Hansard Record of the Petition Presented In the PEI Legislature on July 9, 2019

August 31, 2019.  The petition that requested the members of the PEI Legislature to supplement the cost of hearing aids for seniors by extending the AccessAbility Supports Program to include all adults, not just those up to age 65, or devise a similar program was presented in the PEI Legislature by Leader of the Official Opposition, and Green Party Leader, Peter Bevan-Baker, on Tuesday, July 9, 2019.  (See Petition Presented In PEI Legislature and Hearing Loss — Why Is It An Ignored Condition?)

How many of you are aware that an official government record of the proceedings is recorded in video and transcribed in the Hansard Record of the PEI Legislative Assembly for July 9, 2019?  See http://archives.assembly.pe.ca/archives/?file=20190709&number=2&year=2019 to watch the proceedings on video.

The Hansard Record of the PEI Legislative Assembly on July 9, 2019 recorded the following discussion about the petition.  The page numbers refer to the pages in the official record.  If you read the transcription below, you will notice that Peter Bevan-Baker brings up the key points about hearing loss and then asks the Minister of Health and Wellness, James Aylward, about the discrepancy based on age.  The Minister of Social Development and Housing, Ernie Hudson, also makes a comment about hearing loss and the need to look into the programs available.

Page 770:

Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Opposition.

Leader of the Opposition: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

If the three most common chronic health conditions in Canada, arthritis is number one, hypertension/high blood pressure is number two and hearing loss is number three. Hearing loss is a chronic condition that can lead to more serious issues and health problems if hearing and accessibility tools are not available or affordable.

Hearing loss serious issue for Islanders

A question to the hon. Minister of Health and Wellness: Does government consider hearing loss to be a serious issue for all Islanders?

 Speaker: The hon. Minister of Health and Wellness.

Mr. Aylward: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Yes, hearing loss is definitely a concern to this government and that’s why we have campaigns in place to help educate people, especially around worksites, to wear the proper ear protection and to our youth as well.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Opposition.

 Leader of the Opposition: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Indeed, prevention is a very important aspect of this, but later today I will be presenting documents from an organization called Hear PEI, including a petition with over 2,000 signatures calling for government to extend coverage for all Islanders suffering from hearing loss.

Here on PEI, seniors and adults over 65 are not treated equally in access to hearing aid funding. Those under 65 apply through the accessibility supports program and applicants qualify based on their net income, and almost everybody qualifies. Those over 65 have to apply through the income

Page 771:

supports program, and applicants qualify based on their assets. Currently, anybody with assets over $2,500 becomes ineligible.

Accessibility to funding for hearing aids

To the same minister: Why are there two different measures for accessibility to funding for hearing aids?

Speaker: The hon. Minister of Health and Wellness.

Mr. Hudson: Mr. Speaker?

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: The hon. Minister of Social Development and Housing.

Mr. Hudson: Yes, and I do appreciate the question that the hon. member is bringing forward.

Hearing loss is a challenge for anyone at any age group and is more prevalent in seniors.

Will we look at this? Can we look at this on a go-forward basis? I would say yes, absolutely. Can I give a guarantee or would I give a guarantee today? I’m not in a position to do that for the hon. member or for this House.

At this point in time, Island seniors − the hon. member is correct – Island seniors who are low income do qualify on an annual basis for up to $1,500 per hearing aid, so which would be, if my information is accurate, would be $3,000 per individual senior.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Opposition.

Leader of the Opposition: Thank you.

That’s true for seniors under 65, but those over 65 it’s means tested and if you have $2,500 in your bank account you qualify for zero dollars.

Untreated hearing loss has been associated with a number of other conditions, including depression, social isolation, increased risk for falls and accidents, and it often contributed to a misdiagnosis of dementia. All of these result in increased health care expenditures to government, and hearing almost always, of course, deteriorates as we get older, resulting in the demographic most in need of supports being the one where funding is most lacking.

To the same minister, or to the Minister of Health and Wellness, I don’t really mind: Why is government prepared to fund the cost of issues that often result from hearing loss, such as depression and dementia, but is not seriously looking at ways to help those with hearing loss be able to afford hearing aids?

Speaker: The hon. Minister of Social Development and Housing.

Mr. Hudson: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Again, I thank the hon. member for the question.

I think on a go-forward basis, as I had said, hon. member, previously, I’m not in a position to stand here today that I would give any commitment with that. I think that it is a very pertinent question that you have raised – suggestion that you have brought forward and as we move forward as a government, certainly one that I personally would be willing to take under consideration.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Page 777:

Tabling of Documents

Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Opposition.

Leader of the Opposition: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

By leave of the House, I beg leave to table a document entitled 2019 Advocacy Action Regarding Increased Funding for Senior’s Needing Hearing Aids on PEI, signed petition book No. 1 and I move, seconded by the Honourable Member from Charlottetown-Brighton, that the said document be now received and do lie on the Table.

Speaker: Shall it carry? Carried.

The hon. Leader of the Opposition.

Leader of the Opposition: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Page 778:

By leave of the House, I beg leave to table a document entitled 2019 Advocacy Action Regarding Increased Funding for Senior’s Needing Hearing Aids on PEI, signed petition book No. 2 and I move, seconded by the Honourable Member from Charlottetown-Brighton, that the said document be now received and do lie on the Table.

Speaker: Shall it carry? Carried.

The hon. Leader of the Opposition.

Leader of the Opposition: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

By leave of the House, I beg leave to table a document entitled 2019 Advocacy Action Regarding Increased Funding for Senior’s Needing Hearing Aids on Prince Edward Island, law postings, letters to politicians, letters of support received and a copy of the petition.

With your indulgence, I feel I need to explain to the House why these are being presented as documents rather than being tabled by a petition.

The group HearPEI collected over 2,000 signatures for this petition, that’s an unusually large number for this House and it was a very well-worded and a very powerful petition but there was one tiny problem with it. The prayer of the petition asked the Legislative Assembly to supplement the cost of hearing aids and in that action involves disbursement of public funds and that’s not something by the rules of this House that is allowed in a petition.

But despite this, I feel that there is a great benefit in presenting this petition even if it is under the portion of the House business, tabling of documents.

I specifically want to thank the organizers Daria Valkenburg, a lady who’s already been witnessed here in the House today and Ilene (sic. it should be Annie Lee) Macdonald who is sitting behind me, they put a huge amount of work to bring this petition forward to the House, supported as it is and I know signed by at least four members of this House; myself, Cornwall-Meadowbank, the Leader of the Third Party and the minister for climate change and all those various other things.

Anyway, thank you for that indulgence Mr. Speaker. I move seconded by the Honourable Member from Charlottetown-Brighton, that the said document be now received and do lie on the Table.

Speaker: Shall it carry? Carried.

This was a very interesting and informative look into how government works.  In previous postings people interested in changing government policy were asked to write to their MLA, to the newspapers, and to send us a copy.  Not many did.  Does this mean it’s not a priority for Islanders anymore?   Without more vocal support this issue will go no further in the legislature.  (Click here to read an article published in the County Line Courier CLC Jul 24 2019 p21 Hearing Loss Why Is It An Ignored Condition)

Thank you to Peter Bevan-Baker for sending the Hansard Record and video link of the July 9, 2019 proceedings, and for the tremendous job he did in articulating the issues involved regarding the hearing aid subsidies.  You can always email us at hearpei@gmail.com or comment on this blog, and follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI

© Daria Valkenburg

UPCOMING EVENTS

September Chapter meeting:  Tuesday, September 24, 2019 at 9:30 am at North Tryon Presbyterian Church.  Guest speaker​s​:  Brenda Porter, who will lead a discussion on taking responsibility for dealing with your hearing lossAnnie Lee MacDonald and Daria Valkenburg will introduce you to some of the Tinnitus Relaxation Therapy techniques they learned this summer.

Fall Speech Reading Classes: Level I will run Tuesday afternoons, from 2 to 4 pm in Charlottetown, beginning September 24, with popular speech reading instructor Nancy MacPhee, and will run for 10 weeks. Email hearpei@gmail.com for more information or to register.   What will you learn? 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. Speech reading takes lots of patience and practice, but it’s also fun!

MORE ON…. What Do YOU Do With Your Hearing Aids At Bedtime?

August 29, 2019.  A recent posting summarized a discussion a number of us had regarding the question “Do you take out your hearing aids overnight?”  (See What Do YOU Do With Your Hearing Aids At Bedtime?) Feedback from readers was invited and a few people added their voice to the commentary.  The responses:

By Twitter:

Jen: “Take them out! Behind the ear with large molds are not that comfortable to sleep with.

Jane: “Cats love the taste of earwax. Learned the hard way that I MUST put my hearing aids in a container or inside a drawer on my bedside table or it’s a cat toy!!!. Twice.. chewed earbuds not covered by warranty!

By Email:

Julie: “Hearing aids ALWAYS come out at night and most nights are put into the dehumidifier that came with my hearing aids. They simply cost too much to risk getting them damaged not to mention how sore you ears are (just falling asleep in an upright position during a quick nap). The safety hazard that comes from being without them when they need to be sent away for maintenance (e.g. Such as damage from laying in them) is far greater than the risk of falling asleep without them in my ears in my home or anywhere else.

Intriguing question though…..anyone I know who is worried about night time security has installed special alarms systems in their home. I know one family where all three family members are deaf and that was the solution they found worked best.

Another thought…. if you don’t remove your hearing aids at night your brain probably is not resting enough and lack of good quality sleep can make daytime hearing more difficult and stressful….just my two cents.

Thank you to those who responded.  Julie brings up an excellent point between lack of sleep and one’s ability to hear!  And thanks to Jane, we now know cats love earwax and can see your hearing aids as a toy!  It’s not too late if you want to tell us what YOU do with your hearing aids at bedtime, and if  your normal practice changes if you travel. Let us know!

In the meantime… I recently read an interesting article on how hearing aids are being partnered with artificial intelligence (AI) to tell if:

  • You are actually using your hearing aids, or if they are sitting in your purse or bedroom drawer!  How does AI know?  It can tell if you are actively listening!
  • You’ve fallen.  If so, a message can go out to request help to contacts you have pre-selected, along with your location.  Yes, these new hearing aids will know where you are!
  • You’re getting enough exercise.  If you are interested in tracking how many steps you take in a day, you no longer will need to wear a wrist device.  Your hearing aid can tell you, apparently with more accuracy too.
  • You are listening to a foreign language and need simultaneous translation.  Boy, I could sure use that when visiting my husband’s Dutch relatives!

For more information, please read the article at: https://inews.co.uk/news/worlds-first-ai-enabled-hearing-aid-goes-on-sale-in-the-uk-livio-ai/

Would you wear a hearing aid with AI?  Email us at hearpei@gmail.com or comment on this blogYou can also follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI

© Daria Valkenburg

UPCOMING EVENTS

September Chapter meeting:  Tuesday, September 24, 2019 at 9:30 am at North Tryon Presbyterian Church.  Guest speaker​s​:  ​Brenda Porter, who will lead a discussion on taking responsibility for dealing with your hearing lossAnnie Lee MacDonald and Daria Valkenburg will introduce you to some of the Tinnitus Relaxation Therapy techniques they learned this summer.

Fall Speech Reading Classes: Level I will run Tuesday afternoons, from 2 to 4 pm in Charlottetown, beginning September 24, with popular speech reading instructor Nancy MacPhee, and will run for 10 weeks. Email hearpei@gmail.com for more information or to register.   What will you learn? 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. Speech reading takes lots of patience and practice, but it’s also fun!

 

 

What Do YOU Do With Your Hearing Aids At Bedtime?

August 14, 2019.  Not long ago, a few of us were having a casual conversation when the subject of hearing aids came up.  Specifically, the question was asked “Do you take out your hearing aids overnight?

Hearing aid manufacturers recommend that you remove your hearing aids at night to allow your ear to breathe and reduce the chance of an aid coming out and getting lost in the bedclothes.  It may also be uncomfortable to sleep with aids in your ears.

Removing your hearing aids and opening the battery door at night, or using a hearing aid dehumidifier, helps to extend the life of your hearing aid batteries.  (See https://www.starkey.com/blog/2017/11/Hearing-aid-batteries-longer-life-tips for more tips.)

Based on recommendations, you might expect the answer to the question posed to be YES, but the resulting discussion revealed that the answer was not as cut and dried as you might believe.

One said “Yes, if I’m at home, I remove my hearing aids before going to bed.”   However, safety was definitely a concern. One responded frankly by saying “It depends if my husband is with me.  If he is, I can relax, and so yes, I take them off.

Travelling or care giving responsibilities indicated changes to normal patterns, as was explained by a person who normally removed her hearing aids at night.  “I travelled with an elderly lady and left in my hearing aids.  In case she needed me at night, I wanted to hear her.”  Another explained that, “If I travel and am in a hotel room overnight, then I always sleep with one hearing aid in my ear.

It was a fascinating discussion.  Now we’re curious.  What do YOU do with your hearing aids at bedtime?  Does your normal practice change if you travel?  Let us know!  You can email us at hearpei@gmail.com or comment on this blogYou can also follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI

© Daria Valkenburg

UPCOMING EVENT

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 Happy Days Concert at West River United Church in Cornwall, Sunday August 25, 2019 at 7 pm. Music to warm your heart and soul. Tickets are $10 and are available in the church office or at the door.

 

Pocket Talkers Available At ALL Stewart McKelvey Offices In Maritimes

August 5, 2019.  Regular readers of this blog are aware of an ongoing project to improve hearing accessibility in legal offices here on the island.  Lawyers who participated in this project, which was made possible through a grant from the Law Foundation of PEI, received tips on communicating with people who have hearing loss, and were invited to try out a pocket talker.  By the end of the trial period, every firm ended up purchasing at least one.  And they used them, to the delight of many clients with hearing loss, who bought their own pocket talkers.  (See “The Pocket Talker Is My Lifeline”)

The law office of Stewart McKelvey in Charlottetown was one of the first firms to participate in the project.  As of this summer, the other 5 offices of this firm now have a pocket talker available. These additional officers are in: Halifax (Nova Scotia), Fredericton (New Brunswick), Moncton (New Brunswick), St. John (New Brunswick), and St. John’s (Newfoundland).

Thank you, Stewart McKelvey, for taking this step in making legal communications between lawyers and clients with hearing loss easier to handle!

For a list of law firms and organizations within the legal community that have pocket talkers, see https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/pei-lawyers-with-pocket-talkers/.

Have a story about your visit to a law office to share?  You can email us at hearpei@gmail.com or comment on this blogYou can also follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI

© Daria Valkenburg

 

Are You Prepared For An Emergency?

August 4, 2019.  This past week the Canadian Red Cross mailed their ‘Be Ready’ pocket guides to Islanders.  (If you didn’t get one, see https://www.redcross.ca/how-we-help/emergencies-and-disasters-in-canada/be-ready-emergency-preparedness-and-recovery).  The key steps identified are:

  1. Know the risks in your community
  2. Make an emergency plan
  3. Get an emergency kit

If you haven’t read the booklet, you should as it gives excellent tips for preparing in advance for any emergency.  However, the booklet doesn’t address specific tips for those with hearing loss.  So that’s the subject of today’s posting.

911PEI - blogIn the event of an emergency we may need to call 911.  On PEI, protocols are in place for people with hearing loss on how to reach 911 by phone or text (See Calling 911 when you are hard of hearing and 911 Pamphlet Outlines Protocols for the Hard of Hearing).

There is a possibility that in an emergency you will be sent to a shelter.  These can be very noisy and chaotic places.  Not only are people stressed from the emergency at hand, people with hearing loss hear less, not more, in times of stress.  Do yourself a favour and make sure that your emergency kit includes the following:

  • Pen and a notebook!  These two low-tech tools mean you can ask to have important information written down.
  • Hard of Hearing button….. and wear it.  This lets people know that you have hearing loss.  If they don’t notice, you can point to the button.  Staff and volunteers at an emergency shelter are very busy and have to deal with many tasks.  Make everyone’s life easier by being upfront with your hearing loss.

CIMG7617 Jun 27 2017 HOH buttons for sale

  • Extra batteries for your hearing aids and other hearing assistive tools.  It may be hours or days before things return to normal.  Don’t forget a sealed container to put your hearing aids in, should it be necessary to remove them.
  • A flashlight.  When it’s dark, a flashlight can be very useful in providing enough light for speech reading, or to follow any notes that have been written down.  Don’t forget batteries for the flashlight, either!
  • Consider a pocket talker.  If you have mild to moderate hearing loss, a simple pocket talker is a low-tech tool that helps you navigate a one on one conversation with someone.  A pocket talker uses a battery and does not depend on an internet connection.
  • If you have a smart phone or tablet, you should have a real-time captioning app installed on it.  The app requires an internet connection, which may not be available in an emergency shelter, but it’s a useful app for places with Wi-Fi. (See A New Hearing Accessibility Tool For Your Phone Or Tablet)

These are just a few suggestions for additional items to have in your emergency kit.  If you have more tips, please share them.  You can email us at hearpei@gmail.com or comment on this blogYou can also follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI

© Daria Valkenburg

 

Outreach At Human Rights Conference In Charlottetown

August 1, 2019.  At the recent Human Rights Conference at the Delta Prince Edward Hotel in Charlottetown on June 26, we were delighted to be asked to participate with a display booth. Many people may not associate hearing accessibility as a human rights issue, but it is a fundamental component in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), an international human rights treaty of the United Nations that is meant to protect the rights of persons with disabilities around the world. (See Hearing Accessibility Is A Human Right)

Brenda Porter and Nancy MacPhee were the representatives at this event, ensuring that the issue of hearing loss was not forgotten during the conference.  They handed out pamphlets and answered questions, two excellent ambassadors for living well with hearing loss.

IMG_0842 Jun 26 2019 Brenda & Nancy at Human Rights Conference

Brenda Porter, left, and Nancy MacPhee, right, at the Human Rights Conference in Charlottetown.

Hear PEI Jun 26 2019 Nancy at Human Rights Conference

Outreach events such as these are important in bringing awareness of hearing loss issues to people, and we thank the organizers at the PEI Human Rights Commission for the invitation to participate.

Please visit our Speakers Bureau page if you would like a presentation:  Hear PEI’s Speakers BureauDo you have a story to share?  You can email us at hearpei@gmail.com or comment on this blogYou can also follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI

© Daria Valkenburg