Be Kind To Your Valentine

Valentine

February 9, 2020.  Valentine’s Day is in the air. The shops and florists are madly trying to encourage people to splurge on gifts, cards, and floral tributes.  And why not?  I’m a sucker for a romantic card and some chocolates myself!  Restaurants are promoting special candlelight dinners for two.

If you have hearing loss you can expect articles warning you that candlelight makes it hard to see… and therefore hear.  Crowded and noisy restaurants also make it hard to hear.  This year, there’s none of that in this posting.  If you need tips, see last year’s posting: https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/2019/02/12/tips-for-enjoying-valentines-day/

This year, I want to talk about some of the gifts we may want to give on this occasion.  Valentine’s Day isn’t just for a romantic partner, but an occasion to remember important people in our lives, which can include children, parents, and friends.

Chocolates and flowers are definitely ok with me!  But if you are looking for some other ideas, here are a few:

  • For someone who likes to listen to music while running or walking, wireless bone conduction headphones that do not go into your ears are a winner.  My beloved wanted one of these headphones from the time he read about them. For more information, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vl6n_Qe-gzc

We had ordered one from one company that was not of good quality. They kept slipping off his head.  Of course they were returned. Then he ordered Trekz Air from AfterShokz and loves them.  They stay on his head while he runs and the sound, which is delivered through the cheekbones, is very good.

An essential point of these headphones is that you are aware of your surroundings.  Because your ears are not blocked, you can hear traffic noises.  As a bonus, you don’t do any damage to your eardrums.

20200108_174532 Jan 8 2020 Pieter with bone conduction headphones

Pieter’s bone conduction headphones rest comfortably on his ears, but not IN his ears. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

20200108_174425 Jan 8 2020 Pieter with bone conduction headphones

Pieter’s bone conduction headphones from the back.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Other gift ideas?  See our holiday gifts video at: https://youtu.be/b8OXWQygHJk

And if you do go out for a Valentine Dinner, pick a spot where noise levels will be reduced, and have a lot of fun.  Don’t worry if you can’t hear everything.  Just enjoy yourself.  Be kind to your Valentine!

CIMG3749 Jan 17 2020 McGuires

My beloved and I with friends in a popular restaurant.  We asked for a quiet spot, and were given a private alcove to reduce the noise levels.  (Photo: D Valkenburg collection)

Do you have tips for Valentine’s Day?  Send an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  You can also comment on this blog, or follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI.

Reminder: If you haven’t already taken our 10 question survey, Do Others Mumble Or Might You Have Hearing Loss?, please do so.  Here is the link to the survey….. https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FZ2ZD6K.  Thank you to all who have already done the survey! (For more information, see Do Others Mumble Or Might You Have Hearing Loss?)

© Daria Valkenburg

 

Noisy Places? What Would YOU Do?

CIMG3764 Feb 1 2020 Snowbird Welcome Dinner

Once the music was turned off, I could hear very well, and had a great time.  (Photo credit: Brien Robertson)

February 3, 2020.  On Saturday night my beloved and I were invited to a lovely group dinner, along with 35 other couples.  The dinner was held in a hotel, and as you can imagine, the noise levels were quite high.  Then the music was turned on as the event started and it was very difficult to follow a conversation.  The noise levels increased as people talked louder in order to be heard.  I sat there for a few minutes, then quietly went up and asked the hotel management if it would ruin the atmosphere if the music was turned off.  “Not at all” I was told, and within a few seconds it was shut off.  Nobody complained, and the noise level decreased considerably.

CIMG3755 Feb 1 2020 Snowbird Welcome Dinner

The hotel venue for the dinner.  The tables were very close together, but I made sure we sat with our backs against a wall.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

CIMG3759 Feb 1 2020 Snowbird Welcome Dinner

The key lime tarts were stupendous!  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

The incident reminded me of a previous posting made about a pub in Halifax we’d gone to (see Would You Dine Out In A Noisy Restaurant Or Pub?).  After reading that blog posting, Brien Robertson remarked “Very interesting. We often review a restaurant after dining there and never have made a comment on the noise level. After reading this I will always comment on the level of noise. Wonderfully written and enjoyable.” Brien made an excellent point.  How many of us write a restaurant review and mention whether the noise levels were good or bad?

Brien did subsequently review a restaurant he and his wife visited, and posted the following:

TB review

Recently, CBC Marketplace ran a program about noisy restaurants and many of the same points were brought up. (See https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/restaurant-noise-health-marketplace-1.5349006)

It’s important, however, to note that restaurants are not the only noisy places one encounters.  Stores can be a nightmare too, and I have no problem in just walking out. I’m not alone…. Last week we were in an outlet mall and my husband wanted to go into a shop specializing in sports clothing.  While he was in the store I sat on a bench and people watched. I noticed several people walking into nearby stores and immediately walking back out again. The people didn’t have time to even look around, and I didn’t think they had been told to leave!  So what was wrong with the shops?

Curiosity got the better of me.  I walked into one and got immediately blasted with raucous music so loud that even the gum-chewing sales clerks wouldn’t be able to hear what was being said.  Maybe that was the point?  Like the others I immediately walked out.  I tried another store.  Except for the choice of music, it was the same loud and annoying boom boom boom sound.

The funny thing was that I had just read an article in the newspaper lamenting that people bought online and didn’t frequent stores anymore.  I’m all for shopping in a store, but not in that atmosphere!  My ears were hurting from just a few seconds of exposure!  It was clear from the reaction of other shoppers that I wasn’t alone in finding the unpleasantly loud environment within these stores less than welcoming.

So what would you do when the music is too loud?  In the hotel, I asked for the music to be turned off and was successful… and so didn’t miss out on enjoying the lovely key lime tarts!  In the outlet mall I walked out of the stores, as did other potential shoppers.  Send an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  You can also comment on this blog, or follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI.

Thank you to Brien Robertson for sharing his review of Tommy Bahama restaurant and for his feedback with the tip to include a comment on the sound level in a restaurant.

Reminder: If you haven’t already taken our 10 question survey, Do Others Mumble Or Might You Have Hearing Loss?, please do so.  Here is the link to the survey….. https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FZ2ZD6K.  Thank you to all who have already done the survey! (For more information, see Do Others Mumble Or Might You Have Hearing Loss?)

© Daria Valkenburg

Captioning Glasses Make Going To The Movies An Enjoyable Experience!

January 23, 2020.  I haven’t been in a movie theatre since 2013, mostly due to the stress of trying to understand what is being said in a movie.  It just didn’t seem worth the effort. Many theatres on the Island have a captioning screen that fits into the cup holder by your seat.  That’s a good hearing accessibility solution but I didn’t like to have to look up at a movie, then down at the cup holder to see what had been said.  So I waited until the movie came out on video and watched it at home with subtitles.

Then, on Sunday afternoon, while our husbands talked sports, some of us discussed how we’d read Louisa May Alcott’s ‘Little Women’ as children.  After a nostalgic trip down memory lane, we decided to see the current film ‘Little Women’ one weekday afternoon.

Tuesday afternoon was a cold and miserable day, perfect for going to the movies.  After paying for my ticket, I asked about hearing assistive devices. “We have two kinds” I was told.  “One is headphones which amplify sound.  The other is captioning glasses.” I chose the captioning glasses, as that matched how I normally watch a program.  After waiting a few minutes, the glasses arrived.  “We’ve set it for the theatre you’ll be in, so you’ll have captions for that movie.

I was a bit bemused as I was unfamiliar with captioning glasses.  They look like sunglasses and come attached to a small receiver box.  I noticed it had a number of very small windows on one side and sure enough, the fifth window was lit up.  Our movie was in theatre #5.

Now, you may be wondering what I looked like with these glasses.  Just as we had gone to the theatre to see a movie about a story we’d read in childhood, the glasses reminded us of the days when you saw cartoons, instead of advertisements, before the previews and feature presentation.  In the city where I grew up, there was always a ‘Mr. Magoo’ cartoon, and, if the movie was for children, there usually was a ‘Fearless Fly’ cartoon.  Those glasses reminded me of ‘Fearless Fly’. (If you’ve never heard of ‘Fearless Fly’, you can watch a brief cartoon here: https://youtu.be/9brdv8ci39o)

20200121_144239 Jan 21 2019 Daria with captioning glasses

Captioning glasses with receiver box.  (Photo credit: Moira Robertson)

The glasses have a tiny projector that displays a holographic image of the captions in green colour at the bottom of one’s eyesight. The text is sent via a wireless system to a receiver that feeds the data to the glasses.  (For more information, see https://newatlas.com/sony-closed-caption-glasses/23376/ or https://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/sony-subtitle-glasses/ or  https://hearingmojo.com/sony-movie-caption-glasses/)

The glasses are lightweight, and fit easily over my own glasses.  I had to keep my head steady, as the text moved as my head moved.  Turn your head to one side, and the text goes in the same direction!  After figuring that out during the previews of upcoming features, I was able to watch the movie in comfort, and not have to strain to figure out what was being said.  Everything was displayed right in front of me, as you can see above.

It was a great experience, and I had a lot of fun watching the movie and being with my friends Susan and Moira.  This is a wonderful example of a hearing accessibility tool made available in a public place!  Some of you may be wondering if there was a fee to use the glasses.  The answer is No.  Another question someone asked me was if I had to reserve the glasses in advance. I didn’t.  I only had to wait a few moments while the glasses were programmed to the particular theatre the film was playing in.  A third question I was asked is if this was a special theatre for people with hearing loss.  It wasn’t.  The glasses can be used in any of that cinema’s theatres (there are 10).

Are the glasses are available in movie theatres where you live?  If you’ve used captioning glasses please share your experience!  Send an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  You can also comment on this blog, or follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI.

Reminder: If you haven’t already taken our 10 question survey, Do Others Mumble Or Might You Have Hearing Loss?, please do so.  Here is the link to the survey….. https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FZ2ZD6K.  Thank you to all who have already done the survey! (For more information, see Do Others Mumble Or Might You Have Hearing Loss?)

© Daria Valkenburg

Do Others Mumble Or Might You Have Hearing Loss?

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-image-survey-image23713691

January 19, 2020.  Many people like to take surveys.  Do you?  I hope so, as in this posting I’m inviting you to participate in a survey of 10 questions that can be answered with Yes or No.  Each question also has a line in case you want to clarify your answer with an explanatory comment.

What’s the survey about? The questions are designed for you to see if you might have hearing loss.  Do you find yourself thinking that a lot of people mumble, the TV is set at too low a volume, or a room is just too noisy?  If so, you aren’t alone, and may have some degree of hearing loss.  The more answers that you answer YES, the more likely it is that you have hearing loss.

While older people are perceived to be more likely to have hearing loss, it’s not the whole picture.  Anyone can have hearing loss. When we were in The Netherlands last fall, I was very interested to read that 25% (that’s 1 in 4 people!) of young Dutch people between the ages of 12 and 25 have hearing loss!  A study carried out by the Amsterdam Medical Centre determined that the main cause was due to exposure to loud music, either at concerts or other events, or from listening to portable music players.  (You can read the article at https://www.hear-it.org/one-four-young-dutch-people-affected-hearing-loss)

The Dutch are installing hearing loops in more and more public places. We attended a presentation at a small museum in Harlingen, which was in the process of having a hearing loop installed. We missed trying it out by just a few days!

While loud music can be a factor in noise induced hearing loss, it isn’t the only one.  Many everyday objects, like a hair dryer, have decibel levels that exceed safe levels.  Hmmm…. nope, I’m still using a blow dryer for my hair.  (See https://www.health24.com/Medical/Hearing-management/About-hearing-management/fyi-these-common-objects-are-damaging-your-hearing-20181221 for more items.)

Do Others Mumble Or Might You Have Hearing Loss?…..So, are you ready to take the survey?  Here it is!  Don’t be shy!

Survey Monkey web link:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FZ2ZD6K

The results will be tabulated and reported on in an upcoming posting.

Do you have a question you’d like answered?  An experience to share?  Send an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  You can also comment on this blog, or follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

“You’re Not A Good Fit”

January 16, 2020.  If you ever come to Florida during Snowbird season and happen to read one of the local newspapers, you will see many advertisements ‘inviting’ you to lectures, lunch and learn, etc. for all manner of conditions.  One caught my eye, advertising a free lunch & learn at a restaurant near where we are staying, with the topic headline of “Learn the Truth about Hearing Aids, Hearing Loss and Tinnitus”.  The ad said ‘no hearing aids will be sold at this seminar’ and so I thought, what a great opportunity to learn more about hearing aids, hearing loss, and tinnitus.

ad for hearing loss lunch and learn

Advertisement in the January 15, 2010 edition of Daily News

I called to register and there was no difficulty.  There was indeed space left for me and my husband.  My first clue that this wasn’t really a learning session came when the questions began about my hearing loss, whether I wore hearing aids, etc. etc.  It was pretty clear that the objective was to sell hearing aids, so I was honest and explained that I was Canadian and wouldn’t be buying a hearing aid in the USA, I was only interested in the topics that were to be discussed.  “I’m sorry” the person who had answered the phone said, “you’re not a good fit.”  They were interested in people who would be buying hearing aids, and so we were promptly de-registered from the event.

It’s a pity that I wasn’t a good fit, but now at least I know to double-check before reacting to one of those interesting ads!  It means more beach time during an all too short winter holiday.  Do you have an experience to share?  Send an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  You can also comment on this blog, or follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

People With Cochlear Implants Can Improve Their Ability To Sing In Tune!

January 5, 2020.  A few months ago, Joan Gallant’s quest to sing in tune following a cochlear implant (CI) was highlighted, along with some information on why it is a challenge. (See Will People With Cochlear Implants Always Sing Out Of Tune?)

After the posting was published, a reader sent in two sound clips and asked for feedback.  While she didn’t wish to be identified, she did give permission to post the clips, and to send the clips to Johanna Boyer, a musicologist who works in music research for MED-EL, and was in contact with Joan Gallant.  Johanna has personal experience as she’s had a cochlear implant for 10 years.

I am a trained singer and have performance experience in opera, musicals, etc. and I do still perform as singer songwriter,” Johanna explained. She offers hope for people with cochlear implants who love to sing.  In the past 7 years I have conducted multiple singing workshops for CI users in Austria, Germany, and Finland and I also had a couple students, who I was teaching. I currently have a bilateral CI user, who is my student. Based on this experience I am confident to say that training can improve singing in tune in CI users.” Bilateral means that both ears have a cochlear implant.

The sound clips from the unidentified blog reader help to illustrate the challenge of singing in tune:

Blog reader Singing with CI #1 —  https://drive.google.com/file/d/1yll-Q_5tnNu_26-4s4Btx3Pavwbis2l5/view?usp=sharing

Blog reader Singing with CI #2 —  https://drive.google.com/file/d/1QOKndW_9-8vpMsajWTkjB8ANiz4o1V02/view?usp=sharing

After reviewing the sound clips, Johanna Boyer noted that “In my opinion there are 2 areas for CI users that need attention and training: pitch discrimination and vocal production (singing).

Pitch Discrimination is an important basis for singing and considering the various CI indications we have today, the cochlear implant path needs focused training. What I mean by that is if the individual, who is interested in improving pitch discrimination is a bimodal user (Cochlear Implant plus Hearing Aid) then he or she needs to train the CI alone to improve pitch discrimination in the CI. To assure that no residual hearing is used, the CI should be directly connected to the sound source through a connectivity accessory. There are many apps out there to train pitch discrimination, which makes training simple and fun.

When we sing it matters how we produce sounds and I have observed various aspects that impact intonation (singing in tune) in CI users.

  1. The placement of the tone: ideally, we want the resonating tone to be in the front so that when we open our mouth the tone is carried out. If we don’t practice the placement of the tone, then it might ‘get stuck in the throat’ and that impacts sound quality and intonation.
  2. Breathing control can also negatively impact intonation (the ability to sing in tune). If we can’t properly control the respiratory flow then when we e.g. open our mouth wider like with an A vowel more air suddenly escapes, which impacts intonation.
  3. The way we shape and place our vowels also influences intonation and is something we need to practice. I had students who thought they couldn’t match the pitch from the piano, and I noticed they were using a vowel that sounded very unstable. When I asked them to match the pitch using ‘m’ they had no problems.
  4. Pitch range: when someone chooses a song, it doesn’t always fit the person’s actual pitch range. Also don’t forget that no training and age can be factors that influence pitch range. With a smaller pitch range, higher or lower notes can become a challenge. Then often too much force is used, and so we overcompensate and don’t land on the note we meant to.

Now those 4 aspects I mentioned are easier to practice when you have experience, or a teacher who can guide you. Of course, I understand that not everyone has the possibility to work with a vocal teacher one on one. So…….other recommendations for practice opportunities I often give are: practicing in a group or choir, or using video games like ‘SingStar’ or ‘Rock Band’ that give you visual feedback about your intonation.”

DSCN2531 Johanna Boyer, Jenna Browning, Josh Stohl and Kosta Kokkinakis

Left to right:  Johanna Boyer, Jenna Browning, Joan Gallant, Josh Stohl, Kosta Kokkinakis.  (Photo courtesy of Joan Gallant)

A few months ago, Joan Gallant was invited to spend a week at MED-EL’s North American Research Laboratory in Durham, South Carolina, and had four researchers that worked with her.  In her report, Joan explained that the “overall goal of the lab is to improve MED-EL’s cochlear implants.”  The four researchers working with her were:

  1. Jenna Browning, a research audiologist
  2. Kosta Kokkinakis, an electrical engineer who is interested in how microphones pick up sound and determine what is useful speech and what is ‘noise’
  3. Josh Stohl, lab director and electrical engineer, interested in how to stimulate the hearing nerve in a better way that may provide more useful information to the brain for processing sound
  4. Johanna Boyer, MED-EL’s music topic manager who does research on music.

Joan described the week, which was both exhilarating and very hard work!  “After the tour of the building and meeting the four lab members I would spend the week with, I signed the research consent forms and then did ‘baseline’ testing to give them an idea of my performance with my cochlear implant.  I was asked to listen to words and then sentences, and to repeat what I heard.

As Joan soon learned, this was just the beginning!  In a brief summary she said that “This was a one-on-one study and very interesting and also exhausting. One study was on music training trying to develop a program for those with cochlear implants. I also had two singing lessons.

Joan expanded on her summary, explaining that after the baseline testing, “I spent the week helping them to collect data.  They use a computer in place of the external cochlear implant audio processor so that they can test new algorithms and sound coding strategies that are not yet possible on the current generation of commercial devices.”  An algorithm is a logical or mathematical calculation.

Joan had a front row view of the research that goes into new generations of cochlear implants.  “I got to listen to things in the lab before MED-EL comes out with them in their future products.  A lot of what I did throughout the week was to listen to their new sound coding algorithms.  For example, Kosta’s primary interest is reverberation and so his research studies tested me in rooms with different amounts of echo.  He is trying to find ways to reduce noise and echo in different environments. Throughout the week I listened to 350 words and 1200 sentences (some with ten words) and many of these sentences were tested in background noise or in reverberant rooms.

Joan was delighted to work with Johanna Boyer, who she had been in email contact with prior to arriving in Durham.  “I also did 8 hours of musical training as part of Johanna’s research.  She had different exercises that focused on various aspects of music, like melody and rhythm.  There were many levels with increasing difficulty.  Johanna also spent two hours providing singing and voice lessons, which is something she doesn’t typically do with other research participants.  They try to individualize the experience for each research participant.

By the end of the week, another test was made, and Joan was able to see if any of the initial results had changed.  “On Friday, Jenna repeated the word and sentence testing that she had completed on Monday morning to see if my speech understanding had improved.  By then, I had spent 30 hours in the lab, listing to different sounds (speech, speech in noise, speech in reverberant rooms, music, etc.), which is a lot of auditory training!

The conclusion?  “They were very pleased to see that I had improved in both quiet and in noise from all the testing I had done throughout the week. My words score improved from 60% to 80% of words correct in quiet.  In background noise, I could tolerate an extra 3 decibels of noise to get the same score as I did on Monday.”

For more on the challenge of singing when you have a cochlear implant, see https://blog.medel.com/what-does-hearing-with-a-cochlear-implant-sound-like/?utm_source=salesforce&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=blogInt-update190814

Thank you to Johanna Boyer for providing so much insight and tips in singing for those with a cochlear implant.  Thank you to Joan Gallant for her detailed report on her week at MED-EL’s research lab.  Thank you to the blog reader who shared her sound clips.  And a big thank you to MED-EL for making Joan’s experience possible. Do you have a cochlear implant and love to sing?  You can share your experience by sending an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  You can also comment on this blog, or follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

Our 2019 Hear PEI Hearing Accessibility Advocates

January 3, 2020.  Happy New Year!  As we begin a new year and a new decade, it’s a good opportunity to note that although those of us who are involved with Hear PEI are a small volunteer group, we manage to do a quite a bit with the very limited resources we have.  One of the reasons we can accomplish so much is due to the help and support for hearing accessibility awareness that we get from others.

In 2019 five Hear PEI Hearing Accessibility Advocates were recognized:

CIMG3621 Oct 29 2019 Hear PEI Accessibility Advocates Ruth & Evelyn

Daria Valkenburg, left, with Ruth Walsh, centre, and Evelyn Stewart, right.  (Photo credit: Annie Lee MacDonald)

Two women who do not have hearing loss themselves, Ruth Walsh and Evelyn Stewart, were deeply committed to gathering signatures for the petition presented to the PEI Legislature in July, a petition that asked for equal opportunity for all Islanders to apply for funding towards the cost of hearing aids.  While the petition was presented, no decision has been made as yet, but the work involved in explaining the reason for the petition and gathering support went a long way towards building awareness.  People were astounded to learn that there was an age cut-off for access to funding, and immediately agreed that it was not correct.

Over the past few years, many lawyers have participated in a project to improve communications between those with hearing loss and the legal community.  Two of these lawyers went above and beyond, encouraging their colleagues to also support hearing accessibility for their clients.  Most law firms on the Island now have a pocket talker available for clients who have mild hearing loss.  The support from Ken Clark of Key Murray Law in Summerside, and Danny Tweel of T. Daniel Tweel in Charlottetown, was a big reason this project was a success.

CIMG3737 Dec 16 2019 Award to Ken Clark by Pieter

Daria Valkenburg with Ken Clark. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

CIMG3741 Dec 19 2019 With Danny Tweel

Annie Lee MacDonald, left, with Danny Tweel, centre, and Daria Valkenburg, right.  (Photo credit: Paula Campbell)

Many of you have watched one of the YouTube videos produced in 2019.  Wendy Nattress dedicated hours in the post-production process, editing the videos, adding in the captioning, and posting on YouTube.  We wouldn’t have been able to do it without her support and guidance.

A big thank you to Ruth, Evelyn, Ken, Danny, and Wendy for their help in building awareness on hearing accessibility issues in 2019. Have you have been encouraged to use a pocket talker at a law firm, signed the petition this spring while at a community event, or watched one of our YouTube videos?  Share your experience.  You can send an email to hearpei@gmail.com, comment on this blog, or follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

 

In Memory of Ruth Brewer

CIMG3106 Sep 3 2019 Ruth Brewer with Annie Lee

Left, Ruth Brewer with her pocket talker, and Annie Lee MacDonald. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

December 28, 2019.  Ruth Brewer, a delightful woman who loved using her pocket talker to help her communicate, became a shining and exuberant example of the difference that hearing accessibility can make in a person’s life. She stated that the pocket talker was her lifeline as it enabled her to hear well enough to get out of bed and become socially active instead of socially isolated. (See The Pocket Talker Is My Lifeline).

Engaging and articulate, she was interviewed in our recent YouTube video ‘A Pocket Talker Changed My Life’ (See ‘A Pocket Talker Changed My Life’)

Sadly, Ruth passed away on Christmas Eve.  (For more information see https://www.theguardian.pe.ca/obituaries/ruth-brewer-32008/)  She will be missed, but hopefully will remain an inspiration to all with hearing loss!

If you have been encouraged to use a pocket talker after reading about Ruth or watching the YouTube video, please send an email to hearpei@gmail.com or comment on this blogYou can also follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI.

Like the work we do?  Consider a donation in Ruth’s memory.  100% of your donation stays on PEI to help Islanders. See our page at the Canada Helps website:  https://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/34708

© Daria Valkenburg

Hearing Accessibility Is Enshrined in Human Rights Legislation

HRC_HearPEI2

Left to right: Tom Hilton, Brenda Picard, Daria Valkenburg, Annie Lee MacDonald, John Rogers (Photo courtesy of PEI Human Rights Commission)

December 26, 2019.  December 10 is Human Rights Day. Every year, as we attend this important anniversary at an event coordinated by the PEI Human Rights Commission, we are reminded that the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is an international human rights treaty of the United Nations, meant to protect the rights of persons with disabilities around the world. Canada is a signatory to this Convention, which is monitored by the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Canada ratified the Convention on March 11, 2010 and it entered into force on April 12, 2010.

71 years ago, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed.  Tom Hilton, Education Officer for the PEI Human Rights Commission, noted that this declaration “happens to be the world’s most translated document.” In 1950, the UN General Assembly proclaimed December 10 as Human Rights Day, to bring attention to “the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.

Annie Lee MacDonald and I always accept an invitation to this annual event for two key  reasons:

  • Hearing accessibility is one of the rights enshrined in human rights legislation.  We need to be visible and ensure our voices are heard.
  • As part of their accessibility efforts, the PEI Human Rights Commission provides real time captioning for their event. We support this important initiative.

Over the past years, the process of providing real time captioning has improved and we had no issues with the service provided. The screen was placed near the podium, allowing us to easily see the stage, the podium, and the captioning screen.  The captioning itself was excellent, with few errors.  Well done!

It isn’t only people with hearing loss who appreciate real time captioning!

We noticed that it wasn’t only people with hearing loss following the captioning. Several parents and grandparents of children from the Stratford Elementary School Choir were avidly following the captioning.  Many of these adults spoke English as a second language, and I’m sure they were as grateful to see the written words on screen as we were!

Perhaps traffic flows of speakers to the podium can be improved next year, so that speakers do not have to cross past the screen.  It seems a no-brainer given the event, but some speakers will still stand in front of the screen, in spite of being able to see the scrolling text.  This temporary difficulty is easily fixed by seating speakers on the side of the room away from the line of vision of the screen.

Please …… Don’t block the screen!

A bigger challenge in accessibility came from the photographer sent by the media to cover the event, who persisted in blocking the screen, in spite of being asked several times not to do so by the organizers. This deliberate wilfulness showed a lack of respect to the organizers, as well as to the attendees who depended on the real time captioning, and didn’t reflect well on his employer.  Professional photographers should be unobtrusive and not interfere with the events they cover.

These were the only two points regarding hearing accessibility that hopefully can be addressed for future events.  This year’s theme for Human Rights Day was ‘youth standing up for human rights’.  While we are no longer in the first blush of youth, we still stand up and speak out for hearing accessibility.

As Her Honour The Honourable Antoinette Perry, Lieutenant Governor of Prince Edward Island, said in her remarks with a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt:  “Where, after all, do universal human rights begin?  In small places, close to home.  So close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world.  Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.

Several politicians were in attendance.  We had a chance to briefly speak with the Honourable Bloyce Thompson, Minister of Justice & Public Safety.

CIMG3733 Dec 12 2019 Human Rights Day by Sharon Lund MacDonald

Left to right:  Annie Lee MacDonald, Minister Bloyce Thompson, Daria Valkenburg.  (Photo taken by Sheila Lund MacDonald)

John Rogers, the outgoing Chair of the Human Rights Commission, noted that “We are the smallest Human Rights Commission in the country, but by no means the smallest jurisdiction in population.”  It’s a testament to the commitment that while the office may be small they have many open files to deal with, and participate in many outreach activities.

Thank you to the PEI Human Rights Commission for including us in their event, and bringing more awareness of hearing accessibility in public places. Comments? Send an email to hearpei@gmail.com or comment on this blog at https://theauralreport.wordpress.comYou can also follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

“Our Stories Matter”

December 22, 2019.  One of the tendencies so many of us with hearing loss have is to withdraw from conversations and situations that involve groups of people…. it becomes too difficult to hear. This can be especially challenging during holidays and important family celebrations.  (See Holiday Dinners and Parties – Fun or a Nightmare?) 

We long for people to understand what we need so we can more easily participate in conversations, but on the other hand, we can be just as guilty at forgetting to practice better hearing strategies ourselves.  Oh, I’m so guilty of that!  My husband, who has great hearing, can get so frustrated with me.  I have a tendency to talk to him….while he’s in another part of the house.  One of two things happen….  Either he didn’t hear me…. (my beloved tells me his hearing is good but not supersonic!)…. or he hears me and answers…. and then I get upset because I didn’t hear him!  So either he’s ignored as I really heard nothing, or I ask him why he’s talking to me when he knows I can’t follow what he’s saying when he’s in another room.  Hmm…. I’m then indignantly reminded by him as to who started the conversation!

So, I was all ears when Brenda Porter led an interesting discussion entitled “Our Stories Matter: Helping Others to Understand….An informal, mini-workshop on sharing our own voices.

CIMG3675 Brenda Porter Our Stories Matter presentation Nov 26 2019

Brenda Porter facilitated the “Our Stories Matter” workshop.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

We expend so much energy trying to hear that we become mute and silent in conversations”, Brenda commented.  “It’s easy to forget that others WANT to hear us and we forget that our opinions matter. It’s important to share our voices.

Brenda then went right to the heart of a practice so many of us are guilty of….. “We know what others need to do, but often forget to practice those same strategies ourselves.

We then broke up into smaller groups and each person was tasked with telling a short anecdote to the others in the group, using the strategies we wished everyone would use with us, such as:

  • Speak clearly
  • Face your listeners so they see what you are saying (ie. speech read)
  • Avoid contractions where possible

Afterwards, we were asked for feedback.  What did we learn?  Were there surprises?  Louise Larkin summed up the experience we all had…. “Our group was happy to learn we weren’t alone.  We ALL have trouble with background noise.  We had to snuggle together and strive to use contact and speak clearly.

Thank you to Brenda Porter for facilitating the workshop and encouraging all to share their voices. She brought out important and relevant points to take to heart anytime, but especially at this time of year. Comments? Send an email to hearpei@gmail.com or comment on this blog at https://theauralreport.wordpress.comYou can also follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg