Holiday Greetings From Annie Lee MacDonald and Daria Valkenburg

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December 20, 2020.  As we prepare for the holidays with our families, Annie Lee MacDonald and I send you our heartfelt greetings of the season, plus a brief summary of the activities of Hear PEI in 2020.

….Seasons Greetings from Annie Lee…

2020 is coming to a close and because of the Covid-19 pandemic we were unable to hold a single meeting. It was so nice to see those of you who attended the coffee party at my cottage in the summer. We were able to spend some time together and we were able to update you on the projects your group has been working on.

Covid has introduced many new challenges for those of us who already have difficulties communicating effectively. Hear PEI was able to access a grant which allowed us to devise a see-through mask.

We also realized the need to design pins that we could wear as fashion items to let people know we are hard of hearing. We have different designs, including a bilingual version, and they have become a popular item. 

In addition to this the grant allowed us the opportunity to research the different clear-window masks available. ClearMask became the best option as it was approved by Health Canada as a procedural mask option. For the last few months we have distributed masks to medical personnel, doctors, nursing and retirement homes, dentists etc. In doing this we were advocating for the hard of hearing and making professionals aware of the difficulties so many Islanders have communicating effectively, especially now with everyone wearing masks covering their faces and the plexiglass barriers distancing clients from cashiers etc.

At the beginning of December we attended two events, one at AccessPEI, which installed Speech Transfer Systems at two counters at both the Charlottetown and Summerside locations. The other was at Queen Elizabeth Hospital where a Speech Transfer System was installed at the Info Desk. This is a huge accomplishment for us.

Government and others are finally seeing the need and making the necessary move to be more inclusive.  In addition to this funds were provided for us to produce videos to help guide the hard of hearing through difficult times.  Daria will tell you about those.

Both Daria and I look forward to the time when we can all meet again. 

Christmas2020 Annie Lee

….Happy Holidays from Daria…

As Annie Lee wrote, it’s been a busy time for us this year, with trying to mitigate the effects that pandemic safety measures had on those of us with hearing loss. We’ve learned a lot and we sure didn’t have time to get ‘cabin fever’.

In order to sell masks and pins, an order form and PayPal account were set up. These technological changes have been very useful at a time when social distancing is the norm.

We spent much of the past few months filming. Up to now, 3 new videos are on our Hear PEI Association YouTube channel:

Several more videos are in post-production and we hope to have them online by the end of March 2021. 

In addition to the Speech Transfer Systems mentioned by Annie Lee, a hearing loop was installed at the United Church in O’Leary.  With each little change we slowly improve the lives of Islanders with hearing loss. 

Thank you for your support with donations and purchases of pins and masks. Net proceeds are used for outreach and educational activities.  For pins and masks, please check out the order  form at: https://form.jotform.com/201983720272252

Annie Lee and I gratefully thank the volunteers who helped us make all these initiatives a reality.  May 2021 be more ‘sociable’ than 2020!

Christmas2020 Daria

Do you have holiday experience or tip to share? Send an email to hearpei@gmail.com, comment on the blog, or tweet to @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

‘Dining Out With Hearing Loss’ On YouTube

CIMG4347 Aug 13 2020 Lobster Barn video with Lauren Campbell

The cast of ‘Dining Out With Hearing Loss’, filmed at Lobster Barn in Victoria-By-The-Sea.  Left to right:  Annie Lee MacDonald, Daria Valkenburg, Lauren Campbell.  (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

December 19, 2020.  With restaurants now able to re-open their dining rooms, a lot of us will be looking forward to have a restaurant meal, or even just to meet a friend for coffee.  So it’s a great time to let you know about the latest Hear PEI video, ‘Dining Out With Hearing Loss’, which is on the Hear PEI Association YouTube Channel.

To extend our outreach capability, Hear PEI was delighted to be awarded a grant from the Seniors Secretariat of PEI for the project “Using Social Media To Highlight How Islanders Can Age Well With Hearing Loss”. Funding for this project is giving us the opportunity to make short videos on topics of interest and value to people with hearing loss, here on Prince Edward Island, and, as we have discovered over the past year, outside the province.  Each video is fully captioned.

Dining Out With Hearing Loss’ is the first video for this project.  I don’t know any senior who doesn’t like to eat out, do you?   You can watch the video here:

We’ve already received some initial feedback…..

Rheal Leger: “….Excellent very well done! Bravo!…

Marjorie Inman: “…Excellent presentation!…

Lina Canonico: “…Congratulations on another well done presentation….

Joan Gallant: “…I have watched your video and of course a job well done and very clear…

Thank you to all who took the time to watch the video and provide feedback.  A big thank you goes to post-production editor Wendy Nattress.  Not only does Wendy edit the film, she adds in the captioning, and makes sure it is uploaded properly on our YouTube Channel.

Thank you also to Jackie and Jenny Myers, owners of Lobster Barn in Victoria-By-The-Sea, for allowing us to come in before the restaurant opened to film the video, to Lauren Campbell for participating in the dining out sequence, and to Pieter Valkenburg for videography.

If you enjoyed the video, please share it with others.  Did you know that you can subscribe to the Hear PEI Association Channel on YouTube?

One of the items you will notice in the video is that Annie Lee MacDonald and I are wearing hard of hearing pins while dining out.  This is a great time to let you know that the newest pin, Be Leaf In Dreams, is now available for purchase.

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Be Leaf In Dreams hard of hearing pin. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

You can order Be Leaf In Dreams, or any of the clear-window face masks or hard of hearing pins in the collection here:  https://form.jotform.com/201983720272252.

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

© Daria Valkenburg

2020 PEI Human Rights Day Theme: Rise Up Against Discrimination

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Photo source: upscbuddy.com

December 12, 2020.  Every year, December 10 is Human Rights Day and usually Annie Lee MacDonald and I are in Charlottetown to attend the program organized by the PEI Human Rights Commission.

This year, due to Covid-19 pandemic safety measures, the event was held virtually.  The theme chosen by the PEI Human Rights Commission was ‘Rise Up Against Discrimination’.  While discrimination of any form is important to highlight, it’s especially relevant in 2020. 

As readers of this blog may recall, hearing accessibility has been severely impacted by pandemic safety measures…… masks that cover a person’s mouth and facial expressions, and plexiglass barriers without accompanying Speech Transfer Systems to help make it easier to comprehend what is being said behind that barrier.

Hear PEI’s YouTube video, ‘Hearing Accessibility Is A Human Right’, explained how hearing accessibility is enshrined in human rights legislation, and was featured in a recent posting.  (See https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/2020/11/27/hearing-accessibility-is-a-human-right-now-on-youtube/)

Part of this video was included in the PEI Human Rights Commission virtual event, which you can watch here:

The news isn’t all bad.  Two positive changes occurred this month on PEI when Access PEI and the Info Desk at Queen Elizabeth Hospital installed Speech Transfer Systems. (See https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/2020/12/08/speech-transfer-systems-at-access-pei-make-it-easier-to-hear/ and https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/2020/12/11/speech-transfer-system-installed-at-the-info-desk-at-queen-elizabeth-hospital/)

But of course, there’s a long way to go.  Here are two recent comments on what people with hearing loss have been experiencing as they try to run their daily errands:

One woman from PEI wrote that “…I find it hard to hear people with masks over their mouths.  I have to see their lips!….”  She isn’t alone, and goes on to explain that her independence has now been compromised. “… I always have to have someone with me so they can help me….” How demoralizing!

Rheal Leger of Dieppe, however, shared a positive encounter…..  “…. Yesterday I went to Jean Coutu Pharmacy in Dieppe. I had my hard of hearing pin on my jacket. The cashier saw my pin and pointed to me to wait a minute and she put on her mask with the window. I thanked her for doing that.  I`m just wondering if other pharmacies have adopted that policy, if so GREAT, if not maybe they should!...”  Great point, Rheal!

On PEI, I’m aware of only two pharmacies that use clear-window masks…. Sobey’s Pharmacy in Stratford and Sobey’s Pharmacy in Montague…. Both pharmacies participated in a project for medical professionals to try out disposable clear-window masks, a project made possible thanks to support by the Government of Canada’s Emergency Community Support Fund and The Community Foundation of PEI.  If anyone knows of other PEI pharmacies that have adopted clear-window masks, please let me know.

CIMG4419 Sep 10 2020 Shawn Callaghan Sobeys Stratford

Pharmacist Shawn Callaghan of Sobey’s Pharmacy in Stratford. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

CIMG4786 Oct 27 2020 Josh Curran Sobeys Pharmacy Montague blog

Pharmacist Josh Curran of Sobey’s Pharmacy in Montague. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Discrimination takes many forms.  The lack of hearing accessibility measures, which can be readily addressed by businesses and services, requires those of us with hearing loss to speak out about our needs, and to be more visible. 

Hear PEI recommends that those with hearing loss wear a hard of hearing pin when running errands and to ask their contacts to adopt a clear-window face mask.  These two small initiatives help you to do your part to ‘Rise Up Against Discrimination’ towards those with hearing loss.

You can order a clear-window face mask or hard of hearing pin here:  https://form.jotform.com/201983720272252

Thank you to Rheal Leger for sharing his experience, to the PEI Human Rights Commission for including Hear PEI in its 2020 Human Rights Day event, and to the staff at Sobey’s Pharmacies in Stratford and Montague for wearing clear-window masks.  Do you have an experience or tip to share? Send an email to hearpei@gmail.com, comment on the blog, or tweet to @HearPEI.

 © Daria Valkenburg

 

Speech Transfer System Installed At The Info Desk At Queen Elizabeth Hospital

RevisedDec 3 2020 QEH Info Desk STS Carol Richards Janice Morrison Judy Fraser

Carol Richards (left) and Judy Fraser (right) with QEH Manager Volunteer Services Janice Morrision at the Info Desk at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

LoopPEI_logo-P2December 11, 2020.  In the same week that Speech Transfer Systems were installed at the Access PEI offices in Charlottetown and Summerside, one was also installed at the Information Desk in the front lobby at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown.  Annie Lee MacDonald and I went to check it out.  (For the story on Access PEI, see https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/2020/12/08/speech-transfer-systems-at-access-pei-make-it-easier-to-hear/)

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Tom Barnes with two of the QEH volunteers after the new Speech Transfer System was installed by him and Phil Pater.  (Photo credit: Phil Pater)

 …. How do I know there is a Speech Transfer System in place?…..

It’s very easy to see at a glance if a plexiglass window is equipped with a Speech Transfer System as it is marked with a sticker showing a broken ear and a ‘T’ in the lower right corner.  ‘T’ refers to ‘telecoil’. 

Intl symbol for a hearing loop

International symbol for hearing loop accessibility.

If you have a hearing aid or cochlear implant, you likely have a telecoil function.  If not, speak to your audiologist.  Alternatively, you can purchase a hearing loop receiver. For more information see The Let’s Loop PEI Project – How You Can Access An Area With A Hearing Loop

…. How does a Speech Transfer System work?…..

The Speech Transfer System transfers speech in both directions by means of a microphone on one side of the glass which is connected to a speaker on the other side.  The amplification helps anyone to hear more clearly. 

If you access the telecoil function, then you not only hear exquisite clarity of sound, you also eliminate background noise as all you hear is what is coming through the microphone.  In a hectic and noisy place like a hospital this is a great advantage.

Hear PEI and all of us with hearing loss commend the Info Desk at Queen Elizabeth Hospital for providing a hearing accessibility tool that helps both volunteers and hospital visitors to communicate more effectively.  If you are at the Info Desk and use the Speech Transfer System, please let us know about the experience.  Your feedback will be passed along to QEH. 

For a listing of the places on PEI equipped with a hearing loop, see https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/places-on-pei-equipped-with-a-hearing-loop/

Which business or service do YOU wish would install a Speech Transfer System on Prince Edward Island? Send an email to hearpei@gmail.com, comment on the blog, or tweet to @HearPEI.

 © Daria Valkenburg

Speech Transfer Systems At Access PEI Make It Easier To Hear

Photo from Travis Kingdon

Annie Lee MacDonald and Daria Valkenburg with Access PEI Director Mark Arsenault in Charlottetown in front of one of the new Speech Transfer Systems.  (Photo taken by Travis Kingdon)

LoopPEI_logo-P2December 8, 2020.  Sometimes businesses and services listen!  Mark Arsenault, Director of Access PEI, heard me on the radio in August talking about clear-window masks, and contacted me afterwards.  How could Access PEI make life easier for people with hearing loss? he asked.

After hearing that a Speech Transfer System with amplification and hearing loop accessibility would make a big difference he committed to putting in a system on a trial basis in the Charlottetown and Summerside offices.

He delivered on that promise… Two speech transfer systems in each location were recently installed by the certified Contacta installers on the Island…. one at a service window and one at the photo taking area in both locations.

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Speech Transfer System at the photo counter at Access PEI in Summerside.  (Photo credit: Phil Pater)

It’s very easy to see at a glance which window has the Speech Transfer System as it is marked with a sticker showing a broken ear and a ‘T’ in the lower right corner.  ‘T’ refers to ‘telecoil’.

Intl symbol for a hearing loop

International symbol for hearing loop accessibility.

If you have a hearing aid or cochlear implant, you likely have a telecoil function.  If not, speak to your audiologist.  Alternatively, you can purchase a hearing loop receiver. For more information see The Let’s Loop PEI Project – How You Can Access An Area With A Hearing Loop .

…. How does a Speech Transfer System work?…..

The Speech Transfer System transfers speech in both directions by means of a microphone on one side of the glass which is connected to a speaker on the other side.  The amplification helps anyone to hear more clearly.

If you access the telecoil function, then you not only hear exquisite clarity of sound, you also eliminate background noise as all you hear is what is coming through the microphone.  In a busy and noisy place like Access PEI this is a great advantage.

Last week, Annie Lee MacDonald and I joined Mark Arsenault at the Access PEI office in Charlottetown.  CBC PEI reporter Travis Kingdon was there and prepared an interview which was posted on CBC PEI’s website: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/pei-access-hearpei-speech-transfer-1.5827321

CIMG4974 Dec 3 2020 Access PEI Ctown Annie Lee filmed by Travis Kingdon

CBC PEI’s Travis Kingdon films Annie Lee MacDonald. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Dec 3 2020 AL & Mark by Jill Edwards

Annie Lee MacDonald points to the sign indicating the counter has a speech transfer system, while Mark Arsenault looks on. (Photo courtesy of Jill Edwards)

Hear PEI and all of us with hearing loss commend Access PEI for providing a hearing accessibility tool that helps everyone to communicate more effectively.  If you visit one of these two locations and use the Speech Transfer System, please let us know about the experience.  Your feedback will be passed along to Access PEI management.

Thank you also to Travis Kingdon of CBC PEI for helping to get the word out that this hearing accessibility improvement is available at Access PEI.  Send an email to hearpei@gmail.com, comment on the blog, or tweet to @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

‘Hearing Accessibility Is A Human Right’ Now On YouTube

November 27, 2020. Hearing accessibility is enshrined in the United Nations Human Rights Declaration, of which Canada is a signatory. The Province of Prince Edward Island, along with other provinces and territories, have adopted similar legislation.  However, legislation is ineffective without enforcement and the active engagement of people who need accommodation.

In our current 2020 world of people wearing masks that cover their faces, plexiglass barriers without speech transfer systems, and video meetings/presentations without captioning, a hearing accessible environment is not always being provided.

People with hearing loss may grumble to each other about the difficulties they encounter, but they are not vocal and upfront enough in stating what accommodations they need.

Over the past months, Islanders have been asked to be inclusive and wear clear-window face masks, and businesses and services have been informed about speech transfer systems.  People with hearing loss were encouraged to wear a hard of hearing pin when out in public.   The more visible and matter-of-fact we are about our hearing loss, the greater the likelihood that changes will occur to provide a hearing accessible environment.

The right to have a hearing accessible environment is so important that we made a short video…. with the participation of the PEI Human Rights Commission, the PEI Council of People With Disabilities, and the PEI Association For Newcomers To Canada.  It’s become very clear that people with hearing loss are not the only ones who face challenges in a world of masks and plexiglass barriers!

This second episode of Season 2 of Hear PEI videos on YouTube continues the series of videos on how Covid-19 pandemic measures have had an impact on people with hearing loss.  This project is one of the initiatives funded with support by the Government of Canada’s Emergency Community Support Fund and The Community Foundation of PEI. 

To learn what hearing accessibility means for you as in navigating your community or as someone who provides services to those that may need accommodation for hearing accessibility, you won’t want to miss watching this video…..

Here are some initial comments from the first viewers….

Rheal Leger: “…Very well done. To the point and very clear. BRAVO to you guys for being so proactive….

Patricia Gibbs:  “I think your group is doing an outstanding job, getting the word out about hearing deficiencies.  I think the clear masks are unique and serviceable for the hearing impaired. Your province is fortunate to have your group making sure the hearing impaired rights will be followed and implemented…

Rosalie Blanchard: “The video is wonderful!  Great quality, content and important message. You put a lot of work into it!…

Sergio and Lina Canonico: “…Very informative.  Well done….

Thank you to participants Rosalie Blanchard, Marcia Carroll, Tom Hilton, and Brenda Picard, and to post-production editor Wendy Nattress for making this video a reality.

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Did you know that you can subscribe to our YouTube Channel once you are on YouTube to watch the video? You can also ‘like’ it and ‘share’ it.   

Christmas stockings

Need a stocking stuffer, or just want to add to your hard of hearing pin or clear-window face mask collection? You can place your order here:  https://form.jotform.com/201983720272252. And yes, your order can be mailed.

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

‘Hard of Hearing’ Pins Are A Hit!

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A sampling of ‘hard of hearing’ pins.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

November 18, 2020. After the ‘Say It With A Pin’ video was added to the Hear PEI Association YouTube Channel, Angela Walker of CBC PEI interviewed me about the impact of the hard of hearing pins.

The interview ran on CBC Radio’s Mainstreet PEI and was followed up with a web article, which CBC posted on its CBC Health page.  We were heartened by the response, and found it encouraging that so many people were interested in the pins.

Here is the link to the radio interview:  https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-130-mainstreet-pei/clip/15808544-hear-peis-button-pins

And here is the link to the CBC article:  ‘Hard of hearing’ pins help cut down on COVID-19 misunderstandingsSee https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/pei-hearing-pins-covid-19-1.5799676

Missed seeing the posting about the ‘Say It With A Pin’ video? See https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/2020/11/04/say-it-with-a-pin-video-on-youtube/

If you are looking for a holiday gift, or want to add to your hard of hearing pin or clear-window face mask collection, you can place your order here:  https://form.jotform.com/201983720272252.

Thank you to Angela Walker and to CBC PEI for helping get the word out about the pins and the challenges faced these days.

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

Clear-Window Face Masks Are Also For Veterans

CIMG4893 Nov 11 2020 Cenotaph outside Borden Carleton Legion

Cenotaph outside Borden-Carleton Legion with the official wreaths.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

November 12, 2020. On November 11, a curtailed, but moving, Remembrance Day service was held outside the Borden-Carleton Legion, in front of the Cenotaph.  Among the veterans participating was one special guy… my beloved husband… who wore a clear-window face mask so that no one would have trouble seeing his face, making communications much easier on all.  I was very proud and touched that he made this gesture of inclusiveness and visibility. 

CIMG4891 Nov 11 2020 Pieter takes salute for Govt of Canada wreath

Pieter Valkenburg wore a clear-window mask as a gesture of inclusiveness and respect for those who need to see a person’s face in order to communicate.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

1282850315[1]  of military have hearing loss by retirement!

A few years ago a study reported that one third of military personnel have hearing loss by the time they retire, due to explosions, gunfire, engine noise, and alarms.  (See http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/military-hearing-loss-members-reluctant-to-wear-protection-1.4711517)

This percentage will only increase as veterans age. With hearing loss such an important issue for veterans, I was disappointed that the Royal Canadian Legion did not make clear-window masks a priority when it started selling its own masks. 

Speaking of clear-window face masks…..

We now have a lovely selection of holiday themed clear-window face masks, as well as masks in smaller and larger sizes. This is in addition to the regular sized clear-window masks. 

CIMG4508 Oct 19 2020 xmas masks

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

If you are looking for a holiday gift, or want to add to your hard of hearing pin or clear-window face mask collection, you can place your order 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

‘Say It With A Pin’ Video on YouTube

CIMG4349 Aug 13 2020 Lobster Barn video Annie Lee & Daria with pins

Annie Lee MacDonald and Daria Valkenburg wearing their hard of hearing pins.  (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

November 4, 2020. Season 2 of Hear PEI videos has its first entry up for the year on YouTube.  A series of videos on how Covid-19 pandemic measures has had an impact on people with hearing loss is one of the initiatives funded with support by the Government of Canada’s Emergency Community Support Fund and The Community Foundation of PEI.

The biggest impact on us is the ability to navigate in a world of masks that cover mouths (rather than clear-window masks) and plexiglass barriers without speech transfer systems.  It’s made daily life more challenging and for some people it’s been the tipping point between independence in running errands and dependence on others to act as interpreters.

While we have been advocating for people to be inclusive and wear clear-window masks, and for businesses and organizations with plexiglass barriers to install speech transfer systems, the reality is that we can’t control what others do.  So we have been recommending that Islanders (and anyone else) with hearing loss wear a pin that identifies them as ‘hard of hearing’.

Wearing a pin not only provides visibility and lets others know we may not hear or comprehend what is being said, it is a measure of courtesy to those who may not know us.  It also provides awareness to businesses and services that currently ignore the fact that many clients, customers, and patients have hearing loss.  Anytime I have worn my pin I have had only positive interactions.

Therefore, it seems only fitting that the first episode for Season 2 is ‘Say It With A Pin’. Take a look:

Since the video was posted, we’ve had positive feedback.  Here are a few of the comments….

Mieke de Bie, a viewer in Belgium wrote “…This is a very interesting and clearing video. In Belgium we have a sort of that. It’s named The Beethoven Charter!  There are several clubs who use it for their members. When there is a lecture, hard hearing persons get the text on paper so they can follow-up everything…

Brien Robertson replied with “…Love it! Great idea. I think wearing a pin is so helpful. While I have good hearing I remember being in the Metro in DC prior to having cataract surgery and not being to read the signs in the dull light. I had to ask people for help. I sure got strange looks as with a briefcase people could tell I was not illiterate. That pin is such a great idea for the person and others…

Patricia Gibbs said “… I watched your video.  I think you are doing an outstanding job, helping people hear better in their every day dealings…

Marilyn Berezowsky noted “ An excellent video! Well done…

Joan Gallant reacted with “…. To all of you….very well done.  Not sure if I can wear mine on a jacket but will try it.  I always say I am hard of hearing and cashiers sometimes take off their mask as I cannot hear with a face mask on.  So I’m not sure the pin would help me there but I will try it and let you know if I have any responses.  Thanks for the video…

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You can subscribe to our YouTube Channel once you are on YouTube to watch the video. You can also ‘like’ it and ‘share’ it.

Thank you to participants Marie and Bernard McKenna, Rheal Leger, and Dr. Heidi Eaton, and to post-production editor Wendy Nattress for making this video a reality.

Want to add to your hard of hearing pin or clear-window face mask collection?  Order 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

 

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