What is the shape of things to come in 2015—what does the year hold for people with hearing loss?
Beyond manufacturers introducing their increasingly fantabulous hearing technology, darned if I know. But shape is an active verb—we have the power to shape and influence new standards for our own lives. When we look forward to the year ahead, we make both resolutions and predictions. The first is a change that will come about if we follow through on it. A prediction is what we believe will happen, although not necessarily because of anything we do.
I’ve been doing it all wrong. My resolutions and follow-through have been a bit wussy. Every year in the Better Hearing Consumer, I write a blog with my hearing loss resolutions and this is the fourth fist-to-the-heavens declaration of what I must do to make communication better for myself and possibly for others. (Please forgive the arrogance, but helping others is the goal of every advocate.)
But I have always come up a bit short. Not enough to wring my hands in anguish or whip myself with a wet towel, but certainly enough to look in the mirror with one of those loving but disappointed frowns that mothers are so good at giving their misbehaving children.
For example, every year I have sworn to learn more about assistive technology and the science of hearing. What if someone were to ask me how a hearing aid really works? No one has—but what if they did? I need to be more realistic about my capabilities and interests; if I were scientific, I would be an audiologist. Take decibels, for example. After years of doing this hearing loss advocacy thing, I still can’t explain them any better than “they tell us how loud a sound is”. Which is actually an acceptable definition; does the average person need to know or care that the decibel (dB) is a logarithmic unit used to express the ratio between two values of a physical quantity, often power or intensity (Wikipedia). Oh silly me, and I thought the decibel was an exponential unit!
However, on the plus side of things, two years ago I committed to not talking about hearing loss all the time, working the subject into every conversation and thereby boring people. This past year, I partially achieved my goal because I spent most of my time writing about hearing loss. By using my fingers (to write) instead of my mouth (to blah-blah-blah), I achieved a long-time dream: a book about hearing loss which hopefully, when it is released in the late spring, also won’t bore people. (More details to come.)
I need to combine ‘resolutions’ and ‘predictions’ to shape some strong pre-resolu-dictions (/prəˈrezəˈlo͞odikSH(ə)n/) that I can shape and fight for in 2015. (Hey, if other people can make up words, so can I).
Those who have been waging the battle for hearing access agree that we have come a long way. As a group, we have gained unprecedented technology, public awareness and information resources. But—and this is a Big But—the impact of hearing loss is up close and personal and people facing communication barriers, perhaps for the first time, will benefit from our collective past successes only if they can afford that amazing technology and only if someone points them in the right direction to the helpful resources, as well as helping them believe there is no shame in having hearing loss.
My 2015 preresoludictions have specific shapes with do-able actions.
Circles of Telecoils and Loops: I used telecoils for the first time just three years ago, and they have made life incredibly easier. I can stand in a looped room, tap both sides of my head and the speaker’s voice fills my ears. With a $50 neck loop, I can plug into all my devices and hear quality sound and not miss a word. Every person should know about these circles of communication access. Hearing loss groups are speaking up to demand looping, and I will do my bit.
Lightning Bolts of Noise. At a recent holiday party, I stood in a thundercloud of sound, waves of noise billowing around my head. The music, talk and laughter were constant jagged sound-bolts that separated me from everyone else in the room. This year, I will continue to battle toxic noise. When I have the choice, I will refuse to endure it, and will support organizations that are raising the alarm about noise-induced hearing loss.
Triangles of Communication: The point of all that we do is good communication, because that is the glue that connects us as people. In this Triangle of Communication, it doesn’t matter what point is up, because the three points combine to create communication:
Point 1: Understanding our own hearing loss
Point 2: Adopting technology
Point 3: Self-advocacy – letting others know what we need so that we can communicate together.
Squares are building blocks that we use to create access in our lives and there are many: good listening environments, captioning and other print interpretation, amplification, clear speech, public awareness, caring and empathy. Know what they are and use them.
Good luck with your own preresoludictions and best wishes for a happy and communication-rich 2015.