HLAA Convention 2015

28 06 2015

We attended the HLAA convention in St Louis and we had such fun! It was great to see many old friends again and catch up on our amazing cyborg-ness.

The photo shows the Japanese delegation, I was so pleased to be able to practice my Japanese.  今日は!

Japanese delegation

One of them kept asking why Jacob had to raise money for his cochlear implants when CI recipients have insurance in the US. In Japan, the national health care system, like the UK, completely funds cochlear implants.

One of the guys in the photo is a jazz musician. He’s looking for any other jazz musician CI recipients to connect with – do leave a comment and contact link if you know of anyone or you’re a jazz musician yourself.

Every workshop at the event was captioned – which is fantastic. In Japan, they are not so fortunate with access for deaf people. Japan has turned to digital broadcasting, depending on the late night programming and region, but there are often no closed captions, and the DVDs and BluRays for Japanese movies and animation, as well as internet broadcasts are rarely closed captioned.

There are few places where Japanese films are screened with Japanese closed captions, and those screenings usually happen within a couple of days, and in many cases are only screened once. Film making in Japan often has a low budget and tight timeline, so low budget late-night broadcasting and UHF stations are rarely closed captioned. Since it costs television stations money to close caption broadcasts, they use a legal loophole. In order to escape having to add captions in any case, they will broadcast late at night or on UHF stations. And of course the country is pretending not to see this.

The process of closed captioning has been kept hidden from the country’s inhabitants, and in order for the majority of the society to be kept out of the know, they are not putting effort into developing people capable of providing captioning services. Broadcast and cable television stations are more likely to have closed captions. There is a small number of Japanese captioners working for the deaf.

The country, media, NPOs and even organizations who work with disabled people won’t consider requests for closed captioning and won’t do anything about it. The younger generation in Japan have an openly disablist attitude. However there are both disabled and non-disabled people working towards life for disabled people to become a little more enjoyable.

HLAA delegates and USA inhabitants, count yourselves very fortunate!





Better telephone access for deaf people

2 09 2010

A news release from TAG hit my inbox today, calling for better access to telephones for deaf people. This saga is really dragging on, but it wasn’t easy obtaining captions either. Dan offers a possible solution. Read on …..

NEWS RELEASE

Government call for improved disabled access for 2012 must include better access to the telephone for deaf people

2 September 2010

Government must take the initiative to modernise telephone relay services for deaf and hard-of-hearing people if its call for companies to improve disabled access in the run up to the 2012 London Olympics is to mean anything to deaf people, says TAG, the deaf electronic communications consortium.

The Government-commissioned report 2012 Legacy for Disabled People: Inclusive and Accessible Business shows that almost one-third of disabled people have difficulty in accessing goods and services they want to use. Because of poor access to the telephone network, the percentage of deaf and hard-of hearing people unable to access goods and services is very much higher. As a result the economy suffers and deaf and hard-of-hearing citizens are marginalised.

Ruth Myers, Chairman of TAG, said: “This Government report reflects what TAG has been saying for a very long time: deaf and hard-of-hearing people are excluded from many social and commercial opportunities because of the antiquated way that they must communicate with the hearing world via the voice telephone. Email and texting communications only meet some needs – access to voice telephony is crucial for many employment, commercial and social purposes.

“TAG is campaigning for new types of relay services, such as captioned telephony, video relay and IP relay services, all of which are already available to deaf people in some other countries. Everyone accepts that the provision of additional types of relay service is the way forward, but the trigger for action has to be a Government commitment to find the necessary funding mechanisms. The costs are not high in comparison to the economic and social benefits which will accrue.

“We call on the Government to act now to ensure that modernised telephone relay services for deaf people will be up and running in 2011, ready for use by deaf people to make their booking arrangements for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

TAG is a consortium of the main UK deaf organisations concerned with electronic communications and is campaigning for improved electronic communications for deaf, deafened, hard-of-hearing, and deafblind people, and sign language users.

Follow TAG on Twitter @DeafTAG

Telecommunications Action Group

Media Contact

Stephen Fleming at Palam Communications
t 01635 299116 (voice)
e sfleming@palam.co.uk


Dan says this one is a no-brainer to fix – for free.
  • Go to i711.com and sign up. You’ll be prompted to be assigned a relay phone number.
  • You will enter your address (for expanded 911 service); and then choose an open number in the pool from the pop-up. Write this number down.
  • Now, you can make unlimited free outbound relay calls from your web browser.
But Wait, There’s More!
  • Now, minimize the i711.com browser window — We’ll come back to it in a few moments.
  • Next, in a new browser window, go to AIM.com and get a screen name (skip this step if you already have one). Then, either download the free AIM software, or if you already use another IM service (ICQ, Yahoo Messenger, MSN, Google Chat, etc…), download the free Trillian IM software, which will funnel all of your IM services into one small app on your desktop.
  • Install & configure your AIM or Trillian software to automatically launch on startup, and also to autoconnect on launch.
  • Go back to the i711.com window and enter your AIM screen name. You can now close that window.
  • Click back on AIM or Trillian and add i711relay to your buddy list. Send an IM with “Hello” in it and you’ll get an autoreply with a couple lines of text.

You now have two additional ways to handle calls:

  1. You can place a call via AIM by sending an IM with the phone number in it.
  2. You can now also receive voice calls on the free number you received when you signed up a few minutes ago.

Now, you can give out that number to hearing friends, family, & businesses as your voice number. When someone dials this number, they will get a relay operator who will send you an IM, and initiate the call.

But Wait, There’s Still More!

Let’s say that the only internet access you have is on a mobile (Blackberry, Treo, or iPhone) via a $35/month data-only plan for the hearing impaired. Simply load the AIM or Trillian software on your mobile, and you can place and receive relay calls, just like on your PC in your home.

Now, let’s say you live in another country and work for an American company: simply enter the US address when you sign up for the i711.com service. You will now have a free phone number in the United States for your hearing business associates (and friends & family) to reach you via relay.

How is this all possible… And for free when one end of the relay call is in America?

Every phone line in the United States is taxed about 50 cents per month to fund relay services for the hearing impaired, allowing free enterprise services (such as i711.com) to thrive in the open market providing services for us. The simple fact is businesses can leverage internet and telephony technology to provide voice relay and turn a profit while doing so.

What a country!


Personally, I would love to see the return of CapTel to the UK. CapTel uses a CapTel phone handset, and WebCapTel uses the internet and any phone including a mobile phone. I was lucky to be able to use both in my job and I found it fantastic – no one realised I was deaf. Unfortunately the company supplying the CapTel service was unable to continue providing it, as it was too expensive to do this without public or government funding. Hence the campaign by TAG to improve telephone relay services in the UK, by either improving Text Relay (formerly Typetalk) or appropriately financing the provision of services such as CapTel and VRS such as SignVideo. You can see SignVideo in action here, provided by Significan’t in London. I found the screen display very clear and could lipread the person.

In the US, you have more than one CapTel provider. You can even get it for Blackberry!

CapTel
Hamilton CapTel
Sprint CapTel
Ultratec

There is also a service called PhoneCaption.





New website for hard of hearing

20 07 2010

Dear Auntie Tina

I would like some suggestions on what I can design or put on my website that people who are hard of hearing might like to see. This isn’t a business venture more of a personal desire. I’m lifelong hearing aid user and recent cochlear implant in one ear.

Thanks.
Patty

Hi Patty

The best thing is probably your life experiences and observations! Everyone has stories to tell, which often help or inform others.  I’m looking forward to reading about your experiences as I’ve been a lifelong hearing aid wearer myself and my cochlear implant was switched on 4 months ago. I’m considering wearing my hearing aid in my other ear again, but keep putting this off. The cochlear implant and hearing aid are so different, what I hear through them is a world apart, it’s a tough thing to wear both at the same time.

Let us know what your website url is when it’s up and running. Looking forward to a good read!

Tina





Can you hear this?

22 06 2010

How good is your hearing? Tee hee. This one’s a damn sight more interesting than the RNID hearing test.

This link takes you to a simple hearing test. Can you hear this? I thought this is an interesting one to do with a new cochlear implant. The site has a list of tones that go from 8Hz to 22,000Hz. It’s usual for people over 25 to not be able to hear above 15kHz. What Hz can you hear up to, or can you hear all of them? I was able to hear all of them. Woo woo! I thought 19, 20 and 21 kHz sounded horrific – I could practically feel them. They all sounded similar after 8Khz as the implant is only capable of a maximum 9Khz stimulation, but I was certainly picking up the sampling.

It is known that listening to iPods at loud volumes for long periods of time can damage your hearing to a profound level and permanently. It’s nice that I don’t have to worry about that one anymore. As we age, we naturally lose our high frequency hearing gradually. This is why, sometimes, you walk in on your mother and she has the TV on full blast and asks you to speak up as she can’t hear you (or the TV). Then swears blind that she doesn’t have a hearing problem.

It can be difficult to differentiate between loudness levels with a cochlear implant. My perception of sounds are different as they are new and so seem much louder. Turning the pages of a book seems louder than a speaking voice.  A ticking clock seems as loud as chucking a book on a table. It’s hard work listening to all this over-stimulation! This test has a series of sine waves – can you hear which is louder? I was very happy to be able to get Q1 and Q3 correct.

Here’s a harder test. Can you tell the difference between two MP3 sound clips, one recorded at 320kbps and the other at 128kbps in this MP3 sound quality test? Nope, I couldn’t tell the difference either!

On the subject of music, there is a new site for research into cochlear implants and music appreciation – swing right on over to Hearing Organised Sound.

And finally, here’s something for you hearies (and interested deafies). I discovered a hearing loss simulation for a cochlear implant and a hearing aid. A bit of environmental sound, a bit of speech, a bit of music. To me, a new kid on the cochlear implant block, and very used to using hearing aids, they sound like pretty accurate simulations. What do you think?

Time to get back to the headphones and rock on!





Inner ear cells have been created in lab

14 05 2010

Hearing could be restored to deaf people using artificially grown ear cells. Scientists have created specialised ear cells in the lab for the first time.

A team from California’s Stanford University were led by Professor Stefan Heller. They have found a way of creating, in a petrie dish, the hair cells within the ear which detect vibrations and convert them into sound. This cure for deafness may be only ten years away. Fancy it?

Further details on the story can be found here.





The amazing Major Phil Packer

22 04 2010

Major Packer lost the use of his legs in Afghanistan and raised over £700,000 last year by completing the London Marathon in 2 weeks, on crutches, for the Help for Heroes campaign.

This year, he plans to complete 26 miles in 26 hours for 26 charities, in the Virgin London Marathon on 25 April 2010. Each mile is dedicated to a charity helping disadvantaged people. Mile 3 is dedicated to the National Deaf Children’s Society.  A deaf 17 year old, Jade Potter, will be completing the 3rd mile alongside Phil. Phil’s best friend Duncan is deaf, and he clearly remembers the frustrations and difficulties Duncan experienced when he was younger.

If you’d like to donate money for Phil’s 3rd mile, and help NDCS support young deaf children, you can do so here. You can also post a badge to your Facebook profile to raise awareness – there are only three more days to go!





Unique machine deepens understanding of how brains process sound

2 07 2009

Taken from news at UCL

Researchers at UCL’s Ear Institute are using a unique machine to deepen their understanding of how the brain processes sound. This is important for deafness as the brain deciphers soundwaves and an improvement in understanding this process has the potential to improve how deafness is treated or managed.

The Ear Institute’s new small-animal magnetoencephalograph, or MEG for short, is the most advanced machine of its type in the world.

Its installation is a result of a collaboration between UCL, the Kanazawa Institute of Technology (KIT) in Japan and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in Paris, France.

The team hopes the research it makes possible will lead to advances in treatments for deafness and a range of other conditions.

Magnetoencephalography is an imaging technique used to measure the fluctuations of magnetic fields in the brain that occur as a result of neural activity. It complements other brain activity measurement techniques such as electroencephalography (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

MEG has many uses, including localising a pathology and determining the function of various parts of the brain.

MEG has been used on humans for some time, but until now the machines have not been sufficiently sensitive for use on small animals.

But the Ear Institute’s machine, developed by KIT, takes the technology a step further, allowing much more precise measurements than were previously possible.

It uses specially designed, super-cooled sensors to measure the tiny fluctuations of magnetic fields in the brain, which are several orders of magnitude lower than the Earth’s magnetic field.

Researchers Dr Maria Chait, Dr Jennifer Linden, Dr Alain de Cheveigne (CNRS) and Professor David McAlpine are currently fine-tuning the machine for a series of experiments in small rodents.

Dr Chait said: “Sound is a pressure wave in the air that is converted by the ear into nerve impulses sent to the brain. We want to understand how the brain processes that information to create our perception of the world. Understanding that is one of the keys to progress in applications such as hearing aids, cochlear implants and a whole host of neurological disorders.”

An important aspect of the team’s research will involve measuring neural activity in the brains of genetically modified mice, bred to mimic a range of human brain disorders.

Dr Chait said: “MEG has been used widely to study human brain activity. However, a difficulty exists in relating the results of such work in humans to what we know about the structure of the brain, where information largely comes from animal model studies. We’re hoping this machine, which is a completely new technological advance, will allow us to bridge the gap between human and animal research leading to a major progress in understanding hearing and its disorders.”

The technique is non-invasive and the animals are not harmed in any way.

“A lot of the experiments we plan to do relate to studying the effects of long-term exposure to sound environments on the development and function of the auditory system. These experiments are fundamental to the understanding of how the sound environments in which we live affect our long-term hearing, but for obvious reasons are impossible to conduct on humans. Because these experiments involve repeating measurements over a long period of time they are also quite difficult to conduct using an invasive technique in animals. But with the MEG, we can raise the animals from birth to adulthood in specifically controlled sound environments and observe how such exposure affects the development of their hearing,” said Dr Chait.

The team also believe that the small animal MEG could be useful to the wider scientific community at UCL.

Dr Linden added: “The Kanazawa Institute chose UCL because they wanted a high-profile partner that could make proper use of the machine. It’s a really exciting piece of technology, but the potential is not limited to research at the Ear Institute. This brain imaging technique could be of benefit to scientists studying other brain functions besides hearing.”