After Harry had his cochlear implant operation I found myself flooded with messages of congratulations that Harry could now hear. Unfortunately, of course, this wasn’t quite the case just yet.
The operation was just the beginning and without the external hardware Harry still wasn’t able to access sound. It took a while to explain this to people, and on top of it was the fact we had no idea how successful the op would be until his “magic ears” were activated. Continue reading “Cochlear Implants: The Big ‘Switch On’”
Have you seen those YouTube videos of people having their cochlear implants switched on for the first time? Well, that’s just what is was like for me getting my CROS system ‘switched on’.
My audiologist hadn’t given me terribly high hopes for using the Phonak CROS. With my single-sided hearing loss, he’d said it could take anything from three months to a year to get the benefit. But, as soon as the hearing aids were switched on, I immediately looked to the left to follow what the audiologist was saying. He and the Phonak technician couldn’t believe how quickly my brain was able to process the sound. It was instantaneous. None of us could believe it. I was instantly getting a sense of sound coming from both the right and left ear. The sound sounded quite natural too – not like it was coming through microphones and being amplified: it just sounded ‘normal’. Continue reading “Switching on my Phonak CROS”
In another lifetime I was a middle-school teacher. It only lasted for two years, but at that time I thought it might be my career.
I didn’t wear hearing aids then. Of the many difficulties I faced teaching classes of teenagers, I think some of them did have their root in my hearing loss.
First of all, I couldn’t understand soft-spoken students, and often had to make them repeat themselves. Uncomfortable for me, and also for them, especially if they were shy. The accompanying snickers from the rest of the class were certainly not a positive thing for the class atmosphere or my relationship with them.
I also had trouble when students made low-voiced comments or “talked back” in such a way that everybody could hear but me. It does make it difficult to ensure classroom rules are followed when so much can go on under your threshold of perception.
At the time, I didn’t realise how “bad” my hearing was (I knew I had some hearing loss). I didn’t realise that my colleagues heard that much more, and therefore had more information at hand to help them manage the class. Not hearing well clearly was not my only shortcoming in teaching teenagers, but I probably blamed myself more than I should have for the difficulties rooted in “not hearing things”.
Continue reading “The Perils of Hearing Less in the Classroom”
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 feel isolated.
I remember telling my mother this when she said that phrase to me. After hearing it from her constantly, I finally lost my temper and said, “It’s important to me! I want to hear your words and decide for myself how I feel about them!”
From my perspective, it felt like another instance of bigotry against hard of hearing individuals. In response to that view, Mom mentioned that most people are often self-conscious about their speech and sometimes embarrassed to share ideas. If they are asked to repeat themselves, they shut down and say “never mind” because they feel their words and ideas are stupid and hate to hear more than once. It was a problem that especially hurt my mother because, like me, she spent her whole life being called stupid. Continue reading “When “Never Mind” Goes Both Ways”
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.
Continue reading “Listening to Josef: A hearing aid wearer we can all relate with”
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.
Continue reading “Teen aims to make Californian city more hearing loss-friendly”
If you’re active on social media, you probably have a list of hashtags you use when sharing photos about hearing loss. #HearingLoss, of course, #LifeIsOn – the official Phonak hashtag – and others such as #hardofhearing #deafkidsrock and #hearingaids. One hashtag campaign, however, recently gained international attention, with the important message: #ShowYourAids.
The #ShowYourAids social media campaign exploded this summer thanks to one young woman, Emma Rudkin, who knows from experience how tough it can be to wear hearing aids proudly.
Emma, a 19-year-old Texas native and this year’s Miss San Antonio, started the social media movement and non-profit, Aid The Silent, to raise awareness and support for the deaf community.
I talked with her about the #ShowYourAids movement and how she gained the courage to show off her Phonak hearing aids.
Continue reading “#ShowYourAids: Texan Beauty Queen Shows Us How to Live Proudly with Hearing Loss”
While I was writing “Never Mind, It’s Not Important“, I realised I have certain friends who do way more than just avoid brushing me off with a “never mind” when I am in a situation where I struggle to understand what is being said: they will repeat and summarise for me.
This happens especially in group situations where I haven’t managed to position myself optimally, or when the audio quality or acoustics aren’t good.
Having somebody “be my ears” and repeat to me what I need to know is really precious. We’re at the opposite of the “it’s not important” situation I wrote about recently: I am willingly giving up the power to decide what is important or not to somebody else. But the key word here is “willingly”. It is my choice. Continue reading “The Friends Who Listen For Me”
You’ve read articles about this, right? How we the hearing less don’t appreciate being told “never mind” or “it’s not important” when we’re asking for something we didn’t understand to be repeated.
Since I started wearing hearing aids, I’ve had a few years to reflect on the impact growing up hearing less, first undiagnosed, then underestimated. When I see what a hard time adults sometimes have adjusting their communication habits to my ears, and that I still sometimes fake it despite my fancy cutting-edge hearing aids, I can only imagine what an impact this had on my relationships and ability to socialise as a child.
Some years ago I met up with a few girls I was in kindergarten with. It was really fun to meet them as adults, and we got on great, although we weren’t all exactly friends when we were in school together. I saw them as the “popular” girls and they didn’t seem to be very interested in me. As I was mentioning that, one of them remarked that it wasn’t they didn’t like me, but that I didn’t really speak to them or answer when they spoke to me. Continue reading “Never Mind, It’s Not Important”
How did you lose your hearing?
For some, that question may be considered intrusive and personal. But for most cochlear implant users, it is a great way to start a conversation with another implant user when you meet for the first time. And when the question comes from somebody who doesn’t have cochlear implants, it’s a great opportunity to show off your technology. Allow me to explain.
I grew up with normal hearing, and always enjoyed music and foreign languages, in addition to my career as an engineer and all the geeky interests that go along with it. I met my future bride while studying Japanese. We used to alternate days, taking turns speaking each other’s language.
Nine months after we were married, I was in the shower one morning, and slowly came to the realization that the water wasn’t making any noise. My analytical engineering brain kicked into action, trying to figure out what was wrong with the water. After exhausting all of the possible water problems, I realized that it was probably making its usual sounds, and that I wasn’t able to hear it.
I spent the next dozen years holding an FM microphone, which was connected to a really powerful hearing aid. This helped me read lips a little bit, but I could only use it for about an hour a day before becoming exhausted. Continue reading “Hearing After Hearing Aids”