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Advocacy Connections deaf Education Hard of Hearing Hearing Loss

Guest Katherine Bouton, Author and Advocate

Meet our latest guest, Katherine Bouton. Katherine is an author, a frequent public speaker, and an advocate/educator for the deaf and hard of hearing. We bet most of you remember the book that many in the Hard of Hearing (HoH) community celebrated, Shouting Won’t Help: Why I—and 50 Million Other Americans—Can’t Hear You. It came out in 2013 and we were thrilled that it brought more awareness to hearing loss.

Her most recent book, Smart Hearing: Strategies, Skills, and Resources for Living Better with Hearing Loss (2018) is an update of Living Better with Hearing Loss (2015) and contains more current information on over the counter hearing aids, and other devices coming onto the market. (Find out more about Katherine’s books on her author page on Amazon.) She also has a long running blog called Smart Hearing.

Katherine is a cochlear implant user and wears a hearing aid. She’s been at the bottom of hearing loss and found her way through it all to become an advocate for others too. 

During the Hearing Loss LIVE! podcast, the four of us talked about many things hearing loss: 

  • The stigma
  • Being deaf in noise
  • Over the counter (OTC) hearing aids coming out late this summer
  • Assistive listening is great and so are captions.  “Captions are the wheelchair ramp for the deaf.” (She credits Arlene Romoff with that quote, read more about this on her blog.) 

Here in the Hearing Loss LIVE! blog, we get to expand on topics we didn’t have time for on the podcast.

Julia Loves Connections

Shall I be a broken record? 

Connections get us in the KNOW! There are many technical books about hearing loss. Lots of scientific studies. But not a lot on self discovery and hearing loss. When we write about our experiences—positive or negative—we find someone who thought they were the only ones.

Katherine talked to us about her days at the New York Times and hearing loss. We don’t often talk about hearing loss, the workplace, or the ADA. Truth is, we should be talking about it. 

Why?

People learn from those that came before. With their prior experience, they can share what they did right or wrong. They know why it is SO important to speak your hearing loss truth and request equal accessibility in your work setting. It’s hard to be the first to speak up. However, when we do, we expand accommodations for all that come after us. In a perfect world, business settings would stop hiding behind their interpretation of the ADA and trust their employees with the request made. This is an investment in the employee, a loyal employee. This should be the way no matter the size of the company.

I encourage you all to join hearing loss support groups. One of the best things to come out of COVID-19 is that many HLAA Chapters meet online. (Here is the NYC Chapter meeting page.)  If you have a local chapter, share invites to other HLAA state chapters to join your local meeting. Knowledge and experience happens when we get together and create a community of support.  

“One of us! One of us!” Chelle’s Chant

That’s the chant that goes through my head when I get into a good conversation with other advocates. We all start out at the bottom of hearing loss. We go through all the muck and mess of it. When we are able to pull ourselves together, we usually go on to help others too. Katherine does that so we enjoyed talking with her. 

Katherine brought up that she thinks stress can make hearing loss worse. Yes! In 2007 I was under an incredible amount of stress and that’s when my hearing took a big dip. I didn’t notice the drop because of everything going on, a coworker did. She took me outside one day and told me she noticed I was missing a lot more than usual. She suggested going to get my hearing checked.

Stress & Hearing Loss

Curious, I went in for another hearing test. My hearing aids were two years old and it hadn’t been long since we did my annual test. The audiologist resisted doing the test. “No one’s hearing changes that fast.” I pushed him for it because I wanted verification one way or another. After the test, he looked at me defeated. “Your hearing dropped a lot. There are no other hearing aids right now that will fit that kind of hearing loss. You’ll have to make do with what you have.”  That was a real crusher. I remember using the music program a lot for a better chance at undering speech. I kept those hearing aids for 6 years all together, making do. 

Thinking back from there, I realized my last big drop in hearing happened while I was going through a divorce. That’s when I went from in the ear canal hearing aids to behind the ear models. So I do believe stress affects the body in all kinds of ways, including hearing drops. 

Michele‘s Passion for Spreading Awareness and Advocacy

Like many, finding a tribe of Hard of Hearing (HoH) peers brought the most profound change to my journey with hearing loss. It opened my eyes to the magnitude of the HoH community and taught me I was not alone. Exchanging stories and experiences with others who understand exactly what life with hearing loss is like, because they face the same challenges of a communication barrier, proved empowering. I regained my confidence and it was the start of my becoming a better self advocate and wanting to share the same with others by volunteering.

A big part of my volunteer effort was with the SayWhatClub and in 2011 I began helping with the management of their public Facebook page. That led to searching for hearing loss-related content to share there. After Katherine’s memoir Shouting Won’t Help debuted, I began reading her “What I Hear” blog on Psychology Today, where she explored the experience of losing her hearing as an adult, and I shared those articles on social media. I still share her blog and news articles.

In looking back in my email archives, I realize I began sharing Katherine’s writing, or articles written by others about her, even before I started sharing her blog articles:

I am very thankful that Katherine chose to become an advocate and to use her platform as a journalist to speak publicly about her hearing loss experience. She has brought much needed attention to the HoH community. 

We need more advocates sharing facts that clear up misconceptions that the world has about hearing loss. It is going to take more of us speaking up for our community and our needs to become more widely recognized and accommodated. It was a pleasure spending time with Katherine and collaborating on our podcast.

Meet Katherine in person online yourself…

Katherine is the president of the Hearing Loss Association of America, New York City Chapter. Their next meeting will be September 20th 6:00 – 7:30 PM EST. The meetings are online and open to anyone. In September they have Hearing Professionals with Hearing Loss. “A panel discussion featuring ENT’s and audiologists who will talk about how their hearing affects their work as clinicians. The panelists range in age (some newly minted, some newly retired) and hearing histories.” The registration link will be added late August. Hearing Loss LIVE! will share the link too.

If you enjoy our content and find it helpful, please consider donating so that we can reach more people with hearing loss to help them help themselves.

Categories
Communication Practices Hard of Hearing Hearing Loss Personal advocacy

Tour of the Coffee Shop

Via the Hard of Hearing Person’s Perspective

By Chelle Wyatt

Good afternoon and welcome to a session of Hearing Loss LIVE!’s Tour Guide to the Hearing World. Join us as we travel through the land of the hearing, where English sounds like a foriegn language and people don’t look at you while talking. Also, there are also those curious people who mumble and others who talk 100 mph. Together, we will journey through the land of masks, dodge communication disasters and create more awareness. Pull up a seat and enjoy our tour through the land of the Hearies, who don’t always speak our language. 

My name is Chelle and I’ll be your tour guide. This tour is not only intended for our Hard of Hearing community, but our hearing friends too. Everyone can join us!

Chelle, short spikey brown hair with long bangs, pastel colored dress and denim vest with an empty coffee cup in hand. Her other arm is raised, holding a wand that is pointing down to the cup.
Got coffee?

Today’s guided tour is the coffee shop.

Once again, we are visiting another tricky environment for those with hearing loss. (It’s not always easy for hearing people during busy times either.)  Coffee shops are built for the eye and fast, easy cleaning. They are not built for the ears. The harsh surfaces create a lot of reverberation – tiny echoes of sound that bounce around. Hearing devices beware! Before going in, change your device’s program to noisy settings. It will help. Now here we go…..

The noise greets us as fast as the smell of coffee. There’s music and my HoH ears want to name that tune as the Road To Nowhere by Talking Heads. What do you think? You’re right, that’s too old timey. It’s probably something more up to date. However, in my head I’m already singing the lyrics to Road to Nowhere and I’m sticking with it.

The next noise to say hello to my hearing aids are chairs sliding – more like grinding – across the floor. Ugh! It’s a horrible sound, don’t you agree? You do agree!  Oh look! There’s our hearing friend Julia in agreement too. 

Julia excited to be with us today.

Other noise includes blenders, ice clunking in metal containers. The oven. Drive-thru speaker. There is a few others near the front talking above the noise level which adds to the noise. Right now it isn’t busy and that’s what most of us with hearing loss do; go at off peak hours to avoid the extra noise.

Have you decided what kind of coffee you want? Yes?

Let’s get caffeinated!

“How can I help you,” the cashier asks.

“First, you need to know I use lipreading so I need to see you to hear you.” I tend to use the sign for lipreading when I say that. It helps reinforce my need for the visual. Occasionally, this backfires if they know enough sign language to outdo me. (I know enough to get by but that’s about it.) I run into more baristas who know sign language than anywhere else I go.

Gestures!

She nodded. Oh good! No extra words, she gets it. Gestures mean so much to us. Don’t you love it when people point to things instead of talking in these settings? This is not always the case. There are the talkers. If that happens, ask them to keep it simple and/or add gestures. 

“Large caramel frappuccino please.” (Always give your full order so there’s less questions.) 

“Anything else,” she asks. I anticipate that question, it’s easy to decipher even though I basically hear “Any el” because of my profound, high frequency hearing loss.

I shake my head. (This keeps up the language of gestures.)

Then miracle upon miracle! She truly gets it. She didn’t ask for my name. Almost always they ask for my name and I have to explain at least twice that I can’t hear my name. I’m deaf in noise. It takes a little bit for that to sink with most hearies but this girl’s got it! Aren’t we lucky today? Step right up and place your order. 

Orders all done? Okay, let’s huddle up while we wait for our coffee. 

When you get the difficult hearing people here’s what you do. Tell them two or three times you won’t hear your name. For some reason, it takes a little bit for that to kick in. Let them know they need to get your attention visually instead. A little wave will work or raise the cup and nod in our direction. The cashier sometimes forgets to pass this information to the barista so it’s not always dependable, unfortunately. 

Picking Up the Coffee

Speaking of which, I think this may be my order. The barista yelled out something while turning away. We know it’s not my name but I bet he yelled out my order. Let me go check. 

Stopping the tall barista, I let him know I’m basically deaf. He turns back around to look at me.  “Is this a caramel frappuccino,” I ask. He nods and I use the sign for thank you.

Did you see that  spark of understanding in his eyes?  Knowing a few signs can go a long way. Now I’ll add a little extra instruction.

“The next 5 people are also hard of hearing. It helps if you look straight at us when calling out the order.”  He nods. Pass that information along! Let’s help each other out as much as possible. 

When you get your coffee, let’s regroup at that large table near the back corner where we can sit in a circular fashion. That’s important in groups, it helps us all to lipread.

What’s that? Yes, we all lipread to some degree, trust me.  When everyone has their coffee, join me there and I’ll give you a few more workarounds in the coffee shop. 

(Side note: If the weather is nice and they have a patio area, sit outside. It should be easier to hear. Today is a little warm.)

Communication Repsonsibility

Now that everyone is here, let me give you a couple of rules. Since this is a noisy environment, it’s up to you to stop me, or anyone else, if you can’t hear what was said. I’m giving you the responsibility to ask for a repeat. When you’re with me, it’s always a safe place to ask for repeats. Second, one person talks at a time. This gives everyone a fair chance to hear and be understood.

Let me share a few more tips on leaving a name…

  • A lot of us have nicknames. In noisy environments, Chelle can sound the same as Sherry, Terry, Carrie and Mary. When I can’t depend on lipreading, I give my name as Michelle. I have a better chance at hearing that than I do Chelle.
  • Ask them to put “deaf” in place of the name. However, sometimes they still call out “Deaf!” Go ahead, roll your eyes. It happens.
  • Have some fun! Pick a fun name of your choice; Darth Vader, Superman, Wonder Woman, Scarlett O’Hara. When they call out the name, you’ll see people laughing and that’s your cue! Waltz up to get your coffee! 

When it’s so busy I can’t hear, here’s something else I do. I stand at the coffee pickup area and read all the labels on the coffee when it’s close to my turn. I get funny looks from people coming up to claim their coffee but oh well. If I’m too passive my coffee gets cold. I tell them I can’t hear and I’m looking for my name.

If I went to the coffee shop more often, I’d use that mobile order app. Looking at names on those cups isn’t taboo.  

Any questions for your tour guide? Be sure to share your coffee stories and tips with me in the comments below. We all learn from each other!

Remember this, it is a hard environment for hearing people too. They wouldn’t get names so wrong otherwise! In this article, baristas talk about how hard it is to hear there. They also note that hearing customers do not talk clearly and get impatience when too when they have to repeat.

LIVE! Coffee Tour

Hearing Loss LIVE! will be doing live coffee tours. You can catch us in Cheyenne, Omaha and Kansas City as we travel to the SayWhatClub Convention in Nashville. On the way back, we’ll stop at Little Rock, Oklahoma City and Albuquerque. If you are in, or near, one of these cities let us know and we’ll stop for coffee. We love meeting others from our tribe. Contact us through our website.

You can share your hearing loss coffee stories with us in person.

Categories
Communicating with Hospital & Medical Staff deaf Education Hard of Hearing Hearing Loss Mental Health & Hearing Loss

Mental Health Myths in Treating Hard of Hearing Clients: With Gloria Pelletier

Our guest this week is Gloria Pelletier, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, who has become a great connection for us here at Hearing Loss LIVE! She brings a wealth of understanding about how hearing loss and mental health have a long way to grow together. Watch for our ongoing series with Gloria where we will unpack more misconceptions as it correlates to hearing loss and mental health diagnoses.

Change the Therapeutic Milieux
Gloria Pelletier

Gloria: With my last, large hearing drop I no longer could communicate effectively. I could speak but I couldn’t hear what others were telling me. I could still read lips, sort of, but not enough to be able to understand communication.

I decided to go to a mental health professional to learn how to deal with my drastic hearing loss. Unfortunately, what I found was that the experience of losing a sense and the resulting consequences was not well understood in the mental health community. I was given many different diagnoses in an attempt to define my experiences. None of which were accurate. I began to ask my community circle if they had experienced the same phenomena. I did a small survey of those who were doing therapy and no one made any accommodations for hearing loss or understood that there were some adaptations that could look like or were similar to other DSM ( Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) criteria.

After a quick literature search it became apparent that this was a common occurrence for Deaf individuals. I was talking to Chelle about the misperceptions in the mental health field and this is how the podcast was born. It is imperative that Hard of Hearing (HoH), deaf, late deafened, Deaf, etc., are understood within the mental health community so that we can get the appropriate treatment.

Hearing loss and the consequences of losing a sense is well understood medically. What is lacking is understanding of how that impacts the HoH emotionally. What does that look like in everyday living?

With the help of Vocational Rehabilitation we explored the technology available now which would assist me in continuing to do therapy. With technology I can communicate with the hearing, and HoH community effectively. I can still do what I love.

My goal is to increase the knowledge within the therapeutic community’s understanding of hearing loss, the consequences and how best serve those with hearing loss. To deconstruct the myths and misconceptions that create confusion for both the practitioner and the client.

I lost my hearing, I didn’t lose my abilities. I have the same abilities I had before, except hearing. There are ways to live with hearing loss that will augment my skills and understanding. Let’s work together to find those, make them known and assist others in knowing hearing loss can be an adjustment not a disease.

Julia: In our Podcast with Gloria you will hear the acronym “DSM.” This stands for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The American Psychiatric Association is a great place to learn more about DSM and its role in patient diagnosis. 

I don’t know about y’all, but as a kid “mental health” was a dirty word. Almost as dirty as the word “hearing loss.” Mental illness meant you couldn’t perform a job the way a normal person could. Hearing loss meant you couldn’t perform a job the way a hearing person could. Mental illness meant someone unstable who might say something inappropriate. Hearing loss meant someone unstable who might say something inappropriate. 

People around the country are working hard to change the stigma of mental health disabilities and therapy. Thank goodness. But the work is still in its infancy in my opinion. Hearing Loss LIVE! is working to change the stigma of hearing loss disabilities. Thank goodness. But here too the work is still in its infancy.

All patient intake forms should have a section related to hearing loss. 

  • Have you been diagnosed with hearing loss?
  • Has your hearing changed recently?

And so on.

Chelle: With hindsight and new awareness, I’m sure I had hidden hearing loss as a teenager. 

  • Though I could hear in the classroom, I couldn’t hear in the noisy hallways between classes. 
  • I hated being in the backseat of cars because I couldn’t understand what people were saying. I had to lean forward and hang my head in the front seat to hear. 
  • People couldn’t talk to me from another room without a repeat. 

Tinnitus at 18 was suggestive that I might have hearing loss but the audiologist said my hearing was within the normal range. Five years later, I was wearing hearing aids with a more obvious hearing loss.  

Chelle, mislabeled as a typical defiant teenager

Instead of suspecting hearing loss, I was a “typical teenager saying huh” all the time. Or a defiant teenager for not paying attention and mirroring anger with people who were impatient repeating. Years later, I found out while attending a high school reunion people thought I was stuck up, or antisocial.  

These days there are hearing tests for “speech in noise”. When I was a teenager, that wasn’t an option so we just didn’t know. Hearing loss is more prevalent these days. One in five teenagers experience some sort of hearing loss. In a class of 30 kids, that is 6 who may experience hearing loss. If a teacher has five classes a day, that’s 30 kids a day with a possible hearing loss.  

Gloria and I discussed this a couple of months ago. I remember the silence as we both processed this new awareness. There aren’t regular hearing screenings in schools so how long does hearing loss go undiagnosed? How many teenagers are labeled as antisocial? Defiant? Maybe even ADD for not paying attention. Are we checking their hearing?

Michele: I recently stumbled onto the empowEAR Audiology Podcast hosted by Carrie Spangler, Au.D, CCC-A, who has hearing loss herself—she was implanted with a cochlear implant in November of 2019. NOTE: Transcripts are available, however, the ASR (automatic speech recognition) captioning isn’t corrected. You know I’m going to contact them about that.

In episode #40, Dr. Spangler’s guest is Matt Hay, a 45 year old man who began losing his hearing his sophomore year of college. He was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis, type 2 (NF2), and underwent an auditory brainstem implant (ABI – 12 electrodes connected directly to the brainstem in the area that processes sound) just after it was FDA approved in 2000. Matt woke up from the surgery with facial paralysis, he couldn’t walk, and had double vision, not to mention all the work it was going to take to learn to hear again with the ABI.

In reading the entire podcast, what struck me most was that Matt had all kinds of physical rehab and therapy, but not much on the hearing loss side that addressed the emotional and mental struggle we all go through. He talks about the things it took too long to learn—self advocacy, realizing you can question professionals, because they don’t always know best or have answers, and the fact that nobody ever came to him and said, “Hey, we have this training that can help you.”   

Matt found himself explaining his frustration to everyone, even his doctors: ”And I remember being so frustrated and saying like, you just don’t get it. You don’t understand why this is hard, why it’s exhausting, why it’s lonely, why [I] can be surrounded by this support and still feel totally on my own and alone.”

Unfortunately, doctors, therapists, and the other medical professionals who treat us, have not been trained to understand hearing loss.

During a follow-up hospital appointment with CART/Textual English Interpreting—I requested CART for the first time for a procedure I had done last week—the Nurse Practitioner was amazed at how well CART worked. She was very curious and asked a lot of questions about it. One thing I made sure to tell her is that without an effective way to communicate, people with hearing loss can exhibit behavior that is misinterpreted as mental health or cognitive issues.

Why the Hard of Hearing might be misdiagnosed or mislabeled:
  • Staring at a speaker’s lips while lip/speech reading can come across as intimidating.
  • The intense concentration it takes to understand speech is often misinterpreted as anger.
  • Needing more time to process information, mispronouncing words, or the confusion resulting from ‘bluffing’ can be misinterpreted as a cognitive disorder or learning disability.
  • Poor voice modulation leads to a client or patient being flagged as depressed or having a health disorder.

Can you think of others?

We are so happy to support Gloria as she works to increase the therapeutic community’s understanding of hearing loss, and to deconstruct the myths and misconceptions that create confusion for both the practitioner and the client.

Watch our companion podcast with Gloria here.

If you liked this topic, try the Emotional Side of Hearing Loss, there are a lot of emotions that take time to process. Meaningful Connections with People is another good one. Gloria is a wonderful addition to our meaningful connections.

If you enjoy our content and find it helpful, please consider donating so that we can reach more people with hearing loss to help them help themselves.

Categories
Accessibility Advocacy ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition) Assistive Listening Device Captioning CART (live captioning) Employment Hard of Hearing Hearing Loss State Agencies Workplace

Workplace Accommodations for the Hard of Hearing

There is a chain of command for requesting accommodations at work. Do your research before making the request, check in with your tribe—peer support groups for Hard of Hearing [HoH] come in all forms now—to ask what they have tried and how it worked for them. Include options in your request and give as much information as you can about possible accommodation(s) to help educate your employer before they do their own research. When you’re ready, start with your supervisor who will go up the chain of command from there. Remember, it’s all in the asking. Be as polite as possible and true to yourself and your needs.

Job Accommodation Network (JAN) has an Employees’ Practical Guide to Requesting and Negotiating Reasonable Accommodation Under The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guideline with examples to get you started. One thing to note with hearing loss is that in some instances there isn’t a lot of room to negotiate, as we need the most effective communication access accommodation when doing our job depends on getting information right.

Chelle: There are so many accommodation options for the HoH these days. Unfortunately, most of them aren’t well known to either the employer or the employee. Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations. What is reasonable? Is it what the employer decides or what the person with hearing loss decides? What it comes down to is what do we need to be successful in our job

Messy desk with stacks of notebooks and books. Computer monitor faces away from the door. The empty chair is facing the door.
Desk with computer and monitors not facing the door.
Same office with the desk facing the door.
Desk facing the door.

For myself—it’s different for everyone—I’ll try what they suggest and work my way up. I document as I go sharing reasons when and why something didn’t work. Also, I share what works.  

Here’s a scenario from my last job. I worked in the state Deaf and Hard of Hearing center and they were great about providing the accommodations I needed. I was the first person to request CART (live captioning) consistently. At first, they forgot to schedule it half the time. They told me it was part of my responsibility to remind the office manager. I started looking at my calendar the last week of each month and listed all the meetings I’d like to have CART for the upcoming month. It taught me to be proactive with my accommodation.

We had a strategic plan meeting where equality and inclusion were embraced. The Deaf staff stepped up in making sure CART was provided. While CART is the gold standard, there is often a two hour minimum requirement in hiring CART. The staff scheduled CART for one-on-one, small, or side group meetings. Awesome, right? We were all learning to accommodate each other.  

However, some meetings would be forgotten, or were only 15-30 minutes. There would be an hour and a half of paid CART unused. Waste drives me nuts so I wrote up guidelines on what is reasonable sharing in a document with the staff.

  • I need CART for staff meetings. Always. I need that information and can’t guess at it, it’s my job. 
  • I need CART for any meeting that’s an hour or more.
  • I can do the short, casual meetings with ASR (automatic speech recognition) that are under an hour. It has to be Google Meet because their ASR (automatic speech recognition) is better than Zoom.
    • It has to be a group of 5 or less. If it’s more than 5 people, CART is preferable.

Michele: At sixteen, working as a waitress was a struggle during peak hours when the noise level was deafening. After high school, I worked in office jobs—bookkeeper, legal receptionist/secretary—where I was required to answer the phone, take dictation using shorthand, and transcribe audio from cassette tapes. Yikes, why did I think I could do those jobs well with hearing loss? Taking phone messages was torture. Meetings and transcribing audio were a nightmare. I missed things and made mistakes, and it made me feel incompetent, which wasn’t true. I simply couldn’t hear as well as I needed to for those jobs. 

My first accommodation in the workplace was with a finance company. I disclosed my hearing loss in the interview and was hired. My employer had a volume controlled telephone installed for me. As my hearing loss progressed, I offered the solution that I would manage fax intake in exchange for being taken off telephone rotation—not a huge deal, as we were an email-driven company. I was grateful that my manager was agreeable and flexible, though some saw it as special treatment.

Even with a flexible manager and boss, I encountered others who were the opposite. Example: During an office remodel I requested that my cubicle be configured so the entrance was visible from my desk to alleviate being startled by people approaching me from behind. “No, that’s not possible,” was the answer. I didn’t know that I had the right to push it further.

I left the finance company to move to another state. Looking for work, I was introduced to the Minnesota Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (DHHS) office by my CareerForce rep, where I qualified for job seeker services. I had no idea that such agencies existed or about any of the accommodation available to the HoH.

Contacting your state agency to see if they offer workplace training for your employer and coworkers is a good idea. They also should have equipment and technology for you to try. And remember, one size does not fit all. You may have to explain to your employer that what works for someone else with hearing loss might not be the best solution for you. Having DHHS in your corner as a co-advocate can help assure employers that there are solutions to help people with hearing loss perform their job well.

Julia: Over the years I have heard all sorts of horror stories about accommodation requests going right and wrong. 

When it failed:

  • The business didn’t know what accommodations were available and refused to find out what could be tried.
  • The employee didn’t want to make a fuss.

And when it went right:

  • The employer worked with the employee to find the correct reasonable accommodation(s).
  • The employee knew they needed accommodation(s) and may or may not have known all available tools. And was proactive with requesting accommodations.

Start with knowing your rights as an employee. Be proactive by researching and reaching out to others on what they use at work. Our Talk about it Tuesday is a great place to do this. On our Glossary page we have an organization listed, JAN, Job Accommodation Network. They have great online tools that can help employees and employers with respect to accommodations. 

Businesses: If you know and understand ASL accommodations for an employee. Awesome! You’ve met 1% of the hearing loss community needs… Now here is what else you should be able to say you know about:

☐ ALDs – assistive listening devices
☐ Caption landline services
☐ ASR – automatic speech recognition
☐ CART – communication access realtime translation
☐ Typewell
☐ Cell phone caption apps

If you are able to put a check in each of the boxes above, thank you for being a proactive employer ready to meet your employees every need. If not, there are many places that offer education with online CEUs. And, if you want to understand more about employees with hearing loss, sign up and meet with us here at Hearing Loss LIVE!

Sometimes employers are resistant to providing accommodations and you might have to push or make your request higher up in the chain of command. The ADA is on your side. However, we don’t recommend beginning the process in a threatening way. Give your employer a chance to come through, help educate them when necessary, and use the services available to you and your employer to arrive at solutions that work for you both. Making changes can be a painful process, but it’s a good feeling when it all comes together and you get what you need for optimum performance in the workplace. Remember, you aren’t just helping yourself, you’re making a path for others who will surely come after you.

View our companion podcast here. You can also find us on Spotify, iHeartRadio, BuzzSprout and more. Search for Hearing Loss LIVE!

If you enjoy our content and find it helpful, please consider donating so that we can reach more people with hearing loss to help them help themselves.

Categories
Communication Practices Hearing Loss Personal advocacy

Tour of the Grocery Store

Via the Hard of Hearing Person’s Perspective

By Chelle Wyatt

Good afternoon and welcome to a session of Hearing Loss LIVE!’s Tour Guide to the Hearing World. Join us as we travel through the land of the hearing, where English sounds like a foriegn language and people don’t look at you while talking. There are also those curious people who mumble and others who talk 100 mph. Together, we will journey through the land of masks, dodge communication disasters and create more awareness together. Pull up a seat and enjoy our tour through the land of the Hearies, who don’t always speak our language.

My name is Chelle and I’ll be your tour guide. This tour is intended for our Hard of Hearing community but our hearing friends will learn things too. Everyone can join us!

Image: Woman with short brown hair and cat eye glasses on. She's holding a blanck and white wand with pink and black ribbons, the end is a fuzzy pink feather. She's wearing a sweatshirt and holding the wand to her shoulder, eyes wide and smiling.

Today’s guided tour is the grocery store. Gather round and stay close, this environment is deceiving. It looks friendly and inviting at first glance but it’s not that friendly for some. Grocery stores are noisy places for hearing aid and CI users.

Step back and take a look. It’s one big, gigantic room. It’s all the hard surfaces: stone or tiled floors, high ceilings and rows of metal shelves. Sound bounces around with reverberation that drives hearing devices crazy! Are you wincing yet? I am.

Note the music, do you hear that? Elton John is on the PA system singing Rocketman. Can you hear checkstands beeping as several clerks run items across the scanner? Why does that sound rule hearing aids? On top of that there’s the couple just down the way arguing over what’s better, Gritty Kitty Litter or Tidy Cats.

It’s Noisy!

Those of you with hearing devices, you can go ahead turn the volume down to low now. While on tour, we don’t want you clenching your teeth. Mute, or turn down, your device if you’re comfotable doing so.

(We have noticed the noise there doesn’t affect our hearing friends much, but for those who do, we feel you! You can’t turn down your hearing like we can.)

The long aisles remind me of the Big Wheel scene in The Shining. We peer down the aisle and oh my god! There’s a familiar body or two way down there and they have waved at you. Can you see their faces well enough to lipread? No? At that point, the aisle length doubles in size.

Image: Looking down a long grocery store aisle toward front doors. It's the pet aisle.
Use your imagination, insert someone you know at the end. You know who they are

Your heart rate just picked up speed, right?  You know they want to start talking from way, way, way down there.

Here we have several options…

  • Look  down real quick to study that bucket of kitty litter and pretend you don’t see them because you just know you aren’t going to hear from that far away?
  • Turn around and go down another aisle?
  • Put on that polite smile and nod. Let them talk at you from miles away pretending you heard them.
  • Have a panic attack, leave your cart and leave the store.
  • Other

Here’s a little tale from yours truly, your fabulous tour guide of the day…

Many years ago, I lived in a small town with one grocery store. I couldn’t get down 3 aisles without seeing someone who wanted to chat, from way down there. This was before I was honest about my hearing loss. I chose the first option from above.  Avoiding eye contact, I’d study the shelves and hoped because I looked away they wouldn’t start talking. It gave me the title aloof, a nicer way of saying stuck up.

One day I saw a fun lady at the grocery store, a long way down the aisle, talking at me, but not really to me yet. I decided to be honest with her and I saw things click in her mind. Telling her I had a hearing loss turned out to be no big deal! After that, I made my own option. I held up my hand telling the other person to wait until we were closer.

Let’s move out of the pet aisle, avoiding the laundry soap aisle. It makes my nose itch. The coffee aisle smells so much better. Nothing is wrong with our nose! Caffeine makes the world go round.

Special Events

Speaking of specials, Hearing Loss LIVE! offers a free monthly chat on the first Tuesdays of each month. It’s an open chat, people can bring up their thoughts, woes and rants about hearing loss. Even our hearing friends are welcome, we want them to understand why we do the things we do. Our video podcasts with captions are a good way for people to learn too!

Checking Out

Have you picked up all you needed at the store? Here comes the last hurdle, the checkout stand.  Do you have few enough items for the self checkout?

Image: front of the grocery store, looking past gift cards to a few checkout lanes.
Self checkout area

This is the checkout that offers the least amount of hearing. Do you ever understand those talking machines though? I sure don’t. Turn off the volume or ignore it totally. Annoying things.  I do feel a tad bit of guilt going through as it supposedly takes away jobs but it’s oh so nice not to hear and answer questions.

Or do you have too many items and need to go through the regular checkout? Drats.

Standing a checkoutline. Woman looking back in black shorts, gray shirt, blue mask on, shoulder length dark blond air.

Using the “Script”

The cashier is wearing a mask too, but I got this! Follow me. I use a little anticipation because they ask the same things, right? 

  • “Did you find everything okay?
  • “Paper or plastic?” 
  • And sometimes, “Stamps or ice?”

I sometimes get away with following this ‘script’ because it gets old constantly identifying ourselves and Hard of Hearing…which is why we use self checkout when we can.

Other times the checker gets friendly and starts talking. That’s when I say, “I hear enough to know you are talking but unless I’m looking at you, I won’t understand anything because I use lipreading.” Try it sometime! Or find something similar you like saying, it works like a charm most of the time. I’ve learned being proactive with my hearing loss makes checkout a smoother process.

If they are wearing a mask, I let them know the same thing. Sometimes they take their mask down, other times they start using gestures. If they don’t use gestures, suggest it.

There’s a cashier over there who I absolutely avoid at all costs. (Cost, checkout line, get it?) Though he means well, when he finds out I have a hearing loss he starts finger spelling EVERYTHING, he doesn’t know sign language. I never tell him I use sign language, he just assumes. While I do know a small amount of sign language, reading fingerspelling is a huge challenge for me. It’s a horror to be honest. That’s why I go to anyone else.

This concludes today’s tour. Visit our YouTube channel for more information on hearing loss. Take a weekly peek at our upcoming events to find out what LIVE! event is coming next. It was a pleasure being your guide today, feel free to ask me any questions or share any story.

Coffee helps make the world go around!

Did you like our current tour? You can buy us a cup of coffee! Or use the QR link below.

Speaking of coffee, our next virtual tour will be the coffee shop, that’s a crazy noisy environment to maneuver in!  Even our hearie friends have trouble here. After our virtual tour, you can meet us in person as I travel with Julia to the SayWhatClub convention in Nashville.

Stay tuned for more info soon!

There is no campanion podcast to this blog.