Thursday, July 31, 2008

Getting to Know… Videophones

Callers see an interpreter on their TV screen and sign a message to the interpreter, who then contacts the hearing recipient on a standard phone line and relays the conversation between the two parties.

Video Relay Services (or VRS) help the deaf to call hearing people. The customer dials a toll-free number and sees a picture of an interpreter on a home television screen. The operator contacts the desired hearing person and then serves as a go-between the two parties, signing to the deaf person and speaking to the hearing person, just as they would do in person. The service is free to the deaf because the cost is underwritten by the universal access surcharge that telephone users pay.

When video relay began in January 2002 only about 7200 minutes where used each month. That rose to more than 3 million minutes last year, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

Large Companies offering Video Relay Service: Sprint, AT&T, Verizon/MCI, Hamilton and Sorenson

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Tennitus Survey

A survey of annoyance levels for tinnitus sufferers. Tennitus is a a ringing, buzzing or whistling sound in one or both ears occurring without outside stimulus.
How Annoying is it?
  • 39.2% - mildly distressed 23.9% - severely distressed
  • 12.8% - most severely distressed
How Loud is it?
  • 60% - medium degree of tinnitus loudness
  • 32% - strong degree of tinnitus loudness
  • 8% - rated their condition as weak
Source: Archives of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

New Testing Rules in Tennessee

Tennessee has joined 43 other states and begun requiring all newborns to undergo a hearing test before leaving the hospital. Testing is also required on children born outside of hospitals within 48 hours. The Tennessee rules went into effect in July first.

Twitter and 12seconds

Twittering is a social networking site that is growing so fast that it is wrestling with the problem of going down from too many users trying to access it. A good problem to have.

Twittering is sort of micro-blogging or perhaps Group IM (instant messaging). Like the status updates on Facebook, twittering explains what I’m doing right now in just a few words. Ten, 20, a 100 people may be signed in to get my twitters.

Working on the same premise is 12seconds. You create video updates that are 12 seconds in length – a similar limitation to Twitter’s 140 character limit.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Deafness in America

About 7.8 million Americans 15 year of age and older had difficulty hearing a normal conversation, including 1 million who were deaf in 2004, according to US Census Bureau. That puts the number of deaf in the US to be about 10% of the total population. An estimated 50-70,000 Americans under 18 are profoundly deaf. And it's estimated that 78 million Americans will have hearing loss in the next quarter century.


A "prelingually Deaf" person is someone who is either born deaf or who lost his or her hearing early in childhood, before acquiring language.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Family Income

More than half of those with severe to profound hearing loss have a family income of less than $25,000. Source: Project HOPE.

Friday, July 25, 2008

My Heart Glow

There’s a new book coming out that explains to children how American Sign Language got its start. Written by Emily Arnold McCully, My Heart Glow: Alice Cogswell, Thomas Gallaudet and the Birth of American Sign Language tells the true story of a deaf child, Alice Cogswell, and her teacher Thomas Gallaudet. She inspires him to help found the first permanent school for deaf children back in 1817. Gallaudet had seen sign languages among American Indians and traveled to France to look for the best teaching methods. The American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut helped with research. The illustrated book retails for $15.99.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Earphones to Protest Your Hearing

A British company says it’s come up with a way to provide music lovers great audio at a low volume – a combination necessary for protecting hearing. Advanced Communication Solutions is offering custom-molded earphones for $1000. With nearly all external noise blocked out, listeners can drop the volume of MP3 player by half.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Deaf Rabbi

Darby Leigh is the new assistant rabbi at B’nai Keshet, a synagogue in Montclair, New Jersey. The 35-year-old profoundly deaf man is the son of deaf parents. Leigh toured with the National Theater of the Deaf before attending rabbinical school to learn Hebrew. Leigh was the first male, deaf student to attend on of the major rabbinical seminaries in the US. Here is a video about him. (no captioning)

Hearing Damage Comes Fast

Nine-out-of-ten young people who had spent the night at a club or loud bar had hearing damage – after just one night. The study by the Royal National Institute for Deaf People found nearly all of them had symptoms of dull hearing, ringing in the ears and over-sensitivity to sound. The charity is launching a competition for fashionable earplugs as a result since only 3% of youth wear them.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cochlear Market Expected To Surge

A new study predicts a surge in sales of cochlear implants over the next four years. The market is projected to grow from $725 million in 2008 to $1.59 billion in 2012, according to Neurotech Reports. More than 130,000 devices are already in use worldwide. The average cost of implant surgery is around $30,000.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

M-TV Show Features Cochlear Implants

MTV's show True Life airing today at 1pm will feature a teen and college student who were born profoundly deaf and chose to have cochlear implant surgery. They have the devices installed and activated – all the while cameras are rolling. The award-winning documentary series showcases real-life stories of young people. The episode titled True Life: I'm Deaf was shot last winter. One student is a 22-year-old from Maryland attending college and the other is a teen from New Jersey.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Grace's Law

A New Jersey bill has passed the state Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee that would require health insurance companies to provide $1000 in coverage for hearing aids for children under age of 16 every two years. The legislation is called Grace’s Law and is named for Grace Gleba, an 8-year-old girl has a severe hearing impairment. Her mother, Jeanine Gleba started lobbying lawmakers to pass the bill nine years ago.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Implant Maker Sees Strong Sales

A new cochlear implant produced by Med-El is doing very well. The company says sales of its Opus 2 speech processor is up more than 30%. The latest version of the devise received FDA approval in April. It has switch-free operation and works with wireless FM and Bluetooth. Based in North Carolina, Med-El is the third largest hearing-implant company in the world.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Boy's Implants Stolen Twice-CNN

(no captioning)

Implant Maker to Pay Million Dollar Fine

Federal regulators have reached a settlement with Advanced Bionics over changes to production of one of its cochlear implants which could have exposed patients to unnecessary health risks. The California hearing device manufacturer agreed to pay a civil money penalty of more than $1 million. The head of the company will pay $75,000. Advanced Bionics issued a recall of the the HiRes90k Implantable Cochlear Stimulator in 2006 since materials for the implant came from an unapproved supplier. The FDA says excessive moisture that could leak into the devices and cause device failure and lead to possible surgery. Advanced Bionics admitting no liability.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Taking McDonald's to Court

Karen Tumeh is suing McDonald's. The deaf women says several times, workers at a Nebraska restaurant refused to let her order at the drive-thru window. Tumeh considers that a violation of ADA law. Workers wanted her to come inside to order even though she has autistic children. Tumeh is hoping her suit will force the fast food company to accommodate deaf drive-through customers. McDonald’s hasn’t commented on the suit.

National Parks Services

Looking for a sign language interpreter or captioned movies and services at national parks? The federal government has set up a site for those needs, along information on trails, programs and other activities for the disabled at nation parks. The National Park Service web site is called National Parks: Accessible to Everyone. There is a section called Parks with Features Accessible to Hearing Impaired Features.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Football Drum

Although Gallaudet no longer uses a drum to signal the start of plays in football games, a drummer still bangs one when it's time to switch warmup exercises during pregame stretching. A hand signal or a touch on the center's leg is used to call for the snap to the quarterback. Rather than feeling the vibration from the drum, players now watch for ball movement to start plays. The Bison keep defenses off balance by calling plays in sign language at the line of scrimmage, although the huddle was created at Gallaudet back in the 1890s.

Football Coach Grounded in Deaf Culture

The new football coach at the University of Mississippi grew up playing and communicating with deaf children. Houston Nutt’s parents taught at the Arkansas School for the Deaf. The 50-year-old Nutt took over at "Ole Miss" after resigning from Arkansas, where he spent a decade coaching the Razorbacks. During his tenure there, he led the team to three Southeastern Conference Western Division titles and was named 2006 SEC coach of the year. His father, Houston Nutt Sr., grew up with a slight hearing impairment in a deaf household. At the Arkansas School for the Deaf, the elder Nutt served as dean of students, teacher, coach, groundskeeper, athletic director. Perhaps most importantly, he served as father figure to children who would leave home at the age of 4 or 5 to live at the school.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Miss Universe

The Japanese beauty crowned Miss Universe 2007 has a connection with the Deaf Community. Riyo Mori learned American Sign Language when her host guardian in Canada began suffering from hearing loss. She began volunteering to work with Deaf children, especially art activities. She passed on her crown last night to Miss Venezuela in Vietnam who was selected Miss Universe 2008.

Celebrity Helps Oral School

You may have seen Countess Lu-Ann de Lesseps on the reality TV show The Real Housewives of New York. What you may not know is that she uses her celebrity status to bring attention to the Auditory Oral School of New York. She says the school’s goal is moving either deaf or children with hearing loss into mainstream classrooms in New York. Her husband, Alexandre Count de Lesseps, began having trouble hearing in his right ear five years ago. So she considers it a personal mission to help anyone who has difficulty in the same way.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Ferry Lawsuit

A lawsuit filed by a group called the Washington Communication Access Project is aimed at making Washington State Ferries become more hearing loss friendly. The nonprofit group filed the suit in Kitsap County, across the Puget Sound from Seattle. The group claims the Ferries failure to provide translations of audio messages is a violation of the Washington Law Against Discrimination. Reader boards and video monitors have already been installed at some of the ferries' stops and on some of the ferries themselves.

Miss Deaf America Winner

Gallaudet University student Michelle Lapides of Maryland won the Miss Deaf America 2008-2010 title at the National Association of the Deaf Conference in New Orleans. First runner-up was Miss Deaf Texas, Katherine Murich. Second runner-up was Miss Deaf Missouri, JoAnn Benfield.

College Bowl Winners

Gallaudet University has won first place in the annual College Bowl tournament taking place during the National Association of the Deaf convention in New Orleans. The Washington, DC school competed with teams from California State University at Northridge and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at the Rochester Institute of Technology. The final score was Gallaudet 127, NTID 79, and CSUN 76. The Gally team showered coach Robert Weinstock with Gatorade following the victory.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Disney Gets Award

Walt Disney World in Orlando is has been given the National Association of the Deaf's Access Award for it’s use of sign language interpreting service at the park. Since Walt Disney World often invents its own names for things, it has invented hundreds of Disney-specific word signs. Signs that are unique to a character or to a location must be learned by all the interpreters who work there.

Many of the stage shows, parades and other attractions at the park offer ASL interpretation services at least once a week. The Disney-signs were created with the help of ASL Services located in nearby Kissimmee, Florida.

The award is not for Disney’s new words but for the way the routines are choreographed and how interpreters use their faces and bodies as well as with their hands to convey the language.

Six Flags

Six Flags over Texas in Arlington has 11 deaf employees on staff. Some work at the restaurant while others man food stands, park gates and guest services. Most are students from the Texas School for the Deaf in Austin. Six Flags employs some of the students during the school year as well. It provides an opportunity to deal with all sorts of different people.

Mentoring Program

Sorenson Communication is offering a new mentoring program that will give interpreters a change to improve their skill with one-on-one help from ASL experts. The Language Mentor Program provides 16-weeks of training for Video Relay and will help to prepare interpreters for national certification. The sessions are free for interpreters who work in Sorenson’s VRS system and can be taken in the home through the company’s videophones.

ASL Bible Convention

Jehovah's Witnesses are holding an American Sign Language Bible convention in Norco, California. It starts today and runs through the weekend. Some 2000 people are expected to attend. Mormons' and Jehovah's Witnesses' have generally been more aggressive in evangelizing the deaf community than Protestant and Catholic denominations. Jehovah's Witnesses are creating an ASL version of the Bible on DVD. A Mormon ASL Bible and Book of Mormon were released several years ago.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Graduate Studies for Deaf Education Gets Boost

Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas is getting a four-year grant for deaf education. The funds come from US Department of Education which is giving out more than $4 million nationwide for training doctoral, post-doctoral and other graduate students to work with children with disabilities. Lamar's portion will be $190,000 a year for four years.

Florida Deaf Woman Attacked

A deaf woman walking her service dog many have become the latest victim of the so-called 'East Side Rapist' last night in Orlando, Florida. The woman says she tried to fight the man off. Police say same man could be responsible for a string of attempted rapes in the same area and the murder of a University of Central Florida graduate. Her dog ran home and alerted her family.

Schools to Fight Plan

Administrators at the Oregon School for the Deaf are appealing a decision by state officials to combine it with the Oregon School for the Blind. The plan approved by State Schools Superintendent Susan Castillo is to sell the land occupied by the Oregon School for the Blind and move students to the facilities operated by the Oregon School for the Deaf. Officials at both schools say they will appeal to the state Board of Education. The School for the Deaf is located on 52 acres in Salem, Oregon.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

South Dakota Case Settled

A settlement has been reached over a suit alleging sexual abuse at the South Dakota School for the Deaf. While jurors were still deliberating the civil trial came to a halt. Neither side would say what was agreed upon. But the lawsuit was brought by three former students who accused a fellow student had sexually assaulted them. Two interpreters were brought in from other states for the trial. Their $20,000 bill is about a quarter of how much the county spends on interpreters for the entire year.

Monday, July 7, 2008

A Hearing Loss Drug

Scientists at the Oklahoma City’s Hough Ear Institute and the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation are working on a drug that may cut down on hearing loss suffered by soldiers, factory workers, machinists and others who work in a loud environment. A few years ago, Robert Floyd and Richard Kopke gave soldiers a drug called NAC before they went to a firing range. The troops who received the drug kept about a quarter more of their hearing than those who did not receive it. Now they are combining it with nitrone which is used for treating cancer. They believe the combination of both drugs will prevent hair cells in the ear from dying.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Former University Prez on Gallaudet

A longtime university president who now teaches at George Washington University has written a column for the Chronicle of Higher Education about the protests at Gallaudet. Stephen Joel Trachtenberg says, "Next year will be a particularly critical one for Gallaudet as the constituencies endeavor to stabilize the campus. Stakeholders must move forward on an agenda to create a constructive, open atmosphere, with positive communication and the free exchange of ideas.. Too many people rely on its contributions for it to permit self-indulgence on the part of a few to detract from its important standing in the higher education universe."