Friday, July 30, 2010

Comfortable Kinds of Hearing Aids

 The following is a guest post from a hearing aid center employee. If you would like to write a guest post, write a comment or send an email to pinklam94 'at' yahoo 'dot'com (replacing at and dot with the respective symbols). I will be back to writing some posts of my own very soon, don't think I've given up on writing!- LAM
Many people will tell you that hearing aids are bulky and uncomfortable. But those people probably have an older model hearing aid or have never worn one.
The stigma of hearing aids no longer exists and there are so many styles of hearing aids today that suit different wearers’ hearing loss needs and cosmetic preferences. Here are some facts about a few hearing aid fit styles to help you determine which one you think is right for you:
Open Fit Behind the Ear – This kind features a receiver that fits into your ear canal with thin tubing that securely connects to a speaker behind your ear. Speakers are lightweight and difficult to see behind the ear, and tubing blends in with your skin tone. Models like these often have the best sound quality and some are even compatible with Bluetooth technology.
Behind the Ear – Cleaning is easy with this model, which has a curved shape that mimics the shape of your ear. It feels as discreet as it looks because it fits so closely behind the ear. But there’s no need to worry over using extra care with this kind of hearing aid because its solid structure makes it especially durable.
Comfort Styles – Function meets fashion with these models that discreetly fit partially into the ear canal without sacrificing high performance. Most are custom so that the in-the-canal part will fit as comfortably as possible.
Cosmetic Styles – These are the smallest and most difficult-to-see hearing aid options out there. They’re best for someone with an active lifestyle that can’t be bothered with a hearing aid that whistles or needs adjustment. Most are custom molded and fit completely in the ear canal, which means that others near you won’t be able to tell that you’re wearing a hearing device.
Visit a hearing aid center if you think you may be experiencing hearing loss and take advantage of a free hearing test to help determine what kind of hearing aid will best suit your needs.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The GED of IEP's- A Guest Post

The following is a guest blog post, as written by "Moxy", a fellow teenage girl with hearing loss. I'm sure she would greatly appreciate any comments! Are you interested in writing a guest blog post? Post a comment or email me with the topic you would like to write about, and I will get back to you. 
So, you've accepted that your child has a hearing loss. Your kid is enrolled in school, and there's talk of an IEP. What can I tell you about your IEP? Not a lot that your audiologist, teacher, or teacher of the deaf can't tell you. I'm not an expert on IEPs. I've sat in on my own IEP meeting once, which, in my opinion, was horrible. It was the first one that I was asked to attend, and I basically sat there, missing class, while teachers, my mother, a school psychologist I had never met, a hearing teacher/psychologist I had met once before, informally, sat and spoke about me as if I wasn't there. I, if you can't tell, am not a fan of IEP's.

A quick background, however, so you know where I'm coming from. I'm a hard of hearing high school student. I wear hearing aids and use an FM system in class (for those uninitiated, the FM is a wireless microphone my teacher wears like a lanyard. There are small "boots" on my hearing aids that pick up the signal. This is supposed to give me the effect of the teacher speaking directly next to me), and I enjoy long walks on the beach (Not really, the sand/ocean "white noise"/ocean spray isn't great for hearing equipment).

The IEP is what, essentially, requires that my teachers wear my FM. It also explains where I should sit in the room, what conditions might be adverse to my learning [Read: bad lighting, uncarpeted rooms, large classes, heavy facial hair/accents], and what (if anything) additional I may require [FM use, captioned media, extra time on testing (I don't get that one either)]. "BUT!" I can *almost* hear you saying, "Isn't your IEP a lifesaver? Doesn't it mean you can relax, knowing you'll have unrestricted access to communication and information, just like everything else?! What a breakthrough!?" But the IEP is not this. Often, unless a teacher knows they will be meeting with my Teacher of the Deaf, they don't read my IEP. On the first day of school this year, I had one teacher ask if "the hearing aids are all, or do you have anything else going on?" What?! My TotD-provided printout, carefully hi-lited with the needs specific to each class, determined by a conversation about this very act of explanation... didn't cover this.

However, being a fairly confident teenager in my own right, I laugh it off, say no, briefly explain my FM (I'll already turn it on when I give it to you, if you need to, you can turn it off, here's how, I can also turn it off from my hearing aids, so if you forget it's fine. Just remember to turn it back on, or, if you for some reason take it off, to put it back on, so I don't have to awkwardly/embarrassingly interrupt the class, telling you I've been lost for the last 5 minutes because you forgot), and take a seat. You seem content. You reply, after a minute, to let me know if you can do anything, whatever. It's all good.

Which is why, a week later, when I walk into the class to see the paused opening credits of a movie, I sit down and relax. In my world, everything is captioned. The TV I watch at home has those friendly black lines scrolling at the bottom of the screen. I'm still on auto-pilot, eyes flickering to the bottom of the screen. The film begins rolling, and I hear garbled noises as a heavily accented actor delivers his lines. I look to you, wondering if you've simply forgotten. You see me trying to grab your attention, and apologize, saying there aren't any captions. I nod my head, but inwardly, I'm screaming. "WHAT about the IEP?! What about the Internet, all of those script sites? What about the e-mail address for my Teacher of the Deaf  (TotD) I gave you, on the IEP recommendations sheet, who you're supposed to e-mail if the movie isn't captioned?! Was I speaking English!?" I sit, fuming for a while, trying to pick up random pieces of info. At the end of class, you assign an essay on the movie, due the next day. Ha! I think to myself.

Which is why you're surprised, the next day, when I hand nothing in. At the end of the class I approach you, reiterating everything about necessary captioning. You nod, agree, whatever.

The cycle begins.

Keeping in mind how often movies are watched at my school, this might happen twice a month. When the TotD approaches you, everything's good, I'm a good student, no, my hearing loss doesn't seem to be effecting me at all.

My parents, friends, and TotD know this to be untrue, however. You're simply resistant to my attempts to advocate, so I silently fume in your class during the rest of the semester.

Don't get me wrong, the IEP isn't evil. It can be downright helpful, but not in the ways I think it's meant to be. Something, for example, that isn't on my IEP, is group projects. I hate them. I hate them because I can be control freak-ish (that's me, overcompensating for my hearing loss. If I control the group direction, then I'll know what's going on), which leads to me doing a LOT of work. Which is OK, I will do my best for a good grade. But the IEP seems to signal to you that I'm hard of hearing. So, when I approach you, quietly, during class, and ask that our group be able to work in the hallway because with all the other groups talking, I can't hear the person sitting next to me, you allow us. We'll sit in the hallway and get stuff done. Hey! I can hear! But that IEP, yellow flag that it is, let's me ask this of you. It helps.

I had to ask myself why I wanted to write this a few times, during the process. I don't discourage anyone from getting an IEP, if it is appropriate for them. I just advise you that an IEP isn't a magical band-aid. It doesn't make hearing loss (in this situation) go away. It doesn't take it out of the equation at all. Advocacy is still very important, and if you're a teenager reading this, don't be afraid to shoot off an e-mail to your teacher, saying "Dear Mr. Teachy-mc-teacher, I can't deal when you don't do this and that. If you could do this-and-that, or perhaps hook me up with alternate whatever, I can deal. If you've got questions, feel free to hit me or my TotD up. TTYL, frustrated hoh/d student". If you're a parent of a hoh/d kid, don't be afraid to contact the teacher, and/or the totd. Trust me, your kid will thank you for it later, no matter how embarrassing it is at the time. The embarrassment might also teach some self-advocacy. And finally, if you're a teacher? Listen. It's not all your fault. Being hard of hearing/deaf (hoh/d) student is just half of the game. We need to be able to have open communication to make things work.

Quick MAJOR thank you to your fav blogger PinkLam (or MissPink, as I've seen it ;P) for letting me temporarily hijack her blog for a moment. Note that this post is not a reflection of her, or her opinions. She was kind enough to let me stick my nose in this whole hoh/d blogging :D Keep reading; I will.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Comedy, Deafness, and Political Correctness

One thing that I've increasingly noticed on the internet is the argument of political correctness. Not only in terms of names used to describe people (hearing-impaired vs. deaf vs. hard-of-hearing), but also in terms of joking- what's okay, what isn't. I do think part of it is due to the fact that over the internet it's very hard to interpret tone of voice for tongue-in-cheek or sarcastic comments.

What really struck me is how widely opinions vary. Is it ever okay to make fun of a disability? Does having the disability give you the excuse to joke about it? Are these jokes ever even funny? A month or so back I was reading about Joan Rivers's new documentary, "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work", and it briefly touched the subject. At one of her shows, Rivers made a Helen Keller joke (which, my deafness aside, I never really found them to be particularly funny. Can't say that I'm offended by them either), and a man in the audience was outraged, yelling at her that he has a deaf child and was offended by such a joke. "The comedian tears into him, informing him her mother was deaf and howling, 'Let me tell you what comedy is about — comedy is to make everybody laugh at everything and deal with it!’" - as quoted from this site.

Most of the time, I try to not take a defensive, sensitive standpoint. More often than not, people will say things that offend people out of pure lack off knowledge, not necessarily ignorance or out of  intent to harm.I am not a big fan of stand up comedians. I do believe that it can be okay to laugh at our struggles, since they certainly aren't going to go away. Here is one joke I've heard a few times regarding hearing loss, and I do think it's funny in a cheesy humor sort of way.

A concerned husband went to the doctor to talk about his wife. He said to the doctor, “I think my wife is deaf because she never hears me the first time and always asks me to repeat things.”
“Well,” the doctor replied, “go home tonight, stand about 15 feet from her, and say something. If she doesn’t reply, move 5 feet closer and say it again. Keep doing this until we get an idea about the severity of her deafness.” The husband went home and did exactly as the doctor had instructed. He started off 15 feet from his wife in the kitchen as she was chopping some vegetables.
He said, “Honey, what’s for dinner?” He heard no response. He moved 5 feet closer and asked again. No reply. He moved 5 feet closer. Still no reply. He finally got fed up and moved right behind her, about an inch away, and asked again, “Honey, what’s for dinner?”
She replied, “For the fourth time, vegetable stew!” -Taken from Only Funny Jokes

 As I've mentioned before, I'm Jewish. Living in Texas, people from time-to-time are shocked and as pretty strange questions. Sometimes people crack a little innocent joke, and I do sometimes find them funny. I think the key is knowing where the line between offensive and hilarious lies, and not overstepping it. (For those wondering, here is a little key of the difference between amusing and stupid. Jewish guilty mother jokes=funny. Big nose jokes= can go either way. Holocaust jokes= waaay overstepping the boundary.) When it comes to serious disabilities that I am not personally affected by, I would never dare make a joke about it. I don't think it's fair to joke when I haven't lived through the day-to-day struggles of a particular disease or disability.

I'd love to hear what everyone else thinks. Is there a time and place for these jokes? Do you think people can be too sensitive, or are others just being too ignorant?

Monday, July 12, 2010

AG Bell (2)- Friday Afternoon and Evening

On Friday afternoon, we were given the options to listen to listen to some of the speakers. They gave us a list of sessions that they though might be interesting to teens, and we signed up for the ones we wanted to go to. I went to three and they were all very good. Here is a brief summary of them:

Teen Tales of Hearing Loss
Presenters: Melanie Paticoff, James Barden, and Patrick deHahn
I have blogged about Mel Paticoff before, and was interested in hearing the session that she was leading. It was basically a panel led in a question and answer format, which were both pre-written questions and questions the audience came up with. It was nice to hear other teens perspectives, although I suspect this was more interesting and helpful to the parents of tweens and younger kids who were wanting to know what their children would be going through in the future. They touched on a variety of topics from school (both guys had attended an oral deaf school when they were younger, then transferred to a mainstream school); the decision to get cochlear implant(s) (One had been implanted when he was 5 or so, the other when he was 11/12. The former chose to go bilateral when he was a teenager, but the latter doesn't want to go through surgery again); and explaining hearing loss/devices to your peers. It was all very well done and planned, and I do think everyone got a lot out of it. One person mentioned it would have been nice to get the perspective of a girl teen with hearing loss, and I think that is a good point. From the looks of the program, it sounds like they had planned for another person to be on the panel who was a girl, I assume a conflict came up.

College Life 101
Presenters: Mark Leekoff, Ari Sagiv, Dorie Shapiro, Lindsey Rentmeester
This was another panel, and since I attended the same session at the last convention, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect (although it was all different people). It's fascinating how one person's experience can be vastly different from that of another. Most of the panel from the 2008 convention, if I recall correctly, said that while they didn't outright state their hearing loss when applying for college, they mentioned it in their application essays. One person on the 2010 panel said that they did not want to disclose their hearing loss, a couple of people said they did, and one even went as far as saying that it would be dishonest not to disclose it. I do think he had a point there, and he went on to say that if a college doesn't want you with your hearing loss, you really can't expect them want to give you accommodations. That being said, the panelists still had issues with accommodations even if they did disclose their hearing loss. One girl remarked on the irony of being in an Audiology program, and having the school come to her and question her need for CART and other assistive services for her hearing. I don't think she said the name of the Grad school, but she ultimately made the decision to leave for another school that she felt was a better fit. It also came to light that even with the ADA in place, people won't necessarily follow it. One guy was saying that in an interview (for medical school, I believe) the interviewer actually asked him "I know that many people with hearing loss have multiple other health problems. Do you have any other health issues I should know about?" This, I came to find out, is illegal and a huge red flag. The only thing that you are allowed to be asked in an interview regarding hearing loss or any other disabilities is "Do you have any disability that would interfere with your ability to do this job?" The interviewee does have the option of bringing up and talking about his/her hearing loss as much as desired, but it is not required. I learned a lot from these speakers.

Health Care Professionals: Learn from our Experiences
Presenters: Stacey Carroll, Ph.D., ANP-BC; Christopher Lehfeldt, DDS; and Lindsey Rentmeester, Au.D.;
I was really looking forward to this session, since I had not ever met someone with hearing loss in the medical field.  The panel featured a deaf dentist, nurse, occupational therapist, and audiologist. They also planned on having a deaf physician there, but he ended up having a family emergency and was not able to make it. There was a wide age range, from (these are my estimates) mid 20's to 40's. They all had great stories to tell, and the vast majority of the people that spoke had experienced an overwhelming amount of adversity and doubt when going into the medical field by teachers, bosses, and employees, but were greeted with open arms by patients. I found this to be very interesting, as I would have thought gaining a patient's trust would be the biggest problem.

The occupational therapist told about her first rotation as a student, in which she was placed with a teacher/boss who pretty much from the first day told her he was going to fail her because of her hearing loss. She described her frustration with working with someone determined to fail you, and how discouraged she became, even taking some time off after to decide if it was still something she wanted to do. She ultimately persevered, but this really demonstrated to me how much harder we (people with hearing loss) have to work to prove ourselves.

The nurse spoke about only the students with the 30 best GPA's getting into nursing school. She had an extremely good GPA, and recalled her professor calling her into his office to tell her she wasn't going to go on to nursing school. She was a little bit confused, and asked if she had not been in the top 30. "No, that's not it." the professor had said, "It's just that you're... 'unique.'" She went to the dean of the school (who, by some stroke of luck, happened to have a deaf son) who assured her that he would handle it, and she obviously ended up getting in!

One thing I found really exciting is that they have developed transparent surgical masks (patent pending), and are just waiting on a manufacturer. This is great news, not just for health care professionals with hearing loss, but also for patients with hearing loss. I cannot tell you how many times I've had to remind my dentist or orthodontist to "take off the mask, please" when they are talking to me (this is typically when one or both of my CI's have been knocked off in the chair!) They passed around the mask, now I'm wishing I had taken a picture.  The part that goes around the face/lip area is transparent, but the part that goes under the chin is made of the same material as typical surgical masks, as is the part that hooks around your ears. I really hope they are mass manufactured soon, as there is a huge need and consumer audience.

After a long day of speakers, one of my friends from the past convention, her mom, my mom, and myself rushed to catch the shuttle to go to Downtown Disney. It was really cool, with a bunch of shops and restaurants lining the path. There had been some confusion as to what time the Opening General Session started that evening, and we ended up missing it, so I can't comment on that. We got there right in time for the Exhibition Hall grand opening/reception. This year, they were clever and gave out "game cards" with 9 of the exhibitors names' on them. Each card was different, and the idea was to get stamps from all 9 of the exhibitors on your game card. You then placed the card in a drawing, and were entered to win one of many great prizes (an iPod; all expenses paid for 2 people for the next convention in Scottsdale, AZ; a ton of books from the AG Bell bookstore worth hundreds of dollars, and more).  Of course, in the process, the exhibitors would try to get you interested in their products.  We didn't win, but I still loved the idea.

I explored the exhibit hall with a couple of my friends from the teen program, and they really did have a lot of things in it. There was a lot of free stuff! As always, the 3 CI companies had gigantic areas as opposed to a tiny booth that most other companies had. We received a lot of goodies from Cochlear- from cookies to beach balls to tote bags. We also got our picture taken with Kayci the Cochlear Koala, but we had to leave before it was printed. (if any Cochlear employee still has the pictures and wants to email it to me, please do!)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Orlando/AG Bell (1)- Wednesday, Thursday, Friday

I'm baaack! I thought you guys would like a short summary of each things we did, from a teen attendee perspective.

The convention didn't officially start until Friday, so we spent the first two days there exploring Disney. On Wednesday evening, we went to Magic Kingdom. I'm not a huge fan of rides, so we mostly marveled at the things there were to see. They also had a parade, which was pretty cool.  (I would put some pictures up, but Blogger is frustrating me and not allowing me to do so...)

On Thursday morning we went to EPCOT, which was pretty neat. I went on a couple of rides, but mostly explored the slow-moving futuristic sorts of things. We briefly went to the side with all of the different countries and cultures, but wanted to get back to the hotel soon after. The hotel provides a free shuttle that only came every hour, and we literally ran around the entire park so as not to miss it. We were sticky and sweaty and gross, but we made it! That evening I met up with my four close friends that I made from the last convention (2008, in Milwaukee).  It was amazing to be able to see them again, and we talked for hours and hours. We had planned on watching a movie together, but around 11 we decided that we probably wouldn't have time!

On Friday the teen program began, and I was looking forward to it. At the last convention, I thought the teen program was great, and the people who ran it were really on top of things. I wish I could say the same for this year, but I was honestly a bit disappointed with how they ran everything. My friends and I decided to go to the teen program a little late, since it started early and there was nothing really planned for that day. When I arrived, I was surprised to find the entire room dead silent. There were about twenty teens there, but most of them didn't know each other and the "sitters" simply sat at a table in the corner and spoke to each other. This was a stark contrast to the teen program in Milwaukee, where the sitters did everything they could to get the teens to interact with each other, and we all became friends with each other. This time it took a little while for everyone to warm up to each other, but it happened within a few hours.

Next post- Friday afternoon sessions and activities