Getting the groom on your good side: Tips for brides with single-sided hearing loss

I recently wrote a blogs post for Hearing Like Me, titled “5 ways to Accommodate Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing Guests at your Wedding,” and it got me thinking about my own wedding. The accessibility issue at our wedding wasn’t about one of the guests – it was about the bride!

In 2006, for me as a bride-to-be, my biggest concern was, “How will I be able to hear both the registrar and the groom during the ceremony?” Back then, I had reasonably good hearing in one ear and poor hearing in the other: positioning was everything. I didn’t want the celebrant to get to the part where they ask if anyone knows of any lawful impediment and me mistake the pause for the lull in conversation where I’ve missed being asked a question – and then say something like, “What did you say?” or “I do” at the wrong time. As a bride-to-be who had hearing loss, I had a lot on my mind. Continue reading

Can multi-tasking cause momentary deafness?

Have you ever been accused of having ‘selective hearing’ or ‘selective deafness’ – people saying that you can hear them when you want to, but not when you don’t? Well, there could be a scientific explanation for this, apparently and it’s called ‘inattentional deafness’.

According to a recent article published by Huffpostscience, “A new study has found that focusing really hard can cause momentary deafness.”  The article went on to say, “A small study from University College London, published in The Journal of Neuroscience, found that focusing on a visual task can make you momentarily deaf to normal-level sounds around you.”

During the study, participants were asked to take part in a visual task involving deciphering ambiguous-looking letters whilst the researchers conducted brain scans on them.

“The scientists found that the brain’s response to sound was significantly reduced and the volunteers could not hear sounds that were clearly audible. […] The researchers believe this shows that humans’ sense of hearing and vision relies on the same neural resources, which are limited and may only be available to one type of task at a time.”

How does this then impact on those of us with hearing loss? Continue reading

Their voice just faded away: My experience with sudden deafness

One day in April 2011, I lost all the hearing in my left ear between the time I woke up and lunchtime.

I was already severely deaf in my right ear and I had mild hearing loss in my left ear as a result of a hereditary condition called otosclerosis. I used a hearing aid in my left ear every day, but rarely used the hearing aid in my right ear, because I felt the volume level necessary to make it of use to me caused me to have horrendous tinnitus.

On this particular day, I woke up feeling a little woozy, and when I spoke, my voice sounded louder on my right side (my deafer side) than usual. For a few moments I thought a miracle was happening and that I was getting the hearing back in my right ear. (I once heard about a man whose hearing had been miraculously restored after travelling on a ski lift and I still hoped for a similar miraculous recovery.)

I could feel something at the base of my skull, which felt like icy cold water trickling down my neck. It then felt as though something was shifting at the base of my skull – a movement of some kind like when you see those worms that have embedded into someone’s skin – but this wasn’t a wriggling movement, more of a shift of a mass. It was undeniably scary, but I still went to work.

I started to get a really painful headache and I took some painkillers. I answered the phone to take a call from a colleague. I had an amplified phone with a volume control and I kept turning it up but to no avail: the caller’s voice simply faded away. To this day, I can’t remember who was on the phone or exactly what I said but I think I just kept saying that I couldn’t hear them.

I sent a text message to my husband and said I felt worse and that I thought something serious was happening and asked if he would take me to the emergency room. He came straight away and we dashed to the hospital. In the waiting room, my hearing further disappeared. I changed the batteries on my hearing aid twice before accepting that the last of my hearing had disappeared while I was waiting to see the doctor.  I felt like I was underwater or in a bubble, cut off from the outside world around me: it was like watching TV with the volume muted. Continue reading

Switching on my Phonak CROS

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

Tackling My Tinnitus

I don’t normally like to write about my tinnitus because I find that thinking about it or even seeing the word written down makes me focus on mine and seems to intensify it. But, today my tinnitus is so bad, I figure writing this post isn’t going to make much difference.

I’ve suffered with tinnitus since I was a child. [I use the word ‘suffered’ quite deliberately because I feel that it is something unpleasant that I have to endure. I will explore the terminology and attitude later in this post.] I remember being very young and not being able to go to sleep because I thought I could hear the garage door banging repeatedly. My tinnitus then (and often still now) resembled the sound of a metal up and over garage door being slammed shut over and over. As you can imagine, I found this distressing. My Mum tried to reassure me that the noise was just my ear hearing the blood pumping round my body and that it was nothing to worry about, but it still kept me awake night after night, on and off for years.

When I started to lose my hearing in my thirties (as a result of a condition called otosclerosis), I began to notice my tinnitus more, and sometimes not just at night but in the daytime too. The audiologist who fitted my first digital hearing aid referred me to a hearing therapist. Continue reading

When Is a ‘Portable Loop’ Not a Portable Loop?

Some time ago, I wrote a post asking if other hearing aid users found it difficult to find venues and customer service points with working hearing loops and, in the responses on the blog and Facebook page, it appeared that there was an even bigger issue at large and that was that hearing aid users were not all aware of what a loop and a telecoil do.

Steph followed up my post with a basic introduction to hearing loops and the telecoil setting, which is present (but not always activated) in most hearing aids.

As an accessibility consultant working with the hospitality industry in the UK, I am keen to raise awareness on the benefit of, and need for, hearing loops — and the way I explain the benefit to a hearing aid user is that it ‘overcomes the barrier of both distance and background noise, by transmitting directly into the hearing aid, the voice of the person speaking into a microphone linked to the loop’.

However, the best explanation I’ve seen is in this video: How a fixed room loop works by American loop installers, Otojoy, the link for which was shared with us by Juliette Sterkens from Let’s Loop Wisconsin in a comment on Steph’s post.

Although I’m struggling to find good quality working loops where I live, I have had two positive experiences of using them at conferences and this has contributed to me advocating their use to our clients in the hospitality industry: well, that and the Equality Act 2010! The Equality Act of 2010 replaced the Disability Discrimination Act and it also simplified and strengthened this UK law with regard to discrimination and inequality. Here’s what is says in regards to the duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to improve services for disabled customers:

Service providers are required to make changes, where needed, to improve service for disabled customers or potential customers. There is a legal requirement to make reasonable changes to the way things are done (such as changing a policy), to the built environment (such as making changes to the structure to improve access) and to provide auxiliary aids and services (such as providing information in an accessible format, an induction loop for customers with hearing aids, special computer software or additional staff support when using a service).

Equality Act 2010

So, why is it that so many establishments are falling short of what’s needed?

Continue reading

Captions — Hit or Miss?

We’ve all seen those captioning bloopers that do the rounds on social media every now and then; and to be fair there are some really funny ones. And, as us deafies are not without a sense of humour, often we’ll see the funny side. But, joking apart, how does it make you feel when the captions are so badly wrong?

Here in the UK, I think we do pretty well for the availability of ‘subtitled television’. (In the UK, the term ‘subtitle’ is more commonly used than the term ‘caption’, despite there being a difference between the definitions.) The BBC is clearly committed to making shows accessible and the other main UK channels tend to also be quite good.

But where all channels come unstuck is with subtitling the news.

The worst I’ve found is Channel 4 news (which is unfortunate for me because it is my preferred news programme). The subtitles are so far behind and so often inaccurate that I do better by just lipreading and listening than by trying to make sense of the subtitles that are so far out of sync. Continue reading