How Did I Hear Last Year? (2013 in Review)

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.

About Gael Hannan

Gael Hannan is a writer, speaker and advocate on hearing loss issues. In addition to her weekly blog for HearingHealthMatters.org, which has an international following, Gael wrote the acclaimed book "The Way I Hear It: A Life with Hearing Loss". She is regularly invited to present her uniquely humorous and insightful work to appreciative audiences around the world. Gael has received many awards for her work, which includes advocacy for a more inclusive society for people with hearing loss. She lives with her husband on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

5 Comments

  1. Gael, I laughed out loud at “we introduced emergency communication measures.” You kept us smiling in 2013, you forgot to mention that part. Thanks for all that you bring to our world of hearing loss. ~Sandra

  2. Gael there is nothing wrong talking about hearing loss 24/7 you are doing a great job with your articles. I know people with hearing loss appreciate you and those who are losing their hearing will realize they are not hearing as well as they once did. Happy New Year!

  3. Another great post, Gael!

    My New Year’s resolution for 2014 is to get provincial coverage for hearing aids in British Columbia!

  4. It seems as if my resolution for 2014 is to download and install some decibel sound meter APP for my iPod. Mind you, I am 57, I have a cochlear implant and I hear quite well thank you, enough to notice how bad my dad’s hearing is getting in spite of my protests to get his hearing checked. He won’t, how typical. But why do I need a sound meter? Well it seems that I am not hearing well in certain restaurants with their horrendously overloud sounds where even people with normal hearing cannot hear in! Where waiters with normal hearing always ask me to repeat my food orders because they cannot hear either. Where the people always patronize me and say they have turned the music down, when I know full well they have not! Where people tell me that if I do not like the music, to go somewhere else to eat! I never had a problem hearing in restaurants with a hearing aid when I was 10 years old (because restaurants simply did NOT play loud music). My problem is, what do I do with this sound meter information? Should it not still be the norm that a restaurant is for you and your guest to chat and have a conversation? Geeze, if you want to listen to music, do it in your own home and do not disturb others. Your tastes in music are certainly not MINE! Do I think the cities will enact legislation to ban loud music in restaurants? Interestingly enough, my CI has a kind of sound muffler, it will not let me hear sounds louder than a particular decibel level, but restaurant music still is a challenge for me and my hearing guest(s) and I know it is loud because they confirm it. I have even gone as far as to suggest in some restaurants that they should be providing earphones at the tables for those who DO want to listen to this music (or hockey game, or whatever) and just leave us alone to have our meal and chat! I am sure you have had that experience over and over Gael! Sigh. I think my 2014 challenge will be cut out for me and hard to achieve! Happy New Year to you! Suzan

    1. A good sound level meter for iPad or iPod is “DB”. If the noise level in restaurants is 85dB or higher, then you’ve got a case. It’s a tough call with restaurants and it’s cold comfort to know that the majority of people have the same complaints as you and I…with or without hearing loss!

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