Saturday, February 27, 2010

My dog ate my hearing aid! :(

Well not the whole hearing aid. She ate the silicone mold and chewed up the BTE. Sigh.

My fault for leaving them in the den, on a side table. I was going to move them before bedtime, but forgot. Thank gosh she didn't eat/chew the other one. But she picked my right aid, that's my best aid. My left ear gets some improvement with the aid, but not much. I rely on my right hearing aid.
I can't remember how long I've had these aids. Has it been over a year? My hope is that they are still covered by insurance. If not, it's going to cost me $1500 to replace it. It's possible that the BTE still works but some of the punctures look deep. 

Why do these things happen on a Friday night? The audiologist's office is closed for the weekend. Sigh.

I'll head over to the audiologist Monday morning and see if the right BTE is a goner. If so, maybe they can switch the left aid over so I can use it in my right ear with a temporary foam sponge mold, while I wait for the new aid to arrive. Sigh.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

My audiogram. My hearing aids.

This audiogram is 4 years old. I have a newer one but haven't scanned it yet. My hearing has gotten worse in the 4 years but it still fits this ski slope pattern except that now I'm completely deaf in both ears at around the 3000 hz level.

Last year I got a pair of BTE Phonak Naida III SP. They are my 4th set of aids. They are the best aids so far, showing the biggest improvement from my prior set. The best thing about them is that there's no shrill feedback when someone hugs me, although that was kind of fun to see the reaction when the hugger pressed their head against my ear and my head emitted a high pitched squeal. I also like that they are self adjusting, so there's no fiddling with the aids when going from one environment to another.

In terms of hearing, I'd say it's about 25% better then my last pair of digital hearing aids - BTE Starkey - which were the "rolls royce" of hearing aids about 6 years ago (and I found the Starkeys about 10% better then my prior analog aids). The technology has improved and the cost has come down too - the Starkey's were $6000, the Phonaks were $3000.

When I got the Starkey's the Human Rights department at my place of employment paid for the whole thing (there was no government and employment benefit contributions because it had been less then 3 years since my last HA purchase). This time around (5 years later) I was turned down for assistance from the HR department, so after the government contribution ($1000), and my employment hearing aid benefit contribution ($350) and my husband's HA benefit contribution ($650), I was $1000 out of pocket.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

How to help facilitate conversation

One way to help communication with people who have hearing issues, is to enunciate words slowly and clearly. This does not mean "dumbing down" the conversation, which comes across as condescending or insensitive. Instead, look directly at the person's face when speaking and only raise the volume level to a point where a comfortable conversation can still be held, not a full shout. A person with a naturally low speaking voice may want to raise the tone as well as the volume.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Really thoughtful wedding gesture

I arrived at my sister-in-law's wedding/reception to find a printed sheet of paper on my side plate. To my surprise my sister-in-law's husband-to-be had the ceremony printed out so I could follow along. It included the vows and the words the Minister was going to say.  How kind and very thoughtful.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Dr. Neil Baumann totally gets it -- Audiologists - it's not all about hearing aids

Dr. Neil Baumann really gets what it's like to be hard of hearing. He is director of the Center for Hearing Loss Help which is run by and for hard of hearing people.

One of the problems I've experienced throughout the almost 15 years of hearing loss that has been most frustrating is, audiologists don't help with coping skills. Their main reason for being, in my experience, is to push hearing aids. I have never had an audiologist explain coping skills, tell me about hearing loss societies, inform me about support groups, give me a list of good hearing loss websites and forums, talk to me about speech reading skills, tell me what to expect with regards to a psychological transition into deafness, suggest good reading/book resources. The one time I got any resource was when I noticed a book on my hearing aid specialists office shelf. I wrote down the title and borrowed it from the library. It was an account of a woman's experience with hearing loss. Reading it made me feel that I was not alone. I had already been struggling for 2 years with hearing loss and this was the first time that I felt a sense of relief, that aids were not going to make me hear normally ever. Life was always going to be different. Instead of making me feel depressed, I felt somewhat relieved. It wasn't something I was doing wrong that made the aids not work i.e. restore my hearing.Why my hearing specialist didn't tell me I would never hear normally again, I don't know. Why he didn't tell me that aids are not a cure-all, I don't know. Why he didn't tell me that I was going to feel like my head was going to explode around loud noises, I don't know.

So given my exasperation with the audiology world it was refreshing to come upon Dr. Baumann's Q&A:

What I Wish Audiologists Understood

In particular, these passages really rang a chord with me:
From what I have observed, audiologists seem to think their "job" is to fit/sell hearing aids as the solution to the hearing loss problems of the hard of hearing people that come to them. I wish audiologists understood that their real job is to us help hard of hearing people cope with our hearing losses.
Learning about hard of hearing people and the many effective coping skills they need to live successful lives—now that is worthy of an audiological degree!
I wish audiologists would teach us how to become friends with our hearing aids. We need training and coaching and support as we start life with these strange uncomfortable things stuck in our ears. We need to learn to cope with sound all over again. We need their help to do this. I wish audiologists would not sell us hearing aids and then dump us out on the street. [my bolding because that's how I felt when I got my first aids -- dumped on the street with all these new sounds, wondering if this is really what hearing was supposed to be like (loud, painful, nerve-wrecking, still-can't-hear-voice-well)]
People who lose their hearing need help, training and encouragement in learning speechreading—not derision and scorn. Speechreading is every bit as important as being fitted with hearing aids! I wish audiologists could realize this.
There are numerous coping skills we hard of people need to learn. I wish audiologists would realize this and teach us what we need to know—even though we don’t know we need to know it. [Prepare us for what our new lives with hearing loss and aids will be like.]...We also need to know the rules so we can teach our families and friends how to communicate effectively with us....We need to know how to preserve the little precious hearing we still have. Furthermore, we need to know about the many drugs that can damage our ears.....Hard of hearing people feel alone and cut off. I wish audiologists realized just how cut off we can be and put us in touch with support groups.....Hearing loss affects our whole family. Therefore, all of us need joint help and counseling. I wish my audiologist would teach all of us the coping strategies we need to live successful lives together....I wish audiologists would realize that hearing aids are just a small part of the solution, not the total solution.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Coping with hearing loss - how to identify factors in communication problems

I was doing some web surfing looking for hearing loss coping skills and this section of an article from the paper Coping with Hearing Loss hit home for me:

Coping with Hearing Loss

Samuel Trychin, Ph.D.

from Seminars in Hearing -- Volume 18, Number 2, May 1997, pp 77-86
What people who are hard of hearing say when they are not able to understand what someone else is saying is of critical importance in their ability to successfully cope with hearing loss. My observation is that people who are hard of hearing mostly say things like, "Huh?," "What?," "Would you repeat that?," "I'm sorry!," "Excuse me?," "I didn't get that," or "I didn't understand you." These are all ineffective responses to a communication problem because they do not contain any information about what needs to be done to resolve the difficulty. The speaker is informed that a communication breakdown has occurred, but has no clue as to what to do to solve the problem. Put in this situation, many people may opt for ending the conversation or for ignoring the hard-of-hearing person if it is a group discussion. Then, the person who is hard of hearing will probably blame the hearing loss, when in fact it was their ineffectual response that produced their being shut out. A much better response to a communication breakdown would be to offer a solution to the problem, that is, "Please slow down" (or "Face me when you speak" or "Raise your voice a little"). This provides the speaker with something concrete to do to be better understood and increases the probability that they will continue the conversation. Unfortunately, many people who have hearing loss and their family members are unable to identify the causes of communication breakdowns and need to be taught to do so.
Speaker, environment, and listener factors interact with hearing loss and cause or exacerbate communication problems. Family members, supervisors, co-workers, friends, and people who are hard of hearing themselves need to understand how these factors operate in communication situations. Otherwise, faulty attributions about someone's failure to understand are made and relationships are too frequently damaged as a result. For example, a frequent complaint of family members is, "I don't understand the variability in his ability to understand me; sometimes he understands everything I say and other times nothing. This is very upsetting for me." This confusion often leads to the statement, "He can understand me when he wants to" or "She has selective hearing."
The reason that people experience this kind of confusion is that they do not know the specific causes of communication breakdowns, that is, the speaker, environmental, and listener factors. Speaker factors include such things as not speaking clearly, speaking too rapidly, or speaking too softly. They also include other characteristics of the speaker, such as, foreign accent, distracting mannerisms, and beards or mustaches that obscure the lips. Environmental factors include background noise, lighting conditions, and acoustics. They also include factors such as visual or auditory distractions, ventilation, and seating arrangements. Listener factors include facts about the individual's hearing loss such as severity, type and onset characteristics. They also include the listener's ability to pay attention, emotional status, and distracting body sensations or thoughts. A major goal of the training is to enable people to identify these factors when they occur. Once people are able to identify the specific causes of communication problems, they are in a better position to suggest solutions to them. These factors and suggestions for reducing their effects are discussed in greater detail in Staying in Touch (Trychin & Albright, 1993).
Problem is, this article doesn't go any further in providing ways to identify these problem factors in communication and how to relay to your conversation partner how best to communicate in certain situations. I'm going to try to get this book from the library. If I get it, I'll update with tips on how to identify communication problems and suggest solutions.