Better Speech and Hearing Month – listen up!

May is Better Speech and Hearing month. Do what you can to protect your hearing. It’s a noisy world.

 

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Frustration out west spurred self-assurance

Frustration out west spurred self-assurance

By LIZ THOMPSON

February 19, 2018

This Week News

Twenty-two years ago this month, I did something I regret.

I have reconciled, but can’t forget, so I hope this will serve as a fair warning to others.

If you have ever visited or lived in the Southwest — in particular, Arizona — you’ll understand in a moment.

Winter is the most beautiful time of year there. The mountains burst with riotous flowers. Even the spiky cacti bloom.

When my husband and I moved to Phoenix in July, we were greeted by record heat of 121 degrees. We learned quickly not to go barefoot on the concrete, to drink water all day and to leave the car windows open a bit.

Once winter hit, 70 degrees felt cold. Don’t laugh — that’s 50 degrees cooler than the hottest time of summer.

In job interviews, I was upfront about my hearing loss, not yet the self-advocate I would become. A job offer came, and my only request was that I would not be asked to answer phones. “No problem,” I was told by the CEO’s secretary in the interview.

I shared an office with that same woman, and within a week, she found repeated reasons to leave our office for long periods of time. I reminded her of my request and she said to take messages.

That was like asking a 5-year old to type the financial reports for me.

Failure and many embarrassing situations ensued. I hated feeling incompetent.

A phone ringing put my stomach in knots. Names and numbers were almost impossible for me to comprehend without caller ID. My boss did all he could to help me, but he, too, was baffled. Other staffers were very kind, as well.

The Americans with Disabilities Act was still young.

Finally, I contacted an Arizona state agency for the deaf and those with partial hearing loss, asking for assistance on how to handle the situation. My first clue to the problem should have been when the agency contact suggested meeting at a noisy restaurant. I had to read her lips and have her repeat and repeat.

Her advice, which I should have questioned and, unfortunately, was one of the comments I understood, was: “Without a college degree, you’ll never get a job paying above minimum wage.”

I shook internally, like I do when something serious is impending or happening.

We were about to leave and I said the conversation would have been easier using sign language.

“You know sign?” she said casually. “I didn’t think so since you aren’t deaf.”

But I did know it, and I soon was to be called “functionally deaf.”

Since she was supposed to be the expert, I thought I had no other options. I didn’t know who else to ask.

My husband and I talked it through many times, but we had no other ideas for my employment. Finally, I begged my husband to move back to Ohio — to what was familiar.

He picked up my final paycheck for me. The employee asked him why I was leaving. When he told her my hearing loss was making it difficult to do my job, she said, “I wish she’d said something. My sister is deaf. I could have helped her.”

My husband left a job he loved in a place we’d both learned to love to come back to Ohio, all because he loves me.

We returned to Ohio in February, the grayest month. I swore I’d never get myself in a spot like that again and that I would find answers, even when they seemed elusive.

That experience made me an advocate for people with hearing loss or any special need. I never wanted anyone to have that much doubt in their abilities or think options were so few.

Seven years later, with me now sporting a cochlear implant and true ability to hear and understand, we moved back to the Valley of the Sun. I worked in schools with special-needs children, hoping to spark their confidence. Three years later, we chose to move back to Ohio.

God didn’t put that old doubt in my mind, so be careful when taking advice — expert or not. Don’t live on regrets — learn from them.

 

Amid negative news, altruism spurs gratitude

Day by Day:
Amid negative news, altruism spurs gratitude

By LIZ THOMPSON
November 21, 2017

This Week News

Giving thanks means different things to different people.

I’m thankful for each new day as I wake and put my voice processors on and sounds rush in that eluded me for years as I became deaf.

Thanks to cochlear-implant technology, I hear and understand speech, along with all the beautiful sounds — and the annoying ones — in our world.

I put my feet on the floor and push to stand, and I’m thankful my multiple sclerosis didn’t steal that ability as I slept.

The fragrance of coffee greets me as I arrive in the kitchen and see my husband of almost 40 years.

As I do a mental scan over my years, I realize many people encouraged my faith and ability to be content no matter my situation.

Years ago, I broke my ankle and a fellow Battelle secretary sent me a card with this Scripture from Philippians 4:8: ” … whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.”

Negativity abounds, and it can be a challenge to stay positive. The news, in general, seems to focus on crime, politics and disasters without the balance of good news and both sides of the story so we can form our own opinions.

Many people selflessly gave of their time to help those affected by the storms and fires this year. These people-helping-people stories are a breath of fresh air.

It would be naive to close our eyes to problems and not watch the news. I do recommend sifting through the blast of media to find the truth, when possible, and not the hype or the short sentences that don’t tell the whole story. Do some research to seek “what is true and what is right.”

Some of that searching will show stories in our own town.

Last year, I wrote about the Stitching Sisters formed in 2004 by nurse practitioner Joanne Lester and 10 oncology patients.

This group of quilters has grown to nearly 400 people working on these blankets in some capacity. They started making quilts for oncology patients at James Care in Dublin.

The good news about this group, whose members work year-round, never seems to stop.

Lester told me, “We’ve surpassed 17,000 quilts since 2005. We are now providing quilts for nearly all the outpatients receiving chemotherapy at the James Cancer Hospital (at) the Ohio State University.”

For each of these cancer patients who snuggle into a quilt during treatment, this group of people works to make each day more bearable. Patients and quilters alike probably were able to think, at least for a moment, about the good things.

Chuck Rees is president of the Gahanna (Ohio) Lions Club. He joined in December 1983 after he had this experience:

“I was assigned to take turkey, ham and groceries to a woman who was mother to seven boys. The 4-year-old gave a big hug and said there is a Santa Claus. I started crying and so was everyone else. I asked the mother why it was so cold in the house. She said the electric and gas had been turned off due to nonpayment.”

This Lions Club dug deep into their pockets to collect $200 to pay her utilities.

Speaking of cold, it is upon us. The Knitting/Crochet Ministry of St. Matthew the Apostle Catholic Church in Gahanna is making hats, scarves, blankets and more for those in need. This year, the ministry will exceed 15,000 handmade items as it gives to 48 different organizations. Members also made 50 fleece blankets, 100 men’s hat sets and 60 women’s sets for homeless or needy veterans in the Stand Down program.

More than 150 people knit and crochet for this ministry, and not just in Ohio.

Efforts such as these are happening all around us. You likely have a story of your own.

We may not see your story on the news, but many people are helping to create a thankful attitude our nation needs.

 

Joy comes from hearing other people’s stories

Day by Day

Joy comes from hearing other people’s stories

By LIZ THOMPSON

November 14, 2016
This Week News

Every day I’m reminded there are miracles.

When I put my cochlear implant voice processors on my ears, sounds of life flood my brain — voices or music on the radio, water running, the coffee pot dripping and my husband talking to me or our dog — and I smile.

All these sounds were happening, even when I couldn’t hear them. They went on much like people’s lives, even though I don’t know them.

One important fact I learned as a reporter years ago is that everyone has a story with many chapters. The stories range the full spectrum, from celebration to sorrow.

Before my first implant, in 2002, I was a deaf reporter relying on several things: one ear that had some hearing with a hearing aid, my ability to lip-read, pen and paper, computers and people’s patience.

I let people know I wanted to hear their story and they all complied, doing whatever was necessary to get the story right.

My favorite interviews were when friends and family gathered to remember a loved one. I looked at photos, old newspaper clippings, scrapbooks and more. I heard and saw laughter and tears while writing a story of a legacy worth remembering. Legacies born of hard work, loving their families and respecting life.

Once I had my first implant and the ability to understand speech made conversations possible, I treasured interviewing others even more. The strain was gone for both parties, and I developed a deeper interviewing style that was a joy for me.

The local politicians might not have liked that I could understand, but I did. News also ran the full spectrum, and 15 years ago, I reported the facts — both sides, unbiased and without commentary.

Especially since my second implant in the other ear, I love engaging in conversations with others. When I ask, “How are you?” I really want to know and wait for an answer.

Last month, we were camping in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. One day, we stopped at a picnic grounds by a creek for a snack. A woman was reading a book, and I asked what she was reading.

“A book by Lisa Wingate,” she said. “I love her writing!”

“I’ve read all her books and am one of her early readers,” I replied.

She saw my cane, I think, and came over to our table. We chatted for a bit and she sat down. She was Junella from Indiana, named for relatives June and Ella. I told her Ella is the name of the protagonist in my fiction book I’d recently finished, and she smiled.

I felt I’d known her for more than the moments we talked about books and life in general. All too soon, we had to be on our way. I left her my card and told her I’d love it if she emailed me.

This conversation would have been impossible prior to 2002, unless she knew sign language, and I was never proficient in that.

Throughout our camping trip, we had various conversations with people from all over the U.S. We talked weather — it was much warmer than usual and very dry — and about our dogs, campers, music, children and grandchildren, trips we’d taken and even politics, which was a hot topic this year.

It thrills me to be able to catch every nuance of the conversation and hear the different accents and still understand the words.

Most of us know the tradition of Thanksgiving began as a way to show gratitude for the harvest. In an era of at least presumed plenty, we need to think of those who don’t have enough to survive well. There are many ways to help — food pantries and missions, to name a couple.

But the need might be on your street or nearby.

The list of what I am thankful for is too long to write here, but hearing and understanding again tops the rest. Each new day, I’m reminded of this blessing. I don’t take it lightly.

If you tell me your story, I will listen. Count on it.

When I start asking people questions, my husband teases me that I’m in my reporter mode. But the truth is, I’m interested and intrigued by other people’s experiences. I may not write one of your stories, but I’ll count it a blessing that I understand your words.

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

 

Sounds of spring often go unheard

Day by day

Sounds of spring often go unheard

LIZ THOMPSON
May 3, 2016

This Week Newspapers

Spring is in full swing and along with it comes birdsong, children’s laughter, wind chimes gently clanging in the breeze, rain splattering on the roof and windows, thunderstorms and — on the warm days — quiet conversations on decks, porches, patios and in campgrounds and parks.

All this delicious activity we wait for all winter long. But for about 20 percent of Americans — 48 million people — with some degree of hearing loss, these springtime gifts are diminished.

These millions can see the birds, but can’t hear the songs.

They see the children laughing.

These millions can see the wind chimes moving in the wind, but the melodious sounds elude them.

The lightning of a storm is present for these many, but the thunder might only be felt, not heard.

They see the rain hitting the windowpanes, but no pitter-patter sound meets their ears.

But most disheartening of all is the inability to carry on a conversation. Words are muddled or lost, and the meaning of a conversation is beyond their comprehension.

They sit feeling the warmth of the sun and watch the words being spoken; the jokes they won’t get or be able to repeat.

These same people use what they can to make sense of the noisy world we live in through touch, vision, taste and smell.

Many simply withdraw. It’s tiring trying to understand.

Even the best lip reader will grasp only a small percentage of a conversation.

I’m one of the millions with hearing loss.

At 39, I got my long-overdue first hearing aid and heard bacon sizzling for the first time in years. I was terrified during a spring storm. But my loving husband took me outside and explained the noises that had been lost for so many years, and my fear subsided.

The world of sound was partially back, but not for long. By 50, I was deaf, but with the miracle of a cochlear implant, hearing was restored with a clarity I might never have had in my entire life with hearing loss.

I had said, “Huh?” so often in my life that I had to unlearn using it.

But I’m still deaf when the batteries die.

For those who understood words prior to hearing loss and can no longer understand the world around them, it’s lonely. The noise of this world is creating more people who have hearing loss every day.

Causes include excessive noise, medications, heredity, viruses, disease, ear malformations, tumors, head trauma and aging.

Noise-induced hearing loss can be prevented. The loudness of sound is measured in units called decibels.

Some common sounds and their noise levels are: 20 dB, rustling leaves; 60 dB, normal conversations or dishwashers; 60-70 dB, normal piano practice; 80 dB, alarm clocks; 90 dB, hair dryers, blenders and lawnmowers; 100 dB, MP3 players at full volume; 110 dB, concerts (any music genre), car racing and sporting events; 130 dB, ambulances and fire-engine sirens; 140 dB, gunshots, fireworks and custom car stereos at full volume.

It is worth the time to find ear protection. Even musicians who mostly make beautiful sounds can use special ear protection to keep performing and enjoying music for years to come.

The noise is too loud when: you have to raise your voice to be understood by someone standing nearby; the noise hurts your ears; you develop a buzzing or ringing sound in your ears; or you don’t hear as well as you normally do until several hours after you get away from the noise.

Excessive exposure to loud noise also can cause stress, illness, sleep disruption and high blood pressure.

At age 65, one in three people has some hearing loss.

About two to three of every 1,000 children are hard of hearing or deaf. It is estimated that 30 schoolchildren per 1,000 have hearing loss.

Childhood noise risks include noisy toys, sporting events, band class, motorbikes, farm equipment, movie theaters, shop class, arcades, concerts, firearms, fireworks, power tools and MP3 players.

If you suspect you or your child has hearing loss, see an ear, nose and throat doctor or your primary-care physician to rule out any medical condition.

May is Better Speech and Hearing Month. It’s a good time to remember the value of our hearing and ability to communicate.

Life’s too short to miss the music of laughter. It’s nice to understand why others are laughing, too.

For more information, visit hearingloss.org.

At age 65, one in three people has some hearing loss. About two to three of every 1,000 children are hard of hearing or deaf.

 

Slow down, listen to what 2016 brings

Day by day

Slow down, listen to what 2016 brings

LIZ THOMPSON

January 11, 2016
This Week News

 

I woke up this morning and couldn’t believe another year had flown by. I’m thankful for another day and, hopefully, another year.

Time really does move faster as we get older. It seems there are more stars in the Arizona sky than in Ohio.

Yet no matter how fast time seems to fly and how many stars we can, or can’t, see, what’s important is how we spend our time and our appreciation for things such as the stars twinkling in the night sky.

The new year is a time when some make resolutions to change something for the better. Admirable, yes, but I don’t think resolutions should pervade our thoughts as much as society thinks they should.

It’s infinitely more important to mark each day as important, since the number of our days is uncertain.

In January 1998, I sent what would be my first column to Suburban News Publications, yet it seems like weeks ago. I still remember I wrote about my hearing loss as it was marching to deafness. I don’t remember what I thought the newspaper would do with my writing, but I was compelled to write and send.

As my hearing waned, I liked to say writing was like talking through my hands onto the keyboard and into the computer.

All those years as a secretary paid off. But I did also talk with my hands using sign language. Anything to communicate.

The commentary editor at the time called me on my TTY (text telephone) to confirm I was the author. I was stunned, as most hearing people either didn’t know how to do this or just didn’t take that extra measure to reach me.

A few years later, my hearing really did take a hike. It was as elusive as the stars in a cloudy Ohio sky. I wasn’t sure what I would do, but I kept on, day by day, until the miracle of a cochlear implant in 2002 restored my hearing — although I perceive sound, not hear it — to about 95 percent in a quiet setting. Technology at its best.

Sometimes I forget the sounds happening while my voice processors are off: the radio sending out music and voices; the dog’s nails as he walks on the hardwood floor; his barking; birds chirping or singing; the coffee dripping through the machine; the furnace or air conditioner kicking on; people talking; water dripping; coughs and sneezes; the wind chimes; wind and rain; and all kinds of clanks and bangs.

Our youngest grandson, now 15, used to whisper into my ear when he was younger, prior to my implants, telling me whatever was on his mind. Typically he was asking for gum or candy. As a grandmother, I always had both, just like my grandmothers had.

I would remind Andrew I couldn’t hear his whisper in my hearing aids. He would repeat his request facing me so I could read his lips and I’d tell him to ask his mom or dad first.

He thought I was a soft touch, which I really am, and would skulk away knowing their answer. I’d chuckle and my daughter would thank me.

After my implants, I could understand him, but I still gave him the same answer. Oh, how hearing and understanding his whispers made my heart happy.

Most sounds still make me happy — definitely my grandchildren’s voices.

The noise of this world is increasing exponentially. Many will join the thousands with hearing loss sooner than might have happened by aging alone, if they don’t quiet life down.

Some people say to me, “I wish I could to do that,” meaning shut out the noise in life. I know they mean well, but I don’t recommend wishing for such things that I, for one, know can happen.

The stars are there, whether we can see them or not, and time can be sweet if we slow down enough to listen for God whispering and telling us to look up. I suggest refilling the candy dish.

 

I am only one…

“I am only one, but I am one. I can’t do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” Edward Everett Hale, American Clergyman and writer 1822-1909

This quote was in a memorial service program of a woman I grew up around the corner from in Westerville in the 50s and 60s.

I read about a woman who was employed in her adult life as a housekeeper in the White House. Each day she cleaned the Oval Office, she knelt and prayed for the president.

A small thing? Time wise, yes, but powerful .

One person, one prayer, something each of us can do. Maybe not in school any longer, but silent prayers are heard as well.

We all need kindness. Often the simplest act can make our day and these are typically done by one person. Someone opens the door for us, and smiles. A neighbor leans over the fence with a bag of red tomatoes (and probably zucchini!) from their garden. Somebody walking down the street replaces windblown garbage can lids. A friend calls to say hello. We receive a letter from our grandchild.

It doesn’t take much to make a person’s day a little brighter.

I always believed God let me become deaf for a reason. He allowed my two cochlear implants to restore my ability to hear clearly for that same reason: To enable me to listen and show His love one person at a time.

Reading the quote above, I know I can’t do everything – and don’t really want to – but it’s not all about me. No matter how small, or seemingly insignificant, I believe God is the orchestrator and someday it will all make sense.

Meanwhile, during these turbulent times in our country, each of us can do something. One day we will learn how the dots are connected and see the whole picture.