Why I didn’t learn sign language

hello BSL 2When I was first diagnosed with hearing loss forty years ago, and warned that the situation was likely to get progressively worse, I assumed that one day I might need to use sign language.  Within months of the diagnosis I booked myself on a week-long Intensive Beginners course at the City Lit, in London (I lived in London then).

It was an excellent course.  I’ve long forgotten the signs I learnt but some things I still remember, for example the very different grammatical structure of a sentence in sign compared to a sentence in spoken or written English.

When the week was over, though, I didn’t book any follow-ups. Continue reading

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NICE rule change on cochlear implants

19754645 - clown faceThe clown with the funny face has gone.  Or almost so.

I’ve been putting off writing this post because the initial announcement from NICE* on changed eligibility criteria for cochlear implants in England and Wales was flagged as confidential, with a publication date of 27 February.  But the National Cochlear Implant Users Association has gone public so if they can, I can.  It’s excellent news.  The new criteria are more generous and many more people should qualify for an implant as a result.

What’s with the clowns?  They were part of the dreaded Bamford-Kowal-Bench (BKB) test and it will go.  No longer will people sit in soundproof rooms and listen to a tape of someone with very clear diction, speaking very loudly, working through a list of sentences and pausing for a lengthy period between each one. Continue reading

Things people don’t understand about hearing loss: number three…..the pain of it

21685279 - womanAnother thing people don’t understand about severe hearing loss; I don’t think they understand the pain of it.

I’ve written before about how helpful I found some counselling sessions in 2017, when things were at their worst.  The most helpful thing the counsellor did, in hindsight, was to give a name to my emotions.  “I’m hearing a lot of grief” she said.  Naming it was powerful.  Yes, it was grief.  It was a very profound grief, akin to losing someone very close to me, because indeed I had.  I had lost a part of myself.  Not just my hearing but my confidence, my personality…….quite a lot of “me”, in fact. Continue reading

Things people don’t understand about hearing loss: number two….hearing aids don’t give you your hearing back

45282551 - puppy listening with raised ear. dog eavesdroppingBut people think they do, don’t they?  They think you put them in your ears and, lo and behold, you can hear again.  But it’s not like that.  It’s become a bit of a cliché amongst people with hearing loss that hearing aids are not like spectacles, but it’s true.  I’m short-sighted but when I put my glasses on I can see almost perfectly.  Hearing aids???  No, no…..not like that at all.

Well, let me have a caveat here.  They don’t work like glasses unless your hearing loss is really fairly mild.  I meet people and I read about people who do, in fact, put their hearing aids in and experience a huge and immediate benefit.  I’m sure when I got my first one, about twenty five years ago, it made a big difference.  When there is just a relatively small amount of hearing loss to be tweaked amplifying the “hearing loss bits” works.  It’s when the “hearing loss bits” get more substantial that the problems really kick in. Continue reading

Things people don’t understand about hearing loss: number one….NOISE

Boom 2One of the things people don’t understand about hearing loss is noise.  They think people who can’t hear live in a quiet world.  There’s a logic to that and indeed, before the invention of hearing aids, they’d have been right.  Without the things that sit on our ears the world IS a very quiet place.

But with hearing aids……WOAH……

Adjusted to ramp up the sounds of speech a hearing aid will, unfortunately, ramp up everything else within the frequency ranges concerned.  Continue reading

Is deafness a disability?

101150247 - disappointed emoticon with hands on face“Yes!” I hear you all shouting.  “Yes, of course it is”.  But sometimes I wonder whether people in the outside world have their doubts, or at least don’t think it’s quite so serious a disability as some others.

I’m not talking here about people in the Deaf community (capital D), who have been deaf since birth or childhood and use British Sign Language.  They would sometimes say that their deafness is not a disability – they just speak a different language and otherwise can do everything a hearing person can.  I can understand and applaud that stance but I don’t share it.  Being an adult onset deaf person feels very different.  Having a sense and then losing it is a different kettle of fish to never having had it at all, which is why I suspect that most of the followers of this blog (those of us who are adult-onset lower-case deaf) have no problems with the term disability.  We’ve lost the ability to do something that we used to be able to do.

Moving on from that issue, though, what sometimes gives me pause for thought is when the outside world seems to have trouble accepting deafness as a disability. Continue reading

And finally on cochlear implants

sunTime to wind up the cochlear implant posts, or at least time to wind up the regular reports on progress.  I’ve just gone past the six month milestone and been effectively discharged (no more appointments with the audiologist for another year, unless something unexpected happens).  Time to move on.

The six month appointment was quite relaxed.  I was happy with the last programme I’d been given, so no changes there.   My hearing thresholds were tested again (the quietest sounds I can hear).  My ability to hear sounds at one of the frequencies is still below the theoretically optimal point.  Research shows that cochlear implant users who can hear sounds quieter than 35 decibels (25 to 35 decibels being the ideal range) tend to do better at speech comprehension, so the audiologist is aiming to boost the signal from the electrodes in the implant until that point is reached for each frequency.  In my case, however, boosting that one frequency any more than it already is results in worse speech comprehension, rather than better, so we mutually decided to let things stay as they were.  I am hearing just fine in so many situations; let’s leave it at that.

Here’s the point I’ve reached, on an audiogram, before and after implant.  Continue reading