Category Archives: celebrities

Hearing loss and the spa … and naked!

spa cucumber 2

Anyone who wears hearing aids will tell you how attached we become to these little pieces of machinery. They enable us to stay connected to other people and to navigate more effectively through this noisy world. Taking them out is usually something we only do by choice (and usually at home) as we can sometimes feel vulnerable when we’re unable to hear properly.

Visiting the spa can be quite challenging as hearing aids don’t mix well with water.  Spas involve bathing, showers and quiet, tinkly music – all of which are hard to appreciate when you have to ‘take your ears out’.  And, as some-one who also wears specs, taking my glasses off means I can’t lip-read as much as normal either so there’s definitely a communication barrier when it comes to knowing what to do (and not to do).

So imagine the challenge I faced recently when visiting a spa on holiday in Crete recently only to be told it was a naked spa … it didn’t say that on the website!  There I was: can’t hear properly, can’t see properly and stood in front of a total stranger clad only in a pair of paper panties the size of a postage stamp … it’s a miracle anyone with hearing loss ever goes to the spa at all!!

I had two choices: run for the hills or dive straight in?  Reader, I chose the second one and had a fabulous time.  So if you’re feeling nervous about going deaf commando, here are my top 10 tips for visiting the spa with hearing loss:

  1. Do your research at the front desk. Be upfront about your hearing loss and ask what the treatments involve. A good spa will be happy to explain what each treatment includes. It also means you know exactly what will happen and can avoid any sudden tugs-of-war if the therapist tries to remove your towel unexpectedly!
  2. Ask whether you can wear your own undies or swimwear. Most spas won’t object to this. You may also find that ‘when in Rome’ is a good maxim to remember and just go with the flow. In my first experience at a naked spa in Hawaii, I dived straight into the mud bath to hide only to realise that the only person wearing a swimming costume looked ridiculously out of place and embarrassed.  We come in all shapes and sizes so relish the freedom and go with it!
  3. Take a waterproof case for your hearing aids (and a case for your specs) so they’ll be safe when you’re in the shower or pool – you can put them in the pocket of your spa robe then wear them again for your massage treatments if needed
  4. Before your spa treatment starts, tell your therapist about your hearing loss and go through what will happen step-by-step so you’re fully prepared
  5. Walk around the spa and find out where everything is – you don’t want to play hunt-the-towel when you come out of the hammam
  6. Check the level of tinkly music with the therapist.  You can turn it off for total quiet or adjust the volume so you can hear it. Stopping your massage in the middle to turn the music up/down can definitely ruin the moment
  7. If you’re having a facial or massage where the therapist will touch the sides or your face or head (even during a shoulder or neck massage), quite often the hearing aids may squeal with feedback. The first time this ever happened to me, the therapist jumped a few inches high with the shock!  So either take them out beforehand or turn the volume down.  I prefer to wear them but with the volume down so I can still hear the music but not frighten the horses
  8. Agree with the therapist about the best way for her to signal if she needs you to do something. For example, she can tap you gently on the hand if she needs you to turn over on the massage bed or to let you know the treatment has finished
  9. What you think is how you feel – if the idea of going deaf and naked makes you feel like Fatty Arbuckle, then you’ll never enjoy it.  Just repeat after me: “I’m absolutely fabulous” and you’ll have a great time
  10. Finally, and most importantly, take control of your hearing loss. Manage the situation by gathering information first, be totally upfront about your needs and discuss with your therapist any do’s and don’ts beforehand – it will make the world of difference. The whole point of visiting a spa is to relax and enjoy time out so put in a little effort at the beginning and you’ll soon float away and relax

But in the case of the tiny paper pants however, sorry guys – whoever invented them needs shooting!

 

Loving them for a reason – were you an Osmonds fan too?

Well every now and again you find out a little nugget of information that you never knew before and today it happened again.

I was reading a story in “The Times” this morning about a girl from Gateshead, Jo Milne, who heard for the very first time at 40 when her cochlear implants were turned on.  The story was very moving and interesting in itself but what really got me was the work she’d been doing with The Hearing Fund UK.  I’m always interested in charities working on hearing loss but I was amazed to find out I knew nothing about this fund or that it was set up by Olive Osmond, mother of the seventies pop group “The Osmonds”.

As a fan of 70’s music I was glued to BBC 1’s “Top of the Pops” every week and thrilled to all those top ten hits by Mud, Showaddywaddy, David Cassidy and Donny Osmond.  But I never actually knew that the first two Osmond children were born deaf and the Osmond family (Alan, Wayne, Merrill and Jay) began their musical career as a barber-shop quartet to help raise money to buy hearing aids for their deaf brothers.  Well knock me down with a feather!

Raised on a farm and too poor to buy hearing aids, the Osmonds family did something quite remarkable – originally setting up “The Osmond Foundation”, the programme has grown and become what is now known worldwide as The Children’s Miracle Network (CMN), generating more than $4bn dollars for children’s hospitals around the world and helping more than 17 million children every year.  I find that absolutely staggering!

All those years of swooning over my Donny Osmond poster on the bedroom wall, watching them on the Andy Williams show and singing away to their catchy pop songs, but I never knew the actual reason they began singing in the first place.  I actually find this oddly emotional and quite moving.  It restores your faith in human nature to know that so much good can come from such humble beginnings …. and, even better, that it’s all aimed at helping deaf children around the world.  I’d say that really IS making a difference!

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olive osmond hearing fund

 

 

 

 

 

ATVOD report shows broadcasters are failing ‘on-demand’ users

The new ATVOD report out today shows that 96% of Sky TV’s on-demand services have no subtitles.  Well that stinks!  No wonder we all get so annoyed when we have to pay full price for our Sky subscription but can’t access most of it online because we can’t hear the dialogue.

And just to show that feeble excuses about ‘technical difficulties’ won’t be accepted – contrast the results against the BBC who have 98% of their on-demand services fully accessible with subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.  Well done BBC!

Action on Hearing Loss are supporting people with hearing loss and asking them to complain to broadcasters direct so please help them out.  Get emailing, tweeting and shouting loudly about how unfair this is.  If the BBC can do it, then so can everyone else!  http://www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/get-involved/campaign/access-to-television/subtitles-are-playing-catch-up-on-video-on-demand-services.aspx

Read the full ATVOD report here http://www.atvod.co.uk/news-consultations/news-consultationsnews/atvod-report-reveals-vod-services-becoming-more-accessible-and-calls-for-further-progress-to-be-made

It’s a work of art! Soundz Off looks fantastic!

Wow! Just two of many lovely comments I’ve received since Soundz Off was featured in the 100th issue of ‘Action on Hearing Loss’ magazine which came out yesterday.  The site was very positively reviewed by Jean Straus in the “Time In” section on page 36 and described as: “just what the doctor ordered”.  Great publicity!

It means a huge amount to me that other people are finding the site useful.  One lady (deaf since the age of 2 and knows a huge amount about hearing loss) still founds lots of new information to help her which makes me feel a huge sense of satisfaction.  Another lady said that it will be a constant source of reference to help herself and her daughter ….. RESULT!!  If my site is already helping people, then it’s doing its job!

Another benefit of the site is that it’s not just helping other people but it’s also hugely helping me.  I’m more informed and empowered about the latest news on hearing loss than I’ve ever been before – keeping an eye on news sites every day (looking for titbits and scoops for the Soundz Off Facebook page www.facebook.com/soundzoff) is opening my eyes to the massive amount of work being done by people all over the world.  There suddenly seems to be a tsunami of effort, determination and innovation heading our way!  Not sure whether this was already there and I hadn’t realised it or that it’s the perfect example of serendipity – whichever, it’s great news either way!

Unfortunately the AOHL magazine isn’t online yet but the review is shown below, page 36.  And remember to like and share our Facebook page too – thank you!!

AOHL article Nov 2014

Shake it Off! They’re looking at me like I’m cray cray crazy!

Every now and again something makes me stop and laugh, usually a daft clip of kittens doing something ridiculous on Youtube.  But this week saw me dancing about to a great clip of pimped hearing aids which has been set to the catchy Taylor Swift song: “Shake It Off”.

“Pimped hearing aids, what’s that?” I hear you cry.  Well a young lady named Aimee-Louise Paddock has created a fab song to go with hundreds of photos on a Facebook page called “Pimp my hearing aids and CIs”.  It is mind-blowing!  You’ve never seen funky hearing aids like this before – coloured tubing, glitter and covered in nail foils, wraps, sparkles and ribbons, plus hundreds of hearing aid charms – for boys, girls and adults – of all sorts of animals, flowers and cartoon characters. Even Swarovski Crystals are getting in on the act!

Aimee-Louise is promoting the great message that parents shouldn’t have to teach children to hide their hearing aids …. they should decorate them and wear them with pride as it definitely improves the kids’ confidence levels.  What a great message! Considering 80% of people currently say they want a hearing aid that’s invisible (due to the outdated ‘stigma’ of being thought of as disabled) this message obviously still has quite a way to go in reaching the public consciousness but this is a great start.  It’s made me smile …. and start thinking about how I’d like to pimp MY hearing aids!

Amazing apps in the pipeline

One of the things I do as part of keeping the Soundz Off website up-to-date is to trawl through the latest news on hearing loss every day to keep up with what’s happening with new technology.  It’s amazing what you find!  This week I’ve found two really useful apps which will make it possible for deaf or hard-of-hearing people to have conversations with other people again – both on the phone and in group situations.

My inability to hear on the phone has been a real bugbear for about 18 months now but, fingers crossed, this problem looks like it’s going to evaporate into thin air in the next couple of years thanks to a great new app which has just raised funding through Kickstarter to launch a prototype in early 2015.

RogerVoice is the first worldwide app to transcribe live telephone conversations into text (using voice recognition software) allowing deaf and hard-of-hearing people to read the other person’s comments on their phone, tablet or PC almost simultaneously.  No more delay while a third-party human relay assistant transcribes the call … I find this absolutely mind-blowing!  Plus it already translates into 150 different languages, wow!

Most people take telephones for granted but, for me, the freedom to pick up the phone and call a friend, chat with my Mum, ring for a take-away or complain about my internet service (that’s another story) has long been a distant memory.  To think that I can soon re-join the world of the telephonically connected has me dancing up and down with joy.  Check it out at www.rogervoice.com

Another interesting app is transcence which acts as a speakerphone and transcribes group conversations into text so you can see which member of the group said what.  There’s nothing more dispiriting than sitting in a group and feeling left out as you fail to keep up with the conversational ball while people laugh and joke (I always miss the punchlines).  This will make it possible to feel like one of the ‘gang’ again – yayhay! www.transcence.com

These modern aids to technology are amazing – created by and for people who are deaf or have deaf friends or family – and I’m so grateful that I live in an age where these technological advances are possible.

grateful

Next Generation Text Service – hello is anyone there?

I don’t consider myself a Luddite when it comes to new technology but the New NGTS app is proving to be a real challenge.  This new service is for people who can’t hear on the phone – relay assistants are connected into the call and can type what the other person is saying so you can read it on your phone/tablet/laptop/PC – you need never miss a conversation again, how amazing!  You can download the NGTS app to your Smartphone so you can make and receive calls anywhere (as long as you’re connected to the internet).

It sounds like the answer to my prayers in terms of finally being able to communicate using a mobile phone again but at the moment it’s a case of balancing my very high expectations against my limited technical ability, never a walk in the park!  I’ve never used a text relay service before so am still learning about how it all works.  I also have lots of questions which the site doesn’t answer so have just whizzed off an email to their helpdesk to ask for support – oh joy of joys, I can expect an answer in up to 5 days!  Just as well it wasn’t urgent!  Apparently there are quite a few teething problems and there’s a lot of chatter on Facebook about it so at least I’m encouraged by the fact that I’m not the only one.

As much as I relish the thought of being able to use these new apps to make life simpler, I can’t help feeling sympathy for people for whom the internet, apps and software downloads are an unfamiliar and challenging world.  My Mum, for example, doesn’t use (or want to use) a computer which means that life and communication becomes very difficult – finding out what’s on at the cinema, getting quotes for new insurance, finding out when the next bus is due.  Technology is a wonderful thing, but not for everyone.

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Laugh? I could cry!

I’m really getting my head around this new Soundz Off WordPress blog now – it’s actually quite easy once you know what you’re doing – so my next technical challenge is to get this new blog to appear on the Soundz Off website www.soundzoff.org rather than the old blog that was there before.  I can honestly say that having hearing loss has forced me to learn more about new technology than anything else would ever have done, including learning about:- hearing loops in public places including teaching supermarket and hotel staff what loop systems are and how they work; trying out personal listeners; experimenting with dozens of different types of phones for hard-of-hearing people; how to link streamers to televisions; ipods and TVs; how to link iPods to my personal loop so I can listen to music on aeroplanes without being deafened by the sound of the plane engines; writing blogs and linking them to websites; linking websites to Facebook pages, LinkedIn pages and Twitter; learning how to Tweet (cheep cheep); linking my iPhone to anything and everything wi-fi; the list is endless.  I can honestly say that the majority of people would have given up and gone home by now.  Sometimes I feel like screaming (or crying!).

I guess it’s all fuelled by my absolute determination not to let hearing loss get the better of me or hold me back from doing anything I would have done before.  So to all you folks out there who think you’re having a bad day??? You have no idea!  Laugh? I could cry 🙁

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Elton John warms the cockles of your heart!

Hearing loss involves a constant litany of struggles against ignorance, unequal treatment and downright discrimination – the battles we all fight on a daily basis sometimes just get you down.  HOWEVER!  You never know what you’re going to find when you start looking around to see who else is involved in the world of hearing loss and I’m constantly delighted by all the positive work being done around the world to help others with hearing loss, even if you never seem to hear anything about it.

A recent article in the Daily Mail about a deaf woman with a hearing dog was cute … so far, nothing new.  However, the hearing dog is blind – so he acts as her ears while she acts as his eyes for him in return!  How lovely is that?  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-42631/Guide-dogs-hard-hearing.html

Or have you read that wonderful article about Elton John and his husband, John Furnish, who support The Starkey Foundation to provide hearing aids to deaf children in the third world, helping them to hear for the first time.  http://www.express.co.uk/news/showbiz/495842/Elton-John-helps-deaf-children-to-hear-for-first-time

These stories really do warm the cockles of my heart!

Starkey Hearing Foundation