Updates On Previous Postings

20200326_095121 Mar 26 2020 Self Isolation Day 6 cropped

Staying in touch.  (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

March 26, 2020.  We’re back from Florida, and now in self-isolation.  I’m calling it a ‘staycation’, and we’re having a relaxing time.  We’ve caught up on laundry and unpacking, and now are busy doing lots of little projects that we never seem to have time for.  And of course we are also reading, doing crossword puzzles, and watching TV.  These unprecedented times are also encouraging people to stay more in touch.  I’m even doing a daily update on our self-isolation on Twitter (@HearPEI if you are interested).

Today’s posting will be an update on some of the previous postings, and some cancellations.

EPS 10 and JPEG

Cancellations… The April 28, 2020 meeting is cancelled, and there will not be a spring session of speech reading classes. (See https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/upcoming-events/ as more information comes in over the coming months.)

great newsGreat news….. A third church on Prince Edward Island now is equipped with a hearing loop.  O’Leary-West Cape United Church in O’Leary – Hearing loop access is available throughout the sanctuary. Address: 5 Barclay Road, O`Leary PE.  (See https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/places-on-pei-equipped-with-a-hearing-loop/ for a list of looped places on the Island.)

rest in peace

Sad news….  One of our 2019 Hear PEI Accessibility Advocates, Ruth Walsh, died on March 18, 2020 (see www.dawsonfh.com/obituaries/145132).  Ruth was a tireless volunteer for the community, a loyal and good friend.  She will be sorely missed.  (See https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/2020/01/03/our-2019-hear-pei-hearing-accessibility-advocates/)

YouTube

Did you know you can subscribe to our YouTube Channel?  If you haven’t yet watched one of our YouTube videos, here is the link to our YouTube Channel:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrDqwG4tu2mmja5HwZJS3VQ

If you have a social isolation tip to share, send an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  You can also comment on this blog, or send a tweet to @HearPEI. Stay safe!

© Daria Valkenburg

Is Your Audiology Clinic Hearing Accessible?

March 11, 2020.  In the November 2019 issue of ‘Canadian Audiologist’, the Issues In Accessibility column discussed the findings of a survey sent to audiology clinics across Canada, asking how accessible they were.  The article, ‘Current Accessibility Strategies in Audiology Practice: A Review of the 2019 CAA Accessibility Survey Results’, was written by three audiologists:  Janine Verge, Anne Griffin, and Dana Song.

I was interested in the article as encouraging hearing accessibility in public places is very important to me and one of the mandates of Hear PEI.  You can read more about the efforts to change perceptions around hearing loss and increase hearing accessibility on PEI in the article, ‘Changing Perceptions on Hearing Loss on PEI… One Project at a Time‘ at https://canadianaudiologist.ca/issue/volume-7-issue-2-2020/column/acessibility-issues/.

Unfortunately, hearing accessibility is an issue that is NOT top of mind in the public perception.  The Federal Government may have adopted the Accessible Canada Act, and the provinces of Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and Ontario have provincial accessibility legislation, but nothing seems to have changed on Prince Edward Island. While there should, in theory, be more support to create accessible environments in Canada, it remains up to individuals to advocate for better hearing accessibility in public places.

Verge, Griffon, and Song begin their article with an excellent description of accessibility, describing it as “about creating community, workplaces, and services that enable everyone to participate fully in society without barriers….”  They go on to note that “Audiology clinics should serve as a model to the community that the onus of accessibility is not on the individual but is a responsibility of society to reduce barriers to support the full inclusion of people who are hard of hearing.

If you’ve been to an audiology clinic, your experience is likely that of having your hearing tested and hearing aids fitted.  Some clinics sell additional hearing assistive tools. On Prince Edward Island, a number of the clinics help get the word out on speech reading classes being offered, or our YouTube videos.  We had hoped that by now at least one Island clinic would have an area with a hearing loop to demonstrate to clients, but as yet that has not happened.

The article’s authors explain the reasons for their view that clinics should be doing more.  “Audiologists know that people who are hard of hearing face barriers at work, school, and in their community that hearing aids alone cannot fix.  A fundamental service of our profession is to assist people with their hearing needs, and for our clinics to truly reflect this commitment, we must acknowledge that hearing accessibility in community life requires more than basic measurement of hearing in the booth and the fitting of appropriate personal technology.”  In other words, they feel that a clinic should do more than sell hearing aids.

Some of the barriers faced by people with hearing loss in their everyday lives, that hearing aids or cochlear implants alone can’t overcome, include “poor acoustics, background noise, poor room lighting, blocked sound and/or line of sight.”  I’d add that there still aren’t enough places with microphones in public venues, poor or missing signage, and general lack of awareness in knowing how to communicate effectively with people who have hearing loss.  As well, there seems to be a lack of understanding that a person with hearing loss can also have multiple physical and health challenges, making the need for good communication a necessity.

To get a picture of how accessibility is being used in clinics within Canada, a 16 question online survey was sent to members of CAA (Canadian Academy of Audiology). Audiologists were asked “to identify the accessible technologies and services audiologists provide at their reception desk area, audiometric testing area, counseling and recommendation methods, outcome measures, website, workplace policies, and behaviours used during public presentations.” They were also asked for info on “barriers that affect their ability to provide accessible service.

While the article doesn’t state how many surveys were sent out, the authors note that they received 33 completed surveys from Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador.  None were received from PEI.

From the results, the authors felt there was a “need for improved accessibility services for people who are hard of hearing in audiology clinics.” Various reasons were given by respondents on why additional accessibility services were not provided.  The authors conclude by stating three main reasons to why “clinics should choose to make accessibility a top priority” and these reasons are:

  1. It is the right thing to do as it is the law and in the code of ethics.
  2. There are consequences for people who are hard of hearing that affects interpersonal communication and quality of life, and may lead to other conditions such as dementia, loneliness, and depression.
  3. Businesses and communities benefit both economically and by adopting age-friendly approaches to physical and social environments.

I found the article interesting and thought provoking. What do you think?  (You can read the entire article yourself at https://www.canadianaudiologist.ca/issue/volume-6-issue-6-2019/mysteries-of-the-hearing-brain-feature-3/)

Are there services that you wish your audiologist would have? Where would you like to see more hearing accessibility in public places be offered?  Send an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  You can also comment on this blog, or send a tweet to @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

The Perils Of Loneliness

March 5, 2020.  Not long ago I was in an elevator with Dan, an acquaintance who normally is not out and about without his wife.  I asked if he was on his own for the evening, and he said “Yes, as Marie had gone to a restaurant with a number of couples.”  Dan is a very sociable fellow, so I asked if he had something going on that he didn’t go as well.  “That restaurant is so noisy that it gives me a headache. I don’t appreciate spending an evening being shouted at… and still not understanding a word.” He didn’t give his explanation in a matter-of-fact voice.  A new hearing aid wearer, he was annoyed and unhappy that he was missing out on an evening with friends.  He didn’t begrudge his wife going out, but he found it lonely without the socializing he was used to doing.

I understood how he felt as many years ago, when I was adjusting to life with hearing loss, I too had to learn that life as I had known it was now different.  My husband and I regularly turn down invitations to dinners in large groups or in noisy venues without a second thought now.  When we do venture out to a place we know will be noisy or difficult for me to hear, we accept that it won’t be an ideal environment for me.

I thought of the encounter with Dan while reading about the challenges so many people have with loneliness.  It’s no secret that people with hearing loss can isolate themselves to some extent because the effort to hear in our increasingly noisy world can become more effort than it’s worth to them.  Many postings on this blog have given tips on how to enjoy a restaurant meal, how to survive holidays, etc., and discussed how isolation can lead to loneliness which can lead to depression.

I thought I knew a lot about loneliness and its effects, but I was wrong.  An American friend gave me his December 2019/January 2020 issue of AARP magazine (AARP = American Association of Retired Persons) which had an article by Lynn Darling, entitled ‘Is There A Medical Cure For Loneliness?’. The article highlighted research findings by genomics researcher Steve Cole, professor of medicine, psychiatry and bio-behavioural sciences at the UCLA School of Medicine, who found that testing white blood samples of lonely people gave results that shocked him….  “In each of the samples, the blood cells appeared to be in a state of high alert, responding the way they would to a bacterial infection. It was as though the subjects were under mortal assault by a disease — the disease of loneliness.

The article went on to explain that studies showed that “the impacts of people living in social isolation add almost $7 billion a year to the cost of Medicare, mostly because of longer hospital stays — a result, researchers hypothesize, of not having community support at home.

Wow!  But that wasn’t the most surprising part of the article.  It went on to highlight results found by other researchers studying loneliness.…. “Loneliness is a killer — studies have found that it leaves us more likely to die from heart disease and is a contributing factor in other fatal conditions. It makes us more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease, high blood pressure, suicide, even the common cold. It’s more dangerous to our health, researchers tell us, than obesity, and it’s the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Loneliness can affect people who live alone or who are part of a family unit.  Dan felt isolated because his hearing loss affected his ability to enjoy outings.  These feelings could escalate or he could find a way to accept the new normal and find new ways to enjoy outings with friends…. perhaps with a smaller group at any one time, or in a different restaurant.

The article gave an explanation of why loneliness affects our physiology.  Loneliness is interpreted as a threat, placing our bodies on high alert, causing an inflammatory response.   While a temporary state of inflammation is good when we have an injury, for example, it’s not great on a long term basis.  “Inflammation amps up biological processes leading to tissue breakdown and impairment of the immune system, which, in turn, increases our susceptibility to conditions ranging from heart disease to Alzheimer’s.”

Steve Cole went on to explain that “When you feel lonely, your brain activates inflammation in the white blood cells…One of the weird things we’ve discovered is that inflammation talks back to the brain and changes the way it works…. After loneliness stimulates that white blood cell inflammatory response, the response feeds back to the brain and makes it irritable, suspicious, prone to negative emotions and fearful of meeting new people and making new friends.

Researchers are now looking at ways to reduce the effects of loneliness through medication to reduce inflammation and increased social contact through various outreach programs.  Interestingly enough, no mention was ever made of conditions that could cause people to become lonely or socially isolated, such as hearing loss, a disabling medical condition, reduced mobility, looking after a loved one, the loss of a life partner, etc.  Perhaps this was deliberate as there are so many causes of loneliness!  (You can read the article at https://www.aarp.org/home-family/friends-family/info-2019/medical-cure-for-loneliness.html)

Loneliness is getting a lot of press lately, as the March 2, 2020 edition of the Wall Street Journal published an article by Andrea Petersen about a book on loneliness written by former US Surgeon-General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy.  Dr. Murthy wrote that “loneliness is both pervasive and destructive. In discussions with Americans for his book, he found that “Nobody came out and said, ‘Hi, I’m struggling with loneliness.’ They would say things like, ‘We feel like we are on our own. Nobody cares about us. We feel invisible.’ It became clear to me that for many folks this feeling of abandonment and feeling invisible is driving a lot of emotional pain.

Dr. Murthy suggests solutions revolving around making connections with others. “Service is a powerful pathway of getting out of loneliness. It takes the focus off of you and puts it onto someone else….volunteering, scheduling time to connect with loved ones and even saying ‘hello’ to strangers.”  (You can read the article at https://www.wsj.com/articles/are-you-lonely-youre-not-alone-11583174002)

These two very interesting articles on loneliness made me realize just how devastating an effect it has on our overall well-being. Have you ever been lonely due to your hearing loss? What strategies have you used to get over loneliness? Send an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  You can also comment on this blog, or send a tweet to @HearPEI.

PS….You may be interested in an article I wrote in the latest edition of Canadian Audiologist.  (See the Issues In Accountability column at http://canadianaudiologist.ca/current/ )

© Daria Valkenburg