Do Others Mumble Or Might You Have Hearing Loss?

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-image-survey-image23713691

January 19, 2020.  Many people like to take surveys.  Do you?  I hope so, as in this posting I’m inviting you to participate in a survey of 10 questions that can be answered with Yes or No.  Each question also has a line in case you want to clarify your answer with an explanatory comment.

What’s the survey about? The questions are designed for you to see if you might have hearing loss.  Do you find yourself thinking that a lot of people mumble, the TV is set at too low a volume, or a room is just too noisy?  If so, you aren’t alone, and may have some degree of hearing loss.  The more answers that you answer YES, the more likely it is that you have hearing loss.

While older people are perceived to be more likely to have hearing loss, it’s not the whole picture.  Anyone can have hearing loss. When we were in The Netherlands last fall, I was very interested to read that 25% (that’s 1 in 4 people!) of young Dutch people between the ages of 12 and 25 have hearing loss!  A study carried out by the Amsterdam Medical Centre determined that the main cause was due to exposure to loud music, either at concerts or other events, or from listening to portable music players.  (You can read the article at https://www.hear-it.org/one-four-young-dutch-people-affected-hearing-loss)

The Dutch are installing hearing loops in more and more public places. We attended a presentation at a small museum in Harlingen, which was in the process of having a hearing loop installed. We missed trying it out by just a few days!

While loud music can be a factor in noise induced hearing loss, it isn’t the only one.  Many everyday objects, like a hair dryer, have decibel levels that exceed safe levels.  Hmmm…. nope, I’m still using a blow dryer for my hair.  (See https://www.health24.com/Medical/Hearing-management/About-hearing-management/fyi-these-common-objects-are-damaging-your-hearing-20181221 for more items.)

Do Others Mumble Or Might You Have Hearing Loss?…..So, are you ready to take the survey?  Here it is!  Don’t be shy!

Survey Monkey web link:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FZ2ZD6K

The results will be tabulated and reported on in an upcoming posting.

Do you have a question you’d like answered?  An experience to share?  Send an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  You can also comment on this blog, or follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

People With Cochlear Implants Can Improve Their Ability To Sing In Tune!

January 5, 2020.  A few months ago, Joan Gallant’s quest to sing in tune following a cochlear implant (CI) was highlighted, along with some information on why it is a challenge. (See Will People With Cochlear Implants Always Sing Out Of Tune?)

After the posting was published, a reader sent in two sound clips and asked for feedback.  While she didn’t wish to be identified, she did give permission to post the clips, and to send the clips to Johanna Boyer, a musicologist who works in music research for MED-EL, and was in contact with Joan Gallant.  Johanna has personal experience as she’s had a cochlear implant for 10 years.

I am a trained singer and have performance experience in opera, musicals, etc. and I do still perform as singer songwriter,” Johanna explained. She offers hope for people with cochlear implants who love to sing.  In the past 7 years I have conducted multiple singing workshops for CI users in Austria, Germany, and Finland and I also had a couple students, who I was teaching. I currently have a bilateral CI user, who is my student. Based on this experience I am confident to say that training can improve singing in tune in CI users.” Bilateral means that both ears have a cochlear implant.

The sound clips from the unidentified blog reader help to illustrate the challenge of singing in tune:

Blog reader Singing with CI #1 —  https://drive.google.com/file/d/1yll-Q_5tnNu_26-4s4Btx3Pavwbis2l5/view?usp=sharing

Blog reader Singing with CI #2 —  https://drive.google.com/file/d/1QOKndW_9-8vpMsajWTkjB8ANiz4o1V02/view?usp=sharing

After reviewing the sound clips, Johanna Boyer noted that “In my opinion there are 2 areas for CI users that need attention and training: pitch discrimination and vocal production (singing).

Pitch Discrimination is an important basis for singing and considering the various CI indications we have today, the cochlear implant path needs focused training. What I mean by that is if the individual, who is interested in improving pitch discrimination is a bimodal user (Cochlear Implant plus Hearing Aid) then he or she needs to train the CI alone to improve pitch discrimination in the CI. To assure that no residual hearing is used, the CI should be directly connected to the sound source through a connectivity accessory. There are many apps out there to train pitch discrimination, which makes training simple and fun.

When we sing it matters how we produce sounds and I have observed various aspects that impact intonation (singing in tune) in CI users.

  1. The placement of the tone: ideally, we want the resonating tone to be in the front so that when we open our mouth the tone is carried out. If we don’t practice the placement of the tone, then it might ‘get stuck in the throat’ and that impacts sound quality and intonation.
  2. Breathing control can also negatively impact intonation (the ability to sing in tune). If we can’t properly control the respiratory flow then when we e.g. open our mouth wider like with an A vowel more air suddenly escapes, which impacts intonation.
  3. The way we shape and place our vowels also influences intonation and is something we need to practice. I had students who thought they couldn’t match the pitch from the piano, and I noticed they were using a vowel that sounded very unstable. When I asked them to match the pitch using ‘m’ they had no problems.
  4. Pitch range: when someone chooses a song, it doesn’t always fit the person’s actual pitch range. Also don’t forget that no training and age can be factors that influence pitch range. With a smaller pitch range, higher or lower notes can become a challenge. Then often too much force is used, and so we overcompensate and don’t land on the note we meant to.

Now those 4 aspects I mentioned are easier to practice when you have experience, or a teacher who can guide you. Of course, I understand that not everyone has the possibility to work with a vocal teacher one on one. So…….other recommendations for practice opportunities I often give are: practicing in a group or choir, or using video games like ‘SingStar’ or ‘Rock Band’ that give you visual feedback about your intonation.”

DSCN2531 Johanna Boyer, Jenna Browning, Josh Stohl and Kosta Kokkinakis

Left to right:  Johanna Boyer, Jenna Browning, Joan Gallant, Josh Stohl, Kosta Kokkinakis.  (Photo courtesy of Joan Gallant)

A few months ago, Joan Gallant was invited to spend a week at MED-EL’s North American Research Laboratory in Durham, South Carolina, and had four researchers that worked with her.  In her report, Joan explained that the “overall goal of the lab is to improve MED-EL’s cochlear implants.”  The four researchers working with her were:

  1. Jenna Browning, a research audiologist
  2. Kosta Kokkinakis, an electrical engineer who is interested in how microphones pick up sound and determine what is useful speech and what is ‘noise’
  3. Josh Stohl, lab director and electrical engineer, interested in how to stimulate the hearing nerve in a better way that may provide more useful information to the brain for processing sound
  4. Johanna Boyer, MED-EL’s music topic manager who does research on music.

Joan described the week, which was both exhilarating and very hard work!  “After the tour of the building and meeting the four lab members I would spend the week with, I signed the research consent forms and then did ‘baseline’ testing to give them an idea of my performance with my cochlear implant.  I was asked to listen to words and then sentences, and to repeat what I heard.

As Joan soon learned, this was just the beginning!  In a brief summary she said that “This was a one-on-one study and very interesting and also exhausting. One study was on music training trying to develop a program for those with cochlear implants. I also had two singing lessons.

Joan expanded on her summary, explaining that after the baseline testing, “I spent the week helping them to collect data.  They use a computer in place of the external cochlear implant audio processor so that they can test new algorithms and sound coding strategies that are not yet possible on the current generation of commercial devices.”  An algorithm is a logical or mathematical calculation.

Joan had a front row view of the research that goes into new generations of cochlear implants.  “I got to listen to things in the lab before MED-EL comes out with them in their future products.  A lot of what I did throughout the week was to listen to their new sound coding algorithms.  For example, Kosta’s primary interest is reverberation and so his research studies tested me in rooms with different amounts of echo.  He is trying to find ways to reduce noise and echo in different environments. Throughout the week I listened to 350 words and 1200 sentences (some with ten words) and many of these sentences were tested in background noise or in reverberant rooms.

Joan was delighted to work with Johanna Boyer, who she had been in email contact with prior to arriving in Durham.  “I also did 8 hours of musical training as part of Johanna’s research.  She had different exercises that focused on various aspects of music, like melody and rhythm.  There were many levels with increasing difficulty.  Johanna also spent two hours providing singing and voice lessons, which is something she doesn’t typically do with other research participants.  They try to individualize the experience for each research participant.

By the end of the week, another test was made, and Joan was able to see if any of the initial results had changed.  “On Friday, Jenna repeated the word and sentence testing that she had completed on Monday morning to see if my speech understanding had improved.  By then, I had spent 30 hours in the lab, listing to different sounds (speech, speech in noise, speech in reverberant rooms, music, etc.), which is a lot of auditory training!

The conclusion?  “They were very pleased to see that I had improved in both quiet and in noise from all the testing I had done throughout the week. My words score improved from 60% to 80% of words correct in quiet.  In background noise, I could tolerate an extra 3 decibels of noise to get the same score as I did on Monday.”

For more on the challenge of singing when you have a cochlear implant, see https://blog.medel.com/what-does-hearing-with-a-cochlear-implant-sound-like/?utm_source=salesforce&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=blogInt-update190814

Thank you to Johanna Boyer for providing so much insight and tips in singing for those with a cochlear implant.  Thank you to Joan Gallant for her detailed report on her week at MED-EL’s research lab.  Thank you to the blog reader who shared her sound clips.  And a big thank you to MED-EL for making Joan’s experience possible. Do you have a cochlear implant and love to sing?  You can share your experience by sending an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  You can also comment on this blog, or follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

Think Science Fair!

December 20, 2019.  Last month a blog posting about noisy restaurants included a link to a nifty app called Soundprint (see https://www.soundprint.co/) that measures decibel levels (See Would You Dine Out In A Noisy Restaurant Or Pub?).  Not long after the article was written, CBC’s Marketplace did a program on excessive noise levels and also featured the same app (See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHa3OMdO1mc).

It got us talking about the noise levels in our everyday lives, not just restaurants.  And this led to thoughts of the upcoming PEI Science Fair.  Every year, Hear PEI sponsors the ‘Listen To This‘ specialty prize at the PEI Science Fair, coming up on April 2, 2020.

So this year, we are encouraging Island students to research decibel levels and the effects of sound on health, using the Soundprint app. For more information see PEI Science Fair: Ideas http://peisciencefair.ca/p/links.html

If you are a teacher, or have children or grandchildren looking for a PEI Science Fair project, let them know about these project ideas.  We hope that participating students will share their findings, and help everyone to build more awareness of the impact that sound levels have on our health.

Comments or more project ideas can be emailed to hearpei@gmail.com or sent as a comment on this blog at https://theauralreport.wordpress.comYou can also follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI.

 

© Daria Valkenburg

Don’t Miss YOUR Opportunity To Participate In Health PEI’s Consultation Survey

December 11, 2019.  A few weeks ago, we were invited by Health PEI to attend a Strategic Planning Session, for consultations with community groups, Islanders, patient advisors/partners, staff and physicians.  The purpose of the consultations, which were attended by Annie Lee MacDonald and myself, is to build a three‐year strategic plan for the priorities for Health PEI’s program and service development for the years 2020‐2023.

A variety of groups participated, with people from different Health PEI departments.  We were told that the strategic planning session ‘helps assess and adjust direction in a changing environment’.  The current Health Plan expires on March 31, 2020 and among the factors to consider were trends in health and current practices.

We were broken up into groups for brainstorming sessions, and each group had a similar set of messages for Health PEI:

  • Better diagnosis and education is needed for specific medical conditions.  We gave the example of how hearing loss can be misdiagnosed for other conditions, such as dementia, and how not addressing hearing loss can lead to other physical and mental conditions.
  • Initiatives for awareness sessions and education on specific conditions need to be provided to health providers, such as professional development credits offered by Health PEI, which may encourage a higher level of participation. We gave the example of the work done in improving communications in the legal community here on PEI and referenced our YouTube videos.
  • There need to be ‘champions’ in the system for various medical conditions.
  • Help equip patients to self-manage their condition.
  • Better navigation of available services is needed and patients with conditions need to increase their awareness.   In other words, self-knowledge is important.  Every resident of Prince Edward Island is able to have a hearing test, paid by Health PEI, if the patient is referred by a physician or nurse practitioner.
  • The current ‘silo’ approach of treating conditions needs to be changed to one where a person is seen as the sum total of their various medical conditions.  We explained that people with any condition can also have hearing loss.  Without the ability to communicate effectively and hear what is being said, the various programs put in place will not bring the desired results.
  • Rural health care is a priority for Islanders, who do not want or cannot travel distances to see a primary care provider.  Travel costs, access to travel for many people who are unable to travel by themselves, the time people need to take to bring someone to a health care provider…. all were points referenced over and over again.  Primary care needs to be local, was the consistent message made to Health PEI.

In the general discussions we noted that hearing loss is growing in prevalence.  According to the World Health Organization, it is the 4th leading cause of living with disability globally!  In Canada, it is the 3rd most chronic condition, after arthritis and hypertension (high blood pressure).  It affects young and old, any income group, and people with other conditions. Yet, for some reason, it is the ignored elephant in the room with medical personnel, mostly ignored or brushed off!

Health care settings, such as hospitals, are difficult places to hear due to constant noise – alarms beep, sound insulation in rooms is poor, there are competing conversations if you are not in a private room.  Many patients refuse to use earplugs when they watch TV in a hospital, adding to noise levels.  (See Doctors with pocket talkers, lawyers with pocket talkers)

Miscommunication can be problematic, affecting care and understanding by patients of conditions and treatments.  We explained that contractions as used in every day speech can be a nightmare.  It’s difficult to distinguish between ‘can’ and ‘can’t’ as an example.  Accents can be hard to understand at first.  Many healthcare providers speak too quickly, not giving time for our brains to process what is being said.  Others speak too softly, or face a laptop instead of the patients, making it seem like they are mumbling.  We explained that people with hearing loss use speech reading to help figure out what is being said, whether they have taken a formal class or not, and so they need to SEE the person who is talking.

We noted that hearing loss can lead to other conditions if not addressed.  We gave the example of people tending to isolate themselves when hearing becomes a challenge.  It becomes a pain to comprehend what is being said, particularly in group situations, such as weddings, parties, etc.  (See Holiday Dinners and Parties – Fun or a Nightmare? for some of the comments that have been made about holiday get-togethers.)  Social isolation leads to mental health conditions such as depression.  People tend to be at increased risk for falls.  A question asked every time you go to a clinic or hospital is “Have you fallen recently?” Why not a question about hearing loss? we asked.   Increasingly, studies are showing that if hearing loss is not addressed, there is an increased risk of dementia.

We concluded by pointing out that mental health, fall risks, depression, and dementia are all issues of concern to Health PEI.  Wouldn’t addressing hearing loss help in preventing these issues becoming a concern for many Islanders?

There were nods of agreement and acknowledge all around the tables, but did the message get through? A recent survey sent as a follow-up doesn’t seem to indicate that anyone was really paying attention.  So now, it’s YOUR turn to try and get Health PEI to listen…..

The follow-up to the consultations, which gives YOU a chance to participate:

We did our best to have Health PEI incorporate hearing accessibility into the planning and now have now received a survey to be distributed to Islanders with hearing loss and their family members.  Please don’t ignore this opportunity to draw attention to the needs of those with hearing loss in improving communications with our health providers, but to add your voice and opinion by filling out this short survey.

One key message suggested to include is:  A person’s ability to communicate is #1.  We need to be able to hear and comprehend a medical professional.  Better hearing accessibility is crucial.  Please pay attention to hearing loss and ask for advice in how to communicate with us.” If you may have more messaging ideas, please share them, so that we can include them in the next round of consultations.

For those in the South Shore area, who are without a doctor, this is also your opportunity to say you want a health centre in rural areas, such as Crapaud.

You will see in the questionnaire that there are some suggestions made for priorities, but hearing accessibility is NOT one of them.  Did you know that according to current research, for every person who needs a wheelchair ramp, there are 29 people who need better hearing accessibility in public places?  And this figure is growing!

 

The questionnaire can be submitted anonymously, if you wish. You do not need to provide your name, age or gender; however, you will need to enter your postal code which will let Health PEI know your general geographic location. The survey will be open until December 29, 2019.

Here is the link to the survey: www.healthpei.ca/StrategicPlanFeedback

If you prefer to fill out a paper copy, please see health_pei_strategic_planning_public_consultation_2020-23_form.  You can download it, print it, fill it out, and return it to one of the health centres identified on page 2.

If you know someone who would like to fill out the survey, but does not have email, please do an act of kindness and print out a copy for the person and bring it to them to fill out.

As always, you can send an email to hearpei@gmail.com, comment on the blog, and send a tweet to @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

Holiday Dinners and Parties – Fun or a Nightmare?

December 2005.  Christmas glasses on dining room table.

Preparing for a holiday get-together.  (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

December 6, 2019.  The holidays…. family dinners, cookie exchanges with your friends, get-togethers with friends and neighbours…What a fun time! Don’t you love it when people are enjoying themselves? Wait… not so fast… a lot of people with hearing loss say. Some candid comments shared recently perhaps can best be described as people with hearing loss thinking out loud and wishing that others could appreciate the feelings of those who face the challenges of hearing in difficult situations.

One woman said, “It’s not fun at all!  The TV is blaring, music is playing in another part of the house, kids are making noise with their toys, and everyone is talking at once. My husband and I love our family, but we wish they weren’t so noisy.

Family dinners are a nightmare” I was told by one woman.  “Everyone has side conversations and I’m left out.  I can’t follow anyone as everyone is talking over each other. I feel more alone with them than when they are not around.

Another woman quietly confessed that “I resent family dinners.  I work hard to provide the meal and invite everyone over. Then they all talk to each other and I’m sitting there wondering why I’m not just sitting with my feet up, watching a nice movie.

I was with a group of women, and was talking to my neighbour.  We were seated at a long table.  A woman to my left told me to be quiet as she wanted to hear what was being said at the far right of the table.”  The hurt in this woman’s voice was unmistakable.  “If she was interested in what was going on at the other end of the table, why didn’t she go and sit there?

My friends at my club show me a lot of consideration.  They have a rule that one person speaks at a time so that I, and everyone else, can follow the conversation.  My family doesn’t treat me with that same respect.  It’s a free-for-all.

Wow! Frustration, loneliness while among a group of people, resentment, hurt feelings, lack of enjoyment.  While there are plenty of tips and assistive listening tools to help navigate holiday get-togethers, you first have to deal with these negative feelings that are taking away your enjoyment of the holidays.

One thing to realize is that whether your hearing is good or bad, if you are at a large table, you are NOT going to hear every conversation. That’s one reason why there are so many side conversations.  People tend to talk to who is near them.

During holiday get-togethers, people are excited and often they are with family and friends they don’t often see, particularly if some live far away.  Yes, the noise levels rise with the number of people, and there are many more side conversations.

So, what can you do to make these events more enjoyable?  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Have a rest BEFORE everyone arrives, or before you go out to an event.  Don’t work all day preparing a meal and cleaning the house, then expect to hear well when you are already exhausted.  You won’t.
  • Shut the TV and music off during mealtimes!  Take a good look at those Christmas movies on TV….no one is watching TV during dinner!
  • Instead of one long table, consider setting up several smaller tables.  Everyone will find it easier to concentrate and listen to a smaller group of people at a time. Ask some of the people to rotate from one table to another between courses, so that there is more interaction.
  • Pick a spot at the table and in the room where you can hear the best.  Most of us have one ear that we can hear better with.  Position yourself so that’s the ear facing your dinner companions.
  • Choose an ‘escape’ room.  When the noise level gets to be too much, simply go to a quiet room and have a few minutes break to give your ears a rest.  If the event is in your house, or at a friend’s place, that’s easily done.  Otherwise, you can always excuse yourself to go to the washroom!
  • Recognize that a holiday get-together is not the same as a small gathering.  Don’t worry that you can’t hear everyone.
  • If you are really interested in a conversation that you can’t hear, perhaps at another part of the table, get up and move there.  That’s what the woman who told another one to ‘be quiet’ so she could hear what was being said at the other end of the table should have done.

Got more suggestions? As always, you can send an email to hearpei@gmail.com, comment on the blog, and send a tweet to @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

UPCOMING EVENTS

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

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

2019 Hearing Health Day In New Brunswick

December 1, 2019.  I love outreach events!  It’s a chance to talk with people about hearing loss issues and hear their concerns and points of view.  Last month Annie Lee MacDonald and I made a trip to Moncton for the 4th annual Hearing Health New Brunswick event, hosted by Avenir Hearing.

CIMG3608 Oct 22 2019 Hearing Health NB in Moncton

2019 Hearing Health NB Day in Moncton.  Left to right: Dr Denis LeBlanc, Daria Valkenburg, Annie Lee MacDonald, Ian Hamilton, Simone Belliveau, Rheal Leger.

The gift bag with an Avenir Hearing calendar had a wonderful caption on it:

“Life is full of wonderful moments.  Hear all of them.”

This year the day was split in two, with sessions in English in the morning, which we attended, and French sessions in the afternoon. Instead of one room where the various presentations were held, as in previous years, there were four rooms, each with different presentations. We were split into 4 groups, with each smaller group rotating between the various rooms.

CIMG3611 Oct 22 2019 Hearing Health NB in Moncton

Janice Daley on the left, and Andrea Neilson on the right, both of Phonak, demonstrate the Roger Select microphone. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

The first session we attended included two demonstrations by Phonak.  One demonstration explained how their Roger Select microphone worked.  This is a transmitting microphone designed to be worn by the speaker, not the listener, and is designed for people who are socially active.  It has a speaker that transmits automatically to a hearing aid, and, in answer to a question asked, the microphone will work with hearing aids other than Phonak.  However, it will not work with a pocket talker, only with hearing aids.

A short YouTube video by Phonak gives a demonstration, but be forewarned that it is not captioned.  You can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vg72TTVGupU.

The second Phonak demonstration was on their e-solutions, showing how a smart phone or tablet can be used to change volume and tone on a Phonak hearing aid, and provide remote support.  While these are great options, you do need an internet connection to access the programming offered.  For more information, you can watch this YouTube video, which is captioned, in both English and French: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IpiLAbCSHD8.

CIMG3612 Oct 22 2019 Hearing Health NB in Moncton

Phonak’s e-solutions demonstration.

In the second session Dr. LeBlanc talked about the hearing aid rental program offered by Avenir Hearing, a program that is available here on Prince Edward Island as well as New Brunswick.  (See Exploring The Option of Renting Your Hearing Aids)

This is the 7th year of the Hearing Aid Rental Program in New Brunswick, and Dr LeBlanc mentioned he had gotten the idea for an affordable solution to hearing aid access from an HVAC firm! 75% of private pay clients (as opposed to those whose hearing aids are covered by programs such as through Veterans Affairs) opt to rent their hearing aids in New Brunswick.  The program provides:

  • a simple monthly payment solution
  • peace of mind
  • all inclusive experience, including batteries, visits, and repairs
  • eligibility for an upgrade after 36 months

The third session was a presentation by audiologist Joline Coomber on the Effects of Untreated Hearing Loss.  Among the points summarized in this discussion were that hearing loss can affect a person’s physical health, relationships, and mental well-being.

Physical health can be impacted by hearing loss through:

  • increased risk of falls, due to balance issues
  • the brain, with an example given of trying to cope with speech discrimination: cat, sat, bat, rat can sound the same.

Relationships and mental well-bring can be impacted by hearing loss when:

  • the connection to family and friends is reduced by people avoiding social gatherings due to strain of not hearing well.
  • stress is put on partners who have to constantly repeat themselves or complaining about the TV volume being too high.
CIMG3615 Oct 22 2019 Hearing Health NB in Moncton

The relationships between hearing loss, brain health, and mental wellness.

The fourth and last session was ‘Ask An Audiologist’. The transition from an authoritarian figure to a consultative one was discussed.  Originally the audiologist told a person what they needed. Now the audiologist asks about our life style which helps to determine what might be best.

Annie Lee pointed out that, in general, people who see an audiologist for the first time don’t know what they want. Information sessions, such as the Hearing Health NB Day, were one way to help increase awareness.

Education was a key component, everyone agreed, and more interaction is needed between support groups, such as our own group here on Prince Edward Island, and audiologists.

It was an interesting morning, and we are grateful to Dr LeBlanc of Avenir Hearing for extending an invitation to us to attend.

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

© Daria Valkenburg

UPCOMING EVENTS

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

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

 

 

Would You Dine Out In A Noisy Restaurant Or Pub?

November 8, 2019.  Several previous postings have given tips on restaurant dining and what you can do to make the experience more pleasant and hearing accessible.  (See Enjoying A Restaurant Lunch When You Are Hard of Hearing and More Tips On Enjoying A Restaurant Meal When You Are Hard of Hearing and Tips For Enjoying Valentine’s Day)  Sometimes, though, all the good intentions and tips go out the window.  Maybe your place of employment holds its annual holiday gathering in a dimly lit and overcrowded venue with live rock music.  Your women’s group wants to go to a dinner theatre with poor acoustics and even dimmer lighting.  Your speech reading skills won’t be able to help you if you can’t see anything.  What should you do?  Stay home?  Or do you go along, knowing that you will have difficulty engaging with anyone?

Over the years, between my husband’s work environment and mine, I’ve had to make these choices on a weekly basis.  Lately I’ve been spoiled as so many of my friends have hearing loss and we avoid dimly lit, noisy environments like the plague.

A few days ago, however, while in Halifax, my husband wanted to go to The Red Stag, a pub he likes as it makes fish and chips exactly how he likes it.  The food is good in this place, and it was very conveniently located near our hotel, but the noise level is incredibly loud.  For some reason, the management insists on playing music at such a loud decibel level that conversations are very difficult. As more customers come in to eat and drink, the noise level increases as they have to practically shout to make themselves heard over the music.

In past visits, we’ve asked the serving staff if it’s possible to turn down the music and it always works…. for a few minutes.  Then someone on the staff turns it up again, usually even louder than it was originally. By the time the young staff members get old enough to notice their hearing has diminished, it will be too late. (See Do You Wish You Had Listened To Your Parents?)

CIMG3629 Nov 3 2019 With Janine Verge Courtyard Halifax

Photo: Daria Valkenburg and Janine Verge during a quiet moment before we went to a noisy pub! (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

So, the dilemma….. visit The Red Stag so my husband could have his fish and chips?  We were joined by Janine Verge, audiologist at Nova Scotia ….., who also has hearing loss.  One person with good hearing, and two people who would need to speech read in order to make any sense of the evening’s conversation.  We went and had an enjoyable time, in spite of the head bangingly loud music.

Janine wondered why restaurants and pubs felt the need to blast customers with loud music.  Was it to increase the amount people spend on food and drink?  I thought it was to keep people from lingering too long.  Eat and then leave, making room for new customers.  But the truth was that we had no idea why they do it, as it isn’t a pleasant experience.

The next day, my husband was surprised to read an article in ‘Curated‘ on how many people avoid loud restaurants and pubs in Nova Scotia… in a food and beverage magazine ‘celebrating Halifax’s dining culture’ in its September/October 2019 issue! (See Tunes vs Diners article) He admitted that the noise level had been unpleasant for him too, but he considered it a minor inconvenience for enjoying the food.

Noise levels in restaurants are an issue in many places.  An article in the UK’s Guardian by Ellie Violet Bramley noted that the “Background noise in some eateries can reach the equivalent of a motorbike or a lawnmower.  It’s enough to put you off your dinner.” The author went on to explain that “According to AoHL, 79% of people, both those with and without hearing loss, had experienced difficulty holding a conversation while eating out. Eight out of 10 reported having left a restaurant, cafe or pub early because of the noise. Ninety-one per cent said they would not return to venues where noise levels were too high, and 43% have opted for a takeaway instead of going out and decibel-dodging.”  (AoHL refers to a UK charity called Action on Hearing Loss.)

The article mentions an app called Soundprint, described as the Yelp for noise, which “allows users to search for restaurants conducive to conversation.” The app comes with a decibel meter to measure the sound in various places and so far has had more than 60,000 submissions. (See https://www.soundprint.co/)  Interestingly, Bramley notes that research shows that “loud noise compromises taste.” Hmmm…. how would the fish and chips have tasted in a quiet environment?  To read the entire article, see https://www.theguardian.com/food/2019/may/09/great-food-but-please-do-something-about-the-noise-the-battle-for-quieter-restaurants)

So what do you think?  Why are restaurants and pubs so loud?  Would you go to one, just so you could be with your friends or family?  Let us know!  As always, you can email us at hearpei@gmail.com, comment on our blog, and follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

UPCOMING EVENTS

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

 

Tinnitus Relaxation Therapy Techniques

October 26, 2019.  In the series about tinnitus earlier this year, an overview on tinnitus and some of its causes was given (See Is The Water Running Or Is It Tinnitus?), plus a brief explanation of what can increase tinnitus symptoms (See What Will INCREASE Your Tinnitus Symptoms?), and some suggestions for treatment. (See What Are The Treatment Options For Tinnitus?)

As someone who has had tinnitus for over two decades, I’m always looking for ways to reduce the sound effects going through my ear!  So when we heard that Jacqueline Hocking, a retired hearing and balance specialist from England, was willing to share some tinnitus relaxation therapy techniques, we invited her to stop by and visit when she and her husband Graham were on the Island.

CIMG3052 Tinnitus relaxation therapy

Standing, left to right: Barbara Bain, Annie Lee MacDonald, Graham Hocking. Seated, left to right: Daria Valkenburg, Jacqueline Hocking. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

We had a lot of fun trying out the tinnitus relaxation therapy techniques demonstrated by Jacqueline, and appreciated her list of things that she found will aggravate tinnitus symptoms.  These include:

  • Silence – you can hear the tinnitus noises more in a quiet environment
  • Stress – increases the noise levels
  • Lack of stress – if you have nothing to worry about, then your body responds by giving you something to think about!
  • Certain foods, such as:
    • Caffeine
    • Cheese
    • Salt
    • Alcohol
    • Chocolate

I’m out for the count with these no-nos, as I do like a jolt of caffeine in the morning.  Being married to a Dutch guy means we always have cheese in the house.  And who can get through a stressful situation without chocolate? Not me!  Luckily, Jacqueline assured us that chocolate in moderation was ok, preferably dark chocolate.

In addition to the tinnitus relaxation therapy techniques she showed us, Jacqueline noted that yoga and tai chi are good for reducing stress.

People with tinnitus need support from family and friends“…. Jacqueline Hocking

One final point she made…. and it was a big one… was that people with tinnitus need support from family and friends.

If you have tinnitus and would like to try out the techniques demonstrated by Jacqueline, watch our YouTube video:

Jacqueline also was kind enough to provide a PDF of the techniques, which you can access here:  (See Tinnitus Relaxation Therapy Tips from Jacqueline)

After seeing the video, Brenda Graves commented: “Wow! So cool. I have started doing it. Will let you know in a few months if it works, LOL.

This video was part of a series we were able to make thanks to volunteer participation and a grant from the Senior Secretariat of PEI.  After seeing the video, Mary Driscoll, Senior Policy Advisor for the Secretariat wrote us to say:  “Thank you for sharing this. You did a great job with this video, and I found myself practicing the exercises as I watched.  Well done, and thanks again.  I really hope to have opportunity to share this with members of our Seniors Secretariat during a monthly meeting!

This is the fourth Hear PEI YouTube video which has been posted on our YouTube Channel.  For more information on the videos, see these previous postings:  ‘A Pocket Talker Changed My Life’, Grant Awarded From Seniors Secretariat of PEI, and We Are Your Bridge To Hear)

Thank you to Jacqueline Hocking for providing the tinnitus relaxation therapy techniques, and to post-production editor Wendy Nattress. Thank you also to Brenda Graves and Mary Driscoll for sharing feedback on the video.  As always, you can email us at hearpei@gmail.com, comment on our blog, and follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI.

© Daria Valkenburg

UPCOMING EVENTS

October meeting:  Tuesday, October 29, 2019 at 11:30 am at North Tryon Presbyterian Church. NOTE: This is a luncheon meeting!

 

 

Grant Awarded From Seniors Secretariat of PEI

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

Funding for this project is giving us the opportunity to make short videos on topics of interest and value to people with hearing loss, here on Prince Edward Island, and, as we are quickly discovering, outside the province.  Each video is fully captioned.

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

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

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

Photo of Wendy Nattress by Graeme Nattress

Wendy Nattress. (Photo credit: Graeme Nattress)

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

You can watch the video here:

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

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

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

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

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

© Daria Valkenburg

UPCOMING EVENTS

September meeting:  Tuesday, September 24, 2019 at 9:30 am at North Tryon Presbyterian ChurchGuest speaker​s​: Patsy Beattie-Huggan, Community Engagement Consultant, will give an overview of the new 211 Information Service provided by the United Way. ​Brenda Porter will lead a discussion entitled “Our Stories Matter: Helping Others to Understand….An informal, mini-workshop on sharing our own voices.” Annie Lee MacDonald and Daria Valkenburg will introduce you to some of the Tinnitus Relaxation Therapy techniques they learned this summer.

Fall Speech Reading Classes: Level I will run Tuesday afternoons, from 2 to 4 pm in Charlottetown, beginning September 24, with popular speech reading instructor Nancy MacPhee, and will run for 10 weeks. Email hearpei@gmail.com for more information or to register.   What will you learn? Level 1 introduces the most visible spoken consonants, as well as thematic groups, such as colours and numbers. Students practice with phrases in class groups as well as with the instructor. General info on hearing loss, as well as coping and communication strategies, are covered. Speech reading takes lots of patience and practice, but it’s also fun!

Post Dorian….More Tips To Think Of For Future Preparations

September 15, 2019. Last month a blog posting on preparing for an emergency when you have hearing loss seemed timely, given the experience we recently had on Prince Edward Island with post-tropical storm Dorian. (See Are You Prepared For An Emergency?)

What was your experience?  Did you make use of any of the tips?  At our home the storm gave us a wild ride!  We were lucky that the only damage we had was tree and branch damage.

20190907-sep-7-2019-maple-tree-in-backyard-came-down-around-630-pm.jpg

An enormous maple tree simply pulled out of the ground and toppled over! (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

Having been through an earthquake, numerous power failures, civil unrest, and several years as an education officer in an emergency management college, I considered us well prepared….and we were. However, the storm brought out a few additional tips to consider in preparing for future emergencies after we were left with no phone, no electricity, and no internet!

We had no phone, no electricity, and no internet!

We listened to the radio (battery-powered, of course) and it was disheartening at the number of references by earnest radio hosts, urging people to ‘go to this web page to find out what’s open or closed in your area, or where to go to an emergency shelter’.  It was almost the only default response, even though people were phoning in on cell phones asking questions because…. they had no internet or electricity!  Very difficult to look something up on the internet when you don’t have it! So, here are a few more tips:

Internet service may not be accessible!

Don’t depend only on the internet for information. If the power and/or internet are out, you need alternate ways to get information.  If you have phone service, you can try calling a radio station for information.  Alternatively, call someone outside of the affected area and ask if they can look up the information you need on the internet and then call you back.  Include the phone numbers of the radio station and someone who lives in a different area than you in your emergency plan, so you have them handy.  One friend told me she never bothered getting a battery-powered radio as she assumed she could access the internet to get all the information she needed.  She explained how unnerving it was to not know what was going on after her cell phone connection was lost.  In the commotion, she had forgotten that there was a radio in her car.

Arrange for someone to check that you are OK.

Pre-arrange to have someone to check up on you. This seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?  If you have an extended family in the area who can visit to make sure you are OK, then perhaps it is.  Many of us don’t, and either have no family in the nearby area or no family members.  If something happens, who is going to see if you are all right?  In your emergency plan preparations, pre-arrange for a friend or family member to contact you in the event of an emergency or disaster, and ensure that person knows who to call in case you don’t answer.  Most likely, this could be a neighbour who might not mind taking a look if asked.  If your friend or family member lives in the same area as you, and might be in the same emergency or disaster situation as you, consider asking a second friend or family member to also contact you.  After our internet service was working again, we found emails from numerous friends that we didn’t even realize were aware of the storm hitting the Island, asking if we were all right.

You will be tired and under stress!

Recognize that you will be stressed and tired. We were lucky not to have major damage or injuries, so we were surprised at how tired we felt after the storm was over and we had made the necessary arrangements for the yard cleanup and removal of the downed trees.  We all are aware that when we are stressed and tired we can’t concentrate as well as we normally can. A diminished level of concentration means we don’t comprehend what we are hearing as well as we do normally.  Take time to rest and recognize that your concentration levels will recover once you are no longer stressed or tired.

Can you add to the tips in the previous posting and this one? Send an email to hearpei@gmail.com or comment on this blog.  You can also follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI

© Daria Valkenburg

UPCOMING EVENTS

September meeting:  Tuesday, September 24, 2019 at 9:30 am at North Tryon Presbyterian Church.  Guest speaker​s​: Patsy Beattie-Huggan, Community Engagement Consultant, will give an overview of the new 211 Information Service provided by the United Way. ​Brenda Porter will lead a discussion entitled “Our Stories Matter: Helping Others to Understand….An informal, mini-workshop on sharing our own voices.” Annie Lee MacDonald and Daria Valkenburg will introduce you to some of the Tinnitus Relaxation Therapy techniques they learned this summer.

Fall Speech Reading Classes: Level I will run Tuesday afternoons, from 2 to 4 pm in Charlottetown, beginning September 24, with popular speech reading instructor Nancy MacPhee, and will run for 10 weeks. Email hearpei@gmail.com for more information or to register.   What will you learn? Level 1 introduces the most visible spoken consonants, as well as thematic groups, such as colours and numbers. Students practice with phrases in class groups as well as with the instructor. General info on hearing loss, as well as coping and communication strategies, are covered. Speech reading takes lots of patience and practice, but it’s also fun!