Music unlocks many emotions

Day by day
Music unlocks many emotions
By LIZ THOMPSON
ThisWeekNews.com
Tuesday October 7, 2014

When I was invited to a hymn sing at an assisted living home, I asked, “What hymns are you singing?” and was thrilled with the answer.

The list included what I call old, familiar songs such as Amazing Grace, When We All Get to Heaven, Love Lifted Me and a childhood favorite, This Little Light of Mine.

I was also glad I would be sitting with the residents and not leading the singing. My singing voice went south in my mid-40s when I was almost deaf, a condition that happened gradually since childhood.

Music and singing was my fervent hobby, and I often led singing at such places while playing my guitar. I had missed it and realized this particular day that, in part, I had been missing the contact with people who love visitors and music.

After two successful cochlear implants, I had hoped for restoration of my ability to grasp music, but it didn’t quite happen as I hoped.

I can understand most vocalists’ words — if they actually enunciate and sing, not what appears to be screaming into a microphone — but new music melodies are like a foreign language and quite flat.

Am I sad about that? At first I was, but my restored ability to understand speech and sounds with clarity superseded any sadness. Going from deaf to understanding about 95 percent is nothing to sniff at and I’m thankful beyond measure.

Back to music.

To my joy, 40-plus years of music are stored in my brain, and heart I believe, as music memory. If I see the words and get the first note of a song, or have the music to read, I get it and can sing.

My voice is no longer one for performing but I don’t mind singing at home or in groups. When my grandchildren were small, nothing stopped me from singing to them as I know I was sung to by my mother and grandmothers.

I can still hear the beat so my foot taps, hands clap and my soul is soothed.

Remember the show Name That Tune? Often I knew the tunes in two to five notes. So you can understand my music memory is full of good songs such as hymns, music from the 1930s (thanks to my parents) through the early 1990s that includes folk songs, show tunes, camp songs, pop, big band, songs I composed and more.
It’s a true blessing and I’m glad my brain has a lot of good information stored for easy access when needed. I don’t even need to select an app to get at it. I only need to think of a song or hear a familiar tune.

After my recent column on memory, a reader, Dana, told me about a movie that was, at the time, showing at the Drexel Theatre called, Alive Inside: The Story of Music and Memory .

To my chagrin, I didn’t move fast enough to attend and it has moved on to another city. Looking on the website, musicandmemory.org, I learned that music has proven to reach people with Alzheimer’s.

Not a surprise. Many memories are locked inside all of us and we need something to turn the key. In the case of music, it often unlocks memories and emotions for me.

When at the hymn sing, a woman in her 90s held up her forefinger and waved it back and forth when we sang This Little Light of Mine. I joined her in the motion and smiled remembering doing that as a child and when I taught my children the song.

Music can bring tears to my eyes from the message or a melancholy memory often marking the passing of time in my life.

After my first implant, my audiologist told me about HOPE Notes. According to the program’s website, http://hope.cochlearamericas.com/listening-tools, it is a “program uniquely developed for cochlear implant and hearing aid users designed to help improve music perception and appreciation using original songs, traditional folk, blues and country styles and some familiar tunes played in unexpected ways.”

Using both visual and auditory cues, it reminded me of how I heard music, and it improved my ability to enjoy it more.

The man who developed the program is a musician with cochlear implants. So often, adversity brings a gift and he shared his gift with others in a similar situation.

Next time you sway to a familiar tune, “count your blessings, name them one by one …”

Seek treatment if you suspect hearing loss

Day by day

Seek treatment if you suspect hearing loss

By LIZ THOMPSON
Wednesday May 14, 2014
ThisWeeksNews

“The incessant bird chirping became bothersome.”

Actually, bird songs make me smile. So why would I write they are bothersome?

That first sentence was part of an Arizona State University research study of new sentences for the Standardized Hearing Test. I was a test subject and got 100 percent because I have two successful cochlear implants that allow me to perceive sounds. My favorite sentence was: “Her smile was as smooth as creamed corn.”

I implore you to read these two sentences to someone you suspect has hearing loss. If they don’t understand, their hearing may need help. Hearing loss isn’t only about not hearing sounds, it’s more about misunderstanding words. Communication becomes stilted, often causing people to withdraw.

The 48 million people who report some degree of hearing loss likely agree.
When visiting 98-year-old Ruth Sawyer Jividen, I was writing everything on a pad of paper because she could not hear well. She tried to get her hearing aid out of her ear canal and, finally, it released. I saw a tiny hearing aid that would be difficult for anyone to remove.

We laughed when we realized there was no battery in the aid. I told her I would have to write about this in May, during Better Speech and Hearing Month.

Sadly, Ruth won’t read this because she died in April. Even though her hearing aids were a nuisance for her at times, she wanted to communicate in any way possible.

I have always been an advocate for effective communication. Over the years, I have incorporated the use of speech, speech reading (or lip reading), sign language and writing. No matter the age or amount of hearing loss, I believe in having choices and using whatever works.

Years before I was totally deaf, sign language became my second language. Writing and reading lips and body language were all ways I connected with others.

Sometimes the best tool was letting others know what I needed. Often it was as simple as moving to a quieter spot. It was important to me to let others know I really wanted to know what they were telling me.
Reena Kothari of Hilliard is a doctor of audiology (Au.D.) who has experience in early hearing screening for newborns and infants. She agrees that using whatever you need to communicate is important.

“Hearing loss affects the life cycle/span and is so vital for communication,” Kothari said. “Humans are pre-wired to communicate.”

She added that one in three babies is born with permanent congenital hearing loss, making it the most common condition existing at birth. She said it is the most common condition in adults after heart disease and arthritis.

Kothari said Ohio has a law that babies must be screened before leaving the hospital. The screening identifies babies at risk for hearing loss. They refer those parents to an audiologist, who can do further testing, diagnose hearing loss and suggest available communication options for the child and family.

Hearing loss can occur at any time in a person’s life. It can be genetic or induced by noise, medication, disease (such as heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure), side effects, illness or allergies. It can be permanent, fluctuating or progressive, Reena said.

If you suspect hearing loss, it’s important to see a licensed audiologist for diagnostic testing; that person can provide options along with counseling and support and refer you to a physician, if needed.

Hearing aids are improving continually, as is cochlear implant technology. I encourage people to seek hearing aids that are easy to handle. If people see them, they will grasp your needs better.

Hearing loss is invisible, which adds to the dilemma. When I wore hearing aids, often people couldn’t understand my lack of comprehension. Understanding is a two-way street. For a person with hearing loss, word discrimination is difficult. The icing on the cake is when the other (hearing) person displays patience and understanding.

The sign for communicate is forming a letter C with both hands and moving them back and forth at chest level. Two-way street.
Whether you have a newborn, are 98 years old or fall somewhere in between, recognizing hearing loss is the first step to improved communication and staying involved with the world around you.

The spring 2014 edition of Hearing Health Magazine, at hearinghealthmag.com, talks about how to buy, choose and use hearing aids and get the most out of them. This publication is free and full of good information.

Check it out, as well as your hearing. Speak up for your needs and listen to the birds sing.

 

Life experiences mold our identity

Day by day

Life experiences  mold our identity

By LIZ THOMPSON
THISWEEKNEWS
Tuesday February 18, 2014

No person is just one thing.

Recently, I was remembering some of the last words Mike Tikson said to me the day before he died.

“You were never just a secretary, Liz.”

I had been his secretary at Battelle from 1978-1987. We had stayed in touch over the years, but his final words continue to stick with me.

We all wear many hats throughout our lives. Sometimes the hats I wore didn’t fit well and I discarded them. At times, the hat was so unique I didn’t quite know if it fit. But I hope I’ll always remain a wife, mother, stepmother, daughter, sister, friend, neighbor and a Christian.

Those are roles, not jobs, I’m aware. Through my life I have been student; waitress; cafeteria worker; shoe salesperson (one thing Mike and I had in common, and he was a retired Air Force colonel); receiving clerk; secretary to researchers, engineers, doctors, nurses, social workers and computer technicians; and I have worked in administration of medical databases (before Windows), as a reporter and lastly as a teacher’s assistant for children with special needs.

Some jobs taught me integrity in the workplace; some gave me great on-the-job training, while others were riddled with problems that led to amusing war stories to tell, especially to young people just starting out. Having realistic expectations is a good thing, and aspiring to improve in the job is one of the best things we can learn.

But in all those jobs, I was never just one thing, and I wasn’t the job itself.

Those roles and jobs, along with other life experiences I’ve had over the years, developed who I am today. The day-to-day routines that were typical with the positions, the people I met, the new challenges I faced and the goofs I inevitably made were all part of the whole.

So when he said I was never just a secretary, he meant that the other roles in my life spilled into my daily work. Being a secretary was how I earned a living. But with his guidance, I learned more than how to greet people, type reports and organize meetings and the like.

When I first came to him with a problem, he listened. Then he gave me a life lesson I would use many times over.

“What do you think we should do about this?” I wasn’t sure. No one had ever asked me to offer a solution. For that matter, my opinion had never been sought out. It felt good but was also unnerving.

He went on to say that I should try to think of a solution and bring it to him to consider, even if we didn’t use the idea. I did as he asked and we used my idea.

I learned to detect and present problems, yes, but also think of at least one solution. That tidbit has served me well in all aspects of my life.

Over the years, I have reinvented myself, you might say. Circumstance required it with my diminishing ability to hear and experience in jobs that required it. I had two years of college under my belt, but one year in music and the other in special education didn’t find me jobs.

About 13 years ago, about the same time my hearing was restored with my first cochlear implant, I learned about experiential studies through Ohio University. I applied, was accepted and spent a few years documenting my experience, which turned into college credit.

I gained more than 50 college credit hours from that effort and years of varied life experience. Had I not met the challenge of trying new things, this education might not have happened. I like to think my determination to reinvent myself was a positive outcome of going deaf. My appreciation of hearing again is never ending.

The news is littered with stories about the jobless rate, unemployment compensation and letters to the editor with comments on both sides of the subject. The jobs are there if those seeking employment are willing to reinvent themselves or realize they are not just one thing. Taking a job “beneath” their qualifications might be a hard sell to the potential employer. They tell you that you are overqualified.

Maybe then a potential employee might say, “But I’m not just one thing and I want to work.” Then when the door opens, walk through and don’t disappoint.

Then we prove our worth. It’s not an easy walk but we don’t strengthen without effort.

Technology lifts quality of life for those with hearing loss

Day by day

Technology lifts quality of life for those with hearing loss
By LIZ THOMPSON
THISWEEKNEWS.COM
Wednesday May 15, 2013 1:53 PM

The short of it: I became deaf.

The long of it: I learned how to cope.

Technology has become what was considered futuristic in the ’50s, when my hearing loss was discovered at age 9. It would be 30 years before my first hearing aid and 41 years before I was totally deaf and received my first cochlear implant. Four years ago, I had my second implant.

My ability to hear and understand speech and sounds went from 0 percent to almost 97 percent in a quiet setting. To be able to sit in a dark room and carry on a conversation was a miracle. I stand amazed and grateful for this technology.

I’m not alone in my hearing-loss struggles. According to Stanford School of Medicine, about 36 million American adults report some degree of hearing loss. Stanford also stated two out of every 1,000 babies in the United States are born deaf or hard of hearing, and close to a million children in America have hearing loss.

Kate Morris, 33, of Upper Arlington, is initiative coordinator for the Stanford Initiative to Cure Hearing Loss. The Stanford Initiative involves hearing-loss research investigations in four areas: stem cell therapy, gene therapy, molecular therapy and targeted neural stimulation.

She says she has “a wonderful 3-year-old who wears pink hearing aids.” Very cool. I’m thrilled her daughter, Lily, has possibilities for a better scenario than I had available as a girl.

“Because of the newborn hearing screening … in the hospital on the day she was born, we were able to catch Lily’s hearing loss very early and to have her fitted with her first pair of pink hearing aids at 7 weeks old,” Kate said. “Lily now speaks at a level above what is considered age appropriate, and currently attends speech therapy at the OSU Speech, Language and Hearing Clinic, but otherwise attends a mainstream preschool.”

Her family also feels “amazingly lucky to be dealing with hearing loss at a time when there is so much realistic hope for a cure, which could be beneficial for Lily or Lily’s children, should they have hearing loss, and that in the meantime, huge strides are being made in assistive technologies.”

Many obvious factors play into causes of hearing loss. Some include noise pollution from military service, industrial activity, illness and any prolonged high-decibel noise.

Hearing loss has side effects not often discussed. The Stanford Initiative, and most specialists, agree with my experience of withdrawing socially, being frustrated communicating with friends, family and coworkers, and facing depression and isolation. It’s easy to think you are the only one and, as the numbers tell, we are not.

Darryl Will, audiologist with Hearing Health Solution from OhioENT, says studies have linked untreated hearing loss to diminished psychological and overall health.

“Most recently, researchers have found that there is a direct relationship between the degree of hearing loss and the risk of later developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease,” he said.

Will adds that “loss of hearing often coexists with other health problems and should not be ignored.”

With Stanford’s research, improvements in hearing aids and cochlear implants, children won’t need to wait years like my peers and I did.

Hermine Willey, 76, of east Columbus, has known of her hearing loss since she was 7. She got her first hearing aids in 1981 and now loves her digital hearing aids that allow her to be active in the hearing world.

Dave Scott of Upper Arlington marks his birth as “after Benny Goodman’s Carnegie Hall concert and before we entered World War II.” His sense of humor intact, he has sported hearing aids since December.

Wendy Brady, 44, of northwest Columbus, wears hearing aids as she waits to become a candidate for a cochlear implant. Her hope is that she will hear her young children with a clarity that is missing now.

Pat Vincent, 64, of Columbus knew of his hearing loss at 14 due to Meniere’s disease. He now has a cochlear implant.

We all encourage being proactive and finding support through organizations such as Hearing Loss Association of America or Association of Late Deafened Adults. Since 1927, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has spotlighted May — Better Hearing and Speech Month — as “a time to encourage Americans to get their hearing tested and determine if they have a hearing loss.”

Anything sound familiar? I encourage you to learn how to get your hearing checked at these websites: hearinghealthsolutions. com; speechhearingclinic. osu.edu; or columbusspeech.org.

Local author Liz Thompson writes the Day by day column for ThisWeek News. Reach her at lizt911@gmail.com.