My Unilateral World; Hearing with One Ear

By Lisa Cable

I was born with a unilateral, profound hearing loss. While the specific cause of my hearing loss has never been determined, it is clear that it’s genetic. My mother’s brother, mother & grandmother were all the same as me.

When I was born, newborn screening didn’t yet exist. However, because unilateral hearing loss ran in the family, my mother knew what tell-tale signs to look for, such as one-sided head-turning towards sounds. As I got a little bit older, she became aware that I might have inherited this trait. Taking me for audiological testing, she was able to have the professionals confirm what she suspected was in fact true.

Back in the 70’s, there was little that was done in the way of early intervention or listening equipment for children with a unilateral hearing loss. But, given that my mother had grown up with her mother and brother, she was familiar with ways to help me.

In the years before I entered school, my mother ensured that I was having my hearing regularly tested, to monitor the ear that I was using to listen with. She also had my speech development monitored and worked hard to expose me to lots of spoken language.

Once I was in school, my mother would always meet with my teachers before school started to ensure that I was setup to succeed in the classroom. Some of the things she discussed were where I should sit to best hear the teacher, ways for the teacher to optimise communication with me, and problem solving tips for when I struggled to hear in a certain environment or situation.

As an adult, I usually forget about my hearing loss. It’s part of who I am, and I’ve never known any different. In fact, I sometimes even forget which ear I can hear out of and which one I can’t. The two hardest things for me to deal with are localization of sound and background noise.

Localization of sound means figuring out where a sound or voice is coming from. A perfect example of this happened recently when I was in Toys’R’Us with my family. There was a special event going on so it was really noisy. I was in an aisle and could hear someone calling my name. But it took me looking around frantically for about 30 seconds before I saw my aunt standing about 6 feet in front of me. With all the noise echoing around the store I just couldn’t figure out where the voice was coming from. While it can be a bit frustrating at times, it certainly is not at all detrimental to my quality of life!

The other issue is background noise. Busy social events or noisy parties are the worst. If someone is standing in front of me or on the side I can’t hear from, and attempting to talk to me I just can’t hear them. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned just to be honest and say “I can’t hear you, would you mind moving over here so that I can?”. Or if it’s easy enough, I just position myself to hear better. People are never upset and would prefer that I can hear them, rather than me pretending to hear and having a very stilted conversation.

Very recently, I went for some audiological testing. As an adult, I have only had my hearing tested once in my 20’s. As I now approach 40, I’ve felt that I am struggling more to hear – especially with background noise and situations where people are on the side of my deaf ear. With my kids, I find I’m often telling them I can’t hear them because they’re yelling at me from another room or walking away as they talk to me. There’s also a lot of extra noise when they have friends over and my frustration levels are getting high. Interestingly, the results of these recent tests show no changes in either of my ears, but I am looking at trying out some hearing equipment to alleviate some of the struggles that I’m having.

Because there has never been any stimulation of the auditory nerve in my deaf ear, trying to put a hearing aid on it now just won’t work. So I am looking at trying out the Phonak Cros II, an amplification device for people with unilateral hearing. On my deaf ear, I will wear a device that simply acts as a microphone to collect sound from that side. This will then transmit those sounds to a hearing aid that I will wear in my hearing ear. I’m told it won’t help with localization of sound, but will allow me to hear speech and sounds that I would normally miss on my deaf side. I’m sure it will be an adjustment but I will let you all know how it goes!

Despite my recent struggles, there are upsides to a unilateral hearing loss. The best is that I sleep amazingly well. When I go to bed, I sleep on my hearing ear; it is instantly quiet and I’m not bothered by any noise around me. It’s fantastic!

I was very lucky growing up to have a mother that recognized early on the importance of monitoring and intervention in regards to my speech and listening. Also, my parents never framed my hearing loss as a negative thing, it was just part of who I am, in the same way as my uncle and my grandmother. These wonderful examples have served me well as I am now a parent to two beautiful children: my son, Ryder, who has natural hearing and my daughter, Lily, who is bilaterally profoundly deaf. Lily loves that she has a mom with hearing loss, and I love that both my kids are unique and special in their own way…just like me. 🙂

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Summer Get-Together 2016

Join us for a play day!

Summer Get Together H&V Aug 16 2016-page-001

 

Whether it’s your first time coming to an event or you never miss a chance to socialize and catch up.

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016 11:00am – 2:00 pm Grimston Park 19th Street at 7th Avenue New Westminster (close to 22nd Street Skytrain Station)
Look for the orange & blue balloons! ASL Interpreter Available

This park has a beautiful playground and wading pool. Bring a picnic lunch, swimwear, towels and blanket. RSVP is not required, but please watch our Facebook page for notice of cancellation if it’s raining.

Visit our Facebook Page & Website: https://www.facebook.com/handsandvoicesBC Contact: info@bchandsandvoices.com

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Ipad Apps for Speech, Vocabulary and Auditory Development

By Catherine Kalchbrenner

Ipads and other tablets have become an everyday household device. With prudent selection of appropriate apps, they can be a useful tool to support learning in our children but, unguided, they can be little more than a distraction device. I wanted to make screen time more meaningful than random games for my hard of hearing child. With this in mind, I set to researching apps that could build my child’s vocabulary and exercise her auditory memory.

I came across a great resource from the Alexander Bell Convention in 2014. As well as some great suggestions for apps, it offers detailed information and advice. Encouragingly, it reports research results that literacy apps can augment literacy development in children. While the presentation is geared towards professionals, as a parent of a hard of hearing child, I found it really insightful.

http://www.agbell.org/uploadedFiles/Connect/Meetings/2014_Convention/Hands-On%20Apps%20and%20the%20iPad.pdf

What it lacked, however, was links to the suggested apps in the apple store or clear icon pictures to be sure of the app in question. With full credit going to the presenters at the Convention, I expanded the list to make this go-to menu of apps. I hope it will be a useful tool for parents and professionals alike.

Speech:

Articulation Station- Little Bee Speech
https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/articulation-station/id467415882?mt=8

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HOPE words- Cochlear
https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/hope-words-lite/id460198442?mt=8

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Articulation Scenes
Articulate It Pro
Both by Smarty Ears
https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/articulation-scenes/id498857302?mt=8
https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/articulate-it!-pro/id391296844?mt=8

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ArtikPix- Expressive Solutions
https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/artikpix/id383022107?mt=8

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SpeechBox for Articulation Speech Therapy- By Jonah Bonah Learning LLC
https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/speechbox-for-speech-therapy/id597282880?mt=8

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Artic Practice- Learning Fundamentals Inc
https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/artic-practice/id520874877?mt=8

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Pocket Artic- Synapse Apps
https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/pocket-artic/id359179209?mt=8

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Auditory Skill Development

Hear Coach- Starkey
https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/hear-coach/id489515928?mt=8

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My Playhome- Playhome Software ltd
https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/my-playhome-lite/id451155849?mt=8

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My Scene- MyFirstApp
https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/my-scene/id421838043?mt=8

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Auditory Workout
Outdoor Fun
Both By Virtual Speech Centre Inc.
https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/auditory-workout/id518697520?mt=8
https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/outdoor-fun/id492097086?mt=8

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My Tiny Farm Animals- Toddler’s Seek & Find Activity Book for Kids
My Little Town- Toddler’s Seek & Find Activity Book for Kids
Both by wonderkind GmbH
https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/my-tiny-farm-animals-toddlers/id987463825?mt=8
https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/my-little-town-toddlers-seek/id490922806?mt=8

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Fun with Directions HD Lite- Hamaguchi Apps for Speech, Language & Auditory Development
There are a couple of versions of this App.
https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/fun-with-directions-hd-lite/id478249055?mt=8

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Bag Game- All4myChild
https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/bag-game/id499757601?mt=8

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A Who am I- Nth Fusion LLC
https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/a-who-am-i-animal-game/id409292877?mt=8

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Vocabulary Apps

italkatMoog: The First 100 words- The Moog Centre of Deaf Education
https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/italkatmoog-first-100-words/id533456276?mt=8

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My First 1000 Words: Flashcards & Games By Alligator Apps- Innovative Mobile Apps
https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/my-first-1-000-words-flashcards/id449740734?mt=8

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Do you have any favourite apps to add to this list? Leave us a comment below!

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Back to Basics: The Importance of Speaking to Young Children About Their Sexual Health

By: Jennifer Gow

There are three important reasons to talk to young children about their sexual health. All of them are centred around protection and prevention, with the idea being to keep our children safe, educated and informed. This was the take home message from Saleema Noon (www.saleemanoon.com) at the BC Hands and Voices 2016 AGM held in March. Many of you with school-aged children may be familiar with the sexual health education that Saleema does in school districts in the Lower Mainland. Or you may have come across her on the TV or radio. We were excited to have her present on this serious topic in her characteristic fun, light-hearted way. So back to those three reasons:

Normalize the conversation. Young children haven’t yet been conditioned to know that sexual health can be a taboo subject in our society. They love to be scientists, exploring the world around them, so they tend to be very receptive to being taught ‘body science’. By making the conversation matter-of-fact and normal at an early age, we can lessen the extent and length of the “grossed-out” phase. This is a stage that many kids go through in their middle elementary years due largely to societal and peer pressure.

Become our children’s number one information source. If we don’t teach them, someone else will, and that person may not be a reliable source. The media world today is very different to the environment we grew up in, with our children exposed to different pressures than we were. Media content is more sexualised and ubiquitous, and easier to access – think computers, smartphones, tablets. We shouldn’t rely on schools or others to educate our kids to discern between fact and fiction. Instead, we should step in to be our children’s reliable go-to source.

Protect our children. Studies show that children who are educated in sexual health are better protected from child sexual abuse. Sex predators seek out vulnerable individuals. They recognise that a child who uses scientific vocabulary for body parts and has ownership of their own body has been taught these things. From this, they also know that the child will have been taught to report any exploitative situation. By introducing the concept of sexual consent, we empower our children and help to protect them. It’s especially important for parents of children with additional needs to understand this. Since these children tend to spend more time with other adults in positions of trust, and they may not have the same education around sexual health as their peers, they can be at increased risk from sexual abuse.

With this in mind, here are aspects of sexual health that Saleema recommends preschoolers should know:

  • Scientific words related to sexual health. This means using the same anatomical language a doctor would use with your child so they won’t be intimidated in a medical setting (e.g., penis, testicles, vulva, vagina, stool).
  • They have ownership of their own bodies. They should be aware that they have three private body parts (mouth, breast and genitals, which covers the area from the belly button down and around to the bottom of the back, including the buttocks). It is against the law for anyone to go on their bodies without permission. They need to report any violation of this to an adult they trust, and know that they will not get in trouble when they do. If the first person doesn’t believe them, or doesn’t do anything about it, then they need to know to report again to someone else, as many times as needed until someone listens. While parents may worry about talking to their children about such a serious topic, kids tend to learn this in a matter-of-fact way in much the same way they learn a fire drill.
  • The basics of reproduction, pregnancy and birth. Reproduction usually happens when a man’s sperm joins a woman’s ovum by sexual intercourse. Babies grow in the uterus, not the stomach, and are usually born through the vagina. Children may ask more probing questions, which should be answered honestly. They will only absorb the information they are able to process.
  • The uniqueness of our bodies and each of these processes. How a person looks doesn’t necessarily tell you how they feel on the inside (introducing the concept of transgender). Just as each person is unique, so is each family. There is a diversity of families, with different ways for families to form. Some babies get their first water slide during a vaginal birth when the uterus muscles contract and water breaks, others come out the sunroof during a caesarean section. Both are healthy ways for babies to be born.
  • Not to pick up condoms and needles, explaining that while these are clean and healthy items before use, they can have germs after being used, and we don’t want them to get sick.

The full checklist can be found at http://www.saleemanoon.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/what-kids-need-to-know-and-when-2015.pdf. Saleema also noted that there are many great books to refer to and explore these topics with your child. Her top recommendations can be found at http://www.saleemanoon.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/reading-list-2015.pdf

With our community in mind, the evening was enriched by two other contributors, Astrid Evenson, Sign Language Instructor, and Kim Shauer, Hands & Voices Guide By Your Side Coordinator. Astrid taught us ASL vocabulary for the scientific words and processes discussed by Saleema during her presentation, and Kim spoke to additional considerations for families who have children who are deaf or hard of hearing and have additional needs. With this in mind, we can help our children develop language to tell how they are feeling (e.g., scared, hurt) and identify parts of the body. If they have not yet developed signs or spoken language, we can model this language through their language abilities (e.g., head shaking, Picture Exchange Communication System/picture symbols, IPAD/Alternative Communication Devices). Goals around safety should be discussed with our children’s team, and safety goals included in Individual Family Service Plans or Individual Education Plans (e.g., explaining appropriate & inappropriate touch; public versus private). On this topic, Saleema also noted that there will be a chapter on sexual education for children with special needs in her new book for parents, which is due to be published this fall.

While preschool and kindergarten programs may adopt an approach to sexual health education that is similar to Saleema’s recommendations, it remains important that we, as parents, are confident in talking straight to our children on this topic right from day one. Given a strong basis of honest information from their own family means that any extra details they glean from other responsible adults will be the icing on the cake. It also empowers them to handle information from peers or other sources like the media. It gives them the tools to interpret the information and know they have a trustworthy source in you to explore topics. If we start today with our young deaf and heard of hearing children, we’ll be ready to help them fill in any gaps that might appear from missed incidental learning as they grow.

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Fun Family Picnic 2016

2016 Picnic Invite (web)

WHO: BC Hands & Voices, Guide By Your Side, BC Early Hearing Program, CHHA BC Parents’ Branch, Family & Community Services, Family Network for Deaf Children – Deaf Youth Today (DYT)

WHAT: An event for deaf/hard of hearing children, their siblings and parents and children with their Deaf/hard of hearing parents (CODA). Join us for a fun day! We will provide:
• Hot dog lunch
• Entertainment and games for the kids
• An opportunity to mix and mingle with other families and with youth/young adults who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Please bring with you:
• a salad, fruit or vegetable plate or dessert to share (note: no freezer/fridge/oven)
• lawn chairs or blanket to sit on
Rain or Shine!  Free admission! Donations gratefully accepted at the event.

WHEN: Saturday June 18th, 11:00 am to 3:00 pm

WHERE: Victory Hill/ Provincial Deaf & Hard of Hearing Services 4334 Victory St., Burnaby BC

CONTACT/ RSVP: info@CHHAparents.com  Pre-registration is required so we know how many people to expect. 
PLEASE REGISTER ONLINE by June 14th at www.CHHAparents.com
Special Note– Families of children with Atresia and Microtia – let’s meet up at the picnic!
If you are interested in meeting up with other families of children with Atresia and Microtia, please contact Catherine Kalchbrenner: ckalchbrenner@cw.bc.ca who will collect names, and make a point of introducing families to one another during the picnic.

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Social Skills Research at Western Washington University

Would you and your child like to be a part of an important social skills research project at Western Washington University?

This research is being conducted by Kimberly Peters, Ph.D., CCC-SLP/A, Department Chair & Associate Professor and Aural Rehabilitation Clinic Director at Western Washington University.  Ms. Peters also has a son who uses bi-lateral cochlear implants.

They’re looking at social cognition (theory of mind) and language skills in preschool aged, early identified children who are deaf or hard of hearing who use either hearing aids or cochlear implants.

Please see the following PDF for more information.

Note- Ms. Peters is available to come up to Vancouver to conduct the research so there would be no need to travel to Bellingham.

  • Edited to add: The study does not have approval to include kids with conductive loss/who use BAHA right now, but they may expand our recruitment criteria. BCHV will let everyone know if we hear otherwise.

[embeddoc url=”http://www.bchandsandvoices.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Recruitment-Letter-ToM-early-CI-2016.pdf”]

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Coffee Night Gems: Hearing Levels, Decision Making & Hearing Aid Funding

By Kim Shauer

Do any of these statements ring true for you?  We didn’t expect this. Our baby makes appropriate sounds back to us.  How can you tell me our baby has a hearing loss when they so clearly seem to hear me?  Are hearing aids necessary? Why does my baby seem to respond to me the same whether the hearing aids are on or off? How do we know we are making the right decisions this early? We know the first set of hearing aids is free, but how much will the next ones cost us?

These were some of the questions parents had for Jenny Hatton, Audiologist for the BCEHP, who was on hand at a recent BC Hands & Voices Parent Coffee Night, “Bring Your Own Audiogram”.  If you’ve ever had similar thoughts, please read on…

Identification

“We didn’t expect this” is a common reaction from parents now that newborn screening and follow-up occurs within the first few months of life.  Jenny shared that audiology has changed how parent counselling happens. In the past, kids were usually 2-3 year olds before being identified as deaf or hard of hearing.  By that age, parents had often figured out for themselves that their child had reduced hearing, so audiologists were often confirming what was already suspected.  This is usually not the case with early identification, where parents are often shocked and in disbelief at the news.

Mild/Moderate Hearing Levels

The parents of babies with recently identified hearing loss who attended the Coffee Night are certainly not alone in their “confessions“ – wondering if their child can “do fine” without wearing hearing aids, or by having them on only for appointments with their early interventionists.  I remember the same thoughts crossed my mind for my own daughter after I found out about her hearing loss. Her hearing levels are in the sever range, so I can only imagine how much these thoughts can play a part in everyday decisions, like deciding to put your baby/toddler’s hearing aids on, when your child has hearing levels in the mild-moderate range (particularly when they just pull them straight off again!).  

Jenny’s explanation was really helpful; she described how many children in the mild-moderate range have pockets of good hearing and can detect many sounds but they will not be getting all the information from all frequencies to fully develop speech.  One parent of a toddler with mild-moderate levels shared her exact experience with this. Early on, she felt her daughter was hearing just fine but the effects of her hearing loss on her spoken word has become more apparent now that her daughter is older. For example, she now notices that her daughter seems to be missing certain sounds (k, d, s, and many endings on words) and prefers to sign certain words that she is not yet able to produce (e.g., words starting with “d” such as “dog “). Mom comments that “this makes sense now, as she wasn’t hearing that sound without her hearing aids being worn consistently”.  An experience in the sound booth gave another ‘aha’ moment to a parent, and encouraged them to try the hearing aids again on their child; the parent clearly heard a tone, but it was obvious in that moment that her child on her lap did not.  

Decision Making

In the midst of grief, and being a new mom experiencing all the life changes that can entail, a parent expressed her wish that she’d had some kind of decision making checklist to guide her in choosing an Early Intervention program and communication options.

The Decision Guide for Communication Choices (http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/hearingloss/freematerials/Decision-Guide.pdf) is a tool that has been developed by parents for parents, with the guidance and support of professionals who work with children who are deaf or hard of hearing. This guide walks parents through the steps of making communication choices and decisions for their child and family. Although developed in the U.S., much of it is relevant and can be applied by us parents here in Canada. Another useful guide is the Question Guide For Parents produced by the BC Early Hearing Program [embeddoc url=”http://www.bchandsandvoices.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Question-Guide.pdf”] These can be used along with other resources such as Communication Considerations A-Z (http://www.handsandvoices.org/comcon/).  Keep in mind that decisions are not set in stone, and these resources can be useful to refer back to as new decisions arise and others are re-evaluated.

 

We want parents to know that it shouldn’t feel like you are picking a forever future for your baby (you are just getting to know them after all!). It’s important to get started, though, to meet other families, and start receiving early language services and support. Early intervention programs, professionals and your Guide By Your Side will all support you along the way as you learn what works for your child and family, and support you in changing programs if you choose.  

 

Hearing Aid Funding

Another parent wondered how long their baby’s first pair of hearing aids last might last (about 4-5 years depending on wear & tear) and what possible funding sources there are for the next hearing aids.  Parent organizations in BC, including BC Hands and Voices, are advocating for better hearing aid funding coverage for school-aged children and young adults in our province.  In the meantime, here are some current organizations parents can apply to when it is time to replace your child’s hearing aids.  Please note eligibility criteria vary by organization.

http://www.presidentschoice.ca/en_CA/community/pccc.html

http://www.variety.bc.ca/

https://www.cknworphansfund.com/

http://www.mcadamsfoundation.ca/

http://www.bcjobsdaughters.org/about/hike/

All in all it was an informative evening, and everyone went away feeling that they’d gleaned some gems from the conversation. We hope you’ll join us for the next Parent Coffee Night on Monday 25th April 2016 –http://www.bchandsandvoices.com/post/parent-coffee-night-monday/

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“BC Parents of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children Aged 0-5”, a new Facebook Group

by Brianne Braun

A little over a year ago, we welcomed Aurelia, a beautiful, red-haired, baby girl into our family. Although my husband Dan is Deaf, our son Argyle was born hearing, so we were surprised when it turned out that Aurelia was born deaf. This started us down the brand new path of raising a deaf child.

As we started to navigate through the world of early intervention services, we felt the need to have greater connection with other parents. I checked into what was currently available and noticed that there wasn’t an online forum specifically for parents with young deaf or hard of hearing children. That got me thinking about setting something up…

The result is a Facebook group called “BC Parents of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children Aged 0-5”, and it currently has almost 40 members from around the province. This is a closed group, so it’s a safe place for families to connect with each other, share their experiences, ask questions and receive support from other parents who are on similar journeys. There is also an Events section, which highlights activities taking place throughout the province that families might be interested in.  

The group doesn’t advocate for any particular philosophy or communication approach. It doesn’t matter with which of the three early intervention agencies you register, all parents or guardians of young deaf and hard of hearing children are welcome. Please consider joining, and help to spread the word to other families around the province. We all look forward to meeting you! 

How to Join
You can search on Facebook for the group name “BC Parents of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children Aged 0-5” or you can just click the direct link below:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/853918531357842/

Once you’re on the page, you simply click on the ‘Join Group’ button.
If you have any questions, or difficulties joining, you can contact me via email at bcdhhkids@gmail.com.

Editor’s Note:

The “BC Parents of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children Aged 0-5” Facebook group is an independent forum that is not directly affiliated with BC Hands & Voices. That said, we serve the same community and there is a strong overlap in our membership (and philosophy). We are happy to spread the word about this social media group to you!

Posted in Articles, Families to Families | Comments Off on “BC Parents of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children Aged 0-5”, a new Facebook Group

AGM & Parent Workshop

BCHVhandLogoParent Workshop & AGM

Monday, March 7, 2016

7:00 – 9:00 pm

BC Family Hearing Resource Centre

15220 92nd Ave., Surrey

Birds & Bees” Basics for Parents of Young Children 7:00-8:30 pm

with sexual health expert Saleema Noon

We’re delighted to host Saleema Noon, leading sexual health educator in our province.saleema Renowned for her work in our schools, and a familiar face in our media, Saleema will tackle this serious topic in a way that is fun, light-hearted and current.

Does the thought of talking about sex with your children stress you out? Don’t worry, you’re in good company!

In this open and informational session, parents will explore sexual health, and understand why we should be discussing this with our children at a young age. We’ll discover why it’s especially important for our deaf and hard of hearing kids to be well-educated in this area.

Attendees will be given inclusive and practical information on how to talk to your kids in a way that they will understand and remember: you will discover how to easily overcome embarrassment when talking about sexual health; learn words, concepts and signs that are easy to use; and leave well equipped to clearly answer the questions children ask.

The workshop is light hearted, but delivers the straight goods on how parents can empower their children to become well-informed, confident and safe.

BC Hands & Voices Annual General Meeting 8:30-9:00 pm

Please join us after the workshop for a short AGM, where we will share what BC Hands & Voices has accomplished over the past year. This is also a great opportunity to update your membership ($20 per family). American Sign Language interpreters will be provided.

For more information please email info@bchandsandvoices.com

Why We Need To Teach (1)-page-001

AGM Saleema Noon Workshop PDF

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Sisterhood: Reflections on Growing Up with a Hard of Hearing Sibling

By: Sheryl Hatton

I must admit, I was pretty excited when I sat down to write this piece; reflecting on my experiences as a typically hearing sibling of a child with hearing loss brought back lots of fond memories. I should clarify, however, that with just the one sibling, having a sister with hearing loss was my normal, and I don’t have personal experience of having a sibling without a hearing loss. I had never been a big sister before, so that was a new adventure in itself. Just like any older sibling, I remember having to learn to share everything: my toys (when she stole them), my clothes (when she stole them), my friends, and my parents! Having a hard of hearing sister meant that I also got to experience other things that many kids don’t. It’s a lot of fun to look back on this now as an adult, and I’m happy to share some of these memories with you.

Jenny's Old Family Photos (Roxy Edits) (3 of 23)

We learned of my sisters hearing loss when she was two years old. At this point, I had just started school, and was old enough to understand what was happening with her. Some of my earliest memories are from my sister’s audiologist and ENT appointments; I have very vivid memories of a tiny toy monkey  “jumping out” from a box and banging miniature cymbals!

Sheryl + Jenny Kids

My sister’s hearing loss was identified as moderate to moderately-severe sensorineural  hearing loss for both ears. Once she was fitted with hearing aids, her language developed very quickly. I remember watching my mom work tirelessly to teach my sister letter and word sounds; “tum”, ‘bum” and “thumb” were a particular challenge and frequently mixed up early on…at times to my enjoyment. I don’t recall thinking this was strange or different than what my friends would see in their homes. Although I knew that she went to a specialized pre-school to help her in her speech and hearing development, I never really thought anything of it.

I do remember being intrigued with all the cool things that my sister got to do, and that I wanted to experience them for myself. Rituals with us laying in bed with hydrogen peroxide tickling our ears as it bubbled was a particular highlight. (Warning: do not try this at home without the advice of your doctor!). In retrospect, I learned from this that too much earwax can be a problem for a child who wears hearing aids but at the time, it was just a lot of fun for me. I very much wanted to be involved, and took great enjoyment in helping our mom test hearing aid batteries and the hearing aids themselves with a stethoscope. This skill came in useful when my sister entered grade school; I was given the task at school of testing her “phonic ear” (FM system) each morning until she was old enough to do it herself. I took great pride in that role. 

At home, I figured out, much to our parents’ frustration, that jumping up and down on the floor on one side of the house was a great way to get my sisters attention when she was on the other side. I also learned to enunciate my words, speak loudly, face her when I was speaking, and use my hands to enhance my speech. These were not things that were taught to me explicitly, just ways that we naturally adapted. As an adult, and a teacher, I am very grateful for these early lessons in communication strategy.

I also realized that having someone who can lip-read in your life is both a blessing and a curse; it’s great if you want someone to help you spy, but not so great if you are trying to have a private conversation with someone else! Although I never would have admitted it to my parents at the time, I often tormented my sister by mouthing insults at her (so my parents wouldn’t hear it), just to get her riled up. Despite my role in her torture, I was intensely protective of my sister at the same time, and would never have let anyone else get away with similar actions. 

My sister had her share of annoying quirks too, and she certainly knew how to use her hearing aids to her advantage. When she didn’t like what someone was saying, she found her own means of tuning them out. What began as a toddler telling us “no-talka-me” and turning off her hearing aids, evolved into a chant of “I don’t have to listen to this….I don’t have to listen to this…” followed by the familiar click of hearing aids being switched off. As a teenager, she would use the excuse of “oh, my hearing aids weren’t in, I didn’t know you were waiting” to ensure she got more time in the washroom than me before school each morning. I, in turn, learned how to pick a lock!

As we grew up, I saw my sister develop many friendships, play sports, camp, swim, and excel at a mainstream school; all things one would expect from a child with typical hearing. As a teen, though, I was aware of my sister’s insecurities around people seeing her hearing aids, and I would see her struggle in situations with a great deal of background noise. Like anyone of that age group, she didn’t want to be different. I never truly understood those challenges, most likely because for me she was just like everyone else. 

In all, as a sibling of a child with hearing loss, I can honestly say I wouldn’t change a thing. Our lives were pretty normal. Our childhood was fun and rich. My experiences have helped me to be a more aware and empathetic person, and inspired ongoing curiosity to learn about unique learning strengths and needs. In many ways, her “impairment” has been a gift in helping shape who I am today. 

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