It’s that time again. As 2013 gasps its last breaths, it’s time to review how well we met our personal goals for 2013, no matter how low we set them.
My new year’s resolutions about communication and hearing technology were carried forward from the year before. This annual review of the same ol’ resolutions will probably go on for as long as I have hearing loss, which, based on what my audiologist tells me, will be to infinity and beyond.
In my blog of January 1, 2013, I renewed my vows to:
1. Continue believing in the magic of hearing technology
2. Be more win/win in my quest for accessibility and accommodation
3. Not to bore people by talking about hearing loss 24/7
4. To learn more about hearing assistive technology
How did I do? Well, I’m happy to say I can run home to mama waving a gold-star report card for the first two resolutions. But the others – not so good. I”m still a hearing loss blabbermouth. And although I’m still enchanted by the magical sounds of technology, I didn’t adopt anything new in 2013. (Maybe because my current hearing aids and telecoils are working well – why fix what ain’t broke?)
Resolutions aside, 2013 was yet another year of living with hearing loss, with a couple of new twists on the usual challenges and triumphs.
The Challenge – Hearing in the Dark (Twice):
My usually disaster-free hometown of Toronto was hit with a double-whammy this year. (A triple-whammy if you count our infamous mayor, Rob Ford.) In July, flash floods caused city-wide power outages and flooding. For six hours, my husband and I sat in the dark, mopping up water as it seeped through a cement wall into the basement. He wore one of those headlamps and every time I asked him to repeat something, he did exactly what he was trained to do: he looked me straight in the eye, essentially blinding me. After the third assault on my eyeballs, we introduced emergency communication measures. With his body facing me, he had to speak to the floor, wall or ceiling. I can read lips from any angle.
Last week, just before Christmas, an ice storm coated Toronto’s trees, roads and power lines with a thick layer of freezing glass. Very pretty, very dangerous. We lost power for 30 hours.
When the lights went out, the Hearing Husband said, “The furnace is out – we’ll need heat. Thank god for the gas fireplace.”
The Hearing Son said, “Oh man…no WiFi or TV! Thank god for my Blackberry.”
The Hard of Hearing mom thought, “OMG, how am I gonna hear in the dark? Thank god – for what?! Speechreading is gonna be a nightmare!” Halfway through the blackout, I was thankful that my hearing aids don’t run on electricity and that I have enough 312’s (hearing aid batteries) to last 30 years.
That day, we ate chicken sandwiches and played cards on a small table in front of the fireplace, using a combination of natural light, candles and camping lamps. We survived and even had fun. But this was with my own family and their familiar speech. It gives me chills to imagine being caught in a power outage in a public place – a subway car or airport – trying to speechread strangers in the gloom.
The Year’s Good Hearing Stuff
There was lots of it. Miracle of miracles, my son read and shared one of my blogs on Facebook. I discovered the joys of looping; standing at the back of room of several hundred people, I flicked on my telecoils and the speaker’s voice flooded my ears. I traveled a great deal for speaking engagements, connecting with amazing hearing health advocates everywhere I went.
Highlights include joining the Say What Club at their conference in Williamsburg, Virginia. (Ask me if it was hot!) I went to Portland, Oregon, twice; first to speak at an audiology conference on the important relationship between professional and client, and then for my favorite convention of the year – HLAA. (Ask me if it was hot there!) In Minneapolis, my colleague and I shared strategies at a conference on educating kids about noise-induced hearing loss. (Ask me if I can ever remember what state Minneapolis is in. I’m Canadian and I get Minneapolis and Milwaukee, not to mention Wisconsin and Minnesota, mixed up.)
Of all the people I talked to in 2013 about hearing loss, elementary students were by far the most fun. When you ask 9-year-olds about their favorite sounds, they pump the air, bursting to tell you the sounds they love: Music! My cat! Rain in the puddles! My mom telling me she loves me! Snowboard carving through snow! Fire crackling! Anybody but my little brother! Waves, thunder, laughter!
I tell them they have to start taking care of their hearing, or they might not hear those sounds very well when they get older. (I don’t say when you get to my age because I don’t think they could imagine living this long!) When I give them earplugs to help protect their ‘ears’, it’s as if they’ve received a handful of gold. How’s that for awesome!
My resolutions for 2014 are to keep talking about hearing loss – to infinity and beyond. Good communication is a precious commodity. We need to communicate as much as we need air to breathe, water to drink and food to eat.
How about you? How well did you communicate this year – and what will you do differently next year? Be more proactive or assertive about your communication needs? Advocate for others who can’t afford technology or doesn’t know where to turn for help? Whatever it is, I wish you a wonderful 2014 full of good communication.
Happy New Year, everyone.