Federal Enabling Accessibility Fund For Hearing Loops Available


June 3, 2020.  A ‘newly modernized Enabling Accessibility Fund (EAF) – small projects component’ has been announced by Employment and Social Development Canada.  The news release correctly noted the need for meeting the needs of persons with disabilities by “…. building more accessible communities and workplaces. The call for proposals for the EAF small projects component provides funding to organizations for small-scale construction, renovation or retrofit projects that enable persons with disabilities to live and work in more inclusive and accessible communities...” (See https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/news/2020/06/newly-modernized-enabling-accessibility-fund-issues-a-call-for-proposals.html)

In previous years, places that wanted to take advantage of this fund had to provide half the money themselves.  This year, “projects approved for funding will now be 100% funded to a maximum of $100,000.

40% of Islanders have some degree of hearing loss!

The social distancing measures in place on PEI have resulted in plexiglass barriers in many businesses and offices, resulting in an additional barrier to hearing accessibility by people with hearing loss.  40% of Islanders have some degree of hearing loss.  This is an opportunity to make a change for the better, with the simple addition of a Speech Transfer System so people can hear people behind plexiglass barriers, using hearing loop technology. (See The Challenge To Hear During The Pandemic) It’s also an opportunity to install hearing loop technology in a church or theatre.

If you have hearing loss please encourage the places where you worship, shop, go for appointments – your church, workplace, place of business, doctor’s office, hospital, municipal office, etc – to have a hearing loop installed for better accessibility for those with hearing loss.  Deadline for applications is July 13, 2020. Here is the link: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/enabling-accessibility-fund.html

Currently on PEI, three churches and Charlottetown’s City Hall have installed hearing loops and these alone are making a difference to Islanders with hearing loss.  Now, there is an additional opportunity to move the Let’s Loop PEI project forward with the opportunity to apply for federal funding.  Certified hearing loop technicians on the Island can install these hearing accessibility products.

Many places are already on the wish list for a hearing loop….

  • Grocery stores, gas stations, and other places that have installed plexiglass barriers
  • Theatres around the island that offer live performances
  • Churches and church halls
  • Registration desks at the hospitals in Charlottetown and Summerside
  • Charlottetown Airport
  • Doctors’ offices
  • Pharmacy counters
  • Hotel registration desks

Please encourage the venues we all use to get in the loop! 

More looping suggestions?  Send an email to hearpei@gmail.com, comment on the blog, or send a tweet to @HearPEI

Please consider a donation to help the volunteers at Hear PEI do more.  100% of your donation stays on PEI to help Islanders. During the month of June, each donation made through Canada Helps gives the charity donated to an entry to win $20,000.
Donate Now Through CanadaHelps.org!
Canada Helps page:  https://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/34708


© Daria Valkenburg

Rising To The Challenge To Hear – 3 Initiatives To Help – Face Shields, Hard of Hearing Buttons, and Clear-Window Masks

May 28, 2020.  May is Better Hearing Month and the small group at Hear PEI continues to address hearing accessibility issues with the challenges faced by social distancing and preventative measures in place for reducing the risk of coronavirus (Covid-19) cases and keeping everyone safe.  Past blog postings have covered some of these issues and suggested solutions:

Masks continue to be the number 1 issue worldwide… Now that hair salons are open on the Island, hairdressers must wear a mask and clients are encouraged to do so at well.  This can pose a challenge, as Annie Lee MacDonald found out: “…It certainly made me realize how much I depend on seeing people’s lips when they are speaking. The hairdresser is German and has a strong accent, it was difficult…”  (See how masks are being made in Europe: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-52764355 and one couple’s volunteer effort in Ontario: https://ottawasun.com/news/local-news/transparent-masks-made-to-assist-deaf-hard-of-hearing/wcm/64fe438c-041b-4e74-904c-84f0c06a8f9d)

Initiative Definition Button Showing Leadership Resourcefulness And Action

Three simple initiatives have been taken to mitigate the challenges faced by Islanders with hearing loss.  Efforts by a small group of Islanders may not get the media attention that many others get, but they do help and mean people can run their errands with more confidence.

Three initiatives are helping to mitigate the challenges faced by Islanders with hearing loss…

initiativeQueen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown donated a limited supply of Face Shields, which are being offered to Hear PEI members to give out as needed to those they encounter who wear masks.  The Face Shields, made by Ford Motor Company of Canada Limited, are Class 1 Covid-19 medical devices, approved for distribution under an Interim Order by Health Canada. They have been enthusiastically received as they are simple to use and provide a clear view of lips and facial expressions. I’m going to take one to my hair appointment for my hairdresser to use!

20200524_140317 May 24 2020 Daria & Annie Lee with face shields

Daria Valkenburg and Annie Lee MacDonald with face shields donated by Queen Elizabeth Hospital.  (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

20200526_113905 May 26 2020 Joan Gallant with Face Shield

Joan Gallant found the face shields comfortable to wear.  “They aren’t hot” she explained.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Marion Toole photo from Annie Lee

Marion Toole tries out her face shield.  (Photo  credit: Annie Lee MacDonald)

initiativeOur supply of hard of hearing buttons is currently being replenished as more and more people are purchasing them to wear while running errands.  A bilingual version, in addition to our regular English language button, will soon be available.

20200528_115000 HOH Button

Hear PEI’s hard of hearing button.

initiativeWe have asked people to adopt clear-window masks.  As commercial supplies are on backorder we had asked for volunteers to help build up a supply by making non-medical clear-window masks.  One person answered the call, and we are able to provide a small supply on a per order basis.  Word hadn’t even gotten out before we were receiving orders!

Face masks washable no need to remove plastic

These clear-window masks are washable, including the plastic.

Call for volunteers

Do you like to sew?  Are you willing and able to make see-through masks for our members, and for others who in the community who have hearing loss?  We have one volunteer and would love to have more. This would be a wonderful and practical way to volunteer to help us during this continued time of social distancing.

Thank you to Annie Lee MacDonald for sharing her story.  A huge thank you goes out to Queen Elizabeth Hospital for donating the face shields, and to Ford Motor Company of Canada Limited for making such as simple and easily useable product that is so helpful for people with hearing loss. If you have more stories to share about masks, please send an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  You can also comment on this blog, or send a tweet to @HearPEI. Stay safe!

donateWould you would like to make a donation towards outreach activities?  Here is the link: https://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/34708.  Please note that your donation is used 100% for outreach activities as everyone is a volunteer.

 © Daria Valkenburg


Rising To The Challenge To Hear – The Importance Of Seeing Behind The Mask

May 18, 2020.  May is Better Hearing Month.  With social distancing and preventative measures in place for reducing the risk of coronavirus (Covid-19) cases and keeping everyone safe, it’s making hearing accessibility issues more and more relevant…. not to mention frustrating….  and bringing them to the forefront.  Past blog postings have covered some of these issues and suggested solutions:

Masks continue to be an issue…  Rheal Leger shared an experience he had when going to a hospital in Moncton for tests.  “When I got to the hospital I was asked a series of questions. I told them that I was hard of hearing. The reception that I had was not the best. It was a cold welcome! I was not looking to have sympathy but rather understanding. I can relate that they are tired etc. I was given a mask at that point.

I then proceeded to register myself with my mask. From that point on it went ok. When the specialist walked in, the nurse told him that I was hard of hearing. He said ‘we will do our darn best for you to understand. I had a man this weekend that was also hard of hearing and he had a hard time to understand’. He was looking at me while he was talking. Although I could not read his lips I could follow what he was saying. That took off some stress!  He even asked me if I had understood. I was repeating what I thought he was saying to me. He made an effort to speak slowly. I spoke to him about the clear-window masks for us to be able to read lips. He said I do not think you will see this here as we had a hard time just getting regular masks…

Rheal was lucky that the doctor was patient and made sure Rheal was able to follow the conversation.  It’s clear that he wasn’t the only patient with hearing loss the doctor encountered.

The issue with masks, especially in a medical environment, brings up some questions…. Would the visit have gone more quickly if the doctor didn’t have to verify that Rheal followed everything?  What if the doctor had hearing loss and couldn’t hear properly through the masks everyone was wearing?

Recently, a CBC interview ran with an American audiologist who had non-medical masks made with clear-window views and began giving them out to her clients. In the interview with As It Happens host Carol Off, audiologist Dr. Sheri Mello said “Health officials say wearing a mask can help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, but they also muffle one’s voice and block important visual cues, like lip movements and facial expressions.”  She went on to note that “masks also lower one’s volume by about 10 decibels, or nearly a quarter.”  (See https://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/as-it-happens-the-thursday-edition-1.5559642/this-doctor-is-giving-out-clear-face-masks-for-hearing-impaired-patients-1.5557928 for more on this interview.)

If you are finding it difficult to hear people behind a face mask, what can you do?  First, let the company/office know that you have hearing loss and would love it if they adopted clear-window masks.

Second, you can make your own non-medical standard clear-window mask… or volunteer (see below) to help make masks for others.  This would be similar to the homemade masks you see people wearing while running errands.  (For instructions see https://www.instructables.com/id/Face-Mask-Adapted-for-Deaf-DeafBlind-and-Hard-of-H/)

Call for volunteers

Do you like to sew?  Are you willing and able to make see-through masks for our members, and for others who in the community who have hearing loss?  For example, many people in nursing homes have hearing loss and need to see lips to follow what is being said. This would be a wonderful and practical way to volunteer to help us during this continued time of social distancing.

Thank you to Rheal Leger for sharing his story, and to Annie Lee MacDonald for sending the link to the As It Happens interview. If you have more stories to share about masks, please send an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  You can also comment on this blog, or send a tweet to @HearPEI. Stay safe!

donateWould you would like to make a donation towards our outreach activities?  Here is the link: https://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/34708.  Donations are used 100% for outreach activities as everyone is a volunteer.

© Daria Valkenburg

Rising To The Challenge To Hear – Hearing Loop Technology For Videoconferences

May 13, 2020.  May is Better Hearing Month.  With social distancing and preventative measures in place for reducing the risk of coronavirus (Covid-19) cases and keeping everyone safe, it’s making hearing accessibility issues more and more relevant…. not to mention frustrating….  and bringing them to the forefront.  Past blog postings have covered some of these issues and suggested solutions:

Being able to hear while participating in an online meeting….whether it’s Facetime with your family, Skype or Zoom for business meetings is more of a challenge these days when we are not able to meet in person due to social distancing.

I remember having online meetings in the past where some people were unable to hear well enough to follow conversations, and in the days before real time captioning apps were feasible solutions, we ended up having to type our comments and questions using instant messaging.  Instant messaging is great for two people communicating, but not so great for larger groups of people on a conference call. It took a lot of time, and made for some head scratching moments as comments came in on a topic while another topic was being introduced.  In the end all was sorted out, but it wasn’t an ideal way to have a meeting.


When Bill Droogendyk of Better Hearing Solutions advised that a TV room hearing loop system can also be used for computer/smartphone/tablet conference calls by using the headphone jack, it was an ‘aha’ moment for me.  Last year, two uses of a hearing loop system were featured.  One was the chair loop that Graham Hocking used in his car. (See Grant Awarded From Seniors Secretariat of PEI) A second explained how Rheal Leger used a chair loop to watch TV. (See “I Love My Looping Chair”)

Both uses were also explained in two YouTube videos we produced last year:

I Love My Looping Chair:

What is a Car Loop?:

I asked Bill if Rheal could use his system by connecting the loop driver to the computer instead of the TV.  The answer was yes. I then asked if it would be simple to pull the connection out of the TV and into a laptop, and then back again to the TV. Technology challenged people like me need to have easy solutions!  Bill explained that the answer was “Yes, but it might require a different cable (1/8″/3.5mm plugs) and a volume adjustment.”  Bill noted that the cable had been included in the TV room kit that Rheal had purchased.

After trying out the new use for his chair loop, Rheal said “I sat on a chair with the looping cushion underneath and it and behold it worked!  Hallelujah! Daria, I listened to the Phantom In Quarantine link you sent… lol. The sound was very clear.”  (Phantom In Quarantine link for those who haven’t seen it yet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w31L1cCoVYo)

Rheal Leger gets hearing loop quality sound through his laptop now. (Photo credit: Simone Belliveau)

Rheal 3

Rheal Leger points to where the cable needs to be plugged into the adapter. He now has hearing loop quality sound for his TV AND his laptop. (Photo credit: Simone Belliveau)

As the additional cable for access to the laptop was a bit short, Rheal has now ordered a longer cable, which will allow him to sit anywhere in the room…. on his chair loop… to access the hearing loop for his laptop.

If you already have a chair or room hearing loop, the diagram below shows exactly what to do between the computer/tablet/smartphone: Headphone out on the computer/tablet/smartphone to line in on the HLD3 amplifier.

Loop for meetings

Connecting for better conference calling!  (Diagram courtesy of Better Hearing Solutions, from an HLAA webinar presented by Richard Einhorn)

Bill explained further that “If you are currently using the optical cable to watch TV, then you will need to use the “audio patch cord” from the computer to the HLD3 amplifier (and could have both plugged in). If you are already using the “audio patch cord” for watching TV, you will then need to remove it from the TV and plug it into the computer.

If you’re like me and don’t know the difference between an optical cable and an audio patch cord, Bill was kind enough to explain they can be identified by the difference in the ends of the cable.

The “audio patch cord” has ends like this:

audio patch cord

Audio patch cord.  (Image courtesy of Better Hearing Solutions)

The optical cable has ends like this:

optical cable

Optical cable. (Image courtesy of Better Hearing Solutions)

If you still aren’t sure about hearing loops and how they can help, take a look at this explanatory poster:


Diagram from HLAA. Hearing loops are increasingly becoming available in central and western Canada.  Why not PEI and other Maritime provinces as well?

So, if you are struggling to hear while on a conference call, or you just want better clarity of sound when you watch a YouTube video, there is a solution that could make a difference. Thank you to Bill Droogendyk for the information on a solution, and thank you to Rheal Leger who tested the instructions given and reported back that it worked.  Send an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  You can also comment on this blog, or send a tweet to @HearPEI. Stay safe!

© Daria Valkenburg

Please Encourage The Use Of Clear-Window Masks

May 5, 2020.  May is Better Hearing Month.  With social distancing and preventative measures in place for reducing the risk of coronavirus (Covid-19) cases and keeping everyone safe, it’s making hearing accessibility issues more and more relevant…. not to mention frustrating….  and bringing them to the forefront.  Clear-window masks have been mentioned several times in this blog as one simple way to ensure that people can continue to use speechreading techniques, and it’s important that we start to look for ways to encourage use of these masks.

A few days ago, a friend from Charlottetown sent the following anecdote…. “This morning outside the supermarket I spoke for 10-15 minutes or so with a friend (at the required distance) and I only had to ask her a couple of times to repeat what something she had said. When I came out of the store she was standing there (with her mask on this time) and said something to me. It was totally useless for me – I could not understand a word. This incident validated in spades thoughts that I have had lately about the fact that cloth masks worn by others who are trying to speak with me render me essentially deaf. Given that it appears that wearing masks in public is going to become VERY normal for the foreseeable future, I think that it would be worth my/our while to raise the issue with various public officials.”  So, please, encourage the use of clear-window masks.

Normally, May is a month in which a fundraiser at the Bonshaw Hall helps provide funds for outreach activities.  Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that this event will be able to take place this year. While physical outreach activities may be limited this year, virtual activities continue, such as our YouTube videos.  If we receive enough funding, we would like to continue this project.

Have you watched one of our YouTube videos?  Subscribe to our YouTube Channel:



If you would like to make a donation, here is the link: https://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/34708.  Donations are used 100% for outreach activities as everyone is a volunteer.

Thank you to the friend from Charlottetown for sharing an anecdote. Do you have an experience with trying to communicate with people wearing masks to share? Send an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  You can also comment on this blog, or send a tweet to @HearPEI. Stay safe!

© Daria Valkenburg

The Challenge To Hear During The Pandemic

Olga by her portrait by Riana Moller

Olga Katchan of Australia shared an anecdote on trying to hear when the speaker is wearing a mask.  (Photo courtesy of O. Katchan family collection)

April 26, 2020.  After a recent posting about life during the pandemic while having hearing loss (See https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/2020/04/14/a-sign-of-the-times/), retired psychologist Olga Katchan of Australia, who has hearing loss, shared a story of the challenge she faced to communicate with someone who wore a mask: “I read your account with great interest and remembered one episode which reinforced your comments about problems with masks. I was having my nails done and my Vietnamese esthetician was making the most of having a psychologist client to listen to her problems. Alas, she was wearing a mask and I could not hear anything. However, having heard it once before when she had no mask, I kept smiling and nodding. However she then asked a question and I had to ask her to repeat it minus mask. She was stunned, ‘you mean you have been nodding to my problems without hearing a thing?’ I assured her that I knew what she was trying to tell me and gave her a summary of it. She was amazed. I said ‘what was the question?’ She said her question was ‘What is the most important thing in your life?’ I answered, ‘The happiness of our loved ones.’  She asked me to excuse her and before I could make my way to the reception desk to pay, she was back with a bunch of tulips for me.

Olga’s anecdote is a reminder to those who wear a mask in their work environment to  check whether your client can understand you.  Please consider using a clear-window mask to make it easier for people to see your lips and use speech reading techniques to follow what you are saying.


And in response to the challenge of trying to hear people behind a plexiglass barrier, Bill Droogendyk of Better Hearing Solutions wrote to let me know about a new Speech Transfer System kit available for ‘sneeze barriers’.  I asked him how this new product differed from the hearing loop installed at the counter at Charlottetown’s town hall.  “The amplifier is identical to what’s at the financial counter at city hall. The speakers, microphones and loop are different but still perform the same functions.” I then asked if it was a plug and play device.  Bill’s response: “While it’s almost plug and play, loop location and volume levels do need to be verified/adjusted by a certified hearing loop professional for each application.”  Luckily, we have two qualified and friendly certified hearing loop installers here on the Island who are willing to help any business or service that is interested in providing a better experience for clients with hearing loss.  Let’s Loop PEI!

The speech transfer system kit for plexiglass barriers.  (Diagrams from Contacta courtesy of Better Hearing Solutions.)

Thank you to Olga Katchan and Bill Droogendyk for contributing to the important topic of hearing challenges. Do you have a tip on hearing challenges during the pandemic to share?  Send an email to hearpei@gmail.com, comment on this blog, or send a tweet to @HearPEI. Stay safe!

© Daria Valkenburg

A Sign Of The Times?

20200331_114708Mar 31 2020 Self Isolation Day 11

Keeping busy as we stay home to ‘flatten the curve’.  (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

April 14, 2020.  Like most people around the world these days, my husband and I are staying at home as per the recommendations of our health authorities.  After the mandatory two week self-isolation once we returned home from our winter vacation, we went to stock up on our food and household supplies, a task badly needed after being away for several months.

I had an idea what to expect for the store protocols, and was prepared for reduced traffic on the roads, and line-ups to get in anywhere.  What I didn’t expect was the SILENCE.  Our world has become quieter.  I never noticed this at first.  While I was in the checkout line, 2 metres from each waiting customer, someone called my name.  I looked around, and there was an old friend, a safe 2 metres away from me.  We had a lovely chat until it was my turn to pay, and I went back to the car, very happy to have had this limited bit of social interaction.  It wasn’t until I was halfway home that it dawned on me that in the pre-coronavirus days I would likely not have heard my name called out or been able to have a chat from so far away!

After getting back home, I thought about all the things that had changed in the last weeks.  My hearing hadn’t improved.  Generally, people hear better when they aren’t stressed, as they can more readily concentrate on what is being said.  Anyone shopping or running errands these days will likely agree that shopping during a pandemic is NOT a stress-free experience.  Actually, I found it an unnerving experience, in spite of the excellent protocols and cooperation by shoppers and workers alike in practicing social distancing.

So why could I hear better?  It had to be the reduced noise levels in our environment. I quickly found out it’s not just me…seismologists are able to hear sounds deep in the earth these days thanks to reduced noise levels!  (See https://globalnews.ca/news/6789579/coronavirus-earthquake-noise/)

After that revelation, I began to consider what else had changed.  While I miss going out for weekly women’s group breakfasts, and lunches out with friends, I don’t miss noisy restaurants.

Instead of going out and socializing, our social visits now happen through social media.  We hear from people daily instead of occasionally now, which is another bonus, and I am kept busy with replies.  People share stories and photos of themselves doing activities that we otherwise might not know about, deepening our friendships as we learn more about their lives. Many of us now even mention the meals we make, the books we are reading, or programs we watch, as we try to recreate the social experience of gathering together.  One friend wrote and said that staying in daily contact was an important mental health break.

My husband told a friend that the enforced social isolation has turned out to be an opportunity to rediscover ourselves.  It’s true.  We have more conversations, and are trying out new projects and skills.  We cook rather than eating out.  We have a clean house and closets, and are currently going through boxes of stuff we forgot we had. With the library closed we are finally making headway through the books and magazines in the house.

We are very lucky to have a decent internet connection to maintain these social media links.  When we first moved from Ottawa to Prince Edward Island, I was a teleworker, working from home for over a year.  It was a challenge, but surprisingly NOT because of my hearing loss.  A few adjustments to the way of doing things made it very feasible.  The difficulty was the excruciating slow internet connection we had at that time.  Few places had WiFi, and I ended up spending hours at a café during off-peak hours, as the computer repair shop next door extended the range of its WiFi for certain hours to help out.  In the days before Zoom, most meetings were held by teleconference…on the phone.  It wasn’t easy, but it worked.

It’s not all sunshine and roses though.  Last week I watched the Munk Debate on the Post-Covid19 World with guest Malcom Gladwell, a favourite author of mine (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malcolm_Gladwell). Mr Gladwell reflected that the pandemic is bringing into sharper focus ‘societal inequalities that were present before the pandemic but were ignored or left simmering in the background’.  While he was talking about poverty, race inequality, and lack of public health preparedness and access, the pandemic is also highlighting how many people with hearing loss are experiencing difficulties with navigating the new way of living.

Most places you go these days have plexiglass barriers to protect cashiers, pharmacists, and other workers.  This is an important safety precaution, but if you have hearing loss, it’s difficult, or impossible, to understand what is being said.  Over the past few years, with the exception of City of Charlottetown’s town hall, requests for hearing loop access at counters with plexiglass barriers have been ignored here on Prince Edward Island. (See Billing Counter at City of Charlottetown City Hall is Looped!)  For banks, pharmacies, theatres, the airport, other towns, hearing loop access was not a priority.  As more and more places now add protective barriers, doing basic errands such as grocery shopping becomes more of a needlessly unpleasant chore.

I was lucky that none of the clerks I met on my shopping expedition were wearing masks, or I would have been hard-pressed to understand what was being said.  It’s difficult to understand what someone says when his or her voice is muffled behind a mask, and it is impossible to use speech reading techniques. Wouldn’t it be something if more people who have had to experience this would promote the use of clear window masks?  This was described in a previous posting (See More Holiday Gift Ideas For People With Hearing Loss) and in a newspaper article (See CLC Feb 12 2020 p22 Clear Window Surgical Masks)

Do you have a social distancing tip to share?  If so, you can send an email to hearpei@gmail.com, comment on this blog, or send a tweet to @HearPEI. Stay safe!

© Daria Valkenburg

Updates On Previous Postings

20200326_095121 Mar 26 2020 Self Isolation Day 6 cropped

Staying in touch.  (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

March 26, 2020.  We’re back from Florida, and now in self-isolation.  I’m calling it a ‘staycation’, and we’re having a relaxing time.  We’ve caught up on laundry and unpacking, and now are busy doing lots of little projects that we never seem to have time for.  And of course we are also reading, doing crossword puzzles, and watching TV.  These unprecedented times are also encouraging people to stay more in touch.  I’m even doing a daily update on our self-isolation on Twitter (@HearPEI if you are interested).

Today’s posting will be an update on some of the previous postings, and some cancellations.

EPS 10 and JPEG

Cancellations… The April 28, 2020 meeting is cancelled, and there will not be a spring session of speech reading classes. (See https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/upcoming-events/ as more information comes in over the coming months.)

great newsGreat news….. A third church on Prince Edward Island now is equipped with a hearing loop.  O’Leary-West Cape United Church in O’Leary – Hearing loop access is available throughout the sanctuary. Address: 5 Barclay Road, O`Leary PE.  (See https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/places-on-pei-equipped-with-a-hearing-loop/ for a list of looped places on the Island.)

rest in peace

Sad news….  One of our 2019 Hear PEI Accessibility Advocates, Ruth Walsh, died on March 18, 2020 (see www.dawsonfh.com/obituaries/145132).  Ruth was a tireless volunteer for the community, a loyal and good friend.  She will be sorely missed.  (See https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/2020/01/03/our-2019-hear-pei-hearing-accessibility-advocates/)


Did you know you can subscribe to our YouTube Channel?  If you haven’t yet watched one of our YouTube videos, here is the link to our YouTube Channel:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrDqwG4tu2mmja5HwZJS3VQ

If you have a social isolation tip to share, send an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  You can also comment on this blog, or send a tweet to @HearPEI. Stay safe!

© Daria Valkenburg

Is Your Audiology Clinic Hearing Accessible?

March 11, 2020.  In the November 2019 issue of ‘Canadian Audiologist’, the Issues In Accessibility column discussed the findings of a survey sent to audiology clinics across Canada, asking how accessible they were.  The article, ‘Current Accessibility Strategies in Audiology Practice: A Review of the 2019 CAA Accessibility Survey Results’, was written by three audiologists:  Janine Verge, Anne Griffin, and Dana Song.

I was interested in the article as encouraging hearing accessibility in public places is very important to me and one of the mandates of Hear PEI.  You can read more about the efforts to change perceptions around hearing loss and increase hearing accessibility on PEI in the article, ‘Changing Perceptions on Hearing Loss on PEI… One Project at a Time‘ at https://canadianaudiologist.ca/issue/volume-7-issue-2-2020/column/acessibility-issues/.

Unfortunately, hearing accessibility is an issue that is NOT top of mind in the public perception.  The Federal Government may have adopted the Accessible Canada Act, and the provinces of Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and Ontario have provincial accessibility legislation, but nothing seems to have changed on Prince Edward Island. While there should, in theory, be more support to create accessible environments in Canada, it remains up to individuals to advocate for better hearing accessibility in public places.

Verge, Griffon, and Song begin their article with an excellent description of accessibility, describing it as “about creating community, workplaces, and services that enable everyone to participate fully in society without barriers….”  They go on to note that “Audiology clinics should serve as a model to the community that the onus of accessibility is not on the individual but is a responsibility of society to reduce barriers to support the full inclusion of people who are hard of hearing.

If you’ve been to an audiology clinic, your experience is likely that of having your hearing tested and hearing aids fitted.  Some clinics sell additional hearing assistive tools. On Prince Edward Island, a number of the clinics help get the word out on speech reading classes being offered, or our YouTube videos.  We had hoped that by now at least one Island clinic would have an area with a hearing loop to demonstrate to clients, but as yet that has not happened.

The article’s authors explain the reasons for their view that clinics should be doing more.  “Audiologists know that people who are hard of hearing face barriers at work, school, and in their community that hearing aids alone cannot fix.  A fundamental service of our profession is to assist people with their hearing needs, and for our clinics to truly reflect this commitment, we must acknowledge that hearing accessibility in community life requires more than basic measurement of hearing in the booth and the fitting of appropriate personal technology.”  In other words, they feel that a clinic should do more than sell hearing aids.

Some of the barriers faced by people with hearing loss in their everyday lives, that hearing aids or cochlear implants alone can’t overcome, include “poor acoustics, background noise, poor room lighting, blocked sound and/or line of sight.”  I’d add that there still aren’t enough places with microphones in public venues, poor or missing signage, and general lack of awareness in knowing how to communicate effectively with people who have hearing loss.  As well, there seems to be a lack of understanding that a person with hearing loss can also have multiple physical and health challenges, making the need for good communication a necessity.

To get a picture of how accessibility is being used in clinics within Canada, a 16 question online survey was sent to members of CAA (Canadian Academy of Audiology). Audiologists were asked “to identify the accessible technologies and services audiologists provide at their reception desk area, audiometric testing area, counseling and recommendation methods, outcome measures, website, workplace policies, and behaviours used during public presentations.” They were also asked for info on “barriers that affect their ability to provide accessible service.

While the article doesn’t state how many surveys were sent out, the authors note that they received 33 completed surveys from Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador.  None were received from PEI.

From the results, the authors felt there was a “need for improved accessibility services for people who are hard of hearing in audiology clinics.” Various reasons were given by respondents on why additional accessibility services were not provided.  The authors conclude by stating three main reasons to why “clinics should choose to make accessibility a top priority” and these reasons are:

  1. It is the right thing to do as it is the law and in the code of ethics.
  2. There are consequences for people who are hard of hearing that affects interpersonal communication and quality of life, and may lead to other conditions such as dementia, loneliness, and depression.
  3. Businesses and communities benefit both economically and by adopting age-friendly approaches to physical and social environments.

I found the article interesting and thought provoking. What do you think?  (You can read the entire article yourself at https://www.canadianaudiologist.ca/issue/volume-6-issue-6-2019/mysteries-of-the-hearing-brain-feature-3/)

Are there services that you wish your audiologist would have? Where would you like to see more hearing accessibility in public places be offered?  Send an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  You can also comment on this blog, or send a tweet to @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

The Perils Of Loneliness

March 5, 2020.  Not long ago I was in an elevator with Dan, an acquaintance who normally is not out and about without his wife.  I asked if he was on his own for the evening, and he said “Yes, as Marie had gone to a restaurant with a number of couples.”  Dan is a very sociable fellow, so I asked if he had something going on that he didn’t go as well.  “That restaurant is so noisy that it gives me a headache. I don’t appreciate spending an evening being shouted at… and still not understanding a word.” He didn’t give his explanation in a matter-of-fact voice.  A new hearing aid wearer, he was annoyed and unhappy that he was missing out on an evening with friends.  He didn’t begrudge his wife going out, but he found it lonely without the socializing he was used to doing.

I understood how he felt as many years ago, when I was adjusting to life with hearing loss, I too had to learn that life as I had known it was now different.  My husband and I regularly turn down invitations to dinners in large groups or in noisy venues without a second thought now.  When we do venture out to a place we know will be noisy or difficult for me to hear, we accept that it won’t be an ideal environment for me.

I thought of the encounter with Dan while reading about the challenges so many people have with loneliness.  It’s no secret that people with hearing loss can isolate themselves to some extent because the effort to hear in our increasingly noisy world can become more effort than it’s worth to them.  Many postings on this blog have given tips on how to enjoy a restaurant meal, how to survive holidays, etc., and discussed how isolation can lead to loneliness which can lead to depression.

I thought I knew a lot about loneliness and its effects, but I was wrong.  An American friend gave me his December 2019/January 2020 issue of AARP magazine (AARP = American Association of Retired Persons) which had an article by Lynn Darling, entitled ‘Is There A Medical Cure For Loneliness?’. The article highlighted research findings by genomics researcher Steve Cole, professor of medicine, psychiatry and bio-behavioural sciences at the UCLA School of Medicine, who found that testing white blood samples of lonely people gave results that shocked him….  “In each of the samples, the blood cells appeared to be in a state of high alert, responding the way they would to a bacterial infection. It was as though the subjects were under mortal assault by a disease — the disease of loneliness.

The article went on to explain that studies showed that “the impacts of people living in social isolation add almost $7 billion a year to the cost of Medicare, mostly because of longer hospital stays — a result, researchers hypothesize, of not having community support at home.

Wow!  But that wasn’t the most surprising part of the article.  It went on to highlight results found by other researchers studying loneliness.…. “Loneliness is a killer — studies have found that it leaves us more likely to die from heart disease and is a contributing factor in other fatal conditions. It makes us more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease, high blood pressure, suicide, even the common cold. It’s more dangerous to our health, researchers tell us, than obesity, and it’s the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Loneliness can affect people who live alone or who are part of a family unit.  Dan felt isolated because his hearing loss affected his ability to enjoy outings.  These feelings could escalate or he could find a way to accept the new normal and find new ways to enjoy outings with friends…. perhaps with a smaller group at any one time, or in a different restaurant.

The article gave an explanation of why loneliness affects our physiology.  Loneliness is interpreted as a threat, placing our bodies on high alert, causing an inflammatory response.   While a temporary state of inflammation is good when we have an injury, for example, it’s not great on a long term basis.  “Inflammation amps up biological processes leading to tissue breakdown and impairment of the immune system, which, in turn, increases our susceptibility to conditions ranging from heart disease to Alzheimer’s.”

Steve Cole went on to explain that “When you feel lonely, your brain activates inflammation in the white blood cells…One of the weird things we’ve discovered is that inflammation talks back to the brain and changes the way it works…. After loneliness stimulates that white blood cell inflammatory response, the response feeds back to the brain and makes it irritable, suspicious, prone to negative emotions and fearful of meeting new people and making new friends.

Researchers are now looking at ways to reduce the effects of loneliness through medication to reduce inflammation and increased social contact through various outreach programs.  Interestingly enough, no mention was ever made of conditions that could cause people to become lonely or socially isolated, such as hearing loss, a disabling medical condition, reduced mobility, looking after a loved one, the loss of a life partner, etc.  Perhaps this was deliberate as there are so many causes of loneliness!  (You can read the article at https://www.aarp.org/home-family/friends-family/info-2019/medical-cure-for-loneliness.html)

Loneliness is getting a lot of press lately, as the March 2, 2020 edition of the Wall Street Journal published an article by Andrea Petersen about a book on loneliness written by former US Surgeon-General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy.  Dr. Murthy wrote that “loneliness is both pervasive and destructive. In discussions with Americans for his book, he found that “Nobody came out and said, ‘Hi, I’m struggling with loneliness.’ They would say things like, ‘We feel like we are on our own. Nobody cares about us. We feel invisible.’ It became clear to me that for many folks this feeling of abandonment and feeling invisible is driving a lot of emotional pain.

Dr. Murthy suggests solutions revolving around making connections with others. “Service is a powerful pathway of getting out of loneliness. It takes the focus off of you and puts it onto someone else….volunteering, scheduling time to connect with loved ones and even saying ‘hello’ to strangers.”  (You can read the article at https://www.wsj.com/articles/are-you-lonely-youre-not-alone-11583174002)

These two very interesting articles on loneliness made me realize just how devastating an effect it has on our overall well-being. Have you ever been lonely due to your hearing loss? What strategies have you used to get over loneliness? Send an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  You can also comment on this blog, or send a tweet to @HearPEI.

PS….You may be interested in an article I wrote in the latest edition of Canadian Audiologist.  (See the Issues In Accountability column at http://canadianaudiologist.ca/current/ )

© Daria Valkenburg