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.

Worship in Silence

This was originally posted on Jebaire Publishing’s website. Unfortunately, due to hard economic times, they will be closing their doors in 2013. They have served me beautifully as a writer and author. They published my second book God Whispers: Nudges, Fudges and Butterfly Moments in 2012.

Worship in Silence

By

LizThompson

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Going to church was part of growing up for me. The sound of our church bell roused me from sleep on Sundays, sending out a reminder to come worship. I didn’t even think about not going to church—it was an integral part of my life, and I loved everything about it. From walking in the doors, seeing familiar faces, listening to the music and singing in choirs since my youth, to listening to sermons—even when I could not understand everything said—and returning later for youth group meetings or other events at our church.

Music was a huge part of my worship. Singing was as natural as breathing for me. Walking two by two into church in our choir robes and holding our music high, we would sing, “Holy, Holy, Holy” marking the time with each step. The words of the hymns soaked into my heart and soul comforting and teaching me.

Looking back, the ritual of worship and familiarity was something I sought out when I was an adult and on my own. There were times I moved far from God. I’m not proud of those times, but I know I learned from them. Those were lonely times thinking I could do things on my own without seeking God for answers; without looking for a place to worship with others and not listening to God’s direction.

But today I know God never moved. He was right there waiting for me to wake up and listen to His voice.

Listening was a problem for me physically since at least fourth grade when I was told what I already sensed:  I had significant hearing loss. The 50′s were not a time when technology would have helped me very much but acknowledgment from my family would have helped. Yet, I became stronger and learned to read lips and body language as my hearing worsened. By 29 I needed hearing aids but waited 10 years before taking action on this knowledge. The doctor told me my ears were 80 years old. When I asked what they would be like when I was 80, he said, “Learn sign language.”

With my first hearing aid, the world opened up for me, and I was better able to live in the hearing world. Then a few years later, a second hearing aid helped even more. About this same time, God inspired me with lyrics and music, and I performed them with my guitar. After six years of this inspiration, it stopped as suddenly as it started. That’s when I started taking American Sign Language (ASL) classes. If nothing else, I would sign the music.

Soon I realized I could no longer hear my own voice when I sang, especially in choir. So I relented and sat in the pew with my husband. Soon after, I was deaf with only about eight percent of my hearing remaining.

How would I worship without music? Without hearing? All my life, worship involved voice and now mine was silent. My life was silent with only snippets of sound.

God reached me in my silence. He spoke in a silent language of my heart. He taught me to listen in new ways and gave me courage to move on in the hearing world.

In the late 90′s, attending church meant my husband repeated the sermon highlights when we went home and the bulletins were how I obtained church news. People were kind, knowing I couldn’t take part in conversations and hugs were plentiful. I was part of a team that sought FM Listening Systems for the hard of hearing in our church. That helped me for a time but then, no longer. Life was silent and I sat in the pew praying while others sang and spoke.

One Saturday, I drove past a church I’d seen often and my car seemed to steer into the parking lot. I took a deep breath and walked to the door and knocked. No answer. I knocked again, knowing there were people in the church. Nothing. I peeked in the window and saw people and knocked a third time and someone saw me and opened the door. I was so nervous and embarrassed. Why? It was a church for the Deaf and I had been knocking!

Using my rough ASL, I asked a few questions about services and told them my husband was hearing. “How will he know what is happening?” I asked. The pastor spoke and signed back to me, “We speak and sign and have many hearing in services.”

We attended for a year, I grew and learned that worship wasn’t all about talking and music; it was about praising God and letting his love shine into the world.

God continued to reach me in silence, but in 2002, I had my first cochlear implant restoring 95 percent of my hearing. Thank God! Sound was back in my life, but I am still deaf when the batteries die. Music didn’t return with the implant, but I have a new appreciation for sounds of nature which is truly music to my ears.

Our loving God knows all our lives. He knew I would become deaf and need to learn the music of my heart—His heart. Over the years, my love of writing was developed through poetry, music, essays and various writing venues. Now I know why. One doesn’t have to hear in the true sense to write. But since I hear God in my heart, mind and soul, His messages come through loud and clear. And I write.