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Thursday, September 29, 2011

My Hearing Loss, My Self Image: A New Start

Picture 2360
Today I had my fitting for the pair of hearing aids I will receive as part of the Oticon Focus on People Award. My previous audiologist doesn't work with Oticon aids, so I went somewhere new. It was nice to have a fresh start. While reviewing my medical history with my new audiologist, I surprised myself by just how much I've learned in the five years since my hearing loss was diagnosed. I could accurately describe my past audiogram results using the palm of my hand as a "chart" and could pepper our conversation with lingo like the speech banana, T4/M4, T-coil, and sensorineural. Impressed much?

When we discussed when my hearing loss might have begun, I shared that I didn't know for sure. I can remember feeling extremely fatigued in college. Could it have been from all the listening required? I distinctly remember one English writing seminar where a professor used a video for one of our classes and a light bulb went off in my head. I immediately grasped the concept. I've often wondered if I'm a visual learner due to my hearing loss.

Looking even farther back, I wonder if I had normal hearing as a child or not. I don't know for certain because I never had a childhood hearing test. Of course, none of my teachers ever indicated there was a problem. But since I'm nearsighted and have worn glasses since I was 9 years old, I was usually seated in the front row of the classroom. Maybe I was the shy, quiet girl because of my hearing or maybe that was, and is, just me. Hard to say.

My husband used to puzzle over how quiet I become in group situations. I could chatter on comfortably one on one, but if there were three people or more present, I was rendered speechless.  Now we've realized that my difficulty in following group conversation puts me at a disadvantage. When I'm lagging a few beats behind everyone else, it's hard to contribute the appropriate response that moves a conversation forward. To this day, I prefer spending social time with my friends one-on-one as much as possible.

At the audiologist's today, I took the usual battery of diagnostic tests. I hate to admit it, but there was a part of me that secretly hoped she would say that my hearing is normal. That my previous diagnosis had all been a mistake. But no, that didn't happen. Instead she said that the conduction test proved that nothing medically could be done for my hearing and that hearing aids were my only option. She said that technology had improved in the last five years and I might be much more satisfied with the way my new aids would sound. But I would continue to struggle with hearing in noise because my hearing is impaired. My audiogram came out just like all the others.

Even after five years time, I still struggle to accept my situation. At work recently I have been reassigned from my shifts at the information desk. When I told the audiologist that, she said that was a good idea in my situation. So now I have to re-imagine myself as a virtual librarian offering help electronically rather than face-to-face. I have to accept that when I'm interacting with hearing people, conversation is harder for me. I'm going to be the quiet one.

I hope with my new aids, I will come to an acceptance of who I am now and who I always may have been. In the spirit of I. King Jordan's famous words,  I can do anything except hear perfectly and it's time I get over that and move forward. I'm looking forward to living better with Oticon. I get my new aids next week.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Liz's Deaf Blog Has Moved

Liz's Deaf Blog has moved from WordPress to Blogger. Her new blog can be found at http://

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Banned Books Week, September 24-October 1

This year for the first time a Virtual Read Out is being sponsored by the ALA and other organizations that want to draw attention to the continued existence of banned books in our society. Short videos of people reading aloud a passage from a banned book of their choice are being hosted on YouTube. To find out more, click here. To create your own video for the event, click here.

Personally, I know that books have had a major influence on my thinking and broadened my experience of the world. I am proud to be part of a profession that dedicates itself to making information and entertainment accessible beyond what one could personally afford or discover on one's own.

I cherish the freedom to make my own choices. I don't want ANYONE telling me what I can or cannot read. Do you?


Friday, September 23, 2011

When Life Gets Crazy, Just Remember to

Closeup photo of a magnet I keep by my desk.
It's a souvenir I purchased at the
Imperial War Museum in London last summer.

Don't worry, nothing's wrong. Just lots going on.

Friday, September 16, 2011

My LA Story - Part 3

I am all smiles at the Focus on People Awards luncheon.

Stig Seitzberg presents me with my award.

Jennifer & me

After the awards luncheon, my husband Rob and I took the Metro to Hollywood and Highland where the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Grauman's Chinese Theater are located. It was a hot day, in the 90s , with bright sunlight reflecting off the sidewalk which affected the quality of some of our photos. It was a busy, touristy location and we spent only about an hour there.

Grauman's Chinese Theater

Putting my hands inside Meryl Streep's handprints.

Rob measures his hands against the Arnold's handprints.

Kneeling next to Sandra Bullock's star
on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Rob & Marilyn in front of Madame Tussaud's.

Back at the hotel later, Rob bragged that he saw Marilyn and she was "all over him". I chimed in dryly, "She was wax."

My funny hard of hearing moment came when I decided to pose for a photo with Elmo and Big Bird. As you can see from the picture Elmo had to explain something to me. When I stood next to him for the photo, he leaned in discreetly and said, "We work for a kiss." At least that's what I thought he said. It's never a good idea to try to whisper something to me! Thinking he was joking around with me, I sent an air kiss his way and Big Bird's. Then he said more clearly, "Lady, we work for tips." Oops, not quite the same thing. Rob gave each of them a dollar. Can you imagine how hot it was to wear those costumes in that weather?

After we got back to our hotel and freshened up, we joined the Oticon group for a backlot tour of Universal Studios. Highlights included seeing sets from Jurassic Park and Back to the Future, driving down Wisteria Lane from the Desperate Housewives TV show, watching a flash flood staged, and passing by a timeline made of  movie posters from Universal Studios films. 

The most exciting part of the tour was a 3D film which we viewed while seated in our tour tram cars wearing special glasses. Suddenly enormous dinosaurs appeared on both sides of us. They were fighting a battle against King Kong. At one point King Kong leaped from one side of the tram car to the other. As the dinosaurs hissed and spit at us, water was sprayed on us. It felt as though we were moving back and forth and at one point it appeared as if our tram car had tumbled over the side of a cliff. I held on for dear life! It was so realistic and scary and fun.

We walked the red carpet laid down in front of the
Globe Theater accompanied by a Joan Rivers impersonator.

Table decorations for our dinner inside the Globe Theater.

The entertainment for the night was this band accompanying Rat Pack
impersonators of  Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr.

The Oticon motto as projected on the hotel's lobby wall.

Thanks once more to Oticon which made this wonderful experience possible. I have an appointment September 29 with my new audiologist who will fit me with the pair of hearing aids from Oticon. With fingers crossed, I'm hoping to hear better than I have for a long time.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My LA Story - Part 2

On Friday morning, we had a delicious breakfast at the hotel and then I had a video interview with Oticon. In front of a professional cameraman and sound person, I was asked questions about my blog. I was not given the questions in advance so I had to think quickly to express myself clearly. I was very pleased when my interviewer told me I was articulate. She told me that portions of the interview might be used as cutaways in the official Oticon video of the event. [I was sent a copy of the raw footage, so if any of you would like to see the interview, let me know and I will post it.]

There was some open time between the interviews and the awards luncheon, so my husband and I took a walk in the area of our hotel. We were on a mission to obtain a disposable camera. Can you believe that I forgot to  pack my camera? For our first day in LA, we got by using our cell phones to take photos, but I wanted to have a camera. We were directed by the hotel staff to go to a little grocery store in the area. Sure enough we found a camera there. I took this photo of an artsy LA building. Are you beginning to see a pattern in my impressions of LA?

When we got back to the hotel, it was time to meet the other award winners at the luncheon ballroom so we could find our seats at the reserved tables and practice walking up on stage. After mistakenly going to the Gold Ballroom, we found the right location for the banquet in the Diamond Ballroom. The room lived up to its name as the table setting, floral arrangement, and desserts at each place looked so elegant, I had to snap this photo. I was seated next to Stig Seitzberg, West Coast Regional Manager who gave my introduction at the podium. On the other side of my husband sat Don Sims, the winner for Hearing Care Practitioner. As fate would have it, he knew some of my fellow travelers on the Discovering Deaf Worlds trip to Costa Rica. Small world, isn't it?

The speeches started with the Adult winner and the Student winner. Then it was my turn. Here's my speech (captioned by me) from video provided by Oticon. There were 450 hearing care professionals in attendance at this luncheon. I enjoyed the opportunity to talk to them and didn't feel nervous because I had prepared ahead of time. You can tell me how you think I did.


In the next installment, My LA Story - Part 3, I will share my photos from the Hollywood Walk of Fame and our tour of Universal Studios.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My LA Story - Part 1

Winning the Focus on People Awards included an all expense paid trip to Los Angeles for 2 days courtesy of Oticon. Although I didn't know it beforehand, the awards luncheon I was invited to was part of a West Coast product launch event for Oticon. As I got packed, I thought that going to Hollywood was exciting enough, but even better was the chance to interact with hearing care professionals. I couldn't wait to talk to them about ALDA, the Association for Late Deafened Adults and Discovering Deaf Worlds. Both organizations mailed me items I could distribute while I was there.

My husband came to California with me. We arrived Thursday afternoon, in time to attend a pool side reception at the hotel. Seeing this girl with purple hair performing inside a giant transparent beach ball was our introduction to artsy LA. While I was chatting with Donna, an audiologist from Oregon, my husband was wondering how long the air would last inside that ball. Sure enough, before too long, another ball was launched with a different girl inside, and the first girl was released.

I had the chance to talk with a few others before Jennifer Alberstadt, another winner, found me and introduced me to her husband, Joe. Then it was time to go in for dinner. We sat at the same table with the Alberstadts and compared notes on our experiences with hearing loss and with the Oticon contest.

Jennifer has had a bilateral hearing loss since childhood and was just recently fitted with her first pair of hearing aids. She's a kindergarten teacher who lobbies to have children with hearing loss placed in her classroom. I hope to tell more of her story in a future post.

After dinner, we watched as artist Stephen Fishwick splashed paint on a blank canvas as he moved back and forth in frenetic motion using his hands as paintbrushes. We were unable to figure out what he was creating until the very end when he spun his canvas around and a light bulb appeared. While I admired his picture, I didn't understand its meaning until the next day when I visited the Oticon exhibit and saw this promotional display for the new Intiga hearing aid.

By the Now Effect, Oticon means that the Intiga provides "immediate and obvious benefits from the start that motivate rapid acceptance and long term use.” Studies in Maryland and Germany showed that new Intiga users reported experiencing benefits in a variety of key performance areas including comfort in ear, comfort with loud sounds, one-on-one conversation in quiet and speech in noise.

In the next photo, you can see my hearing aid in comparison to the much smaller sized Intiga. It's about the same size as a lady's ring. Can you believe it? I had an audiologist rave to me about how comfortable it is to wear. This hearing aid is designed for mild to moderate hearing loss. As my hearing loss is greater than that, I won't be fitted with the Intiga.

My current audiologist doesn't work with Oticon aids, so I am in the process of finding a new hearing care professional, who will make the decision as to which Oticon aid will work best for me.

In my next post, I will share more about our trip including our visit to the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Oticon Focus on People Award Winners Announced

Don Sims, Hearing Care Practitioner winner
Jennifer Alberstadt, Adult winner
Peer Lauritsen, President of Oticon
Sarah Wegley, Advocacy winner
Dylan Dunlap, Student winner

This photo was taken last Friday afternoon following the Oticon Focus on People awards luncheon in Los Angeles, California.

I want to thank all of my readers who voted for me and took the time to read the inspiring stories of the nominees on the Oticon website. This was one of the most exciting experiences of my life. I'm so grateful to have had this opportunity and will tell you all about my trip to LA in my next post.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Support for the Needs of Mainstreamed Deaf/Hard of Hearing Students

This is a guest post by school librarian Nadene Eisner. Reprinted with her permission, this article was originally posted on Deaf Politics.

It takes a village: teachers and librarians can help students achieve academic success

In 2009, twenty schools for the deaf were targeted for closings or budget cuts. Throughout 2011 the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) has fought to protect schools for the deaf from closing. The NAD’s position statement on schools for the deaf recognizes their value both educationally and culturally but when we look at enrollment numbers more deaf and hard of hearing students continue to attend their local public schools, private schools, or public schools with deaf and hard of hearing programs than schools for the deaf.

While the NAD is fighting for schools for the deaf to remain open, who is looking out for the educational welfare of deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) students in public schools? We know the current learning situation is not working successfully for all DHH students. Research continues to show the average DHH student graduates high school with a fourth grade reading level. To combat this decades-old struggle to improve literacy and learning, research out of RIT supported recognizing and teaching to the unique learning styles of DHH students. With appropriate support, DHH students made academic gains relative to their learning level. Recommendations from this research included educating DHH students in an environment with teachers experienced in working with DHH students and supporting independent learning by providing opportunities for students to demonstrate knowledge of what they read and learned. Being encouraged to think independently helped students transfer knowledge from one area to another.

Who is responsible for teaching these independent thinking skills? Many articles about educating DHH students point to classroom teachers as the responsible parties in educating students. Those of us who subscribe to the theory of teachers as guides recognize “it takes a village” to educate our students. In a true collaborative team schools might look to the music, art, and physical education teachers to provide lessons that tie in to classroom learning. The special education staff supports specific learning needs while the school librarian ideally works with everyone to ensure students have the literacy and information skills to help them become life-long thinkers and learners.

School librarians can play a tremendous role in improving learning in students who are DHH. Teachers are under a lot of pressure in the classroom to help students pass tests due to the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act. Within the library, school librarians may have the freedom to do original teaching that can only improve the critical thinking skills students need to pass these standardized tests.

As with all teachers, school librarians need to be alert to the individual learning differences in their students, especially those who are DHH. This can be challenging when a school librarian teaches over 600 students each week, but by recognizing specific learning differences in students, lessons can be tailored to meet many needs at once.

What are the learning styles that define DHH learners? While many of us may learn best with a combination of learning styles, DHH learners may rely more on learning visually. Visual learners learn best with pictures, written instructions, sign language, and visual demonstrations. By contrast, auditory learners process information more effectively by listening, and kinesthetic learners do best in environments that encourage movement and tactile activities.

It’s important to understand that our brains are often expecting us to learn in a certain way regardless of how we are taught in the classroom. For example: as a deaf person I’m a visual learner; however, I became deaf at the age of three in the years before computers and captioned television. My brain was probably wired to learn by hearing but I could no longer comprehend everything I struggled to hear with hearing aids. When I looked for visual supports—pictures to demonstrate routines, written instructions, gestures, sign language, anything to fill this immense gap I was experiencing—here was nothing because I was educated in environments that didn’t differentiate for different learning styles. This didn’t change the fact that I was still an auditory learner who was now forced to learn visually without visual supports. The result for me was learning became tedious and boring.

Some DHH students in mainstreamed and self-contained classrooms today are having challenges similar to when I was a student. They may be in mainstreamed classrooms without efficient visual support. They may have teachers who don’t understand completely their very unique culture and learning needs. Students are moving from music, to art, to physical education, to the library to be taught by teachers who may be unfamiliar with their specific needs.

DHH students are not the only visual learners. We are seeing more and more visual learners in hearing students, which is terrific news for our DHH students who are educated in mainstreamed programs. Some point to technology as one reason for more visual learners. From an early age, children are surrounded by visual stimulation through television, computers, video games, and texting. As a result students also have become accustomed to receiving short bursts of information rather than long lectures.

Regardless of the reason, we are more aware of learning differences now than in the past, and we are better equipped to teach to these unique learning styles. Teachers and school librarians need to collaborate with each other to meet these unique learning needs. Students in kindergarten through high school need our guidance as they learn and we need to support students by recognizing their unique needs as visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners.

As a teacher-librarian I’ve looked to my own needs as an auditory/visual learner to create and present lessons that incorporate visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning while also encouraging the use of technology as it relates to specific learning goals. I was thrilled to see how successful these strategies were with my hearing students and because they incorporate so much visual learning they can be adapted in a DHH classroom, or a classroom with DHH mainstreamed students.

Evidence from RIT shows that many DHH students are not where they should be academically, not because they are unable to learn but because we are not teaching to their learning styles. The more we can differentiate to encourage our students to read and communicate the better they can strive for academic success.

To further meet the needs of DHH students and provide support they may not be receiving in the classroom, I have created a tutoring service, Signs of Success Tutoring, to work not only with DHH students but also with parents, teachers, and late-deafened adults to implement strategies tailored to the needs of DHH learners as illustrated in this article. My tutoring service includes support beyond homework help that encourages students to communicate with me through my website and engage in discussions. I provide links to websites that support student learning and instruct students in how to navigate the Internet. I collaborate with teachers virtually and face-to-face to create engaging curriculum-based lessons and exercises for DHH students.

While the NAD continues to focus on keeping schools for the deaf open my tutoring service provides educational support for DHH students at home who are learning in public schools and hearing colleges. With enough teachers and parents looking out for our students we can challenge the “fourth grade reading level” research and push our students to succeed.

Works cited:
Eisner, Nadene (2011).

Gallaudet Research Institute (2011). Annual survey of deaf and hard of hearing children and youth, 2007-08 Regional and National Summary. Gallaudet Research Institute / Gallaudet University

Marschark, M., Spencer, P., Adams, J., & Sapere, P. (2011). Teaching to the strengths and needs of deaf and hard-of-hearing children. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 26(1), 17-23. doi:10.1080/08856257.2011.543542

Nadene Eisner earned her MS from Drexel University and her School Library Media Specialist certificate from the Universtiy of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She's worked in several libraries throughout the years, most recently serving as the school library director and teacher in a hearing elementary school. She is completing her Certificate of Advanced Studies at UIUC. She lives in Illinois with her four children—and lots of books.<

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Complaining 101 for Advocates

Megan of the marvelous Hearing Sparks blog recently wrote on Positive Communications for Accommodations. She described a situation where a request for accommodation was expressed in a rather confusing manner. Her post concluded with this question: What are some strategies you have found for approaching people to get reasonable accommodations or explain a problem? Her words hit home for me because I had just finished reading The Squeaky Wheel: Complaining the Right Way to Get Results, Improve Your Relationships, and Enhance Self-Esteem by Guy Winch. I've personally experienced the frustration of speaking up and feeling as though no one is listening and I think his book offers some great tips for advocates.

Dr. Winch begins his book by explaining why complaining is often ineffective. Basically, we complain to the wrong people. People who don't have the power to make the change we desire. Thus, our complaining ends up as venting, which may make us feel better temporarily and possibly garner some sympathy, but doesn't fix the problem.

If we're truly serious about speaking up for ourselves, and not simply whining, then we need to do some research and find out who has the authority and responsibility to make the change we want. But once we do that, how do we get them to listen to us? Dr. Winch describes a technique he calls "serving a complaint sandwich". The top slice of bread is an ear-opener, the meat is the complaint, and the bottom slice of bread is a digestive. The secret of his recipe is that the top and bottom of his sandwich are comprised of positive statements. By starting off positive, the recipient can listen to your complaint without having his defense mechanisms triggered. By ending on a positive note, the listener is motivated to help you. In his book Dr. Winch provides real life examples of complaint sandwiches which explain each step in detail.

His final chapter is titled Squeaking as Social Activism. I'd like to share a quote I found significant:
"We have one huge advantage living in a society of ineffective complainers. Those of us who wish to influence our communities have a better chance of succeeding than we may realize because of a phenomenon called overrepresentation, which guarantees those few of us who do speak up have a far stronger impact than we would have otherwise."
I recommend Dr. Winch's book to all those who would like to change their communities for the better and particularly to all who advocate for greater accessibility.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Smartest Card in Your Wallet

September is Library Card Sign Up Month in the United States because the American Library Association wants to remind all parents that a library card is the most important school supply of all.

Owning a library card provides students with the resources they need to compete academically. Most public libraries (nearly 90%) provide students free access to databases of news articles, encyclopedias and test preparation materials, as well as homework help and resources. In addition, public libraries are the number one access point for free Internet access, an important resource for families without access at home when 96% of school districts require students to use the Internet to complete their homework.

But library cards aren't just for kids. Adults can enjoy the benefits of library membership as well. The ALA has published a list of 52 ways to use your library card. I won't reprint them all here, but I thought several were worth noting to show the breadth of services available at today's libraries.

#17 Book a meeting room for your club or organization.
#25 Learn about the history of your hometown.
#30 See a new art exhibit.
#41 Trace your family tree.
#47 Take a class on how to use your new digital device.

You can download the entire list here.

How do you use your library card?

he's got it