Tomorrow marks the 135th anniversary of Helen Keller‘s birth. I remember being fascinated by Helen’s story as a young child, full of wonder at how she managed to learn to communicate although she was deaf and blind. (Thought she was born deaf and blind? Check out the myths.)
More recently, whilst exploring the d/Deaf/HoH world online, both out of interest as a hearing aid user and as “blogger-in-chief” of Open Ears, I came upon postings about Usher Syndrome, a rare progressive disease that affects both sight and hearing. They gave me a touch of the fear one could have about losing sight in addition to hearing, particularly if one uses sign language.
In 1984, President Reagan proclaimed the last week of June “Helen Keller Deaf-Blind Awareness Week” — an occasion to raise awareness about deafblindness and highlight the contributions of those who have this disability. It has since spread to some other anglophone countries.
As my contribution to this awareness week, I’d like to share two videos about young deafblind women with you. Continue reading “Helen Keller Deaf-Blind Awareness Week”
I have been a graphic designer for over 13 years in Chicago. I have worked with many interesting and diverse clients and never thought I would work for one “client” exclusively. Design isn’t just about making things pretty but about understanding a need, developing messages and clearly communicating these to people through different media and channels.
So why did I join a hearing aid manufacturer?
A former teacher of mine, Marcia Lausen, and one of her staff designers, a former classmate, contacted me about a potential in-house job at Phonak. They introduced me to their 10-month research of the industry and showed concepts they had developed at studio/lab, a design studio.
Their research informed The Phonak Gain Initiative (PGI). PGI is about changing the conversation and strengthening the relationship between hearing aid customers and their hearing care professionals. “The conversation” has been, and still is, about the struggles of being hearing impaired, the fear of not being “normal”, the sadness of losing one’s hearing and other health conditions that can be associated with hearing loss. Continue reading “Changing the Conversation: Design & Hearing”
A couple of weeks ago, Angie wrote a post chronicling her repeated failure to find functional loops so she could try out her newly-activated telecoil. I was curious, as I’ve never used a loop myself. I’ve seen the signs, of course: the white ear on blue background with a T next to it. But until my recent last visit at Phonak headquarters, I wasn’t even certain my hearing aids had a telecoil (they do).
It seems I’m not alone in being mystified/uninformed about loops, as the many questions on the Phonak Facebook page testify.
So. What are these hearing loops?
Continue reading “What Are These Hearing Loops?”
A few weeks ago I wrote about how I take my ears on and off all the time in my day-to-day life, and Beverly commented something that hit home:
The key to hearing better longer is to keep your auditory nerves and brain active and NOT let them atrophy. Through the use of hearing aids you’ll enjoy a better quality of hearing longer. Put them in and forget about them.
It reminded me of my father’s first time with glasses. Something like twenty years ago, he had to begin to wear glasses; at the normal age when eyes become less flexible and arms need to be longer and longer because you can’t adjust your eyesight the way you did when you were younger.
His first reaction was “Oh wow, it’s better” and then went on to “Actually no, wait now, we have to talk it through again”. Ring any bells?
Continue reading “Training and Straining”
Have you ever wondered how hearing aids were designed? One step in the process is getting designers and hearing aid users together in a co-creation workshop. You can be a part of this.
At Phonak, the person who manages design of new products is Martyn. He works with the top design and innovation experts from around the world to create the hearing aids of the future: look and feel, colours, interaction — pretty much all that makes our hearing aids quasi an extension of ourselves, in addition to processing sound in a way that improves our daily lives.
I spent some time on the phone yesterday with Nataliya, an independent innovation consultant who is going to be running some of these co-creation workshops in New York as part of the design process for the next generation of hearing aids. Continue reading “Participate in a Co-Creation Workshop to Design Future Hearing Aids”
I grew up the child of someone with hearing loss. I knew it in a peripheral way — my father wore hearing aids, but they were never seen — always hidden by sideburns grown long for that purpose. He never discussed his hearing loss and went out of his way to hide it. I remember social gatherings where he would disappear only to be found sitting at a table in the corner alone. I always wondered why, but now I know, because I have hearing loss too.
As a child, my hearing was fine, but when I first had trouble hearing in my mid-twenties at business school, I hid it, following my father’s example. I even refused to wear my first pair of hearing aids, afraid someone might see them. I felt embarrassed. I am not sure why. Was it a learned response from watching my father, or was it something larger — a stigma associated with hearing loss that I wanted to avoid? In any event, my mother’s reaction was not encouraging. “Do you really need to wear them?” she asked me.
Eventually, the answer became yes, I really did need to wear them, but I still avoided them as much as possible. I would sneak my hearing aids in on my way to work, wear them all day hidden behind my long hair, and whip them out as soon as possible at the end of the workday. I hated my hearing aids and only wore them when I absolutely needed to, and never socially or with my family. Continue reading “Coming Out of My Hearing Loss Closet”
When I suffered sudden sensorineural hearing loss, it was a very isolating experience. Before I discovered Phonak BiCROS aids, I was pretty much unable to converse with people other than by using a Sonido device. The Sonido is a handheld device the size of a cordless phone, which has a microphone and amplifier and a socket that I plugged a ‘one good ear bud‘ in. I was mortified at having to use it outside of the house but it was the only way I could go back to work and do my job as a trainer.
When I first became deafened, however, I suffered terrible vertigo and sickness and I had several days where I couldn’t move my head at all. The only thing I managed to focus on was my mobile phone, and so I found myself turning to social media to combat the isolation I felt.
Through using Twitter, I started to make new friends and, with one of those friends, I started something on Twitter known as ‘#Yorkshirehour‘. Since March 2012, every Wednesday between 8 and 9pm, we’ve facilitated a Twitter hour to help Yorkshire people promote their businesses, events and charities and I’ve made more and more friends — many of whom I’ve now met in real life.
The success of #Yorkshirehour was overwhelming and within a few weeks, the topic was regularly trending in the top ten most talked about topics in the UK each Wednesday evening. Since then, the @Yorkshire_hour account has gained over 24,600 followers and the format has been replicated all over the UK. Continue reading “#HearingLossHour: A Silent Revolution?”