Re-learning how to get along better in the hearing world. I volunteered and I kept moving up in my volunteering in repsonsibillity and was even the SWC president last year. I learned thing in the SWC convention committee, how manage issues on email lists. At the Sanderson Center I took sign Living with Hearing Loss and Speechreading classes. I took on more repsonsibility in my HLAA chapter, being president and treasurer over the years. I was getting support in the beginning and learning to give support later on.

For four years I grew slowly and in 2013 I applied for that part time job at the Sanderson as a hard of hearing assistant. I started teaching the classes that taught me and in the process I started letting go of doing hair. Not doing hair wasn’t the end of the world after all, it was the beginning of my life now, it’s so hard to feel resentful for losing that anymore. Or feeling resentful toward hearing loss at all. This is my place, it’s where I belong. It’s where I can now help others struggling like was 9 years ago and I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

There’s a lot of credit to give for people who helped get me here.

My SWC friend who turned into my best friend, Michele. She’s taught me it’s possible to lose all hearing and still get a long just fine in the world. Not that we don’t have struggles anymore but we now know how to take care of them and move on. She continues to inspire me.

My local HLAA friend and mentor Kathy, always patient and willing to guide people along. She gave me hope from the very first time I met her in 2009, so competent in her hearing loss and so good with people. I wanted to be just like her…then realized I had to be me. Kathy is special and there’s no way I can be ‘like’ her but I still try to take lessons from her. All these years later, I still rely on her.

Robin, my boss who retired and who’s job I got. When I became her assistant, she often gave me my head and pulled me back when needed. Edie, my co-worker, also often encouraged me. She remembers when I first came to the center, how quiet I was and how much I kept to myself. We worked on a lot of projects together, Robin, Edie and me made a great team and it taught me teamwork makes the best work.

I also credit my volunteer work for getting me this job. I learned how to create events thanks to working on the convention committee for SWC. I also learned how to tactfully resolve issues by being the list representative for SWC. My local HLAA chapter kept me involved with the Sanderson, people got used to seeing me, I became a regular and they had to hire me as an assistant (I often joke about that). Volunteering is an assett and it meant a lot on my resume, I gained experience in the volunteer world that I might not have otherwise. I highly recommend it.

Being the hard of hearing specialist for northern Utah means I get to help more people with hearing loss, I get to know more of my tribe. I hope I can shed some light on hearing loss for others in time of need. My job is rewarding in that I get to help hard of hearing people in a fuller capacity, help them like I was helped 9 years ago.

* Side note: Excuse my spelling and grammar errors. My nearly 8 yr old computer is giving me hell and I dread starting that thing up so I’m sitting here on my tablet and can’t find the spellcheck option. Hopefully soon I can buy myself a new computer. I’ll fix this post up next time I’m on a computer.

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La Technique of Lipreading

And another post by my friend and me from last week.

Readable Lip Tips

Another post on lipreading, Michele and my collaboration.

10 Things You Can Do for Tinnitus

Tinnitus is on my mind today and that’s because I’m off the grid, in the middle of nowhere at my parents house.  How quiet is it out here?  Many years ago after they finished building their house I came to visit.  We were on the porch, everyone talking and I kept hearing a noise.  It was indescribable and it drove me nuts not knowing what it was. I stopped the conversation finally to ask “What is that?”  And of course everything sounded normal to them so it took a bit to pin down the noise I wanted.  “There!  That noise,” I yelled when I heard it again.  My mom said,  “You mean hummingbirds?”  I was aghast.  I could not believe how loud they were.  At home I couldn’t hear them due to traffic or city noise so I guess I forgot what they sounded like.  


Today it’s early February so isn’t porch time yet. My parents aren’t listening to the radio as they normally would avoiding today’s political environment.  None of us watch TV much either so it’s quiet in the house too. I hear my tinnitus all too well.  My tinnitus sounds like cicadas, crickets and has a high pitched squeal 24 hours a day , 7 days a week.  Luckily I habituated years ago so it’s not driving me crazy but it is noticeable.  


Memories of tinnitus are drifting in and out.  I remember when tinnitus struck back in 1987 and I was told by the ENT to go home and learn to live with it.  He gave me no other suggestions nor information.  I couldn’t sleep and I was a zombie during for days at school.  Every night I laid awake hating the sudden invasion and wished I could just die.  Only with much determination did I make it through that time period and was able to push tinnitus to the side.

I didn’t think too much about my tinnitus for many years, it was there but in the background only.  Then working as a hard of hearing assistant, I was asked to edit a tinnitus presentation into a class.  I spent weeks organizing the information and researching tinnitus on the internet.  I hadn’t heard my tinnitus so well in years! I was so happy when I finished the project.

Once or twice a year I teach the class and it always throws me back to my early days when I suffered from it as I listen to others tell their story.  At least there’s more information available today thanks to the internet than what I had in 1987.  It’s wonderful of the state of Utah to offer this class to help others.  Together we talk about it and I always hope I helped them at least a little bit.  Today I thought I’d write up a list of things to help other people as well.


Tinnitus is most vicious at night because the world is quieter.  All we want is to sleep and it seems impossible with all that racket in our head.  We lay there awake..thinking about it, hating it, crying or pissed off.  It’s at the forefront of our thinking and it’s evil.  

Here’s some things you can do to help you sleep.  The trick is to take your mind away from your tinnitus and place it elsewhere.  If you find yourself focussing on your tinnitus, take the focus away to something else.

  1. Soft noise.  Turn on the fan. Get a fish tank that bubbles. Use soft music or the TV.  There’s small water features you can buy to keep on the nightstand. Get some environmental sounds to listen too. (I use an app on my phone called SleepStream 2 and I love it.  There is a fee.)
  2. Try something visual.  I know some people don’t like lights at night so experiment.  Try fiberoptic lights or something like a projection of the night sky on the ceiling.
  3. Some people claim aromatherapy distracts them from their tinnitus at night.  Find a soothing scent.
  4. Create a regular bed time habit and make it a comfortable routine.  Turn off the TV, read a bit, have a cup of tea.  Create a peaceful atmoshphere with light background noise. 
  5. Find your happy place.  Start creating a visual in your mind of your perfect place. Counting your blessings also works, not matter how small it starts, the list will get bigger.


During the day it’s a little easier to ignore tinnitus but in quiet places or at idle times it can sneak up on you.  Again, every time you catch yourself thinking about your tinnitus take it away to something else.

  1. Mindfulness works.  If you’re dusting furniture and the ringing is driving you nuts, focus instead on the dusting-the motion your hand makes, the smell of the furniture polish, the trails you make in the dust as you go.  
  2. Keep light noise in the background.  Don’t make it too loud because sometimes loud noise can make tinnitus work.  Use the radio, some music, the TV.
  3. Some people started a new hobby when tinnitus struck.  I remember a story of guy who took up running to ‘run away’ from his tinnitus.  He used it to work through his tinnitus and enjoyed it so much he became a marathon runner.  Have you always wanted to paint?  Take and art class.  Take a dance class or start attending a climbing gym.  Having something new to do will give you a new focus.
  4. Many hearing aids have a tinnitus program option.  Whenit’s quiet at the office, I’ll turn on my tinnitus program and I hear crashing waves in the background.  If someone comes in and starts talking to me, the waves fade away and I still hear environmental noise.
  5. Here’s your excuse to go get a message.  Tense shoulders leads to a tense neck and even a tight scalp.  It could be making your tinnitus worse.  It won’t take away your tinnitus but maybe you’ll feel more relaxed and able to deal with the tinnitus better.

These are practical tips.  I don’t know much about alternative therapies so I won’t get into that.  The American Tinnits Association (ATA) which talks about those therapies and you can explore them on your own.  The ATA has tons of good information on tinnitus and you can read the latest updates on studies too.

Some people have tinnitus triggers and spikes.  Mine is a lack of sleep and it will make my tinnitus scream!  I warn people it will be a bad hearing day on those days.  For other people it’s loud noises, over the counter meds, diet (caffeine, sugar, alcohol, salt) or smoking.  None of those things affect me but lack of sleep will.  It’s different for everyone.  

If you’re feeling suicidal because of tinnitus, please reach out for help.  I know someone who was and sought help and successfully habituated tinnitus.  You can move beyond it!

The Ditto

I got the Ditto about a month ago, curious to try things out that might help the hard of hearing.

ditto

picture from pc world

The Ditto is an alerting devices for phone calls (I rarely do the phone), incoming texts, email and more.  It has a good, strong vibrate for such a little thing and it has several options of vibrating patterns.  I had a few people ask me why I wanted to try this because our phones alert us in several ways.  So here’s my deal…

My phone is always silenced.  Any noise that I can hear from any distance is going to be LOUD and obnoxious.  When it’s that loud, it scares me half to death when it goes off.  I have a flash alert set instead which works when I’m near the phone and remember to place it face down so I can see the flash.  If I’m out and about, it’s in my purse or in a pocket unless I’m expecting a text then I’ll carry it in my hand, hopefully face down to see the flash.  This makes me pretty attached to my phone and my hands full at times.  It might be nice having the Ditto but I didn’t expect to like it much because it is Bluetooth and drains the battery on my phone.

 

I tried it out driving to the SayWhatClub convention in Boise at the beginning of August.  I kept it plugged into the car charger.  It was nice to know when texts were coming in and I knew to look when I stopped.  Then I wore it the next day because I kind of liked not having my phone in my hands all the time.  I tried it in the pool (it’s water proof) at the hotel.  It seemed to lose the bluetooth connection and the ‘tether’ alert would go off.  (Tether is an alert designed to tell you when you are too far away from your phone or forgot it somewhere.)  That night I went out on the Boise Brew Cruise I kept it on (charging my phone before I left).   The cruise took us to 3 Boise brew pubs and my phone and the Ditto kept up.

So I started wearing the Ditto more because at the convention not only do I have my family/friends texting as normal but we attendees also start texting each other for information on activities and such.  I’m also charging my phone a lot more but I don’t mind because it’s useful for me.

At home I continued to wear it because I liked not carrying my phone around with me.  I wore it at work so I didn’t get behind on texts, mostly what’s going on at home and things can happen fast at home.  Yesterday I forgot to take it to work with me and I missed it.  I’ll have to start tucking it into a purse pocket.

I don’t use it all the time because sometimes I like having a break from my phone or maybe I’m not doing anything more than watching TV so I can check my phone.  I’m glad I have the device though, it’s frees my hands up and I can forget about my phone for a while confident I’ll get the alert.

The only time the vibrate freaked me out is when I was in the backyard with the bees.  My husband has a hive of bees and bees can freak me out.  The bees were thirsty, zooming back and forth in the yard looking for water.  I was trying to get some toys out of the shed for my grandsons while keeping my cool.  My tether alert went off and I did this freaky dance in the yard slapping at my collar-bone while turning a circle.  It took me a few seconds to figure it was the Ditto and gather my wits again.  It probably looked funny but the 5 yr old and 1 yr old didn’t catch the humor.  They were just looking at me crazy like wondering what I was going to do next.

* Texting is my main mode of communication.  I think in an average month I send and receive around 2,000 texts.  My record is around 4,000 and that was about 4 years ago.

 

Summer Busy

I keep thinking I need to post but haven’t had much time between summer camp trips, work, family and holidays. I’m not done writing about hearing loss by far but I haven’t had a lot of sit down time at my computer either. Even now I’m tapping this all out on my phone. 

Summer fun (and work) also involves the SayWhatClub convention coming up August 3-6 in Boise, Idaho. I have so much fun at their conventions and look forward to every year. I’m also on the convention committee which means a chunk of my time goes into helping to put this event on. The last month always has its challenges, the main one being getting a temporary hearing loop put in.  None of the audio visual companies up there are willing to put in a loop. Most haven’t even heard about it so I got to do a little educating at the very least. 

It’s like Boise is in the dark ages in regards to hearing loss needs. Not only are we having problems with the loop but there are issues with getting a play captioned at the Shakespeare Festival. They are really dragging their feet over this.  Boise needs us. 

In spite of the problems I know things will come through. I’m reminded that success is not a straight line. 


I will have fun. Here’s picture of past fun…

2012 My first ever SWC convention. This is the welcome party where I wore balloons because the night before someone learned the ASL phrase “She has fake boobs.”


2013 Fun with my tutu at the banquet.


2014 My tiaras and her bug eye glasses made for a lot of goofing around.


I missed 2015 only because my grandson chose that time to come into this world.  I have a great outfit planned for the banquet this year, pictures will come after the convention. 

So I leave with this quote I saw in FB this morning. 


From one of my favorite authors, Paulo Coelho. I’m not going to apologize for my hearing loss or regret it. I’ve met too many good people thought it to ever regret again. Hate myself? Never, there’s more fun to be had, especially with my tribe. Dieting-ah that is something I think about but the quote is right…be brave, be who we are and take risks. Even with hearing loss we can live this life!

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.