Making Life Easier
So, you’ve just recently lost your hearing as an adult who’s spent all their time in a hearing world. Now what?
As I mentioned before, nobody came forth with a list of sources for me when I visited the doctor. It’s really been up to me to do the research and found out what I can do to make my life easier, to make communication less difficult and to keep myself safe.
When I realized my hearing loss was permanent, the first thing I did was turn to the internet. It’s been a lot easier this time around than when I lost my hearing the first time (in 1993) because of the ease of accessing information online. Back then, I was on Prodigy and it was mostly bulletin boards. You really didn’t go to various websites on the internet the way we do now. I had a lot of support from my friends on Prodigy’s bulletin boards but if I really needed information, I went to the library.
The first thing I checked out this time around was a TTY. A while back, 6 months or more, a friend of mine mentioned that she used a CapTel phone. I had never heard of it so I did a search online and found out that ITAC (Illinois Telecommunications Access Corp.) offers them for free to Illinois residents that submit an application and a certification from a doctor or audiologist that you are hearing impaired. This was all new to me! We planned to get a CapTel phone since Dave had the same trouble that I did on the phone. As I mentioned before, though, we just never got around to having an audiologist fill out the certification form. I went back to the ITAC website and saw that they also offered TTY’s. Since I can’t hear myself talking, which is really weird for me, and since I’m a fast typist, I decided I’d prefer to get a TTY. I brought the papers with to my first doctor’s appointment, got them filled out and mailed them that same day when I got home.
Within a week we received a brand new TTY direct from the manufacturer. It’s sitting here right next to the phone right now. The only thing is, we haven’t figured out how receive a phone call with it yet! My mom tried calling through the relay service but Raven answered the phone and had no idea what to do. The TTY is hooked up to a phone line but we have our regular phone hooked up as well because the kids are using it. We’ve used the TTY with the relay service to call family members, and that’s worked perfectly. We’re still getting used to the protocol and still trying to figure out how it all works. It came with a manual but the manual assumes you already know the basics of TTY usage.
The relay service is also something I just discovered. Dial 711 and you reach the relay service, and it’s free – how cool is that? I told my mom about it and that’s how she managed to call us the one time. As far as I can tell, if that happens again we just place the receiver on the TTY and turn the TTY on. We were confused because the TTY is hooked up to a phone line so we assumed the calls would just come directly in to the TTY!
A couple of days later, we received a telephone signaler in the mail (from a different company). I was a little baffled but realized from the paperwork included that it was part of the TTY package. It was so unexpected that I almost started crying – what a really nice thing for them to do. We debated where to put the signaler, which would flash a light when the phone rang. There are no lamps near any of our telephones, just overhead lights. We didn’t want to put it in the bedroom because we’re only in there at night to sleep, and flashing lights do not wake me up. Dave ended up rigging a little lamp by using a light bulb and a fuschia-colored hurricane lamp we were using as a candle holder. It’s situated above our desks and is visible from the kitchen, dining room and living room. It’s unbelievable how much light it gives off when it’s flashing! In fact, this morning I was in the kitchen with my back turned, doing dishes, when I saw the light reflecting in the oven door next to me. I turned around, checked the caller ID on the phone and saw that the call came from my son’s friend’s house.
Which brings me to the next helpful accommodation: text messaging. Since we both hate the telephone so much, we were very late to jump on the cell phone bandwagon. We got a pay-as-you-go phone from Virgin Mobile a couple of years ago and just never used it. It was for emergencies only – to use if our car broke down or if we got in an accident. We could barely hear on it with our hearing aids.
This past week, Dave has been exploring cell phones for text messaging, as well as things like the UbiDuo and Interpretype. Unfortunately, those last two are well out of our budget right now. Dave was playing around with our phone’s text message function and realized how truly difficult it was to type something with it. We ended up upgrading our phone to the kind with a little keypad, which makes typing a text message 100% easier. It’s also rated M4 and T3 and Dave has a much easier time hearing on this phone with his hearing aid. (The phone is a Kyocera Wild Card and we’ve been really happy with it.)
I also found out that I can send and receive text messages via the internet, so this morning I sent my son a text message from Virgin Mobile’s website. He texted back to my email address to let me know he was ready to be picked up from his friend’s. We moved our communication to the cell phones after that and I was able to tell him to wait for me outside, and then go pick him up.
I’ve also used the online relay service in the past, which is a really wonderful free service. I know they have an online CapTel relay service now as well, but we haven’t had a chance to try that yet (it’s something that would be really helpful for Dave).
My alarm clock situation hasn’t changed. Back in 1993 I got an alarm clock with a bed shaker, because I slept without my hearing aids and no matter how loud the alarm was, I didn’t hear it. (Plus, I didn’t want the alarm so loud that it would wake my kids up!) You can also have your lamp flash but as I said earlier, I just don’t wake up from a flashing lamp. The alarm itself also flashes a red light but I never even noticed that until one morning when I woke up before the alarm went off – that was the first time I ever realized the alarm had a light that flashed as well as shaking the bed.
As for the doorbell, we still have yet to buy anything for that. Right now I’m relying on Toby, our dog, to alert me. He barks whenever anybody walks by, but if somebody is at the door, he goes to the head of the stairs and barks like crazy. He’s also my smoke alarm alert for the moment – if the smoke alarm goes off, he goes crazy and comes right up to me, jumping on me and barking until I turn it off.
I would like to get an alert system for both of those things but I’m trying to find something affordable that will work for me. The smoke alarm thing has me puzzled because I would need an alert from any area of the house, not just the area where the smoke alarm is. So far all the fancy alert systems are hundreds of dollars and way too expensive for our budget.
The Illinois Assistive Technology Program has a loan program where you can request certain items and try them out free for four weeks. I submitted an application for a doorbell alert so if I like the one that they send, I’ll feel confident that it’s worth the money when I buy it.
As far as bad weather goes – and we do get a lot of tornado warnings here, as well as blizzards and severe thunderstorms – I’ve been using email alerts from the National Weather Service for the past year or so. Dave and I can’t hear the tornado sirens that our village uses, although if the kids are home they can usually hear them and will tell us. Since I’m online all the time for the candle business, I get the emergency emails quick enough to take cover if we need to.
We also get emails from the Emergency Email Network regarding Homeland Security and other national alerts.
Another kind of weird thing I discovered helps me is to touch the person who’s talking to me. Of course, I don’t do this with anyone other than my immediate family (!) but if I place my hand on Dave’s shoulder, near his neck, or on his neck itself, the vibrations I feel when he’s talking make it much, much easier to lip read and figure out what he’s saying. Raven actually gave me this idea because she mentioned that when she’s listening to music with headphones on and talking to somebody, she touches her throat to get an idea of how loud she’s talking. (This came up in a conversation when I was explaining that I have no idea how loud I’m talking – if I’m shouting or not. She suggested this and it really does help.)
That’s not really an object that accommodates me, but it sure is helpful!
Since we have a lot of animals – a dog and 5 cats — I find myself watching them for clues too. One of our cats, Sugar, is white and partially deaf. I can relate to him even more now, and I really understand why they told us (when we adopted him) that he has to live with one or more cats that have full hearing. Watching their reactions helps him react to things in his environment. I find myself using more hand movements with Sugar now. He’s the most interactive of all our cats – he really watches us and is very expressive…now I can understand better why he does that. Anyway, if I see the animals gathering around the head of the stairs, looking at the front door, I know somebody’s there. If they all turn and look in one direction, I look too (and usually somebody’s approaching). Sadly, I don’t react to the can opener the way they do. 🙂