Hear Haiti: Giving the gift of sound

Open Ears is following a group of Sonova team members as they head to Haiti with the Hear The World Foundation. Nerissa Davies is an audiologist with Connect Hearing in Courtenay, BC, Canada. She has seven years experience in pediatric audiology is passionate about helping people of all ages hear and communicate with their loved ones.

Day 3:
Today was an amazing and wonderful day in Haiti. We got up early and enjoyed a delicious breakfast prepared by the stellar staff at New Life Children’s house, then after a pep talk from Cathy we drove out to the Deaf Academy in Leveque.

Honestly, I have never been so warmly welcomed anywhere in my life. The children swarmed out to meet us, with joyful smiles and hugs aplenty. Truly, I have never known children so eager to laugh, so generous with affection and so grateful for help. In particular, Mike (our on-site hearing aid technician) was a big hit with the young boys, who smothered him with hugs. Every time I looked at him, he had one boy in each arm, one boy clinging to each leg, and sometimes even a fifth one on his back! It was easy to see how pleased they were to have us and how hopeful they were that we could help them.

And so we set about doing just that.

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Hear Haiti: A beautiful arrival in LaPlaine

Open Ears is following a group of Sonova team members as they head to Haiti with the Hear The World Foundation. Laura Gifford is an Audiologist and Senior Account Executive at Unitron. Her favorite sound is the opening note of a Duran Duran song.

Day 1:

Up and off to the Nashville Airport at 5 am. After having a day to prepare for the trip (physically and emotionally) I was finally getting excited about leaving.

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Listening to Josef: A hearing aid wearer we can all relate with

As a social media community manager, I get to talk to a lot of people about their hearing loss. It’s been amazing to hear people’s stories – whether it’s a mom sharing an Instagram video from the first time her child’s hearing aids turned on, or a post about how new technologies are allowing a hearing aid wearer to enjoy sounds in situations they never before thought possible.

While most of my interactions have been virtual, the raw emotions are still there. I still feel a closeness with anyone whom I can answer a question for or connect them with our community of people facing similar hearing situations.

A few weeks ago, however, I had the opportunity to go offline and connect with a Phonak user in person, during filming for the new Phonak Virto V custom hearing aid testimonial video.

When I first met Josef, I was immediately warmed by his presence. His friendly demeanor and grandfatherly characteristics makes him someone you could sit down with for hours and listen to the stories he could share from his 81 years of life.

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Teen aims to make Californian city more hearing loss-friendly

Imagine a world where every newly constructed building would include accommodations for those with hearing loss, including acoustically-friendly designs, captioning and the latest hearing assistive technology.

While it seems like a lofty goal, one 16-year-old from California is encouraging his community to do just that.

Johnny Butchko knows too well what it’s like to not be able to understand people in public spaces.

“Every day that I am in school I have difficulty hearing in the halls, the cafeteria and the courtyards, because there is a lot of background noise,” he said.

Johnny was born severe-to-profoundly deaf. Equipped with Phonak Naida Q 50 UP hearing aids, he uses an FM system and captioning in the classroom, and a caption phone at home, but in public spaces, the feeling of being lost in translation is all too common.

So, he decided to do something about it.

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A Beautiful Ending

The end to every journey can be met with excitement or sadness: it’s all on how you look at it. The past year has flown by before my eyes. There were days when I was tired and thought that it was the longest day of the week, however the majority of time has left me saying to myself “where did the week go” by the time Friday came. So then how do I look at the end of my journey? I see it as an exciting time as well as a sad time.

The past year has been an experience that has made not only a professional impact but also a personal impact on me. As an audiologist, I have grown substantially. As I wrap up my time here at headquarters I feel as though I have gained the knowledge and experience of a 5 year time span. I recognize that the intensive 12 months behind me have challenged my educational foundation (in a good way) as well as required me to think ‘outside of the box’ by looking forward 5 years to the future generation of hearing aids and the people who will be wearing them.

This challenge has made the biggest impact. As you emerge from school with a fresh perspective you still remain closely focused on the present, the here and now. You look at each day and each patient regarding how they are getting along at that point in time. You never challenge yourself to think 5+ years ahead. Think of what the technology will be like, what hearing loss and medical intervention may be, as well as the average age and profile of the clients you will see. Can you wrap your head around it?

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Your Audiologist — A Life-Long Relationship

It was another “normal day” at the office. My schedule was full of hearing evaluations, hearing aid fittings, and follow-up appointments. No boring routine, as each client was unique in their history and needs, as well as their expectations. As any doctor does, I had developed a mental check list I would follow when meeting a new patient. Medical history, listening needs, diagnostic testing, explanation of evaluation results and counseling. The process had never failed me.

I met Jane in the waiting room, brought her back to the testing area, and introduced myself. After completing the diagnostic testing it was time to start the counseling portion. Jane was not unlike other individuals I had worked with, however she was unique and to this day has made a lasting impression on my professional career.

Audiologist for life

Jane was young, in her early thirties at the time of her evaluation, and had experienced a rapid decrease in hearing in her right ear. Over a very short period of time, Jane had lost approximately 75% of her hearing in that ear, while her left ear remained unaffected. She worked in a multi-physician office that required her to perform quickly and efficiently, two qualities which were starting to be affected by her hearing loss. She described anxiety, stress, exhaustion, and an overall feeling of desperation for any intervention that may help her “get her hearing back”.

As her audiologist I could see the physical evidence that her hearing evaluation revealed. However, I knew that if I simply started to read the results back to her, I would only be adding to the sense of helplessness she was describing. So I did the next best think I could think of. I pulled my chair up next to Jane and her husband, left her results on the table, and told her that she already knew what the results were. Her hearing was indeed measurably worse in her right ear in comparison to her left ear. She had been working overtime trying to compensate for the difference. I told her that she had every reason to be upset, to feel stress and anxiety while trying to perform her job. Most importantly, I told her that she was exhausted at the end of the day because she was doing the job of two ears with one. She was working to compensate and function as if she still had normal hearing in both ears. Her brain was literally exhausted. Everything she described, every function and emotion, was valid. She was exhausted.

It was only a matter of seconds before she started to cry in the middle of the office. For a hearing healthcare professional, crying is not out of the norm to experience on a daily basis. Jane’s crying surprised me, however, and I think it surprised her husband as well. When I was finally able to ask her if she was okay, she looked at me and simply said, “thank you”. I asked her why she was thanking me, as I must admit you do not always receive a “thank you” when you explain results to clients. Her explanation was easy: I had been the only person who had taken the time to validate what she was experiencing on a daily basis.

The rest of the appointment was filled with discussions of Jane’s unique hearing loss, her work environment, the amplification options available, and the expectations of what may or may not be possible. Regardless of the outcome of Jane’s appointment that day, she left my office a vastly different woman than when she first arrived. She was not the only person who had been transformed in the 90 minutes that had elapsed, however. She also made a lasting impression on me. To this day I remember Jane and I can feel the emotions of that appointment rush back over me. I only hope that in the 5, 10, or 20 years even, Jane remembers the same thing. These relationships are the ones that last forever.

Relationship? Is that the right word to describe the interaction between a patient/client and a doctor? If you’re talking about your general healthcare provider perhaps it is, but your dentist? Maybe not. Your audiologist? Absolutely! The definition of relationship says it all: “The way in which two or more people or things are connected”. A hearing loss impacts the rest of your life, as does your decision to (or not to) wear hearing aids. The routine testing, maintenance of hearing aids, fine tuning and programming, repairs,etc., these are all actions taken between you and your audiologist. When something is not functioning appropriately or broken, you depend on your audiologist to know the answer and get you communicating again! Your audiologist, when you find one that you feel comfortable and happy with, will always be a part of your life.

It is our human nature that causes us to “judge” someone when we meet them — do we like their personality, are we “on the same page”, will we work well together? These are all questions that you should ask yourself when you meet your audiologist, because it is important to remember that if you are starting this relationship out on the wrong foot, then it cannot grow and evolve like it needs to. Not only do you make an impact on the audiologist, but we can only hope to make an impact on your life — your communication. We do all that we can to provide you with the tools you need to have continued success and a life full of unlimited communication and interaction with the world around you.

Katherine’s Hearing Story

The beginning of my work as editor for this blog also included a crash course in familiarising myself with the “hearing-impaired” community. As a reasonably recent hearing aid user with mild to moderate loss, I had pretty much dealt with my hearing all by myself until then.

I met Katherine Barnes in a Facebook support group for people suffering from tinnitus and hearing loss. She’s currently finishing her first year of business management in Georgia (USA). Here’s her story:

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Becoming a Part of the Family

As I write this post I am reminded that we all are different, that we all are unique in our journey to our current day. How exciting it all is and even more special that we can share it via modern technology.

Nicole at Sonova

My transition to audiology is not one of the “classic” stories you hear. I don’t know anyone with hearing loss, I have no family history of hearing loss or hearing aid use, and I was never exposed to hearing loss throughout school.

How is it then that I ended up as an audiologist? Continue reading “Becoming a Part of the Family”

How to Survive Social Circles and Become the Life and Soul of a Party!

Before you continue to read I’d like you to answer two questions.

  • Do you find social events stressful?
  • Are you an audiologist?

If you answered yes to both then read on. I have two simple ways to help you survive the family or the neighbours’ get together using the help of your profession.

Audiology_social_Party

1: Keep the conversation flowing

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I Don’t Hear Very Well

“I don’t hear very well.” This is what I’d been saying since I discovered, age 13, that I didn’t hear very well. “I don’t hear very well.” My hearing was checked, I was given the verdict “yeah, so you have some hearing loss, we’re going to give you hearing aids”, and sent to an audiologist to be fitted. They took some measurements, filled my ears with pink stuff, and next time I went there I left with a rather big pair of skin-coloured inside-the-ear aids.

They felt uncomfortable, I could hear background noise, the world was too loud, and girls at school made fun of me. I wore them two days, maybe three, then put them back in their box, never to be taken out again. I decided that it wasn’t that bad after all to “not hear very well”, and that I would cope.

And I did, for the next 25 years.

Steph Audiogram

In 2012, after a couple of years of “getting there”, I finally decided to get fitted again. My brother had got hearing aids a few years before and what he told me of the process and the changes in his life really encouraged me. (We have similar hearing loss, hereditary.) I shared some of my thoughts on my blog right after getting my hearing aids (“A Week With My Superpower”) and a month or so later (“More About Hearing Aids…”).

Nearly two years later, my hearing aids are part of my life, and I wonder why I waited so long. I still end up saying “I don’t hear very well” every now and again, but now I can add “I’m not wearing my hearing aids just now,” or “Even with hearing aids, I don’t hear as well as you.” The impact is different!