Saturday, March 29, 2014

Beautiful Berkeley

This past week I was out in Berkeley, California for job training. This was my first time to the Bay area. The weather was sunny and mild. During some free time, I visited the UC Berkeley campus and went to the top of the Campanile (bell tower) where this photo was taken. Can you see the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance? That's as close as I got to San Francisco.

I thought I had left the snow behind me in Illinois, but who should I meet at the training but the Abominable Snowman's California cousin! When I stopped in at the UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library, I saw my old friend Mark Twain reading a book. I couldn't resist having my photo taken with both of them. 

See more fun and eclectic photos from my trip to Berkeley on flickr.

Friday, March 21, 2014

New Treatment for Single Sided Deafness

My friend Donna recently received SoundBite, a new device which treats single sided deafness. She approached me about sharing her story on my blog so others could learn about this new treatment and how she got her insurance to pay for the cost. I was very touched by her openness while working on this interview and the accompanying photos.

Sarah: Hi, Donna. Would you tell me more about your hearing loss? When did it start? What has it been like for you?

Donna: I am 58 years old and lost my hearing when I was 44. In October 1999 I had surgery for the removal of an acoustic neuroma. It is a noncancerous slow growing tumor that develops on the main nerve leading from your inner ear to your brain. Also known as vestibular schwannoma, acoustic neuroma is an uncommon cause of hearing loss. It was a very hard and long road recovering from the 9 hour skull based surgery. Now I was deaf in my left ear. I made sure that I stayed social so I would not get depressed. My family and friends were very supportive. I just kept doing whatever I did before even though some situations were now more challenging. I also protect my good ear at all costs! I use an ear plug when necessary [for] concerts and bands and any other very loud events.

Sarah: How did you hear about SoundBite?

Donna: My son saw an article in the Wall Street Journal about the SoundBite.

Sarah: How does SoundBite work?

Donna: You have to have normal hearing in one ear for this system to work. There are two removable in the mouth devices which have about 8 hours battery time each. A beep sounds when the power is out. Here's a brief description from the company's website: "The SoundBite Hearing System is the world's first non-surgical and removable hearing solution to use the well-established principle of bone conduction to imperceptibly transmit sound via the teeth.... Nearly invisible when worn, the SoundBite system consists of an easy to insert and remove ITM (in-the-mouth) hearing device – which is custom made to fit around the upper, left or right, back teeth – and a small BTE (behind-the-ear) microphone unit. Both components have rechargeable batteries and a system charger is also provided." Visit this webpage for more detailed information.

Donna's SoundBite kit 
Microphone unit on the ear with normal hearing
Removable in-the-mouth hearing device. 

Sarah: How did you get your insurance provider to pay for it?

Donna: I had to call for over a year and finally convinced Blue Cross Blue Shield HMO of Illinois that the SoundBite was a prosthetic hearing device that I needed to replace my cranial nerve eight. I had to pay $600.00 to Sonitus the maker of SoundBite, but will get that back when my insurance pays for the device. They also paid for my fitting costs. I did have to have my dentist take impressions of my teeth. My dental insurance will pay for most of that.

{When talking to her insurance company's representative, Donna found it useful to use this exact language: a prosthetic hearing device that I needed to replace my cranial nerve eight. Until she said it this way, the insurance company kept responding, "If you are deaf, you need a hearing aid." She had to explain how this product was different than a traditional hearing aid. Because of Donna's persistence the insurance company created new codes to describe the services she was provided.}

Sarah: How has SoundBite worked for you since you started using it?

Donna: I have only had my Soundbite for about a month but I experience how it has helped me every day. I can hear when someone talks to me on my deaf side. I do not need the TV up as loud as I used to. I can leave it in when I eat so this makes dining out so much more enjoyable. I cannot wait to go to the show.

Sarah: Thank you, Donna for sharing your inspiring story. If anyone has questions for you after reading this, can they contact you?

Donna: Yes, they can ask questions!

Send questions to and Sarah will forward them to Donna.

Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Patrick's Day Sign Story

For my intermediate sign language class, my "midterm" assignment was to bring in a food dish, tell a story about it in sign, and explain how to make it in sign. I chose to bring my St. Patrick's Day trifle and wear a green shirt with a shamrock pin at the collar.

Here's my sign story in English:
I enjoy celebrating St. Patrick's Day because my grandfather is from Ireland. Today I brought a fruit dessert called trifle that I make for St. Patrick's Day. The dessert's colors are the same as the flag of Ireland: green, white, and orange. Lime Jell-O and pistachio nut pudding are green. Angel food cake and whipped cream are white. Mandarin oranges are orange. My dessert has 6 layers. Starting from the bottom of the bowl: 1st angel food cake, oranges, and Jell-O; 2nd pistachio nut pudding; 3rd whipped cream; 4th oranges, 5th more pistachio nut pudding; 6th more whipped cream; and last few oranges on top.

Learning about classifiers is coming up soon in the class. For this presentation, I made the shape of a bowl and then used my left hand cupped upward as the bottom of the bowl with my right hand pressed into it for the first layer. Next my left hand became layer #2, my right hand became layer #3 and so on.

Our presentation was worth 100 points, 50 for the story and 50 for our signing. I was very pleased to received 100 with these comments from the teacher: pulled colors together in story for the Irish flag, good mime show layers. For this class session, we did not have to write down each others' signing for our receptive skills practice. We could just relax and enjoy the stories, creativity, and humor. After everyone had signed their stories we got to eat! There was a wide variety of food dishes to sample. Two food items I tried for the first time and liked were hummus and flan.

Today I bought this cookie at the grocery store. It was too cute to pass by. Hey, I'm Irish! Hope everyone has a Happy St. Patrick's Day, Irish or not!