Tag Archives: Deaf

Deaf Scholar: Appreciating Sign Language and English

Since a popular talk at Stanford University, a scholar who is Deaf has continued her quest to understand the beauty of both sign language and English.

Rachel Kolb at RE:CREATE TEDx
Rachel Kolb presents at TEDx about her experiences with English and sign language.

Rhodes Scholar Rachel Kolb gave a TEDxStanford Talk: “Navigating Deafness in a Hearing World.”

Kolb was born profoundly deaf and knows sign language.

She said, “I could have chosen to use sign language today instead and that would have been a perfectly viable choice. But for me, the answer was 18 years of speech therapy.”

Kolb tells the story of a presentation she gave to her middle school history class.

Days after the presentation, she said the teacher’s feedback was: “You should never speak like that in front of a group without an interpreter. It is not fair to anyone who has to listen to you.”

This lack of awareness causes some in the d/Deaf community to shy away from speech, but not Kolb.

She has challenges though, she said, and one of those is social communication with hearing people when she relies solely upon reading lips.

Rachel Kolb says, "Never put limitations on this child."
Kolb shares about what her speech therapist told her mother when she was 18 months old–to not limit her.

“I communicate fine face-to-face, but walking into those kinds of group conversations is like watching a world championship ping pong match with ten different people and half a dozen balls,” Kolb said.

In another article, Rachel Kolb’s mother, Irene Kolb, shares about learning what to do about her daughter Rachel’s hearing loss. Irene went to the library and read about hearing loss and communication.

“I learned that the biggest window of opportunity for language acquisition is from birth to three years. We started using signs that same day and within a few months, Rachel was communicating to us with baby signs,” Irene Kolb said.

When cochlear implants were approved by the FDA and their daughter was a candidate, Irene Kolb said, “We chose not to pursue cochlear implant surgery for her because we were sensitive to the message it may send, that she was not okay being deaf. The most profound book I read was Deaf Like Me. With that book, we came to the early realization that Rachel may never learn to hear or speak, even with a cochlear implant, but we could learn to sign.”

Kolb’s father, Bill Kolb, shared a story about how he came to understand deafness through a New Mexico state-sponsored program.

He said, “Then during one visit the individual brought a record that gave me, as a hearing person, an insight to what  different levels of hearing loss sounded like. The record repeated a story over and over again, and each time the narrator would drop certain frequencies until the recording lost all frequencies – that is, let me hear what it sounded like to be profoundly deaf. This recording really hit home with me. Going forward, I decided I would learn as much as I could about how to communicate with my precious daughter.”

According the the article, her parents learned sign language over lunch where they worked and took continuing education sign language classes. Their daughter Rachel studied at Deaf, mainstream, and private schools—an environment that may have helped her develop an appreciation of diverse communication.

“Having a family that signed and that worked to provide language access for me gave me a sense of confidence in myself, even when things got challenging,” Kolb said.

Stanford News reported that Rachel Kolb had a unique perspective on communication.

Rachel Kolb says, "But I can learn how to use the abilities that I do have."
While she doesn’t have a choice over everything, Kolb says, she does have a choice over how to use her abilities, which include sign language and English.

She signed, “As someone who understands the different forms communication can take, from spoken to sign language, I understand the value of flexibility in transmitting ideas. I see well-rounded, effective communication as essential to ideas, creativity and progress.”

In an article she wrote for the New York Times, Kolb illustrated the d/Deaf communication dilemma. She said, “While talking to a hearing person at a noisy party, I inevitably reach the point when I want to stop, switch off my cumbersome voice, and let my hands fly.”

“The general advantages of sign are numerous: not only talking through overwhelming noise, but chatting to friends from various distances, or through barriers like doors or windows. Sign, too, possesses a vibrant visual-spatial orientation and a robust directness of expression that spoken languages lack,” she said.

Kolb uses a party example to illustrate how people who don’t know sign language may have a limited ability: “…when faced with a noisy party filled with signing-impaired people, I sometimes marvel, instead, at the skill my eyes and my hands possess.”

She said people who are hearing note her ability to visually navigate a loud environment where hearing people have difficulty too. They’ve commented that it would be preferable to use sign and she encourages them to learn.

When people do learn sign language, she said it helps people to grow. “It is the human desire to communicate – which always strains to break out of presupposed categories, always insists upon its own flexibility and power.”

Communication is unique to the person and situation, to their education and experiences, but it’s valuable to embrace flexibility in communication with others, regardless of ability.

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How 11 Deaf Men Catapulted the American Space Program Forward

On July 16, 1969, the United States’ Apollo 11 landed on the moon.

Man floats anti-gravity and sign says, Deaf Difference + Space Survival ... the exhibit is now open
How would people travel through space without spending most of their time sick? Deaf research participants would be key to finding the answers.
Picture of men sitting on an airplane and ABC post saying they are just now getting attention for their contributions.
Media has recently acknowledged G-11’s efforts, which for many decades went unrecognized.

The Apollo 11 flight may never have been possible if it hadn’t been for the contributions of 11 Deaf men who were Gallaudet College (now University) alumni.

From 1958-1968, and ending the year before men would land on the moon, 11 Deaf men volunteered to participate in a joint research program with the U.S. Naval School of Aviation Medicine and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, according to an article in Knowridge Science Report.

Since they were Gallaudet alumni, they were called the Gallaudet Eleven, or G-11.

All but one of G-11’s members had become deaf early in their lives due to spinal meningitis, which damaged their inner ears in a way that prevented them from getting motion sickness. As far as space travel was concerned, motion sickness was a serious concern.

G-11 members took part in a variety of activities, including flying in airplanes performing parabolic arcs that created weightlessness, rough seas experiments, spinning room experiments, and more.

Did the experiments hurt?

According to a NASA article, participants didn’t get sick.

Man hangs upside and says I feel fine.
Researchers expected G-11 participants to not get sick, but they needed to understand how that happened.

“The only discomfort was in the pullouts after steep dives when we experienced from 4 to 6 G—if you tried to lift your arms, they weighed a ton,” said G-11 participant Robert Greenmun.

According to the G-11’s timeline, Greenmun never got sick, but had to nurse hearing Navy aides.

G-11: the envy of astronauts and doctors

Space wasn’t comfortable for people who could hear.

Astronaut and Senator John Glenn said he envied the G-11 because he got motion sickness in space, but they didn’t.

Even Earth’s Atlantic Ocean challenged hearing doctors, when Deaf volunteers didn’t get motion sickness on the rough ocean, but their doctors became sick and had to cancel the tests, according to the timeline.

Man signs that he and other program participants didn't have good balance because of the meningitis that had caused their deafness.
G-11 members enjoyed their participation and the challenges they faced.

“We always looked forward to seeing new experiments. It was an adventure for us,” said G-11 participant Harry Larson.

Larson had poor balance due to deafness from spinal meningitis, as did 9 other G-11 participants.

When being different makes the difference

The experiments helped improve the understanding of how our senses work normal cues for the ear aren’t there, as is the case with weightlessness, during gravitational forces, and at sea.

“We were different in a way they needed,” said Harry Larson, one of the volunteer test subjects.

G-11: NASA’s secret sauce

According to a WJLA report, Harry Larson said, “We were the only Deaf group to ever be involved in the history of the space program.”

Russia and the Untied States had competed to see which country would have a man set foot on the moon first.

Since Russia’s second cosmonaut got sick during flight, G-11 may have contributed to the the American program’s ability to land people on the moon before its Russian competitor, according to the report.

59 years ago and counting

Today, only five of the 11 test subjects are still alive.

2018 will celebrate 60 years since the G-11’s historic contribution to the U.S. Space program.

The Gallaudet Eleven’s roster:

  • Harold Domich
  • Robert Greenmun
  • Barron Gulak
  • Raymond Harper
  • Jerald Jordan
  • Harry Larson
  • David Myers
  • Donald Peterson
  • Raymond Piper
  • Alvin Steele
  • John Zakutney

From space history to museums

Some of G-11’s participants share their story in sign language.

On Apr. 11, 2017, Gallaudet University opened a museum exhibit, “Deaf Difference + Space Survival.”

Three of the 11 former study participants attended the exhibit’s opening: Harry O. Larson, Gallaudet class of ’61, Barron Gulak, class of ’62, and David O. Myers, class of ’61.

“Deaf Difference + Space Survival” is currently on display at Gallaudet University’s Jordan Student Academic Center, open Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.

Experience their story

See the open captioned and partial sign language video, “Deaf Difference + Space Survival” on YouTube.

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Get Awesome Materials to Raise Hearing and Speech Awareness

Two groups have created a variety of useful materials about communication disorders that are free to use and distribute.

To raise awareness about communication disorders, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association observe Better Hearing and Speech Month each May.

This month, they are holding a social media contest and providing an inforgraphic and a quiz about hearing loss, as well as other communication disorder information in press releases, information sheets, posters, and more.

May Is Better Hearing and Speech Month. Communication: The Key to Connection. National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders logo. Side profile of a woman’s face as she is speaking. Letters float out of her mouth and into the air.

According to the institute’s website, 48 million Americans have a form of communication disorder, while 37.5 million of us have hearing loss–that’s 15 percent of Americans.

NIDCD Hearing Loss and Hearing Aid Use Infographic

Want to use the infographic above? The institute has created a version you can upload to your website or blog here.

Currently, the institute supports research for promoting accessible health care and urges people who think they have hearing loss to have their hearing tested.

Since only 25 percent of Americans who could benefit from hearing aids have used them, there are potentially people who might want them who haven’t had access to them, or who may need them for safety or work-related issues.

On their website, you may take a quiz in the right-hand column to determine if you should have your hearing tested.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association is promoting a social media contest to raise awareness. The association will award points for sharing information on social media and issue prizes for those earning the most points. Prizes will include Amazon gift cards and association promotional materials.

Learn what people with communication disorders, audiologists, speech-language pathologists are doing to raise awareness on this interactive, international map.

The association has also provided many press release materials and patient information handouts about hearing loss–in English and Spanish.

Sign Shares, Inc./International educates society about awareness issues concerning communication disorders through this blog and also on our website, including answering questions people ask about using sign language interpreters and information about how to empower communities by providing communication access.

Request sign language services from Sign Shares here.

 

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Deaf and Interpreter Physicians Open Doors for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community

Doctor sitting at desk reaches out hand for a handshake.
Who determines which qualified candidates will still be rejected at medical school because of a disability? Is it still happening? How many doctors with disabilities do you know?

While many doctors with hearing only worry about earning good grades in their classes–doctors with deafness worry about admission to medical school after the good grades. In the past and perhaps in the present–doctoral candidates who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing wondered if they would be admitted at all, despite their other abilities.

Some pursued their profession past all advice and against the rejection from myriad medical schools. Another crossed the communication barrier and became a Certified ASL Interpreter to meet the needs of patients who wanted to openly communicate with their physician.

The following doctors are pioneers that have opened doors to medical school for people with hearing loss or deafness, and to the Deaf Community. They opened the minds of a Hearing Community that didn’t understand their abilities were less by the ability to hear than by the societal attitudes that believed they couldn’t achieve.

DEAF DOCTORS WHO OPENED DOORS
TO MEDICAL SCHOOL

Picture of a door with punch number code
These physicians with deafness unlocked doors that were closed to them by physician and medical school gatekeepers.

Dr. Judith Ann Pachciarz lost her hearing as a toddler, according to Celebrating America’s Woman Physicians. She believes she may be the first deaf person in history to earn both a Ph.D. and an M.D. She is also the “first profoundly deaf woman physician.” Dr. Pachciarz served as doctor at the 1985 World Games for the Deaf in the Los Angeles area.

Dr. Pachciarz advocated for the right to study to be a doctor when they were considering Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

A pile of keys of different sizes and colors
There are many keys to open access to careers, including education, advocacy, and communication tools.

“In 1963 I met all the qualifications for medical school admission as I did in 1979. In 1977 I wrote Health Education and Welfare Secretary [Joseph] Califano, who was considering the provisions of Section 504: ‘I am a thirty-five year old deaf woman who has wanted to be a doctor of medicine since early childhood. I have encountered resistance and discrimination at every step from grade school through graduate work to a Ph.D…thus the enthusiasm, expertise, and dedication I could provide to health care…is denied…When will our equal educational opportunities be protected under the law? Fifteen years—how much longer do I have to wait?’ Secretary Califano signed Section 504 after concerted collective action, and I was accepted into medical school two years later,” she said in the article.

At the time of the article, Dr. Pachciarz was a hospital pathologist and director of the blood transfusion service at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles.

Picture of an older man in a suit with the words...Deaf doctor makes patients feel heard.
A screen shot of Dr. Phillip Zazove on CNN.

According to a CNN report, Dr. Phillip Zazove, who is deaf, “makes patients feel heard.” Zazove, who has profound hearing loss, was the third if American physician. Not only does he serve the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community, but he also mentors doctors who are deaf.

According to the article, Dr. Philip Zazove is an author, physician and chair of the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Michigan.

Drs. Pachciarz and Zazove were both told as children not to expect much for careers. They chose to be pioneers and advocates, instead of giving up.

DR. AND INTERPRETER WHO RAISES THE BAR FOR DOCTORS

Hands using sign language spell A, S, L.
A-S-L, The hands spell the abbreviation for American Sign Language, a tool that enable doctors to communicate with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community in one of their languages.

According to an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Dr. Deborah Gilboa is “one of the few doctors in the nation who is fluent in American Sign Language.”

While completing prerequisites for medical school, Galboa became a certified ASL interpreter.

Pencil eraser over notebook paper with pieces of the eraser on the paper.
Many people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing wish doctors would erase communicating with them using pencil and paper and begin using sign language or having interpreters. Photo credit: Hometown Beauty via photopin (license)

“People who are deaf or hard-of-hearing are said to be one of most under-served disability populations in terms of health care. Lack of sign language interpretation is the most frequent subject of Department of Justice cases regarding compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act in health care settings, according to the website ada.gov,” according to the article.

Dr. Galboa said doctors need to step up and meet the Deaf Community’s needs, “The deaf community puts up with uncertainty about their health care that leaves them poorer for it, and I don’t mean financially. As doctors, we want to know what’s really going on. The deaf community’s expectations of doctors is very low. We need to raise those expectations.”

FROM THERE TO WHERE?

How will societal attitudes limit future physicians with deafness or hearing loss? How many physicians will opt to learn ASL, or at least adopt methods of communication that are suitable for truly understanding procedures and conditions?

Have times changed?

COMMUNICATION ACCESS FOR MEDICAL STUDENTS OR PROFESSIONALS

  • Are you a person with deafness or hearing loss who wants to become a medical professional?
  • Do you want to provide communication access to medical students?
  • Are you a medical professional who needs more communication access?

Woman with unreal blue eyes and black hair and background, reads, Sign Shares, Interpreting Your WorldSign Shares, Inc. can help! We provide services for people with deafness, hearing loss, and deaf-blindness, as well as foreign language translation for people with hearing.

Request Services here!

 

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Work and Home Technology for Hearing Loss

Technology provides many solutions, but some people with hearing loss, or their employers or loved ones, aren’t aware of devices that could assist the person with hearing loss at work, home, or during recreation.

Harris Communications has created a downloadable and online Free Guide to Assistive Technology that will help people who have hearing loss, or their employers or family members to explore creative solutions.

Until recently, smart watches were most useful for people who could hear. Now, some smart watches are more friendly for those with hearing loss. photo credit: TechStage Sony SmartWatch 3 Steel Edition _ 3 via photopin (license)
Until recently, smart watches were most useful for people who could hear. Now, some smart watches are more friendly for those with hearing loss. photo credit: TechStage Sony SmartWatch 3 Steel Edition _ 3 via photopin (license)

It includes newer resources, such as vibrating smart watches, and personal listening devices similar to hearing aids that don’t require a prescription, as well as old standbys, such as vibrating alarm clocks and flashing light signalers for many sounds in the home or office. For businesses, they have ADA kits ready with a combination of products.

Why Don’t People with Hearing Loss Know about These Already?

If a person grows up with a strong network of people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing who provided them with information about tools they could use to make daily living easier, they often know about this equipment. At least, they know about most of it, since new technology is developed often.

If a person gradually experiences hearing loss, they may or may not have resources to teach them about available technology to solve many problems they may encounter.

When a person loses hearing, if they have sight, they will use their sight and residual hearing to assist them.

Living with Less Sound: Using the Other Senses

When our hearing is affected, our others senses help us in new ways. photo credit: woodleywonderworks listen up: ears really are strange looking if you think about it via photopin (license)
When our hearing is affected, our others senses help us in new ways. photo credit: woodleywonderworks listen up: ears really are strange looking if you think about it via photopin (license)

In some cases, both vision and hearing are affected, and a person may use a variety of light or sound products to use their remaining senses as much as possible. The sense of touch is another option.

Signaling sounds with light is one of the first ways a person can get a visual cue for a sound. For example, their door bell may ring, and they may set up their home to have a light flash.

Vibration is another tool. A person may arrange it so that when their cell phone would normally ring, instead it vibrates so they can feel it. They may need other options for when they don’t have their phone on them, such as a flashing light.

Picture of sounds system's adjustment knobs.
Just like in a music studio they alter certain sounds, so do products for people with hearing loss so they can make the most of what they have. photo credit: Sergiu Bacioiu Audio Mix via photopin (license)

Sound may be a tool for people with hearing loss too, and this is much more specific to the person. Each person has a unique hearing range. One may hear in a high frequency range, another may hear medium frequency, and yet another only low frequency. There also many be deficits within those ranges.

People who are Hard of Hearing have learned from experience whether they hear higher women’s voices, or lower men’s voices–or if some sounds are out of their range, such as fire alarms, perhaps.

Many hearing loss products offer superior amplification, clarity, and a variety of ranges so that a person can set them to sounds they may hear. For example, a person with high frequency hearing loss may set their amplified alarm clock to a low tone that will wake them up.

Sound may not be enough of a wake up cue, and people with hearing loss may also use a vibration disc under their mattress to ensure they wake up. Alarms with this ability also often have flashing light function. Sound, light, and vibration are all three available in many alarm clocks for the consumer segment with hearing loss.

Picking the Right Product

Flashing police car light.
Flashing lights aren’t everyone’s friend and may trigger seizures in those with Epilepsy, and migraines in others. photo credit: T.H. Images Police Light Moments via photopin (license)

People may have several disabilities at once. Epilepsy  can be seriously impacted by flashing lights. So may migraines, for those that experience them, so flashing light models are for many, but not all people, and this should be part of determining the right product for the right person.

Where to Purchase Products for People with Hearing Loss or Deafness

Businesses such as Harris Communications have great value within the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community, since they provide specialized products that are difficult to find, and all in the same place. They also provide free shipping.

More Vendors

Hearmore.com has thousands of products and provides free shipping.

Teltex has many products and you can subscribe to their email to receive discounts and special offers.

iAccessibility.com provides iOS solutions for people who have Apple products. It’s powered by Teltex.

You can see a selection of hearing loss products at Amazon here.

Independent Living Aids, LLC provides vision, hearing loss, and mobility products.

If you live or shop in the UK, here is a good technology resource from Action Hearing Loss.

You May Receive Financial Assistance to Pay for the Products

People with hearing loss or deafness may receive assistance purchasing products that assist them with work or daily living. They should contact their state office of Health and Human Services to see which agency may assist them in their state.

Map of the United States on asphalt
photo credit: dalioPhoto SURFACE LINES via photopin (license)

Find your state’s department of Health and Human Services here.

Getting Assistance in Texas

In Texas, the Texas Workforce Commission assists people with Vocational Rehabilitation. This is for people who are going to school or are planning to work.

If you’re new to hearing loss, are no longer working, or can’t work right now, it may be easiest to contact Deaf and Hard of Hearing Specialist to assist you in finding resources you can use. They understand hearing loss and will connect you to the right people and products.

Support for Employees and Students with Hearing Loss or Deafness

Just because someone has hearing loss or deafness doesn’t mean they know which equipment could help them adapt to a world with many sounds.

For example, someone who always used a radio alarm clock who suddenly has hearing loss, wouldn’t know that there’s a technology solution–the vibrating and/or light flashing alarm clock! Most people with hearing loss or deafness have hearing families, so they may not have known about ways technology helps us adapt.

Kudos to Harris Communications for providing a handy question-and-answer page for people with hearing loss and their needs.

While Harris makes some recommendations–and they have useful products–I have additional recommendations.

Amplified, Captioned, and Video Phones

Black and white picture of a young Bob Hope on the telephone.
Do you know if your phone system produces quality sound, or are you just Hope-ful it does? photo credit: classic_film Bob Hope, on the Phone, circa 1940s-1950s via photopin (license)

Harris’ first topic was Staying in Touch and they recommended an amplified phone, the Panasonic KX-TGM450S Amplified Phone. Many people use only cell phones. If you need a cell phone, what kind do you get?

Test friend and family members’ phones to see which provide the clearest amplification for you. Which ones sound fuzzy? Which don’t provide enough volume? While I used to use Nokia phones to get enough volume, now Samsung phones have better sound–for me. See which works best for you.

While amplification works for many, it doesn’t give me the accuracy I need to communicate with strangers or conduct work. For those, a captioned phone works. Harris Communications offers captioned phones, though many people qualify for free captioned phones or video phones (for using sign language and/or seeing speakers). Below are some vendors that may provide a phone free to you.

I’ve used both Captioncall and CapTel phones and while the captioning isn’t perfect and can be slow, most of the time it’s a benefit–and the captioned phones can also be programmed to suit your type of hearing loss. They also provide super amplification that is appropriate only for people with hearing loss and isn’t provided with standard phones.

Man talks on cell phone looking at big picture of a man.
Seeing people on video makes it easier to communicate because you can read their lips too. photo credit: dalioPhoto face time at 53rd st via photopin (license)

Video phones assist for those who use sign language. People may make or receive calls using a video phone. If you’re the employer of someone who uses sign language, then your employee may have this type of phone, but they might need one for the office. In some cases, it’s free.

Captioned and video phones need special assistance to be wired into an office’s existing system, but I’ve had this done. Support from any of the companies below will assist with the process.

Free Video Phones

Captioned Phones

Skype, Face Time, Google Hangouts, or other Video Chat

One of the reasons employees or students with hearing loss can’t hear as well on the phone is because the quality of sound is less than in real life. Also, we often read lips–whether we know it or not.

Video chat offers people with hearing loss the chance to hear and see what’s said. There’s also usually a chat option so what’s not heard can be typed.

If you’re the employer of someone who uses sign language, they probably use some video communication methods like Face Time.

Ask your employee or student for the best way for you to communicate with them–and don’t pressure them to do what’s most convenient for you. They make extra effort for many interactions, not just the ones with you.

Alarms and Watches

Picture of digital alarm clock and person lying in bed ready to hit alarm clock with a hammer.
Common alarm clocks don’t usually bother people with hearing loss–in fact, they may not work! photo credit: purplemattfish Permanent Snooze – Day 114, Year 2 via photopin (license)

Harris’ second topic was Being on Time. Many people with hearing loss say it’s difficult to wake up because their cell phone, watch, and/or radio alarms don’t do the job.

Enter the vibrating, flashing, or light alarms. Harris Communications recommends the Sonic Alert Sonic Boom Super Shaker Bluetooth Bed Shaker. This vibrating device is controlled by your cell phone. A vibrating disc is set under the mattress and shakes the bed when the alarm goes off.

I prefer a physical clock. My first vibrating alarm clock was the Sonic Alert Boom, but it only had a single alarm! I could have bought one with dual alarms for $5 more.

My advice is to seek a dual alarm. The Sonic Alert Boom clocks come with a vibrating device that slides under the mattress. I can’t feel the device through the mattress–until it vibrates at the appointed time. It can wake me up. Make sure that the alarm you want comes with bed shaker and isn’t a separate purchase.

Now, I have the Sonic Alert Sonic Bomb Jr, which has dual alarms and a stronger sound that I can program to be in my hearing range (a deeper buzzer). While the sound won’t wake me up by itself, once I’m awake, it keeps me from snoozing too long. The clock also has a snooze button. It has a flashing light that if placed in front of you may also help. This alarm clock has stronger signals than the Sonic Alert Boom, so I recommend this one.

They also make travel alarms with bed shakers. I have the Sonic Alert Traveler. It’s not as strong as the other alarm clocks, but better than nothing when I travel!

To supplement a travel alarm clock, I order an ADA kit for my hotel rooms, which should include a flashing door bell alarm. Tip: ask for the manager if hotel staff don’t know where it is. Hotels are required to have this.

Then, I order room service coffee when I need to wake up, so the flashing door bell when they bring me coffee is a second way to wake up. The ADA kits have vibrating alarms, but I haven’t programmed one of those correctly, so I bring mine.

If you’re used to waking up with your watch alarm, Harris has a series of vibrating watches, including a smart watch.

There are more options for waking up, including alarms that gradually lighten the room.

Picture of a professional quality alarm clock with flashing light fire alerts.
This alarm is accessible for those with hearing loss or deafness because it flashes when it goes off. photo credit: Amarand Agasi Displaced via photopin (license)

Devices can be connected to door bells and fire alarms, creating a complex system of light signals for the home, office, or classroom.

Sleep Assistance Technology

People with hearing loss may have tinnitus, which is a ringing or buzzing in the ears. Devices with sounds may assist with this. Harris Communications recommends the Sound Oasis Therapy Machine. Some of the sounds the machine makes may mask the sounds of tinnitus.

I have tinnitus and it can disrupt sleep. Some eye drops, and some medications cause my ears to ring loudly. Whenever the ringing gets out of control, I examine what I put in my mouth or on my body that was new and different that day. Most of the time, when I stop using the new vitamin, medicine, or eye drops, the tinnitus gets quieter.

Picture of sunset with waves skimming over rocks in the water.
Ocean waves are one of the many sounds that may combat tinnitus. photo credit: tdlucas5000 Dawn Breaking on a New Year via photopin (license)

My old-school method for out-of-control tinnitus was to play music or leave a TV running with sound because tinnitus is less disruptive with other sounds. I also read to get my mind off the noise. Wearing hearing aids reduces the disruption for some, while others say it makes tinnitus worse. There are tinnitus vitamins on the market, but the two I tried made it worse.

Other Cool Devices

Notification Systems

Besides the devices I mentioned, there are a variety of tools to use. A light flashing device can be connected to your door bell or vibrating alarm clock. Check out Harris Communication’s Notification Systems, which include these visual light signalers, as well as baby crying and fire alarms for people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.

Cell Phone Accessories

There’s another device that lights up when your cell phone rings. I had this one, but it went off too often because it was triggered by my cell’s email notifications too, but there are other brands and Cell Phone Accessories here, including bluetooth loops.

Paging Systems

a man talks on a walkie talkie
Notice how this man has to hold the walkie talkie up to his ear. Employees with hearing loss may not be able to use traditional walkie talkies. photo credit: Oneras watchman via photopin (license)

Many businesses are concerned about the ability to reach their employees, especially if they use on-site radios, such as in technical facilities. One option is for them to text you and you to have a lighting, vibrating alert set. Another option is a lighting, two-way personal pager system.

Meetings

Big sign reads blah, blah, blah perhaps 100 times.
This is how your meetings could sound to employees or students without interpreters, captioners, or assistive technology. photo credit: Metropolico.org Blabla via photopin (license)

The old school option is to sit closest to the main speaker. However, in classrooms and at meetings, often many people speak, sometimes from across the room or from behind, cutting off a person’s ability to read their lips or capture quality sound.

Man writes man formulas on a chalkboard.
While this teacher is speaking at the blackboard, students with hearing loss are hearing next to nothing. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst) photo credit: World Bank Photo Collection A student solves a mathematics equation at the Mfantsipim Boys School in Cape Coast via photopin (license)

Speakers may also turn their back to the audience, disabling any lip reading, which is essential to people using their vision to supplement hearing loss or deafness.

At the bare minimum, a person with hearing loss would need to sit within a few feet of the main speaker. They need an agenda, outline, and/or handouts beforehand to assist them with determining what topics are being discussed–these make lipreading easier. Speakers should always face the audience, not turn away. Any videos or TV should be captioned.

Woman's face and text below reads, Does your life have meaning?
Captioned films have a lot more meaning for people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. photo credit: via photopin (license)

If you use a TV for your presentation, televisions since the 1990’s have captioning capability. Enable it. Learn how to do this before the meeting since doing this for the first time can take a while or may be incredibly fast. Don’t try to make it pretty, if it has those options. All caps with a black background offers good visibility. Make sure the person needing captions sits close enough to the TV to read them easily–even if they need to change seats to do so. Reserving an extra viewing seat near the TV makes it easier to offer this accommodation.

If you show videos from YouTube, make sure that when you click the captioning option on the video, that captions are on the video. If the video doesn’t have captions, select another video with a similar topic that does. YouTube has many videos to select from, even for the exact same topic. They also have the option for you to create captions for your own video content.

If you bring DVDs or even older VHS tapes, ensure that they have captions. Look on the back of the box for clues. Does the box say “CC” for Closed Captioned, or does it say it includes “Subtitles for People who are Hard of Hearing”? Sometimes you have to look hard for it. Westerns, music videos, and Discovery Channel products are notorious for not providing captioned content, so be on the lookout.

While at first using captions is different, many people who think they hear well discover that they have missed many words the captions show them. Captioned videos are a tool that benefit more employees or students than you realize!

Adult puts a blue hearing aid on a young girl.
Children with hearing loss have fewer strategies for adapting and benefit from creative solutions. photo credit: bundesinnung_ha Kind, Hinter-Ohr-Gerät-Anpassung. Copyright: biha, 2015 via photopin (license)

If your employee or student is functionally deaf, and a good sign is if they use sign language, then a sign language interpreter may be required for the entire meeting. The interpreter would request captions for videos. Ask your employee what they need, again, without pressure from you about the costs. We can save money many ways, but let it not be in ways that discriminate employees and students.

Picture card showing sign language
How many ways are there to sign? Apparently, less and less with the widespread use of American Sign Language. photo credit: Positive signs via photopin (license)

In some cases, a student or employee may be functionally deaf but not know sign language. If this is true, live captioning, or CART, can be requested and a person with a stenography kit can type what is said at the rate of 250 words or so a minute. This is if your content is involved. In many cases, a note taker won’t work well unless they’ve been trained.

Capsule and Sign Shares' LogosDo you need to request a sign language interpreter or CART? Contact Sign Shares 24/7/365 and we can help.

Loops and Assistive Listening Devices

A loop is a system that can feed sound directly into a person’s hearing aid, offering them a chance at direct sound. Portable loops enable them to take the device from place to place.

I’ve used three portable loops for work and school. My favorite was from Williams Sound. I take it with me, push a button on my hearing aids and a button on the loop and we’re connected and I hear more clearly those sounds around me, which is better for small group participation in a large room, when I need to hear the people near me most.

Picture of assistive listening devices, boxes that have small microphone
Assistive listening devices communicate to one another via FM, making clearer sound. photo credit: http://www.audio-luci-store.it set 9000 via photopin (license)

Assistive Listening Devices, called ALDs, are generally more appropriate for people with mild to moderate hearing loss, but there are a few options for those with greater hearing loss.

These devices generally use two devices. One receives sound, the other transmits it. They communicate to each other via FM radio, which means the sound from one box to the other is pure.

ALDs work well in classrooms, meetings, and churches, when the speaker wears the transmitter and the person with hearing loss holds or wears the receiver. Since the receivers often have microphones too, it’s possible at times to need only the receiver.

When I was in college, my hearing loss was moderate, and the college provided me with a Williams Sound Pocketalker Pro. I had to remove one of my hearing aids to use it but I was blown away with the superiority of this sound over my hearing aids in a classroom. Wow. The microphone on the device is awesome. Buy an extra windscreen if you purchase one of these. Since the microphone sticks out, the microphone cover, or windscreen, gets the most wear and tear.

When teaching with severe hearing loss, I used the Comfort Audio Contego FM system with a neck loop so I didn’t have to keep track of my receiver–I wore it around my neck. My transmitter was placed at the back of the classroom or near a group of students I wanted to hear best. Both the transmitter and receiver paired with my hearing aids, so I didn’t have to remove them.

At this level of hearing loss, it was a temporary and not a permanent solution, but it was better than using hearing aids alone.

The Comfort Audio Contego FM system would work well for someone with mild to moderate hearing loss, but I would recommend the Pocketalker first, since it’s an affordable, quality product with great amplification and clarity.

Old School Tools

Mirrors

Picture of a mirror on a wall.
Mirrors allow people with hearing loss or deafness to see the world that makes sounds behind them. photo credit: judy dean Hotel room via photopin (license)

One of the cheapest assistive technology items for someone with hearing loss in an office or home is a mirror. Since people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing often don’t hear people approach, or know when someone is standing behind them, this leads to shock and sometimes a surprised scream when co-workers magically appear.

Place a mirror on the wall in front of your normal work stations and you can catch movement behind you and have less surprises by co-workers whose approaching footsteps you can’t hear. There are doormats that flash lights when people enter the room if this is a bigger problem than a mirror can solve.

Office/Work Space Organization

Two people sit in an office at their computers, the door is behind them so they face it sideways, not directly.
These office desks aren’t ideally suited for someone with hearing loss or deafness because they don’t face the door. The open space could be an advantage if the environment isn’t loud. If it is, extra noise could make it more difficult for a person with hearing loss to hear. photo credit: World Bank Photo Collection Yosr works as a consultant for an export promotion agency via photopin (license)

Ideally, if you have hearing loss or deafness, placing your desk or chair facing the door or the most co-workers is the best option. If you have an enclosed office, then placing the desk with your back to the wall and face facing the door will help. If you have a work area that is too noisy, request a quieter area where it will be less stressful to communicate.

Learn Some Sign Language

Physicians like Doctor Strange here who are friendly with those who use sign language stand out like local superheroes. photo credit: Strange Magicks via photopin (license)
Physicians like Doctor Strange here who are friendly with those who use sign language stand out like local superheroes. photo credit: Strange Magicks via photopin (license)

There are places online where you can learn some sign language, and there are also sign language dictionaries. If you and the employee or student share some signs, it cuts down on confusion and miscommunication. Every location has specific vocabulary and necessary emergency signals, plus there are common communication signs that could benefit anyone with hearing loss or deafness and create a welcoming environment.

Lifeprint.com has an ASL University that has videos teaching sign language for free. Here is the 100 First Signs.

Want to learn some specific words in sign language? Use a sign language dictionary!

Signing Savvy has an extensive American Sign Language dictionary. You can also use Google to help you find words in sign language by typing the word you want + American Sign Language.

Disclaimer: While I mention products from Harris Communications, I was not paid by them nor do I receive any funds for my reviews. I don’t and have never worked for them. I have purchased several products from them and am thankful that Harris Communications has been a one-stop shop for me and others who have hearing loss or deafness.

 

 

 

Texas Governor Proclaims Deaf Awareness Week

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a proclamation recognizing the week of September 18-24, 2016 as Deaf Awareness Week. The celebration is part of the month-long Deaf Awareness Month.

Governor Greg Abbott is speaking, the top rim of his wheelchair is visible.
Gov. Greg Abbott recognized this week as Deaf Awareness Week, kicking off social and awareness events this week. photo credit: Greg Abbott via photopin (license)

In a press release from the Office of the Governor, Abbott said, “Among those with disabilities,Texans who are deaf and hard of hearing have long been recognized for their contributions to our state. In fact, the 6th Texas Legislature helped to ensure the support of this community with the establishment of the Texas School for the Deaf in 1856.

Each September, organizations across Texas set out to raise awareness of this special population of citizens and promote available resources for the educational needs of Texans who are deaf or hard of hearing.

I encourage all Texans to support and celebrate the many unique and individual achievements of all citizens of our communities, and especially at this time, to honor Texans who are deaf and hard of hearing. I thank the many professionals and educators dedicated to assisting their fellow Texans and for their contributions focused on the best for all deaf and hard of hearing in Texas. Working together, we are ensuring a brighter future for our state.”

According to the press release, Texas School for the Deaf Superintendent Claire Bugen said,“We commend the Governor’s office in encouraging all Texans to gain a better understanding of the achievements of deaf people and their contributions to the world we live in. This annual event offers us the opportunity to increase public awareness of deaf issues, deaf people, and culture. Activities and events throughout Deaf Awareness Week encourage individuals to come together as a community for both educational events and celebrations.”

Upcoming Deaf Awareness events

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