SayWhatClub

Live, Love, Learn and Leave, if You Need!

Ah, beloved – it’s been eight weeks, since I wrote my first article about certain effects of mask-wearing on communication with the hard of hearing; time to log some more ideas and experiences.

All praise and glory to God for healing and protection during this time as ever; prayers for the world (leaders and regular folks), and realization of our need to turn back to God. May we be humble and repentant in these days.

Shout out to essential workers (this includes everyone, even those not “working”), former CDC colleagues (whom I’m not ripping every time I post something related to its’ institutional failures), my new and old buds at EPA, and beloved with hearing loss and other disabilities. I’m thankful for you all.

Thankful I could contribute to my country’s work in the professional realm too. A CDC friend reached out to me in April, because s/he knew CDC’s renowned hearing loss communications expert (me!) had only recently left to seek better working conditions. S/he knew who to call, so I gave my “free” expertise to inform CDC’s phone contact tracing, considering people with hearing loss, Deaf, and late deafened, and various communication possibilities (paid for by my trials, but glad to finally be effective for my tribe!).

We have to LIVE during this pandemic, so I’ve gone about my business, practicing the safety and health principles I know and seeking to learn and share knowledge. I’ve traveled safely and with purpose and sought to keep my own health paramount. That old adage: “put on your mask first, before putting one on another” is something to take to heart in every situation, not just when flying or in a pandemic.

Also, living among multitudes of masked others, I’ve had to pray daily for more grace, patience, and love – both to give and receive. Say and DO Shema! Love the Lord Your God… and neighbor as self, Ange!

So thankful for these people, because they helped me learn – and teach them, for those who’d listen long enough for a nugget of communication improvement we might use in the future or with another:

–        For a postal worker’s kind rescue from a fearful coworker’s refusal to write down instructions, as well as rescue from the scene created by the fearful coworker’s “able-ist” reactions to my need. All I wanted to do was get my mail off, not gain ADA/Rehab Act lawsuit fodder that day. Also, I’m thankful for the “fearful” postal worker creating the opportunity to know she needs prayer!

–        For the young lady at REI who re-rung my order to attach to my membership number, graciously receiving my gentle feedback that next time, she should ensure the hard of hearing customer understands her questions (such as, for my member number, which she asked once, but I missed, and that would not have given me credit for the purchase under my membership).

–        For many who realize they can safely stand 6 or 10 feet away (outside or when other barriers are present) and pull down their mask for a moment to let me lipread them. (That’s the range of a hearing aid – 6 to 10 feet – but we who wear them, and the kind people who “get it” know that a hearing aid has so much more power when a user’s eyes are focused on faces and lips.)

–        For another young lady named Katie (mom’s name!) at a business, who learned a bit about hard of hearing mask-readers after I called her Kayla and she’d assured me that I could hear her… Getting her name wrong was the clincher! I helped her realize how disrespectful she was by challenging me, and asked her to do better by giving the next customer the benefit of doubt.

–        For a security guard who reminded me to respond faster to “attitudes” behind masks, especially when mask-owner is armed. (I stayed outside a farmer’s market at closing, drinking my $1-decaf as I’d done another day, but this guard had a different attitude than the other… with his soft voice, I tried to hear him (as I thought he was asking about my welfare), until he yelled, “Leave!”

–        For a Sport Clips hair stylist who cut my hair after 5 months (a pandemic-in-its-own-right), using Ava (ava.me), my trusty speech-to-text app, so we could communicate behind our masks. Here’s me and my new “do” thanks to her. (Note: I asked for a socially-distanced photo; she declined.) Nonetheless, I was happy I could actually stand looking in the mirror at myself to take this selfie!

So there you have it; lessons, love, and learning, and a bit of leaving, when necessary. Love each other peeps, regardless of our ideologies, shades of skin, cultures, abilities and/or any absences thereof. We will embrace and shake and hold each other’s hands when this thing is over or when each individual is ready. In the meantime, fight institutional and social injustice. Use your voice to speak out against it. Just don’t do violence.

Angie (Fugo) Fuoco

for Blog Post
Sometimes, it is just too hard to understand what is being said around us. Be kind to yourself; those who love you will understand.
The views and opinions expressed by the author does not necessarily represent the views of the SayWhatclub administrators and/or subscribers, and are provided solely for informational and educational purposes.  The SayWhatclub is not responsible and does not verify for accuracy any of the information provided.”

Don’t be Afraid to Travel with Hearing Loss: How Communication can be Better Overseas

Photo by Agustín Diaz on Unsplash

I have traveled quite a bit over the course of my life. From family vacations – to mission trips – to several years working abroad in Indonesia and Ghana, I have tried to see as much of the globe as I can. I even met my husband in Ghana and got married there. Traveling is in my blood. But as someone with moderate hearing loss, travel can also pose some unique challenges. I always worry that I won’t hear my boarding call when waiting for my flight and end up in the wrong zone or miss my flight altogether (while I have gotten in the wrong group to board, I have yet to miss my flight). Here are some tips for traveling with hearing loss and some ways communication is actually easier overseas!

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask for Help

Gate agents are there to help you. If you worry that you won’t hear your boarding call, explain your situation to the agent. They can make sure you board on time and in your correct group. The same goes for train or boat travel. Even if you are in a non-English speaking country, most people who work in the tourism industry can speak English and are willing and able to help you. If you can’t find an agent, your fellow travelers are usually able to help. When I have traveled by train, there is always someone willing to tell me if I am at the correct stop. Generally, people are friendly and want to assist fellow travelers.

There are Usually Signs Everywhere

The airport always has signs directing you to your gate and letting you know your departure time and gate location. The same is usually true for train stations (but not always, especially in a developing country). But if you can’t find the signs to direct you where you need to go, there are always agents around that can help. Or you can usually find maps and directions in English inside the terminal.

Hand Signals: an Effective Form of Communication

When I lived in Indonesia, I walked everywhere. I would often get a bit lost as I was exploring and have to stop to ask directions from someone who didn’t speak English. I found if I said “Paris Van Java?”, the main mall in Bandung, the city I was in, they could always point me in the right direction. Even general conversations could be had mainly using hand signals. If ASL is your primary language, you can usually get away with writing down a few words and using gestures to explain yourself. On the plus side, many people in non-English speaking countries can write English better than they can speak it. And people are often more willing to have a written conversation overseas than they would in the U.S. Especially in Indonesia, I found there were a lot of people who jumped at the chance to practice their English, whether by writing or speaking. Teach them some signs and you may find a new friend who is willing to show you around and introduce you to new adventures.

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask People to Repeat Themselves

I say “What?” a lot. I’ve found that if I am constantly asking someone to repeat themselves in the U.S., they tend to get annoyed. On the contrary, when I don’t understand someone overseas, they assume it’s because of their accent. They are usually more gracious to repeat themselves multiple times or say something in a different way so you can understand them. They also don’t tend to dismiss you by saying, “Never mind.”

If People Don’t Understand You, They Think it’s Because of Your Accent

Because I can’t hear certain soft speech sounds, I don’t always enunciate my words properly. Or I may not pronounce a word correctly. While some people are understanding, others are not. However, when I am abroad, people just assume it’s because of my accent. I would say ‘American accent’ but I’ve frequently been told that I don’t sound ‘American’. Most people tend to guess that I am German by the way I talk and by the way I look (my heritage is mainly German so that makes sense). But I have never had anyone ask me if I have hearing loss based on my accent (or on the fact that I can’t understand them).

Find the Local Deaf Advocacy Group or Visit A Deaf School

Different countries have different resources for people with hearing loss. If you are in Europe or another wealthy country, the local Deaf advocacy group may have different resources for you as a traveler or be able to recommend places to go and people you can connect to. If you are in a developing country, there are often very few opportunities and resources for those with hearing loss. Oftentimes isolated, a person with hearing loss has little communication with their society and denied educational or work opportunities. By visiting a school or group, you can provide encouragement and connection. And you can advocate for change by your example.

It may seem intimidating to travel when you have hearing loss. But you will usually find that people are willing to help and it is easier to communicate than you initially thought. Don’t be afraid to get out and explore!

About the Author

Jenny Beck is a chiropractor and advocate for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community. She has had moderate hearing loss since a very young age. She is passionate about health, travel, writing and spending time with her family.

 

Everybody Loses Their Hearing

What? You heard that right.

We won’t get too existential here, but it is simply a part of life that we age. And, as we age, the many different processes of our body slow down, wear out, and deteriorate. The same goes for our sense of hearing. You can see it in the numbers: hearing loss is currently the third most common physical condition in the United States, following heart disease and arthritis.

While some 48 million Americans, or 20% of the population, have a hearing loss, the bulk of people who experience this condition are older than 65. Approximately one in three people over 65 and 50% of people over 75 experience some degree of hearing loss.

With the understanding that everyone loses their hearing, we take a look at presbycusis (age-related hearing loss), how hearing loss and brain function are related, and why it is important to take an annual hearing test – no matter how young you are.

 

Understanding Presbycusis

Presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss, is a form of sensorineural hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss is one of the three main types of hearing loss. Deep inside your inner ear, there are several thousand tiny inner hair cells. These cells are responsible for translating sound waves into neural signals, and then sending these signals to your brain to be registered as sound.

Presbycusis – and sensorineural hearing loss – occurs when structures of the inner ear deteriorate or when there is damage to inner ear hair cells (which do not regenerate once they have died). Presbycusis occurs with the natural process of aging: inner ear hair cells naturally deteriorate and do not regenerate with presbycusis. As a result, sound signals may be muddled and are not sent to the brain in an efficient and clear manner.

Unlike other forms of hearing loss, presbycusis occurs naturally and gradually over time. According to Dr. Justin S. Golub, presbycusis is often undiagnosed and undertreated, with under 20% of people receiving treatment for age-related hearing loss. Even more distressing is that “this statistic has not changed in over 40 years,” according to Dr. Golub.

If left untreated for a long period of time, presbycusis could lead to other issues that affect different areas of your life and overall well-being.

 

Consequences of Untreated Age-Related Hearing Loss

As an invisible condition, hearing loss often goes untreated. Age-related hearing loss, in particular, goes untreated simply because the symptoms are often relegated to the idiosyncrasies of older people. When hearing loss is “just a part of growing old,” there isn’t much motivation to do anything about it.

Unfortunately, if left untreated, age-related hearing loss (and other kinds too) could lead to a number of negative consequences in different parts of your life. People with untreated hearing loss tend to withdraw socially, as communication becomes challenging. Rather than going through the awkward motions of asking people to repeat themselves or to please turn up the volume, people with untreated hearing loss may end up avoiding social gatherings altogether. This social isolation becomes a risk factor of developing dementia. Coincidentally, untreated hearing loss is also a risk factor for developing dementia.

Numerous studies from Johns Hopkins University have found links between untreated hearing loss and a higher risk for developing dementia. When the brain struggles to make sense of sound, its cognitive load is heavier and thus detracts from the brain’s focus on other functions, such as memory or concentration.  Over time, this heavier cognitive load to lead to dementia.

 

Schedule an Annual Hearing Test

Indeed, the signs of hearing loss are subtle and often, hearing loss develops gradually, which means that we find ways to accommodate our diminishing hearing abilities. With the understanding that everyone loses their hearing, we counter with the fact that hearing loss is treatable.

Treating hearing loss is a simple way to restore your abilities and reconnect yourself to your loved ones and the world around you. It is recommended that people schedule annual hearing tests at the age of 50. If you are younger than 50, it wouldn’t hurt to take an annual hearing test anyway – people of all ages experience hearing loss.

The Hearing Loss Association of America estimates that people wait an average of seven years from the time they first notice changes in their hearing to the time they decide to seek treatment for hearing loss. By scheduling an annual hearing test, you are committing to your overall health and well-being at every age.

About our guest writer Gabe Nelson

Gabriel Nelson is a man of 31 years old. He is the kind of guy that loves to watch superhero movies, to read Harry Potter, and play video games. Gabe enjoys freelance content writing occasionally and tends to write about his passions. Gabriel also loves water, streams, brooks, lakes and oceans, which is probably due to once being a crab fisherman in Alaska for a couple of years.