Rising To The Challenge To Hear – Hearing Loop Technology For Videoconferences

May 13, 2020.  May is Better Hearing Month.  With social distancing and preventative measures in place for reducing the risk of coronavirus (Covid-19) cases and keeping everyone safe, it’s making hearing accessibility issues more and more relevant…. not to mention frustrating….  and bringing them to the forefront.  Past blog postings have covered some of these issues and suggested solutions:

Being able to hear while participating in an online meeting….whether it’s Facetime with your family, Skype or Zoom for business meetings is more of a challenge these days when we are not able to meet in person due to social distancing.

I remember having online meetings in the past where some people were unable to hear well enough to follow conversations, and in the days before real time captioning apps were feasible solutions, we ended up having to type our comments and questions using instant messaging.  Instant messaging is great for two people communicating, but not so great for larger groups of people on a conference call. It took a lot of time, and made for some head scratching moments as comments came in on a topic while another topic was being introduced.  In the end all was sorted out, but it wasn’t an ideal way to have a meeting.

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When Bill Droogendyk of Better Hearing Solutions advised that a TV room hearing loop system can also be used for computer/smartphone/tablet conference calls by using the headphone jack, it was an ‘aha’ moment for me.  Last year, two uses of a hearing loop system were featured.  One was the chair loop that Graham Hocking used in his car. (See Grant Awarded From Seniors Secretariat of PEI) A second explained how Rheal Leger used a chair loop to watch TV. (See “I Love My Looping Chair”)

Both uses were also explained in two YouTube videos we produced last year:

I Love My Looping Chair:

What is a Car Loop?:

I asked Bill if Rheal could use his system by connecting the loop driver to the computer instead of the TV.  The answer was yes. I then asked if it would be simple to pull the connection out of the TV and into a laptop, and then back again to the TV. Technology challenged people like me need to have easy solutions!  Bill explained that the answer was “Yes, but it might require a different cable (1/8″/3.5mm plugs) and a volume adjustment.”  Bill noted that the cable had been included in the TV room kit that Rheal had purchased.

After trying out the new use for his chair loop, Rheal said “I sat on a chair with the looping cushion underneath and it and behold it worked!  Hallelujah! Daria, I listened to the Phantom In Quarantine link you sent… lol. The sound was very clear.”  (Phantom In Quarantine link for those who haven’t seen it yet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w31L1cCoVYo)

Rheal Leger gets hearing loop quality sound through his laptop now. (Photo credit: Simone Belliveau)

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Rheal Leger points to where the cable needs to be plugged into the adapter. He now has hearing loop quality sound for his TV AND his laptop. (Photo credit: Simone Belliveau)

As the additional cable for access to the laptop was a bit short, Rheal has now ordered a longer cable, which will allow him to sit anywhere in the room…. on his chair loop… to access the hearing loop for his laptop.

If you already have a chair or room hearing loop, the diagram below shows exactly what to do between the computer/tablet/smartphone: Headphone out on the computer/tablet/smartphone to line in on the HLD3 amplifier.

Loop for meetings

Connecting for better conference calling!  (Diagram courtesy of Better Hearing Solutions, from an HLAA webinar presented by Richard Einhorn)

Bill explained further that “If you are currently using the optical cable to watch TV, then you will need to use the “audio patch cord” from the computer to the HLD3 amplifier (and could have both plugged in). If you are already using the “audio patch cord” for watching TV, you will then need to remove it from the TV and plug it into the computer.

If you’re like me and don’t know the difference between an optical cable and an audio patch cord, Bill was kind enough to explain they can be identified by the difference in the ends of the cable.

The “audio patch cord” has ends like this:

audio patch cord

Audio patch cord.  (Image courtesy of Better Hearing Solutions)

The optical cable has ends like this:

optical cable

Optical cable. (Image courtesy of Better Hearing Solutions)

If you still aren’t sure about hearing loops and how they can help, take a look at this explanatory poster:

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Diagram from HLAA. Hearing loops are increasingly becoming available in central and western Canada.  Why not PEI and other Maritime provinces as well?

So, if you are struggling to hear while on a conference call, or you just want better clarity of sound when you watch a YouTube video, there is a solution that could make a difference. Thank you to Bill Droogendyk for the information on a solution, and thank you to Rheal Leger who tested the instructions given and reported back that it worked.  Send an email to hearpei@gmail.com.  You can also comment on this blog, or send a tweet to @HearPEI. Stay safe!

© Daria Valkenburg

The Challenge To Hear During The Pandemic

Olga by her portrait by Riana Moller

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Daria Valkenburg

“I Love My Looping Chair”

November 25, 2019.  Every year we get asked about holiday gift ideas that would be of interest and use to people with hearing loss.  A few gift ideas were featured in a YouTube video (See Holiday Gift Ideas Video For Those With Hearing Loss) and you were invited to let us know about your favourite items.

Rheals chair loop photo by rheal

Chair loop pad. (Photo credit: Rheal Leger)

Rheal Leger went above and beyond, sending us a video clip of him demonstrating the chair loop pad, which he calls his looping chair, that he uses to watch TV.  After purchasing it a year ago, he wrote us about his experience:  “My goodness it works. I hear in both ears – genius device. We have a hideaway bed. I installed the device underneath the cushion. Then I plugged it into the TV and voila. Very easy to install. I could have also put the device under the sofa. For it to work you need to be seated where the device is.  This is a gem. It is the best listening device that I have ever owned.”  Clarity of sound.  You can’t beat that!

You can watch the video for yourself:

After seeing the video, Graham Hocking, who was featured in our YouTube video “What Is A Car Loop?” wrote: “Excellently presented and explained by Rheal and very clear. Am sure many of your viewers will be interested in purchasing one for home.” (See https://youtu.be/Ca5cnPPCW64)

Thank you Rheal, and a huge thank you to Wendy Nattress, our post-production editor!  Do you have any favourite products you wish someone would consider giving as a gift item?  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 April 28, 2020.

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”, 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.

 

211 Is Coming To PEI

October 23, 2019.  I love our information and support meetings as they are an opportunity not only to meet and talk with others who have hearing loss, but also to learn about new initiatives and ideas from our guest speakers.  At a recent meeting our guest speaker was Patsy Beattie-Huggan, Community Engagement Consultant for the new 211 Information Service, which is provided by the United Way, that will be launched on PEI in January 2020.

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Patsy Beattie-Huggan describes the upcoming 211 Information Service at a recent meeting. (Photo credit: Daria Valkenburg)

211 is a community service program that is operated out of Nova Scotia during the week, with the call centre in Toronto handling calls on the weekend. PEI is in the process of training people to run this service. What is it?  It’s a free confidential 24/7 information and referral service for community and social services that is intended to link Islanders to the services that best meet their needs by phone, text, or using the online database.

This number is not for emergencies but if a  caller has an emergency, someone will immediately connect them to 911. At present, United Way PEI has been contracted by the PEI Government to develop and implement 211 across PEI. The government of PEI was interested in the service as part of PEI’s poverty reduction strategy.  The service is intended to address gaps in information and be multilingual in offering support in 150 languages.  211 has been in use in Nova Scotia since 2013, and feedback indicates that more and more professionals are using the service, as opposed to solely individuals seeking information.

The first stage in the project is to develop the database for PEI related information. Organizations were invited to participate in the creation of the database by contributing their information and encouraging others.  This is how we first learned about 211 this past summer. We were one of the groups asked to provide information, which we did.

Our concern for this information service is the lack of knowledge among call centre staff in being able to communicate with people with hearing loss.  Many of us find it challenging to speak with people with accents, or those who speak too quickly, or too softly.  In addition, would call centre staff know where to direct calls related to hearing loss issues?  Asking the Community Engagement Consultant to give a presentation was a way for us  to learn more about the service and for Patsy to have a better idea of the concerns and challenges faced by those with hearing loss who might call the 211 Information Service.

We thank Patsy Beattie-Huggan for coming out to our meeting.  For more information, please refer to the frequently asked questions sheet: 211 Frequently Asked Questions 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!

 

‘A Pocket Talker Changed My Life’

October 2, 2019.  Thanks to a grant from the Seniors Secretariat of PEI for the project “Social Media for Hearing Losses on PEI”, and the brilliant assistance of our post-production editor Wendy Nattress, we have been able to make fully captioned short videos on topics of interest and value to those with hearing loss.  Our first project, “What Is A Car Loop?” with guest Graham Hocking of England has already had an effect beyond the island. (See Grant Awarded From Seniors Secretariat of PEI)

The video also stimulated interest in hearing loops, as noted by Brenda Graves, who sent the following feedback: “Very informative. Too bad banks don’t have loops available for ‘in branch meetings’ or ‘transactions’.”  Perhaps as more people learn about the clarity of sound heard through a hearing loop, they will ask more businesses and services for that accommodation.

Our second video, “We Are Your Bridge To Hear” (See We Are Your Bridge To Hear) gave a brief introduction to some of the issues related to hearing loss.

IMG_20190930_083547 Wendy at work on video

Post-production editor Wendy Nattress hard at work with our raw video footage. (Photo credit: Graeme Nattress)

Our third video, “A Pocket Talker Changed My Life” features a dynamic and articulate 95 year old Ruth Brewer was interviewed about her experiences with a pocket talker.  A meeting with Ruth had been the subject of an earlier blog posting.  (See “The Pocket Talker Is My Lifeline”)

This third video has had a lot of feedback already, which we had expected given the popularity of pocket talkers on the island….

Comment from Brenda Porter: “Excellent video. Very well done. Congrats!

Comment from Nancy MacPhee:  “Great video! Well done, ladies.

Comment from Jane Scott: “I loved it.  Ruth is a gem and what a heart-warming story.

Comment from Ted at ALDS: “WOW actually a double WOW WOW – that is awesome. Thank you so much for sharing.  This is a wonderful video. Can I please share this with my rep at Williams Sound, Mike would be thrilled to see this video.  Fantastic!

Teds comment with frame

Screenshot above shows Ted’s additional comment on YouTube: “What a fantastic video and demonstration.  Thank you for sharing.

It was a leap of faith to try doing YouTube videos, but the feedback has been so encouraging we are planning another one!  Please keep the comments coming!  Thank you to Wendy Nattress and Ruth Brewer. 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! Brenda Porter will lead a discussion entitled “Our Stories Matter: Helping Others to Understand….An informal, mini-workshop on sharing our own voices.  

 

MORE ON…. What Do YOU Do With Your Hearing Aids At Bedtime?

August 29, 2019.  A recent posting summarized a discussion a number of us had regarding the question “Do you take out your hearing aids overnight?”  (See What Do YOU Do With Your Hearing Aids At Bedtime?) Feedback from readers was invited and a few people added their voice to the commentary.  The responses:

By Twitter:

Jen: “Take them out! Behind the ear with large molds are not that comfortable to sleep with.

Jane: “Cats love the taste of earwax. Learned the hard way that I MUST put my hearing aids in a container or inside a drawer on my bedside table or it’s a cat toy!!!. Twice.. chewed earbuds not covered by warranty!

By Email:

Julie: “Hearing aids ALWAYS come out at night and most nights are put into the dehumidifier that came with my hearing aids. They simply cost too much to risk getting them damaged not to mention how sore you ears are (just falling asleep in an upright position during a quick nap). The safety hazard that comes from being without them when they need to be sent away for maintenance (e.g. Such as damage from laying in them) is far greater than the risk of falling asleep without them in my ears in my home or anywhere else.

Intriguing question though…..anyone I know who is worried about night time security has installed special alarms systems in their home. I know one family where all three family members are deaf and that was the solution they found worked best.

Another thought…. if you don’t remove your hearing aids at night your brain probably is not resting enough and lack of good quality sleep can make daytime hearing more difficult and stressful….just my two cents.

Thank you to those who responded.  Julie brings up an excellent point between lack of sleep and one’s ability to hear!  And thanks to Jane, we now know cats love earwax and can see your hearing aids as a toy!  It’s not too late if you want to tell us what YOU do with your hearing aids at bedtime, and if  your normal practice changes if you travel. Let us know!

In the meantime… I recently read an interesting article on how hearing aids are being partnered with artificial intelligence (AI) to tell if:

  • You are actually using your hearing aids, or if they are sitting in your purse or bedroom drawer!  How does AI know?  It can tell if you are actively listening!
  • You’ve fallen.  If so, a message can go out to request help to contacts you have pre-selected, along with your location.  Yes, these new hearing aids will know where you are!
  • You’re getting enough exercise.  If you are interested in tracking how many steps you take in a day, you no longer will need to wear a wrist device.  Your hearing aid can tell you, apparently with more accuracy too.
  • You are listening to a foreign language and need simultaneous translation.  Boy, I could sure use that when visiting my husband’s Dutch relatives!

For more information, please read the article at: https://inews.co.uk/news/worlds-first-ai-enabled-hearing-aid-goes-on-sale-in-the-uk-livio-ai/

Would you wear a hearing aid with AI?  Email us at hearpei@gmail.com or comment on this blogYou can also follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI

© Daria Valkenburg

UPCOMING EVENTS

September Chapter meeting:  Tuesday, September 24, 2019 at 9:30 am at North Tryon Presbyterian Church.  Guest speaker​s​:  ​Brenda Porter, who will lead a discussion on taking responsibility for dealing with your hearing lossAnnie 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!

 

 

Pocket Talkers Available At ALL Stewart McKelvey Offices In Maritimes

August 5, 2019.  Regular readers of this blog are aware of an ongoing project to improve hearing accessibility in legal offices here on the island.  Lawyers who participated in this project, which was made possible through a grant from the Law Foundation of PEI, received tips on communicating with people who have hearing loss, and were invited to try out a pocket talker.  By the end of the trial period, every firm ended up purchasing at least one.  And they used them, to the delight of many clients with hearing loss, who bought their own pocket talkers.  (See “The Pocket Talker Is My Lifeline”)

The law office of Stewart McKelvey in Charlottetown was one of the first firms to participate in the project.  As of this summer, the other 5 offices of this firm now have a pocket talker available. These additional officers are in: Halifax (Nova Scotia), Fredericton (New Brunswick), Moncton (New Brunswick), St. John (New Brunswick), and St. John’s (Newfoundland).

Thank you, Stewart McKelvey, for taking this step in making legal communications between lawyers and clients with hearing loss easier to handle!

For a list of law firms and organizations within the legal community that have pocket talkers, see https://theauralreport.wordpress.com/pei-lawyers-with-pocket-talkers/.

Have a story about your visit to a law office to share?  You can email us at hearpei@gmail.com or comment on this blogYou can also follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI

© Daria Valkenburg

 

Are You Prepared For An Emergency?

August 4, 2019.  This past week the Canadian Red Cross mailed their ‘Be Ready’ pocket guides to Islanders.  (If you didn’t get one, see https://www.redcross.ca/how-we-help/emergencies-and-disasters-in-canada/be-ready-emergency-preparedness-and-recovery).  The key steps identified are:

  1. Know the risks in your community
  2. Make an emergency plan
  3. Get an emergency kit

If you haven’t read the booklet, you should as it gives excellent tips for preparing in advance for any emergency.  However, the booklet doesn’t address specific tips for those with hearing loss.  So that’s the subject of today’s posting.

911PEI - blogIn the event of an emergency we may need to call 911.  On PEI, protocols are in place for people with hearing loss on how to reach 911 by phone or text (See Calling 911 when you are hard of hearing and 911 Pamphlet Outlines Protocols for the Hard of Hearing).

There is a possibility that in an emergency you will be sent to a shelter.  These can be very noisy and chaotic places.  Not only are people stressed from the emergency at hand, people with hearing loss hear less, not more, in times of stress.  Do yourself a favour and make sure that your emergency kit includes the following:

  • Pen and a notebook!  These two low-tech tools mean you can ask to have important information written down.
  • Hard of Hearing button….. and wear it.  This lets people know that you have hearing loss.  If they don’t notice, you can point to the button.  Staff and volunteers at an emergency shelter are very busy and have to deal with many tasks.  Make everyone’s life easier by being upfront with your hearing loss.

CIMG7617 Jun 27 2017 HOH buttons for sale

  • Extra batteries for your hearing aids and other hearing assistive tools.  It may be hours or days before things return to normal.  Don’t forget a sealed container to put your hearing aids in, should it be necessary to remove them.
  • A flashlight.  When it’s dark, a flashlight can be very useful in providing enough light for speech reading, or to follow any notes that have been written down.  Don’t forget batteries for the flashlight, either!
  • Consider a pocket talker.  If you have mild to moderate hearing loss, a simple pocket talker is a low-tech tool that helps you navigate a one on one conversation with someone.  A pocket talker uses a battery and does not depend on an internet connection.
  • If you have a smart phone or tablet, you should have a real-time captioning app installed on it.  The app requires an internet connection, which may not be available in an emergency shelter, but it’s a useful app for places with Wi-Fi. (See A New Hearing Accessibility Tool For Your Phone Or Tablet)

These are just a few suggestions for additional items to have in your emergency kit.  If you have more tips, please share them.  You can email us at hearpei@gmail.com or comment on this blogYou can also follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI

© Daria Valkenburg

 

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).

Those Annoying Tinny Computerized Voices!

March 18, 2019.  A few weeks ago, one of our friends got on the elevator in our hotel and said “Don’t you find the voice of the elevator annoying?”  I was a bit surprised.  “The elevator talks?”  There were a few other people in the elevator, and several piped in, with the general consensus that the elevator does indeed talk, supposedly telling you what floor it’s stopped on, but no one, even the ones with good hearing, gave it a positive review.  “It’s supposed to tell you that we’re on the 4th floor, but it sounds like it says 1st floor” I was told.

I was amazed.  I’ve spent part of every winter for the past seven years in this hotel and never knew that the elevator spoke!  Next time I was on the elevator by myself I listened carefully.  Our friend was correct.  It does talk, but what comes out is indeed gibberish.  Luckily, each floor is identified with a number as soon as the elevator door opens.  A digital screen appears inside the elevator, and just outside the elevator the floor you are on is marked with a number and in Braille. You wouldn’t have a clue which floor you were on if you depended on the elevator voice itself.  Unfortunately, I have a habit of tuning out gibberish.  I’m quite sure that the very first time I used that elevator, so many years ago, I couldn’t understand it, and tuned it out.  Over the years, I forgot that it had an annoyingly tinny voice that made no sense whatsoever.  I thought it was just me.  It wasn’t.

 

Digital readout on left, giving an indication of the floor the elevator is on.  On the right, as you come out of the elevator, the floor number is marked, including in Braille.  (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)

I was reminded of that elevator when I read about upset customers who were forced to use a store’s self-checkout, against their will.  One of the customers, who the reporter described as ‘hard of hearing’ said that “I hate these new blasted self-checkouts, because they talk to you and I can’t figure out what they’re saying.” (See https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/shoppers-drug-mart-superstore-self-checkout-loblaw-1.5056800)  It was déjà vu for me as I had no idea that the self-checkouts spoke. Mind you, I’ve only tried it out twice.

One time I wanted to buy a birthday card for my husband before he found me and caught me buying his card.  The staffed checkout line was so long that I got lured to the self-checkout.  One item.  How difficult could it be?  It was a pain in the you know what, and if the machine spoke to me, I didn’t hear it. Meanwhile my husband had gone through a newly opened staffed checkout line and was waiting for me, perfectly aware of my surprise purchase.

The other experience was in a grocery store. There are two grocery stores near our hotel, both big chain stores.   One is a large store with a large number of cash registers, only one of which is ever in operation, and several self-checkouts.  The other store is smaller, has several staffed checkout registers, and no self-checkouts.  We were in the larger store, and the one staffed checkout line was very long.  My husband got impatient and went to the self-checkout.  We keep track of the prices, and it didn’t take him long to figure out that the self-checkout wasn’t registering the discounted prices.  There was a button to push for assistance, and by the time it was straightened out, it took us longer than if we had waited in the other line.

We now shop at the smaller store, with no self-checkouts. Hmmm…maybe if I get a robot to do my grocery shopping, it can go to the self-checkout and they can chirp away to each other.  It’s a shame that the tech geniuses can’t come up with a computerized voice that is actually understandable.

So now I’m curious. How many of you can hear and understand the computerized voices that are everywhere these days?   In your car?  The answering machine on your phone?  When you call a business and get put on hold?

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).