Hard of hearing

“Heard from the acoustician”

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In this new section, the Acoustician Team keeps you up to date on technology, advice, handling hearing aids and personal experience in the profession of an acoustician.
The Acoustician Team consists of 2 Acousticians and Oscar, their Mental Coach on 4 paws.

What does my everyday life as a hearing aid acoustician look like? How do I deal with clients?

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The ordered in-the-ear hearing aids have been delivered and I can inform my client as agreed that we can make the appointment for the fitting. I dial his phone number. His wife answers, so I present my request and ask if she can connect me to her husband.

Since her husband hardly understands anything at the moment, he has lost one of his hearing aids, she suggests that she makes an appointment with me. She says she is very happy that the devices have finally arrived. Her husband doesn’t understand much with just one hearing aid and sometimes she has to push him to react.
Because of the undertone that resonates in her voice, I say “I hope you push him lovingly”. “Not always” is the honest answer.
It is complicated at the moment because communication is hardly possible. Without being told more, I see the situation in my mind’s eye.
The hearing aid user and his good-hearing partner both reach their limits. A certain helplessness, lack of understanding, comparison – he understood it before. There are numerous reasons for this.

Here lies a big difference to us as acousticians. I get to know my client with hearing loss. I make no comparison in the past or today. I have determined the sound and speech audiogram and see what the basis looks like. What is possible and what is no longer possible. Quite objectively.
To take the customer as he is is our daily bread. Sure, everyone has a different perception, that’s always subjective.

In a joint conversation, I make sure that there is a calm environment. Unless I want to work specifically with ambient sounds. I look at my customer, vis à vis, speak slowly, clearly. No, I don’t yell at him. I’ve never understood why anyone does that anyway – just by the way.

 

 

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Hard of hearing, Hyperacusis

Hyperacusis with an experimental muffling

Today a guest contribution from Mirjam van Soest. Mirjam has had severe Hyperacusis since brain surgery a long time ago, but has not resigned herself to it. She has continued to look for a solution and is now participating in an experimental study. Read her story.

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Tense, I walk into the doctor’s surgery. We have already discussed in advance that I will not be given anaesthesia, because the anaesthesia method is expected to be too painful for my Hyperacusis. But I imagine that the pain will go to waste compared to the brain surgery that started it all.
The doctor also seems to be a bit tense, of enthusiasm that is. Because with a big smile he asks me three times if I really want this. And when I say that I have not put this process forward myself for nothing, we can start.
In my right ear a silicon membrane is placed on the eardrum. After a short shot of pain, which was not as bad as expected, I immediately feel and hear a difference. An attenuation, as if my ear is a bit closed. Also at the left ear some shooting pains, after which the treatment is already over.

That day I suddenly notice that the strong wind in my ears doesn’t bother me as much. Also the sound of running water from the tap causes less irritation. And also the television is 2 taps louder.
After a few days I notice a few things. First of all I sometimes doubt if they didn’t fall out. Soon I’ll imagine a difference without the membrance still in place. After all, the difference is not that big. I estimate a 5-10% improvement.
I might have hoped for a bit more improvement. Sometimes it makes me a bit insecure. But when I swallow or yawn, I often hear a little ‘pop’ in my eardrums, a bit as if you have water in your ears. So I think it’s still there. Secondly, I notice that my brain hasn’t overcompensated yet. Something that worried the doctors beforehand. A big plus!

I also went to a cabaret evening. An activity in which I normally don’t take part very easily, because of the many laughing salvos and music, but which are so much fun! I wanted to try this now. I brought my headphones with ‘noise canceler’ and I still needed them.
The evening was still quite tiring, although the headache was not too bad for me. The muffling I have now is not good enough for the busier activities, unfortunately! But to be honest, I didn’t really expect that either (maybe I did hope).
A big ‘eye-opener’, is where I thought beforehand that the damping might give me an unpleasant, scary and oppressive feeling. After all, no one does really want to hear less. Yet it seems to me it just gives a pleasant and safe feeling would not even mind more damping! Sounds are suddenly less threatening. In fact, even though I know that these membranes are not a permanent solution, I would be reluctant to have them removed again! Maybe holding them down a bit longer is still an option.

After 2 weeks I’m back with the doctor and I conclude that I am definitely open for the operation from America, where they want to put a piece of my skin in both ears as a cushioning in the inner ear, on the Stirrup! The doctor is also very satisfied! He does say that it will all take a bit longer because of insurance, doctor’s consultation, etc. In the meantime he wants to try something else for more cushioning. It feels promising! The biggest encouragement is that there is progress in the development for treatment of Hyperacusis! Finally!

 

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auditory challenge, Hard of hearing

Aid in the ear

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Who still knows the cute and beautiful plush animals with the well-known slogan “button in the ear”?
Already as a young girl I felt a great love for these cuddly toys. Through the button in my ear slogan, I knew that they were real and that made my love even bigger. Unfortunately also much more expensive and so far I have only looked at this love in the shops.

Recently this slogan, button in the ear, came to me again, when a discussion began around the hearing aid advertisement. In my last article, Disclaimer, I already reported about it.

The slogan “button in the ear” is already very old, but even today many people still associate the slogan immediately with the brand (which I don’t mention here to do without advertising).
In terms of advertising, they already did a good thing back then.
Even today there are certain advertisements from the past that I still remember. But of the current advertisements only very rarely one remains in my memory: they are mostly too fast, too vague, too noisy and too complicated.

But outstanding and specific advertising, which I think is called earwurms in music, could make a difference for hearing aids. A German chain of acousticians has, consciously or unconsciously, played with the button in the ear slogan and is successful with it, but here too, age plays a role in this advertisement.
All that is needed is a gripping, powerful slogan that could ensure that hearing aids come out of the taboo sphere, are no longer seen as old-fashioned, but as something independent of age, something modern and practical, which one not only needs but also likes to wear and which corresponds to the constantly advancing technology.

In particular, the threshold should be lowered for people with hearing loss who are taking the step of going to a hearing care professional for the first time.
I still remember my first visit very well, about 35 years ago. I stopped in front of the shop window and hesitated to enter the shop, as if my hearing loss had been finally confirmed by my entry and the fitting of a hearing aid and there was no way back for me afterwards. Which was true, of course, but it was even harder by then than it is now.
In the meantime much has improved, but the decision whether to buy a first hearing aid or not (yet) still has to be made by many people today. Unfortunately, this decision is often pushed too far ahead until postponement is really no longer possible.

That is why it is so important that the advertising of hearing aids and acousticians is not too promising, but realistic, so that one is not disappointed with the first hearing aid, if one still thinks that “with hearing aid the world opens up again” .
The advertising should also make it clear that hearing impairment is independent of age and that the (first) hearing aid should be accepted in the same way as the (first) pair of glasses. Only then can the target group of the first hearing aid users be reached and their decision for a hearing aid made earlier.

In my opinion, all hearing aid advertising has primarily this social responsibility to contribute to more acceptance, less taboos and stigmatisation. Only then will the sale come, because with more acceptance, more people will decide (earlier) for a hearing aid and the sales will increase anyway.

 

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auditory challenge, Hard of hearing, Hyperacusis, Tinnitus

“Marga hears too much!”

Hyperacusis, hypersensitivity to noise, is less well known than tinnitus, but there are many people who suffer more or less severely from it.
In this section “Marga hears too much” Marga van Hintum blogs about her experiences with Hyperacusis regularly.

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Coffee with noise
Coffee, yeah! I can really enjoy it. I am a genuine coffee drinker. In moderation, admittedly. In the morning 2 small cups. In the evening too. Actually, it should be better not to drink so much coffee in the evening, but I do sleep well. And well, it’s so good…

Coffee history
In the beginning there was the kettle on the gas stove. It was a matter of boiling water in the kettle. Coffee beans were being grinded; oh, how nice that smelled! And then soak it up with a filter on a coffee pot. Just like at my mother’s home. Although at some point with a thermos, the coffee stayed nice and warm.

Then came a coffee maker with a filter. An ultramodern machine. From now on everything was automatic. When it was extruded, it roared a bit. Coffee ready!

We skip a few years in the history of coffee. At a certain moment the pad machine came into use. I didn’t follow the advertisements straight away. But there was eventually one in the kitchen to come. Nice and handy. Every cup was freshly put. Handy especially, because I was the only coffee drinker in the house.

Also here everything went automatically. I didn’t even have to do the quick filter grind in the filter anymore! And I didn’t have to shake the remaining coffee in a thermos anymore too. Because the second cup was freshly brewed again.

I sound like an advertising agency…

Hellish machine
My workstations had very different coffee machines. One was rather disgusting, because the coffee was made from a kind of syrup, diluted with hot water. Yuck! But another one was delicious, with freshly ground beans. I was spoiled there!

And then I came home for good. I stopped working. I missed the work. And I missed the good coffee. After a long period of dubbing, a few years ago, I made the decision. With the help of the internet, I had found one. That was the One. I had found the least noisy fully automatic espresso machine of its kind; and that was it. There was a hellish machine in the kitchen; a real fully automatic one. From a solid brand. An entry-level model, admittedly, but that shouldn’t spoil the coffee fun. I enjoyed every cup of espresso. That smell of facilitating coffee; a downright perfume!

But oh, what an uproar that machine made during the grinding. And to think, my machine was the least noisy! That was the only disadvantage, really. Cleaning and descaling, that was never the problem. I did that well and regularly. But during the grinding, the fingers had to be in my ears! I couldn’t get used to the noise of the grinder. For a person with healthy ears that was already a lot of noise, let alone a hyperacusist*. But then came the reward: a delicious cup of coffee! Mmmmmmm…

Without machine
And then fate struck. Machine broken. The end of the fun. It suddenly stopped. How could that be? I had always taken good care of and cherished the machine. What to do now? I made some attempts to get it working again, using the internet of course. It was to no avail.

But I still had paper filters somewhere, luckily. And there was a bean grinder with pendulum as an ornament on the closet. It was well dusted and immediately put into use.

For the time being I put the kettle on in the morning and evening. Without whistle ! And now I grind the beans myself. By hand. With the bean grinder with pendulum. It makes much less noise, I must say. And it is a mindfull moment, twice a day. A moment of meditation. Sit with the bean grinder between the knees. And turn it around. Also a great work out.

And then there is the enjoyment of a fresh cup of coffee, delicious coffee. Mmmmmm … !

* Hyperacusis, literally “I hear too much”, is a condition where you are hypersensitive to ordinary everyday sounds. Everything sounds too loud. “The volume knob of ambient sounds stands for someone with hyperacusis permanently at too high a setting” (source: foundation Hoormij)
Hyperacusis occurs in many forms. For me, especially higher frequencies are very annoying and hurt my head. I also have tinnitus. Concentration is more difficult and focusing on a sound source is more difficult.

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Hard of hearing

“Tales from the workfloor”

In this section, everyday experiences at work or at the workfloor of people with hearing impairment are shared.

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A hearing impaired job coach for hearing impaired people.

As a kick-off for this new section, I would like to tell you something about my work as a job coach.

Support at work.
First of all, I always had an intake conversation with my client and with the employer, the direct boss and/or colleagues.
In these conversations I collected information. The central question for me was: Where were the problems, according to those affected, and above all: where were no problems and were they doing well?

Depending on the situation and the seriousness of the problems, I visited my client at work once a week to once every 4 weeks.
Sometimes I gave a lecture on hearing impairment, how do you deal with this as a colleague or how can you improve communication, during my first visit or supported my client in his/her lecture.
Sometimes it was enough just having a talk with my client. In this conversation it became apparent how my client functioned at the workplace, whether agreements were kept or not and whether something still had to be corrected or learned. If necessary, colleagues were approached or other measures taken.
Sometimes I also just observed a few times.

But most of the time I also worked with my clients. I simply did the same work as my clients. From this experience, I noticed that when I worked with them, I was usually better able to assess how the client was working, I was better able to get to grips with what was going well, and I was also better able to correct or teach the client something. I was often able to explain to colleagues how they could improve the tasks they gave to my client or adapt them to the working environment.

I have also practised situations in role-playing from time to time so that my client could learn to deal better with certain situations.
Sometimes I also recorded the role plays on video and watched them together with my client. This was often very surprising for my client. because it mostly showed what happened to him/her in such situations and how it affected their work colleagues.

I also did some advice on workplace adjustments (tools to improve safety or communication). One example is a teacher who was particularly disturbed by the noise in school because of his hyperacusis. In this case, I suggested in the classroom where he mostly taught to lay floor carpets, hang curtains and, as far as possible, decorate the wall.

Job coaching with hearing impairment
As a job coach, I never really had the feeling that my own hearing impairment was affecting me in my work. On the contrary, I have always regarded it as an advantage because my clients have mostly trusted me as a person with the same hearing loss and I have been able to communicate to employers from my own experience as well.
I was also aware that I was not only a job coach for clients and employers, but also a role model.

When my hearing deteriorated further, I was still able to do my job, but it cost me much more energy than before. Telephoning and meetings became much more strenuous.
My own employer tried very hard to support me as much as possible at my workplace. So I got a tool for meetings and conversations and shared an office with only one colleague instead of 2.
Although these measures were good and useful, they were just not enough for me. The weekends were too short to recover and finally I decided to work only 4 days instead of full time until my move to Switzerland.

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auditory challenge, Hard of hearing

Disclaimer

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Recently, in the Netherlands, a chain of hearing aid acousticians has let themselves be talked about with an advertisement, unfortunately in a negative way. The video and the accompanying pictures show an elderly lady in front of an acoustics store, and the same lady leaving the store as a teenager.
According to acoustic chains, they want to reach the target group of elderly hearing impaired people who often wait too long with a hearing aid. But this shot goes all the way to the back.
First, you don’t get 50 years younger and slimmer with a hearing aid, otherwise I myself would have been beautiful and slim for about 35 years. Secondly, hearing impairment has no age limits.

Such an advertisement once again reinforces all clichés, taboos and stigmatizations about hearing impairment and hearing aids in one. I wonder why this has to be so.
Of course I understand the attempt to reach a certain target group, but this target group (or others) could also be approached quite differently. For example, I have in mind a slogan like “Our hearing aids are too good to hide”, or “We love hearing aids that can be shown”, or “Hearing aids don’t care about age, but about functionality“.

As I have written before (in the article “Showing your colours”), most hearing aid advertisements send a completely wrong signal that the prejudices of people with good hearing (hearing impaired people are old and you have to be ashamed of a hearing impairment or wearing hearing aids) are only confirmed and destroy all attempts at inclusion.

Why don’t acousticians and hearing aid manufacturers invest in advertising that is more realistic and still allows them to present their hearing aids well?
No, dear acousticians and hearing aid manufacturers, with a hearing aid “the world doesn’t open up” and you can’t take part in table discussions again in comfort. With a hearing aid you can at best understand a little better again, but once you are a hearing impaired person you may become a somewhat better hearing person wearing a hearing aid, but you will never be a good hearing person.

Actually, advertising for hearing aids or acoustics needs a disclaimer, just like advertising for medication. In the same way as “Our hearing aids are aids and not miracle cures. If in doubt, ask your ENT doctor or acoustician”.

Such a disclaimer would not only be fair, but would bring reality much closer. Unfortunately, I do not see any change in advertising in the near future, so I am considering whether it would be worthwhile to launch a campaign that should include a disclaimer in hearing aid advertising.
What do you think, dear readers? I am happy to receive your feedback.

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Hard of hearing

The Loreley

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Source  Picture from the Author

Last weekend we spent a few days in Germany and almost visited the Loreley (if you don’t know the history of the Loreley, you can google it, for example on “Mythos Loreley”).
It was my mother’s birthday and we had agreed to meet halfway between the Netherlands and Switzerland.
Our hotel was directly on the Rhine and directly opposite the Loreley Rock and the view was wonderful.

On the first day we did a nostalgic Rhine boat trip. And I immediately noticed that everything, from the dock to the ship itself, was wheelchair accessible. On board the steamboat there was even a stairlift. Especially pleasant for us, because my mother uses a wheelchair when she is on a trip.
Unfortunately there was no induction loop, which made it particularly difficult for me to understand the informative announcements made during the boat trip, the more so as the whole time there was also a background music, albeit quiet. Or, in other words: I could hardly understand the announcements and had to ask my husband, mother or brother regularly. Fortunately this is never a problem for us.
After all we enjoyed the day and the view along the Rhine in particular!

On the second day we drove up the Loreley Rock. There is a visitor centre and a landscape and culture park. Also here everything was wheelchair-suitable and we could walk around (despite the weather) and enjoy the wonderful view.
We thought that we could see and admire the statue of the Loreley up here, but we were taught differently. The rock was “only” meant as a vantage point and the statue of the Loreley is … down at the Rhine on a headland! Later we drove past it by car, but unfortunately we couldn’t make a personal visit to lady Loreley herself, because it was raining too much at that moment. But since we knew where she was, we could even see  Loreley from our hotel … ! On the picture above, you can see the blue flag, then a tree and in front of the tree sits Loreley: she is grey and has a protective colour.

On the whole we had a wonderful couple of days and a very nice birthday for my mother.
I just find it a bit sad and an actual missed chance: with a little more effort, i.e. with an induction loop or simply by making available a few copies of the text of the announcements in writing( in German and English), the boat trip and informative announcements would have been better accessible  for hearing impaired people as well. After all, the announcements are standard and most of the guests were on the ship all day or noon. If you try so hard to be ‘barrier-free’, that would have been real inclusion.

 

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