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Does Anyone Actually Hear Much?


Here’s a series of memes I made on Canva to address what happens in noisy meetings.

This is what a meeting sounds like

This is what a meeting sounds like-3

and i feel like this

So the question is, how much do fully hearing or even mostly hearing people get out of these meetings?

I recently went to a writer’s guild meeting at a large, noisy restaurant and despite being in a dining area that was closed off there was still a lot of kitchen noise and noise from all the people there. One woman next to me kept asking others to speak up (it was a long table – think Hogwarts) so EVERYONE talked louder (think the concert). By the end I felt like the Halloween figure (inside).

Thank heavens the presenters were across from me AND they had big voices.

At one point I took out my HA to keep from getting overwhelmed by the sheer amount of undifferentiated noise.

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When “Never Mind” Goes Both Ways


Another excellent blog from the Phonak community on the impact of “Never mind, its not important” on all of us, not just the deaf or HoH.

Open Ears

Stephanie Booth and I share a pet peeve: being told “Never mind, it’s not that important” after an individual repeats themselves a few times. Most people give up on trying to speak to hard of hearing people like us with that line.

I always get upset when I am told that “it’s not that important” because, to me, hearing every single thing people have to say is a gift. After fighting for my hearing through ten surgeries, I have learned to never take the spoken word for granted. Whether it’s listening to what other people have to say, or hearing enough to form your own opinions, spoken words have always been a treasure to me. Being told “never mind, it’s not that important” takes away my joy in hearing other people and my chance to stand up and form an opinion. This small phrase cuts me deeply, and makes me…

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How About A Sport Hearing Aid?


These are some great concepts for hearing aid wearers. Are there other things we could suggest to vendors such as Phonak?

Open Ears

I love thinking about new features for hearing aids. OK — I guess that makes me a little bit weird, but when something is such an important lifeline to communication, it is probably worth thinking about from time to time. A few months ago I wrote a blog post detailing some ideas I had for improving today’s hearing aids. These included:

  1. Have sound recognition: I’m not sure if that is a real term, but what I mean is that the hearing aid could be taught to identify the specific sounds or voices that are most important to you. For example, you could use a wand or app to record your family members’ voices, and the hearing aid would then know that these were critical sounds for you to hear. Right now most hearing aids are only programmable by frequency. Programming by “sound” could be much more accurate.
  2. Identify sounds…

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Hearing Fatigue


I used to assume the reason I am totally wiped out after being around a group of hearing people for hours is that I’m an introvert. (Note, not signers, just hearing people.) More likely it has to do with what I like to call Sensory Input Overload.

One of the symptoms of PTSD is hyper-vigilance. That’s also one of the characteristics of a hard of hearing (HoH) person in a noisy environment where there are large numbers of people talking at the same time. We switch into alert mode, scanning faces and voices and paying so much attention that if someone drops a coffee cup we over-react to the unexpected, loud, sharp noise because our brains have been recruiting sound.

For a long time I’ve had an app on my iPhone to measure the decibel level of places I go. 85 db is where hearing damage starts. Lots of restaurants, especially those with loud music, exceed that and run in the 90-100 db range.  Large coffee klatches after church can hit the 85-90 db levels. Know those annoying gas engine two-stroke leaf blowers? They put out 90-100 db on average and operators are supposed to wear hearing protection. When a gathering produces as much or more noise than a gas-fired leaf blower there’s a reason I can’t cope.

I’m told by hearies “no one understands” everything going on. That may be true. But I’d love for them to wear noise canceling ear plugs and give it a try talking to someone in a noisy venue. Repeatedly. Because if you walk into the bathroom, turn on the shower, shut the door, put your fingers in your ears, and have a person on the other side of the door face away from the door and speak to you in a normal tone of voice THAT’s what I hear. Good luck with that.

Because people with hearing loss work so very hard to understand their auditory environment it is a full time job for the brain and body when hearing is engaged. Imagine working out at the gym for hours. When I leave after several hours of weight training and cardio I’m like a limp rag. I can get that way after even the most anticipated meeting of a writer’s or photographer’s group because I have to be “on” all the time, just like you have to be “on” while you’re running on the treadmill. Try being “off”on a  treadmill and that’s where you’ll be: off – on the floor.

Things that contribute to hearing fatigue as a result of hyper-vigilance include:

Anxiety – did I not hear something? mishear something? give a non sequitur response? why is he looking at me like that? what did I miss?

Heightened continual scanning of the environment – is that noise meant for me? if I answer am I answering someone else’s communication? If I don’t answer am I being rude?

Then there’s the lip-reading component. The number of people who assume I’m attracted to them even after I’ve told them I lip read to assist the sound I hear is incredible. Really. Don’t go there. I have enough problems without you thinking I’m flirting .

I can lip read one person, two is iffy, three is a nightmare. Four and I’m looking for a corner to insert myself into to control access. I’m not being introverted, I’m overwhelmed. There’s a difference.

So, if you have a friend or relative who avoids large gatherings it is probably because there’s no accommodation for him/her to participate one person at a time. And if you are that deafie (like I am) who staggers off, takes two aspirin, and collapses in bed for two hours to recover: that’s a normal response to being hyper-vigilant.

Take two catnaps and call me in the morning.

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Hearing doesn’t get better over time


I have not been nearly as much of a gadabout as I used to be in the states. Partly it is lack of familiarity with the area, including the fact GPS is just not as useful here. Partly It has been a lack of things to do that are of interest to me. But as time goes out and I get around more my hearing loss is driven home to me time and time again.

I went to a meeting yesterday dealing with ex-pat issues from private health insurance to resident visas to wills. It was held at a small restaurant/bar. Lots of noise from ocean out the back door to music being played over the huge TV, to general sounds in a restaurant/bar.

Often I feel like being an English speaker in a Spanish-speaking country is like being deaf for a different reason. However, when you’re with 6-8 people and basically you can’t understand much of anything that’s going on and they’re speaking English all of a sudden I find myself trying to sign with people who don’t sign.

I’m told to go out and make lots of contacts and build a community locally and yet getting out and communicating is nightmarish.

Recent attempts to find a deaf community have been fruitless.

A Day at the Beach in Winter


Winter winds blowing in off the Pacific Ocean in Baja El Norte chill to the bone. Doesn’t matter if the weather app says feels like 54˚because the wind cuts right through a layered t-shirt, sweatshirt, and fleece jacket like a sharp bladed knife chilled in the fridge. Sunlight helps, but in the morning hours it isn’t strong enough to make a difference. Humid and cool is still humid and cool and backed by air velocity it is downright chilly.

Knowing friends in Massachusetts are shivering in 12˚ temperatures while buried IMG_3864under three or more feet of snow is of absolutely no use because nothing feels warmer here based on that knowledge alone.  Walking the wee little doggie in the lee of buildings to try to keep the wee little doggie and the wee little doggie’s person warm(er) is becoming a daily occurence when it comes to the morning constitutional.

Remembering a 1989 trip moving from -33˚ Fairbanks to 33˚Anchorage in a day. That was a 60˚temperature variation in just 8 hours. Leaving in a Mouton lamb parka and ending up pumping gas in Anchorage wearing a sweatshirt and a light cloth windbreaker and thinking how warm it was! Cool, cold, warm, and hot are all relative. Still no help when it comes to shivering against the wind coming off of the ocean.

It’s supposed to get into the low 70’s tomorrow. That will be nice, as long as the freaking wind isn’t coming like a fan over cold water.

I do not need a HA to know when I’m shivery.

 

That Voice of Mine


Although my hearing loss is  pre-lingual (18 months old) I apparently had better hearing as a little kid than I have later in life because I picked up speech. I might not have been able to hear everything other people did, but I heard enough that I have a good speaking voice.

Because I have a good speaking voice it seems to confuse people who equate the ability to speak normally with having no hearing loss.

I can’t hear you.”
“Yes you can, you’re talking to me.”

And, no, I don’t have a “deaf accent.” The “deaf accent” is not  an accent but a unique atonality in which the voice sounds “hollow” or “flat” as a result of not hearing normal voice resonance hearing people can access normally.

At any rate, I have two speech modes: soft and loud. What I consider a “normal” tone of voice is considered loud by anyone other than another person with hearing loss.

I’ve been asked why I don’t have a middle volume. Probably because I have no idea what that volume is. When I wear a HA I can hear myself better so I tend not to project as much. We can probably attribute that facility with project on all drama training in high school learning to project to the back of the auditorium. But, even with the HA I’ve been told by a number of people that I still speak too loudly.

At my age I’m not sure that there is a cure for this idiosyncratic way of speaking. On the other hand, HoH people love how I enunciate and project, so that’s the flip side of the issue.