8 Questions To Ask When Doing A Needs Assessment For A Hearing Loop Installation

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February 22, 2019.  We quite often get questions about hearing loops when people are looking at options to improve hearing accessibility in their public facilities, such as a town hall or church.

A hearing loop works with an existing sound system, it is not the sound system itself.  What is a hearing loop, then?  It’s a copper wire that “loops” around the periphery of a room.  It transmits an electromagnetic field within its loop, allowing a hearing aid or cochlear implant’s telecoil (also called a T-Coil) to function as an antenna directly linking the listener to the facility’s sound system.

Once a place is ready for an estimate of the costs to install a hearing loop, a site survey questionnaire is completed about the facility.  Before that step is taken, however, there is usually a basic ‘needs assessment’ process prior to getting approvals to setting aside funds for hearing accessibility.

This is perfectly understandable, but one always wonders…. would the same discussion occur if we were talking about a wheelchair ramp?  A washroom that’s wheelchair accessible?  How many people need to use a wheelchair ramp before a facility will install one?  Is a cost/benefit analysis done?  Or do you agree that the facility needs to be accessible for even one person?  Hearing accessibility is just as important.  But it’s also important for people with hearing loss to acknowledge it.

The ‘needs assessment’ can be a way to build awareness of the importance of hearing accessibility and to gain support and approval for installing a hearing loop.   Encourage decision makers and members of the organization/church to listen to the difference between what you hear through a hearing loop and what you hear through the sound system.  Ask them if they hear not only the clarity of sound, but also if they have noticed that all background noises are eliminated.

What was recorded through the microphone by the front pew of the church: 

https://soundcloud.com/user-82887253/zoom0013pieternonloopedmp3?utm_source=soundcloud&utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=email

What was recorded through the hearing loop:

https://soundcloud.com/user-82887253/zoom0012pieterloopedmp3?utm_source=soundcloud&utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=email

So, what are the 8 questions that could be included in a needs assessment?  To get the most honest answers, you may wish to make completing the assessment done anonymously.

  1. Who is having trouble hearing and understanding what is being said during meetings/concerts/services?  People may ‘hear’, but do they understand what is being said?
  2. What is the size of the venue? How many members or attendees generally attend?
  3. What is the venue used for?
  4. Who already has a hearing aid or cochlear implant? Ask them to be honest!
  5. Of those who have a hearing aid, how many have the telecoil activated? If not activated, would they be willing to speak to an audiologist and ask to have it activated?
  6. If someone has hearing loss, but doesn’t have a hearing aid, or has a hearing aid without the telecoil activated, would they use a hearing loop receiver to access the hearing loop? A hearing loop receiver would mean wearing earbuds or headphones.

Since it may not be financially feasible to loop an entire facility, it’s a good idea to have an idea of the number of potential users.  Questions 2 to 6 address that.

7. People who attend churches usually have favourite places to sit in the sanctuary. One concern some churches have is whether congregation members would be willing to move from their customary spot into a looped area, in the event that the entire sanctuary cannot be looped initially. We’ve not heard of this issue in other types of venues, but a reasonable question may be to ask if the person would be willing to sit in a looped area in the event that the entire venue can’t be looped.  Another question to ask if whether people who don’t have hearing loss be willing to move out of the looped area in order to accommodate those who need to access a hearing loop.

8. The needs assessment should be answered by all, not just those who currently have hearing loss. A sample question could be:  Would you support the installation of a hearing loop for improved hearing accessibility, even if you yourself do not have hearing loss?   You may have to explain that this would be no different than making other accessibility provisions, such as a wheelchair ramp, a wheelchair accessible bathroom, or grab bars in the bathroom, for those with physical disabilities.

Have you done a needs assessment before determining whether to install a hearing loop?  Have you installed a hearing loop in your facility?  Please share your experience, and any additional questions you may have asked, by commenting on this blog, or by sending an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  You can also follow us on Twitter @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

UPCOMING EVENTS

An upcoming event in a venue equipped with a hearing loop gives you a chance to experience the clarity of sound heard through a hearing loop. Variety concert and cake auction at West River United Church, 9 Cornwall Rd in Cornwall, March 2, 2019 at 6:30 pm.  Event is to raise funds for the Rogers family’s upcoming 8 week stay in Montreal for surgery to improve mobility due to cerebral palsy.  Storm date: March 9.  Admission by donation.

April Chapter meeting:  Tuesday, April 16, 2019 at 9:30 am at North Tryon Presbyterian Church. Guest speaker will be Lisa Gallant, pharmacist and owner of South Shore Pharmacy, who will talk about ototoxic drugs (drugs that affect your hearing).

Speech reading classes begin Spring 2019.  If you would like to register, send an email to hearpei@gmail.com.

 

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A New Hearing Accessibility Tool For Your Phone Or Tablet

February 14, 2019.  When you have hearing loss, you are always looking for something to help you hear.  One of the problems so many of us have is trying to hear in a group situation.  Pocket talkers are great for one to one conversations, or for hearing the television. A pocket talker is portable and doesn’t require an internet connection.  It works on a long lasting battery and doesn’t need to be plugged in.  However, a pocket talker is not great in group situations or a noisy environment as it picks up any sounds within its range.

Voice recognition software has been around for a few years, trying to give people with hearing loss an experience similar to closed captioning as we can see on TV, or through the use of subtitles on a DVD.  Real time captioning is available for conferences and meetings, but what if you are a person on your own and want to be able to participate in a conversation?  One program many of us tried is Live Caption. (See Who Knew Technology Was Our Friend?)  It wasn’t perfect, but better than nothing.

So I was very interested when blog reader Jane Scott sent an email about a new application.  “I was reading today about Google’s new LIVE TRANSCRIBE application for android phones that seems to do a pretty decent job of transcribing live speech to text.  It looks very promising.

Jane downloaded the app on her phone and tried it out, and gave her opinion on it. “Love the attachment!  From limited use it does very well.  Once on you get real time captioning.  Easy Peasy. I do wonder whether it would work over a speaker phone.  Anyway it’s cool…..

The phrase ‘easy peasy’ did it for me, so I asked Tech Support (my husband) to download the app on my Android tablet.  Not only was it free, but it was very easy to download and even easier to use.  One of the tests I had was whether it would be able to transcribe what my husband, with his Dutch accent, said.  Not a problem, it picked up every word both of us said.

Even better, the app has a choice of over 70 languages to use, and you can choose a primary language, English in our case, plus a secondary language.  This gives you the flexibility to have a bilingual conversation.

We first tried it with English and Ukrainian, as I was curious to see if it would transcribe Cyrillic letters.  It did.  We then changed the secondary language to Dutch.  It worked perfectly, as you can see in the photo below.  One caution:  You’ll note that it transcribes in the second language, it doesn’t translate.

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Live Transcribe bilingual conversation in English and Dutch on my tablet. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

The next test was to see how it did in a group and very noisy environment.  I didn’t have high hopes, but to my surprise, it picked up the conversation at our table for four people during breakfast in a crowded and noisy hotel lobby and ignored the background noise.  Wow! No more struggling to hear!  I could follow the conversation on my tablet.

IMG_20190214_085912559 Daria with Chuck & Ruth

Daria, centre, with Minnesota snowbirds Ruth and Chuck. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

I asked a lady with a Ukrainian accent to try it out, and it captured her speech perfectly.  Then I showed her how it worked in transcribing Ukrainian and she was amazed.  Unfortunately she had an iPhone, so couldn’t download the app.

So, now a bit about the app, as explained on the website…. “It’s powered by Google’s speech recognition technology, so the captions adjust as your conversation flows. And since conversations aren’t stored on servers, they stay secure on your device.  Live Transcribe is easy to use, anywhere you have a WiFi or network connection. It’s free to download on over 1.8B Android devices operating with 5.0 Lollipop and up.”  So, it appears that your conversations don’t go into ‘the cloud’, which is good news.  It also auto-corrects if it realizes that it has made an error.

Google explains that the app was developed in partnership with Gallaudet University in Washington, DC, a school for the deaf and hard of hearing, “to make sure that Live Transcribe was helpful for everyday use.

My opinion? Live Transcribe is FANTASTIC!  I’m going to take my tablet to tonight’s Snowbird Valentine Dinner, another high decibel level event that makes hearing impossible.  Want to try it for yourself?  Here is the link:  https://www.android.com/accessibility/live-transcribe/.

Please share your experience by commenting on this blog, or by sending an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  You can also follow us on Twitter @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

April Chapter meeting:  Tuesday, April 16, 2019 at 9:30 am at North Tryon Presbyterian Church. Guest speaker Lisa Gallant, pharmacist and owner of South Shore Pharmacy, will talk about ototoxic drugs (drugs that affect your hearing).

Speech reading classes begin Spring 2019.  To register, send an email to hearpei@gmail.com.

 

 

Tips For Enjoying Valentine’s Day

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

February 12, 2019.  Valentine’s Day…. what a wonderful day to look forward to….. candlelight dinners, moonlight walks, sweet nothings whispered into your ear by your loved one.  Right?  If you have hearing loss, not right, but a recipe for a frustrating time for both you and your partner.

With my Dutch-born husband, dining by candlelight, walks in the moonlight, and whispered sweet nothings would never happen, luckily for me.  He prefers the lights on so he can see what he’s eating.  As for the rest, well, let’s just say he’d say I read one too many romance books.  As the husband of a person with hearing loss, though, he’s a treasure and truly my Valentine.

So, with Valentine’s Day approaching in a few days, here are a few of our experiences and some tips to share with you to make the day memorable and fun…..

Valentine

Valentine’s Day usually means flowers in our household!

  1. Words written down, on a card or in a note, go a lot further than whispers you can’t hear anyways. Plus, you have something to read over again!
  2. Save the candlelight for when there is a power failure, and instead enjoy the experience of being able to look at your partner in good light. You’ll not only be able to see, you’ll hear better!
  3. If you can choose a venue that is friendly to those with hearing loss, do so. Otherwise, bring a pad and pencil for emergencies and just be prepared not to hear as well as you should.
  4. Relax and enjoy yourself. If you are having fun, your partner will too.

We celebrate Valentine’s Day TWICE, once with a quiet and romantic lunch ‘a deux’ a few days before the big day.  This year we went to a Thai restaurant and had a wonderful meal in a quiet environment.  Not one pardon me, what did you say?” from me at all!

On Valentine’s Day itself, we are part of a group of snowbirds treated to a Valentine’s Dinner by the hotel we stay at.  Snowbirds and hearing loss …. you can already hear the noise level rising, can’t you? People talk a lot…and loudly… and the hotel likes to provide background music for our ‘enjoyment’.  Last year it was a violinist, the year before it was a disc jockey playing music so loudly that people were forced to shut off their hearing aids.  We’ve gently asked them to forego the music this year, so people can talk and hear each other.  Fingers crossed for this year’s event.

Do you have a story about Valentine’s Day?  Share your experience by commenting on this blog, or by sending an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  You can also follow us on Twitter @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

April Chapter meeting:  Tuesday, April 16, 2019 at 9:30 am at North Tryon Presbyterian Church. Guest speaker Lisa Gallant, pharmacist and owner of South Shore Pharmacy, will talk about ototoxic drugs (drugs that affect your hearing).

Speech reading classes begin Spring 2019.  To register, send an email to hearpei@gmail.com.

 

Two and A Half Hours of Being Unable To Hear!

February 2, 2019.  Have you ever wished that your friends and family could spend some time experiencing the difficulty you may have in hearing?  A number of people inadvertently got this ‘opportunity’.

Last week our hotel offered a movie afternoon.  The movie was “First Man’, with Ryan Gosling, which I wanted to see.  I went a bit early to ask if the organizers would turn on the subtitles so I wouldn’t miss any of the dialogue, and I made sure I got a front row seat.  I didn’t have to rush.  While the room filled very quickly, no one wanted to be in the front row, but closer to the back of the room, where the hotel thoughtfully had popcorn and beverages available.

The movie was in a brand new hotel, a sister property to the hotel I’m at, with a state of the art built-in sound system.  So, I was quite surprised to find out that even though I was in the front row, I had great difficulty hearing the dialogue.  “Better get my hearing checked once I’m back home” I thought.

I could hear whispering behind me, but as most people talk through a movie, I didn’t pay any attention. I had to concentrate on the subtitles.

Shortly after the movie started, one of the men walked out of the room.  I figured he went to find a restroom, but he came back with the hotel manager, and they both fiddled with the remote control.  That was my first clue that maybe the sound wasn’t loud enough.  However, there was no change to the sound, and within a few minutes the manager left, and the man sat down.  Another man quietly got up and moved to the front row.  For the rest of the movie, which was 2 ½ hours long, no one made a sound.

When the movie ended, everyone looked at each other.  “Could you hear what was being said?”  It turned out that no one heard much of the dialogue.  “It’s a good thing there were subtitles”, a number of people said.

The interesting point was that, with the exception of the one man who went out of the room to see the manager, no one said they couldn’t hear….until after the movie ended and it turned out to be an unintended shared experience!

Almost everyone in the room was aware that I have hearing loss, and when I didn’t say anything, no one wanted to cause a fuss! It turned out that everyone in the room has some degree of hearing loss and each person thought it was just them that couldn’t hear properly!

You can imagine how relieved we all were to find out that it wasn’t our hearing that wasn’t working.  The sound system for the speakers had shut off during a power outage a few days earlier. This was the first time the sound system was used, so no one in the hotel knew it hadn’t come back on when the power was restored!

And….since only one person spoke to management during the movie, guess what the hotel management thought?  The person who said he couldn’t hear had a problem. It couldn’t be the new sound system, since no one else said anything.  Hmmm….. does this sound familiar?   Would YOU have spoken up?

Share your experience by commenting on this blog, or by sending an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  You can also follow us on Twitter @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

Just in time for Valentine’s Day!….. an upcoming event in a venue equipped with a hearing loop gives you a chance to experience the clarity of sound heard through a hearing loop. CONCERT:  Phase II & Friends Valentine’s Concert at West River United Church in Cornwall, February 10, 2019 at 3 pm. Songs of love will make you laugh, cry and feel like dancing. Doors open at 2:30. Tickets are $10 and are available in the church office or at the door.

April Chapter meeting:  Tuesday, April 16, 2019 at 9:30 am at North Tryon Presbyterian Church. Guest speaker Lisa Gallant, pharmacist and owner of South Shore Pharmacy, will talk about ototoxic drugs (drugs that affect your hearing).

Speech reading classes begin Spring 2019.  To register, send an email to hearpei@gmail.com.