Masks Are the Latest Obstacle for People With Hearing Loss

I thought I had figured out how to live with hearing loss. I wear my hearing devices regularly and employ a handful of assistive listening devices as needed in various situations. I advocate for myself with friends, family and strangers, teaching them to use communication best practices. I utilize lipreading cues and am not shy to try to change the environment to meet my hearing needs whenever possible. I am confident and competent. But then came COVID-19, and a new hurdle entered the field — masks — the latest in a long line of obstacles for people with hearing loss.

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Hearing Loss Advocacy: Captions Are Our Ramps

Last week’s post was an open letter to video conferencing companies like Zoom and Google, asking them to provide free auto captioning for people with hearing loss during this time of physical distancing. In most cases, auto captioning is available on these platforms, but it is hidden behind a paywall for premium paid accounts. There was so much support from readers, I started a petition on Change.org to capture the response.

The results have been tremendous. As of this writing, 8,000 people have signed the petition, and the number continues to grow. I have begun sharing the petition with the companies. If you have not signed already, will you help me to show more support by signing and sharing the petition? Together we can make change happen!

SIGN OUR PETITION ON CHANGE.ORG 

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Hearing Loss Access: Zoom & Google, Make Free Captions Available Now

People with hearing loss have trouble communicating in many situations leading to isolation and loneliness during normal times. Today, amid COVID-19, things are even tougher. In-person conversation has moved online, leaving many people with hearing loss few options for connecting with family and friends, especially seniors who are most at risk for developing virus complications.

Free automatic speech recognition (ASR) captioning for people with hearing loss on video conference platforms like Zoom and Google could make all the difference. Today I pen an open letter to these companies. Please share my words and add your own. Together, we can bring about the change we need to remain engaged and productive in today’s challenging times.

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How To Explain Hearing Loss to the Uninitiated

Hearing loss is difficult to understand if you have never experienced it. Part of it is obvious — we don’t hear things well — but other parts are confusing. Why do we hear well in one situation but not in another? Why are we sensitive to loud sounds? Why can we hear some people easily, but not others. Why must communication partners face us when speaking? Do we all know sign language? The questions are endless, as are the ways we try to explain our experience to the uninitiated.

Below I share some ways I have found to be effective in illuminating the mystery of hearing loss to the hearing community. Please share your suggestions in the comments.

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The Key To Success With Hearing Loss — Whatever Works!

Regular readers of this blog know I am almost as passionate about yoga as I am about hearing loss advocacy. Yoga and meditation keep my body and mind strong and help me handle the daily frustrations of living with hearing loss. Often, the techniques I explore in my yoga and meditation practices can be directly applied to managing my hearing loss. My experience at a recent meditation seminar was no different.

The seminar entitled “Staying Sane in a Crazy World” featured Joseph Goldstein, a renowned meditation teacher, and Dan Harris, an ABC anchorman and author of the New York Times bestseller “10% Happier.” The talk was sponsored by New York Insight Meditation Center and it was packed! I had not expected a meditation lecture to be such a popular way to spend a cold winter’s evening during the holiday season, but I was pleased to see all the interest.

What I had expected was a lot of details on the specifics of meditation — the best way to sit, what to do with your hands, the perfect place to meditate, how to choose guided or silent, etc., but I was once again surprised. The main takeaway — do whatever works for you. It reminded me a lot of living with hearing loss.

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