This episode is for the family members, service providers and friends who have wondered if it is possible to have a multi-person conversation that includes someone who is hard of hearing. Five of us talked via Google Meet about communication platforms and other assistive technology that helps them survive life, the holidays and the perils of navigating a mask-wearing world. Four of the participants were hard of hearing. And it was delightful.
With many thanks to our friends from Utah's Division of Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing for lending us their expertise!
For more information on services, classes and events for Utahns who are having a hard time hearing, contact a specialist near you.
Here are some highlights:
:29 - Services and classes for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Utah moved online due to the pandemic--and they are reaching more people than ever before.
3:47 - Four participants talk about how hearing technology has changed their lives.
9:56 - Specialist Susan Ordonez talks about the challenges of moving online as a reluctant adapter--and how successful the move has been.
11:35 - Mask-wearing has affected many who rely on lip-reading. Here are some AT suggestions (Google Live Transcribe and Otter, for example).
13:41 - Online classes have reached rural Utahns, overcoming the barriers of distance and accessibility.
16:00 - Tips for surviving the holidays--including having realistic expectations...
18:30 - Taking hearing breaks...
20:14 - Appreciating the smaller gatherings of 2020 and a good, focused Zoom conversation....
21:29 - Playing cards online while chatting over Google Meet.
22:47 - Have hearing tech users seen evidence that the things they discuss while using their technology are then marketed more heavily to them online?
24:21 - Hearing tech in general is less creepy than Facebook. However, some users are still careful about what they share in a conversation.
25:38 - Using new technology is scary, but it helps the user to take that first step and try something new for a better experience. And it is important to spread the word about the services that are available. So share this podcast with someone who could use it!
Photo by Matilda Wormwood from Pexels
Welcome to Accessible Times, the UATP podcast! We talk about the technology that helps people be independent and how it changes lives. I'm JoLynne Lyon. Today we are talking to people who offer and receive services from the division of services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Utah. And one of the first things I noticed was that the pandemic hasn't slowed them down.Chelle Wyatt:
We have been able to reach all over Utah, outside of Utah, and even some people come in from out of the country to attend our classes now. So when we used to have events in person, and we only had a few people that would show up, because we only either had them in our Taylorsville office, or St. George office. So when the pandemic came along, we took everything online right away with Google Meet. And we got people from all over the state of Utah, it actually eliminated borders, and we got more people participating. So we reach more people than ever before.Jim:
That was Chelle Wyatt, and she mentions Google meet, the technology allows us to have a conversation between five people that five different locations, Google meet was a great help because the captioning is built in no third party app necessary. And for the most part, it's pretty good. A free version of Google Meet is available to those who have a Google ID, meaning those who have a Gmail address. I've learned to raise my hand before speaking, because when participants talk over each other, it really messes up the captioning.Chelle Wyatt:
Okay, so I'm Shelly Wyatt and I'm a hard of hearing specialist for youth, the state of Utah at the division of Services to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. I've been with this office since 2013. But I've been coming here since 2010. Because I had had a big drop in hearing and I was learning to do everything all over again. And they provided a lot of support here for me and got me going again, and I think I was here so much they did hire me.Jim:
We also have Susan OrdonezSusan Ordonez:
I'm the heart of hearing assistant. With the division of services for the deaf and hard of hearing. I am hard of hearing since birth. You could say I'm technically Deaf without my hearing aids.Virginia Parker:
And I'm Virginia Parker. I live in northern Utah, and I am also a heart of hearing sistent based in Bergen city, and my territory is four counties or four counties in the northern part of the state. I have profound hearing loss myself started losing it in my late 30s, early 40s,Jim:
Jim Borodino, within West Jordan, Utah, I am retired retired psychotherapist, and been severely hearing impaired, wearing hearing aids for over 20 years, and it's getting worse. Have some good ones now, finally. And I've been starting with this group, and some of the different functions, right after the first of the year was my first I went to one in person meeting and then we got shut down and I'm loving these online meetings. Our podcast is all about how assistive technology changes lives. So I am going to put this out to the group. Have you seen instances where people's lives have been changed by adopting hearing technology?Chelle Wyatt:
Most definitely. Technology has been a friend to us lately, and in many ways and one other ways is using Google Meet and right here because we can see each other and when we can see each other we can hear each other because we're using lip reading. So technology has definitely been a big help with the hard of hearing program.Jim:
Well how I discovered that I had hearing challenges, cuz you don't know what you don't hear you don't miss it. And we my wife and I were in a at the Denver Airport and a little kid opened the door to go out on the tarmac, set the alarms off and everyone was holding their ears and said, when are they going to turnthat darn thing off. And I said, turn what off and I was standing about four feet away from the alarm. I couldn't hear it. So then I went and got my hearing checked the doctor. That was my primary care I actually helped treat some of his family members, we were friends. And he did the hearing test. And he says, Well, I have good news for you and bad news. The good news is, is one of your ears is a lot better than the other one. The bad news is you're deaf in your good ear. And that's how I discovered it when I went out and got hearing aids. When I walked out of the hearing aid place with new hearing aids, all of a sudden, I heard all these birds and I didn't realize I hadn't heard heard birds in years. And I felt like Tippi Hedren, where the birds come from. I started hearing other things, and I didn't realize I hadn't been hearing.Virginia Parker:
As I mentioned earlier, my hearing loss started in my late 30s, early 40s. But I didn't realize I was having hearing loss, I blamed it on everything else around me. I thought the speaker, the left speaker in my car stereo had gone out. When I was traveling with business and flight attendants would hand me headsets to watch a movie, I'd hand it back and say, "This headset doesn't work." In hotels, I get upset because it didn't give me a wake up call. There were a couple of times where I had managers actually come in my room and wake me up because they said I didn't answer my wake up call. And even then I was in denial, I blamed it on being extremely tired. This went on for a long time, before I realized I couldn't hear my own alarm clock at home. So I didn't have anything else to blame it on. So I had my hearing checked, and sure enough, I had loss and I got my first set of hearing aids like Jim, I heard birds again. And that was beautiful. I remember that was amazing to me. So it's like black and white to me now. My hearing has gotten worse, my hearing aids have gotten stronger. So we're still constantly adjusting.Chelle Wyatt:
So I've been on a long journey of hearing loss too, I think I started wearing hearing aids in 1992. And it was amazing how much I could hear. And then because I have a progressive hearing loss, it kept dropping. And then all of a sudden, I needed more powerful hearing aids. And luckily I could. I went from in the ear hearing aids to behind me here behind the ear. Um, and that was like, wow, boy, I hear a lot more now, including birds and stuff like that. And then I got to a point where my hearing dropped so much in about 2005, 2006 that my audiologist told me there's no more powerful hearing aids for you This is it. And I was really bummed out. There's nothing I could do more. But fortunately, technology keeps improving. And pretty soon there was another more powerful, better hearing aid that came out, and it worked well. And it seems like technology is just keeping up with me. I felt very lucky that there's all these smart phone options with apps. Because I do use speech to text a lot, especially with the mask. I can't imagine having to navigate this world that we're in today. Like 10 years ago before this technology came in. I was adopting a new cat from the Humane Society a week and a half ago. Everybody is wearing masks, and my husband who I can normally hear was wearing a mask. And I don't hear him either. So I turned on my speech to text app. And I could follow up everything. The Humane Society volunteer was telling me about our new pet. One of the biggest problems is people that are tech shy. They are afraid of technology and and how to do it and I'm kinda gonna let Sue talk here because she was one of those people who was very nervous about taking our classes online.Susan Ordonez:
Yeah, it was interesting when the Corona Virus hit back in March. And so they, we, they closed down the building, so we couldn't teach and meet in person. So we had to go through the transition of doing all of our classes and presentations online. And because I am not the best techie, it was a challenge to learn how to use like the Google Meet and the different features and, but as we started using it more and more and started teaching classes, the biggest challenge is a lot of people like me, are afraid to get on or to try in the frustration. And so the challenge was to try to work with them to learn the feature so they could participate. And it's, it's probably most challenging for our seniors, there's a lot of seniors that struggle, and we really are trying to work with them to, to teach them and help them so they can participate. Because there's a lot of seniors out there that are lonely and isolated. But it's wonderful. Once they learn that then it just opened up a whole new world that they can connect and, and use the captioning and be able to lip read and see people without the masks.Jim:
That's another point Susan makes in this conversation. COVID-19 has really messed with lip reading.Unknown:
For me, it's interesting since I, because I grew up hard of hearing. And I've always been a very good lip reader and, you know, being able to understand when the Coronavirus hit, and we had to start wearing masks, and we could not lip read. And then of course, the mask also muffles the sound. And then if you'd like go to the store, they also have a plexi glass. And so that makes it challenging. At my ... my lip reading ability went from maybe 90%, clear down to 5%. So I had to think, we had to figure out a way how do I am able to understand like when I go to the store and and you know with the clerk. And so one of the things that people do more and more is the speech to text apps on our phone. And like Google transcribe, live transcribe or Otter, all these different apps that you can use when you go into the store. And and I would never use it before, you know, cuz I didn't think I really needed it. But now I'm telling you it's made, It's a life changer, you know, especially for those because it's very frustrating to not be able to understand with the masks.Jim:
Another question that I had, because you have you have all mentioned how successful your classes have been online, and I am not getting that from everybody that I've talked to. So why do you think you've mentioned a little bit about it, like, with the lip reading class that it just seems more natural? But are there other reasons that this is working so well for you and the people that you work with?Susan Ordonez:
I think that fact that one of the challenges we had with our services was because when we didn't do it online, you know, we had hard of hearing people out there in the rural areas that weren't being reached. And also, um, just the accessibility being able to you know, some people don't want to drive at night, you know, when we would have classes or presentations. And and I think too, word of mouth, because we were so successful with our classes that pretty soon, I mean, we have we have some people that come from Arizona, even there that Arizona they have services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and their hard of hearing assistant, join them. And we also have people from Minnesota from Florida. I mean, just all over. I mean we were we even had three people from Indonesia. Three Sisters came and joined a sign language class. So it's just phenomenal. It's like word of mouth, things just spread.Jim:
One of the things that makes it really good for me is hearing everyone else's stories in addition to the the classes, you've read it, you realize, well, I didn't realize that or I didn't know this was available or whatever. But also, all the people that are involved in teaching classes and some of the other people who have been through, particularly the people teaching the classes, the thing that comes screaming through in multiple languages is how much they care. Not I'm doing a job here, and I'm getting paid by the hour to do this. They care. They care a lot, and it comes through. And they're all very good folks. I consider them friendsDan O'Crowley, Logan UATP Coordinator:
utahns, you can get a loan for assistive technology devices and pay less interest, if you apply for it through the Utah assistive technology program. We partner with Zions Bank to offer reduced interest loans on those devices that keep you independent, including adapted vans, hearing aids, home modifications, and so much more. Visit the Utah Assistive Technology Program website to apply.Jim:
One of the things that makes it really good for me is hearing everyone else's stories in addition to the the classes, you read it you realize, well I I didn't realize that or I didn't know this was available or whatever. But also all of the people that are involved in teaching classes and some of the other people who have been through, particularly the people teaching the classes. The thing that comes screaming through in multiple languages is how much they care. Not I'm doing a job here and I'm getting paid by the hour to do this. They care. They care a lot and it comes through. And they're all very, very good folks. I consider them friends As you were all talking about your classes, you mentioned surviving the holidays. So I'm just going to toss this out there tips for surviving the holidays. And and also what do you wish your hearing family members would do differently.Virginia Parker:
So the holidays are an emotional time and a stressful time. And we try to help class members recognize that from what they're going to be getting involved in, they're they're planning ahead. So they're aware that we're going to be in a large group, or we're going to be in a comfortable environment. It we're going this year, of course, things are on a much smaller scale, but as a rule that might be going to company parties, and they're held in a cultural hall or gymnasium, or they might be going to a family gathering that's in a large room with hardwood floors and everything echoes. So we have we teach people to look ahead and plan ahead where they're going and who's going to be there, what their expectations are. A lot of times we go in with unrealistic expectations, and then we're disappointed in the event. But if we understand ahead of time, where we're going, and if we were going to be able to stay the whole length of time, we're going to excuse ourselves and leave early. When it's necessary to speak with a host or hostess in advance. We learned how to connect with individuals and teach them how to communicate with us. Some of our class members have worried about not being able to hear the Christmas music anymore. So we talk about ways that we can overcome that. In my case, I get more involved with the decorations and the lighting, the stories, the movies, and try to dwell on the things that I can enjoy and dismiss the things that are just not possible anymore. And therefore holiday is much more enjoyable.Susan Ordonez:
One of the biggest things for me when I would get together with my daughters and my grandkids when we would have our family holiday gathering was the noise. And over time ... one of the biggest things that people with hearing loss experience is called listening fatigue. And we get very tired after an hour or two and so on. And part of going into the family gatherings is that we teach people in our classes to give yourself hearing breaks. And, and one of the things I would do I remember last year, when we got together my granddaughter, she was still in diapers. And so and it was probably two hours into the, you know, the meal, and I was getting pretty tired. And sometimes I would get cranky, it's like, I want to go home. So I thought, Oh, um, someone said that, you know, she had made a mess in her diaper. So I volunteered, I said, Oh, I'll change you, Iris. And so I did, I'd go in another room where it was quiet, got the diapers, and I would change her and, and have that quiet time. And then of course, it's like, oh, well, I'll take it out to the garbage can. And so I would go outside and just breathe in the fresh air and, and just those five minutes of hearing break, you know, it allowed me to be able to hear and understand better, you know, and enjoy our family get togethers.Jim:
What I noticed is with, we mostly have holidays and stuff with my, my wife's family, because mine are all back in Missouri or all over the place. And they know I have a hearing problem. And we've tried to do different things. And quite frankly, most of them really don't care when they talk over everybody each other anyway. And I find myself social distancing. I go in the other room, get on my, on my iPad and play Scrabble with people around the world. But what I've realized and I, with the holidays coming up, we're not getting together this year, and I felt relief. I don't have to be with them and deal with that situation. The one family member who is a retired internist, she does have some compassion for and I find a we do get on Zoom calls and stuff like that. I enjoy chatting with her, we've become closer. But I find I was actually relieved about not having to deal with people that call cause stress, shall I say?Unknown:
This year is definitely different. And I know that my family is going to get together via Google Meet. And we're all gonna chat together on Thanksgiving Day. We'll eat separately, but still visit. And we've even found a way to play a card games while we're visiting on Google me. So thank thanks to this technology, with the captions. Yes. And thanks to this technology, we can still get together. We have the captions for me. But I also have a couple of kids who like the captions also, because one has auditory processing disorder and the other one has hearing loss. So so we all should have used the captions and appreciate my kids who grew up with them, they're used to them. And they know that's what I need. So we get together with the Google Meet. And we go to a site that has the card game. And we just bounce back and forth. We get the card game when we play the cards. And then when we're done, kind of dealing the cards out online will come back on me. And we will do a lot of chatter that way.Jim:
We were talking about people's hesitancy, I guess, to use some of this technology because they feel like it's being listened in on. And so I'm just gonna ask you guys this. You've used all these services. Have you noticed ever that you maybe discussed a product and then you saw it on your computer a bunch of timesChelle Wyatt:
You mean like FaceTime, Facebook, where you where I talk about the buzz band, which is haptics and it tells me the different noises that are going on around me with different vibrations around the band. So when I bought my Buzz Band, it was on my Facebook ads all the time. And I'm just recently I was talking with a senior who doesn't have any technology and doesn't really want any technology or she doesn't want the computer. She doesn't want the smartphone, but she needs something with captions to help her when she's out in her day to day life. So I found another thing called the pocket talk, and It's a it's almost like a little phone. But all it does is translate languages. It also translates English to English so that people can read captions. And since I researched that for her, it's on my Facebook feed all the time now. And it is kind of creepy.Jim:
And my question was, are you noticing that same kind of creepiness? If you have a conversation over, over like a captioned phone or using these apps?Chelle Wyatt:
I have noticed that. Have you guys noticed that?Jim:
No. So bottom line, Facebook is creepier than your hearing technology?Chelle Wyatt:
Yes, it is.Jim:
What I do notice that because of concern about different technologies, I do watch what I say more. And I don't get my personal data or anything like that when I'm talking. I still make off color comments and stuff like that I figure I can offend the people listening as well as the people I'm talking to. But personal data and stuff like that, no, I don't do over media, unless it's encrypted. And even then I'm I'm careful.My last question as always:
Is there something else that you would like me to know, since I've gone through my list of questions,Chelle Wyatt:
I would just say that technology is scary to many people, and they really fear it. And we help as much as we can. But we need to ask people to take that first step themselves, to be willing to do something different to gain a different experience.Jim:
I would say the one of the big challenges is getting the word out that there are programs like through Sanderson and some of the other things I had been trying for years to find a, quote, lip-reading class. And none my audiologist knew where to go. Nobody at the VA really cared. Finally, I had a new audiologist in January. And I was saying I'm willing to put in the time, but I don't know where to go to find classes. And she said, Have you checked with the Sanderson center? I had never heard of that. That opened up a whole new world. And I shared the information about the classes and the programs in the center with everyone that I know of who is either hearing impaired, or has family that are so that the word can get out I sent it with several of the organizations that I'm heavily involved with. There are a lot of people there that have hearing challenges, or family members, they're hearing hear hearing challenges, just to let them know that it's available. It's I would say it's the best kept secret that that's not a good thing. It's unfortunately a secret. Thank you for listening to Accessible Times: The UATP podcast is brought to you by the Utah Assistive Technology Program. Part of the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University.