Uncertainty Avoidance : Socializing for the Hard-of-Hearing

 

Over one third of American adults experience some form of hearing loss today. Hard-of-Hearing (HOH) and legally deaf (DD) people abound in our families and workplaces, schools, churches, and diners. People with hearing difficulties tend to over compensate for their hearing challenges rather than advocate for us to accommodate them; I know, I am one of them. When a person has DD/HOH they may avoid activities and events where the uncertainty of not understanding what is going on is greater. Some of us have hearing aides but these often don’t work well in crowded or noisy environments.  Folks with HOH may try to compensate by; reading lips or body language, reading the print materials available, asking a friend to clarify and simplify, asking for information to be repeated, (“What?”) or even guessing the content of the message.

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Universal designs for learning (UDL) are effective tools for helping people access information better, whether or not they need an accommodation, that should be used by everyone with a message to give others or trouble with receiving it. For HOH accommodations like;

  • Captioned videos.
  • Materials available in print for speeches and pre-recorded auditory messages.
  • Recorded versions of the presentation posted online with captions.
  • Copy of the speech script.
  • Sign language interpreter.

“FM” systems are a common way for learning and presenting organizations to assist  those with HOH to access training, lectures, and other public presentations. A microphone and transmitter must be worn by the speaker and a receiver with headphones is used by the listener to amplify auditory volume. Background noises are a big problem. Another trouble is, to work properly the equipment must be adjusted slightly to each new user. A 20-30 minute training and adjustment period is needed for the equipment to work well for the listener, for each new speaker. This is not always possible, or those with HOH may not want to interrupt a speaker to ask for hearing assistance, including a training period!

Another tool exists which may help students, elders, and others with hearing challenges to hear more accurately and remember important facts from auditory presentations. This device allows a person with the HOH disability to control when, how, and to what degree they use it for amplification in public or at home, and it can be used in addition to hearing aides or cochlear implants. The tool I refer to is a Parabolic Dish Handheld Directional Listening Device or “Bionic Ear.”

You may have seen it in a toy store as kids “spy” equipment, or in a hunting store somewhere. These devices vary greatly in quality and durability. On close examination it appears they are made by just one or two manufacturers in China, and sold under several brands with somewhat different features. Many are cheap junk, but one or two are moderately-priced, durable, and VERY HELPFUL ed tech products that give HOH persons more personalized, adjustable hearing access, while reducing some of the distracting background noise, and allowing one to record vocal and other sounds for use and review later on (12 sec. internal capacity, or connectable to an external recording device for added recording time). This feature is great for educational environments where the student may also need more repetitions or extra time to process the information heard.

We tested five models. One worked as desired, two were fairly good, and 2 were not. All come in three pieces and are easy to assemble and de-construct to transport (i.e., a gun, a dish, and headphones; no tools required). All use a 9-volt battery (not included) which needs a philips screwdriver to install (not included); we liked ones with a snap-on battery terminal and compartment with easy to use screw and cap; while others have internal battery terminals, and difficult or non-working battery compartment lids. The better ones have volume/frequency control knobs that works smoothly, a set of record/play buttons, and a visual mono-scope (I can still lip-read!). Headphones are a big feature of the devices, so they must be comfortable, clear in tone, and head-size adjustable. The units that had very cheap or unusable headphones included we didn’t like. Our testers preferred one model:

  1. UZI Observation Device (UZI-OD-1) works great, nice headphones, on/off trigger, 8X monocular, frequency and volume controls, up to 300′ range (less with background noise), easy single-button record and playback features. Durable, can be used in all environments and conditions, water resistant, long battery life, safe, light-weight; The One We Recommend!
  2. Hausbell Scientific Explorer Bionic Ear (no model number; “plain Jane” box) works good but has less functional range, comfortable, single-adjustment headphones, monocular (unknown zoom), volume control, 150-200′ range, record and playback features, sensitive to moisture, a good second choice.
  3. SUMA; a medium to short range Bionic ear alternative, acceptable headphones, shipping time was very long (over 2 weeks for standard, others arrived in 8-10 days), and slightly more expensive for the same mid-range quality as Hausbell.
  4. Educational Insights Geosafari Sonic Sleuth poor quality, no features, battery compartment not functional, very cheap headphones.
  5. Scientific Explorer Bionic Ear Electronic Listening Device also poorly made, broke within an hour of use, problems with the battery compartment, poor quality microphone and headphones.

The only feature none of these models included that we like in our “better listening kit,” is a large Rubber Band, and an extra battery (and small screwdriver). All units tested had an on/off “trigger” switch, which must be held down with the finger continuously while the unit is in use. Holding the trigger for extended periods of time is not fun. Try using a large rubber band (seen in above photo), adjust it over the trigger for longer periods of use (may shorten battery life). Use the plastic ‘feet’ on the parabolic dish to stand or rest the device on an object or table. So far, we’ve had many happy hours in the park at free concerts, community gatherings, classes, and other places where previously this HOH person wouldn’t have been able to hear, across a distance with people around. But now I hear acceptably in many more places just by aiming the parabolic device directly towards the person I am listening to. Now I can feel at ease and in control at  many activities I used to avoid attending because of the uncertainty and isolation of being HOH.

If you give this device a try please let us know what you think! Remember to look for this and other useful ed tech under “products” on our website at: www.enablethem.com

 

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Inner Life of Behaviors

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My parents were not overly educated. Neither finished high school actually, but that did not prevent them from having a full measure and graduate level understanding of human behaviors. The code of the day, when I was a young child in the 1960’s was still “Spare the rod; spoil the child,” and “Children should be seen and not heard [from].”

It certainly never occurred to my parental unit that a day would ever come when children and their behaviors ruled a household, or determined the decisions (socially, emotionally, and financially) that had to be made by the heads of their household. At the same time, my father deeply understood children and adult inner motivations, and was my first teacher in the art of personal empowerment, choice making, and consequences. He effortlessly created a rich and rewarding real-life learning environment for his children which included hands-on involvement with the world, travel, questioning the facts and the opinions of others, research, and thinking for oneself. It is not what I learned that mattered to him, as long as I was keenly interested in something and trying to understand it from all sides and angles. I often had far reaching goals and dreams in my youth and my parents always let me know they believed in my ability to carve out any destiny I chose. They didn’t make me believe it would always be easy and they didn’t mask the possibility of failures along the way. But they believed in “getting back on the horse” when you’ve been thrown, and they frequently picked me up, dusted me off, and sent me back to the ring to try again, whatever the risk or possibility of failure might be. They did not protect me from making mistakes, even when they advised me fore or against any course of action.They accepted I had decisions to make, and that I must live with them.

From this early experience of “getting down and dirty” with life and my chosen paths, I have built a praxis in teaching, and in understanding the needs of the modern young person. I have practiced and participated in the learning and teaching experience over the past 4 decades and I now consider myself somewhat of an expert.:) But I also realize in each exhale how much more I have to learn. Currently I live with several disabilities of my own, including auditory and visual, but I do not consider them disabilities because living with these challenges has help prepare me to work with students with disabilities. I currently teach children  with severe learning disabilities, Autism, and non-verbal students in K-12 and adult learners. My students often represent the hardest group to serve. But because of many years and different situations of teaching practice I am prepared and pleased to be teaching my kids.

My last four years I have spent leading public school functional life skills classrooms in three states and I have learned from research and practice the key components of reasoning behind student misbehaviors and bad habits. Because I have really not found this information shared elsewhere, I am writing a blog that will focus on explaining my findings regarding instruction, classroom environmental design, UDL curriculum design, Common Core adaptations, and what is (wrongly) called “classroom management” skills to help other teachers and parents find meaning to their pressing questions in regards to special needs and unique learning students.

Many of my experiences- and research- driven practices will surprise some of you. Others will exclaim, “It’s about time someone used their common sense!” Whatever your reaction to my commitment to turning all education, especially Special Education, into an experience that is student-centered, -driven, -assessed, and which empowers students to choose and follow their own self-constructed paths to success, I hope that you will share it with me. Cheers! Remember to visit my site www.enablethem.com!

Zen and the Art of the Classroom Teacher

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1942 Young people who would become my ancestors and first teachers. Note the big smiles before have children and careers!

The first teachers are our parents. We are all “home schooled” by accident and on purpose; learning to observe and adapt to visual, auditory, tactile, emotional, physical, and kinesthetic lessons that shape our lives and characters. “Nature or nurture?” is the question that cannot be fully answered, only balanced against the fires of experiences that shape each of us. Elements of perseverence and compassion, personal opinions and choices continually shaping our development and swaying the directions of our paths into life.  Like a tree branch or root system, we are always growing, extending, seeking, recoiling, and readjusting the path.

Our teachers throughout life make remarkable Impacts onto our lives and the future of ourselves, our children, our whole world. Our teachers shape and groom the face of society, culture, and the future by the words they utter, the things they do, and don’t do while we are with them.

The blog posts that follow are the reflections and lessons of a life well lived for over 5 decades, and of the wisdoms gained by teaching for over 3 decades. The teaching praxis reflected on follows the concepts of a common-core enriched, project-based, art and music infused, hands-on, autonomous learning style with students inside and outside of public schools, home schools, charter schools, and innovative start-up schools from 1981 to the present. Starting out as a reluctant school teacher, pursuing the life of an artist, non-profit leader, energy conservation guru, teaching-artist, science teacher, math tutor, sculptor, weaver, writer, researcher and parent has rounded my view point of what learning means.

The blog will pursue the theme “What it Means to be a Great Teacher,” and more importantly why. Teaching is not a career pathway for the “faint of heart.” Indeed, teaching requires deep insight into your own personal struggle to find meaningful work, and education. Teaching means growing a thick skin in order to endure both an unappreciative student body and family brand. Teaching means countless little losses of face, and a few giant leaps of faith. Teaching means investing in a future you may never witness. Teaching implies you always smile, you never give up, and as Loren Green taught us in a Bonanza TV show in 1951;

I don’t have anything against education, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of your thinking.

Remember to visit my site www.enablethem.com!