Was It ‘Don’t Try That’ Or ‘Scratch My Back’??

by Ed Schickel

questionOver the years, my wife and I have had good laughs over what she said and what I heard with and without my cochlear implant and hearing aid.  It is good that I have been blessed with a very understanding wife who has an even better sense of humor.  When one has a hearing issue, things get confused.  Often this can lead to hurt feelings and horrible misunderstandings.  On one occasion, I was speaking with a deaf friend via an interpreter.  The placement of the word “only” in the interpretation led to a misunderstanding that lasted for years.  I was clueless for a longtime as to what happened.  Another friend eventually intervened and helped resolve some of it.  Nevertheless, a friendship was almost permanently damaged.

We are entering the wonderful season of the holidays.  It is a time for love, friendship and peace.  It is also a time following a long contentious election period.  Feelings are still very strong.  Many are frightened. Like the civil war, families are divided.  This is a time where hearing loss can lead to equally contentious situations.

With this in mind, people with hearing loss (and those around them) need to very carefully focus on communication skills.  How does one know that what is said is what is heard?  Remember: words that pass over the airways are altered by volume, facial expressions, tones of voice, pre-conceived notions and finally biased interpretations of the preceding.  Those same words are equally altered by other simultaneous conversations, lighting, and general room noise.  Is one’s face, eyes and lips visible?  Is there something in one’s mouth that hampers speech reading?  Is there a light glare coming through the window that prevents a clear picture of the speaker’s face?  Is it possible that the hearing aid and/or the cochlear implant is picking up one word from the speaker and still another from a different conversation?

These questions tell us that there is more to conversation than just speech.  One must take the time to view the situation and move to a different location when necessary.  “Can we talk about this now or later in another room?”  “I’m sorry I’m having trouble following everything you are saying.  Did you say…?”  “I’m missing a few words here.  Can you rephrase that so I’m sure I understand?”  “There is glare and I can’t see your face clearly.  I’m missing some of what you are saying.”

Obviously, what I am saying is that this is a time to review one’s communication skills and put them in place.  Learn more about communication skills at www.hearinglosskyhome.org

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Does It Take a Village to Buy a Hearing Aid?

by Ed Schickel

villageIf we wanted to buy a new house, we would most likely talk to a real estate agent, right?   But, we wouldn’t stop there.  We would have the home inspected by a neutral professional.  We would try to talk to neighbors, check out crime, schools, churches, community activities, restaurants, transportation, distance to family and fun and probably much more.  If we wanted to buy a new car, we would probably do something similar.  We would check out consumer reports, various buying guides and price resources.  We would talk to other owners.  We would do a lot of research beforehand to ensure what we are about to buy will completely fit our needs.

Another approach is to buy the house or the car on a whim.  We saw it; we liked it; we bought it.  Even on TV there are people who would buy a $300,000 house sight unseen.

Most of us, however, would do at least some homework.Basically, we wouldn’t rely solely on the agent or salesperson.

Why then, when considering purchasing hearing aids, do we go to an Audiologist or Instrument Specialist, hand them our wallet and say “don’t hurt me?”  We often assume that they know what is best for us, despite the fact that they have known us for less than one hour.  In that hour, they maybe have allowed fifteen minutes of their time to have a personal conversation with us. Yes, next to a house or a car, hearing aids might be one of the most expensive purchases we might ever make.  Do we really know all that we should know about what we are about to buy, such as the number of programs that are available in our hearing aids and what they can do?  Do we understand what a T’Coil is or does?

Secretary Clinton wrote a book entitled It Takes a Village.  It might take a village to buy a hearing aid or to get a cochlear implant.  Most national speakers on cochlear implants talk about using a medical doctor, a surgeon, an audiologist and a social worker/counselor/psychologist in the process of vetting a CI candidate.  In reality, while this is most ideal, it is rarely done.  Time and money are the issues.  In reality, it becomes OUR job to do the work they would do.  We have to become the expert.

There are many things that we can learn at a Hearing Loss Association Meeting, Hands and Voices or similar support group meetings and programs.  We learn that we need to do a strong self-evaluation before we purchase a hearing aid or receive an implant.  Questions such as: Why do I need one?  How does it work?  Will it fit my needs?  Do I have the mental awareness to make best use of it?  Do I have the physical dexterity to use it?  Will I use it alone or in conjunction with assistive devices?   What are the environmental situations where I will use it?

While hearing professionals purport to obtain this information, they simply don’t have the time or inclination to gather this information well.  Understand, they have an hour maybe an hour and a half to evaluate us.  They have an additional hour to fit us with the aid.  Is it reasonable to expect them to learn about our lifestyle and needs in that time frame?  Can they talk about hearing aids and assistive devices in that same time frame?  Do they have time to do therapeutic conditioning?  Can they train us in detail in what we need, what was prescribed and what we have purchased?  Some Hearing Professionals truly make an effort.  However, more and more large companies are buying out the small offices and making dollars a bottom line that the professionals have to meet.

Our personal bottom line is to have the knowledge, information, the self-awareness that is needed when going into a specialist’s office that will provide us with the best Hearing Aid fit and allow us to be the best consumer possible.  We do need a “Village of Resources” to accomplish this!

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by Jeannie Taylor

IdentityWords fascinate me.  They are powerful tools to convey meaning and clearly impact who we are and the way we live.   Communicating and constructing meaning through our words and the words of others, help us to understand our world and those around us.

Recently I learned that Dictionary.com announced the 2015 Word of the Year:  Identity.  According to their website, ‘identity’ and words surrounding that theme trended in user lookups.  They also reported that the most prominent theme was in the expanding and increasing conversations about gender, sexuality, and racial identity.  The year 2015 certainly had its fair share of high-profile events that shaped our conversations about identity through the stories of individuals such as Caitlyn Jenner, Rachel Dolezal, and closer to home, Kim Davis.

Most of us would agree that our identities are ever emerging and evolving.  Some people may believe that our identities are formed (shaped) by the events that happen to us during our lifetime.  Examples of such events may include career, marriage, divorce, childbirth, accidents/illnesses, and aging.  I suppose it is a common practice to assign each event with a description such as ‘it was a negative experience’ or ‘it was a positive experience’.  Regardless of how we describe these events, they have the potential to influence our identity.

Recently, while listening to a presentation online, the speaker suggested that there is another component that exists besides events that actually has a greater impact on shaping our identity.  According to him, your belief or what you believe about what happens in your life ultimately shapes your identity.  It all comes down to how we process the events.  How can we allow our beliefs about an event create a more positive identity for ourselves?  He suggested that we renew our thinking and replace negative thoughts, comments and behaviors with optimistic and confident ones.  For example, if the event is ‘aging’, a person may say something like, ‘I’m done, or I have no future’.  A beneficial or encouraging replacement thought or statement might be, ‘Now that I’m older, I have a lot of experience and wisdom to offer.’

If you are a person with hearing loss, it has most likely contributed to how you identify yourself.  A hearing loss condition has the potential to pack a negative punch to our daily lives if we allow it to.  Research confirms the negative social, psychological, cognitive and health effects of hearing loss which can seriously impact our professional and personal lives.    However, hearing loss and its negative effects can be treated. It is possible for us to learn how to renew our thinking by replacing our unpleasant and pessimistic thoughts and beliefs about hearing loss with affirmative thoughts and decisions which lead to a healthier outlook and lifestyle.  In Stephen R. Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he states that as human beings, we are responsible for our own lives.  Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions.  He suggests that highly proactive people recognize their ability to choose their response to events rather than blaming circumstances or conditions for their behavior and outlook.

For your consideration:

Has hearing loss contributed to shaping your identity?  Would you agree or disagree that our beliefs about events rather than the events themselves shape who we are?   I look forward to reading your comments on this topic!

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The Lone Sounds of Life

Source: Volta Voices



My life as the only student who is hard of hearing in my school can sometimes feel like a bottomless pit of confusion. It is not always that bad, but it is a struggle. I miss a lot of sounds. I often don’t even know if I have missed a sound, sometimes at my own expense. My life at school is defined by what I hear, what I don’t hear and how I learn to cope with the differences.

When I meet new people, they do not always notice my hearing aids. They often do not understand why I do things in a different way, and it may seem weird to them. They will shout at me because they think I am doing something wrong, even though it is just the way I do things. Sometimes, even when they do notice my hearing aids, they will still shout at me. They think I am just being “difficult” or I am lying about my hearing loss. They think I am dumb or don’t have any “feelings” because I can’t hear well.

In school, I struggle with how some teachers act. They cannot seem to adjust to having a student who is hard of hearing. For example, even though my parents and I have asked them not to, they will do things like speak facing the board and not toward the class. The sound just bounces off the board and away from me. I can only hear a bit of what they say. I can’t understand those lone bits of sound if they don’t talk to me.

Teachers will also sometimes change assignments orally and I will miss what they say. Then, when I turn in the assignment, I get marked down or get an “incompletion” grade, even if I have everything else correct. This makes me feel sad and confused because I try so hard, but I don’t seem to meet their standards. It is not that I cannot do the work, but I need to do it my way. It takes a lot of extra energy to do simple things, like listen to a lecture or take notes on a video that is not closed-captioned. If I cannot see the notes or the information the teachers are trying to pass on to me, I find it harder to understand.

I have learned how to cope with the frustrations of being hard of hearing. I spend time with family and friends who understand me. I am also active in sports, like basketball, soccer and tennis, and that helps, but it is not without problems. Occasionally while playing basketball, I will receive a technical foul because I can not hear the referee, and once a soccer coach threatened to kick me off the team because I couldn’t hear him.

Surprisingly, there are some advantages to being hard of hearing. When I sleep without my hearing aids, noises don’t wake me up. I sleep well and have lots of energy when I wake up. The only bad part, of course, is actually having to get up. In school, I find it easy to focus when I take my hearing aids out. Also, I can turn my hearing aids off if my parents are nagging me. Of course that just makes them mad but, after all, I am a little bit of a teenager (but not too much of one).

There are advantages and disadvantages to being the only student who is hard of hearing in my school. Once I explain my hearing loss, most people understand and treat me fairly. Good teachers, good coaches and other school officials have helped me thrive. I have challenges to overcome, but so does everyone else, each in their own way. I may be the only kid who is hard of hearing in my school, but as I listen to the lone sounds of my life, they tell me I am not alone.

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Speak Up and Aim High

by Gerry Gordon-Brown


As a senior citizen, I have experienced many situations throughout my life that required me to be an advocate for myself and many others.  I was born with a bilateral sensorineural hearing loss, the oldest of four children and the only one with a disability.  Early on, my late mother did a great deal of advocacy with our local school system because the majority of my teachers throughout elementary, middle school (it was Jr. High in my day) and high school were all females with voices in the high frequency range, which is the point of my major concern. I had to learn early to speak up for myself and be a well-informed “self-advocate” because there was no hearing aid available on the market for me due to the fact that I had an extremely uneven loss in both ears.  My only option was to learn as much as possible with my participation in regular high quality lip reading or speech reading classes through our school system.  My mom was not always going to be there to speak up for me, especially when I went away to attend Kentucky State University in Frankfort. I had to understand my needs, know my rights and my personal responsibilities at a time when there was no law on the books to protect the rights of a person with disabilities.  At that time as a college student in the early 60s’ there was no American with Disability Act (ADA), therefore my legal rights as a person with a disability (PWD) was extremely limited or not at all. The ADA, a federal law to stop discrimination against persons with disabilities, was not passed until 1990.

I successfully went all the way through school attending regular classes and 4 years of college all without hearing aids. I became a proficient lip reader, always sitting on the front row or for sure in the front sections of all my classes.  As a self-advocate, I had to learn to effectively communicate, make informed decisions and take responsibility for my decisions. If at first I did not succeed, I would try again; giving up was not an option and it was not always easy to try again.   Learning the skills of advocacy has served me well both personally and professionally in my jobs in three different states (Ohio, Indiana, & KY) working with persons with disabilities and assisting them to obtain services on their behalf.  I have assisted persons with disabilities to gain employment, find housing, locate peer support, obtain attendant care, training and attend college both in state and out of state.

So being able to speak up for yourself is a skill to help us aim high, and succeed in our community in all areas of activities of daily living such as at home, work, church, school and to be a full participating member of our community.   Self-advocacy skills are very needed for anyone and especially if we have a disability such as being hard of hearing, wearing a cochlear implant, deaf or deaf/blind, because in some cases we have an “unseen disability”.

So always remember to speak up and aim high with our life styles because we are very deserving of all the benefits, the same as persons who are non-disabled.

What do you think?

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by Jeannie Taylor

Sauce Bottle When you think about the word ‘anticipation’, what pops into your mind?  My mind races to a 1971 hit song which was sung by Carly Simon, “Anticipation”, or sometimes remembered by a different audience as “The Ketchup Song”. The song was sung during a Heinz Ketchup TV ad where two young friends were patiently waiting for the thick, rich ketchup to pour slowly from the bottle onto their hamburgers.  Whatever thoughts come to your mind when thinking about the word, they are most likely associated with enthusiasm or pleasure.

Robin Skynner, a psychiatric pioneer and innovator in the field of treating mental illness, defined anticipation in a different way.  In his book, Life and How to Survive It (London 1994), Skynner considered anticipation as one of “the mature ways of dealing with real stress… You reduce the stress of some difficult challenge by anticipating what it will be like and preparing for how you are going to deal with it”.   At this point, you may be asking yourself what anticipation has to do with hearing loss.

According to Gallaudet University’s Hearing and Speech Center, communication strategies are a tremendous aid to communication if you are a person with hearing loss.  One of four main strategies identified is Anticipatory Strategies.  What are they?  Anticipatory Strategies are anything an individual does to prepare for a given communication situation prior to the event.

In their book, Communication Therapy:  An Integrated Approach to Aural Rehabilitation, authors Mary J. Moseley and Scott J. Bally identified three examples of Anticipatory Strategies:  Environment, Interpersonal, and Linguistic.  Let’s spend some time looking more closely at each area.

Environment:  There are four areas of consideration when assessing and modifying environments to meet communication needs:  vision, audition, spatial relationships, and comfort.  For example:

Vision—Adequate lighting, Reduce or eliminate visual noise (distracting movements) such as TV, active pets, too many people, busy environment

Audition—Reduce or eliminate environmental sounds (e.g. traffic, background music).  Using absorbent materials such as draperies, carpets, and acoustic tiles may help to dampen noise.

Spatial Relationships—Unobstructed view of one another (consider furniture arrangement, etc.)

Comfort—Comfortable temperature, seating, and number of participants at a communication event

Interpersonal:  Interpersonal relationships are defined as strong, deep, or close associations or acquaintances between two or more people.  These relationships are social connections we have with others.  It is possible that a person with hearing loss may ask those closer to them to make modifications in order to improve communication.  For example:

 Ask speakers to modify their appearance if there are issues such as an untrimmed mustache, gum chewing, eating, smoking, or obscured mouth.  Speech behavior relative to communication may be modified as well especially if the person with whom you are in conversation with talks too fast, slow, loud, soft, mumbles, has an accent, or doesn’t move their lips.

 Linguistic:  These strategies are those the person with hearing loss develops or selects that utilize language (i.e. vocabulary, language sequence) and language structure to effect more successful communication in the absence of adequate auditory input.  For example:

Anticipate vocabulary by predicting the communication situation such as job interview, communication with dentist, doctor, banker, etc.

Having knowledge of communication strategies and the ability to use them has value and helps the person with hearing loss to be ready for a variety of communication encounters.  Having some idea of how to adjust your environment, interpersonal needs, and linguistic situations is essential to successful communication.  Good communication doesn’t just happen if you have hearing loss.  We have to anticipate, prepare, and implement the strategies we acquire.

Suppose you land a job interview and have concerns about how your hearing loss will impact your performance during the interview.  You can anticipate the questions you may be asked by getting a sense of who the company is prior to your interview.  Take time to become familiar with their products and services, so that when the interviewer talks to you about these things, you are prepared and have a good understanding beforehand.  This is an example of predicting the vocabulary that may be used which is a linguistic anticipatory modification.

Anticipation largely involves your ability to take action in advance to help increase your level of success in the communication cycle!

 For your consideration:

  • Identify one or more of the three components of Anticipatory Strategies (environment, interpersonal, linguistic) to develop for personal use during communication encounters. Implement one of the strategies and afterwards, evaluate your success or lack of success using the strategy.  Share your results with other readers.
  • Now that you know what Anticipatory Strategies are, teach one or more of them to another person with hearing loss!

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‘Never Mind’: Why These Words Are So Painful To The Person With Hearing Loss.

by Jeannie Taylor

Never Mind Picture

Every language has its own collection of insightful sayings.  Sometimes we refer to them as ‘wise sayings’ or ‘idioms’.  The words most usually relate to a cultural principle or value and are characterized by deep understanding and good sense.  Below are a few examples of idioms and their meanings in our language:

At the drop of a hat 

Meaning: Without any hesitation; instantly.   

Back to the drawing board

Meaning:  When an attempt fails and it’s time to start all over.

Ball is in your court

Meaning:  It is up to you to make the next decision or step.

(Retrieved from http://www.smart-words.org/quotes-sayings/idioms-meaning.html)

Never mind’ is an example of an idiom as well.  When you say ‘never mind’ to someone, you are telling them not to worry, skip it, or that it’s not important.   For example:  I forgot to buy milk at the store this morning.  Well, never mind, I’ll pick it up later.  When used in the sentence above, the combination of these two words seems natural and harmless.  However, when you say ‘never mind’ to a person with hearing loss in response to them asking you to repeat something they’ve missed in conversation, the words have the potential to evoke painful feelings.

In the article, “Please Don’t Tell Me Never Mind” retrieved from the website Living with Hearing Loss, the author notes that sometimes people with hearing loss miss something or need clarification while communicating.  At some point the person with hearing loss may ask, “What did you say?”  The speaker may then respond by saying something like ‘never mind’, ‘forget it’, ‘it’s not important’, or ‘don’t worry about it.  ‘Never mind’ used in that context may be interpreted by the person with hearing loss as a dismissal or an insult.  The author notes that, “It says the listener is not important enough to the speaker to repeat what was said.”

If a person with hearing loss discovers they are in this situation, what should be said or done next?  Let’s look at some repair strategies from Dr. Scott Bally, a retired professor in the Department of Hearing, Speech, and Language Sciences at Gallaudet University.  Repair Strategies are those approaches used to reestablish communication when it has broken down.  According to Dr. Bally, when communication breaks down during a communication event, the listener should (1) inform the speaker, and (2) instruct the speaker as to what he/she should do to help reestablish the communication cycle.  In the article “Hearing 101:  It’s all in the Strategies” (Hearing Loss Magazine, March/April 2012), Dr. Bally writes, “When communication fails and you don’t understand what has been said we may utter, without thinking, “Huh?” or “What?” Both responses are tiresome if used again and again. Further, they do not direct the speaker as to how he or she might help you. In addition, such responses place an undue burden on the speaker. Consider that you might have missed a word or two and by saying “Huh?” you are asking the speaker to repeat the whole utterance. Wouldn’t it be more equitable to repeat what you heard and ask the speaker to fill in the blanks?  For example, “I know you said you would meet me for lunch on Thursday at Café Auricle but I missed the time you wanted to meet there.” This not only shows consideration for the other person, but helps to narrow the possible responses.  Other repair strategies include asking a person to say it in different words or to spell words you cannot identify.”

As I see it, the person with hearing loss has the choice of two responses:  proactive or reactive.  For example, the proactive response might be that the person with hearing loss anticipates possible challenges in the communication cycle and becomes armed with strategies to repair and maintain communication.  The hearing loss person in reactive response mode may become stressed or emotionally upset after a breakdown in communication instead of relying on strategies learned to prevent or effectively deal with the communication challenge.

ReactiveProactive Image

In conclusion, the words ‘Never mind’ may become your opportunity to show off your communication repair strategies!  Remaining positive and proactive will serve the person with hearing loss much better in the long run!  See some additional Repair Strategies from Dr. Bally below:

  • Repeat“Could you repeat that please?”
  • Rephrase – use alternate wording or different words to say the same thing. “Sorry, I didn’t understand.  Is there another way you could say that?”
  • Key Word – determine the topic or a key word. “Were you talking about last night’s game?”
  • Spelling – ask for the word to be spelled letter by letter
  • Code Words – such as “B as in boy” or “D as in dog”
  • Air or Palm Writing – use index finger to draw letters in the air or on the palm of the hand
  • Numbers – say each number individually, spell the number word, counting, hold up the correct number of digits

For your consideration:

  • When communication fails and you don’t understand what’s been said, what is your response?
  • How do you feel when someone says, ‘never mind’, after you’ve asked them to repeat something you’ve missed in conversation?
  • As a person with hearing loss, in what ways can you remain proactive during the communication cycle?
  • If you are a hearing person, how can you be proactive during the communication cycle?

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