Human Rights Day Workshop Hosted By The PEI Human Rights Commission

CIMG6060 Dec 9 2022 Human Rights Day with Brenda & Joanne

Human Rights Day 2022.  Left to right: Daria Valkenburg, Brenda Picard (Executive Director, PEI Human Rights Commission), Annie Lee MacDonald, Joanne Ings (Chair Commissioner, PEI Human Rights Commission). (Photo courtesy of  Valkenburg Family Collection)

January 29, 2023.   On December 9, 2022, Annie Lee MacDonald and I were invited to participate in a workshop hosted by the PEI Human Rights Commission on the annual Human Rights Day.  The slogan for the 2022 event was ‘Dignity, Freedom, and Justice For All’.

Objectives for the ½ day workshop included:

1)         Identifying the types of accessibility barriers and microaggressions faced by people with hearing loss

2)         Discussing the Commission’s present and potential future involvement with Hear PEI

3)     Obtaining feedback on content/usefulness of a Duty to Accommodate fact sheet for distribution to employers/employees, service providers/recipients and landlords/tenants

4)         Sharing whatever else we thought the Commission should know

…Hearing Accessibility Is A Human Right video….

We’ve been involved with the Commission for a number of years, including in the production of a video a few years ago, ‘Hearing Accessibility Is A Human Right’…. See https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/2020/11/27/hearing-accessibility-is-a-human-right-now-on-youtube/ and watch the video:

The video increased awareness of the accessibility barriers faced by people with hearing loss, which in turn helped the PEI Human Rights Commission to better understand some of the issues and needs.  However, during the workshop session we soon learned that most of the staff and Commissioners were unaware of the video.  After the workshop we asked Tom Hilton, the Commission’s Education Officer, to share the link with them.

…Issues around hearing accessibility were discussed….

The three main issues discussed during the workshop related to:

  • the increased difficulties in hearing comprehension that people have had since Covid
  • misconceptions about hearing loss and what measures are needed for better hearing accessibility
  • building code guidelines for new construction not being met for ‘barrier-free’ hearing accessibility

Masks and Plexiglass barriers. During Covid, masks and Plexiglass barriers were mandatory.  We had no issue with these safety measures, but we felt that clear-window masks, in place of masks that covered one’s mouth, should have been encouraged by Health PEI.

While masks are now optional in most places, they aren’t in medical offices or hospitals, and we have been told that Health PEI discourages the use of clear-window masks, preferring the blue procedural masks which make it difficult for many to comprehend what is being said.  If you’ve gone to a vaccination clinic and worn an N-95 mask, you were likely astounded to be told that you needed to put on a blue procedural mask in place of it!  Most of us simply added it on top of the mask we were already wearing.

We also felt that window intercom systems should have been included along with the mandatory Plexiglass barriers. Many places received funding for the barriers, but not for for the hearing accessibility system many needed in order to comprehend people wearing a mask and standing behind a barrier. A few places have since rectified this omission. (See https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/2022/06/30/hearing-accessibility-improvement-at-prince-county-hospital/ as one example)

Were these health measures that EXCLUDED hearing accessibility concerns a human rights violation? We didn’t know.

Wrong Information. For some unexplained reason, there is a belief that if you have hearing loss you use sign language.  What do people think hearing aids and other hearing accessibility tools are for?

We need microphones and captioning, which help in hearing comprehension, but invariably are told that sign language can be provided in meetings and briefings!  That disconnect between what is perceived is needed and what is actually needed is difficult to overcome and keeps being reinforced by people with no actual knowledge of what is needed.

How many people do you know with vision loss, who wear corrective lenses such as glasses or contacts, that use Braille? (See https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/2022/01/13/misconceptions-about-hearing-loss/)

Some organizations now ASK us what is needed for better hearing accessibility and we are happy to give practical, cost-effective suggestions – a win-win for everyone.

We suggested that the PEI Human Rights Commission include contact information for Hear PEI in their Duty To Accommodate fact sheet.

Building for barrier-free accommodation. According to Chapter P-24 Barrier-Free Design Regulations of the PEI Provincial Building Code Act, “barrier-free” means that a building and its facilities can be approached, entered, and used by persons with physical or sensory disabilities

Adoption of barrier-free designs falls under Section 3.7 of the National Building Code of Canada 1990 and is applicable for the construction of new buildings, with exceptions made for residences and a few other types of buildings.   (See https://www.canlii.org/en/pe/laws/regu/pei-reg-ec139-95/latest/pei-reg-ec139-95.html)

We have not heard of any new construction of public buildings, hotels, theatres, etc including hearing accessibility into their designs.  These considerations include installing a hearing loop and choosing flooring, walls and ceiling materials to absorb sound for better acoustics.  No building construction would leave out a wheelchair ramp, but  hearing accessibility does not seem to be considered.

We requested that the PEI Human Rights Commission make note of this as there may come a time when someone will wish to file a complaint.

What else did we think the Commission should know? Since Covid, more people with hearing loss have spoken up about the hearing accessibility accommodations that are needed in their working environment.  This is a positive step.  No one should have to struggle to hear.

Thank you to the PEI Human Rights Commission for inviting us to participate in their very well organized workshop, and for listening to the concerns around the need for better hearing accessibility that we brought forward. We enjoyed having the chance to speak one on one with some of the staff and Commissioners and hope they found the discussion with us of interest and value as well.

Do you have a hearing accessibility concern or a story to share?  Send an email to hearpei@gmail.com, comment on the blog, or tweet to @HearPEI.

…Interested in The Aural Report?….

If you are reading this posting, but aren’t following The Aural Report blog, you are welcome to do so.  See https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/ or email hearpei@gmail.com and ask for an invitation to the blog.

Screenshot_2021-02-25 Hear PEI Association

Why not subscribe to the Hear PEI Association Channel on YouTube?  Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrDqwG4tu2mmja5HwZJS3VQ

Need a hard of hearing pin?  Here is the link to Hear PEI’s order form: https://form.jotform.com/201983720272252  © Daria Valkenburg

Is It The Microphone Or Is It You?

January 14, 2023.   One of the ongoing comments I get revolves around microphones.  Either there is no microphone at an event or there is a problem with the microphones used.  Quite often the sound volume is too loud, distorting what is actually being said, or there is a reverberation that sends back an echo.

A recent comment about poor sound system quality in venues in a reader’s town is typical of what is experienced:

…A lot of venues have microphones and amplified sound. Unfortunately, typically folks don’t know how to set the sound so folks can get it. I have a hearing problem that doesn’t allow high frequencies to get through so all I get is the mumble, mumble of the low frequencies. Wearing my hearing aids just frustrates me more because there usually is so much background noise, and that’s all I get…

I wondered what the problem was. Could it be due to poor sound equipment?  Bad acoustics in the building?  How the speakers were placed?  Or was it nothing to do with the sound system but simply due to hearing loss? The background noise heard through hearing aids would be eliminated if the venue had a hearing loop!

I posed the question to Jack Sorensen, retired Holland College electronics instructor, who looks after the sound system at South Shore United Church in Tryon. The sound quality at the church is excellent, and yes, there is a hearing (audio) loop system in place in the sanctuary. (See https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/2018/05/26/south-shore-united-church-is-looped/)

….4 key points to set up an effective sound system…

Jack raised 4 key points to setting up an effective sound system, which are summarized here…

  1. Venue architecture and materials used on the walls and ceilings affect acoustics, which in turn affect the sound quality and comprehension.
  2. Many sound systems are set up too loud.  Louder is NOT clearer.
  3. Place a number of speakers closer to the audience.
  4. Invest in a hearing loop which eliminates background noise for anyone listening through a telecoil.

…. ‘Quality sound needs to go right to the listener, not from a speaker placed far away’…

Jack explained that “…There certainly is an art in setting up sound systems. Unfortunately most venues don’t have qualified technicians, or, those they do have are younger and try to emulate modern band groups which emphasize loudness at the expense of intelligible communication…

The complexity of venue architecture and their inherent acoustic features is the main problem for setting up mics and speakers and is not always easily corrected…

IMG_7919 Mic for the Minister goes to the speakers and hearing loop

A microphone captures what the Minister says and transfers the sound into speakers placed along the walls and the hearing loop system. (Photo credit: Jack Sorensen)

…The principle is to get quality sound going right to the listener, not from a source (speaker) located some distance away. Sound systems should be initially adjusted with a flat response, then tweaked to accommodate the building acoustics by listening to the person speaking and making it sound as close as possible to the natural sound….

IMG_7920 Ceiling mic captures sound from the choir

A ceiling microphone captures the choir for a richer sound experience.  (Photo credit: Jack Sorensen)

Jack has placed speakers in strategic locations in the church sanctuary for an optimum sound experience. “…At our church we have six speakers located as close as possible to the congregation on the left and right sides of the church, plus at the rear. This accomplishes fairly natural sound reinforcement for most people with normal hearing ability…

IMG_7917 Speakers on the wall are near pews

Speakers on the wall are positioned close to the church pews to provide a more natural sound experience.  (Photo credit: Jack Sorensen)

…The side aisles get the advantage of either right or left nearness. The void in the middle gets lesser sound but in both ears. The two rear speakers help to recover the sound coming directly from the person talking…

IMG_7922 back of church

View from the back of the church, which also has two speakers. (Photo credit: Jack Sorensen)

Jack summed up his key point, and then discussed the advantages of a hearing loop. “… In other words, the sound heard from the speakers should be as close as possible to the sound without speakers. That is why audio loops (or other systems) are so effective. Each person can have their hearing device adjusted to the characteristics of their hearing loss. As background noise is greatly diminished, it’s like talking to a person one on one, not some distance away….

…A hearing loop delivers clarity of sound and eliminates background noise…

A hearing loop works with an existing sound system, it is NOT the sound system itself.  What is a hearing loop, then?  It’s a copper wire that ‘loops’ around the periphery of a room.  It transmits an electromagnetic field within its loop, allowing a hearing aid or cochlear implant’s telecoil (also called a T-Coil) to function as an antenna directly linking the listener to the facility’s sound system. 

Jack noted that “The hearing loop is targeted to the hearing impaired. The challenge there is to have people actually use the system…”  Ah…. the age old problem of people refusing to admit to hearing loss and therefore missing out on technology that could help recreate the sounds they no longer hear.

looped vs non looped

You can hear the difference that a hearing loop makes by listening to these two audio files, recorded in the church:

What was recorded through the microphone by the front pew of the church: 

https://soundcloud.com/user-82887253/zoom0013pieternonloopedmp3?utm_source=soundcloud&utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=email

What was recorded through the hearing loop:

https://soundcloud.com/user-82887253/zoom0012pieterloopedmp3?utm_source=soundcloud&utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=email

…Some final thoughts on acoustics….

Jack noted that “… close speakers make so much sense. We should try to emulate one-on-one conversation. Unfortunately most buildings are constructed with only aesthetics in mind. Years ago sound was considered more in building design because there was no electronic sound reinforcement available….

So, if you are responsible for setting up an event, ask whoever is in charge of the sound to ensure that speakers are placed close to the audience, not on the stage, and invest in a quality microphone so that the person giving a presentation can be heard through the speakers.

Jack had one final observation.  “…There are acoustic adjustments on some amplifiers which can be adjusted to room characteristics but this requires a good sound person to be on hand while performances are being made….” 

His recommendation?  “…Avoid set-and-forget situations and hire a sound professional…

Thank you to Jack Sorensen for sharing his experience and expertise in setting up effective sound systems. Do you have a story to share?  Send an email to hearpei@gmail.com, comment on the blog, or tweet to @HearPEI.

…Interested in The Aural Report?….

If you are reading this posting, but aren’t following The Aural Report blog, you are welcome to do so.  See https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/ or email hearpei@gmail.com and ask for an invitation to the blog. 

Screenshot_2021-02-25 Hear PEI Association

Why not subscribe to the Hear PEI Association Channel on YouTube?  Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrDqwG4tu2mmja5HwZJS3VQ

Need a hard of hearing pin?  Here is the link to Hear PEI’s order form: https://form.jotform.com/201983720272252 

© Daria Valkenburg

Aboard Northumberland Ferries For A Hearing Accessibility Assessment

CIMG6078 Dec 16 2022 Northumberland Ferries Confederation Ottawa

We boarded the Confederation Ottawa at Wood Islands, Prince Edward Island for the hearing accessibility assessment and discussion with Northumberland Ferries representative Gaylene Colborne. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

January 5, 2023.  In December, Annie Lee MacDonald and I were invited to Wood Islands to provide a hearing accessibility assessment for Northumberland Ferries Limited. I had my own experiences of ferry travel in Europe and knew how noisy a ferry can be.  With hearing loss, the noise levels were agonizing.  Trying to comprehend what was being said by the person next to me, or through the loudspeaker system, was almost impossible.

On our last crossing between France and England, however, my husband booked us into a ‘quiet lounge’ and that made such an enormous difference that I thoroughly enjoyed the crossing.

CIMG2033 Sep 1 2014 we have to follow the car ferry sign

In France, we took a ferry from Dunkerque (Dunkirk) to Dover, England.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

So, Annie Lee and I were delighted to travel to Wood Islands and meet with Gaylene Colborne, Human Resources Coordinator for Northumberland Ferries Limited.

CIMG6080 Dec 16 2022 Northumberland Ferries with Gaylene Colborne

Aboard the Confederation Ottawa.  Left to right: Annie Lee MacDonald, Daria Valkenburg, Gaylene Colborne. (Photo courtesy Valkenburg Family)

…The biggest challenge? ….

One of the biggest challenges faced by any entity that wants to improve hearing accessibility is the difficulty many people with hearing loss have in admitting to it.  I now wear a hard of hearing pin when I am out and about, and have found it makes a difference.  People are fully aware that I have hearing loss and make whatever adjustments are needed – without me having to explain anything.

I’m in the minority, though, which makes the need for hearing accessibility difficult to justify when a need for accommodation is not visible.  So we were encouraged that Northumberland Ferries asked for our input.

As we explained to Gaylene, hearing loss affects people of all ages, and many people with other medical conditions or disabilities can also have hearing loss.  As a ferry with a number of international passengers, many of the suggestions made to improve hearing accessibility can also benefit those whose first language may not be English or French.

So here are the suggestions we made….

….9 Suggestions For Hearing Accessibility Improvements….

1. As WiFi is available aboard Northumberland Ferries, we suggested that staff download a real time captioning app on their phones/tablets in case they encounter difficulties communicating with passengers who have hearing loss. (For info on one app and a link to download it, please see: https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/2019/02/14/a-new-hearing-accessibility-tool-for-your-phone-or-tablet/)

2. Add more visual display monitors throughout the ship and include summaries of messages that go over the loudspeaker system. We suggested that the monitors summarize the info in the messages so that key points are easier to follow. This will benefit not just people with hearing loss, but also people whose first language may not be English or French.

3. Drawing on my experience travelling between France and England, we asked them to consider having a ‘quiet lounge’ for adults who would like to be in a less noisy environment aboard ship. Not only will this benefit people with hearing loss, but also anyone who might prefer to read or have a rest. After all, a ferry environment is very noisy and if the ship is full it can be impossible to hear what is being said.

4. We recommended installing a window intercom system (speech transfer system) at the Information Desk aboard the ferry.  It will enable passengers and staff at the desk to hear what is being said.

In the case of people with hearing aids or cochlear implants with a telecoil function, it will ELIMINATE background noise, allowing them to hear only what is said through the microphone.  (See https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/2020/12/08/speech-transfer-systems-at-access-pei-make-it-easier-to-hear/ for more information.)

5.  In the hope that a specific question about hearing loss will encourage people to be upfront, we suggested that they recommend that passengers who order tickets online self-identify as having hearing loss.

6. We suggested having a poster at the ferry entrance booth so that walk-in traffic can self-identify if anyone has hearing loss.

7. We asked them to consider signage to direct people with hearing loss to the Information Desk and Visual Display Monitors if there are difficulties with communication.

8. The booths in the restaurant area are excellent as they provide a barrier on three sides. We asked if it was possible to add one or two more booths in the general seating area and have them identified as being for people with hearing loss.

9. Northumberland Ferries has an Accessibility PowerPoint Presentation for its staff. We offered to look at it and see what can be added to improve understanding of hearing loss issues and some tips for better communication.

At the end of the afternoon, I asked Annie Lee for her thoughts.  …We appreciated being asked to walk through the ferry and offer any suggestions for improving hearing accessibility…

We both found the invitation an encouraging step in increasing awareness, and to have our advice sought on what could be done to make the crossing more enjoyable and accessible.  Annie Lee agreed, saying … it is gratifying to have this community reaching out for advice on how to better serve passengers with hearing loss…

Thank you to Gaylene Colborne and Northumberland Ferries for inviting us to do a hearing accessibility assessment for ferry crossings. We look forward to the 2023 sailing season!

Do you have a story about ferry crossings to share?  Send an email to hearpei@gmail.com, comment on the blog, or tweet to @HearPEI.

…Interested in The Aural Report?….

If you are reading this posting, but aren’t following The Aural Report blog, you are welcome to do so.  See https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/ or email hearpei@gmail.com and ask for an invitation to the blog.

Screenshot_2021-02-25 Hear PEI Association

Why not subscribe to the Hear PEI Association Channel on YouTube?  Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrDqwG4tu2mmja5HwZJS3VQ

Need a hard of hearing pin?  Here is the link to Hear PEI’s order form: https://form.jotform.com/201983720272252

© Daria Valkenburg

Holiday Greetings and Summary of Activities in 2022

CIMG6058 Dec 6 2022 Hear PEI AGM

Standing, left to right: Daria Valkenburg, Norma Thompson, Marion Toole, Alma Nunn, Bernard McKenna, Marie McKenna, Marjorie Inman.  Seated: Annie Lee MacDonald. (Photo courtesy of Valkenburg Family Collection)

December 24, 2022.  On December 6, 2022, a number of us met for lunch at Gentleman Jim’s in Summerside.  It was a wonderful social gathering.

During lunch, an update on some of the activities for the year was shared by Annie Lee MacDonald:

….Unfortunately, although we have not been able to meet regularly in the past three years the organization has continued to work on behalf of the hard of hearing Islanders and advocate on their behalf. Following are some of our accomplishments:

  1. A speech transfer system was installed in the South Shore Pharmacy in Crapaud.
  2. Two speech transfer systems were installed at Prince County Hospital in Summerside – at Ambulatory Registration, and at Admitting in the Emergency Department.
  3. Prince County Hospital purchased many pocket talkers for use with its patients.
  4. Hospice PEI offices in Charlottetown and Summerside have purchased pocket talkers for their clients.
  5. Pocket talkers are continually sold to lawyers and individuals across the province.
  6. We are indebted to Daria who has continued to submit articles on a regular basis to the County Line Courier (24 in a year). This is an amazing outreach. The positive feedback from readers brings to light the importance of this form of advocacy.
  7. The Hard of Hearing pins continue to be popular. Fox Talk is the latest addition. Pins are being requested on a regular basis.
  8. In the spring Daria and I were presented with the Covid Warrior Coin award at Fanningbank by the Lieutenant Governor for the work done to make things easier during Covid by devising a see-through mask and distributing clear-view face masks to healthcare workers across the province.
  9. In addition to this, Daria publishes at least four blog postings a month. The blog has a wide range of readers from all over Canada and beyond. Imagine the time it takes to compose and offer informative info on a regular basis. Again, many thanks to Daria. (Daria’s blog:  https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/)
  10. Our meeting with Dr Larry Pan from the PEI Cancer Treatment Centre in Charlottetown resulted in two articles that were very popular with readers. It provided important info for the hard of hearing who face radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
  11. We have been invited to attend a PEI Human Rights Commission workshop to advocate for the needs of the hard of hearing…

Annie Lee and I did attend the PEI Human Rights Commission workshop on December 9, 2022, and were able to meet with staff and Human Rights Commissioners to discuss issues around hearing loss and the importance of accessibility. An upcoming posting will be about that meeting.

Happy Holidays

Pieter and I wish you all the best for the holidays and in 2023. May hearing accessibility continue to improve here on Prince Edward Island!

Xmas 2022 photo

…Interested in The Aural Report?….

If you are reading this posting, but aren’t following The Aural Report blog, you are welcome to do so.  See https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/ or email hearpei@gmail.com and ask for an invitation to the blog. 

Screenshot_2021-02-25 Hear PEI Association

Why not subscribe to the Hear PEI Association Channel on YouTube?  Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrDqwG4tu2mmja5HwZJS3VQ

Need a hard of hearing pin?  Here is the link to Hear PEI’s order form: https://form.jotform.com/201983720272252   

© Daria Valkenburg

My Visit To The ER

graham-ruttan-wuuiHl22Ots-unsplash

December 23, 2022.  Not long ago, on a Sunday, I had the misfortune to go to the Emergency Department at the hospital.  On Friday evening, my left ear had started to swell. I wasn’t worried, as I thought I had gotten a cold in my ear.  

By Saturday the ear had become more swollen and turned red.  I was concerned enough to go to the pharmacy.  The pharmacist suggested three possibilities: an insect bite, an allergy, or an infection.

The insect bite seemed unlikely, but since my husband had allergy pills, I tried that, plus an anti-inflammatory pill.  I ended up sleeping most of the afternoon and evening and had no energy.

how-to-draw-dumbo-elephant-from-dumboWhen I woke up on Sunday morning, my ear resembled the floppy ears of Dumbo the Elephant!  It had swollen even more, was even more red than on Saturday evening, and looked misshapen. 

Even more alarming was that one side of my face and neck had swollen.  I was in pain and had a slight fever.

When I told my husband I didn’t think I should wait for the clinic to open on Monday, but that I should go to Emergency, he only needed to take one look before he said “I’ll get dressed...”  We were out the door 10 minutes later, and at the hospital before 8 am.

… My experience at the Emergency Department…

CIMG6073 Dec 16 2022 HOH button

I wore a hard of hearing button while at Emergency.  (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

Going to Emergency was not an easy decision, as we knew we were in for a long wait. Of course, I wore my Hard of Hearing button.  What followed was a lesson on what a courtesy to the staff that wearing my pin proved to be.

It saved everyone time as I did not have to explain to anyone that I had trouble hearing.  At the registration desk, the clerk took one look at my pin, and my form was marked ‘hearing impaired’.  That’s not a phrase I’m fond of, but it was explanatory.

ALL of the nursing staff I dealt with spoke clearly and I had no trouble hearing them.  My husband said that when my name was called out to go in to see the doctor, it could be heard out in the parking lot.  I’m sure he was exaggerating, but I didn’t care.  I heard my name called the first time and could react immediately. 

Deafness_and_hard_of_hearing_symbolI noticed that a broken ear sign had been placed outside the room I was ushered into for the doctor’s assessment.  What a great idea!

I commended one nurse on how clearly she spoke.  She smiled and said it’s because I’m talking louder...”  I thanked her for doing that.

Normally, the story of my Emergency Department visit would end at this point, but the reason for my swollen ear was a cautionary tale and I’m sharing it in case others end up with the same condition.

… What caused my ear to swell?…

The doctor only took one look before telling me I had a bacterial infection called cellulitis.  “Where did it start?...” he asked.  After hearing it was my ear, he checked and said there was a minuscule cut at the back of the ear, which was the likely entry point for the bacteria. 

I expected a prescription for pills, but the doctor shook his head.  “…No, an oral antibiotic won’t work with a serious infection like this.  It needs to be treated with an IV antibiotic…

He checked inside my ear and said I was lucky it hadn’t spread inside my ear as yet.  I was told to wait as the first treatment would be given immediately.   In the end I had to make a daily trip to the hospital for 5 more days for treatment.

… The warning signs….

If you have redness on your skin, swelling, pain, and a fever, don’t delay going for treatment.  The Emergency Department nurse said it was good I didn’t wait any longer to come in.

I got lucky.  The doctor was spot on in his diagnosis, I was immediately treated upon diagnosis, and in the end my hearing was not affected.  I recovered quickly, and am filled with gratitude to the medical staff at the hospital. The infection came without warning and spread rapidly.  We never know what is in store for us!

Do you wear a hard of hearing pin for appointments? Do you have an experience or tip to share? Send an email to hearpei@gmail.com, comment on the blog, or tweet to @HearPEI.

Screenshot_2021-02-25 Hear PEI Association

Did you know that you can subscribe to the Hear PEI Association Channel on YouTube?  Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrDqwG4tu2mmja5HwZJS3VQ

© Daria Valkenburg

Pocket Talkers – An Essential Hearing Accessibility Tool For Many Venues

20221219_100620 Pocket talker display

A display of pocket talkers.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

December 20, 2022.  Improving hearing accessibility and building awareness on hearing loss issues on Prince Edward Island is super important. The number one issue of importance to anyone with hearing loss is being able to communicate! One of the most popular and easy to use hearing accessibility tools that Islanders like is the humble pocket talker.  

What is a pocket talker?  It’s a small portable personal device, with a headset that connects an amplifying system.  Portable means you can take it with you anywhere you go.  By using the extension cord that comes with the pocket talker, you can use it to watch TV, greatly reducing the sound volume of a TV blasting away and annoying anyone living with you who doesn’t have hearing loss. 

It’s suitable for people with mild to moderate hearing loss – people who may not have a hearing aid.  It runs on long lasting batteries and does not need an internet connection.  For many, it provides just enough amplification to allow the user to hear and comprehend what is being said.

Over the years, many individuals and a range of venues have taken advantage of this affordable hearing accessibility tool.  Disposable sanitary ear covers are available for venues that offer the use of a pocket talker to clients or patients.

….Prince County Hospital in Summerside…

CIMG5717 Jul 19 2022 PCH pocket talkers with Christine Handrahan

Christine Handrahan and Daria Valkenburg (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

This summer, Prince County Hospital purchased a number of pocket talkers.  Christine Handrahan, R.N., Manager, Ambulatory Care and Allied Health, explained these “…are available for inpatients and ambulatory patients in various areas…

In addition to the pocket talkers, Prince County Hospital had window intercom systems (speech transfer systems) installed at Ambulatory Registration and at Admitting in the Emergency Department. (See https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/2022/06/30/hearing-accessibility-improvement-at-prince-county-hospital/)

Clip Art Illustration of a Shining Gold Christmas StarPrince County Hospital rates a gold star for the improvements made in hearing accessibility.  We encourage the hospital to continue making improvements in their accessibility efforts and through ongoing education on hearing issues.

….T. Daniel Tweel Law Office in Charlottetown…

CIMG6043 Nov 16 2022 Danny Tweel & Annie Lee with pocket talker (1)

Danny Tweel with Annie Lee MacDonald.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Lawyer Danny Tweel of Charlottetown was the first lawyer to support the use of pocket talkers in his law practice, and was instrumental in encouraging other lawyers to do so as well. 

When he asked to purchase more pocket talkers this fall, we were happy to pay him a visit.  “… Clients try them out and then it’s a struggle to get them back. Easier to have a few more on hand...” he explained. 

….PEI Human Rights Commission in Charlottetown…

CIMG6076 Dec 16 2022 Human Rights Commission pocket talker

Left to right: Brenda Picard, Annie Lee MacDonald, Daria Valkenburg, Tom Hilton, Sarah Denman-Wood.  (Photo credit: Ann-Marie Sheen)

Hearing accessibility is enshrined in the United Nations Human Rights Declaration, of which Canada is a signatory. Prince Edward Island, along with other provinces and territories, adopted similar legislation. 

The right to have a hearing accessible environment is important and we were delighted when the PEI Human Rights Commission purchased a pocket talker for use in the office.

A few years ago we made a short video, with the participation of Executive Director Brenda Picard and Education Officer Tom Hilton of the PEI Human Rights Commission. (See https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/2020/11/27/hearing-accessibility-is-a-human-right-now-on-youtube/)  Here is the link:

For a list of other venues on Prince Edward Island with a pocket talker available, please see: https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/pei-lawyers-with-pocket-talkers/

If you have tried a pocket talker at a venue and found it helps, please purchase one for your personal use.  If you have vision loss, you wouldn’t expect to borrow glasses each time you went somewhere, you would get your own, wouldn’t you?

….Pocket talkers are not all the same…

With the popularity of pocket talkers, many retailers are jumping on the bandwagon and offering them for sale at a variety of price points.  It’s important to recognize that pocket talkers are like any other commodity. 

If you’ve ever gone shopping for a car, you’ll have noticed that some models may look the same but there is a difference between the base price and one with various options, the technology used to operate it, even the model year.  With a pocket talker, battery life is another difference – many lower end models have a much shorter battery life. 

More expensive models have added features over and above the pocket talker function, such as having a telecoil option, which increases the price. 

Hear PEI uses a durable model that is simple to use, has flexibility in range, long lasting battery power, and provides optimum amplification while reducing background noise. 

20221219_100435 pocket talker box

The Williams Pocketalker Ultra used by Hear PEI. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

 …Previous articles on pocket talkers…

Thank you to Prince County Hospital, T. Daniel Tweel Law Office, and the PEI Human Rights Commission for improving hearing accessibility by making a pocket talker available for use in their organizations.  Do you use a pocket talker?  Send an email to hearpei@gmail.com, comment on the blog, or tweet to @HearPEI.

…Interested in The Aural Report?….

If you are reading this posting, but aren’t following The Aural Report blog, you are welcome to do so.  See https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/ or email hearpei@gmail.com and ask for an invitation to the blog. 

Screenshot_2021-02-25 Hear PEI Association

Why not subscribe to the Hear PEI Association Channel on YouTube?  Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrDqwG4tu2mmja5HwZJS3VQ

Need a hard of hearing pin?  Here is the link to Hear PEI’s order form: https://form.jotform.com/201983720272252   

© Daria Valkenburg

“All I Want For Christmas”

December 24, 2004.  Can we wait until tomorrow to open these??

Presents under the tree can include vouchers for experiences!  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

December 11, 2022.  It seems like it was only yesterday that we had discussions around holiday gift giving.  This time of year we get several inquiries asking for advice on holiday gifts for that special someone who has hearing loss. 

In the past we’ve talked about various items that would be helpful for a person with hearing loss.  This year, the consensus among several of us is that rather than physical gifts, we would appreciate gifts that provide an ‘experience’.   

CIMG6044 Nov 16 2022 Lunch at Merchantman Pub

Making our Holiday Wish Lists over a relaxing lunch are Annie Lee MacDonald, Brenda Porter, Nancy MacPhee, Daria Valkenburg.  (Photo courtesy Valkenburg Family Collection)

…On the holiday wish list….

So what were the suggestions we had?

  1. A massage certificate: While NOT specifically hearing related – but on the understanding that trying to comprehend what people say can be very stressful – a gift massage is a welcome present.
100_0003_Dec 17 2005 Welcome To Our Home

An invitation to dine at home is welcome and the noise level can be controlled.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

  1. An invitation to lunch at home: We all agreed that an invitation for lunch at YOUR home would be fantastic as it means that the atmosphere and noise level can be controlled – which it can’t in a restaurant. Being able to dine and converse in a quiet atmosphere not only reduces the stress of trying to hear, but helps preserve our energy. If the invitation includes a favourite meal, that’s a bonus.
  2. Theatre tickets in a venue with hearing accessibility: We may have hearing loss, but we enjoy a concert or theatre event as much as anyone else. The trouble is that we can’t readily comprehend what is coming from the stage. 

Therefore, theatre tickets are greatly appreciated if in venues with hearing loop access (unfortunately no concert venue on Prince Edward Island has one as yet, except in a few churches) or an FM system (which may be sufficient for people who do not have severe hearing loss).  And please arrange to have seating in the centre and up front. 

Please make arrangements for seating and accessibility when you purchase the tickets and don’t leave it for the person receiving the gift to try and negotiate afterwards.

  1. Copy of a play’s script in advance: Sometimes a theatre ticket is for a play to be performed live. While the same arrangements for an accessible venue and seat location are needed as explained above, asking for a copy of the play’s script in advance – preferably to be given with the ticket – is a wonderful gesture as it allows the person with hearing loss to know what to expect as the live performance unfolds.
  2. Provide technological assistance: We are continually surprised at the number of people who do NOT know how to turn on the closed captioning on their TV or while watching YouTube videos. If you have a friend or relative that is in this situation, please provide an act of technological kindness and help them out.

…..Stocking stuffers….

Many of us like to provide small stocking stuffers – or perhaps a small gift in lieu of a bow on a gift package.  Here are two suggestions:

  • Hard of hearing pin: Give the gift of a hard of hearing pin that can be worn at events and appointments by the person with hearing loss. (Order from Hear PEI: https://form.jotform.com/201983720272252)   
  • Ear plugs: If you are the person with hearing loss, and have family members or neighbours complaining that the TV is too loud, etc, buy a package of earplugs for everyone who doesn’t have hearing loss.  It will help promote peace and goodwill!

…. More on gifts for people with hearing loss…

For previous years’ articles on holiday gifts for people with hearing loss, please see:

And a video on holiday gift ideas:

Thank you to Nancy MacPhee, Annie Lee MacDonald, and Brenda Porter for sharing their Holiday Wish List suggestions.  Do you have holiday gift idea to share?  Send an email to hearpei@gmail.com, comment on the blog, or tweet to @HearPEI.

…Interested in The Aural Report?….

If you are reading this posting, but aren’t following The Aural Report blog, you are welcome to do so.  See https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/ or email hearpei@gmail.com and ask for an invitation to the blog. 

Screenshot_2021-02-25 Hear PEI Association

Why not subscribe to the Hear PEI Association Channel on YouTube?  Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrDqwG4tu2mmja5HwZJS3VQ

Need a hard of hearing pin?  Here is the link to Hear PEI’s order form: https://form.jotform.com/201983720272252   

© Daria Valkenburg

 

Cancer and Hearing Loss – Part 2: What To Know If Chemotherapy Is Part Of Your Treatment Plan

CIMG5849 Sep 23 2022 Dr Pan and Annie Lee

Dr Larry Pan and Annie Lee MacDonald. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

November 5, 2022.  “I’m sorry, but you have cancer.”  If you’ve been told this, your first instinct may be to think this is a mistake. Then, once reality has set in, you hope that your oncologist has a treatment plan that will work. 

In Part 1 the impact of hearing this diagnosis when you have hearing loss, and what to expect if you are recommended for radiation treatment, were discussed.  (See https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/2022/11/01/cancer-and-hearing-loss-part-1-is-radiation-therapy-part-of-your-treatment-plan/)

In addition to radiation treatments, chemotherapy may be recommended.  Over the past years, we’ve been hearing that there was a correlation between chemotherapy and hearing loss. This summer, an article about a small study following cancer survivors for 5 years reported that “…more than 50% experienced significant hearing loss and 35% reported tinnitus…” (See https://www.sfgate.com/science/article/hearing-loss-common-in-cancer-survivors-17332704.php)

I showed the article to Dr. Larry Pan, MD, FRCPC, Radiation Oncologist and Head of the Provincial Radiation Oncology Service at the PEI Cancer Treatment Centre in Charlottetown. 

When he met with Annie Lee MacDonald and me, he said that the correlation was “…well known in the oncology community…” 

…Hearing loss can be one side effect of some chemotherapy drugs….

Dr Pan correctly pointed out that cancer drugs “…have many toxicities.   Hearing loss may not be a clinician’s priority when a patient’s survival is at stake…”  We can agree with that!

…Most oncologists will ask if the patient has hearing loss before prescribing certain drugs.  If a clinician knows that the patient has severe hearing loss, there is a possibility to substitute another drug with a different side effect profile.  This must be balanced with drug efficacy considerations and weighed against the type of cancer and the stage it is in….

…Advocate for changes and improvements in cancer treatment protocols….

….It’s important to discuss side effects with the oncologist….” explained Dr Pan.  Hearing loss is just one of many possible side effects.  The biggest concern is cancer and the best treatment possible for a patient’s survival.

The good news is that treatment protocols can be improved upon.  As survival rates improve for people with cancer, quality of life is increasingly important.  For that, Dr Pan noted that we all need to be advocates for changes and improvement. 

…At present…” he said, “…we don’t routinely do hearing tests before and after treatment” to measure any changes in hearing.  This could potentially be something incorporated into a treatment plan in discussion with the oncologist.

Another improvement that researchers are studying is “…more usage of immunotherapies with fewer side effects…

The key takeaways that Annie Lee and I got from the meeting with Dr Pan are:

  • Don’t hide your hearing loss!
  • Discuss possible side effects and if there are alternative drugs
  • Be aware that hearing loss may be one side effect of chemotherapy
  • Consider discussing with your oncologist whether a hearing test referral would be helpful prior to treatment to set a baseline

Thank you to Dr Larry Pan for taking the time to speak with us about the impact that cancer treatments can have on those with hearing loss… or who may find that hearing loss is a side effect of chemotherapy.

Do you have hearing loss and have had chemotherapy treatments? Send an email to hearpei@gmail.com, comment on the blog, or tweet to @HearPEI.

…Input requested by province for PEI cancer action plan…

Island residents are invited to share their opinion on cancer prevention and treatment as health officials develop a provincial cancer action plan for Prince Edward Island.  

You can provide your input by completing an online survey at Improving Quality Cancer Care In Prince Edward Island and in French at Améliorer la qualité des soins en cancérologie à l’Île-du-Prince-Édouard.  Deadline: November 10, 2022.

If you prefer a paper copy of the survey, contact Marla Delaney at mdelaney@ihis.org

…Interested in The Aural Report?….

If you are reading this posting, but aren’t following The Aural Report blog, you are welcome to do so.  See https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/ or email hearpei@gmail.com and ask for an invitation to the blog. 

Screenshot_2021-02-25 Hear PEI Association

Why not subscribe to the Hear PEI Association Channel on YouTube?  Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrDqwG4tu2mmja5HwZJS3VQ

20200730_095630 Winter is HEAR pinNeed a hard of hearing pin?  Here is the link to Hear PEI’s order form: https://form.jotform.com/201983720272252   

© Daria Valkenburg

Cancer and Hearing Loss – Part 1: Is Radiation Therapy Part Of Your Treatment Plan?

CIMG5849 Sep 23 2022 Dr Pan and Annie Lee

Dr Larry Pan and Annie Lee MacDonald. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

November 1, 2022.  “I’m sorry, but you have cancer.”  Words that strike fear in anyone who gets such a diagnosis!  Even if you anticipated this result, you’re still in shock… and your stress levels rise.

If you have hearing loss, your hearing comprehension goes down as your stress levels go up.  This makes it hard for you to hear what follows, such as the type of cancer you have, the stage it is in, and the recommended treatment plan.

….Do you tell the oncologist you have hearing loss?….

People tend to fall into one of three categories during their appointment with the oncologist…..

  1. They nod and act like they understand what is being said. Perhaps they brought along a family member or friend, who can let them know what they’ve missed.
  2. You keep saying ‘What?’ over and over, leaving the oncologist in doubt as to what you have actually understood, without knowing why you are having difficulty.
  3. You tell the oncologist upfront that you have hearing loss and ask that the information be repeated as needed, perhaps with key points written down.

…What happens if radiation therapy is part of the treatment plan?…

Many times, a treatment plan includes radiation therapy. Two common questions that get asked are: 

  • Do patients need to remove their hearing aids or cochlear implants before undergoing treatment? 
  • If these devices must be removed, what steps are taken to help communicate?

Recently, Annie Lee MacDonald and I met with Dr. Larry Pan, MD, FRCPC, Radiation Oncologist and Head of the Provincial Radiation Oncology Service at the PEI Cancer Treatment Centre in Charlottetown, and we asked him those two key questions.

With protocols already in place for pacemakers and defibrillators, we expected a similar response with regards to hearing devices.  But the answer was more complicated….

…We’re looking at developing a similar protocol, but it depends on the device a person has...” explained Dr Pan.  “…Some devices are more technologically sophisticated, others not….

Dr Pan recommended that “…patients with hearing loss discuss their particular hearing aid device with the oncologist and radiation therapist.  If we are unaware of how radiation impacts the device, we will contact the manufacturer and find out…

…Do hearing aids or cochlear implants affect the radiation therapy?…”  I asked.  Physics is not my strong suit, so I had no idea.

…No, not at all.  Radiation may affect the hearing aid or cochlear implant, not the other way around…” was the answer.  “…This is why we may ask for them to be removed prior to radiation…

Dr Pan went on to say that “…the radiation therapist explains what will happen in advance while the hearing aid devices are in place…

…What should you do?….

After our meeting, Annie Lee MacDonald best expressed what we both thought.  If you have hearing loss and are about to undergo cancer treatment, “… be upfront and advocate for yourself.  Don’t expect an oncologist and radiation therapist to detect your hearing loss.  Their concern is your cancer and the best treatment for your survival….

Thank you to Dr Larry Pan for his advice. In Part 2 hearing loss and chemotherapy will be discussed.

Do you have hearing loss and have gone for radiation treatments? Send an email to hearpei@gmail.com, comment on the blog, or tweet to @HearPEI.

…Input requested by province for PEI cancer action plan…

Island residents are invited to share their opinion on cancer prevention and treatment as health officials develop a provincial cancer action plan for Prince Edward Island.  

You can provide your input by completing an online survey at Improving Quality Cancer Care In Prince Edward Island and in French at Améliorer la qualité des soins en cancérologie à l’Île-du-Prince-Édouard.  Deadline: November 10, 2022.

If you prefer a paper copy of the survey, contact Marla Delaney at mdelaney@ihis.org

…Interested in The Aural Report?….

If you are reading this posting, but aren’t following The Aural Report blog, you are welcome to do so.  See https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/ or email hearpei@gmail.com and ask for an invitation to the blog. 

Screenshot_2021-02-25 Hear PEI Association

Why not subscribe to the Hear PEI Association Channel on YouTube?  Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrDqwG4tu2mmja5HwZJS3VQ

Need a hard of hearing pin?  Here is the link to Hear PEI’s order form: https://form.jotform.com/201983720272252   

© Daria Valkenburg

Belvedere Dental Clinic Honoured At Charlottetown Accessibility Awards

October 14, 2022.  On October 6, 2022, the 2022 City of Charlottetown Accessibility Awards were presented.  Among those honoured was Dr Mike Connolly of the Belvedere Dental Clinic.

Mike Connolly receives award

Dr Mike Connolly (centre) with Charlottetown Mayor Phillip Brown (left) and Councillor Terry MacLeod (right). (Photo courtesy of Mike Connolly)

We were delighted when Dr Connolly let us know about the award, but typical of his humility, he was quick to praise Hear PEI, saying “… Thank you for all you do!!! PEI and those with hearing difficulties are better off because of you...

Award to Belvedere Dental Clinic

Award presented to Belvedere Dental Clinic. (Photo courtesy of Mike Connolly)

Brenda Porter, a member of the Civic Advisory Board for People With Disabilities later explained to Annie Lee MacDonald and me that “…10 businesses were honoured for their steps in increasing accessibility in their businesses. Krista Campbell (Campbell Hearing) was honoured for her promotion of clear masks and her advocacy for Hard of Hearing citizens during mask-wearing time.

Mike Connolly (Belvedere Dental) was recognized for promoting clear masks at Belvedere Dental and for participation in an advocacy video. By the way, in his acceptance ’speech’, Mike had huge compliments for you both and emphasized your tenacity and commitment in promoting strategies for accessibility for the Hard of Hearing…

The advocacy video that Brenda refers to is ‘Professionals On Hearing Accessibility’, from Season 2 on the Hear PEI Association YouTube Channel.  (For more information, see https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/2021/06/21/professionals-on-hearing-accessibility-now-on-youtube/)

You can watch the video here:

Annie Lee MacDonald and I congratulate Dr Connolly and the team at Belvedere Dental Clinic, and all of the recipients of this year’s award.  As Annie Lee said, the Dental Clinic’s award was “…well deserved. They have really addressed the needs of the hard of hearing…

Awareness of the need for hearing accessibility mitigation measures is ongoing, and we celebrate every step taken along the way.  If you have hearing loss, be upfront and advocate for yourself.  That is the only way that more organizations will take measures to improve hearing accessibility.

Thank you to Brenda Porter and Dr Mike Connolly for letting us know about the Charlottetown Accessibility Awards given out this year. Do you know of a service or business that is hearing accessible? Send an email to hearpei@gmail.com, comment on the blog, or tweet to @HearPEI.

…Interested in The Aural Report?….

If you are reading this posting, but aren’t following The Aural Report blog, you are welcome to do so.  See https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/ or email hearpei@gmail.com and ask for an invitation to the blog. 

Screenshot_2021-02-25 Hear PEI Association

Why not subscribe to the Hear PEI Association Channel on YouTube?  Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrDqwG4tu2mmja5HwZJS3VQ

Need a hard of hearing pin?  Here is the link to Hear PEI’s order form: https://form.jotform.com/201983720272252   

© Daria Valkenburg