Fall Speechreading Class Schedule

August 20, 2017.  When you’re hard of hearing, you need to be savvy about different ways to help you communicate.  If you are hard of hearing, consider this opportunity to help improve your ability to understand what others are saying and take classes in speechreading, offered by the PEI Chapter of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association.  Charlottetown resident Nancy MacPhee, certified by the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association to teach speech reading, is a volunteer instructor for Levels I & II.

Level I classes run for 10 weeks, two hours per week.  In addition to teaching students how to lip read and to interpret gestures and facial expressions, the classes address coping strategies and hearing loss issues.

Two new Level I sessions begin in Charlottetown on Thursday, September 21 and run until November 23.  One session is a morning class, from 10 am until noon.  The other is an evening class, from 7 to 9 pm. Participants MUST pre-register and there is a modest fee. For more information, call Annie Lee MacDonald at (902) 855-2382 or email us at hearpei@gmail.com.  NOTE:  There will NOT be a Level II session this fall.

About the Level I Speechreading Course

Level 1 introduces the most visible spoken consonants, as well as thematic groups, such as colours and numbers. Students practice with phrases in class groups as well as with the instructor. General info on hearing loss, as well as coping and communication strategies, are covered.

Have you taken a speechreading class?  Help Nancy and future students by letting us know about the experience and what you’ve learned.   Comments can be made on this blog, or you can email us at hearpei@gmail.com.

Visitors with Hearing Loss on Our Island

CIMG7859 Aug 2 2017 Don Jane Daria Annie Lee at White Gables

Photo:  We visited a roadside stand in Hope River.  Left to right:  Don, Jane, Daria, Annie Lee.

August 12, 2017.  Summer is the time when we see a lot of visitors to the island.  This year we had the pleasure of seeing friends from Ottawa, Jane Scott and Don Gribble.  Jane and I were on the CHHA National board together, and currently serve on the CHHA Foundation board.  Annie Lee and I spent a great afternoon discussing hard of hearing issues with them, and doing a bit of touring.

Jane and Don were great hosts when I was in Ottawa in November and my husband and I were more than happy to return the favour of showing them a good time.   Besides the normal tourist sights, they got to see the “Knickers older than Canada” display at the Alberton Visitors Centre.   (See http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/undergarments-1800s-alberton-welcome-centre-delaney-mchugh-1.4230807)

CIMG7855 Aug 1 2017 Jane and Daria at underwear exhibit in Alberton.JPG

One of the nicest things about travel when you are hard of hearing is that you get to see how other places address our needs.  Jane shared this photo of a sign found in the women’s washroom of the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic when they were in Lunenburg (see https://fisheriesmuseum.novascotia.ca).


Jane and Don were in Lunenburg to visit the Tall Ships.  One of the ships, Lord Nelson, was fully equipped to handle disabled crew, up to 8 in wheelchairs, and they had special equipment and markers on the boat for the blind.  As Jane commented, “Rather neat!”  There are elevators to take wheelchairs and disabled between decks, and a rope and pulley system to bring wheelchairs up the gangplank. The hard of hearing haven’t been forgotten as the ship is equipped with a hearing loop!!  Thinking about volunteering to crew?  (See http://www.classic-sailing.co.uk/vessels/tall-ship-lord-nelson)

Thanks Jane and Don, for sharing those stories!  Do you have a tip or story to share about your travel adventures?  Let us know!  Comments can be made on this blog, or you can email us at hearpei@gmail.com.


© Daria Valkenburg

Bonshaw Ceilidh Fundraiser A Success!

CIMG7547 May 28 2017 Bonshaw Ceilidh Annie Lee Karen Graves Marion Toole

Photo:  PEI Chapter President Annie Lee MacDonald at Bonshaw Hall with violinist Karen Graves and PEI Chapter member Marion Toole.  Admission to the ceilidh was by donation.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

August 4, 2017. The afternoon of Sunday, May 28 was the sound of music for the PEI Chapter of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association and the audience at a benefit ceilidh at Bonshaw Hall. Part of the proceeds went to the Chapter for its advocacy and outreach work, and the performers generously donated their time and considerable talent.

CIMG7548 May 28 2017 Bonshaw Ceilidh Fresh Air Inspectors.JPG

Photo:  Fresh Air Inspectors. From left to right:  Gary Torlone, Emily Ross, Kevin Yarr, and Marcus Lutterman. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

CIMG7549 May 28 2017 Bonshaw Ceilidh Andrea Corder.JPG   CIMG7550 May 28 2017 Bonshaw Ceilidh Olivia Blacquiere and Emma Bowers.JPG

Photo left:  University of PEI music student Andrea Corder played and sang her own composition.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Photo right:  Maritime Idol winners Olivia Blacquiere and Emma Bowers.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

CIMG7553 May 28 2017 Bonshaw Ceilidh Nathan Simmons and Karen Graves.JPG  CIMG7555 May 28 2017 Bonshaw Ceilidh Anna Ney.JPG

Photo left:  Nathan Simmons and professional violinist Karen Graves, who plays with the P.E.I and New Brunswick Symphony Orchestra, played two pieces by Bela Bartok.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Photo right:  German-born singer-songwriter Anna Ney from New Brunswick.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Proceeds from this benefit and other donations received are used by the non-profit PEI Chapter for:

  • Engaging in advocacy and outreach issues for the hard of hearing
  • Holding regular meetings with guest speakers on hearing related issues
  • Fostering speech reading classes
  • Speaking engagements on hard of hearing topics
  • Encouraging hearing accessibility in public places

All donations to the Chapter are tax deductible as we are a non-profit charitable donation.  If you have a hearing loss, or know someone who does, consider making a donation.  We have no employees, and all our work is done by dedicated volunteers.

The next meeting of the PEI Chapter is on Tuesday, September 26 at 9:30 am, at the North Tryon Presbyterian Church.  For more information, contact hearpei@gmail.com .

© Daria Valkenburg

Pocket Talker Pilot Project With PEI’s Legal Community

July 22, 2017.  A few days ago, CHHA PEI Chapter President Annie Lee MacDonald and I were interviewed for CBC’s Island Morning radio broadcast on the pocket talker project for lawyers to improve communication with the hard of hearing, a project funded by the Law Foundation of PEI.  Lawyer Robin Aitken, one of the project participants, was also interviewed.  To access the radio interview, the link is below, as is an accompanying article on the CBC website that follows our blog entry explaining the project.

Radio interview:


annie-lee-macdonald-with-pocketalker sarah macmillan cbc

Photo: Annie Lee MacDonald with pocket talker.  (Photo credit: Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

When you are hard of hearing and have to deal with professional services, such as a lawyer, it can be difficult. The voices are unfamiliar to your ear, terminology may be a barrier, and no one goes to a lawyer just to socialize. Do you admit you can’t really hear what is being said? Should you take along a friend or family member to act as your pair of ears?

With financial support from the Law Foundation of PEI, CHHA PEI is helping to remove some of the stress and barriers to communication when dealing with the legal community, through a pilot project of using assistive listening devices, commonly known as pocket talkers. This device makes it easier for the hard of hearing to communicate.

Lawyers across the island are volunteering to participate in the pilot project, and actively encourage hard of hearing clients to help test this technology. “Confidentiality is very important,” noted several lawyers. Other positive (there have not been any negative ones) comments include: “A technological tool that helps us to communicate better is important.” “It’s a great idea. I can see the need.”

One lawyer noted that he uses the pocket talker himself, as well as for his hard of hearing clients. “I never realized that I myself had a hearing loss!” Another lawyer commented, “I had stopped going to hospitals and nursing homes to see clients, because of the lack of privacy and me having to shout to be heard. Now that my clients in hospitals and nursing homes can put on the pocket talker and we can have a quiet conversation, I am holding meetings there again.”

So far, this has been a win-win project for Island lawyers and for the hard of hearing. As the Chief Justice of PEI notes, “Effective sharing of legal information and opportunity for participation in legal proceedings are integral components to access to justice. This initiative to facilitate a better understanding of the law and improved communication for people who are hard of hearing is to be commended.”

TIP!  Bill Droogendyk of Better Hearing Solutions gave us this tip for using a pocket talker: “If you use the Pocketalker with a Neckloop (https://www.williamssound.com/catalog/nkl-001, instead of headphones), then you can hear the Pocket Talker through the hearing aid telecoils – for better sound!”  Thanks Bill!

Do you use a pocket talker?  Have you taken it to a meeting with your lawyer or doctor? Are you a lawyer who has participated in the project?  Let us know!  We need your feedback.  You can comment through this blog, or send us an email to hearpei@gmail.com .

See below for the text of a CBC article that accompanied the radio broadcast:

CBC website article:


Hard of hearing clients get help talking with lawyers

Pilot project offers lawyers trial with assistive device

By Kevin Yarr, CBC News

Some Island lawyers now have a tool to help them better communicate with people who have hearing loss.

As part of a pilot project, the P.E.I. Chapter of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association has distributed 10 assistive listening devices to interested lawyers.

‘This is a very important time in a person’s life.’ – Annie Lee MacDonald

The Pocketalkers allow a person to wear a headset, and amplify a person’s voice.

“If you’re hard of hearing, which I am, you have to depend on assistive devices to ensure that you have the best communication possible when you are chatting with different people,” said P.E.I. Chapter president Annie Lee MacDonald.

“We saw a need there, because this is a very important time in a person’s life, when they’re making some personal decisions regarding the future of their estates, or future of their lives.”

The lawyers will get to use the devices for about three months, and then decide if they would like to buy one.

MacDonald said she has received a lot of positive feedback, and several lawyers have already decided to buy a device. She hopes eventually all Island lawyers will have a Pocketalker.

© Daria Valkenburg

Calling Cochlear Implant Users

July 22, 2017.  Do you have a cochlear implant?  If so, we want to hear from you! One of the projects we are looking at for next year is to develop an information booklet for Islanders who have cochlear implants and for those in the process of deciding whether they should have, or would qualify for, cochlear implant surgery.

The first phase of the project is to identify the questions you may have regarding cochlear implants, any concerns you may have regarding surgery, and any experiences you wish to share.

Are you willing to help get this project started?  You can send your comments through this blog, by email to hearpei@gmail.com or by snail mail to CHHA PEI, Augustine Cove PE C0B 1X0.

© Daria Valkenburg

911 for hard of hearing working well

July 6, 2017.  Last week Annie Lee MacDonald, CHHA PEI’s President, and I were photographed using text and phone to illustrate an article written by Beth Johnston of the province of PEI’s Public Safety Department.  Our thanks to Beth for the excellent article and to the province who has been so helpful in ensuring that the 911 system works.The link to the article is here, and the text follows below:  https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/news/911-hard-hearing-working-well .

An emergency is not a good time to test whether a system is working properly.

The PEI Chapter of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association (CHHA) wanted to make sure the province’s Text with 911 program, which began last fall, was working like a well-oiled machine. Turns out it is.

Members of CHHA contacted the province’s acting 911 Coordinator Pat Kelly, who went to their monthly meeting to explain the process. Then they went a step further and tested it in a boardroom exercise, and again using testing protocols during Emergency Preparedness week with two more people who are hard of hearing.

“Living on a small island is a blessing. Public Safety and Island EMS listened to our concerns, and offered a live exercise,” said CHHA PEI’s Advocacy and Public Relations Officer Daria Valkenburg.

“Now we are convinced it works, and it’s eased everyone’s mind.”

If you’ve ever had to call 911 in an emergency, you know how stressful that is.

“You try to stay calm so the 911 operator will be able to understand you and send help. You have to concentrate on the questions being asked so that you get the right sort of help – whether you need an ambulance, fire response, or the police,” Valkenburg explained.

“In an emergency, you need to focus on giving the right information, sometimes in a panic situation, or in the midst of a lot of noise and commotion. When you have a problem hearing what is being said, your anxiety levels go up even more. Having protocols in place that offer two additional methods of accessibility is important.”

Kelly went above and beyond the call of duty, Valkenburg said, explaining that he helped Chapter members who had trouble registering their cell phones for the Text with 911 service. In one case, the phone was outdated and couldn’t access the service. In the other situations, he called the phone companies that the cell phones were with, and made sure registration worked for them, she said.

“We’ve been told that we’re the only hard of hearing group in Canada to have been allowed to test the protocols — it’s a testament to the cooperation that we have received on this project,” she said.

The group gave Island EMS a “pocket talker” a portable device that amplifies sound.

“We are grateful to the province for providing the 911 protocols pamphlets for us. As a small organization, this was a project we would have had to raise funds for otherwise,” she said. “Everyone we have dealt with has been receptive and accommodating in listening to our concerns and suggestions.”

Learn more about the Text to 911 service available only to those with hearing or speech impairments.

© Daria Valkenburg

Who Knew Technology Was Our Friend?

June 16, 2017. A few weeks ago, my husband brought out an old movie on VHS we’d never gotten around to watching, ‘A Chorus Line’, filmed in 1985.  For someone who uses subtitles for any programming, this was painful.  There are no subtitles on VHS format tape, and as the tape was so old, it wasn’t the best in sound quality either.  I understood perhaps 1 word in 20!

I’m not big on technology.  I still write snail mail letters.  I read paper books.  I prefer face-to-face conversations, and am always ready to chat over a cup of coffee.  That being said, when you are hard of hearing, you embrace and celebrate technological advances.  Remember the days BEFORE email, texting, captioning services, improvements in hearing aids, cochlear implants?  I marvel at how life with hearing loss has improved!

These days there are many technology-based options that can help the hard of hearing to maintain independence and active lives.  With the large number of portable devices used, such as smart phones, and tablets, did you know that there are even apps that can be downloaded on to these devices?

One such app is a live captioning tool that works with voice recognition, available for a modest price of about $7 (see http://www.livecaptionapp.com/). Here’s an example of its use…you’re in a restaurant, but can’t hear what your server is saying.  Turn on the app, and ask the server to speak directly into your smart phone.  Whatever is said then shows up on your screen.  It’s that easy to use.

I’ve tried a number of voice recognition software.  Most of the time, what comes out is unrecognizable, so I was dubious about this inexpensive app.  However, when we tried it in a legal office, what the lawyer said was captured onscreen, with only a few errors. The text is editable, which is an advantage.

The software works on android phones and tablets, as well as iphones and ipads, and most Bluetooth devices.  It can be adjusted to different languages, and the size of text showing up on your screen can also be altered.

The app is not usable for transcribing phone calls, and may have difficulty correctly transcribing children’s voices and accents.  Because it’s designed to help you identify what is being said, there is no option to directly save the text.  While you can copy and paste it to another format, that adds a bit more work and may not be practical.

The app works with an internet connection.  This isn’t a problem in cities, where most places have wifi, but a challenge in areas, such as rural PEI, where internet is spotty.  The website states there is an offline capability, but I have not tried it.

Do you have an app that helps you communicate more effectively?  Have you tried the live caption app?  Don’t be shy!  Tell us about it.

© Daria Valkenburg

“911 Connect” Emergency Response Exercise Tested 911 Protocols

June 4, 2017.  Imagine this.  You have an emergency and call 911. Simple enough, right?  But what if you can’t HEAR the 911 operator?  Many people do not hear well enough to have simple conversations on the telephone, let alone one in a stressful situation. This is why there are two protocols on Prince Edward Island for dialing 911 for the hard of hearing, ‘Dial 911’ and ‘Text with 911’.

Recently, members of the PEI Chapter of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association, in cooperation with the province of PEI’s 911 Provincial Coordinator, 911 Operators, and managers from Island EMS, conducted a live exercise, “911 Connect” to test the two protocols to see if they worked as planned.

EMS responders also tried out a pocket talker to help communicate with the hard of hearing.  A pocket talker is a portable device that amplifies sounds, when the hard of hearing person wears the headphones. It is useful for one-on-one conversation, and can be used with or without hearing aids.

Two volunteers from the PEI Chapter were the “patients”:  One who wears a hearing aid and has a cochlear implant, was the ‘Text with 911’ patient.  Another, who wears two hearing aids, was the ‘Dial 911 patient’.  Two Operations Managers from Island EMS were the responders.  Observers of the exercise were the Acting 911 Coordinator from the Province of P.E.I., an Operations Manager from Island EMS, and two executive members from the PEI Chapter.

The exercise began with ‘Text with 911’.  The texting was by a first time texter, and it took 6 minutes to text what a prolific texter could have done much quicker.  In comparison, the ‘Dial 911’ call took 1 minute and 21 seconds. Our volunteer counted to 5 aloud after dialling, then repeated her name, address, emergency, and that she was hard of hearing three times before hanging up.

The scenario for both exercises was the same: the caller had symptoms similar to a heart attack.  During the ‘Text with 911’ exercise, EMS responders were astonished at how well our volunteer could hear with her cochlear implant, which she wouldn’t have on if an emergency happened at night.  When it was removed, her only way of understanding the EMS responder was by speech reading.

Next, ‘Dial 911’ began.  Our volunteer had removed her hearing aids prior to the exercise, making it a challenge for the EMS responders.  The pocket talker proved its worth here!  Our volunteer also used speech reading techniques to follow the conversation between herself and the EMS responder speaking to her.

The PEI Chapter of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association was grateful for the opportunity to test the 911 protocols to be assured that they do work.

© Daria Valkenburg

CHHA PEI Receives Grant To Publish Booklet For Better Communication

May 7, 2017.  As a small chapter, we don’t always have the funds to do the outreach and advocacy projects that we would like.  So we were thrilled to learn that we were one of the recipients of a New Horizons for Seniors Program grant to help us develop a project that focuses on seniors, who studies show tend to become socially isolated due to hearing loss.

We already know that it’s exhausting and can be both embarrassing and frustrating to constantly ask people to repeat themselves.  Going to events such as concerts, church services, parties, can be a nightmare when it’s difficult to understand what is being said.  In many instances therefore, it’s easier to stay home, no matter how lonely.  Social isolation can lead to other health related issues, including depression.

While there are various solutions, one way forward is education:  Hard of hearing people can learn strategies to help them communicate and be able to be active participants in social events and conversations.  As well, those who interact with the hard of hearing, including family, friends, and professionals, can learn tips for better communication with the hard of hearing.

While these tips can help anyone who is hard of hearing, this particular project is focusing on seniors.  As Brenda Porter, CHHA PEI Vice-President explains:  “Our CHHA PEI Chapter has heard officially that we have received a $12,115 federal New Horizons for Seniors Program grant for our proposed project “Pardon, What Did You Say?” – A Guide for Navigating Our Hard of Hearing World. Wonderful news!

Our plan includes producing a user-friendly, large print, and inspirational booklet that will be a valuable tool for those who are hard of hearing and for the people with whom they communicate in their homes and communities. The booklet will include a range of simple tips and strategies for communicating in a variety of settings and also personal experiences that readers can identify with. During Fall 2017 there will be community-based seminars across the island at seniors’ centres, etc. as part of the launch.

Having a hearing disability is a key reason why people, many of whom are seniors, withdraw from social activities in the community and become isolated. This island-wide project is designed to give them, and those with whom they interact, simple strategies for talking with others – both in their homes and in their communities.”

So we are busy with developing this booklet at the moment, and collecting stories, tips, and challenges that have been overcome.  Do you have a tip or story to share?  Let us know!

See also:  http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/pei-seniors-new-horizons-1.4099202

and http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/community/2017/5/5/p-e-i–seniors-organizations-receive-nearly–100k-in-federal-fun.html

© Daria Valkenburg

Upcoming Event – Ceilidh to Benefit CHHA PEI

April 26, 2017.  You may be surprised to learn that hard of hearing people tend to love music.  Many of us took music lessons as children, learning to play instruments.  Others were members of choirs or musical groups.  Or maybe we just were music aficionados.  And some of us still are active musicians.  Whatever the reason for a musical connection, the love is still there, even if our hearing isn’t quite what it once was.

This love of music is one reason why we were excited when we heard that Bonshaw Hall was having its May Ceilidh as a fundraiser for CHHA PEI.  The fun begins on Sunday afternoon at 2 pm, on May 28, 2017 in Bonshaw, as per the poster…..Ceilidh at Bonshaw Hall May 28 2017

Join us in celebrating the love of music, island style, and at the same time you’ll be helping CHHA PEI raise some funds to continue our outreach and advocacy activities.  See you there!