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Washington State News for Hard of Hearing People

The official newsletter for Puget Sound District Umbrella of Self Help for Hard of Hearing People (SHHH)

Volume 5 Issue 4
Summer 1998

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SHHH and You

Six times a year National SHHH publishes a Journal called HEARING LOSS. Current members of National already received an issue in March and will receive another in May. The March/April issue announced the SHHH annual convention, which will be held in Boston June 12-15.

It is not too late to register for the convention. It will be your chance to visit and talk with the many vendors exhibiting their products. The planned programs are excellent, but half the excitement is being with hundreds of other people that fully understand what it is like to have a hearing loss.

In addition, the March/April Journal covered "Guidelines Approved for Section 255 of the Telecommunication Act" as well as "Digital Hearing Aids: You Asked The Questions And We Found The Answers."

These are just a few of the outstanding articles National publishes in issue after issue. If you are not a member of National SHHH, you are missing information that might be of real benefit to you. You do not need to be a member of National SHHH to receive the Washington State Newsletter, but the National Journal goes in depth where this newsletter just skims the surface.

SHHH National membership dues are $25 per year for individuals, $30 for two people at the same address, and $35 for families.

Make checks payable to SHHH National and send to:

SHHH Membership Desk
7910 Woodmont Ave. #1200
Bethesda, MD 20814

If you prefer, you can send your National membership request to the Umbrella (See address on page 8) and we will forward it to National for you.

Coordinator's Comments
By Gordon L. Nystedt

This issue will complete our fifth year of publication. We have covered many subjects, and most of our articles came from our reader's suggestions. If you have a topic you would like to see covered, let us know.

What do you like about this newsletter? How can we improve our product? If you are low income, do you know how to obtain an amplified telephone from the state at no cost to you? Are you aware that you are allowed by law, a minimum of 30 days from the time you purchase your hearing aids, to return them and get your money back (except for 10 percent or $125 whichever is less)?

While we have talked about hearing aids, amplified telephones, assistive devices, etc., we have never fully discussed the needs of hard of hearing children. In this issue we feature the National SHHH position paper on the needs of these children and how they differ from those of deaf children. We also cover the testing of newborns and what is being accomplished in Washington State in this regard.

Some of our adult readers have been hard of hearing all of their lives. As children, they knew the difficulty of being mainstreamed in a hearing society without the use of assistive devices or cochlear implants. Today there exist wonderful new technology that can make life easier for these children.

Write to us and tell us about your favorite hearing aid, assistive device or amplified phone. We have had many inquiries concerning cellular telephones. If you have one that works well with your hearing aid, please let us know. To contact us, see address on page 8.

Beyond Hearing Aids
Using Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs)


Hearing aids are only the beginning in helping us to hear and understand better. There are many devices on the market that can make communication easier, when used in conjunction with your hearing aids.

A good hearing aid should have a strong "T" coil (telephone switch). A "T" coil is just as important to the moderate hearing loss as it is to the severe, and has many more uses than just the telephone. Audio-loop systems are available in many areas, like airline counters, banks, etc., especially in foreign countries, so that by using your "T" switch, you can reduce the surrounding background noise and better understand the person talking or making the announcement.

Amplified telephones, Pocket Talkers, infrared and FM systems, are just a few of the devices that make communication easier. Have you been to the opera or the theater and need help? Do you attend church and have difficulty understanding the service? Does your church have an FM or infrared system? Do you go to the movies? Have you asked these places if they have assistive devices available for you to use? Do you have trouble waking to an alarm clock without your hearing aid? Have you tried a flashing or vibrating alarm? Check with your audiologist about devices available to help you.

The Hearing, Speech & Deafness Center in Seattle has a store by the same name as the title of this article, "Beyond Hearing Aids." You can go there and try all these different devices.

If you live in Bellevue, you can try equipment located in the store of the Certified Audiology & Hearing Aid Center.


National SHHH Policy Statement on Educating
   Hard of Hearing Children In Regular Schools

SHHH views the sense of hearing as a human birthright, one that should be valued and exploited as fully as possible regardless of what system a person employs as a primary communication mode. By definition, hard of hearing children possess usable residual hearing and, with appropriate auditory management, are capable of employing audition as their primary channel for perceiving and developing an auditory-based language system. Because of this capability, their educational needs will differ from children who are educationally or functionally deaf, those whose primary communication mode is visually based. Because both groups of children have impaired hearing, it has been, and still is, common practice to routinely combine deaf and hard of hearing children within the same class, offering all of them the same basic educational program and requiring all of them to communicate primarily through a visual mode. There is a major problem with this practice, conceptually and practically.

From a conceptual point of view, hard of hearing children generally have much more in common with normally hearing children than they do with deaf children. Like normally hearing children, hard of hearing children developed their auditory-verbal skills (however aberrant) primarily through audition. Deaf children, on the other hand, acquired their communication skills primarily through the visual channel. By combining both groups in a single educational setting, and exposing both to similar educational practices, the effect is a de-emphasis of the auditory potential of hard of hearing children. In this group, we include children who are the recipients of cochlear implants who have the capability to function as hard of hearing, given an appropriate auditory-based therapeutic and educational program.

The major practical implication in making this distinction is that for hard of hearing children education can proceed most efficiently through the "ear" (which then carries over to reading, given the heavy dependence of English orthography on the sounds of the language), while for deaf children, education must be primarily visually-based. Certainly, both groups of children deserve the best kind of education we can provide them. However, educating hard of hearing children with and like deaf children results in a heavy emphasis on the visual channel, in conflict with their need to have audition and oral communication emphasized throughout the entire educational process. The use and emphasis of audition can best be accomplished in a regular educational setting, where hard of hearing children cannot only benefit from the conversational models provided by their normally hearing classmates, but where they are also exposed to the same high academic expectations as their classmates.

It is the position of SHHH that most hard of hearing children can, and should be, educated in regular, as opposed to special, educational settings. We emphasize "most", since educational decisions should be made, for any child in any group, on the basis of the individual child's needs and not by some categorical, often arbitrary, grouping imposed upon a child. We do know that all hard of hearing children require appropriate auditory management. This would encompass any step taken to ensure maximum use of their residual hearing, such as the careful selection and supervision of various kinds of amplification devices (hearing aids, personal and FM sound-field systems, etc.) and the optimization of the acoustical environment in the classroom.

This latter requirement is particularly important for hard of hearing children since it would assist them in hearing the questions and comments made by their hearing classmates. Other supplemental services such as speech/language therapy and academic tutoring must be provided when required. Given appropriate support services - and these should be written into a child's individual educational plan (IEP) - the vast majority of hard of hearing children are fully capable of performing at grade level while fitting in psychosocially with their normally hearing peers. In other words, placement in a regular classroom should be considered as the first option for a hard of hearing child, to be modified only as necessitated by specific circumstances (i.e. parental preferences, the child's performance, etc.).

Hearing Screening Program For Newborns
By Ben Gilbert & Lona Jennings, Tacoma

Initial steps are underway in both the United States Congress and the Washington State Legislature that would clear the way for the testing of all newborns in this state. Throughout the country, seven states have already taken steps to put this program into effect.

Congress is looking at a bill, HR 2923, that would provide states money to help set up these newborn hearing screening programs. The measure also authorizes money for the Center for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health to assist this program with research.

At the Washington state level, our House of Representatives approved a resolution (shown below) that stresses "the importance and need for universal hearing tests for all infants within the first three months." Because the resolution was adopted on the last day of the session, the state Senate did not consider it. We look for further action by the state legislature next year. Meanwhile, the state Health Department has been asked to develop a specific program to encourage hospitals to provide universal screening of newborns. At present screening is done when doctors find a particular medical need for it. A recent breakthrough has simplified administration of the hearing test and reduced costs to about $25 for each child.

The need for this measure was brought to the attention of State Representative Steve Conway from Tacoma's 29th District by SHHH members Lona Jennings and Ben Gilbert. National SHHH is developing a program to pursue universal testing on a nationwide scale. The program includes education of the SHHH membership and monitoring of Congressional actions. In February the Tacoma SHHH chapter passed a resolution endorsing universal newborn hearing screening. Nationally, it also is supported by organizations of professional audiologists, a number of physicians and the Alexander Graham Bell Association.

Universal screening is important because of the role infant hearing plays in language and speech development. A National Institutes of Health consensus statement pointed out that the first three years of life are generally regarded as vital in language and speech development. Because of late identification, many hearing impaired infants and young children lose much of this crucial early period. Hearing impairment should be recognized as early in life as possible, the statement said. Following is the resolution passed by the House:

WHEREAS, The National Institutes of Health Consensus Development conference on early identification of hearing impairment has convened to express the need in the United States for the early identification of hearing impairment in infants and young children; and

WHEREAS, They have shown that approximately one of every one thousand children is born deaf and many more with significant, yet less severe, degrees of hearing impairment; and

WHEREAS, The conference findings clearly show that reduced hearing acuity during infancy and early childhood interferes with the development of speech and verbal language skills and can have harmful effects on social, emotional, cognitive, and academic development as well as a person's vocational and economic potential; and

WHEREAS, The National Institutes of Health Consensus is in general agreement that hearing impairment should be recognized as early as possible, so that the remediation process can take full advantage of the plasticity of the developing sensory systems and so that the child can enjoy normal social development; and

WHEREAS, Leading health care professionals now recommend that universal screening be implemented for all infants within the first three months of life as an important adjunct to child health care;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives recognize the efforts of the National Institutes of Health Consensus Development conference on early identification to stress the importance and need for universal hearing tests for all infants within the first three months; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That copies of this resolution be immediately transmitted by the Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives to the National Institutes of Health Consensus Development conference on early identification of hearing impairment.

I hereby certify this to be a true and correct copy of Resolution 4745 adopted by the House of Representatives March 12, 1998. Timothy A. Martin, Chief Clerk

Captioning at the Movies
 By Elizabeth Ralston, Seattle

How often have you gone to see a movie and wished it were captioned? A new type of technology is now being experimented in theaters all over the United States. It is called the "Rear Window Captioning" system (RWC).

I experienced this technology in December when I went to see "Titanic" in a Los Angeles theater. I was quite excited about seeing it, not only because the subject was so fascinating-it was my first experience seeing a closed captioned movie in the theater. The captions are different from open captions or subtitles on foreign films, because they are visible only to the people who use the reflector panel.

When I got inside the theater, I realized I had to obtain the system from the theater personnel. I went back to the ticket office and asked the person what I needed to do. He motioned me around to the back of the office and emerged with a very simple device. It was a transparent reflector panel attached to a gooseneck arm, which is easily adjustable. The panel is about 12 inches by 3 inches and it functions very much like a car's rear view mirror (hence the name of the system, "rear window captioning".)

When I got to my seat, I placed it in the soft drink holder, where it fit quite snugly. I adjusted the panel so that I could see the test captions ("Welcome to Rear Window Captioning") which were located behind me, in the rear of the theater, up high on the wall. I also moved the panel so that the captions appeared at the bottom of the movie screen.

As "Titanic" began, I eagerly awaited the first captions to come on my reflector panel. Suddenly, the man next to me decided he wanted to get some popcorn and I had to swivel the device towards me, so that it would not be in his way as he moved through the row. I was easily able to readjust it again.

Soon there were words appearing on my panel and I realized that someone off the movie screen was speaking (a voice-over). It struck me then, how much dialogue I usually missed from going to movies without these captions. It was really an incredible feeling, to sit there and watch this movie and being able to understand everything that was happening.

Have you experienced this type of technology? Would you like to see it in the theaters? I would like to get this system set up in movie theaters. But I need your help in this effort! You can help by writing a letter of support and sending it to me at the address below. In your letter, please indicate:

  • Your interest in this technology being used in Seattle's theaters (if you have used it and liked it, please describe your experience with it)
  • How it would benefit you and others
  • Please send letters to: Elizabeth Ralston 650 NW 84th Street, Seattle, WA 98117. You can contact me by email: or at 206-706-7607 (TTY)

    Thank you for your support!



    Penny Allen, Assistant SHHH Coordinator, Washington State

    Every year in March I look forward to attending Sewing Expo at the Puyallup Fairgrounds. It's a time to renew acquaintances, visit the fabric vendors, and (the best part) attend the seminars. Top names in the fashion industry come from around the nation to share information and impart inspiration.

    Knowing I would have difficulty understanding, I took my FM system along with me this year. As in previous years, the seminars were held in a building with a great expanse of cement and high ceilings. Curtains separated the rooms, so there was "bleed through" from adjacent rooms, as well as the hallway.

    I arrived for the first seminar a half-hour early, only to find fifty exuberant women in line ahead of me. Once in the room, the best seat I could get was three rows back from the speaker, who was already quite a distance from the front row because she stood on a small stage. I pulled out my FM system and approached her. I explained to her about my hearing loss and my use of an FM system. She eyed the transmitter and lapel mic suspiciously, all the while trying to figure out what to do with the components of her own amplification equipment. Then she told me not to worry-I 'd hear just fine because she was using a P.A. system. I explained that it would still be difficult for me, even with the P.A. "Don 't you worry, honey," she said. "I may look like a wimp, but I have a loud voice." Well, so much for explanations! I took my seat and understood most of what she said-except when she turned her back to me.

    On to the next seminar-there was a fifteen-minute room change. I raced down the hall to get in line, and once again found fifty exuberant women ahead of me. Finding myself situated three rows back, I approached the speaker, who was grappling with all the electrical paraphernalia she had to don. Her multi-layered "designer original" covered any hope of an exposed waistband on which to clip my transmitter. She wasn 't about to add another thing. Groaning in defeat, I took my seat, realizing that an ample woman in her "designer original", in the seat in front of me, had dashed away any chance to lip read.

    After this I found one of the ushers to help me. She directed me to a front row seat and continued to reserve my seat for each seminar. My special treatment didn 't go unnoticed. One woman, looking me over as I sat down, said, out of the corner of her mouth, "Well, you look OK to me." "I am OK," I said. "I just don 't hear well," pointing to my hearing aids." "Oh my dear," she exclaimed with concern, "don 't you sign?" "No," I said, with a serious look, "do you?" "Well, no," she said thoughtfully, "but I should think someone would be able to sign for people like you. They should have an interpreter here." "But I don 't sign," I protested. "Well," she said, "don 't worry, dear. I 'll fill you in." And she did-every single word-for the next forty-five minutes!

    After the seminar, the woman to my left tapped me on the shoulder and shyly pointed to her hearing aid, "People keep telling me I should learn to sign too. But, well.... I don 't know...I just don 't have the time to take lessons."

    These situations, though humorous and frustrating, are very typical of the knowledge most people have about hearing loss. And it doesn 't happen just with strangers. Sometimes people I 've know for some time will stun me by telling me that they want to learn signing so they can communicate with me!

    One of the things I 've been very interested in is ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) implementation. I am a member of the ADA Transition Committee for Kitsap County, and am glad of it. When I joined the Committee, none of the members understood that hard of hearing people have different needs than the Deaf. They talked about being in compliance because TTYs are installed in the County buildings, so I pointed out that they were sorely lacking amplified phones. They talked about funding only for Interpreters, until I explained that we needed to be thinking also about Assistive Listening Devices. Today the County committed to making all phones amplified and purchasing Assistive Listening Systems for the courthouse, as well as the adjacent community center. I asked to have input in the upcoming training of County employees, in order to be certain that they understand the difference between the needs of hard of hearing people and the needs of the Deaf. It pleased me that the Committee welcomed-even encouraged-my input.

    To the general community, including lawmakers, educators, and people who work with the public, Deaf and Hard-of Hearing are the same thing. With patience, persistence, and assertiveness, each of us who is hard of hearing can change that perception and create a greater awareness of our needs.

    Readers Have Their Say

    Cochlear Implants

    Anonymous Reader in Tacoma Writes:

    "Thank you for your nice letter of last November and the information about a cochlear implant. But I think at 85 years I am a little too far along for something like that."

    [Editor's note: There is no one too old to get help with their hearing loss. In many cases, the proper fitted hearing aid, along with assistive devices, can give you help. But if your loss is beyond getting benefit with hearing aids, then you do need to look at the cochlear implant. No one is too old! Check with an implant center and get the help you need! If you would like to received a newsletter with the experiences of those who have the implant, write to the address on page 8 and it will be sent to you. Don 't let anyone tell you that there is nothing you can do about your hearing loss without seeking a second opinion. Communication is far too important in all of our lives to be led to believe that nothing can be done.]

    Infrared in Theatres By Ben Gilbert, Tacoma

    The latest newsletter was full of good stuff as always. I liked the personal story; the digital hearing explanation was lucid, and the readers letters all indicated a caring and involved bunch of guys and gals. (Is it still guys and gals or has guys become generic?) I would like more information from Amelia Schultz of Seattle (Solving the ALD's problem). What ALD did she buy, and if possible, where and for how much? I do not understand what kind of connection the Audiologist made for her. I have been struggling with the best infrared for theater use and have found the ones provided by Paramount (with an ear plug for a neck loop) do much better than the personal ones I have. Am thinking about purchasing a Sennheiser, but if there is a better one on the market, I want to know about it.

    Sylvia Demaline, Enumclaw writes:

    "Just want to thank you for the newsletters. I read them cover to cover, then take them to work, put them on the book shelf and they are gone by break-time."

    Anonymous, Bremerton, writes:

    I am happy to see something out and about for the hearing impaired. I have recently been tested at a moderate, progressive, sensorineural loss, and am somewhat "wet behind the ears" when it comes to knowing what's out there. I would be grateful to receive any other kind of information you may have regarding loss, ALD's, and support groups.

    Thanks for all your efforts in this newsletter. I would feel more lost without seeing it.

    Gordon L Nystedt

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