Monday, 29 August 2016

Supporting each other

So much of coping with a disability, is having a support network of friends, family, and work colleagues who understand your difficulties, and care enough to assist. In a way, they ‘fill in the gap’ and form a bridge between you and the activity so you can join in.

Lots of you already do this in all sorts of ways— by walking slower when shopping with an elderly parent; by waiting while your friend puts glasses on to read a note; by providing a meal or cleaning for a friend who is ill. There are any ways you can assist someone who has a hearing loss too: repeating a phrase they missed; facing them when you speak; turning off the radio/TV and shutting the door on the washing machine to reduce background noise.

People often say to me, ‘You look too young to be wearing hearing aids’. They are even more surprised when I tell them I’ve been wearing them for nearly 30 years. Having some sort of impairment in function is certainly not associated just with old age. Countless young people have had a serious accident or illness that has left them with some loss of function, and face many years of struggle, pain or unemployment as a result. Most people with a hearing loss are under 65 years old.

I have really valued the people who have made an effort to assist me when I have struggled to hear. 
This thoughtfulness doesn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated by anyone who has wanted to participate and been in need of some small assistance in order to join in. Simple things like repeating a key phrase e.g. the topic of conversation; providing transcripts of videos or talks; or offering me a chair closer to the speaker has helped so much. It enriches our lives and enables us to keep on being part of the community. This in turn, provides opportunities for us to contribute as well.

There are some great activities out there for people with all sorts of abilities – we just need a few more people who are willing to make small sacrifices and provide that ‘bridge’ between those who have every faculty on perfect working order and the rest of us who require some small assistance.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

i-phones, text and speech

i-phones, text and speech

Well, I’ve hit the 21st century – I have an i-phone. I’ve mastered LED flash and vibration for notifications, volume for speech, and even emails.

I realise why it’s taken me so long to go this way – I much prefer to communicate by speech when talking with people. I like to hear the words and the intent which is communicated by inflection, tone and volume. I like the speed at which we can convey so much by the medium of voice.

Writing can be so open to ambiguity and so much care must be taken to avoid misinterpretation. We may not realise how much our voice impacts on what we are saying until we don’t have it. Our voice tone rises at the end of a sentence to convey a question. We use our voice to intimate irony, sarcasm, humour, boredom and irritation. The same sentence can mean quite different things given a different inflection. Try saying, ‘I don’t know what you mean’ in diverse ways.

Words written and without vocal inflection, can have several interpretations and can be taken the wrong way – maybe depending on the mood of the person who is reading them. There is no voice tone to qualify the intent of the words used, and this is why I prefer to talk, not text or email.

With a hearing loss, this can have its moments. I have extra volume phones at home and work and almost always, that’s enough. (Interpreting foreign accents on telemarketers is another matter.) But my work mobile…! I have handed it to others on occasion to be my interpreter – luckily most conversations are around making an appointment, not personal counselling!

I was advised an i-phone has best accessibility for vision and hearing impairment by a friend with vision loss. I might add that the sales people in telco stores really need to brush up on the best models for those of us with less than perfect sensory systems (most of us over 40 really). They could not advise me on anything. And it seems one of the best models of phone that had extra volume (Dave) has been superseded by a quieter version (Max).

So I’m pretty happy with my purchase, though a little extra volume would be handy for those very quiet speakers. My next goal to deal with the whisperers is to find the speak-and-read feature. I know it’s in here somewhere…

Monday, 13 June 2016

Movies and the sound of music…

Do you use your hearing aids when watching movies?

Is it just me, or do you find the music so loud it marches right across the dialogue, drowning out the speech?

My hearing isn’t perfect – but I am not stone deaf. In any session at the movies, I’m pulling my hearing aids out each time the music crescendos, then pushing them in to try to catch the dialogue. It is not a relaxing experience!
I know I’m not alone. Like any of us who value our hearing, I want to protect these precious sense organs – not damage them by blaring music.

Even friends who have no hearing issues have commented on the volume of music in today’s movies. They complain that they cannot hear the words because of the volume of the music. That’s ok in a fairly predictable action movie, but not in a drama. Some have taken a leaf out of my book: they now turn the music down and use captions, and have discovered a whole lot of side benefits. ‘It’s great,’ they say, ‘I can watch the late, late movie and not wake the kids’.

So if you want the sense-surround experience, go to the movies. But if you want to know what is going on in the program, select your DVD or television channel with captions so you can enjoy the drama without reaching for the Panadol.