<![CDATA[Home: Katherine Bouton - Blog: Hear Better With Hearing Loss]]>Wed, 23 Dec 2015 18:20:45 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[A Change of Venue]]>Wed, 13 Aug 2014 20:04:32 GMThttp://675382523823542341.weebly.com/blog-hear-better-with-hearing-loss/a-change-of-venueMy blog now has a new location. To go to the site click on Hear Better With Hearing Loss.

My home page, events, and information about other web sites will stay right here.
It's a work in progress, so let me know if you're having trouble. ]]>
<![CDATA[A Summer Day]]>Mon, 11 Aug 2014 01:02:34 GMThttp://675382523823542341.weebly.com/blog-hear-better-with-hearing-loss/a-summer-daySummer is nice for lots of reasons, but for people with hearing loss, it's a vacation not only from work, or meetings, or daily obligations but from the effort of hearing.
i've just started my vacation, at a house in Western Massachusetts that I spend time in all year long. 
In August I retreat to the house and my garden. Too many tourists in town, too many people in the restaurants, traffic jams and impatient drivers at the area's many summer cultural offerings. 
But up here five miles out of town, it's pretty quiet. And for once I can hear what people say. I visited a neighbor today and we sat in her yard and took a dip in her pool. She's a New York friend and I have a very hard time hearing her at social events and at the dog run, where we often meet. But sitting by her pool, with a view over the Berkshires, I heard every word she said. We had a conversation! 
In the garden, I can basically turn off my hearing and focus on the sun, the weeds, the task of giving the flowers or the vegetables some breathing room by yanking out the chickweed that seems rampant this year. 
Dinner on our screened porch with my husband, the cicadas as background music, is also a time for conversation.
Alas, when we retreat from the chill into the kitchen -- my design! -- with its cathedral ceiling and beautiful bare wood floors -- his voice bounces up and around and down and up again and I can't hear a thing.
But tomorrow we'll have breakfast on the porch, and instead of cicadas the morning birds will cheep and chirp, and except for the occasional passing car (boy, are they noisy), it will be blissful acoustic heaven. 

<![CDATA[Town Hall (Seattle), Looping, and Me]]>Thu, 07 Aug 2014 21:57:24 GMThttp://675382523823542341.weebly.com/blog-hear-better-with-hearing-loss/town-hall-seattle-looping-and-mePicture
Town Hall, one of Seattle's major venues for talks, lectures, readings and other performances -- and a beautiful historic building -- is at this very moment in the process of installing a hearing loop. 

The inauguration will be September 15, and if you're in Seattle be sure to come. Here's a link to the event. 

I'm the featured speaker, because in a way it all started with me. Town Hall was inspired to install the loop by the record turnout for a reading I did there in February of 2013. The Washington State HLAA arranged for CART and publicity and the audience was full of people with hearing loss who would not have come to an event without hearing assistance.

Congratulations to Cheri Perazzoli, of Wash State HLAA for her persistence and energy and organization in getting this accomplished. And many many thanks to Town Hall! 

<![CDATA[Medicare's Misguided Policy on Hearing Aids May Only Get Worse. ]]>Tue, 15 Jul 2014 13:00:19 GMThttp://675382523823542341.weebly.com/blog-hear-better-with-hearing-loss/medicares-misguided-policy-on-hearing-aids-may-only-get-worseMedicare's wrong headed policy about the coverage of hearing aids may be about to get worse. There's already a specific statute in the Medicare law prohibiting coverage for hearing tests and hearing aids. 
Seniors with hearing loss either pay for them (at $6000 or more for a pair), buy a cheap substitute (a PSAP -- personal sound amplifying program), or quietly go deaf. 
And I do mean quietly. Most older people with untreated hearing loss simply retreat from active life, because it's not that enjoyable when you can't hear. They isolate themselves, which is a strong risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia. They're at a greater risk for falls, because hearing loss is associated with dizziness. If they're still in the workplace, they probably give up and go on unemployment. None of these things are good for their health, or for our country's economy.
Now Medicare is proposing to withdraw coverage for a kind of hearing aid that is surgically implanted. The Bone Anchored Hearing Aid, or Baha. No one would go this route unless they were seriously hearing impaired, but Medicare doesn't seem to think this is reason enough to cover them. 
What's really interesting is to read the relevant passage in the CMS proposal. Medicare won't even save a significant amount of money on this! 
Here's the passage: 

c. Proposed clarification of the statutory
Medicare hearing aid coverage
exclusion stipulated at section
1862(a)(7) of the Act
This proposed rule proposes to clarify
the scope of the Medicare coverage
exclusion for hearing aids and withdraw
coverage of bone anchored hearing aids.
This proposal would not have a
significant fiscal impact on the
Medicare program, because the
Medicare program expenditures for
bone anchored hearing aids during the
period CY2005 through CY 2013 are less
than $9,000,000. This proposed rule, if
finalized, would provide further
guidance about coverage of DME with
regard to the statutory hearing aid
exclusion. The proposed rule, if
finalized, would leave unchanged
coverage of cochlear implants and brain stem implants. ]]>
<![CDATA[Just Call Us HOH's]]>Mon, 30 Jun 2014 14:06:30 GMThttp://675382523823542341.weebly.com/blog-hear-better-with-hearing-loss/just-call-us-hohsHLAA, the Hearing Loss Association of America, just concluded its annual convention, a gathering of people with hearing loss and experts on hearing loss from all over the country. Some even came from out of the country.

This year it was held in Austin. I was too busy at the convention to do much sightseeing but I did spend one afternoon at the LBJ Library, which was a surprisingly moving experience, and not to be missed.

This year, as other years, we heard about new advocacy initiatives that HLAA is pursuing in the interest of equal accommodations for people with hearing Loss. Anna Gilmore Hall, the new executive director, spoke about a Consumer Technology Initiative that should help hearing aid users deal with the complications of technology. We also met the new National-Chapter coordinator, who is working to make the national and state and local chapters cohere into a unified whole. 

There were workshops and symposiums all day Friday and Saturday, as well as a three-hour science symposium, which this year was more about technology than science. But technology is the story of the hour, with new products coming on the market almost daily. We heard about some particularly interesting ones, including an FM system that allows four people with hearing loss to both speak to and hear each other in a noisy place. 
A new cell phone captioning system was also introduced. I haven’t tried it so I’m not going to write about it but it looks promising. Captioning has always been a weak link, slow and garbled much of the time, but this system seems much more accurate and much faster. It will even translate messages left on your voice mail into text.

Richard Einhorn gave a moving keynote address about his midlife hearing loss. Richard is a composer and showed a clip of one of his pieces set to a silent film, The Passion of Joan of Arc. But he was also a classical music producer and if anyone knows about sound and acoustics, he does. Nevertheless, even he is jury-rigging systems and trying this and that trying to find the right technology for his hearing loss. And if he finds it, that doesn’t mean it will be right for my hearing loss, or for yours. Hearing assistive technology is right now a promising, exciting chaotic mess.

The workshop that I found most enlightening was a panel of veterans, Heroes With Hearing Loss, who told about their experiences. How they lost their hearing, how it overlapped and exacerbated – or was exacerbated by – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. Tinnitus is almost a universal condition of returning veterans. And hearing loss is by far the single largest category of disability claims. 
The VA does provide hearing aids for those who qualify, but as we all know the VA has been having trouble of its own. It takes months to get an appointment with an audiologist and when you finally do, the panel said, a hearing aid is prescribed and it’s out the door. It can take six months to get a follow up appointment. Ideally, you should go back to the audiologist two or three times in the first month for reprogramming and other adjustments.

The veterans on the panel were articulate and deeply moving. Their hearing problems were sometimes one small part of much larger injuries. But they’ve banded together to share their experiences with other veterans and to encourage others to seek help. As one of them said, vets are stubborn, but they will take advice from a fellow vet.

The Heroes with Hearing Loss panel travels around the United States with its message. If they come to your area, be sure to get to the event.

Saturday night was the banquet, everyone in slightly nicer duds than they’d worn the rest of the time. Dinner was something for everyone on a single plate. (No need to advance order a special dietary menu, you just picked and chose). Fish, shrimp, steak, something that I think was mashed squash, asparagus.

Gael Hannan was the evening’s entertainment. Gael’s both a performer and a well known blogger about the experience of hearing loss. Her 20-minute routine poked fun at herself and all of us with hearing loss. Our quizzical expressions when someone is talking and we want them to think we understand them. The various head tilts to get your hearing aid or implant into the best place for hearing. The “un-huhs,” and “mmms” and nods that we all resort to when we haven’t quite gotten what was said. It was sharp – I certainly felt the sting, as I’m sure others did – but completely on target and truly funny.

This morning as I took at taxi to the airport at 6 am, I found myself thinking of Gael’s hilarious portrayal of the deaf-ish person who just doesn’t want to bother explaining. As the driver yakked for the 40 minutes of the trip I nearly had to laugh as I found myself saying, “Mmmm…” and “Un-huh” and laughing where it seemed appropriate.

Finally, back to that term “deaf-ish.” As Gael pointed out we have no quick and easy term for ourselves. We’re people with hearing loss, hearing impaired (some people don't like that one), hard of hearing, hearing challenged, whatever…… Gael suggests we just call ourselves HOH’s – Hard of Hearing-s. And her schtick on that had the HOH’s in the audience roaring with laughter. Thank you Gael!

There’s a lot going on at HLAA right now. We have a dynamic new Executive Director, Anna Gilmore Hall, who in her first year has made tremendous strides in bringing the local chapters, state organizations and the National organization into a coherent relationship. Some chapters, including my New York City Chapter, have adopted a One HLAA membership structure. When you join the NYC chapter you automatically become a member of the National Organization, and vice versa. A portion of the membership fee goes to National and a smaller portion to the chapter. In New York we all feel that this has already made us a more coherent part of a powerful national advocacy organization.

Anna has lots of other plans, including the institution of a Consumer Technology Initiative. As I said earlier, we are all confused by the plethora of technologies out there – even tech genius Richard Einhorn. So this is a very welcome initiative.

If any readers were also at the convention, please add your comments on the convention and tell us about your experiences.

<![CDATA[They Do Provide a Good View]]>Wed, 25 Jun 2014 22:07:07 GMThttp://675382523823542341.weebly.com/blog-hear-better-with-hearing-loss/they-do-provide-a-good-viewCouple of photos of Austin from the air. More tomorrow on the events at the Hearing Loss Association of America. Interesting lineup of speakers so I"m sure there will be much to report.
Meanwhile, a couple of views from the air.

Austin is just visible below the big black cloud in the top photo. And somewhere below in the bottom photo. 
<![CDATA[Airplanes. Again.]]>Tue, 24 Jun 2014 20:10:41 GMThttp://675382523823542341.weebly.com/blog-hear-better-with-hearing-loss/airplanes-again I’m writing today from an airport, which is where I’ve spent a lot of time in the past few weeks (and one reason I haven’t posted much).

Just now I’m at Charlotte, N.C., changing planes to continue on to Austin for the annual meeting of the Hearing Loss Association of America, one of my favorite annual events.

I like the Charlotte airport. I’ve flown through it for decades when my parents were living in South Carolina, and I still find it familiar and even cosy – despite what seem like mile-long walks between gates. And now, I see, a brand new parking garage is going up across from Terminal E. Charlotte is thriving.

Charlotte, which is the hub for the soon-to-disappear US Airways, is thoughtful about the comfort of passengers. There are plenty of moving sidewalks and golf-cart type vehicles to help navigate those long distances. The restrooms have attendants, which means they’re always clean. There are baby changing stations and family restrooms.

In the main atrium connecting the various wings of the airport there’s a grand piano often played by a talented young many who looks lost in the music. They even have sushi.

Airlines in general try to be helpful to those who need it. Families with children board first. Wheelchairs are all over the place, with attendants to push them. I just saw a gate attendant hustle out to flag down a cart for an elderly woman who had come up to her confused and lost.

So why are airlines and airports so unaccommodating to those with hearing loss?

Why are announcements – about what “zone” is boarding, about delays, about gate changes – made over those loud crackly p.a. systems?

It would be so much more efficient for everyone to post the information on an LED display behind the desk.

Once I’m on the plane, I’m completely in the dark, aurally speaking. I can’t hear one word of the safety instructions. In fact I’m still not sure after all these years that I’d be able to figure out that safety vest. Overseas flights display those instructions on the seat back screens, in 10 different languages. Surely there must be some easy equivalent on domestic flights.

When the captain comes on once we’re in the air, I can never tell what he’s saying. It could be that the Ravens are ahead in the first quarter, 8-1 with six minutes remaining. Or it could be, get ready to take a nose dive—we just hit turbulence. Usually it’s the former. Either that, or a pitch to sign up for the airline’s credit card and get 40,000 miles free.

I suppose if it was the nose dive announcement, I’d notice some consternation on other passengers’ faces (assuming they could hear it) and ask my seat mate. I’ve done that after sitting an hour or two on a runway. But again, why are the hard of hearing so invisible? There are so many of us!

Looping advocates have managed to get some information booths looped, which is good, but that doesn’t help when the gate attendant starts hollering through her megaphone about who’s allowed to board, or when the captain comes on to make an interminable announcement. It doesn’t help when there’s a gate change. God forbid an announcement of an evacuation of the airport.

Come on airports and airlines. You wouldn’t make a passenger who needs a wheelchair walk. You ask about dietary restrictions. You try to accommodate requests for aisle seats. How about some signs?

For instance:

“Now boarding: Zone 2”

 “Flight 2384 is delayed because the arriving flight is 25 minutes late. We will update you as we get more information.”

“Flight 2384 is now departing from Gate E 50.”

Each of these would easily fit on the screen that’s already right there at the gate behind the gate attendant. At the moment the one I’m looking at says: Flight 2873. Time 4:14 PM AUSTIN.

As for those inflight rambles, folksy, reassuring to be sure – but incomprehensible to a great many of us. How about right up there on the overhead screen:

“Announcement from the captain: ‘Attention passengers: We’re delayed because of air traffic ahead. We should be getting in about 35 minutes late.’”

Or even: “Well, folks, we’re in luck today. The tailwinds are with us and the traffic is light. We should be arriving about 40 minutes ahead of schedule.” 

Oops there goes the crackle and screech, possibly about my flight. Better keep my eyes open, since my ears won’t do much good.

<![CDATA[Live in Nassau County?]]>Thu, 29 May 2014 13:25:05 GMThttp://675382523823542341.weebly.com/blog-hear-better-with-hearing-loss/live-in-nassau-countyI'll be giving a talk next Tuesday June 3 at 2 pm at the New Hyde Park Public Library. Q and A and book signing. The event is sponsored by the Advanced Hearing Center. Dr. Allison Hoffman will also be speaking. Free admission. The talk is titled "How I Lost My Hearing and Found My Life Again." ]]><![CDATA[Sometimes it feels like it's just me....]]>Sun, 11 May 2014 17:57:42 GMThttp://675382523823542341.weebly.com/blog-hear-better-with-hearing-loss/sometimes-it-feels-like-its-just-meI went to a conference in Ottawa this weekend, what i assume was an interesting series of talks about the great Canadian writer and Nobel prize winner Alice Munro.
I say "assume" because I couldn't hear a word. Somehow i thought Canada was more progressive than the U.S. and that surely there would be looping or some kind of hearing assistance. 
But no. The three day conference was held in a small lecture hall with terrible acoustics. I tried different spots around the auditorium, including sitting 10 feet in front of the speakers. But even there the miked voices were muffled. 
And, paradoxically, every cough, every candy wrapper, every squeaky seat sounded deafeningly loud. 
It was not a young group. The speakers were mostly senior in their field and clearly of a certain age. In the manner of academic conferences they read their papers, many of them looking down and mumbling. 
How easy it would be, at a conference like this, to ask if any in the audience would like a copy of the talk (the paper) to read as the speaker read it aloud. I doubt that very many would have the nerve to public accept the offer, given the stigma of hearing loss, but it's just this kind of gesture to the ubiquity of hearing loss that may eventually help destigmatize it.
In the question and answer sessions ,speakers called out their questions from all over the audience, not getting up where at least they could be seen. No see, no hear for me. And probably for others. How about a little common courtesy. 
The panelists lounged back in their chairs, far from the mikes, or walked around the auditorium, their backs to many of us. 
So frustrating. But I seemed to be the only person with a problem. And to others even I probably didn't seem to have a problem.
Why didn't I speak up? Good question. I was a guest at the conference, not a participant. 
But mostly I just didn't think of this easy solution until afterward. Scrambling to find copies at the last minute might be confusing. But how about offering the option during the registration process to opt for written copies for those with hearing loss. If the speakers don't want them floating around afterward, they can collect them at the end of the talk.
Still, it was a gorgeous weekend in Ottawa, cloudless blue skies, a light breeze. I finally gave up and took a long walk along the Rideau Canal, had lunch in an open air restaurant in the By Market, dropped into the spectacular but nevertheless architecturally cumbersome National Gallery. Drank some good Canadian beer. 
I'd have liked to hear about Alice Munro though. 

<![CDATA[The Walking Deaf]]>Wed, 07 May 2014 15:51:11 GMThttp://675382523823542341.weebly.com/blog-hear-better-with-hearing-loss/the-walking-deafFor many years, my favorite form of exercise was a long walk, usually two or three miles a day. I live near a park and there’s a perfect 3-mile loop, which helps keep me going to the end point and back.

From time to time I have had a walking partner, someone I would usually meet at a fixed point along the way. We’d walk and chat, and the time passed quickly. I had two walking partners in fact, one in the city and one in the country. Both walked at my pace and both had lots to say and because we were in motion conversation came easily. (Have you ever noticed how much more voluble your teenagers are in the car than when you try to talk to them at home.) For a while I walked with a friend who was recovering from cancer, more slowly but still lots of good talk.

When a walking partner wasn’t available, I listened to books or music. Mostly books. The very first recorded book I listened to was Moby Dick. As you can imagine, even at three miles a day (about 50 minutes) it took months to finish Moby Dick. But I couldn't wait to get back to it in the morning, even when I was in the long section about different types of whales and whaling, and I rarely missed my walk. I also listened to Anna Karenina, a book I had read when I was young and found intensely romantic. This time around I had far less sympathy for Anna, who seemed like a classic narcissist. Sometimes I listened to Carl Hiassen or Elmore Leonard and found myself laughing out loud.

But then I went deaf. Or, more accurately, deafer. I no longer could year with headphones. Around the same time, my walk partners dropped away for one reason or another and so I was often left walking alone with my thoughts. Nothing wrong with that. Sometimes I’d even take a notepad along in case I thought something particularly brilliant.

But thinking – brilliant thoughts or not – was not enough to get me out day after day. So I got a dog, a puppy. Suddenly I was walking four or five or six times a day. As he got older we resumed my long morning walk, with shorter ones in between. I still have plenty of thinking time, but now I have a reason to go the whole three miles. The dog would happily go five or six and I can rarely persuade him to turn around and go back before the 1.5 mile mark.

A dog prompts ad-hoc conversations and despite my hearing loss I’ve made new friends and a slew of new acquaintances. It’s always easier to hear in the open air, and sometimes we strike up conversations sitting on a bench at the dog park, sometimes while the dogs romp, sometimes just a wave and a hello.

Now that I'm one of the Walking Deaf, I’m much more in touch with people – and the environment -- around me, no longer isolated by my headphones. I miss the recorded books but it’s more than made up for by new friends, dogs, cherry trees in the spring, bare branches glittering with ice in the winter, sitting on a park bench with a casual acquaintance in the heat of the summer.