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.

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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).

What Will INCREASE Your Tinnitus Symptoms?

March 25, 2019.  In the previous blog posting, a brief explanation on tinnitus and some of its causes was given, based on a recent seminar presented by Dr Heidi Eaton of Argus Audiology.  (See Is the Water Running Or Is It Tinnitus? )  Tinnitus affects 15 to 17% of the population.  If you thought you were alone in having tinnitus, think again.  It affects 15 to 17% of the population, including many famous people over the years.  (For a brief list, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_with_tinnitus )

One of the more fascinating parts of the seminar came when Dr Eaton explained that there were factors that INCREASE a person’s tinnitus symptoms!  What?  I made sure I was paying very close attention!

Edvard_Munch,_1893,_The_Scream,_oil,_tempera_and_pastel_on_cardboard,_91_x_73_cm,_National_Gallery_of_Norway

Does ‘The Scream’ by Edvard Munch illustrate how frustrating tinnitus can be? (Photo credit: By Edvard Munch – National Gallery of Norway, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69541493)

There are 3 major dimensions of tinnitus distress,” Dr Eaton explained.  “Auditory, attention, and emotion.”  In other words, tinnitus can affect your hearing, your ability to pay attention, and your emotional well-being.  The “exacerbating factors”, as Dr Eaton described them, play a role.  These factors include:

·         Stress, particularly excessive stress

·         Lack of sleep or fatigue

·         Noise exposure

·         Sodium levels, ie salt

·         Caffeine

·         Alcohol and or nicotine

·         Overexertion or strenuous exercise

So, your dietary choices affect your tinnitus.  Hmmm… maybe I should switch to decaf to reduce my caffeine level!  After learning that high or low blood pressure can cause tinnitus, sodium levels as a factor is not a surprise.

An August 2012 article in the journal ‘Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics’, entitled ‘Emotional Exhaustion as a Predictor of Tinnitus’ by Sylvie Hébert, Barbara Canlon, and Dan Hasson (see https://www.researchgate.net/publication/230598682_Emotional_Exhaustion_as_a_Predictor_of_Tinnitus) reported that a study indicated that ‘emotional exhaustion — or the feeling of being drained due to chronic stress — was a strong predictor of symptom severity’.

Noise exposure is a constant in our busy societies. The World Health Organization recommends no higher than 85 decibels, over a period of 8 hours.  How realistic is this?  Here are some examples of common sounds we are exposed to:

Leaf blowers were cited in one article as “a danger to your hearing as they operate between 90 and 115 decibels (dB), depending upon the model; damage begins at 90 decibels (dB)”.  (See https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2018/11/28/gas-powered-leaf-blower-triggers-hearing-damage.aspx). Personally, I really dislike leaf blowers.  While the operators use hearing protection (usually) for themselves, they expose everyone around them to this noise pollutant. We get exposed to them several times a week during our winter vacation. The sound is so loud it comes through even a closed window several stories up!

I was surprised that excessive exercise can increase tinnitus symptoms, not that it would ever be a factor in my case. While low-impact aerobics and yoga can relieve tinnitus symptoms, a research study by Dr. Michael I. Weintraub of the New York Medical College suggests that exercises that involve “jarring movements and a lot of jumping” should be avoided because it could cause “the otoconia, calcium crystals in our ears, to be jarred out of their normal places, causing inner ear problems. High-impact aerobics, running, basketball, football, soccer and volleyball should be done in moderation, if at all.” (See https://www.livestrong.com/article/308626-exercises-that-worsen-tinnitus/)

Now we have an idea of what tinnitus is, what can cause it, and what aggravates it.  How do you treat it?   The story of tinnitus will continue in the next blog posting.

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.

IMG_7060 Lisa Gallant

Lisa Gallant

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).

Is the Water Running Or Is It Tinnitus?

March 23, 2019.  The other night I woke up suddenly to the sound of water running.  Did we leave a tap on by mistake? I nudged my husband.  “I hear water running!”  He groggily sat up and listened. Unlike me, he has supersonic hearing.  “You’re imagining things.  Go back to sleep.”  Reassured, I did.

Tinnitus is the sensation of hearing noises or sounds in one or both ears, or in the head. 

You may be wondering why I believed my husband when he said he didn’t hear water running.  It’s because I have tinnitus.  Tinnitus, more commonly referred to as a ringing in the ears, is the sensation of hearing noises or sounds in one or both ears, or in the head, which don’t have an external source.  An example of what is meant by ‘external source’?  While I thought I heard running water, the tap was actually shut off.

Some of the noises people with tinnitus hear are: ringing, buzzing, hissing, chirping, whistling, or other sounds. The noise can be intermittent or continuous, and can vary in loudness. Although sometimes it can be annoying to work my way past the noise, I have over two decades of experience with it and am largely successful at blocking out the noise. My life is made easier due to my very techie husband.  For example, he’s programmed electronics like the phone and my tablet so that there is no mistaking the sound from them.

This incident reminded me that last year we’d had a seminar with Dr. Heidi Eaton of Argus Audiology in Moncton on tinnitus, which I’d never gotten around to writing about.   Now that tinnitus was on my mind, it was a good opportunity to delve more into this condition.

In her seminar, Dr Eaton explained that tinnitus affects “about 15 to 17% of the general population.  Of that percentage, more than 30% are over the age of 65.

The perceived volume of noise heard can range from barely noticeable to severe and debilitating.”  About 4 to 5% of the population really suffers, which means that “more than 250,000 Canadians are severely affected by tinnitus.

I was surprised to learn three new things about tinnitus:

·        It is more common in men than in women

·       While it is associated with hearing loss, not everyone with tinnitus has hearing loss, and not everyone with hearing loss has tinnitus

·        It is a SYMPTOM, not a DISEASE!

Dr Eaton then gave a brief summary of some of the most common causes of tinnitus:

·         Noise exposure (the leading cause of tinnitus!)

·         Aging of your hearing system

·         Ear disease (such as an ear infection)

·         Ménière’s disease (an inner ear disorder characterized by episodes of feeling like the world is spinning (vertigo), tinnitus, hearing loss, and fullness in the ear)

·         Medication (you won’t want to miss our upcoming meeting on April 16 to learn more!)

·         Head or neck injury, such as a whiplash or concussion

·         Acoustic neuroma (a benign tumour that develops on the nerve that connects the ear to the brain)

·         Ear wax buildup

·         TMJ disorder (the temporomandibular joint connects your jaw to your skull. If injured or damaged, it can lead to a disorder called temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome)

·         High or low blood pressure

·         Diabetes

·         Vascular disorders

·         Allergies

·         Thyroid dysfunction

ds00365_im00193_ww5r606t_jpg

Per this Mayo Clinic diagram, tinnitus can be caused by broken or damaged hairs on auditory cells, turbulence in a carotid artery or jugular vein, TMJ issues, and problems in the auditory processing pathways of the brain. (Photo credit: Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tinnitus/symptoms-causes/syc-20350156?mc_id=us&utm_source=newsnetwork&utm_medium=l&utm_content=content&utm_campaign=mayoclinic&geo=national&placementsite=enterprise&cauid=100721)

Noise exposure is the leading cause of tinnitus.” 

Dr Eaton stressed that “Noise exposure is the leading cause of tinnitus and is very preventable with the use of hearing protection.”  In an interview with BBC2 last year, musician Eric Clapton noted that “….The only thing I’m concerned with now is being in my Seventies and being able to be proficient. I mean, I’m going deaf, I’ve got tinnitus…” (See https://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/eric-clapton-im-going-deaf-w515334.)

Aging rockers aren’t the only ones affected.  While industry has made improvements to hearing protection for workers and farmers, loud noises outside of the workplace can be a problem.  A recent article from New Zealand discussed the alarming number of children with hearing loss and tinnitus. (See https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/lifestyle/2019/03/generation-deaf-how-new-zealand-s-alarming-headphone-habits-are-ruining-our-hearing.html)

Now that you know what tinnitus is, and what can cause it, you’re probably interested to know more.  What affects the intensity of tinnitus?  How do you treat it?   The story of tinnitus will continue in the next blog posting.

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).

Middle Ear Transplants? Fact or Fiction?

March 16, 2019.  Lately, when I read about some of the advances to improve hearing health, I’m left wondering whether what I’m reading is:

a)      Science fiction

b)      A joke or some kind of ‘fake news’

c)      Amazingly true

My reaction to an article about using 3D technology to design a middle ear for a transplant was no different! A hospital in South Africa did just that, printing out 3 bones from the middle ear to transplant into a 35 year old man whose ear had been damaged in a car accident.   This operation restored his hearing!

These three small bones of the middle ear, collectively called ossicles, work together to receive, amplify, and transmit the sound from the eardrum to the inner ear. The ossicles are the hammer (malleus), anvil (incus), and the stirrup (stapes). Did you know that the stirrup (stapes) is the smallest named bone we have?

Blausen_0330_EarAnatomy_MiddleEar

Diagram of the Middle Ear. (Photo credit: Blausen.com staff (2014). “Medical gallery of Blausen Medical 2014”. WikiJournal of Medicine 1 (2). DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.010. ISSN 2002-4436. https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29025010)

So what are the implications of this transplant?  A spokesperson at the hospital where the transplant was performed explained that “This may be the answer to conductive hearing loss, a middle ear problem caused by congenital birth defects, infection, trauma or metabolic diseases.”  Wow! (See https://www.health24.com/Medical/Hearing-management/News/steve-biko-hospital-conducts-worlds-first-ever-middle-ear-transplant-20190314)

If you’ve lost your hearing due to a condition affecting the middle ear, we’d love to hear your thoughts on this ground breaking surgery.  And we’d welcome input from medical professionals who may have more information than was available in the article.  Is middle ear transplant surgery coming soon to a hospital here in Canada?

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.

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

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

 

A Link Between Hearing Loss and Your Heart?

March 12, 2019.  A few years ago I read a book, ‘Scotland’s Inventors – How Scotland Invented Everything’, by Callan Anderson (See https://www.amazon.com/Scotlands-Inventors-Scotland-Invented-Everything-ebook/dp/B00E51N5BG).  At first I thought this was a joke, but quickly realized that the book explained Scottish connections to inventions and schools of thought.  ‘Who knew?’ was my reaction.

I was reminded of this book as new information keeps coming out on the link between our hearing and the physiology of our body.  The most recent is a link between hearing loss and heart disease.  What?  My mother had a heart condition and I spent many years traipsing to cardiologists with her over the years.  Not once did one of her cardiologists discuss her hearing, although it was obvious to each one that she had hearing loss!  They discussed her other medical conditions and diet, but hearing health?  Not once.  So I read the articles discussing a link with both great interest and scepticism.

So what’s the link? Our inner ears have a lot of blood vessels.  Per a study by Dr. David Friedland, PhD, Professor and Vice-Chair of Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, and other researchers, any change, such as injury to the blood vessel and impaired blood flow, can affect your hearing.  This suggests that any change in low-frequency hearing can be an indicator that there is risk of cardiovascular disease!  An audiogram may provide a hint that the person may be at risk for a heart condition! (See https://aberdeenaudiology.com/2019/02/13/heart-disease-and-hearing-loss-2/  and https://hearinghealthcenter.com/blog/the-link-between-heart-issues-and-hearing-loss/ and https://www.enttoday.org/article/low-frequency-hearing-loss-may-indicate-cardiovascular-disease/)

Another study, done at the Bionics Institute medical research facility in Australia, has found that tracking heart rate can be an early indicator of hearing loss. In this study, researchers found that sound levels directly affect heart rate.  A significantly lower heart rate was recorded when lower level sounds were played, while an increased heart rate occurred for higher level sounds.  The conclusion was that combining heart rate information with brain responses was an objective, and more accurate and effective, method of detecting hearing loss, particularly in infants.  (See https://www.timesnownews.com/health/article/tracking-heart-rate-can-help-detect-hearing-loss-early/375460)

We’d love to hear from audiologists and cardiologists to get their input on this link between heart health and hearing loss.  And of course we want to hear about your experiences, particularly if you have both a heart condition and hearing loss.

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

© Daria Valkenburg

UPCOMING EVENTS

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

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

 

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.

 

 

Tips For Enjoying Valentine’s Day

art beach beautiful clouds

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

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

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

Valentine

Valentine’s Day usually means flowers in our household!

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

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

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

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

© Daria Valkenburg

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

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