Rain Delay

Here on the East Coast, Memorial Day weekend was rained out. Not only rained out but chilled out. I am currently in western Massachusetts, where the temperature hovered at 45 or lower and the rain was incessant. I worried about my newly planted vegetables. Frozen eggplant?

But it was also kind of a relief. The governors of both New York State and Massachusetts had just announced that the shutdown was over. We could see friends and family, go to parties, barbecues, pools, the beach.

Apologies in advance to the person sitting on my left. There’s no way I”ll hear you. Maybe I’ll catch a few words from the person on the right. The green centerpiece will make hearing across the table impossible.

I’m vaccinated, doubly. I feel safe in a small group of friends. But do I feel comfortable?

No. As I wrote a few weeks ago (The Return of Social Anxiety), the end of the shutdown means a return to in-person life, in the real world. I’d been invited to a few small Memorial Day weekend gatherings, and I was looking forward to them. But I was also deeply relieved when they were canceled because of the weather.

The previous weekend, during a heat wave, I went to a birthday celebration for an old friend. There were nine of us around an outdoor table. The house was beautiful, the hosts were gracious, the food was delicious, and I was glad to be there to celebrate my friend’s birthday.

But I couldn’t hear. I was open about it. I used the captioning app Otter.ai. (If I had had an Android phone, I’d have used Google Live Transcribe.) I practiced mindful listening (see Learn How to Listen). I corralled a friend to be my interpreter. Thank you D. But I left feeling a little sad.

These were good friends, kind, helpful friends who did their best for me. I was younger than most of them but also deafer than all.

What a conundrum. I want to be invited. I want to see old friends and meet new friends and eat nice food and feel part of life. But it’s so hard.

I am privileged. I only have hearing loss. I can see (with glasses), I can walk (if sometimes unsteadily). I can taste (though spicy food makes my mouth hurt and dairy products make me sick). I have my garden, my friends, my children, my dog. I lost my husband last year, but we had time to prepare, and for me to move forward.

The only thing I lack – and have not come to terms with — is my hearing.

Thanks to technology, I even have way more of that – my hearing – than I would have just a generation ago. I’m not an old lady sitting in the corner with an ear trumpet. I’m still me. I’m still here.

But as I think of my new life, emerging from the Covid cocoon, I know I need to strategize about this reentry. Figure out what’s worth it and what’s not, and how to make the best of it.

Seeing my friends is worth it, even if I have to follow up with them individually the next day to ask what it was we were talking about.

Seeing my family is worth it, even if I have to constantly interrupt and say “What?” — or, my preference, “What are we talking about?” If I miss a name, I’ll interrupt and say, “Who?” and then if I still don’t get it, “Spell it for me.”

What’s not worth it? For me, going to a restaurant is not worth it. I can never follow conversations and I also have to monitor the food to make sure it doesn’t include dairy.

Going to the movies is not worth it. Juggling the cup-holder caption device, or wearing the glasses on top of my own glasses, returning the device if it’s incorrectly programmed. I’ll watch at home, thank you, with captions.

Parties. It’s fun to dress up, so I might go. But I won’t stay long because it isn’t fun to spend an evening befuddled.

Public meetings. Yes, if there is CART captioning. No, if there isn’t.

Religious services. Maybe, if there’s CART. No if there isn’t. But even if there is CART I still won’t hear the music properly.

Weddings and funerals. Yes, but. Under some circumstances I might ask for CART. Under others – the wedding is being held in an area where there aren’t CART providers – I’d go anyway. I might use my iPhone captions, but most people regard pulling out your smart phone at a wedding or funeral to be outrageously rude. It’s hard to explain what you’re doing, especially to people sitting some distance from you.

Graduations. Yes. Most schools and universities are way ahead in terms of providing access. Contact the institution’s disability coordinator.

Live sports events. Yes. Hearing doesn’t really matter.

There’s my list of wills and won’ts. I’m interested in readers’ thoughts. Please comment!

My fellow blogger Shari Eberts just posted on essentially the same topic. I guess it’s on a lot of our minds. Hers is How Will a Post-Pandemic World Look to People with Hearing Loss.

37 thoughts on “Rain Delay

  1. I share your sadness about parties with friends. I’m looking forward to them but also expecting not to hear much. Even dinner parties in my home, where 6 people is an ideal number, it’s too much for me. Sometimes I stick to 4 for better chances. But for the lesser things there could be induction loops.

    I am surprised that you didn’t mention induction loops. Many churches have them and more should. If live theaters had them a world of art would open up. (I’m not sure about how they could work in movie theaters.) Someone told me that in Sarasota they have loops built into the tables at at least one restaurant. (Presumably the tables are set apart from each other.) Also devices that link with CI and HA telecoils are increasingly used in audios in museums.

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  2. I almost added as a NO those travel tours where the group leader passes out ipods with foam earpieces for people to use while the leader proceeds to walk ahead pointing his or her umbrella to the sights. I wrote to Shari for suggestions to improve my experience and stated that my hearing is so poor even with a cochlear implant in one ear and a hearing aid in the other, that I still need captions. My temporary fix is to hold the foam earpiece to the microphone end of my Android smartphone and turn on Live Transcribe. The captions aren’t that bad and I get a sense of what the guide is talking about. I have been keeping an eye out for new technology that will resolve this difficulty. So for now this experience is still a YES.

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    • I went on a Road Scholar trip and let them know about my hearing loss ahead of time. During the travel, for lectures i asked the lecturer to wear my Roger Pen mic and while touring various sites in Egypt, where we went, all I had to do was turn on my tele-coil and place the ear phones close to my ear and it was wonderful.

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      • Dorothy and Jerry, thank you very much for your insights. I too have a Roger Pen and and its corresponding neckloop. My HA however isn’t compatible with this system. I use an Artone B neckloop with the telecoils in both CI and HA, and while I do hear sound, my speech discrimination is very poor. After a year of working with a Johns Hopkins auditory therapist, I was able to improve my speech discrimination only a little, and it declined rapidly once I left her quiet office. It is believed that since I was born with a profound hearing loss (prelingual deafness), I did not learn to hear and understand speech at an early age as most children do, and therefore never taught my brain to “hear.” I do pretty well with reading lips if the speaker is not wearing a mask or sporting a thick beard. The Artone B neckloop and subtitles/captions serve me well when watching a streamed movie. But I still need a captioning solution for when I join those wonderful overseas travel groups. Lita

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      • Thanks for your comments, Lita, and your description of how you cope and where you can’t cope. Hearing loss is varied and complicated.

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      • Katherine, I was sorry to hear that you lost your husband. I remember reading about him in one of your books. My condolences.

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    • Consider Road Scholar for travel. I traveled with them 18 months ago and they have the possibility of connecting to their “guide speaker” system via telecoil. I was able to receive the audio from the leader directly into my hearing aids. I could stand at the back of the group, if desired, and hear better than anyone!! Be sure to discuss this with a staff person before making a commitment.

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    • Have you tried using a remote microphone that works with your hearing aids? I use the connectclip mic that works with my Oticon HA. I have used it successfully with many tour guides. They are always glad to wear it for me.

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      • Yes, I love the Connect Clip. I also have an Oticon HA. But I have an Advanced Bionics cochlear implant in the other ear and have never bothered to try to coordinate them. For the past 40+ years since my hearing first started to go, I’ve always heard predominantly with my right ear. That’s the Oticon ear. It doesn’t strike me as compromised or marginal. When I’m not on remote mic, my hearing aid and C.I. work together quite well.

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  3. Dorothy, thank you for mentioning hearing loops. As a member of HAA’s Get in the Hearing Loop advocacy team, I know many houses of worship have installed loops to restore the ability of worshippers to again hear sermons and music.

    Lita, as a fellow traveler on group tours (pre-pandemic and hopefully again soon), I share your frustration. What has helped enormously is a microphone that I give to the leader to wear that transmits pretty clear sound direct to my hearing devices. Ask your audiologist if your brand of HA has such an accessory, Most all do.

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  4. Thanks, Katherine! You and Shari covered all the areas that remain problematic as the world reopens.
    I attend a lot of captioned classes on line, including exercise and art classes. I hope that continues
    because the ability to see the teachers close up, follow their instructions and read the captions makes my life
    1000% easier. Deciding how much I want to attend events will depend on how much I want to be there and
    how much I may be physically at risk.

    To all travelers, ask for on line captions like Otter.

    Onward!

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    • I agree about captions, although I was not able to figure out exercise classes online. I do Pilates and that is mostly done in positions where you can’t also watch a screen. In person, I use my remote mic and it’s great. I love your middle name!

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      • The new Bluetooth processors enable one to stream sound wirelessly from a laptop, I would think that helps with online exercise classes.

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      • First, for some reason I have never been able to stream bluetooth from my MacBook Air. But second, it’s not the hearing that’s the problem, it’s the seeing. I can stream from my phone and hear fine, but if I want to actually see I have to stop what I’m doing, pick up the phone, and look at that teeny tiny screen. I’m vaccinated, the teacher is vaccinated, my classmates are vaccinated, the studio is big and airy. We all wear masks.

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  5. First, for some reason I have never been able to stream bluetooth from my MacBook Air. But second, it’s not the hearing that’s the problem, it’s the seeing. I can stream from my phone and hear fine, but if I want to actually see I have to stop what I’m doing, pick up the phone, and look at that teeny tiny screen. I’m vaccinated, the teacher is vaccinated, my classmates are vaccinated, the studio is big and airy. We all wear masks.

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  6. i read your blog and i liked it. i was able to relate to your feelings. Sorry to hear that you lost your husband i didn’t know that. i understand what you are going through. Diane

    Sent from my iPhone 12

    >

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  7. Thanks for the heartfelt discussion that so many of us agree with but don’t have anyone else to share these thoughts with. I still work and have LOVED being able to attend our rather large Board Meetings through Zoom and finally be able to hear and understand everyone (headphones on Zoom or TEAMS). I don’t know what I am going to do now. Half the Board wants to return to face to face meetings. Half want to remain remote, for ease of travel (in LA) and to cut down on the horrible commute times. So while I am NOT looking forward to meetings back “in person”, if they HAVE to be, I’m looking forward to the day when the masks are gone. That is my biggest concern. Back in business “live” but still wearing masks so we can’t lip read! What a nightmare!
    I wear Resound Lynx HA’s that bluetooth into my iphone I do not have a Roger pen, but when I get new HA’s (mine are about 6 years old) I will inquire. I think the Roger Pen was fairly new when I bought my HA’s. Otter is great if the mic in the phone is close enough to the source, otherwise I have found it less than understandable. What is a Hearing Loop? Is it a way to dial the sound directly to my HA’s? That has been so successful for me in hearing on the phone, unless of course the ambient noise on the other side is bad..
    In general I am such a FAKE when it comes to social gatherings. It does make me sad. I laugh when I see others laugh. I inappropriately answer sometimes when I thought I understood the conversation. It does make me want to shrink back in a corner and hide.
    BUT WHY???? We are so blessed to have our eyes. If I have to have a disability, I’ll take the hearing loss any day, over loss of my eyesight, or loss of my ability to walk, drive a car, work, etc. Read “Locked In” by Victoria Arlen if you want to feel better about your life and feel like we have much to be thankful for. We can do this!!! We can get back into the mainstream and not let this disablity get the best of us. Is it ideal, NO! But we could have so many other problems than just being deaf!
    WE CAN DO THIS!!!!
    HUGS of confidence to you all!

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    • I wear ReSounds, also, and their Multi-Mic performs the same functions as a Roger Pen (clips on to lapel of the speaker and sends sound directly to your ears). I’ve used it extensively, with success and pleasure. Cheaper than Roger Pen, too!!!

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    • Kathryn, This made me laugh. We’re ALL fakes socially, even when we hold our Roger Pens right up to someone’s mouth at a cocktail party. I was never very successful with the Roger. It’s easier for me to read lips than to try to hear a voice in a crowded room. Also, mine was maybe a lemon, but there was always something not working out of the four parts (receiver/transmitter/two power cords) and of course I couldn’t tell what wasn’t working. The two technologies that work consistently well for me are room hearing loops and my clip on mini-mike.

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      • I agree, Katherine.The Roger Pen can be sketchy. And friends don’t always want to wear them around their necks. One friend agreed and then proceeded to touch her hand on her chest dramatically to emphasize her remarks, moving the “pen.” Now she gladly wears the mini-mic when we go for walks, and my spouse uses the mic when we go shopping and play golf.

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  8. Thanks for this, Katherine, I’m glad I’m not the only one who is looking forward to re-entry with mixed feelings.
    I’m wondering which category you’d put college reunions in? I didn’t go to my college 50th and now I regret it. I just assumed it would be impossible and I couldn’t get my best friend from college to go with me. I would have had to go alone, but I could have contacted the reunion committee beforehand and asked what kind of accommodations they had. After all, at a 50th reunion I surely wouldn’t be the only one with that problem. But, alas, it’s too late. It might have been quite difficult or impossible but now I’ll never know.

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    • Interesting question Betty. I did go to my 50th reunion, in 2019. I asked the college for accommodations and they were great. They installed a couple of loops in the lecture halls so I was able to hear the talks that were part of reunion. Another good part was that everyone wore name tags the whole time, so I knew who I was talking to. But it was still hard. There are many social gatherings at a reunion and I didn’t manage very well at any of them. I have a close friend in the class and she helped me a lot, and in fact everyone was kind and tried to include me. I’d given a talk about hearing loss at our 45th (just when Shouting Won’t Help was published) so people knew about me. I’m glad I went. But I was also glad when it was over.

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  9. Thanks for this, Katherine. It’s helpful to read over the innermost thoughts of someone knowledgeable who has our challenges. . . . .

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  10. To Kathryn Ford — You asked what’s a hearing loop? It’s the best assistive listening system for large areas and has been for years. You only need a telecoil in your hearing aid to tune in to sound where loops have been properly installed.

    I suggest you read up a bit on loops on HLAA’s website, hearingloss.org.

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    • Thanks Jerry. For those who don’t have a telecoil in your hearing aid, you can always wear a neck loop (confusing terminology — just something around your neck) to get the same effect. But it’s far easier to just flip the switch on your hearing aid.

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