31 Thoughts: Ripping off a Very Good Hockey Blog for Speech and Hearing Month

On May 1st of this year I tweeted the following:


As you can see by the number of replies, I didn’t do a good job at following through with this goal. Between attending Speech-Language and Audiology Canada’s 2018 Conference and board meeting, developing a presentation on audiology as a career choice for a Dalhousie graduate conference, and diving into my 12-week summer internship, the beginning of May kept me pretty busy. However, in an effort to follow-through on what I initially set out to do here’s a blog post including 31 thoughts and musings about hearing and audiology.

(If you follow professional hockey at all, you’ll know that this format is ripping off my favourite hockey blog: 31 Thoughts by Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet. Every week he breaks down 31 unrelated topics that are usually too big to just Tweet out, but too small to justify writing an entire article on.)

  1. 24 years ago my hearing loss was missed because there was no universal newborn hearing screening in my home province of Alberta. Now, friends and family make a point to send me photos of their newborns getting their hearing checked before they leave the hospital. While Alberta’s program isn’t quite universal, its getting close. In addition, Saskatchewan announced funding for their own newborn screening program in this spring’s budget, and Ontario pledged to boost their program last summer. While many provinces still have a ways to go, as a whole Canada has made great strides since the Canadian Infant Hearing Task Force released their last report card in 2014. So many people have put in so many hours towards making a difference for Canadian newborns, and its important that we all take time to continue to advocate for universal newborn screening – not just in May, but all year long.
  2. Can we hang up our hats when universal newborn hearing screening is accomplished in Canada? Probably not. In fact, there are great arguments to made for the wider implementation of preschool hearing screening. Perhaps that should be our next big goal.
  3. Dr. Cliff Olson recently expanded from his hearing-centric YouTube channel and is now hosting a podcast for The Hearing Journal. His most recent guest was hearing loss advocate Shari Eberts and it is definitely worth a listen. I love podcasts and its great to see another hearing-related program out there. I’ve actually played around with the idea of starting my own, so I’ll definitely be following this one closely to see how it goes for Cliff.
  4. D.J. Demers’ ongoing partnership with Phonak is fascinating to watch. What started with a comedy tour/video blog last fall has now grown into D.J. representing Phonak online, on the exhibition floor at AudiologyNOW, and at Phonak’s R!SE Symposium. Every time I hear him speak I’m amazed at how well D.J. is able to balance his role as an advocate and a role model, with that of being a quasi-corporate-spokesperson. Whoever it was with Phonak that took the leap to get him involved deserves some major kudos.
  5. Continuing along this theme, I think Gael Hannan is amazing. She’s probably the most prolific hearing loss blogger and advocate out there and does such great work providing support and building networks for others with hearing loss. However, I really wish she’d stop pushing for the word “HoH” (her acronym for hard-of-hearing, pronounced “hoe”) to gain greater usage. This appropriation of the African-American English vernacular pronunciation of a derogatory term for a female working in the sex industry doesn’t sit 100% right with me as a white dude in 2018, but I have to imagine others feel the same way.
  6. The Sivantos-Widex merger will be interesting to watch. Both companies have loyal followings, so I can’t imagine they’ll drop either of the brand names anytime soon (especially now that everyone just started getting used to saying Signia instead of Siemens). Perhaps most interesting will be whatever new marketing materials the combined forces come up with. You have to imagine the team that came up with the “animals painted on hands” campaign and the team that dressed a 65 year old dude with a man-bun in formalwear for a surfing photoshoot will come together for something really great.
  7. This merger leaves Starkey as the only family-owned hearing device company out of the Big 6 (now 5). However, between talking deer, embezzlement lawsuits, and sexual harassment claims you’d have to imagine that can’t last forever. Resound has been expanding its operation in Minnesota and now own Audigy, who have had longterm partnerships with Starkey. It seems possible that we might be down to the Big 4 sooner rather than later.
  8. If I see one more hearing clinic just post a bad comic strip making a poor joke at the expense of people with hearing loss as an excuse for social media content I’m going to lose it. Be better than that folks. You’re all smart, capable individuals with valuable and entertaining things to offer. One of my favourite audiology clinics to follow online is Lakeside Audiology in South Carolina. Look what a solid understanding of your own brand and values (and admittedly some pretty decent photography skills) can do to deliver great social media materials.
  9. At the SAC 2018 Conference in Edmonton, I found myself in one of the audiology presentations as one of several audiologists in attendance with hearing loss (we were all in the front row, true to expectations). It felt really empowering to know I was amongst colleagues with similar backgrounds, and the same drive to help others in our positions. I wonder if there are more opportunities to explore these shared experiences and share our body of knowledge with the rest of our audiology peer group to improve patient experiences for all.
  10. Dave Kemp of FuturEar always keeps me thinking about the future of hearing devices, including the use of voice assistance going forward. He recently inspired me to see if I could control my Oticon Opn hearing devices with just my voice. It turns out you can – sorta. Its definitely doable, but not super convenient.
  11. A few months ago I had the chance to work with a woman for a university project who had significant mobility limitations, but had special supports in place for her to do almost everything independently. From a specially-built kitchen and vehicle modifications, to  assortment of tools to get dressed, do her hair, and perform everyday tasks, I was amazed at how she had found a solution to nearly every issue she faced. However, I asked her if she’d be able to independently insert, remove, and maintain conventional hearing devices if she had to. She was very certain in her response of “no.” That ought to be an area we can explore more, right? Technology like voice assistance will help, but I think there must be room for some more practical solutions as well.
  12. There’s an argument made by certain groups in the Deaf community that all individuals with hearing loss should learn sign language, as they should have a way to communicate that isn’t completely reliant on their devices which may potentially one day stop benefitting them. I don’t really agree with this view, but as I get older I can start to understand it more. While technology can help in a huge number of situations, there will always be situations where it simply isn’t the best option. Long sweaty bike rides, a day at the beach, etc. I think an important but sometimes overlooked component of aural rehab, especially in kids, is empowering individuals with hearing loss to be capable and confident in situations where they’re without their technology.
  13. I follow a handful of Facebook groups for people who wear hearing aids or have hearing loss, and some of what I’ve seen is incredible. People will pose questions that should have been answered during their fittings and many others will reply with completely misguided answers. Can audiologists do more to educate their clients? Should there be better resources available? I’d recommend that all hearing professionals snoop on some of these groups to understand what level of understanding many clients have about their devices.
  14. Frankie Talarico published his Open Source instructions for 3-D printing your own VRA equipment this week. Phenomenally cool.
  15. I’ve had this post open on my desktop for a couple weeks and now its May 29 so I’m hitting publish. There’s lots of interesting stuff going on in the hearing health / audiology world but nothing else I can think of that hasn’t been covered elsewhere. Have a great summer everyone!




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