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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My Hearing Test and Results

Last week I went for a hearing exam. I thought I'd describe my experience and share my results and conversation with the audiologist.

I was shown into the testing room and given a seat in a soundproof booth where I removed my hearing aids. My nose was sprayed with a solution to clear my nasal passages so I could get the best results possible. "The ear and nose are connected," explained the technician.

I had my ear pressure tested first. A handheld instrument was held up to each ear. I could hear some ringing tones but I did not need to respond in any way. This test was not uncomfortable at all.

Here's a YouTube video that demonstrates and explains this test of the middle ear. (Note: this audiologist uses different equipment than mine.) Captions provided by Bill Cresswell.

Next I had a speech reception threshold test. For this test I needed to respond to what the technician said. Headphones were placed over my ears, the door to the booth was closed, and the technician spoke to me through a microphone connected to my headphones. She said spondee words (two syllable words spoken with equal stress) like cowboy, hotdog, and ice cream.

Note: if you've ever wondered if it's a problem that you're familiar with the words for this test, check out this helpful article for some reassurance that it's fine. What's being checked is how softly the words can be spoken and you can still respond correctly.

My final test was to listen through the headphones for tones and push a handheld button (ala Jeopardy!)as soon as I heard something. Tones would be presented at varying pitches. I asked if I should push the button if I was unsure whether I was simply hearing an echo or a new tone. I was told to push that button!

Here's a YouTube video that demonstrates and explains this test of the inner ear. (As before, this audiologist uses slightly different equipment than mine. I found it really interesting to see the test performed from the audiologist's perspective.) Captions provided by Bill Cresswell.

Like the other tests, this one is painless. Actually the hardest part is waiting for the results. With bated breath I waited to find out if my hearing loss had gotten any worse.

The technician announced that the audiologist would see me next and she told me my hearing had remained the same. Phew. I released my breath and relaxed.

My first hearing test ever had been performed in 2006 and the two taken since then have revealed no further hearing loss. That's good news!

In the audiologist's office, I asked if my hearing aids could be adjusted a bit. I explained that my son had told me the following joke recently, "What does one tickle say to another?" I guessed "ha ha". He looked at me strangely and said, "Dill you be my valentine?" Oops. He had actually said pickle, not tickle. The audiologist reassured me that mistaking high pitched consonants was not unusual for my type of hearing loss and that she could adjust the volume upward only in their range. That way everything else wouldn't seem extremely loud. After the adjustment she said "sickle, pickle, tickle, thickle" and I could tell them apart!

I told her I have trouble coping with the buzzer sounding at my son's basketball games. I jump almost every time. She said something I had never known before - that with my type of hearing loss, I am prone to be more sensitive to volume differences. Hmmm....that's interesting!

Then she changed my eartubes for fresh, clean ones. I asked her about using a Dry & Store. She said she had something similar she could sell me for $10. I was pretty sure the Dry & Stores were more expensive in the catalogs I had seen. Since I hadn't been using one at all up until now, I thought I'd get hers. It's basically a plastic jar with a screw on lid. Inside on the bottom is a screen filled with desiccant beads to remove moisture. The instructions say "When all the desiccant beads are green, it is time to reactivate. To do this, place desiccant, screen side up, in microwave and heat for 30 seconds on high. Repeat cycle until beads are orange. Cool before touching."

Next I asked her about cleaning my eartubes with Audiowipes. She suggested using Huggies wipes Natural Care (no alcohol) as they would be much less expensive. I found them at my local grocery store for less than $2.

So what do you think? Are these bargains an acceptable substitute for the name brand items found in the catalogs? What products do you use?

I'll blog again soon about ways I've been trying to protect my hearing.
Thanks again to Bill Cresswell for making these videos accessible.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Did You Know?

Have you seen this thought provoking video? I think it has huge implications for all those who work in higher education and definitely for all of us parents. Take a look (no captions needed as all the text appears on the screen) and let me know what you think.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Margie & Luke Earn the Respect of the Other Amazing Racers

Photo by CBS.

This week's Amazing Race episode begins with reactions from the racers to Luke & Margie's first place finish. Margie is hailed as a "Bionic Woman". She is racing like a much younger woman! Luke was complimented by Tammy for being wonderfully observant. They are definitely a team to be reckoned with agree the other racers.

Tonight the racers move on to Germany and start by riding a cable car up a mountain. At the top they encounter a Roadblock challenge to "Fly Like an Eagle". One team member has to paraglide off a cliff. Margie agrees to take it for their team. Unfortunately the wind conditions are currently unsafe and the racers have to choose whether to wait for the wind to change or to hike (run) down the mountain following a marked trail. Their teammates get to ride the cable car and enjoy the spectacular view a second time.

Eventually all the racers except for Mel choose to abandon the wait for the wind to change. Mel is stuck waiting because on the previous leg of the race he injured himself climbing the muddy hill and doesn't feel capable of hoofing it back down. Frankly, I was surprised he chose to do the roadblock for the team in the first place. Fortunately for him the wind changes and Mel is able to soar like an eagle and get his team back into the race.

Margie makes it down the mountain on foot with no problem as does everyone else except for Linda. Sadly, she overlooks a crucial trail marker and takes a wrong turn. When she realizes her mistake what makes it harder for her is that she is certain her husband will be angry or disappointed with her. With the help of a passing motorist she hitches a ride back to where she needs to end up. [I wondered if their team would be penalized in any way for this at the Pit Stop but they end up eliminated in the end so it doesn't make a difference. More importantly, her husband isn't mad at her.]

The racers now move on to a Detour where they can choose to navigate an obstacle course on Segways or throw pies at a target until they find one with cherry filling. As a longtime fan of the show, Luke knows that "needle in the haystack" type tasks often derail teams. He wants to do the obstacle course. But his mom wants to throw pies. He acquiesces and is only shown to urge his mother to switch tasks once. I think this scene gives us some insight into their relationship and their team dynamics. Letting Margie have her way empowers her as an equal partner on the race. Meanwhile brother/sister team Victor and Tammy and sister/sister team LaKisha and Jennifer struggle with one partner taking control and limiting the other's input.

As we saw in the preview for this week, the target for the pies turns out to be their teammate's face. But that doesn't seem to deter any of the teams that choose the pies and in fact they all seem to have fun with it. Interestingly we only see one team at a time throwing pies. I wonder if they had to wait for each other to finish or if it just ended up that way. Margie and Luke go through many pies before they find one with cherry filling. This actually seems to make the task easier for the next team, Brad and Victoria, as they are shown only tossing a few pies. Only three teams choose the obstacle course and they seem to have no difficulty managing the Segways.

Victor and Tammy who are in first place the whole leg of the race easily come in first to the pit stop. To their delight they're rewarded with a pair of hybrid go karts. Margie & Luke come in fourth place. But this belies their good performance as most of the teams after them come in much later time wise. At one point CBS even notes that 14 hours have passed since the start of the race.

The CBS website is running a poll on whether Margie & Luke can keep it up. When I looked at it there was an overwhelming majority of yes votes and numerous positive comments posted. Luke & Margie you have earned our respect. Go, go, go!!!

Monday, February 16, 2009

My Letter to the Theatre Manager about Showing More Captioned Films

As previously promised, here is the letter I wrote to the one theatre in my area that shows captioned films. It was reviewed and revised by Sheri Caveda of Fifth Freedom.

Dear [Theatre Manager],

I’m writing to thank you for providing open caption films at your theatre. Being able to read the words on the screen makes the movie more accessible to me as I have a hearing loss and find myself missing parts of the dialogue in regular films. Although I live in [My Town] I drive a half hour to come to your theatre to attend these shows. Watching movies is a fun activity for me when I am able to fully participate in the experience.

Would you consider offering captioned films more than two days a month? The Tuesday and Wednesday evenings that the films are shown are not always convenient. I would love to be able to attend a captioned film on the weekend with my family. It would be truly wonderful if you added a Friday or Saturday evening, or even a Sunday afternoon show time. Having captioned films available four days a month (with one on the weekend) would make it easier for me and my family to attend your showings.

Thank you for considering my request. I look forward to your response.

[My Name]

I waited to write the letter until now so it could be part of my local hearing loss support group's project. I still would like to write a letter to the theatre in my own neighborhood that does not offer any open captioned films. I think I'll wait until I see what response I get from this letter first. Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

First Place Finish for Luke & Margie

Hooray for Luke and Margie! The deaf son/hearing mother team on the Amazing Race arrived at the Pit Stop first. I was thrilled to see host Phil Keoghan sign "You are team number 1" to Luke!

On tonight's premiere episode teams left Southern California for Switzerland. Along the way one team member was required to make a leap off a dam at the second highest bungee jump in the world. Scary! Luke took that one for his team and did great. Actually it may have been more frightening for his mother to watch him jump.

Arriving in Interlaken, Switzerland teams had to climb a steep hill slippery with mud. At the top were wheels of cheese weighing 50 pounds each that had to be transported back down the hill. For this Roadblock task, each team had to bring 4 wheels (200 pounds total) of cheese down the hill. This task offered some amusement as the flimsy wooden contraptions provided for carrying the cheese quickly snapped into pieces. Runaway cheese wheels rolled down the hill to the laughter of locals. An older racer hit on a solution by sliding down the hill on his butt grasping his cheese tightly. Another team coming from behind thought the task out and used the wooden materials to carry three wheels at a time by the stronger team member with the remaining cheese wheel scootched down the hill by the weaker member. Most teams required two trips up and down the hill to complete the Roadblock.

The racers' final challenge was to locate the Pit Stop by listening for a group of yodelers. Wait. That's not fair to Luke, I thought aloud. My husband said it was fair because his mother was able to hear. It didn't matter in the end because they came in first. I had tears in my eyes seeing the pride Margie and Luke had in their achievement. When Luke told Phil (through his mom) that he came on the race to show that deaf people can do anything, I saw one of the racers from another team wipe his eyes.

I hope this show will open America's eyes to the potential in deaf people. Go Luke and Margie! I'm rooting for you!!!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Casanova Was a Librarian and Other Surprises

I recently received in my email, an article about historical figures who worked as librarians at one time or another in their illustrious careers. Some like Melville Dewey (creator of the Dewey Decimal system) and former First Lady Laura Bush I was familiar with but others were genuine surprises like Mao Zedong and J. Edgar Hoover. One of the twenty-five librarians listed was Golda Meier but a quick internet search failed to confirm that. Hmmm. Looking further online I learned that librarians have two patron saints: St. Lawrence and St. Jerome (pictured at left). Good to know! Wikipedia also has its own list of people known for contributions to the library profession. As if that wasn't enough, I happened upon a website Casanova Was a Librarian where one can sign up for a monthly email of "interesting librarian information". Who knew librarians could be so intriguing?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Top 10 Reasons to be a Librarian - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

Librarians are always seeking to improve their image in the public's mind. We like what we do and are just looking for a tiny bit of respect. Our basic message is "It's okay to be a librarian. Really."

With a nod to David Letterman's popular lists, the American Libraries' website has published library media specialist Martha Spear's top 10 reasons to be a librarian:

10 - Ever changing and renewing [Yes! That's certainly been my experience.]
9 - Romance [Blushing. Yes, some people actually find us attractive.]
8 - Useful skills [I have a magnet on my fridge that says "When you absolutely positively have to know, ask a librarian."]
7 - Great conferences [I'm looking forward to attending my first one this summer. I'll have to let you know.]
6 - Time off [It's great to go home and actually read a book. No, that's not what I get paid to do at the library.]
5 - A job with scope [It would be great if all our patrons used mouthwash... but I think she means a job that reaches beyond learning the routine daily duties to improving one's own knowledge and experience of life through exposure to (gasp!) books.]
4 - It pays the rent [At least she's honest. Very few of us get rich working at the library.]
3 - Good working conditions [I get to sit down on the job.]
2 - Cool coworkers [Web Goddess - need I say more?]
1 - Grand purpose [We support your free access to information even if we personally disagree with your reading choices.]

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ever Wonder What Librarians Do All Day at Work?

Everyone's familiar with the stereotype of an older woman with severe clothes and gray hair in a bun who presides over a dusty stack of books. But have you ever wondered what it's really like to spend your day working in a library? If so check out this wiki A Day in the Life of a Library.

To participate in the Day in the Life of a Library project librarians of all types are chronicling their daily activities for a week on their blogs. At the wiki you will find links to blogs by librarians who work in archives, youth services, digital and electronic resource departments, and even a correction facility. Most of the bloggers hail from the United States but there are librarians from Australia, Canada, and the UK participating.

In the spirit of the project, I'll share what my glamorous day was like yesterday in technical services {the inner workings of the library that are seldom seen by the public}.

7:30 a.m. Arrive at the library and fire up my computer. Check email.

7:45-10:30 a.m. Work on withdrawing materials in outdated formats. This involves searching the titles in our local library catalog and deleting the record from there as well as deleting it from the international catalog known as OCLC or WorldCat.

This record struck me as funny. It's for an audiotape from 1975 about teachers' fear of using computers in their classrooms.

10:30-11:10 a.m. Work with the Web Goddess to review completed assignments by the students in our online course on web 2.0 tools. We read their posts to the weekly discussion board and the blog entries they have created for the class. Together we agree on the grades earned and enter them into the online grade book. We have 14 students in our current class.

11:10-11:20 a.m. Interact with the Cataloging Manager on problem withdrawals.

11:20-11:50 a.m. Walk around the university campus with the Web Goddess as part of a health program the human resources department is sponsoring. {If we walk 30 minutes a day, 3 times a week, we are entered in a drawing for prizes. Whoo hoo. I love prizes.}

11:50-12:20 p.m. Lunch with the Web Goddess in her office. {Recover from all that walking.}

12:20-2:00 p.m. Finish work on the withdrawals. In all I removed 127 materials on audiocassette. I printed out reports listing the titles and then counted them by call number for an excel spreadsheet I created. Then I had to transport them on a library cart to a nearby trash bin and bid them adieu.

2:00-2:05 p.m. Load up my library cart with an extremely dusty set of slides that are next to be withdrawn. I'll put those off for another day. By the way, this isn't part of my normal job duties. My library is taking inventory of the library materials and this is how I am contributing to this library wide project.

{At this point in my day I'm missing my husband so I made a quick call to him just to hear his voice. Ahhhh.}

2:10-3:45 p.m. Finally time to get at my core duties - digital cataloging. The library has ordered new journal titles that are available online rather than in print form. My job is to find records that exactly match the information I've been given and then import the records into our catalog. I have two places to look for these records: in a catalog shared and maintained by college libraries in Illinois and in OCLC (WorldCat) the international library catalog. An important part of this task is entering the hyperlink information correctly so the URL link works properly. It's not necessarily hard but it requires close attention and verification.

To assist myself with projects like this, I have created a personal job wiki. I write all the procedures for the different cataloging tasks I perform there. When I have a question, I confer with the Cataloging Manager and note the proper way to handle the problem in my wiki. It's so nice having this information handy in a wiki form. I just keep my wiki open for quick reference while I'm working.

3:45-4:00 p.m. Check in on the web 2.0 tools class to see if any of the students need assistance. Write a post for the discussion board on our recent experimentation with podcasting. Clean off my desk and go home.

There you have it, a little peek at one day in my library world. Today I'll be working on cataloging electronic government documents and involved in committee meetings. Tomorrow I'll be sitting at the reference desk for a two hour shift. In my position each day is a bit different and I'm always learning new things.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Universal Design means Design for All

Last month I wrote a series of posts on online education and efforts to create more accessibility to course material for deaf and hard of hearing students. Before leaving that subject completely, I'd like to share what I've learned about universal design and how it relates to education.

The Universal Design concept started in architecture. The most common example is curb cuts. Intended to increase accessibility for those in wheelchairs, they have become beneficial to many others including skateboarders, parents pushing strollers, and people pulling wheeled luggage. Another example is the use of captions on televisions. Initially intended for the deaf and hard of hearing, they are now routinely used in noisy environments such as gyms and airports. The benefits of universal design extend to many types of people and situations beyond the disabled because UD is good, flexible design.

Of course, Universal Design (UD) principles bring disability awareness to the top of the list of considerations when designing a building or website. But what has captured my interest is how this concept is being applied to education in Universal Design of Instruction (UDI) also known as Universal Design for Learning (UDL). It seems to fit with my interest in making online education accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing.

Karen Janowski an Assistive and Educational Technology Consultant says "My passion is to remove the obstacles to learning for all students... When material is digital or electronic, it is flexible and accessible. It is our responsibility as educators to provide materials that promote success." Her philosophy resonates with me. On her blog EdTech Solutions: Teaching Every Student she has made available a Free UDL Toolkit for teachers.

Another educator Sheryl Burgstahler, Ph.D. of the University of Washington has written and presented extensively on the subject of universal design. She serves as the director of DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology) Center. One of the DO-IT Center's programs is The Center for Universal Design in Education. Funded by the Department of Education and the National Science Foundation, this program "develops and collects Web-based resources to help educators apply universal design to all aspects of the educational experience." Many helpful resources on UDI/UDL can be found at their website.

In my job little progress has been made on my goal of making our library workshops accessible. I am still waiting to receive the software requested months ago. Sigh...It really inspires me to read of these two women's vision for accessible education and their work in this area. I'd like to find out more about how I could possibly find employment in this specialty and what qualifications are needed.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Deaf Contestant on the next Amazing Race

The Amazing Race begins again on February 15th at 8:00 p.m. Eastern (7:00 p.m. Central). I'm very excited that this season features Luke, a 22 year old deaf contestant, running with Margie, his hearing mother. On their bio page at the CBS website it says "Luke hopes to be a role-model for deaf people everywhere while proving that the deaf can do just about anything and to never think otherwise."

The website also has an interview video where the pair discuss (Margie signs as she speaks and interprets her son's responses in ASL) their team strengths. I loved their comment, "We can strategize in front of other teams. They won't know what we're saying." That should be fun to watch!

Luke is a huge fan of the show and is very knowledgeable about how the race works. His mother Margie comments in the interview video that he will be good at reading the clues and remembering every part of them. Last season's racers struggled with that crucial part of their performance so I think that bodes well for this team.

I'll see you at the starting line to cheer on Luke and Margie!