‘Unplugged’ vacation recalls carefree youth

Day by Day

‘Unplugged’ vacation recalls carefree youth

By LIZ THOMPSON
This Week News
June 28, 2016

I’m glad I was born in the early 1950s.

I didn’t appreciate it then, but times were much simpler than today. Choices were fewer, true, but I never felt deprived.

The doors to our home were never locked; we played outside till after dark — barefoot in the summer. Our parents never worried and since everyone knew us, we couldn’t get into mischief without being caught in the act. We were too busy having fun to think about messing around.

Our social “media” consisted of extended family and friends from school, Scouts and church.

Speaking of church, its doors were never locked, either.

When we camped in the Smokies this past May, we watched children play with abandon — running up and down the hillsides laughing and chattering and helping the younger ones up and down the steep hills.

All the while, they were talking to each other face to face, hugging playfully with arms flung around the shoulders of siblings and friends. As I listened to the chatter, I realized I couldn’t understand a single word spoken in rapid fire. I asked several other adults if they could understand and they all smiled and said, “No, not a word. But they seem to understand each other!”

I was walking our dog and a young girl said to me, “I’m looking for my brother. He’s 4 and riding a (indiscernible) bike.”

“He went that way,” I said, pointing.

I knew this because the whole crew of children had gone by our campsite many times.

I saw the girl again and asked if she found her brother.

“Yes. He was already back at the campsite.”

Another young girl rode by on her small, pink bike numerous times, always singing at the top of her lungs with a smile.

No worries. Fresh air. Freedom. And no distractions. In today’s vernacular, unplugged. No Wi-Fi (oh horrors!), so no Internet or cellphones that worked. The campground had a pay phone if you want to call someone and that worked just fine for me.

It was about 10 years ago when the first smartphone came on the market. Before that, cellphones made calls and texting was cumbersome, using a keypad like a regular telephone, so I didn’t text. I still only do it as a means to get a quick message to someone.

The first pay telephone was installed in 1889 in Hartford, Connecticut. By 1891, there were more than 2 million pay phones in America, according to Smithsonian.com. By some estimates, there are now fewer than 300,000 pay phones in America (one in the Smokies!)

But being unplugged is refreshing. When someone walks by the campsite, they are talking to the person next to them, not into a phone. People actually wave and smile, just like when I was growing up, and people walked for the simple joy of it or to actually get somewhere without a car.

I got a sense of how adults might have felt raising children in simpler times in small-town Westerville, which was a village when I was born. Or in the thousands of small towns across America. A campground can mimic a small town, albeit for a short time. Campers come and go continually, unlike the days decades ago when families stayed put for generations.

We saw several retro campers — Scotties and Shastas, mostly. One was aqua and white pulled by a 1956 Chevrolet Cabriolet (I only know this because my husband told me) painted to match. The inside was decorated like a diner with a mini jukebox.

For days, people walked by it taking photos and talking to the owners. The man said his father used to take him camping in the Smokies in a camper like that, and he wanted to recapture those good times.

Retro trailers, and days of old, for that matter, don’t have all the bells and whistles the new trailers and our current society have. But something about this era charms us.

I think it’s possible to keep a lot of what we loved about the simpler times by remembering that talking with someone is more interesting than staring at a phone screen and that looking at the trees and enjoying the breeze can bring more peace than hundreds of texts.

And taking a walk and waving to our neighbors can hold the same allure as it did when we baby boomers were young.

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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.

 

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.