Monthly Archives: August 2012

Why get your hearing tested sooner than later!

As we age, our hearing sensitivity to sound as well as our brain’s ability to process complex signals such as speech in quiet; speech in noise; and background sounds such as doors creaking, refrigerator motors and running water; decreases. We start to miss sounds like telephones and door bells ringing.

Generally speaking, it is recommended that individuals over the age of 55 get a hearing test annually to determine if they have started to experience some degree of hearing loss. However, anyone can make a hearing test appointment, at any age!

Most people (which may include you) tend to delay getting a hearing test by more than seven years after they should. By putting off getting your hearing tested, you don’t realize you have a hearing loss so you aren’t getting the help you need.

With a thorough test, provided by a professionally-trained hearing health care professional, you will find out if you have a hearing loss (or not), the degree and type of hearing loss you have, and whether your hearing can substantially improve with the use of hearing aids. In some cases, you may learn that there is no hearing loss and that you don’t need to do anything more. However, when there is hearing loss, getting help sooner than later can help improve your quality of life.

Research supports the view that, if you require hearing aids, the sooner you start to wear them, the better the outcome will be. Starting earlier results in an improvement in your ability to listen and communicate because you re-train the brain to process complex signals again, sooner than later.

Generally speaking, the older you are, the harder it is to adjust to change (physically and attitudinally), including listening through hearing aids.
If you suspect a hearing loss at any time, get your hearing tested sooner than later regardless of your age! AND, if you need help, the sooner you start, the better the outcome.

Some signs of hearing loss include but are not limited to:
• Having trouble hearing during phone conversations
• Turning the TV up louder; especially if people are noticing
• Thinking most people are mumbling
• Having trouble hearing in crowded or noisy environments
• Asking people to repeat what they are saying
• Misunderstanding conversations
• Family members and/or friends tell you that you are not listening
• Withdrawing from social situations

Glen Sutherland, MCISc

Please note that the information in this blog is presented for the purpose of providing information and should not be used for medical diagnosis or treatment nor should it be used in place of medical advice from your doctor or hearing health care professional.

My cochlear implant journey, part three: in real time

My surgery date is fast approaching and I am as ready as I can be for this new adventure. I have watched videos about the surgery and initial activation (turning on). And the stories of others with cochlear implants are helping me prepare for what is ahead. When my implant is first activated a month after surgery I will likely not be able to make sense of the sounds I hear at first and when people speak, they initially sound like Mickey Mouse apparently. Or even an unintelligible Donald Duck! I am clearly in for an interesting time.

It will be a while before sounds have meaning. But I know it will be worth the wait.

Recently someone asked me what sound I looked forward to hearing most when my implant is finally working. I thought about it for a nano-second and said, “The call of the loon”. I remember being at a friend’s cottage back in the early 1980’s. We were all sitting by the lake shortly before dusk enjoying our gin and tonics when someone said, “Listen to the loons. What a beautiful sound they make.” I couldn’t hear them.

I can’t wait to hear the call of the loon.

The Special Language of Closed Captioning at the Olympics

If you aren’t familiar with closed captioning, let me tell you that this human and technological marvel is a boon for those of us who can’t hear well. Captioners type out what is said on television, often in real time. The words spoken by actors, journalists and in the case of the Olympics, athletes and parents then show up on the television screen for us to read so we can understand what is going on.

This must be one of the most challenging careers ever – like a court reporter only with added special effects such as cheering, music, applause and other noises. Those who do this work are worth their weight in gold.

Like many of you, I have been watching the Summer Olympics over the past couple of weeks. We don’t necessarily always need captioning to capture the essence of the games as they are very visual events. We can see the runners cross the finish line with that one last great stride. And we can understand the emotions we see on the faces of the athletes, their parents and supporters. For the most part the captioners do an amazing job of describing the calls of the sports announcers, helping those of us who don’t follow sports year-round know who is in the lead and who is coming on fast behind. And there is always ‘cheering and applause’ to fill in during pauses. But sometimes the captioners hit the wrong key; or need to cope with a recalcitrant computer. That’s when captions provide us with a unique and often funny language.

Broadcast live, the games offer many opportunities for humour. Here are some of my favorites.

Carry the Olympic plastic bag. (or perhaps the Olympic flag)

We are now hours away from the hoping ceremony. I particularly like this one.

Limp Yuck (Olympics!)

Canada Olympic Howls (Canada Olympic House) Although there may have been some howls of dismay heard from time to time.

And my personal favorite: “Look for the billion dollar head”. The announcer wanted to help us identify a young long-distance swimmer with a severe blond crew cut competing in a 10K swim. The announcer was actually instructing us to look for the billiard ball head! I’m sure the swimmer would love to have a head worth a billion dollars but seemed pretty happy with his bronze medal.

Note: Closed captioning can only be seen if activated. To find closed captioning, check your television and/or cable set-up programs for the CC sign and click enable to turn on the feature.

My cochlear implant journey, part two: the most important test

I am in the sound proof booth, not much larger than those from the $64,000 Question program, ready for the multitude of hearing tests that would let the audiologist know just how well I could hear and understand sounds. I whizzed through several series of tests. I couldn’t stop myself from guessing what the words and phrases were and most of the guesses were right. It wasn’t looking good. But then the final test and the last chance. I had to figure out sentences that were spoken over normal cocktail party noises. There were I think 50 such sentences altogether. I understood precisely one. Finally, I was deaf enough.

Just because I got over this first and biggest hurdle however, it wasn’t a slam dunk. One of the most important factors for success of a cochlear implant is that the nerve endings in the inner ear still function. For the cochlear implant to work, the electrodes attached to the implant need a vehicle to transmit messages to the brain which then translates those messages into the sounds we hear. The nerve endings in the inner ear are that vehicle. If you have no hearing, those nerve endings aren’t being used and they can atrophy.

I have had no usable hearing in the ear I wanted implanted for a very long time. In fact, the nice young ear specialist who booked me for cochlear implant testing called it ‘dead ear’. Oh great. No nerve activity, no implant. I would be back where I started.

I had made the decision early on to only consider an implant in my totally deaf ear. If it didn’t work, I wanted the comfort of at least a little hearing in my better ear as I have now.

So here I am at Sunnybrook Hospital waiting for my appointment with the surgeon – nervous, anxious, wondering if I would receive any news at all, especially the bad news that no implant was possible. In the next fifteen minutes or so my hopes would be crushed or my life would be changed forever.

This was a serendipity moment for me as the surgeon was someone I have known for more than 25 years. We met when we were both on a hearing aid task force and worked on a project together while I was executive director of VOICE For Hearing Impaired Children.

Five minutes into the consultation he said, “We think you are a good candidate for a cochlear implant.” I heard nothing else.