The Challenge To Hear During The Pandemic

Olga by her portrait by Riana Moller

Olga Katchan of Australia shared an anecdote on trying to hear when the speaker is wearing a mask.  (Photo courtesy of O. Katchan family collection)

April 26, 2020.  After a recent posting about life during the pandemic while having hearing loss (See https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/2020/04/14/a-sign-of-the-times/), retired psychologist Olga Katchan of Australia, who has hearing loss, shared a story of the challenge she faced to communicate with someone who wore a mask: “I read your account with great interest and remembered one episode which reinforced your comments about problems with masks. I was having my nails done and my Vietnamese esthetician was making the most of having a psychologist client to listen to her problems. Alas, she was wearing a mask and I could not hear anything. However, having heard it once before when she had no mask, I kept smiling and nodding. However she then asked a question and I had to ask her to repeat it minus mask. She was stunned, ‘you mean you have been nodding to my problems without hearing a thing?’ I assured her that I knew what she was trying to tell me and gave her a summary of it. She was amazed. I said ‘what was the question?’ She said her question was ‘What is the most important thing in your life?’ I answered, ‘The happiness of our loved ones.’  She asked me to excuse her and before I could make my way to the reception desk to pay, she was back with a bunch of tulips for me.

Olga’s anecdote is a reminder to those who wear a mask in their work environment to  check whether your client can understand you.  Please consider using a clear-window mask to make it easier for people to see your lips and use speech reading techniques to follow what you are saying.

LoopPEI_logo-P2

And in response to the challenge of trying to hear people behind a plexiglass barrier, Bill Droogendyk of Better Hearing Solutions wrote to let me know about a new Speech Transfer System kit available for ‘sneeze barriers’.  I asked him how this new product differed from the hearing loop installed at the counter at Charlottetown’s town hall.  “The amplifier is identical to what’s at the financial counter at city hall. The speakers, microphones and loop are different but still perform the same functions.” I then asked if it was a plug and play device.  Bill’s response: “While it’s almost plug and play, loop location and volume levels do need to be verified/adjusted by a certified hearing loop professional for each application.”  Luckily, we have two qualified and friendly certified hearing loop installers here on the Island who are willing to help any business or service that is interested in providing a better experience for clients with hearing loss.  Let’s Loop PEI!

The speech transfer system kit for plexiglass barriers.  (Diagrams from Contacta courtesy of Better Hearing Solutions.)

Thank you to Olga Katchan and Bill Droogendyk for contributing to the important topic of hearing challenges. Do you have a tip on hearing challenges during the pandemic to share?  Send an email to hearpei@gmail.com, comment on this blog, or send a tweet to @HearPEI. Stay safe!

© Daria Valkenburg

“Why Do Older Patients With Hearing Impairments Refuse To Wear Hearing Aids?”

February 23, 2020.  A posting last year summarized a project by Dr. Jan Blustein concerning the use of pocket talkers in hospitals, and it was mentioned that pocket talkers were provided to PEI hospitals many years ago, but appear not to be used as they were not kept at the nursing station on the wards, but in a separate office.   (See https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/2019/11/18/doctors-with-pocket-talkers-lawyers-with-pocket-talkers/)

A few days ago, Dr. Blustein participated in a discussion at a university in New York on the topic of ‘health and public administration barriers — including cost, lack of awareness and even shame — facing people with disabilities’.  She opened the discussion by asking “why older patients with hearing impairments refuse to wear hearing aids”. (See https://nyunews.com/news/2019/02/19/wagner-lecture-problems-public-policy)

It’s an interesting question, isn’t it?  When I was a patient in a hospital, there was a woman in her 90s who wouldn’t tell the nursing staff she had trouble hearing.  She admitted it to me once she learned I had hearing loss.  “Why wouldn’t you let the nursing staff know?”  I asked.  “I’m never going to wear a hearing aid, so I just pretend.  It’s always worked for me.”  When you are in your 90s and you consistently answer questions incorrectly or ignore questions (because you didn’t hear), the tendency isn’t to assume you have hearing loss, but dementia.  She ended up being assessed for that.  Unless there was a program of awareness for hearing loss issues, how likely is it that anyone checked to see if she could hear first?

When there is a program in place to check for signs of hearing loss, and a simple tool, such as a pocket talker, to help identify hearing loss, it brings awareness of the important role hearing plays in our lives.  A program with lawyers on the Island found that many clients changed their minds about hearing loss once it was okay to admit to it.  Many bought pocket talkers for their own use and later transitioned to hearing aids as their hearing worsened.

Several people, including me, believe a similar program in nursing homes, doctor offices, and hospitals would bring similar results.  Not everyone agrees, as Bill Droogendyk of Better Hearing Solutions commented after reading the original posting about Dr. Blustein’s research project.  He wrote:

While the placement of Pocket talkers (PT) with service providers has obvious benefits, that model of distribution still leaves the person with hearing loss at the ‘mercy’ of the provider. Let me elaborate:

1 I first need to disclose the fact that I’m having difficulty hearing.

2 The provider needs to dig out the PT, ensure the batteries are good, clean the headset, and then hand it over.

3 Repeat at the next visit/provider.

People with hearing loss who are willing to disclose it tend to have their own hearing accessibility devices. They are not the challenge that medical and legal professionals face.  Persons like the woman in her 90s mentioned earlier are the challenge.  Not only is she at risk of being mislabelled as having dementia, she may not understand important information she needs for her ongoing care and treatment.

Having staff aware of hearing loss, with tips for better communication and simple hearing accessibility tools, can help in building awareness and in removing perceived stigmas.  Bill is correct that it can involve extra work in regards to ongoing maintenance of hearing accessibility tools, but that can be said for other accessibility equipment as well.

Bill also mentioned that: “I do think the provider based PT model can be improved upon.
1 If hearing loss is present, if at all possible, get hearing aids (with telecoils and Bluetooth)! Hearing is improved ‘everywhere’ – not just in the provider’s office. More and more health benefits (including dementia) are being discovered to support doing what we can to maintain our hearing.

2 Hearing loops can be installed in many applications for many situations – hence the telecoil above. Advocate!

3 To provide support where owning hearing aids isn’t possible (or to supplement hearing aids), buy your own PT with a headset and a neck loop (for when you do get telecoils). How does owning a PT make it better? The headset is yours – no need to worry about hygiene. The batteries are good. You, the owner, will be sure to have spares with you. It’s with you at all times and you can use it anywhere – in the car, the coffee shop, the grocery store and get the social and health benefit of staying active.

Bill is absolutely correct in his observations!  However, before this can happen, the person with hearing loss has to acknowledge it and take the first steps to improved hearing.  Unfortunately, many times we are still left with Dr. Blustein’s question of why older people with hearing loss won’t wear hearing aids.

My mother had hearing loss and, at 86 years of age, was one of those older people who refused a hearing aid.  Her reasoning was that it would “make her look old”.  That was one answer to Dr. Blustein’s question. When we got her a pocket talker, though, her attitude changed.  “I look like I’m listening to music” she happily said.  “And I can choose who and what I want to listen to!”  A hearing aid would have stayed in a drawer, unused.  In contrast, her pocket talker went with her everywhere.  We could finally have conversations that didn’t involve repeating ourselves or shouting.

Thank you to Bill Droogendyk for his feedback and thoughtful comments.  Do you have an answer to Dr. Blustein’s question? Send an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  You can also comment on this blog, or follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

“Our Stories Matter”

December 22, 2019.  One of the tendencies so many of us with hearing loss have is to withdraw from conversations and situations that involve groups of people…. it becomes too difficult to hear. This can be especially challenging during holidays and important family celebrations.  (See Holiday Dinners and Parties – Fun or a Nightmare?) 

We long for people to understand what we need so we can more easily participate in conversations, but on the other hand, we can be just as guilty at forgetting to practice better hearing strategies ourselves.  Oh, I’m so guilty of that!  My husband, who has great hearing, can get so frustrated with me.  I have a tendency to talk to him….while he’s in another part of the house.  One of two things happen….  Either he didn’t hear me…. (my beloved tells me his hearing is good but not supersonic!)…. or he hears me and answers…. and then I get upset because I didn’t hear him!  So either he’s ignored as I really heard nothing, or I ask him why he’s talking to me when he knows I can’t follow what he’s saying when he’s in another room.  Hmm…. I’m then indignantly reminded by him as to who started the conversation!

So, I was all ears when Brenda Porter led an interesting discussion entitled “Our Stories Matter: Helping Others to Understand….An informal, mini-workshop on sharing our own voices.

CIMG3675 Brenda Porter Our Stories Matter presentation Nov 26 2019

Brenda Porter facilitated the “Our Stories Matter” workshop.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

We expend so much energy trying to hear that we become mute and silent in conversations”, Brenda commented.  “It’s easy to forget that others WANT to hear us and we forget that our opinions matter. It’s important to share our voices.

Brenda then went right to the heart of a practice so many of us are guilty of….. “We know what others need to do, but often forget to practice those same strategies ourselves.

We then broke up into smaller groups and each person was tasked with telling a short anecdote to the others in the group, using the strategies we wished everyone would use with us, such as:

  • Speak clearly
  • Face your listeners so they see what you are saying (ie. speech read)
  • Avoid contractions where possible

Afterwards, we were asked for feedback.  What did we learn?  Were there surprises?  Louise Larkin summed up the experience we all had…. “Our group was happy to learn we weren’t alone.  We ALL have trouble with background noise.  We had to snuggle together and strive to use contact and speak clearly.

Thank you to Brenda Porter for facilitating the workshop and encouraging all to share their voices. She brought out important and relevant points to take to heart anytime, but especially at this time of year. Comments? Send an email to hearpei@gmail.com or comment on this blog at https://theauralreport.wordpress.comYou can also follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

Outreach At The PEI Legislature

November 27, 2019.  As one of the organizations that received a community grant from the Seniors Secretariat of PEI this year, we were invited to attend the PEI Legislature on November 21 for a House Statement by the Hon. Ernie Hudson, Minister of Social Development and Housing and Minister Responsible for Seniors,  announcing the Grant Program and grant recipients in the Legislative Assembly.  The invitation explained that “This statement is part of our Department’s activities to increase awareness of the Grant Program, and the important and innovative work of your projects and organizations to improve lives of seniors in our communities across the province.

CIMG3671 Nov 21 2019 PEI Legislature Sr Sec Grant Recipients with Minister Hudson

Group photo of grant recipients at the J. Angus MacLean building. Minister Hudson is 4th from the left. Next to him in front is Daria Valkenburg and beside her is Annie Lee MacDonald.

As the gallery in the Legislature was full with a school visit, we were invited to gather across the road from the Legislature in the J. Angus MacLean building.  A viewing room was set up for us, with a live feed, and it worked well.  We were very appreciative that the Hon. Peter Bevan-Baker, Leader of the Official Opposition, specifically welcomed Annie Lee MacDonald and Daria Valkenburg in his opening remarks.  (Blog readers may recall that a petition for equal access for all Islanders to hearing aid funding through the AccessAbility program was presented in the PEI Legislature in July by Peter Bevan-Baker.  We are still working to get that passed in the Legislature.)

Minister Hudson, in his remarks, noted that 23 groups had been awarded community grants, and afterwards he dropped by for a group photo and to chat with us.  Of course, we reminded him about our petition.  He told us he had not forgotten it!

Our grant from the Seniors Secretariat of PEI was to produce fully captioned YouTube videos on topics of interest and relevance to those with hearing loss. (See Grant Awarded From Seniors Secretariat of PEI).  Thanks to that grant we were able to set up our own YouTube Channel and produce six short videos with the funding received:

The YouTube videos have been an integral part of our outreach activities, and have attracted an audience on three continents….that we are aware of:  North America, Europe, and Australia.

As always, you can email us at hearpei@gmail.com, comment on our blog, and follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

UPCOMING EVENTS

Event in Venue Equipped With A Hearing Loop:  UPCOMING CONCERT: Sorensen Christmas Concert at South Shore United Church in Tryon, 7:30 pm on Friday, December 6, 2019. Christmas Dreams” will be held in the sanctuary. Refreshments and a time for socializing will follow the concert. Admission is a freewill offering which will be donated to the Church. This venue is equipped with a hearing loop for the benefit of those with hearing loss. If you have never heard the clarity of sound through a hearing loop, this is an opportunity to try it out.

Event in Venue with Real Time Captioning: Human Rights Day 2019, hosted by the PEI Human Rights Commission.  Tuesday, December 10, 2019, 11:30 am to 1:30 pm, at Jack Blanchard Hall, 7 Pond St. in Charlottetown.  This event will have real time captioning available for the benefit of those with hearing loss.

 

“Doctors with pocket talkers, lawyers with pocket talkers”

November 18, 2019.  I’m very happy when readers reach out to share ideas, tips, react to previous postings.  Not long ago, Dr. Jan Blustein of New York reacted to a previous posting about the pocket talker for law firms project that ran here several years ago.  In this project, designed to better understand communication challenges that can occur between the legal community and people with hearing loss, law firms received tips on improving communications and had a pocket talker available for clients with hearing loss.  It’s made a difference to the lives of many people with mild hearing loss, who were first introduced to a pocket talker, and helped bring awareness of hearing loss issues to the law community.  (See A Pocket Talker Changed My Life, Pocket Talkers Available At ALL Stewart McKelvey Offices In Maritimes, and “The Pocket Talker Is My Lifeline”)

In an email with the subject heading ‘doctors with pocket talkers, lawyers with pocket talkers’, Dr Blustein wroteI’m a physician and researcher at New York University, and along with some colleagues are doing a randomized controlled trial of pocket talkers in our local Veteran’s hospital — we’re looking to see if the Vets like them, and whether they help them to understand what’s going on.  So far, they love them, the staff love them, but we haven’t looked at the outcomes.

New York University is a research facility, and it was great to hear that medical researchers such as Dr Blustein are looking at hearing loss issues and how it can impact patient care.  Per a brief bio from New York University, her research “focuses on hearing loss and its consequences for health and quality of life for older Americans. That work spans clinical, epidemiologic, and policy dimensions. She has reported on the influence of hearing loss on patient-physician communication, the association of hearing loss with patient activation, and the relationship between hearing loss and such standard measures of quality as 30-day hospital readmission.”  (See https://wagner.nyu.edu/community/faculty/jan-blustein)

Dr Blustein sent an article written with two of her colleagues, Barbara E. Weinstein and Joshua Chodosh, plus an accompanying link to this podcast from the British Medical Journal… it’s meant to increase awareness for MDs and nurses.”  The article, ‘Tackling hearing loss to improve the care of older adults’ was straight to the point in discussing some of the many challenges faced by people with hearing loss in medical situations.  (You can read the entire article here: Blustein Weinstein Chodosh BMJ) The article starts off explaining that “The World Health Organization estimates that disabling hearing loss affects nearly a third of people aged 65 and older around the world.”  The authors point out that hearing loss in people is growing, and is “now the fourth leading cause of years lived with a disability globally.

Then comes the important point….. “But the implications tend to be overlooked.  Clinical care is often delivered in settings where people with hearing loss struggle to understand speech.  Communication is key for healthcare quality and safety, so people with hearing loss are at risk of receiving poor care.”  I can attest to that, after being a patient in a hospital for three miserable days and nights in June.  (Once I am able to write about that experience without getting upset, I may do so.)

Dr Blustein and her colleagues note that “Many healthcare settings – especially acute care settings – are difficult listening situations.  In wards and emergency departments, alarms are beeping, competing conversations are under way, and spaces often have poor sound insulation.”  Anyone who has spent any time in a hospital can attest to that!

The authors explain that in interviews with older adults they have uncovered “many problems that lead to mishearing or misinterpretation in healthcare settings, including excessive noise, multiple concurrent speakers, failure to speak face to face, unfamiliar accents, and new terminology.

Advice for communicating with patients with hearing loss is given in the article, and the suggestion is made for hearing assistive devices being provided.  All good advice…. if it’s followed…  In my situation in June, only the surgeon had the ongoing courtesy and empathy to make sure I could hear him.  He made sure to face me, and spoke clearly.

Several years ago, pocket talkers were provided to hospitals here on Prince Edward Island.  Instead of being placed on the wards, where nursing staff might be more inclined to use them as needed, and could become familiar with their use, the pocket talkers were locked up in the speech therapist’s office.  That made them unavailable on evenings and weekends, and unlikely to be asked for by busy staff on the wards.

Thank you to Dr. Jan Blustein for sharing her research article and podcast, and current research trial at the Veterans hospital.  Do you have an experience with pocket talkers that you would like to share?  Let us know!  As always, you can email us at hearpei@gmail.com, comment on our blog, and follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

UPCOMING EVENTS

November meeting:  Tuesday, November 26, 2019 at 9:30 am at North Tryon Presbyterian Church. Brenda Porter will lead a discussion entitled “Our Stories Matter: Helping Others to Understand….An informal, mini-workshop on sharing our own voices. This will be followed by the Annual General Meeting, and will be the last meeting until spring 2020.

 

Grant Awarded From Seniors Secretariat of PEI

September 20, 2019.  As a non-profit organization run by volunteers, we depend on grants and donations to help provide outreach and educational activities that build awareness of issues related to hearing health and hearing loss.  To extend our outreach capability, we were delighted to be awarded a grant from the Seniors Secretariat of PEI for the project “Social Media for Hearing Losses on PEI”.

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 are quickly discovering, outside the province.  Each video is fully captioned.

CIMG3054 Aug 1 2019 Signing of Senior Secretariat contract for you tube videos

Daria Valkenburg and Annie Lee MacDonald with Mary Driscoll Seniors Policy Advisor Department of Social Development and Housing (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

Our first project, “What Is A Car Loop?” was filmed with guest Graham Hocking of England, who demonstrated how he could easily listen to his car radio or passengers through a hearing loop.

Photo of Wendy Nattress by Graeme Nattress

Wendy Nattress. (Photo credit: Graeme Nattress)

We are very lucky in our post-production editor, Wendy Nattress, who volunteered to edit our footage and set us up with a You Tube account.  Wendy and her husband Graeme are the parents of four children.  One child, Eric, is a Deaf child with moderate/severe hearing loss.  Wendy explained that “using a big ‘D’ for the word Deaf is a cultural identifier that does not view hearing loss as a disability, but rather as a cultural gain.”  Because of this hearing loss connection, and the nature of our project, Wendy was interested in donating her time and knowledge in video production.

You can watch the video here:

After seeing the video, Graham, who is a trustee with the British organization Deaf Aspirations, explained that the organization would like to post the video link on their website. (See  Deafaspirations.org for more information.)  Ken Carter, Company Director, wrote that “I thought the video created in PEI was really interesting and forward thinking.

Graham’s reaction?  “Jacqueline and I were very impressed with your 1st video production. Very clear with the explanation and we do realize a lot of work and efforts went into it, even capturing cow mooing in the background. Well done.

We are very encouraged and delighted to be making a difference already with this new venture!

The Seniors Secretariat of PEI was formed in 1998 as an entry point for seniors to collaborate with government on matters relating to seniors, their issues and concerns; to act as a resource and information centre and to advise government on the development of public policy. Members come from the general public as well as various non-profit organizations that represent seniors.

Thank you to Wendy Nattress and Graham Hocking.  As always, you can email us at hearpei@gmail.com, comment on our blog, and follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

UPCOMING EVENTS

September meeting:  Tuesday, September 24, 2019 at 9:30 am at North Tryon Presbyterian ChurchGuest speaker​s​: Patsy Beattie-Huggan, Community Engagement Consultant, will give an overview of the new 211 Information Service provided by the United Way. ​Brenda Porter will lead a discussion entitled “Our Stories Matter: Helping Others to Understand….An informal, mini-workshop on sharing our own voices.” Annie 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!

“The Pocket Talker Is My Lifeline”

June 30, 2019.  As volunteers for a non-profit organization dedicated to improving hearing accessibility and building awareness on hearing loss issues here on Prince Edward Island, we meet people of all ages and from all walks of life.  The number one issue of importance to anyone with hearing loss is being able to communicate.  This is one reason why the current petition being circulated that is asking for equal access to hearing aid funding for all Islanders, regardless of age, is receiving such support.

One senior who finds communication vital is 95 year old Ruth Brewer of Rustico. Although she is nearly blind and has hearing loss, she lives a very independent life.  Annie Lee MacDonald visited her this winter when she purchased a pocket talker, an affordable option as she could not afford the cost of hearing aids.

Over the past few years, Island lawyers who participated in a project to improve communications with clients who have hearing loss have been ardent supporters and advocates for removing barriers and stigma surrounding hearing loss. (See PEI Lawyers & Law Community With Pocket Talkers and Improving Communication Between the Legal Community and Those With Hearing Loss) It was through her lawyer that Ruth learned about the pocket talker, as her daughter Dede Wilson noted:  “My mum had used it in discussions with our lawyer at Stewart and McKelvey. It was wonderful for her and really changed her life. She then was able to call and order one from you.

Being able to hear brought me back from giving up on life to becoming human again.”…. Ruth Brewer

The pocket talker is my lifeline”, Ruth Brewer said.  “Being able to hear brought me back from giving up on life to becoming human again.” During another visit with Annie Lee this week,  Ruth explained that there are many seniors like her who become tired of peoples’ impatience with them when they can’t hear, especially family who refuse to accept they have trouble hearing.

Ruth is an amazing woman” says Annie Lee.  “She was an advocate for many things in her active years and especially for convincing the government to allow nurse practitioners to practise on PEI. She says it took seven years. She is also very ready to advocate for the government to supplement the cost of hearing aids for seniors over sixty five. Communication is very important to Ruth.”

Indeed, Ruth signed the petition for equal access to hearing aid funding, bringing our total of signatures to 1,848, or 74% of our goal.  (See Petition Update For Week 8 for more on this important initiative)

IMG_2610 Jun 29 2019 Ruth Brewer & Annie Lee MacDonald

Ruth Brewer signs the petition for equal access to hearing aid funding while Annie Lee MacDonald looks on. (Photo credit: Elmer MacDonald)

Individual stories of those with hearing loss are important as we build awareness of hearing issues, and encourage hearing accessibility. Please share your ideas and stories by commenting on this blog, or by sending an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

 

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.

CIMG2906 Live Transcribe

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.

 

 

The World of Star Trek…..Coming To a Hearing Aid Near You

September 17, 2018.  As a child I watched the original Star Trek program faithfully, completely fascinated by a world that didn’t exist in my time.  Communicators?  Today we have smart phones!  Letters sent and received from outer space?  Today we have email and text messaging. Talk to a computer and get a verbal response?  Our snowbird friends use ‘Alexa’.  You won’t catch them typing into a smart phone when they can speak into it instead. A screen showing the person we’re talking to?  Today we use Skype, Face Time, etc.  Space travel?  In the days before the Moon landings and the International Space Station, this was mere science fiction. These and more examples from Star Trek seem common place today.

I’m still waiting for the transporter to get me from place to place and save the hassle we currently have in making long distance travel! Another Star Trek tool I wished I had was the Universal Translator (See https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_translator).  If you saw the show, you know that the intrepid crew of the Enterprise had no difficulty in understanding any member of their international crew or those they met on their space exploration because of a device that instantly translated, sort of a portable simultaneous translator.

I grew up in a city where people spoke many languages and I sure wished I could easily understand what was being said.  Of course I was a bit lazy as I had to go for second and third language courses after school, and this seemed an ideal shortcut.  And now that I travel a bit internationally, I could really use one of those universal translators.  With my hearing loss, it’s difficult sometimes to understand people even in a language I’m familiar with.

universal translator

Captain Kirk holds a Universal Translator in his hand. Source: https://goo.gl/images/RTD2Zd

So I was astonished and delighted to learn that a new hearing aid promises to do the translating, in one of 27 languages, for its user.  Imagine.  You’re on vacation in a foreign country, and have no idea what’s being said as the language is not one you speak.  No problem, your hearing aid whispers what is being said, directly into your ears!  How cool is that?  While you do need an internet connection for this translation function to work, it’s still very useful as so many places have WiFi.

But this new hearing aid says it can do more to make life easier for those with hearing loss.  It can “do an environmental scan” and block out “noise” you don’t want to hear, so you can concentrate on what you do want to hear.  I don’t know about you, but that might make going to restaurants and wedding receptions more enjoyable.

The new hearing aid also claims to help monitor those who might be socially isolated.  It tracks your steps (no more pedometers to wear, your hearing aid can do it for you!), how much time you spend interacting with others, and recognize if you’ve fallen down.  A planned software update would even call your emergency contact for you, to advise you need help.

To read more, see https://www.wired.com/story/this-hearing-aid-can-translate-for-you.  The world is becoming more accessible than we ever thought.  Would you buy such a hearing aid?  Let us know!

Email us at hearpei@gmail.com or comment on our blogYou can also follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI.

DON’T FORGET ABOUT THESE UPCOMING EVENTS

September Chapter meeting:  DATE CHANGE: Tuesday, September 25, 2018 at 9:30 am at North Tryon Presbyterian Church. Guest speaker will be Mike Smith, Publisher of County Line Courier and Summerside Citizen, who will share his personal and business life experiences in living with hearing loss.

Fall Speech Reading Classes: The Tuesday afternoon class of Level I is full, but there is still space available for the Level I class that will run Monday evenings, from 7 to 9 pm in Charlottetown, beginning September 24, and will run for 10 weeks.  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.

© Daria Valkenburg

CBC PEI Helps To Get The Word Out On ‘How A Project To Improve Legal Communication Is Helping Islanders To Hear Better’

July 13, 2018.  We are very lucky here on Prince Edward Island to have the support of media that help us keep the public informed on activities related to those with hearing loss.  As a volunteer non-profit organization we may not have a lot of resources, but we certainly have a lot of champions!  The ‘County Line Courier’ and ‘Summerside Citizen’ newspapers feature our articles, and CBC PEI helps us reach Islanders far and wide.

Earlier this week I was in the CBC Mainstreet studio to support my husband, in an interview he had with Angela Walker for a Cenotaph Research Project.  While there, I was invited to talk about one of our current projects, helping to improve communications between Island lawyers and those with hearing loss.

20180709_113044 daria at CBC studio

At the CBC Mainstreet studio. (Photo credit: Angela Walker)

Here is the link to that interview:  http://www.cbc.ca/listen/shows/mainstreet-pei/segment/15556801 and the description from the CBC website:  The PEI Chapter of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association and the Law Foundation of PEI have expanded on a project to ensure lawyers and their clients with hearing difficulties are able to effectively communicate.

CBC PEI went a step further with a web article about the project as well.  Here is the link to the CBC PEI article by Kevin Yarr: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/pei-pocketalker-lawyers-hearing-impaired-1.4744340, with a transcription of the article below.

How a project to improve legal communication is helping Islanders hear better

‘They did a big public service’

Kevin Yarr · CBC News · Posted: Jul 12, 2018 8:00 PM AT | Last Updated: July 12

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

Islanders who are hard of hearing are discovering how useful these Pockettalkers can be, thanks to a pilot project with P.E.I. lawyers. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

A project to help clients understand lawyers’ legal advice is bringing some unexpected benefits, says the P.E.I. chapter of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association.

The pilot project, launched last year, distributed 10 assistive listening devices called Pocketalkers to interested lawyers. The handheld device, which includes headphones, amplifies sounds nearby and helps users filter out background noise so they can focus on what is being said.

Association spokeswoman Daria Valkenburg said lawyers using the device have helped Islanders discover how useful they can be.

“We always knew when a lawyer was in a seniors’ home, if they had gone to visit anybody, because we’d immediately get an email or a phone call saying I want one of those Pocketalkers,” said Valkenburg.

hearing-loss-legal-advice-brochure

P.E.I.’s Hard of Hearing Association has developed a brochure for the reception areas of lawyers’ offices that will encourage people with hearing loss to ask for help. (Angela Walker/CBC)

“They did a big public service. We were getting stories from people saying, ‘I can now play cards, ‘I can now go to talk to my kids.’ I think that’s really important. It helped with different types of social isolation.”

The project received funding and support from the Law Foundation of P.E.I.

The project is continuing this year with a new feature — the association has developed a brochure for the reception areas of lawyers’ offices that will encourage people with hearing loss to ask for help.

For a list of lawyers on PEI with a pocket talker in their office, and who have agreed to have their information posted on the blog, please see here: PEI Lawyers With Pocket Talkers

If you are a lawyer who would like to participate, let us know.  If you have hearing loss and don’t have a hearing aid, and your lawyer is not part of this project, ask him or her to consider participation.  You can email us at hearpei@gmail.com or comment on our blog at https://theauralreport.wordpress.comYou can also follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI.

And if you’re curious about the Cenotaph Research Project interview, you can listen to it here:  https://www.cbc.ca/listen/shows/mainstreet-pei/segment/15556040. CBC summary:  Finding the heroic stories behind the names on a local cenotaph. Pieter Valkenburg is a Dutch Canadian who wanted to learn more about the names on the Borden-Carleton Cenotaph. So he started a research project to find the stories behind these fallen soldiers.

Like the work we do?  Consider a donation to help fund activities not covered by a grant.  100% of your donation stays on PEI to help Islanders. See our page at the Canada Helps website:  https://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/34708

© Daria Valkenburg