Why Do People Hide Their Hearing Loss?

October 15, 2020. In a recent virtual presentation via Zoom to one medical professional group, the question was asked…. ‘why do people hide their hearing loss’?  It was a reasonable question.  With hearing loss the third most common chronic condition after arthritis and high blood pressure (and how many have all three conditions?), only hearing loss is routinely ignored and hidden…. even in these pandemic times!

Some of the reasons include:

  • Perceived stigma
  • Fear that it will make one less employable or reduce chances of promotion
  • Fear of loss of independence
  • Vanity
  • Refusal to accept condition

Cost of hearing aids is another reason given, but that is a different issue.  Somehow we manage to find solutions to the things that are important to us, and addressing hearing loss is no different.

Anyone who has hearing loss, or knows someone with hearing loss, can understand the desire to ‘fit in’, easily enough done at a brief glance as there is nothing glaringly obvious to distinguish a person with hearing loss.  When I worked, I kept quiet about my hearing loss…. hiding in plain sight, so to speak.  Only a very few people knew about it… and on a need to know basis. 

My daily routine was spent trying to control my environment so I had the best chance of hearing.  When I taught adult education classes, I insisted on using a microphone … ‘so everyone could hear’… and all questions from students had to be done through a microphone.  It turned out there were lots of people with ‘hidden’ hearing loss who came up afterwards to say how grateful they were!    

When I went to presentations or seminars, even meetings, I ALWAYS arrived early…. to choose the most optimum place to sit. 

At receptions, I found a spot with a wall behind me and spent my time circulating in that area.  My husband was in the diplomatic service, and there were a lot of receptions…. and many people too shy to venture into the centre of the room.  I met a lot of people who were not afraid to start speaking to one person.  Maybe they had hearing loss too… I don’t know as it was never discussed. 

Twenty years ago, I wouldn’t have worn a hard of hearing pin like I do now.  I wouldn’t publicly write anything about hearing loss, or give an interview on the subject. Times have changed, luckily.   Here on Prince Edward Island, retired volunteers, like myself, work to bring awareness of hearing accessibility issues to the forefront.  No one should have to go through the steps we did in order to maintain a viable career.

It’s crazy to hide a condition that affects so many of us.  A Canadian Health Measures Survey estimated that 54% of Canadians aged 40 to 79 (8.2 million) had at least mild hearing loss in the high-frequency range based on audiometric testing….but only 6% were aware of this.  (See https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-003-x/2019008/article/00002-eng.htm)

One positive outcome from the pandemic is that the need for hearing accessibility is not hidden. Lots of people are discovering that it’s not easy to understand what is being said in a world of masks that cover one’s mouth, and the increasingly prevalent Plexiglas barriers in stores and reception/registration desks.  (For a discussion on whether these barriers achieve what we think they do, see https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/plexiglas-shields-are-everywhere-but-it-s-not-clear-how-much-they-help-1.5143208)

Now, we are learning that one of the side effects for those unfortunate enough to get Coronavirus is hearing loss and tinnitus. Coronavirus can cause blood clots in a person’s body, and studies indicate that blood clots in the very small blood vessels of the inner ear may be one cause of sudden hearing loss.    (See https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/mom-loses-hearing-in-one-ear-after-mild-covid-19-infection-1.5140815)

People are encouraged to wear clear-window masks but not enough members of the general population do, unfortunately.  We are getting a good response from the trial of clear-window masks for medical professionals, but we can only dream of getting an outcome like in the UK, where the same masks used here for our trial are now used for front-line health workers. (See https://hearinghealthmatters.org/hearingnewswatch/2020/uk-nhs-clear-face-mask-hearing-loss/)

CIMG4466 Fall mask

A washable, reusable, and reversible mask in fall colours. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Need a hard of hearing pin or a clear-window face mask?  Reusable and washable clear-window face masks, made here on the Island, available in a variety of colours and patterns, or a hard of hearing pin, can be ordered here:  https://form.jotform.com/201983720272252

Do you have an experience or tip to share? If so, please send an email to hearpei@gmail.com, comment on the blog, or tweet to @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

 

The Coffee Party

CIMG4444 Sep 15 2020 coffee party at Annie Lees cottage

An enjoyable event! Standing, left to right: Marie McKenna, Annie Wood, Marjorie Inman, Marion Toole, Jean Schurman.  Sitting, left to right: Nancy MacPhee, Brenda Porter, Annie Lee MacDonald, Daria Valkenburg.  (Photo taken by Bernard McKenna)

October 4, 2020.  After not meeting as a group since November, a coffee party was hosted by Annie Lee MacDonald last month, following the guidelines recommended by Dr. Heather Morrison, Prince Edward Island’s Chief Public Health Officer.

This social event provided an opportunity to share stories about months dealing with pandemic measures, and the challenges of coping in a world of masks and Plexiglas barriers.

It also was a chance to give an update on the various ongoing activities and introduce the new line of hard of hearing pins and new patterns of clear-window face masks. The new fashion pins were very popular!

Attendees were provided with magnets, bookmarks, and brochures for the 211 PEI website, which had been discussed a year ago while it was still in the planning stages.  (See 211 Is Coming To PEI) Managed by the United Way of Prince Edward Island, “211 is all about helping Islanders, and the service providers who are supporting Islanders, get connected to the services they need….

It was a welcome break and much appreciated by all who attended.  While regular meetings are still suspended, an annual general meeting is being considered for November, depending on the provincial guidelines provided for indoor meetings at that time.

211

Need a hard of hearing pin or a clear-window face mask?  Reusable and washable clear-window face masks, made here on the Island, available in a variety of colours and patterns, or a hard of hearing pin, can be ordered here:  https://form.jotform.com/201983720272252.

Do you have an experience or tip to share? If so, please send an email to hearpei@gmail.com, comment on the blog, or tweet to @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

 

It’s Not Too Early To Think About Masks & Pins For Holiday Gifts

CIMG4462 Sep 27 2020 Mask mascot

Crispin and Teddy are my new models for clear-window face masks. Isn’t it nice to see their cute button noses? (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

September 27, 2020.  Over the past few weeks, two women mentioned that they quit going to groups they had been with for several years.  Why?  Because of the inability to hear through masks that cover other members’ faces. 

Two women reported leaving groups because masks that covered faces of other members made it difficult to hear…

One of the women asked the other members of her group if they would wear clear-window face masks so that she could continue to participate.  Unfortunately, this request was refused.  As a result, the woman with hearing loss understandably felt she had no recourse but to withdraw from the group. 

The other woman was on the board of a non-profit organization, and left as it became too difficult to hear when everyone was masked and their mouths were covered.

While so many people here on the Island are adopting clear-window face masks in order to be as inclusive as possible to Islanders who need to see a person’s face, it’s not universal.  On the other hand, since we began the clear-window face mask project this spring, we’ve heard from many people how it has helped in facilitating communication. 

Change comes one mask at a time!  So it’s a good time to announce that a new supply of stylish masks is available, as well as some new hard of hearing pins…..

20200926_153735 Sep 26 2020 masks

A selection of clear-window masks.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

20200730_101826 Royal Lilac

Royal Lilac hard of hearing pin. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

20200730_095630 Winter is HEAR pin

Winter is HEAR pin. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

We’ve had positive feedback about the clear-window face masks and hard of hearing pins.  Here is a recent comment:  “…I love the two initiatives— the buttons and the clear face masks— are wonderful projects and will go far to create awareness of the plight of those facing hearing loss— an absolutely necessary visible reminder. I *NEED* people to know that I have issues hearing when they speak… it is a lot less embarrassing to admit it upfront, then it is to have to admit that you didn’t hear, and didn’t ask when they are waiting on you for the answer to a question….” 

It’s not too early to consider an inexpensive gift to promote hearing accessibility….

If you were considering treating yourself or someone else to a new mask or pin, why wait? It’s not too early to think about holiday gifts!  They make wonderful stocking stuffers. Reusable and washable clear-window face masks, made here on the Island, available in a variety of colours and patterns, or a hard of hearing pin, can be ordered here:  https://form.jotform.com/201983720272252

Do you have an experience or tip to share? If so, please send an email to hearpei@gmail.com, comment on the blog, or tweet to @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

Tips On Using Your Clear-Window Face Masks

20200919_122923 blue and gray masks

Clear-window face masks. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

September 20, 2020.  It’s been several months since many of you have purchased a clear-window face mask. It’s wonderful to have the support of so many Canadians. By wearing a clear-window face mask, in place of one that covers your mouth, you are being inclusive to those who use speech reading techniques. 

We’ve learned a lot about masks over this period, and this posting is to share some of the tips:

  1. Wash your clear-window face mask regularly. Saliva, nasal droplets, etc build up in any mask and make it less effective. The resusable and washable masks made here on the Island can be machine washed, using the handwash (gentle) cycle in soap and warm water, or hand washed in lukewarm water. Air dry. Do NOT put your mask in the dryer to dry.  Do NOT use hot water. 
  2. To keep your mask from fogging up, here are a few suggestions:
  • Spread a very thin layer of dish soap on the window and let it dry before wearing.  If soap bubbles up while you are wearing the mask, you’ve put too much on.  Rinse out your mask and try again, with a less generous hand!
  • Use an anti-fogging spray, which you can get in the swim or hockey section in stores like Canadian Tire.  Make sure your spray is clear coloured!
20200918_131418 anti fog spray

Anti-fogging spray for hockey helmets.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

  • Anti-fogging liquid used by dentists for their mouth mirrors, or opticians for glasses, also work. Just add a dab of liquid with a Q-tip and let it dry.

Please note that you will have to keep applying anti-fogging solution from time to time!

  1. Add a drop (just one!) of essential oil to the cloth portion of your mask. Jane Scott sent in this suggestion.  I tried it with a drop of lavender that I happened to have in the house, and it worked well.  Peppermint oil is suggested for a cooling effect.  Wish I’d had that tip this summer when it was so hot out!  Citrus flavours are touted as keeping you energized.  Hmmm… must try that one evening when I’m out!
  2. Roll up the top rim if your mask interferes with your glasses. I do this and it provides just that extra bit of space so the mask doesn’t cause my glasses to fog up.
  3. If you use your mask daily, consider having more than one. This gives you more choice in mask patterns and gives you time to wash and dry your mask after each usage.
  4. Children need a smaller mask. An adult sized mask is too large for small children. If you order a mask for a child, please indicate this so the mask size can be adjusted when being made.
  5. Be environmentally conscious. Unless there is a reason for wearing a disposable mask, please use a washable and reusable mask.  For more information on the impact of disposable masks, see https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/06/ppe-masks-gloves-coronavirus-ocean-pollution/ and https://news.sky.com/story/coronavirus-disposable-face-masks-creating-new-plastic-pollution-crisis-experts-warn-12045350

NOTE: Reusable and washable clear-window face masks, made here on the Island, available in a variety of colours and patterns, or a hard of hearing pin, can be ordered here:  https://form.jotform.com/201983720272252

Thank you to Jane Scott for sending in the tip about essential oils.  Do you have an experience or tip to share? If so, please send an email to hearpei@gmail.com, comment on the blog, or tweet to @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

 

 

Hospice PEI Trials Clear-Window Masks

September 8, 220. When the project for medical professionals to try out disposable clear-window masks began last month, we had modest goal of seeing if the masks help in better hearing accessibility for patients. The response has been very supportive and encouraging, and already we see more awareness of hearing accessibility issues within the medical commuThis small but vital project is made possible thanks to support by the Government of Canada

September 8, 2020.  When the project for medical professionals to try out disposable clear-window masks began last month, we had  a modest goal of seeing if the masks help in better hearing accessibility for patients.  The response has been very supportive and encouraging, and already we see more awareness of hearing accessibility issues within the medical community.

This small but vital project is made possible thanks to support by the Government of Canada’s Emergency Community Support Fund and The Community Foundation of PEI.

The project has driven home just how important hearing accessibility is, not just in our daily lives, but in times of stress and health challenges. 

Several years ago, when my father was diagnosed with an aggressive terminal cancer, the Palliative Care nurse from Home Care ensured that his last few days were as comfortable and stress-free as possible under the circumstances.  Like so many older adults, he had hearing loss and I can’t imagine what it would have been like if he had to contend with masks that covered a person’s mouth, on top of everything else he was facing.

So, when Hospice PEI asked if they could participate in the trial, there was no hesitation. End-of-life care and the volunteers play an important role in providing respite to family care-givers, and an opportunity for the patient to have time for conversations that might be too difficult to have with family members. 

Liz Parsons, Hospice Coordinator, East Prince Chapter, explained that “…hospice volunteers bring quality of life to patients and families living with a life limiting illness, often with visits for company where conversation is the key. A significant number of our clients have hearing impairments, and because regular masks muffle speech and prevent lip-reading, volunteer visits have become extremely difficult in some circumstances. We are incredibly grateful to Hear PEI for including us in their trial of clear masks. Being able to try these masks helps us and our clients in so many ways. Thank you Hear PEI! We’re looking forward to letting you know how we get along.….” 

CIMG4403 Sep 3 2020 Palliative Care East Prince

Margaret Armitage, Liz Parsons, and Anna Johnstone of Hospice PEI, East Prince Chapter. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

Margaret Armitage, one of the volunteers, related that many times patients felt they could speak more freely about dying to the volunteer than to a family member.  I can relate to that.  Until the day before he died, my father always put on a brave and cheerful face, and refused to discuss any outcome except recovery, even to his doctors.  Then, the day before his death, he simply said to me “I’m done. Take me to the hospital…” Who could forget those words?

Liz reminded us that “… As a not-for-profit without government funding we are entirely dependent on community donations and COVID has meant we had to cancel our major summer fundraisers….”  (For more information on Hospice PEI, see https://hospicepei.ca/)

Thank you to Hospice PEI for volunteering to participate in the clear-window mask trial, and for the important work you do.  Feedback from the volunteers will be indispensable. Do you have an experience to share? If so, please send an email to hearpei@gmail.com, comment on the blog, or tweet to @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

Dining Out In An Age Of Masks

September 5, 2020.  Not long ago, dining out was a challenge due to excessive noise levels.  Now it can be doubly challenging in the current environment when so many servers are masked.  I don’t know about you, but I think twice now about going out to eat.  My initial concern about the safety of going out to eat has been eased by the very low level of Covid-19 cases on the Island, and replaced by frustration over understanding what servers who are masked are saying.  I’d rather eat at home!

So, when Annie Lee MacDonald learned that at Slaymaker & Nichols restaurant most of the servers are wearing special clear masks for restaurant personnel, we went to check it out.  Our server, Mitchell Bingley, told us that not only did customers like the masks, he did too.  He explained that the mask was easy to clean, didn’t fog up, and he didn’t get hot, as he had with the regular mask that covered his mouth.

CIMG4367 Aug 14 2020 Slaymakers Mitchell Bingley with clear windwo mask

Mitchell Bingley with the clear mask for restaurant personnel.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

…How did the restaurant come to use these masks?…” I asked.

Mitchell surprised us with the answer. “…A customer brought them in for us to try…” It just goes to prove that hearing loss advocacy works!

CIMG4366 Aug 14 2020 Slaymakers Daria and Annie Lee with Mitchell

Daria Valkenburg, left, and Annie Lee MacDonald, right, with Mitchell Bingley at Slaymakers Nichols.  (Photo courtesy of D. Valkenburg)

Over a delicious lunch of chicken pot pie in a pleasant and relaxing atmosphere, we reflected on the experience.  Annie Lee noted that “… it was the closest thing to not have obstacles obscuring your face…

My comment?  “…It was nice not to have to struggle to understand the conversation between server and ourselves….

CIMG4368 Aug 14 2020 Slaymakers chicken pot pie

Chicken pot pie.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Neither of us had to ask Mitchell to repeat himself as we could easily follow what he said through his clear mask.  That wasn’t the case at the next table, where two ladies had a server wearing a regular mask.  They kept looking longingly over at our table, where we were able to converse with ease.

Retired nurse Judy Parks wrote that while she and her husband were in a restaurant in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, she noticed that “…the server had one on. I asked her where she got hers and she said the café’s owner was from Korea and that’s where they came from …she wasn’t deaf but said we all read lips in some fashion and the cloth and commercial ones make it difficult to know what a person is saying .. Just a note to ask you if you have seen the mask visors that fit on the face by the ears … same as the cloth ones but have a notch for the chin to rest …

The next day, Judy wrote that she “…saw them again in Lunenburg …restaurant servers only ….they reported they got them at Amazon …I hope the health officials will mention them as the top of the shield comes just a tiny bit above the nose …..I guess it was the fact you could see the mouth that appealed to me…

While customers and restaurant staff like the clear masks for restaurant personnel, it’s important to note that they aren’t all made the same. Some are more open than others, and the greater the opening, the less protection it gives.  Some health experts are not in favour of them, but don’t offer an alternative that achieves the same result of letting people see the server’s mouth and facial expression.  (See https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/mouth-shield-covid19-questions-1.5702530)

In areas where cases of Covid-19 are high, a clear-window cloth mask would be a better alternative. Otherwise, in areas where cases are few, like here on Prince Edward Island, where masks are not mandatory, it’s a solution that works.  This is an opportunity for designers to come up with a better clear mask for servers.

I enjoyed the experience at Slaymaker & Nichols.  It was a morale booster, and a welcome respite from the world of masks that cover a person’s face.  In fact, we were having such a nice time that we splurged on dessert.

CIMG4369 Aug 14 2020 Slaymakers dessert deconstructed smore

Deconstructed s’more, mmm!  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Not long after our visit to Slaymaker & Nichols, Annie Lee and her husband went to a restaurant with a few more couples.  It was not a pleasant experience for her.  “…I had to rely on the people I was with to interpret what the server said as I was unable to understand a word….” she explained.  “…I felt like a ventriloquist’s dummy, waiting for someone to tell me what was said.  It was embarrassing….

Will she go back again?  Not very likely!  “…The restaurant and the server were not being observant of the clientele…”  Annie Lee is correct.  There is no excuse for a restaurant not to have clear-window face masks on hand for servers to wear when they notice a customer is struggling to follow what is being said.

So, one positive dining experience and one that wasn’t.  Which restaurant would you have preferred going to? Do you have a dining experience to share?  You can send an email to hearpei@gmail.com, comment on the blog, or tweet to @HearPEI.

Thank you to Slaymaker & Nichols for encouraging staff to wear clear masks, and to Annie Lee MacDonald and Judy Parks for sharing their experiences.

NOTE: Reusable and washable clear-window face masks, made here on the Island, available in a variety of colours and patterns, or a hard of hearing pin, can be ordered here:  https://form.jotform.com/201983720272252.

Missed some of the blog postings on noise levels in restaurants?  See:

© Daria Valkenburg

 

 

The ‘I Mask For’ Social Media Campaign

August 29, 2020.  A few months ago, postings on this blog and articles in the ‘County Line Courier’ newspaper began asking people to adopt clear-window face masks.  Anecdotes soon came in on the challenges faced in trying to hear people wearing masks that cover a person’s mouth.  Since then, it’s been encouraging and heartening to see how many people have embraced these masks.

Last month Spencer Lee, Senior Communications Officer with the Government of PEI, was in touch.  The Department of Communications and Public Affairs placed an order for staff.

CIMG4314 Jul 31 2020 With Spencer Lee at Comms PEI

Annie lee MacDonald with Spencer Lee outside Communications PEI in Charlottetown.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

image2 Jul 31 2020 At Comms PEI photo by Spencer Lee

Daria Valkenburg and Annie lee MacDonald outside Communications PEI in Charlottetown.  (Photo credit: Spencer Lee)

That led to an invitation to participate in the ‘I Mask For’ social media campaign by the Government of PEI.  We were delighted and honoured to participate.  As the date for the photo shoot approached, I was in a tizzy, wondering what to wear.  Asking my husband for input got me nowhere.  “…It’s a black and white photo, so it makes no difference what you wear…” he pointed out.  True, but I would know what I was wearing! And let’s face it, it may be the one and only time I’m asked to model anything!

In the end, I couldn’t make up my mind, so packed a few outfits.  “…I’ll decide at the last minute…” I thought.  My hair was carefully styled and off Annie Lee and I went to Charlottetown for the photo shoot.  It was a very hot and humid day, and by the time we arrived at the venue my hair became frizz central!

I finally chose an outfit, which went very well with the gorgeous orchid wall at the Farm Centre in Charlottetown, the location shoot we’d chosen.

Photos taken at the Farm Centre in Charlottetown.  Daria on left, Annie Lee on right. (Photo credit: Erika MacDonald)

We were each invited to make a statement about who we masked for.  Annie Lee chose ‘the hard of hearing’, while I chose ‘inclusiveness and visibility’.  By the time of the photo shoot, we had heard from so many people that clear-window masks were important beyond being a hearing accessibility tool.

Families who had a member with dementia found that there was less stress and better recognition with a clear-window mask.  People who were communicating in a language that they weren’t completely fluent in realized they relied on facial expressions and the movement of lips to follow a conversation.  Facial expressions and lip movements are essential for those using sign language.

A clear-window face mask represented inclusiveness to many communities through its visibility.

A few weeks after the photo shoot, the ‘I Mask For’ posters came out…

Posters courtesy of the Government of PEI, with photos taken by Erika MacDonald.

Screenshot_2020-08-29 Notifications Twitter

Twitter posting.

Thank you to Spencer Lee, photographer Erika MacDonald, and the Government of PEI for helping us make people aware of clear-window face masks. And a huge thank you to everyone who wears a clear-window face mask.

Reusable and washable clear-window face masks, made here on the Island, available in a variety of colours and patterns, or a hard of hearing pin, can be ordered here:  https://form.jotform.com/201983720272252.  If you have an anecdote to share, please email hearpei@gmail.com, comment on the blog, or tweet to @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

Please Take This Poll – Would YOU Wear A Hard of Hearing Pin?

August 5, 2020.  Over the past few months I’ve shared stories about wearing a hard of hearing pin.  One thing I wondered about though… is … how many people would actually wear a hard of hearing pin. Last week, on Twitter, I posted a poll asking that very question.  Every answer came back as “I don’t know”.

That response surprised me, so I posed the question to my husband, aka ‘the ears’.  He has excellent hearing and is very matter-of-fact.  He too said he would answer “I don’t know”.  When I asked why, he explained that “if I had hearing loss, it would depend on the level of it.”  As long as he could hear while doing his errands, he wouldn’t wear a pin!  He went on to say “Be honest.  If you were still working, you wouldn’t wear a pin either.

I had to think hard about that and concluded that if the situation we find ourselves in had happened years ago, before retirement, I wouldn’t wear a pin.  One of the reasons I’m involved in hearing loss issues now is to help try and turn the page, so people don’t feel they would jeopardize their careers by being upfront about hearing loss.  I hope that my answer would be different today and that I would wear a hard of hearing pin, just as I do now that I’m retired.

How much has changed?  This is YOUR chance to provide feedback.  Would YOU wear a hard of hearing pin?  Please participate in this survey:

 

Survey results will be tabulated over the coming week.

New ‘Field of Wildflowers’ hard of hearing pin available

Should you decide that you’d like to wear a hard of hearing pin, you can now order your pin (and a clear-window face mask) through this order form: https://form.jotform.com/201983720272252

Here is a sneak peek at one of the new hard of hearing buttons available, ‘Field of Wildflowers’:

20200730_103247 Field of wildflowers

‘Field of Wildflowers’ hard of hearing pin. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Want to read some of the other postings on wearing hard of hearing buttons?  See:

Do you have an experience to share? If so, please send an email to hearpei@gmail.com, comment on the blog, or tweet to @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg