Clear voices

20 01 2010

voicesI have been getting to know a lady called Amanda with a cochlear implant and seeing how she copes. She has a blog about her cochlear implant, Journey Through Advanced Bionic Cochlear Implant UK, but it’s so much better to hear about the CI experience at first hand.

I have been amazed as she is just like a hearing person.  Before her CI, she was just like me, profoundly deaf and lipreading what she could. She has had her CI for one year. What has been interesting to see is how she interacts with hearing people and I … um… don’t.

I worry about talking to hearing people because I know it is likely I won’t be able to understand them. Plus, they might not be able to understand me. So when I go to social events or have to network for work, I am petrified.  Lipreading is soooo hard. Most people mumble, talk with food in their mouth, look away when talking, maybe they have a moustache or beard, there is too much distracting background noise, the list goes on and on. When networking, I don’t know what to do, how to behave, or what to say, because I have never heard other people network a crowd.  Why doesn’t someone teach deaf people how to do this? It’s not a skill that I can just pick up by observing other people, I have to be told how to do it.

We went to the SWPP exhibition in Hammersmith.  Amanda is a wedding photographer and offers a unique service producing captioned wedding videos. Amanda was networking with the exhibitors, networking with a capital N. She made it look so easy. She had no trouble hearing people and she was firing responses right back at them. Afterwards, she said it was so funny, I was stood there like a rabbit caught in the headlights, watching them, back and forth, back and forth. I didn’t have a clue most of the time what was being said.

The same thing happened in a pub. We went to a large brewery-run pub and I had my hearing dog with me. The bar staff said I couldn’t bring my dog in. I explained he is a hearing dog and just like a guide dog, he is allowed everywhere. She kept saying they have food and don’t allow dogs. I couldn’t really understand her as she had a foreign accent, so Amanda did the talking. The bar staff kept going to speak to the manager and she said we could go elsewhere or sit outside. Outside? In the freezing cold, snow and ice on the pavements, and it was dark …. why should I want to?? I said you are discriminating against me, because you are telling me I can’t have my hearing dog with me, and I need my dog for my disability. She said she isn’t discriminating against me. I don’t know how she worked that one out. In the end the manager came out. I couldn’t understand him either so Amanda did the talking. In the end he apologised and said he had looked up hearing dogs on the internet and it is okay to have him in the pub. He said, however, that the bar staff was only doing her job. Oh really…..  ! It is up to them to know the law and that there are 7 different kinds of assistance dogs and they are all allowed into places with food, as long as they have their coat on. I tried to explain but both the bar staff and manager kept talking over me and talking to Amanda. Amanda said my voice is too quiet and they couldn’t hear me, so they wouldn’t respond to that but prefer to respond to her, as she could speak more clearly and loudly than I did. I always forget that you need to raise your voice in noisy places as I can’t tell if someone can hear me or not, I can’t tell if my voice is too quiet or too loud.

So how we project ourselves and how we respond to other people talking, really affects the communication between a hearing and deaf person. The hearing person needs patience and understanding of the difficulty and communication tactics, they need deaf awareness; and the deaf person needs understanding of what is difficult for the hearing person and how to project their voice, they need hearing awareness. Not enough training going around, is there!

The CI will really help to bridge this communication gap as I have seen with Amanda. With the CI, there is still difficulty for a lot of people with discriminating voices in noisy environments. Advanced Bionics, who I have chosen for my CI, have a new software programme coming out in the UK in March, called ClearVoice. This automatically analyzes and adapts to different situations, separating noisy sounds from speech. Just what I need!  I tried listening to a ClearVoice demo with my hearing aids and I could tell the difference even through my crappy hearing aids. I’m really excited and can’t wait to try it out for real. Whoo wooo wooo!

To find out more about ClearVoice, go to ClearVoice demonstrations.

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10 responses

21 01 2010
Alex

Really interesting post. I’m hearing, but I work with and know a few deaf people, so this was a really interesting incite. I hadn’t thought about how hard things like networking are for deaf people (to be honest I find it really hard anyway!).

The response you got from the pub was terrible, and if it hadn’t been for the internet maybe they won’t have let you in at all. It’s terrible that people who serve the public don’t have better training on serving customers with different disabilities – it wouldn’t take 5 minutes and it’s good business sense! If you get a chance, maybe you should write to the owners?

Alex

22 01 2010
funnyoldlife

Hi Alex, I might write to them. You tend to get browned off after a while with all the stand-offs. Check out some of the problems I’ve had.

22 01 2010
kim

I have seen the same thing with others I’ve known who got hearing aids. They communicate so well you can hardly tell they have a hearing problem. Most function better than I do with my hearing aids.

22 01 2010
funnyoldlife

Ohhh Kim… do you mean others who’ve got CIs? 🙂

25 01 2010
Dee

Hi Tina! Your CI news is very positive and optimistic.

I had a similar problem with my Hearing Dog, Gus.
People in the food industry have such strict Health & Safety guidelines.
I went to Pizza Express with another deaf friend. No one had English as their first language. It was sooooo difficult to lip read!
But when I showed them our HDfD ID card and said “please read the back of this card” they couldn’t have been nicer.
They solved the communication problem by gesture and mime.
My main grumble is when people give up and say “Oh it doesn’t matter…”
I hand out communication tip cards

26 01 2010
funnyoldlife

Hi Dee, I always forget the ID cards. It’s like carrying round a passport, it doesn’t come naturally! When I have shown the cards, I am usually accused of making them up myself. Can’t win!

30 01 2010
Elizabeth

Interesting post. I can’t wait to hear about your experiences with a CI. Your post gave me something to think about when working with my deaf and hoh students. There really is no training on how to interact with people with certain disabilities. I try to speak to my students about the social aspects of having a hearing loss, what it means and how to deal with it the best they can. I also try teach their hearing peers how to interact with those with hearing losses.

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27 02 2010
funnyoldlife

@Ian – I agree, tinnitus is aggravated by lots of things. Tiredness is the most obvious one for me. I have 2 weeks off work to get over the CI procedure. I’ve no energy at the moment!

@Catherine – Deafness isn’t measured in percentages, it’s measured in decibels. My loss starts at 85db and goes through the floor. The 53% refers to the sentence comprehension tests the audies use to work out how much you benefit from hearing aids. This test is done in a soundproof room and a computer speaks sentences while you listen with hearing aids. I did a very brief test at my first assessment and scored 53%, then I went back for a full assessment and scored 52%. The cut off for ‘failing’ this test (and therefore being eligible for a CI) is 50%. I scored very highly for someone with my hearing loss – they expected me to score zero and told me so before I sat my first assessment, so my result has been a shock. I have very good top-down processing skills, i.e. guessing what people are saying from the context of a sentence. They asked me back for another full assessment and I scored 43% and they put me on the CI programme. My audiograms show a little low frequency hearing and it’s progressive.
I rsearched class fees for BSL level 2 and I would think level 1 costs would be slightly cheaper, so you can make a comparison, https://funnyoldlife.wordpress.com/2008/04/24/bsl-level-2/

@Elizabeth – I use this in my deaf awareness training, it will help your hearing students as they can listen to what it is like to have a high frequency hearing loss like mine (and most deaf people);
http://www.techdis.ac.uk/resources/sites/2/simdis/Hearing/freqhigh.htm

27 10 2010
mimi

HI. I am reading all about Clear voice now. Right now i have Naidas from Phonak and they have a thing that reduces background noise – is that comparable to Clearvoice? I am thinking it is. because it always helpful in cars – yet in restaurants, in only helpful if the people are behind you not around you. So sometimes I do okay and sometimes it is a struggle. I may have worn aids all my life, yet always have been with hearing people. I don’t consider myself deaf. but now it is hard to get a CI because I keep thinking something better will come along.

2 07 2012
thomaswoodlick

Cochlear implants may help provide hearing in patients that are deaf due to damage to sensory hair cells in their cochlea. In those patients, they can often enable sufficient hearing to allow better understanding of speech. The quality of sound is different from natural hearing, with less sound information being received and processed by the brain.

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