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Communication Access Hard of Hearing Hearing Loss Hearing Technology

Gifts for the Hard of Hearing

Gifts of inclusion go straight to the heart. There’s a variety of ways you can support your Hard of Hearing (HoH) loved one, many of which do not cost money. There are some that cost money and also find a special place in the heart. Following are some gift ideas for those in your family with hearing loss.

*Note: We don’t have business agreements with the following companies. We have experience with their products, or have heard good things from others.

Julia: What better gift to give your HoH than the gift of better communication. Join our Lipreading Concept Class. This is a great class you can take together for only $50. This class helps you understand how your HoH hears…and why he/she doesn’t at times. Are your outings now limited because of hearing loss? If you wonder why those really expensive hearing aids don’t work, as you thought they would, then this class is for YOU! Learn how the three golden rules apply to everyday lipreading and how you can have better control of the collateral damage that comes with hearing loss.

Gifts from the Heart

As a hearing partner, a good gift for Hard of Hearing people come from the heart. I recommend getting involved with their hearing loss journey. 

  • Attend local support group meetings. 
  • Attend our workshops. Listen to our podcasts. 
  • Go to the next audiology appointment with them. Together, hold your favorite TV station accountable for quality captions, together. 

If you are already season ticket holders for local theater, send an email and ask about open caption performances. Quality captions are for everybody. You can find more about live theater captioning from these blog posts:

  1. Salt Lake Acting Company – They tell us how they applied for grants for accessibility. You can suggest this podcast to your local theater.
  2. Open Captioned Live Theater – We talked with Vicki Turner who does a lot of open captioning for theaters in different parts of the country.

Download an ASR (automatic speech recognition) app, also called transcription. There’s a variety to choose from these days and most have free trials. Then, start using it together. Introduce the app to others, like friends and family. 

Help your HoH get a caption app for the phone calls too. InnoCaption has different options for smartphone use. (We did a podcast with them too.) Check into it. Try it. You might like it.

Chelle & Julia making plans for 2023
A Living Room Loop

Chelle: Several years ago, my husband bought me a living room hearing loop and added it to the TV. Hearing aids need a telecoil for a hearing loop, make sure you have a dedicated telecoil program in the hearing aids.  Once the loop is connected, walk into the hearing loop and turn on the telecoil program. It offers great sound going through my hearing aids which are programmed specifically for my hearing loss. 

We have the Oval Window Microloop III ($200).  My husband liked this because it was made in America. Test your intended loop area before buying by walking around in the telecoil program. If there’s a hum, there may be magnetic interference in your house. A light hum might be ignored depending on the person. If it’s loud, this may not be a good option. 

Wi-Fi based Listen Everywhere

We did a podcast with Listen Technologies about their new wi-fi based system, Listen Everywhere. This is a public option rather than a private option but it can work at home too. I have one hooked up to my TV. I do not currently have a Bluetooth option with my hearing aids (they are 8 years old) so I use a neckloop in conjunction with my smartphone/tablet. (I’m still using my telecoil program.) This listening system makes me want to get new hearing aids with Bluetooth. 

This requires wi-fi, a smartphone or tablet, and the Listen Everywhere app. This is a pricey system at around $1,000. Again, this is more of a public option meaning many people can use it at the same time. My kids used it with earbuds and were happy with the sound. I’m looking forward to this system being available in public spaces. The cool thing about this system is I can wander all over the house and still receive sound. 

Is tinnitus an issue?

Once I start talking about tinnitus, my own comes to the forefront. Tinnitus can wreck sleep and ruin quiet environments. Here’s a few ideas for tinnitus:

  • SleepStream2: This app has all kinds of environmental sounds to choose from, the water section is my favorite though I like the rain too. You can add background music and control the volume of each sound feature. The app is free, there are in-app purchases.
  • I have heard good things about the ReSound Tinnitus Relief app. It’s a free download with add ons so you can give that a try. (I have not tried this yet myself. If you have, tell us your thoughs.)

Tinnitus can disrupt our lives suddenly and horribly. It can cause depression, anxiety and even suicidal thoughts for some. Because many veterans were coming home with tinnitus, the Veterans Affairs created a workbook to help people habituate tinnitus, How to Manage Your Tinnitus: A Step-by-Step Workbook.  I understand the book is free to veterans. It is available in PDF format for free on their website (it’s a big file). I see it’s for sale on eBay and other places for $30 – $80. The workbook has 2 cds that come with it. 

When I worked for the Utah Hard of Hearing Program, I gave tinnitus presentations once a year. We researched tinnitus solutions for those who have no hearing also. If you want to contact me, I’ll be happy to talk more about tinnitus with you. 

Conclusion: Hearing loss is a communication disorder. When we can’t hear, we lose communication. Give the gift of hearing and support when possible. 

View the companion podcast here.

If you liked this blog, check out: 

National Small Business Day

It’s National Small Business Day November 26th. Give the Gift of better communication. We have a two for one special going on our Lipreading Concepts class and our new Lip Shapes LIVE! class. Take the class and bring a family member with you to help them better understand Hard of Hearing Communication needs. Registration opens soon. 

If you like our content, Buy Us a Cup of Coffee! This helps us to keep content free for those in need. 

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Connections Hearing Loss Hearing Technology

Dr. Ingrid McBride, Mobile Audiologist

Let’s Talk About Patient Centered Care

Our guest this week is an audiologist, Dr. Ingrid McBride. She lives in Arizona and has a mobile audiology practice, Audio-Logics Consultants, LLC. She travels all over the state of Arizona meeting with clients. Hearing Loss LIVE! met her through our friend Gloria Pelletier who also shares her experience below.

A 6 hour appointment with an audiologist?!

Chelle: Earlier this year, Gloria told me she just finished a 6 hour appointment with her audiologist. Wow. I’ve been wearing hearing aids for 31 years and I never had a 6 hour appointment. What a thorough audiologist, I thought. Not only that but the appointment was at Gloria’s home. 

Several months later, Gloria allowed me to sit in on an appointment with her audiologist, Dr. McBride.  We sat together for almost 2 hours while Dr. McBride helped Gloria regain access to her hearing aid phone app. She also walked Gloria through the different features on the app. Even though I asked questions, Dr. McBride kept her focus on Gloria. She faced her client the whole time, speaking directly to her using clear speech. It was impressive.

We did laugh a lot together.

This was the first time I’ve seen hearing aid technology up close in a while. A lot has changed in the last 8 years since I got my last pair of hearing aids!  I was happy to see how much we can adjust programs to our satisfaction in the app. We have more control than ever before. Eight years ago, the most we could do in hearing aid phone apps was change the tone a bit and change the program. This showed me how outdated my hearing aids are. It’s time to get new ones. 

Clear Speech

After what I witnessed between Gloria and Dr. McBride, I’m also going to make sure I have someone who is knowledgeable about patient centered care. In our podcast, Dr. McBride spells that out for us. Determine whether or not you are getting patient centered care.

Listen to, or watch, our podcast and share it with your significant other.  Dr. McBride shares “clear speech” strategies. It takes two to make communication happen and she gives hearing partners a clear guide to follow. 

Hearing Partners Need to be Involved

Julia: Odds are, the hearing partner is the first person to recognize there is a hearing loss, probably before the hearing loss partner realizes it. There’s several misconceptions around hearing aids. Hearing partners, you can get in the know when involved from the very beginning with audiology appointments. 

A misconception among hearing partners, “Go get a pair of hearing aids and things will be back to normal.” Hearing partners don’t understand what hearing aids can, and can’t, do. When “normal” doesn’t happen, they get upset and angry. I’m not sure why all hearing professionals are not more up front about this. As a hearing partner, if you want better communication outcomes you must be involved. Period.

Attend a Hearing Test

When you attend all audiology appointments, you will find out what type of hearing loss your partner is experiencing. What sounds and tones are affected by their hearing loss. This helps you be a better communicator. When getting new hearing aids, you can review the different kinds of hearing aids together. Look for an audiologist that wants you to be successful with your hearing devices AND communication strategies. Listen to our podcast with Dr. McBride to learn more about this. 

Rehabilitation Services

Think about finding rehabilitative services. As an example; when someone goes blind, there are services to help them learn to get around the obstacles. They aren’t just given devices, they get rehabilitation. The same needs to happen with hearing loss. When you see an audiologist check off these items:

  • Do they encourage you to keep a ‘sound’ diary?
  • Do they encourage you to come back as often as needed?
  • Do they share other hearing loss resources with you? (State services, support groups)
  • Do they offer classes like Dr. McBride?

Be a part of the solution so you both can have better communication outcomes.

Thorough Explanations on Hearing Loss & Hearing Aids

Gloria: I met Dr. McBride at the beginning of this year.  She came to my home and did an audiologic consultation. She did some very different testing for my hearing loss that I haven’t experienced before.  She is patient explaining every test, why she was doing it, and what it told her.  We had a small conference before our testing and she realized I could hear male voices much better than female.  She followed up that observation with testing and it was included in my report. She made adjustments in my hearing aids for that.

After the testing, she explained all the results to me.  We went over the audiogram, what it indicated, how it  worked in programming my hearing aids.  This is important because your programming will determine how successful you are wearing hearing aids. She made a mold of my ear canal and we selected the color of the hearing aid.  I, of course, wanted red but that wasn’t in the selection.

Assistive Listening Technology & Hearing Aids

She came back to my home after she ordered the hearing aids and Roger On Pens for me.  She programmed my hearing aids so well that I could wear them all day from day one.  When she was done programming I heard noises that I hadn’t heard before.  

  • The refrigerator growls. 
  • The dishwasher clangs. 
  • The washing machine is possessed. (Just teasing)  

Never go to Walmart with new hearing aids, I felt I was inside a kettle drum. It was so loud and noisy.  All hard surfaces.

After a month she and I had a conference over a video call to adjust my hearing aids again.  I loved it because she is available and can change the programming through the internet.  Easy and convenient.

Patience

What is so surprising is her patience.  She wanted me to understand my hearing loss, what was happening to me with hearing loss and how to make my life easier with the hearing aids.  I have never had an audiologist who “cared” about my adjustment and was willing to work with me until the hearing aids were useful.   Her understanding and knowledge is more than just hearing aids.  She understands the technology associated and the accessories that make hearing easier i.e. Roger On microphones, extra powerpack.  She took into consideration my video conferencing and the need to clearly understand the speech.  She recommended specific headphones that work with my hearing aids and are comfortable.  

She has since been back to my home for an adjustment because I needed help with the phone app for my hearing aids and she was able to get my app working again.  She is amazing at technology.  She took the time to  hook my hearing aids to my cell phone, my computer and any other Bluetooth connection I required.  Then, she showed me how to do it if she wasn’t there.

Rehabilitation Services = Success

For me, she is a “rock star” because she changed my life.  I wear my hearing aids everyday, all day.  I can use my iPhones and video conferencing and I can hear what is being said.  

I am concluding her class on “Living Well with Hearing Loss” and I learned a great deal I did not know before.  I am always excited for her classes because she organizes the material in such an easy way to understand. She understands the complexity of hearing loss and can speak to the emotional aspects of hearing loss

She makes services happen all over the state of Arizona for people with hearing loss.  She consults with Vocational Rehabilitation which has such a major impact for people with hearing loss and returning to work.  

Sometimes you meet someone who is great at their job and a great human being.  Dr. McBride is that person.  Her passion for audiology and her clients is amazing.  I will never settle for less after working with Dr. McBride, not only did she do many tests but she taught me how to advocate for better hearing.

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Assistive Listening Device CART (live captioning) Cochlear Implants Communication Access Connections Hard of Hearing Hearing Loops & Telecoils Hearing Loss Personal advocacy Public Advocacy Self Advocacy Vocational Rehabilitation Services

Hearing Loss LIVE! Attends the SayWhatClub Convention

Let me give you a taste of a hearing loss convention. Julia and I went to the SayWhatClub (SWC) convention August 10th-13th in Nashville, Tennessee. We believe everyone should go to at least one hearing loss convention. You get to experience Hard of Hearing culture. What does that mean? 

Hard of Hearing Accommodations

You have the accommodation you need to understand everything that is said. They put in temporary hearing loops for those with telecoils in their hearing aids. (*Ask your audiologist to turn on the telecoil program before you go. Make sure it’s a dedicated telecoil program. About 70% of hearing aids have a telecoil.)  If you don’t have telecoils, it’s okay because there’s also a human providing live captioning as we go. (Called CART, Communication Access Real-time Translation.) Our human providing captions was Julia, who also sponsored some time through her CART business.

I helped to lay the hearing loop.

At conventions, you make connections with people. People who are more experienced and can answer all kinds of questions. If they don’t know, they know someone who can. Because most of the attendees are Hard of Hearing, we know how to talk to each other and people are patient with repeats. Knowing what it feels like being left out, they are usually careful to make sure everyone is included. 

Day 1

Conventions start with a welcome party. This is where you find old friends and make new friends. The SayWhatClub has a theme at their welcome party, this year they told everyone to wear a music t-shirt.  Somehow I missed the memo. Thankfully another attendee brought extra t-shirts and let me borrow one for the evening. 

I had a lot of fun with that shirt!

When the welcome party ends, we spread out to either the hotel bar or take on the city. Come on, we’re in Nashville so let’s explore! We found Printers Alley and a bar with a live band. It was loud but the group I was with knew some form of sign language and we lipread too so we got by. We all help each other with signs as needed. 

Day 2

We started the workshops. At the SWC con, give the first workshop to sponsors. Each sponsor had about 10 minutes to speak. Vendors help fund the conventions we love. They bring us knowledge and technology. Some are Hard of Hearing themselves. Here’s the sponsors this year:

  • T-Mobile Accessibility & Wireless who sponsored the welcome party. InnoCaption who sponsored the hearing loop.
  • InnoCaption has sponsored many SWC cons, they are a regular.
  • We have also had Mitchell Levy of Hamilton CapTel sponsoring and attending SWC cons for many years.
  • Advanced Bionics came and talked to use about their cochlear implants and the Roger Technology.
  • CaptionCall is another sponsor.
  • Yours truly was sponsor as well, Hearing Loss LIVE! and we talked about our Lipreading Concepts classes coming up. Vanderbilt University Brain Development Lab – They are studying how D/HoH children learn. Here is their project.
  • We also had Listen Technologies as a silver sponsor and Cochlear though neither could  show. Thank you vendors for helping make this convention possible!

Hearing Loss and Mental Health

The next workshop was Robin Nobling with NAMI of Davidson County. Her talk was  titled: Got Stuff? “Not a single person gets through life without a period of anxiety, depression, fear, grief, anger.” Those of us with hearing go through all those emotions well. She encouraged us to unpack our ‘stuff’ and move toward acceptance. What I got from it was that we should talk about it and connect with peers. 

Our last workshop of the day was with Cynthia Moynihan, a hearing loss advocate for 30 years who gave us Hearing Loss Empower Hour.  She shared some of her challenges from over the years with us. “Why me,” she used to ask. “Because I have the opportunity to learn and give back.” She finds a word to focus on each year, this year’s word is “opportunity”.  She’s found plenty of opportunity. She warned us against fitting into a mold, accept and embrace our uniqueness. 

The SayWhatClub also has daily, accommodated activities. That night we all met at the Wildhorse Saloon to learn line dancing with captions and sign language! Captions thanks to Julia and the ASL interpreter was provided by Bridges for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

Are you tired yet? I was but it’s worth it.  I love hanging out with my tribe. 

Day 3 Friday, August 12th

Friday’s first workshop was with Nancy Denning-Martin & Mike Helms of Bridges for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. It was titled Advocating for Big Change. For those of us passionate about advocacy, this was informative! Nancy and Mike talked about creating change on the “micro level” which is family, friends and people you meet day to day. There is also the “meso” level of advocating which is things like churches, schools and other groups. Last, there is the “macro” level which affects change on a larger scale; politics, legislation, policy. Samples were given of each category.

The second workshop was:Jourdan Holder AuD, the director of the Cochlear Implant Program at Vanderbilt University. She gave us: Hearing Devices, An Update on Technology, Candidacy and Outcomes. She gave us a lot of information about cochlear implants. They are working on shortening the electrodes to have a better chance at leaving the remaining hearing. This is going through the FDA process of approval. 

Our last workshop was with Peter Hodes, Introduction to Tai Chi: Movement for Health, Balance and Relaxation. He led us through a series of tai chi movements, showing us how to breathe through them. He encouraged people to do what they could and no more. Pain isn’t the answer here. Use a chair or a table as needed. He made us laugh a lot. For many of us, wit was the first time trying tai chi. 

The afternoon activities were a tour of the Grand Ol’ Opry backstage, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum and then attending the night’s show at the Grand Ol’ Opry. 

Day 4, Saturday August 13th

Our last day is dedicated to afternoon activities in the downtown area of Nashville. They went to the Country Music Hall of Fame to attend the Songwriters Sessions Bonus and tour the Museum there. 

It’s banquet night! The banquet was sponsored this year by Safe N Clear. Safe N Clear gave away a box of masks with a window, one box to each table. They also provided each guest with a mask to use. 

Keynote Speaker

Our keynote speaker was Meaghan Thomas, a broadcast meteorologist in Nashville who created  The Heart of Hearing Foundation.

Her dad had a hearing loss while she was growing up so hearing loss was no big thing.  Her own hearing loss was undetected for many years because they thought, “she just wants to be like dad.” In a high school physics class, they were working with different frequencies and that’s when her hearing loss came to light. Still she considered it normal and blew it off. It wasn’t until college that hearing loss became hard to blow off. She didn’t know about accommodations so she “scooted by”. In grad school she was more upfront about her hearing loss and they let her record classes. 

As a meteorologist/tv host, she had to get an ear piece. She was fitted for that at a hearing aid place. That was her first real hearing test. Up to that point, her coworkers thought she was unfriendly because she didn’t always answer them. One confronted her about it and that’s when Meaghan let her know she was deaf on one side and had a hearing loss on the other side. That helped clear the air and that coworker became one of her champions. 

Hearing Aids

Along the way she was able to get her parents to buy a hearing aid. That was all they could afford. She was amazed at how much she could hear and what things made noise. However, it was too unbalanced having only one so it got put away. 

Three years later she was told about the state vocational rehabilitation program by a new audiologist. The VR program was willing to pay half of the hearing aids and she wanted them so much she was willing to go in debt to pay the other half. When she went in, they gifted the other half to her because they knew she would go on to do good things. She said she sat there and cried.

Last year she came out about her hearing loss publicly posting a picture of her holding her hearing aids out. The next day she woke up to a thousand comments, receiving encouragement. Many parents of kids wrote in to say it helped their kids know they do whatever they wanted. She appeared on Good Morning America with this story. Shortly thereafter she wrote a children’s book based on the comments. Once she made her money back from the book, 100% of the funds goes to the foundation she created.

The Heart of Hearing 

The Heart of Hearing Foundation was created to help others in need of hearing aids. Right now it helps people within in the Nashville area but she’d like to go nationwide and help many others.  Her main goal is to help the working age people, 20-45, to get hearing aids. These people need hearing aids to keep working. 

“When you finally become okay with who you are, you don’t realize how many people you are going to bless.” A lot of heads here nodding at the convention. Hiding hearing loss is a lot of work. When we become more about about it, and what we need to communicate, the easier it gets. We touch many lives and we can make a positive impact. 

Grow your connections. Attend a hearing loss convention.  

Julia and are looking forward to attending the Association of Late-Deafened Adults (ALDA) October 19th-23rd in San Diego, CA. This too is a fun convention with lots of great people and information. ALDA is famous within the Hard of Hearing community for their Karaoke Night. Let’s sing our hearts out because we can’t hear anyway! Just have fun. 

Join our September 6th Talk About It Tuesday at 6:00 PM MST to learn more about either convention.  

Crowdfunding

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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!

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Accessibility Advocacy Communication Practices Connections Hard of Hearing Hard of Hearing Defined Hearing Loss Hearing Technology

The Better Connect Academy with Jean Nalbantian

Sometimes things just fall into place. One day we are looking at The Better Connect Academy (TBCA) website and the next day Jean (John) is contacting us to invite us to guest on his podcast. It is great when the stars align and the universe conspires to connect like minds on the subject of hearing loss. Hearing Loss LIVE! talked with Jean in late March, sharing our passions and what we do. We got to know TBCA further when Jean was our podcast guest—video will be available May 16th.

Michele, Chelle, and Julia are Jean’s guests on the TBCA podcast.

May is Better Hearing and Speech month, and we are celebrating American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s (ASHA) theme of Connecting – People. Our crossing paths with Jean and TBCA is a great example of connecting and the timing couldn’t have been better!

Jean (John) Nalbantian, CEO and Founder of The Better Connect Academy

Jean: I am Jean (John) Nalbantian, the CEO and Founder of The Better Connect Academy (TBCA). We are an online course (about an hour long) that teaches enrollees how to provide effective communication for Hard of Hearing (HoH) individuals. 

Providing effective communication is federal law per the American Disabilities Act (ADA); we can help.

I have over 25 years of experience working with people who are HoH and deaf. I hold a BS in Human Services Management and two Gerontology program certificates from USC. My passion has always been to help, ever since I was a kid.

I identified a need within the HoH population and after hearing the same complaints over and over again, I decided to develop a course that educates the general public how to provide effective communication. The course has been reviewed by members of the HoH and deaf communities to ensure that nothing has been left out. 

The course is accredited by two entities, the National Certification Council for Activity Professionals as a Continuing Education course and by the American Academy of Physician Associates as a Continuing Medical Education course.

When enrollees are done watching the course and have taken the quiz, they receive a certificate of completion, which is an asset to their current employment but more importantly, helps them communicate with HoH individuals.

The goal of the course is to educate as many people as possible, especially people who work at medical offices, hospitals, restaurants, government offices and others. Every single business and organization should enroll their staff. 

Providing effective communication is federal law per the American Disabilities Act. The ADA states: “The ADA requires that title II entities (State and local governments) and title III entities (businesses and nonprofit organizations that serve the public) communicate effectively with people who have communication disabilities. The goal is to ensure that communication with people with these disabilities is equally effective as communication with people without disabilities.” 

So why should businesses and organizations risk receiving official complaints about not providing effective communication? We can help.

We want every HoH individual to advocate for themselves and if they encounter a business that has a difficult time communicating with them, then they should give our information to the supervisor or manager of the business. It’s a serious matter but it can be alleviated.

Eventually, The Better Connect Academy will push for this program to be mandated to all businesses, but it will require all HoH people to support the idea. As we grow, we will also plan on hiring HoH individuals. 

We appreciate Hearing Loss LIVE! for giving us the opportunity to speak about TBCA.

Chelle: What a pleasure to meet Jean and to get to know his business, TBCA. He has a big heart and cares about effective communication for our community. We watched the online course video and hope businesses will take HoH communication needs seriously by taking the course. Many places I go lack effective communication and I am constantly educating. 

If you are HoH, share TBCA’s information when businesses get it wrong. I find most businesses mean well but they just don’t know. People know the ADA but they rarely get specific education. We can help, you can help, and Jean can help. We all need to work together to make a more accessible community. When you advocate for yourself, you’re also laying a path for others who come behind you. Start small with self advocacy by sharing TBCA website when you find businesses on the wrong path. 

Julia: Working with other like minds means more folks understanding communication needs for people with hearing loss. If you haven’t heard me say it in the past, then let me say it again, “One size does not fit most with hearing loss.

The Better Connect Academy (TBCA) gets it. TBCA’s online certification to help businesses to be better trained on communication skills with their employees who have a hearing loss matches up nicely with live training offered from Hearing Loss LIVE!—Sensitivity Training for Business owners with respect to hearing loss. 

If you are a business owner and you need training and education on better communication with your Deaf and Hard of Hearing employees, The Better Connect Academy (TBCA) has a great course for you. Better yet, combining TBCA’s online certification with in-person training by Hearing Loss LIVE! will give you a more diverse and well-educated staff with respect to hearing loss and communication. Think of how you can promote and grow your workforce with employees who are vested in seeing your company grow because you took the time to get to know what people with hearing loss face and what they need. 

Something else we talk about, you don’t know what you don’t know. Hearing loss can happen at any time for any reason. If you are already practicing good communication guidelines with all your employees, that hearing loss fear and unknown is eased and help can be sought sooner. Erasing the stigma before an employee is facing hearing loss will ease their fears around hearing loss.

Michele: When advocating, I always try to make the point that responsibility for accessibility and inclusion should be shared, not solely shouldered by the person with hearing loss. Twenty percent of the population has some degree of disabling hearing loss and the world needs to know how to effectively communicate with us. And, that doesn’t mean Sign Language Interpretation for over 95% of us.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in several areas—employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications and access to state and local government’ programs and services. In addition, Federal Rehabilitation and State Human Rights Laws provide for full and equal access in these same areas.

However, not all businesses are proactive regarding compliance, and that shifts the burden of enforcement onto the person with a disability when there are issues. It is up to us to force businesses to comply by filing a complaint or lawsuit. We could use more help.

As customers, clients, and patients, with a communication barrier, we encounter the lack of effective communication daily. That is especially true in medical/hospital settings. The HoH need quality Speech-to-Text Interpretation/Translation, and that means captioning by a live stenographer on a screen provided by the medical facility or office. Many HoH people are unaware of the effective communication access accommodations available to them, or it doesn’t occur to them to request accommodation at the doctor or hospital. This needs to change.

We are thrilled that The Better Connect Academy (TBCA) is focused on helping those who serve the public own their part of the effective communication equation. We need more co-advocates like Jean who encourage entities to be proactive and provide them with the information and training needed for effective communication. TBCA’s online training course for employers and their employees is a valuable tool for spreading awareness of the HoH community and our communication needs and accommodations.

Watch our companion podcast here. Or listen to it on Spotify, iHeartRadio and BuzzSprout. Transcript is available on BuzzSprout.

If you liked this post, try Captioning Advocacy and Requesting CART.