Emily M. DeArdo

writer

hearing loss

Seven Quick Takes--The First Draft Exists!

7 Quick Takes, Catholic 101, current projects, hearing loss, Seven Quick Takes, writingEmily DeArdo2 Comments
seven quick takes.jpg

Linking up with Kelly!

I.

The FIRST DRAFT EXISTS!

Yay!

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When I first got the contract information, the fact that Ave Maria wanted a first draft by June 1 was daunting to some people I talked to. “Can you do it in two months?”

HELL YES I CAN.

II.

Why was I so confident?

Because I have journalism training. And political training.

And when you have both of those, you learn to write quickly, on ridiculous deadlines.

Deadlines? WHAT DEADLINES.

So, thank you to Professor Kelly Messinger in college for all the Chimes Wednesday nights where we ate Chipotle and wrote into the wee hours! And edited! And wrote! And edited!

III.

Now, that doesn’t mean it’s always easy, because sometimes….


But then I apply my Maxim: You cannot edit a blank page.

Get anything on the page. Anything. Let it sit there and then come back later and edit it. You never know what can happen.

Chapter 10, for example? WENT OFF THE RAILS. I had no idea where I was going with that one, and we went somewhere I had not anticipated. But there it is!

(It might not stay the way it is. LOL.)

IV.

Speaking of writing—my ebook, Catholic 101, is now $5!

That’s it. Five bucks, y’all.

Go get it!


V.

I also promise to have the Denver travel posts up next week. This week was just nuts, with getting the first draft done….oh, and getting a new CI processor!!!!!!!

VI.

So, if you want more on the CI, you can visit my series here. Basically I was glad to have hearing, but the processor I had had shortcomings. I couldn’t use the phone.

Now….I might be able to use the phone! I mean, what?!

I can listen to my voicemails and understand them!

So far, this new processor is a game changer.


VII.

Oh, one more thing about the draft—a question I’ve been getting a lot is, “Well, didn’t you have to write the book before you submitted it?”

Short answer: No. Most places, for non-fiction, want a proposal, with a chapter sample, but not the whole book. I’ll talk more about the parts of the process later (especially in my newsletter!). But, no. I had to write the book to the proposal specs.




Listen Up! (For World Hearing Day)

essays, health, hearing lossEmily DeArdoComment
(c) Wikipedia

(c) Wikipedia

World Hearing Day was yesterday, and so I thought I’d put up links to the post I wrote last year, about my CI and how it works and ways people can make hearing better for everyone!

So if you missed them the first time:

Part I: How I lost my hearing

Part II: How the Cochlear Implant Works

Part III: Living with a CI

Part IV: Accommodations, i.e., the post that you should read even if you don’t read any of the others!


I am (hopefully!) getting my CI upgraded in the next few months. The current processor I have has been “obsoleted”, meaning that if it breaks, Cochlear (the company who makes my processor) won’t fix it, they won’t sell any more replacement parts for it, etc. Now, they do this, in part, so that insurance companies will pay for new processors, because if it can’t be fixed anymore, then, yeah. Probably need an upgrade. This one should be better and allow me to hear more, but I have no idea until I get it. :) I do know that it will have bluetooth capability so it can stream my iPhone sound directly into my processor, and this might be a big thing. We’ll see what happens and I’ll let you know!

And thinking about my CI is timely because of a conversation I had in a lung transplant group on facebook. We were talking about the toxicity of a certain class of meds, and that they are crazy hard on the body. Some people were adamant that they would never take a drug in that class.

But here’s the thing—all meds are toxic at some point. They just are. Tylenol is! I knew that the ototoxic drugs were destroying my hearing. But I decided I’d rather be alive, than dead with great hearing. It’s about choices. And sometimes, yes, you just have to cut out a class of drugs. The meds I took over the fall for a sinus infection have pretty much messed up my right knee permanently. I’m not really happy about that. But you know, I like being alive, I like that we managed to stop the infection without it 1) getting into my lungs and 2) requiring the big guns of IV meds and /or hospitalization.

It’s a trade off.



"Even crazy people like to be asked"

essays, health, hearing lossEmily DeArdo1 Comment

Another thing that’s connected to depression is hearing loss.

Yup. Not making that up.

A study by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) shows that more than 11 percent of those with hearing loss also had depression, as opposed to only 5 percent in the general population. Depression was most prevalent in those between the ages of 18 and 69.

“We found a significant association between hearing impairment and moderate to severe depression," said Dr. Chuan-Ming Li, a researcher at NIDCD and the author of the study. The study does not confirm the nature of the cause-and-effect of the connection.

 And this is very true. If people don’t include you in conversation, if they ignore your needs, then that is very frustrating and adds to depression, because you feel worthless and ignored. It doesn’t matter if people are really ignoring you or not--it’s the perception that’s important here. Depression isn’t logical.

 So if you have friends and family members who are hard or hearing or Deaf, please include them. Please ensure that they get what they need and help them with conversations. We’re not being difficult, really. We just want to know what’s going on! It’s exceedingly frustrating.

Imagine that you’re sitting at a table full of people--friends, family--and everyone is talking and happy around you. Now, imagine that, instead of hearing what they’re saying, you hear Charlie Brown’s teacher’s voice. Or screeching cats. That’s what it’s like. It’s noise.

Now imagine if you ask people what’s being discussed and people ignore your request for information. How would you feel?

You would feel very frustrated and very small. At least that’s how I feel.

Chronic illness, in general, has links to depression.

“Current research suggests that he relationship between depression and other medical illness is bidirectional. Depression increases a person’s risk for developing of number of medical illnesses and also worsens the prognosis of those medical illnesses; medical illnesses put a patient at higher risk of developing depression.” (The Catholic Guide to Depression, page 29)

So, if you have a friend or family member with chronic illnesses and depression, it is really helpful to include them--to be inclusive--but it’s a fine line when it comes to helping.

The person has to be open to wanting help, yours or someone else’s. Check ins, for me, are appreciated--ensuring that I’m taking care of myself as well as I can (getting enough food and sleep), reminding me to clear the decks if at all possible. Listening can be very useful. There really isn’t much that can be said in regards to things family and friends can do, which is frustrating, I know. Essentially, being there, checking in, and ensuring inclusion are always helpful. (For me. That doesn't mean that I won't get irritated--like, what, do they think I'm five and I can't handle things myself? But I know your intentions are good!) There are things people can do--bringing food, or helping with chores. I'm single, which means that it's easy for me to get alone time, but it also means that I am responsible for everything in my house. I don't have a spouse who can help me take care of the day to day things that still happen when you're sick or otherwise out of commission. 

There’s a scene in the movie The Hours which sums up the concept of asking beautifully. Virginia Woolf, having been sent to “the country” for her health (Virginia struggled with many mental illnesses), is sitting with her sister, Vanessa, in the garden of Asham House, Virginia’s home. Vanessa is talking about a party she had, to which Virginia had not been invited, and Virginia has asked why she wasn't invited. 

“Are you not forbidden to come? Do the doctors not forbid it?” Vanessa asks.

Virginia looks at her sister for a moment. “Even crazy people like to be asked.”

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Sound and Silence Part IV: Accommodations

hearing loss, healthEmily DeArdoComment

Last Saturday was World Hearing Day, so I showed a few shots of my Bionic Ear on instagram. Some people were shocked to see I had one! So I decided it was time to do a little updated series here about why I have one, how I got it, how I like it, and what life is like with one. Here are the previous parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

This is the meat and potatoes post. 

First, let's acknowledge that deaf and hard-of-hearing people are often not accommodated. Curb cuts are put in at corners, even when there are no sidewalks. Braille on signs is ubiquitous. (although I know blind people often need things they don't get--like audible crossing alerts!) But captioning has to be fought for. The ADA doesn't require TV stations to caption things unless they get federal funding, for example. 

So the first thing people like me need to do is ASK. And that's hard, I know. But we need to be more comfortable about saying, I'm sorry, I'm hearing impaired. I need accommodation. If we're not asking, we're definitely not going to get! 

With that in mind, knowing what we know now, how can we, as individuals and society, accommodate or adapt what we do for people with hearing loss? 

Here are a few suggestions. Some are for people, some are for institutions. 

1. Be patient. I talked about this in the last installment, but please repeat yourself if you're asked to. Don't get angry. Also, you don't necessarily need to talk louder. Sometimes you need to be clearer. As in, speak slower, enunciate, look at me. Don't hide your mouth! It doesn't necessarily have to be over the top. It might take some adjusting. But please be patient. 

2. Provide alternate means of contact. If you run a church or volunteer organization, for example, don't just provide a phone number. Provide an email address. If you just provide a phone number, I can't contact you, and then I can't help out. Say if texting is acceptable, too! (This last tip is for older people, who might have landlines only. Tell me if it's a cell number. If it is, then I'll try texting.) 

(And a note: I can leave messages on voice mails. That's because I know to leave a message at the beep or when the voice stops. That's different than trying to talk to a person. Does that make sense?) 

3. Provide a chat interface. This is mostly for businesses. If you only provide a phone number, I am screwed. And don't say, "Oh well we have a TTY!" I don't have a TTY.  It's $250-600 for a TTY. Also, TTY use in general is declining as people have email and text. Folks. Come into the 21st century. Provide a chat interface on your website! (It's like how cars had tape players in them well into the early 2000s. Huh? A tape player? What?) Chat interface, the ability to place requests on a website (like AAA!), customer service email, apps....it's a wonderful new world of technology. Use it. Please. Look, if Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, The Disney Store, AAA, and just about every other e-commerce site can provide a chat interface, you can too, government people! 

And do not tell me that it's not secure to do it any way but over the phone! I email my transplant nurses all the time for stuff--we're sending highly "private" health information over email. My bank has chat. I send sensitive financial information over chat! Come on! Don't tell me that the retirement agency or SSDI or whatever can't do the same thing. You can. You're lazy. That's what it comes down to. You. Are. Lazy.  Don't be lazy. 

Let me illustrate what happens when you are lazy, companies and agencies: 

It means that I have to ask my parents to translate the conversation for us. It means that I have to fill out paperwork saying that yes, my parents are decent people and aren't going to lie to you about me. It means that I can't communicate with you on my own. It means that we have to set up times for me and a parent to talk to you, so that we can get something done. This means that my dad has to leave work early, or work from home, or leave for work late, so that he can help me here, or that my mom has to rearrange her day. It is a HUGE inconvenience to everyone. 

If you provide chat interface, then we have none of these problems. It's all easy. And simple. And, dare I say, secure. (My dad is an IT professional. He deals with this stuff all the time. He knows. He can tell you the whole "It's not secure" argument is crap.) 

4. Provide transcripts or closed captioning. If you're doing an online course, please provide captions or a transcript of what you're saying. 

Video is tough. The sound isn't great, a lot of the time. The best way for me to understand someone, in general, is for me to "learn" your voice, and the easiest way to do that is to read captions while you talk. (Obviously, this is not in a real life scenario. :-p In real life, the more I listen to you, the more I learn your voice, your cadences, your vocabulary, and that helps me understand you better.)  But until you get to that point--caption videos, or provide transcripts. 

Also, video companies? Caption ALL THE THINGS. Don't just caption the movie. I like to watch the special features! And it should be illegal to release a video in the U.S. that doesn't have captioning. I mean, come on. TVs do have captioning--most of them. Some older ones don't. But that doesn't mean that they automatically caption videos or TV shows. They do not! 

TV and movie folk: please caption your shows and your channels. Some of you don't. That means I can't watch you. Fix that, please. 

5. Turn the captions on! If you're in charge of a waiting room, please turn the captions on the TV. It is so annoying to hear just mindless sound. Imagine a jackhammer going off around you constantly. That's what it sounds like. Or a baby crying. It's just NOISE. With captions, it's not noise anymore!

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In the same vein: 

Movie theaters: Provide captioning devices. Please. I like the movies too! (Marcus Cinemas does, for every movie. It's a godsend. So thankful they're my local chain!) 

Airports: Provide a messaging board at all gates and in the concourses, so people can see updates. Provide a transcript of the safety talk. Really be aware of your hearing-impaired passengers and make sure they get the information they need. Write it down if you have to! It's no good for me to tell you I'm hearing impaired, and then you look at me like I have lobsters crawling out of my ears. 

6. Put in a telecoil system. This is mostly for churches and other gathering places where people are using microphones. Telecoil systems are great! 

Sign indicating my church has a hearing loop installed. This means I can understand the homilies! Yay! 

Sign indicating my church has a hearing loop installed. This means I can understand the homilies! Yay! 

7. Use microphones There are few things in the world that irritate me more than people who do not use microphones, when a microphone is easily available. Do not do the crappy, "oh, the acoustics are fine." THEY ARE NOT. You are being silly and denying people the ability to hear and understand you. Especially if the place has a telecoil system installed, use the microphones! Otherwise the telecoil system is no good! 

If we're in a place that's echo-y, like a big meeting room or something, and you don't use a microphone, I'm lost. Most people do not know how to project. After a few minutes, I get very irritated and cranky because I have to work so hard to understand you. And if you do this continually I will stop coming to these events, because I will get irritated and angry, and sad, because I cannot hear and understand. And sadly, this seems to happen a lot with church stuff. So....yeah. I might be a leeeeetle annoyed about this. 

Also, face out. Show me your face! If I can see your mouth, that helps. (See the last entry, which talked about lip reading)

If you don't have hearing problems, I want you to imagine being surrounded by a swarm of bees and trying to listen through that. Or being underwater, and trying to hear someone speaking above you. Now imagine that happening for an hour, two hours, three hours....you'll start to get some idea of what it's like to try to hear and understand people in this situation. It's mumblemumblemumblemumble. How long would you want to put up with that? Not long, I'd wager. 

8. In design, think about acoustics. Places where there are metal floors, metal ceilings, metal everything? That's terrible. There is nothing to absorb the sound. It's one big sound magnifier. The ADA requires places to have wheelchair ramps and access*. Do the same thing for the hard of hearing. Think about it. It might not be "trendy", but you'll make me a lot happier. Have some carpet. Have some wood. Have things that absorb sound and don't make it so loud. (in the same vein--braille menus, y'all. Come on. Large print, too!) 

9. Be understanding. It can be hard to have to work at hearing. Because really, it's work. When I've been in a group of people for a long time, I have to work hard to understand people, what's happening around me, etc. So if I say, hey, I gotta go, or I'm going to bed, don't be all "but it's EARLY!" Or whatever. My brain is very, very tired. I probably have a big headache. Just let me go. :) 

10. Inclusion. We talked about this before. But if you're in a group with a hard of hearing person, make sure to include him in the conversation. If I ask you what's being said, please tell me. Don't ignore my request. It makes me angry. I love to talk. If I'm just sitting there, not talking, chances are it's because I have no idea what's happening and no one's cluing me in. This. Is. Sad. Please don't do that. :) That doesn't mean that you have to be all over me every five seconds. But do make an effort to talk to me! Because otherwise, SADNESS!

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I think I've covered everything...is there anything else you want to know? Drop it in the combox and I'll answer!

* Doesn't mean they do it well....see my series on the ADA about this. 

Sound and Silence Part III: Living with the CI

hearing loss, healthEmily DeArdoComment

Last Saturday was World Hearing Day, so I showed a few shots of my Bionic Ear on instagram. Some people were shocked to see I had one! So I decided it was time to do a little updated series here about why I have one, how I got it, how I like it, and what life is like with one. You can read the other parts here: Part I, Part II. 

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So let's talk about my day-to-day CI experience (and a little bit about accommodations, at the end, but we'll talk more about that tomorrow.). 

There are times I don't wear my CI: 

  • When I'm sleeping (although I can--it's just not really comfortable. But when I'm in the hospital, I do.) 
  • When I'm swimming * 
  • When I ride certain rides (roller coasters? It comes off. I really don't want to have to look for it later...) 

There are also times when my head just hurts. Keep in mind--there's a magnet in bone. That's going to hurt sometimes. On those days, I have to take the CI off and I'm deaf for most of the day. It's not fun, but it's not terrible. It's inconvenient. 

I do have to keep the hair there cut short, or the magnet has trouble connecting. I don't shave it, but I do cut it reaaaallly close. 

Currently I'm having issues with the magnet. The outside processor doesn't always like to attach correctly so there are times when it will shift and I'll have to move it in place to get it to work again. That's irritating, but it should stop when I get a new processor. 

That's a fun process, by the way, because insurance companies don't like to pay for new processors. The one I currently have will be declared obsolete next year, and then insurance companies will have to pay for an upgrade, because my current one can't be fixed anymore, and there won't be parts made for it anymore. But until then, they won't. Well, they will. We'll just have to fight them on it. (Here's a trick, guys: Never assume that insurance won't pay for something. Don't just pay the bill. ARGUE WITH THEM!)

Why insurance companies do not pay for hearing aids, or CI upgrades, is beyond my understanding. It's so ridiculous. Hearing is just as important as sight, but hearing gets shafted. (Part IV is going to be all about accommodations. So more on that then!) For example, insurance will pay for an entire evaluation and surgery and a processor for my right ear, but they won't pay for an upgrade for my left ear. Which is cheaper? Which is better for everyone? And which will the insurance company pay for? Yeah. sigh. 

Cochlear implants cost about $5,000. Now, the first one is covered. If you have surgery, then the surgery, the implant, the processor--all that's covered. But upgrades aren't. About every five years or so, you can try and I've had luck with insurance paying then. This year is my five year mark for my current processor. So we will either try this year, to get a new one, or try next year, when it's more likely we won't have to argue as much! 

Think about cell phone or computer updates. Every time there's an upgrade, it's better, right? CIs are the same way. The one I have now is much better than my first one. There are not just cosmetic things (i.e., it's smaller) that are "better", but also in terms of power, of programming, of what it can do. So it's not like upgrading to be "cool". It really is a substantial difference, usually. 

The batteries are around $200-250 each. At some point they stop holding a charge and you have to replace them. I currently have three, but one is cracked so I don't use it on a daily basis. It's an emergency battery. The two I have I rotate, so they'll last longer. 

There are other parts, like microphone covers, and ear hooks, and things like that, that have to be paid for. You get some of these things when you upgrade, or get your processor, but often I have to buy more. 

In general, my CI is great. But like I said in the last installment, I can't use the phone. Everyone sounds like Charlie Brown's teacher. (That goes for people like my parents, too. I should know their voices better than any other--and I do--but I can't call them on the phone. That should tell you how terrible my hearing is on the phone.) 

I do rely on lip reading, a little bit. But not many words are lip-readable. I think around 10% of English words are uniquely identifiable in lip reading. Go talk to yourself in front of the mirror and notice how many words look similar. Really, for me, lip reading helps in context. But on an airplane? Forget it. There's way too much noise for me to understand what the flight attendant is saying, even if she's leaning right over me. I can guess that it's time for beverage orders because she'll  have the little pad out. :) Flying is sort of rough, when you're hearing impaired. **

FaceTime is a godsend. That's really the only way I can use the phone. Do I have a cell phone? Yes. :) But I don't use it as a phone, most often. I FaceTime people, and I text. And I did take ASL in high school, just for fun--God prompting, there....

In restaurants, I want to sit against a wall, or in an area where there won't be sound coming from behind me. I'll generally adjust my CI settings, but I try to make as "optimal" an arrangement as possible for me, to help out. If you're walking on my right side and talking to me, I'm not going to hear you as well as I could. 

The other thing about the CI is that there's a little bit of a lag...a few seconds. So sometimes I'll ask someone to repeat something, and then I'll understand what they said, because my brain has caught up. 

Also, please folks--repeat what you said. Don't say you said "nothing." You clearly said something. Don't huff and puff if I ask you to repeat yourself. If you do that, then guess what? I don't ask you anymore. And then things get worse. And then people say, well, why didn't you ask for the person to repeat it? BECAUSE PEOPLE GET ANGRY. So please, do not roll your eyes or sigh or be like, why aren't you listening. I am. Believe me. 

It is very, very, very irritating to be left out of conversations. A lot of the time, especially in large groups, I don't know what's going on if people don't keep me in the loop. So, please do that. Tell me what we're talking about. Include me. Imagine you're at a table with people and everyone is talking around you. It's not fun. It makes you not want to do things! So please include people. 

My CI is much better than my hearing aids ever were. But there are still things I can't do, and there are still accommodations I need to make. It's not magic. It's awesome, and I'm glad I have it. But it's not perfect. I'm underlining that point so people really understand that. 

*There are things I could do to swim with the CI--there's a waterproof cover, for example. I just don't. But I could get one of those. 

**Flight attendants are just part of it. The safety thing? I can't understand that speech at all. Everything the pilot says? No idea. And we won't even TALK about how airports don't always have message boards, so I can miss important announcements about flight gates being changed, etc. If my friend Mary hadn't been with me for our California adventure, I probably would've missed my flight home, because they changed the gate! It is TERRIBLE. Fortunately airports let you take a "support person" back, so I have people wait with me before I board. I can--and have--flown alone. It's just stressful because I have to be on constant alert for any changes. 

 

Sound and Silence Part II: The Cochlear Implant

health, hearing lossEmily DeArdoComment

Last Saturday was World Hearing Day, so I showed a few shots of my Bionic Ear on instagram. Some people were shocked to see I had one! So I decided it was time to do a little updated series here about why I have one, how I got it, how I like it, and what life is like with one. Here's part one. 

So, what the heck is a CI, and how does it work?

CI inside.jpg

I'm going to keep this really basic. I'm not an audiologist and I don't play one on TV.  But this handy chart should help. You see the external bit, but yes, there are things in my head other than my brain. There's the magnet, to hold the processor on, and there's the wire that goes into the cochlea. Remember that the reason my hearing sucks is because my hair cells are dead. The hair cells live in the cochlea. So the wire replaces them, in a sense. The wire has an "array"--I think mine has 24--of sound things. I know that's super technical. I forget the real name. But there are24 different entries on that wire that can be individually fine-tuned. (More about that later) So instead of hundreds of hair cells...I have 24 electrode arrays. Now, it's better than nothing! But I note this to illustrate that CIs are not perfect replacements for real hearing. 

I had my surgery in May of 2008. Post transplant I had a lot to deal with--I had a skin graft surgery that November, and then we had to try hearing aids first, and then I had to get myself to agree to having a CI, and so with all that, it was a long-ish process to actually getting one. 

The one great thing is that I was "post-lingual"--meaning, I knew how to talk. (Boy howdy, can I talk.) If you have had severe hearing loss for a long time, or if you're a baby getting one, then there's hearing therapy involved. Even now, there are sounds I hear and it takes  me a minute to figure out what it is. (While writing this, with my CI on, I heard a crazy loud, scary noise. What is that?! It took me a few seconds, but I figured it out--crows.) Everyone knows the person who is hard of hearing who speaks loudly because she can't hear herself. I can hear myself. I'm just loud. (There are times when I can't hear myself as well--when I have the telecoil on, for example, so in church.) 

My ENT is fabulous. I've had him for years--he works a lot with CF folk, and more and more CF folk are having CIs put in. (ENTs also do all our sinus work. We have a lot of sinus work...I am lucky in that area. My sinuses tend to behave.) If you're in the central Ohio area, Dr. Willett, Ohio ENT is my guy and I adore him.  

So the day of surgery was just like any other surgery. Port accessed. Ready to rock and roll. You stay over night, of course, because people are putting things in your head! My audiologist, who is also at Ohio ENT, actually stimulated the CI during surgery to make sure it "worked" and that it had been put in correctly. That's a key part of the process, because I didn't get to attach the processor for a month, due to healing. You don't want to attach the processor and have it not work! 

For 21-30 days, your head heals. I wore my hearing aids, and waited for activation day. This is the day you see when those videos are posted to Facebook or YouTube where a kid or someone hears for the first time. Mine was not that dramatic. But instantly, small sounds came back--the sound of the turn signal, typing, things like that. 

(When your hearing goes, it's usually the upper registers that go first--high notes, high voices, likes kids and women. And fainter sounds, like turn signals, things beeping, etc.) 

My audiologist then programmed the CI. You can have up to four programs. Again, I don't want to get super technical, but I have all four slots on my CI filled with programs. There's a tiny button on the processor that I hit to cycle through them. The first is my "normal" program. That allows sound in from all sides, and is good all-purpose. The second is focused on who is directly in front of me, and cuts out side noise and background noise to an extent. This is good for  noisy places and restaurants. I have another program that focuses this even more. The fourth program is a richer program that's generally for music, but I can use it as an everyday program, too--you get a wider range of sounds and frequencies. 

There is also the telecoil. This cuts out all sound except what you hear through the telecoil system, which lets in whatever's coming in through a microphone.* This is what I use in church, and it's amazing. It's like someone is speaking distinctly and clearly into my ear. You are also, supposedly, able to use this for the phone. That is not my experience. (More on that later.) Of course the issue with the telecoil is that the other person has to have the microphone on, or the system is useless. (It does work for lecterns, too, or stand microphones.) 

Now, I have one implant. I don't have one in my right ear, because I want that 20% of real hearing that I have. When a CI is implanted, it removes any residual hearing you have left. I am truly deaf in my left ear without it. But I don't wear my CI all the time, so I need some residual hearing. This allows me to hear my alarm clock and other loud noises. There are also times when the batteries will inexplicably die. (This happened a lot with my first processor, not so much with my current one.) The 20% also helps out my CI, in a sense. It gives me some sense of directionality--where a sound is coming from, although not a lot. When I'm swimming, I can hear loud things. If I know your voice REALLY well--meaning, you're my parent or my best friend or my sibling--then I can decipher what you're saying, sometimes, with just my right ear. 

I use rechargeable batteries in my CI. I have three of them, and I rotate them. They get put in and can last about 15-24 hours on a full charge. I tend to not put my implant in early in the morning, because I sort of like the silence. But that's changing as I switch my workout routine to being in the morning. I need to hear the video. 

I'm using "hear" here, but what I really mean is "understand". I can hear lots of things. That doesn't mean I understand them, or process them. For example, I heard the crazy bird sounds this morning, but I had no idea what it was. 

Also--and I'll talk about this more in the next piece--but everyone's CI experience is very different. Rush Limbaugh has a CI, and he said he can't learn new music. I can, because, as we saw, I was very musically inclined and my ears had been trained that way. My brain still knows that language, in a sense. I work hard to learn new music. Instrumental music is difficult because it all sounds like noise, at first. But I can learn new songs and new vocal pieces with the CI--I just have to approach it differently. Some people with a CI can use phone adaptation stuff. I can't. I don't know why. But more on that next. 

*The telecoil can be "mixed"--basically, you can determine how much sound you want to get through the telecoil. Mine is 100%, when it's turned on. But you can do 50/50, 75/25, 90/10....whatever. 

Sound and Silence Part I: How I Lost My Hearing

hearing loss, healthEmily DeArdoComment

Saturday was World Hearing Day, so I showed a few shots of my Bionic Ear on instagram. Some people were shocked to see I had one! So I decided it was time to do a little updated series here about why I have one, how I got it, how I like it, and what life is like with one. 

I was born with normal hearing. 

Actually, I was born with really great hearing. My mom used to get irritated because I'd hear her whispering things to dad in the next room and yell, hey, I want to hear about that! 

As a singer, and a musician, your hearing is important. Obviously. A lot of my voice lessons involved listening. Intervals, pitch-matching, etc; all of that is a huge part of the musical art. 

In college, people started to notice that I wasn't hearing them when they were talking to me. Now, some of that was just that I tend to get really absorbed in things--a book, something I'm writing. But people would call my name, and I wouldn't answer. 

I went to the audiologist at Nationwide Children's, and I did have some hearing loss. Not a lot, and probably not enough for hearing aids to help. But it was showing up on the hearing tests. OK. I just shrugged and went on with my life. 

In between 2003-2005 (pre-transplant), I was on a lot of drugs. Hard core, IV meds, in order to keep me alive and breathing. Some of these were ototoxic--meaning they killed the hair cells in my ears, the hairs that conduct sound to the cochlea. Without these hair cells, you don't hear. 

how hearing works.jpg

(Here's a brief explanation: 

When you are exposed to loud music or noise, it is your hair cells which are damaged. Hearing loss occurs because loud sounds are really just large pressure waves (like when you stand next to a subwoofer and can "feel" the bass). These large pressure waves bend the stereocilia too far, sometimes to the point where they are damaged. This kills the hair cell. Since cochlear hair cells can not grow back, this manifests as a permanent hearing loss.) 

In my case, it wasn't loud noises. It was the medication. Once hair cells are gone, they do not grow back. They are gone forever. 

And the more I used these drugs, the more hair cells died, in both ears. 

By the time of my transplant, my hearing had gotten worse, and we were starting to think about hearing aids. I was fitted with my first pair soon after transplant. Hearing aids are not covered by insurance. I needed the most powerful kind, the behind-the-ear hearing aids, and they were fit to my ear shape. 

They were also a pain in the butt. 

Hearing aids just magnify sound. It's like turning up the volume on everything. But it's everything. It's not discriminate. Things like pages turning were incredibly loud. In a crowded room, I couldn't focus on one sound. Everything came in, all the time. 

The other problem is that hearing aids break. The outer ear part would separate from the part that went in my ear. I was constantly trying to put them back together with tape! 

In 2007-2008, I got sick again--and more ototoxic meds. Now the hearing aids weren't really helping at all. It was time to think about cochlear implants. 

I didn't like this idea. One, I didn't like the idea of a magnet in my head. I didn't like that it would take any residual hearing away from the ear that had the CI. I didn't like the idea of surgery and weirdness. 

But eventually it got to the point where it hurt to hear. The organ at church was painful. Listening to people was awful. I didn't like to go to crowded places. I couldn't go to the movies, and I love the movies. 

That's when we decided it was time for a CI. 

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A cochlear implant is vastly different than a hearing aid. A hearing aid, as I said above, just amplifies sound. A CI helps my brain decipher and understand the sound. It directly stimulates the auditory nerve, so they bypass all my damaged equipment and go right to the source. 

I had to have some tests done: you can't have a CI unless you have a certain amount of hearing loss. You need to have moderate to profound loss to qualify for it. Insurance does pay for a CI and the surgery.* I had a CT scan and MRI** on my head, to make sure they could implant the magnet, as well as  more hearing tests, to determine the extent of my hearing loss, and also, which ear would receive the implant (I didn't get bilateral CIs. More on that next.). My right ear has slightly more hearing than the left, so the left ear was the "winner", and has the CI. 

Surgery was scheduled for May of 2008. 

In the next installment, I'll talk about surgery, recovery, and how the CI works. 

More about insurance coverage in the upcoming installments. 

**Last MRI ever, because, with a magnet in my head, they're contraindicated from here on out. Yay! 

 

 

 

Invisible Disabilities and the Workforce

CF, health, hearing loss, politics, essaysEmily DeArdoComment
Fun medical equipment from the 1980s....

Fun medical equipment from the 1980s....

Take a look at the picture of me on the sidebar. (If you're reading this in email, click through.) 

What do you see?

I'm not asking for an assessment of my physical attractiveness, or lack thereof. But if you just looked at that picture,  you would think, yes. She looks like a pretty typical 30ish woman.

This is what you'd be missing: 

*You can't see my cochlear implant, tucked behind my left ear. I don't wear any hearing devices in my right ear, and there's only about 20% natural hearing left there. 

*The scar on my forehead? You can see that, but you probably don't know it's from a skin cancer removal. You also can't see the bald patch on the back of my head, from another one. Skin cancer is 10x more common in post-transplant people, because of our immunosuppression. It's not because I'm fair. (And I'm religious about sun protection, anyway). 

*You can't see that I've got about 52% lung function--which for me is good. That's great! But for normal people, if it's lower than 70%, there's probably an issue. For me, 70% is a dream I will never see again, after hitting it in 1997. So imagine working without one lung. That's me all the time--and that's GREAT. I LOVE IT! 

*You can't see the burn on my right arm, which is left over from transplant surgery. Third degree burn. Skin graft. It's rendered my right arm usable--thank God I still have it!--but it doesn't have complete function like it used to. (Knitting probably helps, though, in making it stronger.) The skin is very, very delicate. It tears easily. So I can't do a lot of manual labor with this arm--and this is my dominant arm. If you were looking at me, you'd notice, but you wouldn't have all that information. 

*Oh, and I'm anemic. I always have been. Part of the paleness. :) But that affects my stamina, too. I'm used to it, now, but there are times when I need red meat and sleep--Moreso than the average bear.

 

I'm telling you all this because invisible disabilities have been in the news lately, as a part of the new Medicaid standards the administration is considering. I look pretty "able bodied", but I'm not--as any physical exam would show. I can't use a telephone--I use FaceTime, but not a real phone. If you call me, I can't understand you. You will sound like Charlie Brown's teacher. Being immunocompromised means if I get sick, there could be a hospital stay in my future. You get the flu, you stay home. I get the flu, I can end up in the hospital. I need to be more circumspect about where I go, especially during flu season. And honestly, I need to take care of my body. That means giving it enough sleep, among other things.  

So, looking at me, you can't see these issues. But they're there. And when you compare me to an average 35 year old woman, it becomes apparent. Invisible disabilities are real. Ask anyone who has arthritis, for example. Or diabetes. Or epilepsy (which I had as a kid). They're not to be taken lightly. Just because someone looks able-bodied, doesn't mean she is able-bodied. 

As a society, we need to be cognizant of that. I'm not making policy suggestions, here, but we need to be aware that there are serious disabilities that people cannot see, and that can impact ability to work. For example, I look fine. But you don't want me to be your receptionist, or ask me to carry heavy things or fix machinery on a regular (or even semi-regular) basis. And of course, I see many more doctors than average people. I see my transplant doctor every four months--I see my ENT every four months. I see my dermatologist very frequently, and I have days where I'm out having Mohs surgery, or having things removed--that takes time. I can have surgeries scheduled at the drop of a hat. Any employers who hires me needs to be aware of those things, and needs to be flexible about them. If they're not, then I'm in trouble. And my employer won't be happy, no matter how great my work is, or how intelligent I am. Without that understanding and flexibility, a job will be hard for both of us. 

I want to provide this as food for thought, when you read about invisible disabilities, or work requirements. It's not wanting to work--it's things that make working difficult, for both employer and employee. 

*

Having said that, though, I don't think a person with a disability or a chronic illness should automatically go the SSDI/Medicaid route. Here's why. 

I think that being "normal", as much as you can, is good for self-image, self-esteem, and general mental health. I know that one of my biggest drivers growing up was that I was not going to be babied. I was going to be normal. That meant, doing my homework. Going to school. Taking exams. Etc. If I needed accommodation, I asked for it, but it was low-key. I finished high school. I went to college. And after college, I got a job. 

I knew that I would need a job with good insurance. So yes, if you have medical issues, that means you have to consider jobs with good benefits. It doesn't mean you can go off and join a non-profit that doesn't provide good medical coverage, OK? You have to be reasonable and logical. I wrote more about this here

I do not think it is a good idea for people with CF to sit around at home and bewail their state. First off, that would have driven me insane. Really. When I had to be home for four months post-transplant, after about month three, I was going stir-crazy. I have to have things to do. 

But--there comes a time, when yes, you can't work anymore. This happened with my friend Sage. When she was listed for transplant, she had to leave her job and apply for SSDI. That does happen. It's part of life. But I don't think--and we talked about this often, so I know we agreed here--that she wouldn't wanted to sit at home, either. 

Maybe you do. OK. But my feeling is, if you can contribute, contribute. BUT that requires having an employer that is flexible and that is willing to work with you. And I had that--until I didn't. Once that goes away, then life can get very difficult, and then it might be time for SSDI/Medicaid/whatever. If that time comes, then go for it. That's when people on the government side need to realize that we might look pretty able-bodied. But we're not. 

And also, when it comes to the Medicaid/SSDI system, a lot of the time, they're not talking disability like I have a disability. They're talking about worker's comp sort of stuff. Like, back problems. Problems with limbs, or standing for eight hours, and movement. The system isn't really designed for people who have chronic issues that aren't movement/skeletally based.  That is frustrating, because what I have is what I have. I'm never going to get my hearing back. My lung function may go a little higher, but this is pretty much as good as it gets. I'm never going to get better skin on my skin graft. So the government side of this needs to realize that some disabilities don't get better. They might stay stable--or they might radically get worse--but "better" is not going to happen.  

I know that before I had to deal with all this, I had no idea that any of this was true. So I think it's worth it to share these thoughts with people, so you can realize that when government talks about "disability", there are levels, and there are degrees. 

 

Seven Quick Takes No. 127

7 Quick Takes, drawing, family, travel, Jeopardy, hearing lossEmily DeArdo3 Comments

I.

In case you missed it: Thirty Days of Beauty continued this week. It was really all I wrote this week, since I was in Houston visiting my sister, and didn't bring the laptop with me. So go enjoy those posts. :) 

I will be updating my Houston Postcard next week with the places I did this trip, so it will be more Comprehensive for all you Houston-bound people!

II.

When I was in Houston I did a lot of sketching, including making a point of taking my supplies to the beach at Galveston. I knew that the paint would dry faster in the heat, but I wasn't prepared for how much faster. Still, I'm pretty happy with what I managed to get. 

III. 

If you follow me on Instagram, you are aware that my sister has a cat. Bella is a pretty sweet kitty, who flicks her tail whenever you say her name, and likes to try to get extra kibble out of the automatic feeder. (My sister is a nurse who works night shift, so automatic feeding for Bella is a good thing!) She discovered that by moving her paw under the slot, she could get extra kibble to drop down. Sometimes. Never having lived with a cat, I was hugely amused by her behavior. 

IV. 

There were FOUR bookstores visited on this trip, guys. FOUR. One of them, yes, was a Barnes and Noble, and I wasn't there for very long, but still. FOUR! 

Brazos, of course. I introduced Melanie to its beautiful-ness. Small but mighty. 

We checked out Galveston Bookshop--didn't buy anything, though. It looked like it might be a decent place to prowl around and look for books. It's mostly used books, with some new, and they have an excellent collection of books about Galveston and Texas, if that's your thing. They also have a shop cat!

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The last shop we visited was Murder By the Book, which was excellent. It's a lot more than mystery novels (at first I was like, mystery novels are not my thing), but I had a lot of fun here. More about this guy later. 

V. 

This chocolate cake, people. THIS CHOCOLATE CAKE: 

Does it remind you of this scene in Matilda, or what?!

It reminded me of that. :) And Mel and I love Matilda. So extra bonus points. 

And no. I did not eat that entire piece. Do I look crazy? But it was magically delicious. 

VI.

One of the things that I'm terrible at vis-a-vis traveling is unpacking. My suitcase sits in the main room and is gradually unpacked over a series of days. The longer the trip, the longer it takes to sort everything out! 

VII. 

And finally....

 I wrote a piece for the Cochlear Website about my Jeopardy! experience. You can read it here

It went up on Tuesday when I was in Texas so I didn't have time to write about it. :) But here you go! 

Government Incompetence

hearing lossEmily DeArdoComment

(I know, it's Monday, and that means Catholic 101. But y'all are going to get that tomorrow, because I'm using this space to vent a bit. Sorry.)

As we know, I have a cochlear implant. As you may or may not know, everyone who has one has varying degrees of success with it. Some of it is how hard you work at it (like I do with music). Some of it is just....well....blah. 

Like the phone. The phone is hard. If I need to make phone calls, I usually need someone like my parents to relay information to me, so I can answer and understand what the person on the other end wants. 

Some places have excellent chat capabilities, and I don't have to do this. My bank, for example (Telhio Credit Union, giving you a shout-out here!). I can do things without other people helping me, or having to drive to a bank branch to deal with things that other people could do over the phone. Even things like roadside assistance are being done via apps, so you don't have to call. You can just hit buttons and voila! Your flat tire gets changed! 

But then there are places that are ridiculous. One of them is in the realm of state government (which, as longtime readers know, used to be my place of employment). 

The state says it wants to keep its employees information secure. That's a nice thing, right? We want our information to be secure in this age of scams and identity theft. 

But the problem is, if you're deaf, you're screwed. If you have a hearing impairment, you're screwed. Why? Because the State of Ohio doesn't offer a chat window on their DAS or Public Employee Retirement System site. You have to call. 

If you can't make a phone call, you have to physically drive down to the building to reset the password. Let me tell you how ridiculous this is: If you live in, say, Cleveland, which is three hours from Columbus, you have to drive to Columbus to reset your password for the website access, if you can't use the phone. No, I'm not kidding. I cannot have someone else relay the questions to me, and I answer. That's not "secure" enough. Nope, you have to do it in person. 

I'm in my thirties. It's a fifteen minute drive for me to the retirement system headquarters. But what if I was, say, seventy? Or older? 

And in case you're saying, well just remember you password, Emily, the site is stupid. If you try to reset it over email, they will send you a temporary password--which will not work. I just did this. I know. They send you a password that doesn't work? What is that about? Fortunately, my dad, when he called the system, got a nice person who told him the "real" password reset password (real meaning the one that works) and I was able to reset my password without any problem. 

But see, Dad had to call. Someone else had to do it. And some people are not nice, like this person was. 

I wrote awhile back about the Americans with Disabilities Act and how it doesn't really help hard of hearing/Deaf people.  This is just another example of things that people don't think about. In the name of "security," they make life much harder than it has to be for those of us who can't use the phone.