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

 

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A Young Man Living With Hearing Loss

July 23, 2019.  Many people are under the misconception that only older people have hearing loss.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  It’s one of the reasons why it is wrong to ignore hearing loss issues.  Ensuring that hearing accessibility supports, such as hearing loops and real time captioning, are in place should be a priority.

At a recent meeting, our guest speaker was Colin Mackenzie of Graham’s Road, who just graduated from high school. Colin is planning to go to St. Mary’s University in Halifax in the fall to study criminology and forensics. As a person with hearing loss, he will need hearing accessibility support in order to be successful in his studies.

IMG_2579 Jun 25 2019 Colin MacKenzie

Colin MacKenzie. (Photo credit: Annie Lee MacDonald)

Colin explained that he became totally deaf at 2.5 months of age, but about 40% of his hearing returned shortly after that. He was fitted with hearing aids at 18 months of age and then began working with Auditory Verbal Therapist Cheryl Perry. She inspired him and his mother and gave them hope that all would be okay.

With his family’s encouragement, Colin never backed away from activities because of his disability. He played hockey for a couple of years and had inserts cut in his helmet so he could wear his hearing aids and an FM system. He participated in Canskate and Scouts and Curling.   In 2018 and 2019, he and his team represented PEI at three National Curling Championships, the Under18s, and the Canada Winter Games. Signals have been worked out in curling so he does not have to be able to hear the calls.

Colin said he also took swimming lessons but since he couldn’t wear his hearing aids, he had to follow signals. He played in the school band from Grade 8 until graduation.  Colin noted that his friends are pretty considerate, making sure that they look right at him when they are speaking because they know that he reads lips.

Over the years, Colin has attended a few conferences for youth with hearing loss, including one in Ottawa where he began making friends with others with hearing loss. (See Young Adults Can Also Have Hearing Loss)

While at school, Colin used several coping strategies including letting teachers know of his hearing loss. He always asked the teachers to be careful where they placed the FM mikes, because if they wore long jewellery, or had clothing rubbing up against the mike, it made it very painful for Colin to listen to.  Unfortunately, none of the schools he attended used hearing loop technology.  (See The Sound Through A Hearing Loop)

An engaging young man, Colin also took the time to show his support for the petition that had been circulating to request a policy change in the PEI government to supplement the availability of hearing aid funding by extending the AccessAbility Supports Program to include all adults, not just those up to age 65, or devise a similar program.  (See Petition Presented In PEI Legislature)

IMG_2577 Jun 25 2019 Colin MacKenzie signs petition

18 year old Colin MacKenzie signs the petition, while Brenda Porter looks on. (Photo credit: Annie Lee MacDonald)

Colin is one of many children and youth living with hearing loss.  They are bright and innovative, and want to make their lives as close as possible to those of their friends.  Unlike many people who hide their hearing loss, they accept it as part of themselves.

Remy Eichner, a young woman from Utah, developed a helmet for people with cochlear implants. “The helmets allow people with implants to ride a bike, ride a horse or ski while protecting their heads with a helmet”, she commented in an article.  See https://www.parkrecord.com/news/student-develops-helmet-for-people-with-cochlear-implant/

Jason Trotter of the United Kingdom notes that “Hearing aids have given me so much confidence in speaking and listening to people without having to feel left out or isolated for missing what was being said.”  Read his story at https://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/news/health/deaf-plymouth-jason-trotter-hearing-1971604

What an inspiration these young people are!  Do 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

 

Congratulations To Spring 2019 Speech Reading Graduates

June 30, 2019.  The spring session of Speech Reading is now completed, with two Levels of classes run this time.  Instructor Nancy MacPhee reported that five students successfully completed Level 1 and another 5 successfully completed Level 2.

The Level 1 graduates are:

  • Kari Ferguson
  • Anita Matheson
  • Gail Metcalf
  • Catherine Parkman
  • Doug Hagan
Level 1 Sp 19 blog

Level 1 Speech Reading graduates Spring 2019 session. Left to right: Kari Ferguson, Anita Matheson, Gail Metcalf, Doug Hagan. (Photo credit: Nancy MacPhee)

The Level 2 graduates are:

  • Ellen Kitchener
  • Hari Boggs
  • Barbara Bain
  • Sharon Beaton
  • Bob Furlotte

Congratulations to all the graduates and to instructor Nancy MaacPhee for another successful session of classes.  Thank you to Seniors Active Living Centre and Sobey’s Community Room for providing space for the two courses.

If you would like to put your name on the list for the fall session of Level 1, please send an email to hearpei@gmail.com.

Have you taken a speech reading course?  We would love to hear from you.  Your comments can be made on this blog, or you can email us at hearpei@gmail.com.  We are also on Twitter @HearPEI.

 

Hearing Loss and Intersectionality

June 4, 2019.  Sometimes you have no idea that you know something!  This became clear when Annie Lee MacDonald and I were invited to participate in a focus group consultation regarding development of an intersectional accessibility training module at the PEI Council of People With Disabilities.  ‘Intersectional Accessibility’?  What was that? we wondered.  We soon found it that it was only the phrase that was unfamiliar!

The session, led by Andy J. Glydon, the Council’s Diversity Training Coordinator, was interesting and informative, leading to a lot of good discussions.  We began with an exercise.  In the photo below, you can see us holding a very long piece of string.  This is to help illustrate things we had in common.  One person began by sharing some information, until someone else found something in common with what was being said, and took hold of the string. This went on until everyone found something in common with at least one person.

CIMG2962 May 10 2019 PEI Council of Disabilities focus group

Participating in an exercise to illustrate common points of interest was a lot of fun!

This then led to an introduction to the concept of intersectionality, which refers to the way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination can combine, interact, or intersect.  The term was first used to describe the differences between what a white or a black woman might experience in terms of discrimination. (See https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/intersectionality or https://www.cjr.org/language_corner/intersectionality.php)

In looking at the viewpoint of disability, the discussion then led to how different groups might be perceived, even if they have the same disability.  With hearing loss issues, it got us thinking about how a child with hearing loss could be perceived, as opposed to a working person, or a senior.  Are they thought of in the same way? What if the person with hearing loss had another disability or condition to deal with? Do social factors affect perception?

Hearing loss is very inclusive in terms of who can be affected!  Young, middle-aged, or senior, wealthy, middle-income, or poor, of any cultural background or anywhere in the world, anyone can have, or be at risk for, hearing loss.

So why did I say that only the phrase was unfamiliar?  When I went to university…. a hundred years ago it seems…. women were encouraged to attend sessions on discrimination to ‘prepare you for the way you could be marginalized’ in applying for a career position or being in the workplace.  In those days, potential employers (always men!) would get around questions they were forbidden to ask (like if you were married and had children), by asking inappropriate, but not illegal, questions like “Are you on the pill?”  We were warned this was code for “Are you in a relationship?  Are you about to get pregnant?”  It was suggested we reply by pretending to misunderstand, rather than pointing out that it was not an acceptable question.

You could apply the term intersectionality in describing the differences in how men and women were treated in interviews and the workplace in those days.  If you had a surname or cultural background that wasn’t Anglo-Saxon, you had an additional challenge to deal with. Add in a disability of any kind, and you had a third layer of challenge.  The list went on.

These memories came back when we attended the launch of the Intersectional Accessibility Framework during National Awareness Week earlier this week.  It’s a great first step towards starting the conversation on making the Island more accessible for all.

During this event, it was encouraging to hear Peter Bevan-Baker, MLA and Leader of the Green Party, explain that real time captioning was introduced in the PEI legislature earlier this year.  Well done!

We all can do more to help build awareness of hearing issues, and to encourage hearing loss prevention programs.    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

UPCOMING EVENTS

June Chapter meeting:  Tuesday, June 25, 2019 at 9:30 am at North Tryon Presbyterian Church. Guest speakers:  Colin MacKenzie and Nancy MacPheeColin will speak about his experience as a youth with hearing loss.  Nancy will give a report on the CHHA National Conference in Montreal that she attended.

Outreach Event: Invitation to have a display booth on June 26, 2019 at the National Human Rights Conference, at The Delta Prince Edward Hotel in Charlottetown. Link to the agenda: https://www.cashra2019pei.ca/programme.

 

Bill C-81 – Accessible Canada Act: An Act to Ensure a Barrier-free Canada

May 30, 2019. In 2010, Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), but no corresponding accessibility legislation was passed in Canada that specifically deals with Canadians with disabilities, other than our Canadian Human Rights Act.   (See Hearing Accessibility Is A Human Right) Bill C-81 – Accessible Canada Act is meant to address this, and has been supported by all federal parties.  The bill is currently in the final amendments for wording before coming into law. (For more information, see https://nupge.ca/content/national-accessability-week-starts-stall-bill-c-81 and https://ipolitics.ca/2019/05/29/accessibility-bill-set-to-become-law-as-liberals-prepare-to-use-cloture/)

What does the passage of this bill mean?  Per Employment and Social Development Canada’s website, “Bill C-81 would give the Government of Canada the authority to work with stakeholders and Canadians with disabilities to create new accessibility standards and regulations that would apply to sectors in the federal jurisdiction, such as banking, telecommunications, transportation industries like air and rail, and the Government of Canada itself. These new regulated standards would set out requirements for organizations to follow in order to identify, remove, and prevent barriers to accessibility.”  (See https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/accessible-people-disabilities.html)

Many of you may recall that when the Federal Accessibility Act Consultation came to Charlottetown in December 2016, we were there and presented a summary of the main barriers to accessibility faced by people with hearing loss.  We also gave recommendations on how to remove those barriers and how to change attitudes.  (See here for a copy of our submission: FAL Submission Dec 8 2016)

Since that historic day, we have been doing our best here on Prince Edward Island to improve accessibility options, remove barriers to accessibility, and change attitudes in the perception of hearing loss.  Our education and outreach activities have resulted in modest success, and perhaps it’s a good moment in time to summarize some of these accomplishments:

  • A booklet on communication tips for those with hearing loss was published.
  • The Aural Report blog was begun by me, followed by a Twitter account.
  • A project with PEI lawyers resulted in lawyers able to recognize the signs of hearing loss and improve communications with clients.  As lawyers encouraged their clients with hearing loss to try out pocket talkers, an unexpected benefit occurred.  Clients began to accept that hearing loss was not the stigma they thought it was and took steps to improve their ability to hear.
  • Hearing loops were installed in a few places on the Island, resulting in exceptional clarity of sound availability for those who attend events at those places.
  • Media coverage on hearing related topics in newspapers and on radio.

The items listed above are in addition to ongoing meetings with guest speakers on topics related to hearing health and hearing loss, speaking engagements, and outreach at various conferences and events. The speech reading classes facilitated by Nancy MacPhee are increasingly popular. Currently we are engaged in an advocacy effort related to funding access for seniors who are having difficulty affording hearing aids.

With the passage of Bill C-81, we hope to be able to do more here on the island with regards to hearing accessibility.

Employment and Social Development Canada’s (ESDC) Accessibility Secretariat Survey

You can play a part in shaping future federal accessibility policy by participating in a survey conducted by Quorus Consulting Group on behalf of the Employment and Social Development Canada’s (ESDC) Accessibility Secretariat. The survey is open to Canadian citizens at least 18 years of age who have had a disability in the past or are currently living with a disability, and takes about 15 minutes to complete, depending on how much feedback you want to provide.

The information you provide will be managed according to the requirements of the Privacy Act. Survey submissions are accepted from May 28 to June 28, 2019. Here’s how you can participate:

© Daria Valkenburg

UPCOMING EVENTS

June Chapter meeting:  Tuesday, June 25, 2019 at 9:30 am at North Tryon Presbyterian Church. Guest speakers:  Colin MacKenzie and Nancy MacPheeColin will speak about his experience as a youth with hearing loss.  Nancy will give a report on the CHHA National Conference in Montreal that she attended.

Outreach Event: Invitation to have a display booth on June 26, 2019 at the National Human Rights Conference, at The Delta Prince Edward Hotel in Charlottetown. Link to the agenda: https://www.cashra2019pei.ca/programme.

Public Awareness Campaign on Hearing Loss

April 29, 2019.  A few months ago, audiologist Peter Benstead of PEI Audiology gave a presentation at one of our monthly meeting on two topics of interest:  an ongoing campaign for Public Awareness on Hearing loss, and a discussion on telecoils.

IMG_2322 Oct 30 2018 CHHA PEI meeting Peter Benstead

Audiologist Peter Benstead of PEI Audiology with Brenda Porter. (Photo credit: Annie Lee MacDonald)

Peter explained that the public awareness campaign was important as studies show that 3 million Canadians have hearing loss, but only 1 in 6 wear hearing aids.  Most people wait 7 to 11 years from the start of noticing they have hearing loss symptoms until they go for their first hearing assessment.    Indeed, Mike Smith, publisher of the County Line Courier, whose story was told in an earlier posting, told us that it took him 15 years! (See Do You Wish You Had Listened To Your Parents?)

With May designated as Speech and Hearing Month, Peter’s primary message is apt:  “Get your hearing checked regularly, especially if you, or anyone else, has noticed a change in your hearing function.

Early intervention of hearing impairment is a huge determining factor toward positive long-term hearing AND cognitive health” he explained.

Early intervention is important for several reasons, among them:

  • Hearing loss can worsen.
  • People tend to adapt to hearing aids more easily if they get them earlier.
  • Some studies show that untreated hearing impairment can affect your socioeconomic status.
  • Untreated hearing loss can lead to higher depression and anxiety rates.
  • Untreated hearing loss may increase the likelihood of dementia.

Adam Felman, an editor and writer for Medical News Today, had first-hand experience of the gradual effects of hearing loss… at the age of 29.  He wrote:Communication is a huge part of navigating this formative stageof one’s career, education, or family life.If any element of communication is lacking, it can have a significant impact on the way your personality develops, and the methods you use to connect with the outside world.

Felman wrote frankly about how risky socializing became for him. “The big kicker with gradual-onset hearing loss is that you are not aware of how it’s changing you until the physical symptoms have become moderate to severe.  Every pang of guilt or embarrassment after saying ‘what?’ or ‘huh?’ might lead to another night when you don’t risk going out to socialize. You end up distancing softly-spoken colleagues, friends, and even family members, simply because the effort it takes to process their speech can become draining.”  Sound familiar?

Felman reminded me of my mother when he went on to say that he used stock phrases as a coping mechanism.  My mother would always smile, nod, and say ‘yes, dear’ or ‘I’d like that’ in most conversations, even though she wasn’t sure what was being discussed.

After receiving his hearing aids, Felman noted that “even food comes alive with hearing aids” and described the joy of hearing a packet of potato chips being opened and hearing the crunch of food as it’s being chewed.  To his surprise, his balance and spatial awareness also improved.  He also described going to a concert where a hearing loop was in place.  “Using a hearing loop system for the first time at a concert was emotionally overwhelming.”  You can read the entire article at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324995.php

In the second part of his presentation, Peter Benstead gave an explanation of telecoils, which have been the subject of many blog postings since hearing loops were installed here on the Island in several venues last May.  (For the latest posting see Misconceptions About Telecoils). Peter noted that the first hearing aid with a telecoil was patented in 1938, and explained that a telecoil converts electromagnetic fields into sound.  It was initially used for improved telephone communications, providing better audio quality and no feedback.  As regular readers of this blog know, telecoil compatible phones are inexpensive and widely available today.  (See Sometimes Technology Advances Are Great)

Many people also have a Bluetooth program in their hearing aids for phone conversations, which allows them to connect with any Bluetooth-enabled electronic device.  You can have BOTH telecoil and Bluetooth programs in your hearing aid.  They are NOT the same, but complementary. They are often described as being like apples and oranges.

So what is the difference?  An article in Assist2Hear explains that “Both are wireless technologies, but Bluetooth is a short range signal that must be ‘paired’ with a phone or TV and typically requires an intermediate device to interpret the Bluetooth signal and convert it to a signal the hearing aid can accept and transmit. A loop has no range limit – one just needs to be ‘in the loop’ area, as opposed to the short range Bluetooth signal.  Loops do not require any intermediate devices since the signal is sent directly to the t-coil in the hearing aid.”  (You can read the whole article at https://assist2hear.com/ufaqs/loop-differ-bluetooth/)

Hearing through a telecoil in venues with an audio loop system gives a clarity of sound that is unbelievable.  As Peter explained, it provides:

  • Direct to ear sound
  • Removes the distance between the listener and the source of the sound.
  • A great improvement in sound quality.

Peter advises that your audiologist or hearing aid dispenser can let you know if your hearing aid has a telecoil and if it is activated.

Our thanks to Peter Benstead of PEI Audiology for taking the time to give his presentation at a recent meeting, and for answering all the questions he was asked.

A reminder that our petition requesting the PEI government 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 is ongoing.  (See Petition Update For Week 2)  If you haven’t signed the petition, please do so.  And if you would like to help circulate the petition amongst your family and friends, at work, or an organization you belong to, please let us know.  A big thank you to Seniors Active Living Centre, located at UPEI in Charlottetown, for letting us know the petition is available in their centre!

We all can do more to help build awareness of hearing issues, and to encourage hearing loss prevention programs.  Your voices and your suggestions for improvements to hearing accessibility are needed.  If you think our outreach and educational activities have made a difference, please let us know. Your letters of support make a BIG difference when we try to encourage hearing accessibility. It tells others that we are not a lone voice in the wilderness.  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

UPCOMING EVENTS

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 Concert – Here Comes Summer at West River United Church in Cornwall, May 5, 2019 at 7 pm  Fundraiser for the church.  Advance tickets may be obtained after church on April 21st and 28th, or by contacting the Church office at 902-566-4052. Tickets are $10.

Upcoming fundraising ceilidh offered by Bonshaw Hall on Sunday, May 26, 2019, from 2 to 4 pm.  The organizers are generously sharing their proceeds with us, to help in our non-project related activities. We hope you come out and enjoy the show, while helping us at the same time.  Can’t attend?  You can donate directly to us or through our Canada Helps page at:  https://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/34708.

May Chapter meeting:  Tuesday, May 28, 2019 at 9:30 am at North Tryon Presbyterian Church.

 

Travelling With An Invisible Disability

April 25, 2019.  A while ago, a woman with a cochlear implant who was travelling alone booked a flight and informed the airline that she had hearing loss.  When she arrived at the airport, she was placed in a wheelchair.  She protested, saying “I’m able bodied and can walk perfectly.  Why do I have to be in a wheelchair?”  The reply?  “Madam, you informed us you have a disability.  We realize you can walk, but the wheelchair is the only way the airline staff will know this. Please sit in the chair.”  She did, an attendant wheeled her to the gate and then onto the plane, and she arrived safely at her destination.

The problem, as you may imagine, is that she had an invisible disability.  The wheelchair didn’t help her to hear and anyone seeing her would assume she had a physical disability.  Heathrow Airport in England has taken steps to recognize the importance of recognizing invisible or hidden disabilities while travelling in the airport.  The solution?  A sunflower lanyard.  A spokesperson explained that “The sunflower lanyard is a way for customers to indicate to staff across the airport that they may need additional care and support.  The optional service is intended for customers with hidden disabilities such as hearing loss, autism or dementia.”  (See https://www.hearinglink.org/news/201808/heathrow-introduces-hidden-disability-lanyards/#lightbox/0/)

sunflower-lanyard

The sunflower lanyard is already available at several airports throughout the United Kingdom, making for a consistent approach.  So, what do you have to do?  It couldn’t be simpler.  Contact the airport if you will be travelling through Heathrow and they will mail you a lanyard ….. anywhere in the world.  So, Islanders, if you are planning a trip and will be going through Heathrow, and you have hearing loss, contact the airport by email at special_assistance@heathrow.com and provide the following information:

  • Full name (including surnames)
  • Departing / Connecting or Arriving terminal
  • Flight number(s)
  • Postal address where your lanyard should be sent to
  • Number of lanyards required

The lanyard is free of charge and you can keep it to use at any participating airport.  (See https://www.heathrow.com/airport-guide/assistance-at-heathrow/hidden-disabilities)  As the airport authority explains, “Wearing a sunflower lanyard at Heathrow enables our colleagues to recognise that you have a hidden disability without you needing to declare it. This allows you to travel independently through the airport whilst knowing that if you need any additional support during your journey, any of our colleagues will be able to support.” Now, wouldn’t such a lanyard be a great idea for our Charlottetown Airport Authority to adopt?  If you like this idea, let us know.  You can comment on the blog, send an email to hearpei@gmail.com or a tweet to @HearPEI.

Petition Update

In the last blog posting the petition launched to request equal treatment for all adult Islanders with regard to hearing aid subsidies was discussed.  (See Petition Launched To Request Equal Treatment For Adult Islanders Re Access To Hearing Aid Subsidies) Briefly, our petition requests the following: 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 programResults for the first week of the petition are encouraging, and will be discussed in a separate posting. The results are updated on Twitter as they come in, and you can follow us @HearPEI.  As of April 25, 2019, here is the progress.

Petition Apr 25 2019 pm

our-goal-blogWe all can do more to help build awareness of hearing issues, and to encourage hearing loss prevention programs.  Your voices and your suggestions for improvements to hearing accessibility are needed.  If you think our outreach and educational activities have made a difference, please let us know. Your letters of support make a BIG difference when we try to encourage hearing accessibility. It tells others that we are not a lone voice in the wilderness.  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

UPCOMING EVENTS

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 Concert – Here Comes Summer at West River United Church in Cornwall, May 5, 2019 at 7 pm  Fundraiser for the church.  Advance tickets may be obtained after church on April 21st and 28th, or by contacting the Church office at 902-566-4052. Tickets are $10.

Upcoming fundraising ceilidh offered by Bonshaw Hall on Sunday, May 26, 2019, from 2 to 4 pm.  The organizers are generously sharing their proceeds with us, to help in our non-project related activities. We hope you come out and enjoy the show, while helping us at the same time.  Can’t attend?  You can donate directly to us or through our Canada Helps page at:  https://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/34708.

Misconceptions About Telecoils

April 15, 2019.  After reading a recent blog posting about questions to ask during a needs assessment for a hearing loop (See 8 Questions To Ask When Doing A Needs Assessment For A Hearing Loop Installation), one church followed the steps and a representative was kind enough to give us a follow-up on the results…..  “We actually used many of your questions in a bulletin insert to gather information about issues related to sound. Thank you for sharing. We asked – in our survey – if you wear a hearing aid, does it have a t-coil? and none had heard that term. Also, it’s possible people under-reported problems as they would know correcting them would be costly and finances are at a low level.

It’s a sad question, in a way, as t-coils (also called telecoils) are not new.  Basically, a telecoil is a receiver that picks up signals from a hearing loop, which is an electromagnetic field.  Hearing aids or cochlear implants with an activated telecoil can convert this electromagnetic field into a sound signal.  If you want to hear the difference in sound quality, see The Sound Through A Hearing Loop.

What do I mean by an activated telecoil?  Think of your TV and pretend it is your hearing aid.  If you want to watch a specific program on TV what do you do?  You change the channel to the one broadcasting your program, ie. you have activated that particular channel.   A hearing aid can come with a number of ‘channels’, called programs, and one of these is the telecoil.  A telecoil is about the size of a grain of rice, so it is not large.

The second question the church representative said was asked by parishioners was:  “Can a Bluetooth hearing aid be used with a hearing loop? Two, who identified themselves as hearing aid users, wanted to be sure a system was not put in place that would interfere with their new Bluetooth aids.

Bluetooth is another program that is available in a hearing aid, as is a tinnitus masking program, among others.  Just as you can get more than one channel on your TV, you can get more than one program in your hearing aids.  So the answer is no, a telecoil program will not interfere with a Bluetooth program.  They are complementary programs with very different functions.  For more information, here is a link to an article written by American audiologist Juliette Sterkens: https://loopwisconsin.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/ready-to-buy-a-new-hearing-aid-be-sure-it-includes-bluetooth-and-telecoil-technology/.

Sometimes, rather than including a telecoil in a hearing aid itself, it’s included in the ‘streamers’ that come with a hearing aid.  A streamer is designed to pick up audio signals, turning a hearing aid into a wireless headset.  It’s worn around the neck and has buttons for phone, TV, and microphone applications.

A recent article by Steve Frazier outlined his frustration with audiologists who don’t give information useful to people with hearing aids…. “When I needed assistance hearing in large venues where my hearing aid microphones were simply not able to do the job, my hearing care provider at the time offered no options other than, ‘Sit close to the loudspeakers’. I wasn’t told that there were little copper coils in my hearing aids that, when activated, turn my hearing aids into a substitute headset. He didn’t say, ‘Ask if the hall is looped’, which would mean all I had to do was take a seat, touch the ‘t-switch’ on my hearing aids, and connect wirelessly to the microphone being used by the speaker. Such a ‘loop’ broadcasts a silent electromagnetic signal that the telecoils in my hearing aids pick up much like a radio picks up the signal broadcast by a radio station.  Why wasn’t I told about telecoils? That’s a question asked by too many hearing aid wearers upon first learning about the technology.

He goes on to explain that in the USA, six states have passed laws “requiring that clients be counseled on the technology prior to being fitted with hearing aids” and more states are in various stages of passing similar laws.  Some audiologists and dispensers are opposing these changes because “They want to be able to make decisions for the client rather than give the client options and let him or her make an informed decision.”  Scary, isn’t it?  To read the whole article, see https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/expanded-communication-access-why-wasnt-i-told-steve-frazier

If you have hearing loss, it’s up to YOU to educate yourself on the accessibility tools available to you, so that you can ask the right questions when you go to your audiologist or specialist.  Hearing loops are available on the island and there is no reason why more places can’t have this hearing accessibility support if users of the various venues lobby for them.

We all can do more to help build awareness of hearing issues, and to encourage hearing loss prevention programs.  Your voices and your suggestions for improvements to hearing accessibility are needed for the provincial election and the upcoming federal election.  If you think our outreach and educational activities have made a difference, please let us know. Your letters of support make a BIG difference when we try to encourage hearing accessibility. It tells others that we are not a lone voice in the wilderness.  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

 UPCOMING EVENT

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).

Should The Cost of Hearing Aids For Islanders Over 65 Be Supplemented The Same As For Those Under 65?

April 3, 2019.  On April 23, the residents of PEI will be heading to the polls for a provincial election.  As a non-profit volunteer organization, we do our best to improve awareness of issues regarding hearing loss and hearing prevention. The more information we can provide on hearing accessibility tools and programs on behalf of those with hearing loss, the better quality of life for everyone.  In this election, an issue affecting Island seniors with hearing loss is increasingly becoming a priority.

You may be wondering why hearing loss is an issue.  If you’re one of the political candidates running for election, you may be asking why you should pay attention to a small volunteer organization.  Will listening translate into votes?  Here’s why.  Per Statistics Canada: Hearing loss is an important health concern which is often unrecognized and under-treated. Hearing loss can have many emotional and social consequences including social isolation, depression, safety issues, mobility limitations and reduced income and employment opportunities.’

Audiometry results from the 2012 and 2013 Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS) indicate that 47% of adults aged 60 to 79 years had hearing loss. That’s almost half of our senior population!  The percentage of the population with hearing loss is increasing.  While not seniors yet, a recent report noted that 20% (1 in 5!) of military members have hearing loss, which will only be accelerated as they become seniors themselves.

Of the three most common chronic conditions in Canada, arthritis is #1, hypertension (high blood pressure) is #2, and hearing loss is #3.  Hearing loss is a chronic condition that can lead to more serious issues and health problems if hearing accessibility tools are not available and affordable.

Hearing aids can cost about $3,000, per ear, depending on the level of hearing loss and the technology in the device.  If you need two, you can be looking at $6,000!  This isn’t a one-time purchase, either.  As hearing deteriorates, a hearing aid needs to be changed.  In this way, it is similar to vision care, except with a higher price tag.  Whether you pay for your hearing aids up front, or finance them, much like you would finance the purchase of a car, it’s still a lot of money.  If you’re a senior living on a fixed income, it can be difficult to afford.

One Island couple explained that both needed hearing aids in both ears.  They decided that each would get one hearing aid as they couldn’t afford to purchase what was needed for both!

PEI is not alone.  A recent article in the Globe and Mail described situations across Canada, including some provincial solutions: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/article-hearing-loss-leaves-many-struggling-with-costs-amid-subsidy-shortage/.  Sadly, as the article explains, “Quebec is the only province that provides full coverage for hearing aids as part of its provincial health plan.

Here’s the problem on PEI….. Under current provincial policies, the AccessAbility Supports Program (formerly called Disability Support Program) is available for adults UNDER 65, who require help in supplementing the cost of hearing aids.  Once a person turns 65, the Disability Support Program is no longer available.  Unlike the AccessAbility Supports Program, the application process for seniors is basically the same procedure as applying for social assistance.

In the 2015 election, when this was brought up with the government, the Premier consulted with his Department and informed our organization’s President that there was a program in place that would address the needs of those who required hearing aids but didn’t have the resources to purchase them.  Unfortunately, this was not correct.  Several members tested the process and were left humiliated and embarrassed by the application process.

In one case, a woman was asked how much money she and her husband had in the bank. She said $1,200.00. Like responsible people, she said they liked to have a little bit of funds in reserve in case one of them died. She was told she didn’t qualify because they had too much money.  This appears to be age discrimination.  Shouldn’t every Island adult have the same access to help in supplementing the cost of hearing aids?

The solution proposed is one simple adjustment to a currently existing program that will help Island seniors with hearing loss stay independent.  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.

Seniors have contributed to the community and society over their lifetime. Hearing loss causes people to withdraw from the social interaction. Loneliness can lead to depression and a host of other health issues, including, according to recent studies, dementia.

All of us can identify a family member or friend whose life is restricted because of their hearing loss. If you agree that the same help given to Island adults should be extended to seniors, please talk to the candidates coming to your door, and consider sending a letter of support. The more support received from organizations and individual citizens, the more the possibility of change in the current provincial policy. Some of you may wish to also send your letter of support to the leaders of the various political parties or the candidate in your area. Please feel free to do so, but also please send a copy of your letter to hearpei@gmail.com.

We all can do more to help build awareness of hearing issues, and to encourage hearing loss prevention programs.  Your voices and your suggestions for improvements to hearing accessibility are needed for the provincial election and the upcoming federal election.  If you think our outreach and educational activities have made a difference, please let us know. Your letters of support make a BIG difference when we try to encourage hearing accessibility. It tells others that we are not a lone voice in the wilderness.  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

UPCOMING EVENTS

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:  The Ross Family Concert at Shore Shore United Church in Tryon, April 7, at 2:30 pm. Sharing a blend of Acadian and Scottish, this high-energy trio offers an afternoon of entertainment sure to raise your spirits. Auction viewing and bidding begins at 1:45 pm. Advance Tickets $12, at the door $15. For tickets call Bev 439-2352 or Cindy 658-2863.

Spring session of Level 1 Speech reading classes begin Wednesday, April 10, 2019, and run for 10 weeks.  Two sessions are offered with speech reading instructor Nancy MacPhee: a day class 1-3 pm, and an evening class 7-9 pm. Level 1 covers information to help people better understand hearing loss. Focus is on the most visible consonant shapes of speech.  There are many exercises and class interaction to work on improving your awareness and ability to interpret.  Speech reading takes lots of patience and practice! But don’t worry.  As Nancy says, “We also try to have some fun!” Email hearpei@gmail.com for more information or to register.

Interested in Level 2 Speech reading?  The spring class is completely full.  If you want to add your name for the next session, and you’ve taken Level 1, please send us an email.

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).

 

What Are The Treatment Options For Tinnitus?

March 29, 2019.  “What are the treatment options for tinnitus?”  It’s a question that anyone who has tinnitus has asked of their audiologist or doctor, or done a Google search for.  Two decades ago, the doctor told me “There is no cure, so you have to learn to live with it.  My advice is to ignore it.  Don’t give it the time of day.”  He went on to say that the more I focused on it, the worse the symptoms would be, and he used the analogy of a refrigerator. “A fridge makes a lot of noise, but you don’t pay any attention to it, do you?” he asked.

He was wrong about the fridge analogy.  I don’t pay any attention to my fridge, but I ALWAYS know I have tinnitus.  But he did do me a favour in that I learned to live with tinnitus and not let it stop me from getting the most out of life.  Decades later, at the seminar on tinnitus that Dr Heidi Eaton of Argus Audiology held in Charlottetown, I was very interested to see if anything had changed in treatment options.

Dr Eaton noted that “In most cases of tinnitus there is NO CURE.”  Not what I, and everyone else in the room, wanted to hear.  She went on to say that “We try to find ways to better manage your tinnitus.  There are many successful treatments.  There are also many ‘false’ treatments.

Since tinnitus is a symptom of an underlying condition, Dr Eaton recommended that the first step in looking for treatment options is to look for the cause by having a “complete audiological evaluation by a qualified audiologist, who in turn can help make a referral to an ENT doctor for a medical evaluation, if it’s warranted.”  That’s exactly what happened to me, so many years ago.

Dr Eaton then summarized treatment options, cautioning that while “there are various treatments available, they do not always work for everyone.”  The list included:

·         Counselling – to reduce the stress and distraction posed by tinnitus

·         Stress Management and relaxation – since there is a high correlation between stress and an increase in the perception of loudness of tinnitus

·         Change in diet – reducing levels of salt and caffeine can reduce the perceived level of loudness of tinnitus

·         Stop smoking – as nicotine can cause an increase in the perceived level of tinnitus

·         Sound therapy – to make you aware that the perceived loudness of tinnitus is related to the quiet or noisy environment around you, which explains why tinnitus is more irritating at nighttime when you are trying to sleep!

·         Music therapy – listening to music that relaxes you and makes you happy will reduce the perceived level of tinnitus

·         Protection from loud noise – wear hearing protection as loud noise can make tinnitus louder and damage hearing

·         Support groups for tinnitus – to share experiences and useful strategies for coping with tinnitus, as well as provide emotional support

Another treatment briefly discussed was Tinnitus Retraining Therapy, used in severe cases of tinnitus.  This is similar to the fridge analogy used so many years ago by my doctor, where the “long term goal is to be unaware that the tinnitus is there except when you focus on it.”  In this treatment, “noise generators are presented into both ears at a soft enough level that the brain perceives both the noise and the tinnitus.  Eventually, over a period of 18 to 24 months, the brain may relearn a pattern that will de-emphasize the importance of the tinnitus.”  In other words,  if the treatment works, you won’t notice you have tinnitus.

Dr Eaton explained that if you have hearing loss as well as tinnitus, then “hearing aids and cochlear implants are another form of sound therapy as they amplify sound. They can be very effective in relieving tinnitus as well as helping you hear better.

Masking was another treatment option which uses an external electronic device to produce sound that hopefully will cover up (mask) tinnitus.  There are two basic types of maskers:

·         Hearing aids with tinnitus masking – a combined hearing aid with a masker for those who have both hearing loss and tinnitus

·         Commercial noise generators or even a small fan – various types of electronic devices that are “especially useful at night time when trying to sleep”.

When asked about the many medications that are advertised as being helpful for relieving tinnitus, Dr Eaton explained that “there is no single medication that works on all tinnitus patients.”  However, she also went on to say that “Certain anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications have proven quite successful for the treatment of the stress/anxiety surrounding tinnitus.”

In summing up her presentation, Dr Eaton’s tips stressed these important tips:

·         Keep busy to take the concentration off tinnitus

·         Avoid silence, especially if you have trouble sleeping at night

·         Eat well and have a healthy lifestyle

·         Recognize the importance of a self-help group

·         Make sure your family and friends understand tinnitus and what you are dealing with

·         Question your doctor and pharmacist about tinnitus side effects in any medication prescribed for you

Lastly, Dr Eaton explained that research into tinnitus is ongoing, particularly with so many current military members who have tinnitus and hearing loss.  I look forward to learning more in the coming years!

Would you like to help build our knowledge of the effects of tinnitus and coping strategies?  Here is a questionnaire to help you get started.  (Tinnitus questionnaire)  You will help others by sharing your own unique story.

If you haven’t read the two previous articles in this series on tinnitus, you can see them here: Is the Water Running Or Is It Tinnitus? and What Will INCREASE Your Tinnitus Symptoms?

We all can do more to help build awareness of hearing issues, and to encourage hearing loss prevention programs.  With upcoming provincial and federal elections coming up in the near future, your voices and your suggestions for improvements to hearing accessibility are needed.  If you think our outreach and educational activities have made a difference, please let us know. Your letters of support make a BIG difference when we try to encourage hearing accessibility. It tells others that we are not a lone voice in the wilderness.  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

UPCOMING EVENTS

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:  The Ross Family Concert at Shore Shore United Church in Tryon, April 7, at 2:30 pm. Sharing a blend of Acadian and Scottish, this high-energy trio offers an afternoon of entertainment sure to raise your spirits. Auction viewing and bidding begins at 1:45 pm. Advance Tickets $12, at the door $15. For tickets call Bev 439-2352 or Cindy 658-2863.

Spring session of Level 1 Speech reading classes begin Wednesday, April 10, 2019, and run for 10 weeks.  Two sessions are offered with speech reading instructor Nancy MacPhee: a day class 1-3 pm, and an evening class 7-9 pm. Level 1 covers information to help people better understand hearing loss. Focus is on the most visible consonant shapes of speech.  There are many exercises and class interaction to work on improving your awareness and ability to interpret.  Speech reading takes lots of patience and practice! But don’t worry.  As Nancy says, “We also try to have some fun!” Email hearpei@gmail.com for more information or to register.

Interested in Level 2 Speech reading?  The spring class is completely full.  If you want to add your name for the next session, and you’ve taken Level 1, please send us an email.

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).