Sunday, August 31, 2008

Troy Program Opens

Troy University’s internatraining program for sign language interpreters has begun. The Alabama school is offering classes to prepare students to pass the National Interpreting Certification Exam.

Help During the Hurricane

When you watch the news coverage of hurricane Gustav, you may see Shari Bernius. She’s administrator of the Deaf Action Center, an agency of the Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans. Both of her parents were deaf and she understands the difficulties of those who are deaf during emergencies. Bernius signed many news conferences during Hurricane Katrina and now her skills are being called upon again. Her job is critical because there is no closed captioning for these emergency weather announcements, leaving the deaf community no way of knowing what's going on apart from the work of interpreters like Bernius.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Professor Going to Jail

A professor at Rochester Institute of Technology is going to jail. Michael Krembel was given an 11-year prison sentence for having sex with a 14-year-old boy. Krembel met the teen online. He taught graphic arts at RIT's National Technical Institute for the Deaf and for 35 years but was fired after pleading guilty to the charge.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hearing Loss among Baby Boomers

Hearing loss among "baby boomers" has increased significantly to about 15% of people between the ages 45 and 64, according to the Better Hearing Institute. In fact, the AARP says there are more people between the age 45 and 64 with hearing loss (10 million) than there are people over 65 with hearing loss (9 million). The reason: listening to loud music.

The number is expected to climb because by the year 2010, the baby boomer generation reaches age 65. The number of Americans with hearing loss could rise as high as 78 million by 2030, according to the National Institute on Deafness.

Getting to Know.. Deaf Culture

Deafness is one of the only medical conditions associated with its own set of cultural traditions. Many are concerned that technology will water down the use of sign language and minimize social interaction between deaf people. Some even shun devices designed to help them hear to protect the sanctity of deaf culture.

Ear Infections

How They Happen
· When viruses or bacteria get inside the ear (from a cold or other illness) fluid and mucus can become trapped deep inside the ear.

Who it Affects
· Three out of four children will suffer from ear infections before the age of three

· irritability
· loss of sleep, appetite, and balance
· tugging at the ear
· fever
· lack of response to quiet sounds
· signs of hearing difficulty (i.e. sitting too close to the TV)

· Tylenol
· warm baths
· "watchful waiting" (with children over 2)
· antibiotics if symptoms persists, however, it only works against bacterial infections
(some have become resistant to certain antibiotics)
· Doctors have no way of knowing if a virus or bacteria is causing any given infection

· Can result in hearing loss, though doctors say that's usually temporary.

More Information
· American Academy of Pediatrics
· National Library of Medicines

Closed Captioning on YouTube

Videos posted on YouTube can now be closed captioned. Video contributors can upload subtitles for as many languages as they want. They can be turned on and off by clicking on the “CC” button that pops up at the bottom right.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Scientific First

Researchers in Oregon say they’ve figured out how to make new hair cells grow in the inner ear of unborn mice. Work in humans is still a way off, but the efforts at the Oregon Health and Science University could lead to ground-breaking gene therapy that could one day restore hearing in the deaf. The effort is being lead by neurobiologist John Brigande who is profoundly hard of hearing himself. Details of the study are in the journal Nature.

Getting to Know.. Gallaudet University

The Name: Gal-luh-det not Gal-yoo-det

Address: 800 Florida Avenue NE, Washington, DC 20002


Year founded: 1864

Setting: Urban

Campus Size: 99 acres

Religious affiliation: None

Employees: 1,129 (41% deaf or hard of hearing)

Undergrad Degrees: 40 Bachelor's degree majors

Graduate Degrees: programs in social work, deaf education, international development and clinical psychology

Enrollment: about 1,800 Undergraduate student body: In the past five years, undergraduate enrollment has declined from about 1,400 to just under 1,000

Hearing Students: about 5%

Registered Clubs and Organizations: 31

Number of Fraternities and Sororities: 4/4

Student Newspaper: the Buff and Blue is published biweekly

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What’s Happened to Jane Fernandes?

Former Gallaudet University provost Jane Fernandes now holds the same position at UNC Asheville. Fernandes, who was born deaf, served in the post for Gallaudet for six years. But when the Gallaudet Board decided to appoint her as president of the school, students protested until she withdrew from the position.

Monday, August 25, 2008

In Silent Prayer

Father Anthony Russo has written a book about his 40 year ministry to the Deaf community. In Silent Prayer follows his path through churches in the Philadelphia area where the congregation is exclusively deaf and others where only a couple of people in the congregation is deaf. He traces this ministry back before his own time to the mid-1800’s. Russo was first assigned to the deaf when it was discovered that he himself suffers a mild hearing impairment. More information.

Friday, August 22, 2008

WHNS-TV in Greenville, South Carolina reports on an investigation into the state's school for the deaf and blind. (No captioning provided)

Sign Language Over Cell Phones

Seattle will be the testing ground for new software that allows deaf and hear-of-hearing to use sign language over a cell phone. The National Science Foundation has given researchers at the University of Washington a grant to test their program. A prototype of MobileASL has been posted on YouTube (see it below). Users can hold the phone in front of them and sign with one hand but most prefer to set the phone on a table and sign with both hands. More information.

Rochester Gets $900,000

Rochester’s School for the Deaf is getting nearly $900,000 over the next five years for its after-school academy. The money is coming from the state education department. The Rochester After School Academy is free and open to all deaf and hard-of-hearing school-age students.

School Takes Year Off from Football

There will be no football program at the Louisiana School for the Deaf – for one year. The school is suspending the program citing lack of interest and experience. The War Eagles have been playing in an eight-man football league for deaf schools. Last year’s record was 2 and 5. Only 11 players signed up to participate this year. In 2005 the school went undefeated and won the Deaf Schools National Championship.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Olympic Cyclist

Maria Belen Dutto got the chance to compete in the Beijing Olympics this week. The Argentine cyclist is almost entirely deaf. She competes in the BMX where cyclists race through a dirt circuit in less than a minute. She attended regular schools as a child and is now 21-years-old. A beep usually tells riders that the barrier before their front wheel is about to drop. Since Dutto cannot hear the beep, her father usually taps her back to let her know. That’s not necessary in the Olympics which has lights to indicate the start to riders. She didn't make it to the finals, but she came in 7th in her semifinals run today.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Drummer Keeps the Beat

Drummer Ben Herson was born with a degenerative hearing loss. But that hasn’t kept him from touring North American with some big acts during the last 15 years. His work has included hip-hop, reggae and African music. Herson has nerve damage in both ears and uses hearing aids.

Misdiagnosis of the Elderly who are Deaf

Elderly patients who are may get low scores on mental health tests because of a language barrier, according to a new study. A professor at Macon State College says this can lead to misdiagnosis of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. David Feldman found deaf patients typically scored between three and five percent lower on the exam than those who are hearing. The main reason was that the questions used language difficult to translate into sign language. He sees an experienced interpreter as critical to getting an accurate assessment.

Hearing Loss and Older Adults

Most common chronic conditions among older Americans:
  1. Hypertension
  2. Arthritis
  3. Hearing Loss

As many as 29 million people in the US may have at least some hearing loss, according to the Archives of Internal Medicine.

One-third of adults over the age 60 are hard of hearing and up to half of those age 75 or older are hard of hearing, according to the House Ear Institute.

Hearing loss associated with aging most often results from cumulative damage to the hair cells in the cochlea, which, like other body parts, suffer the wear and tear of age. The first to decline are those in the outer part of the cochlea that are sensitive to high-frequency sounds, including those produced by the consonants f, sh, ch, p, s and t, which are crucial to clarity in perceiving speech. The low-frequency vowel sounds are the last to go.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

School President Being Replaced

Something's wrong at the South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind. The State Law Enforcement Division has launched an investigation into the school, though agents are not saying why. At the same time, the board of the school is replacing president Pamela Shaw. Shaw has been on the job only about half a year. Vice president of outreach services, Carol Mabry, is taking over as interim president.

$3 Million for Implant Study

If you can hear out of only one ear, how will that affect your ability to use a cochlear implant? The National Institutes of Health is giving a $3 million grant to find out. Jill Firszt, a cochlear-implant specialist at St. Louis’ Washington University School of Medicine will spend 5 years trying to answer the question. Firszt expects the study will find that having hearing in one ear improves the outcome over being deaf in both ears. The study should also help determine whether someone should get a second implant right away or wait a while.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Step inside the Ear Canal

If we could stroll up the ear canal for a quick visit, we might find some wax blocking our way. At the end of the fleshy tunnel, we would have to squeeze around a huge, circular membrane - better known as the eardrum. After than, we would sidestep the oddly shaped middle ear bones and step into the inner ear. Up ahead we would see, rising like skyscrapers, a cluster of slender and interconnected inner ear hair cells. Bundles of them would gently bend as sound waves pass. These receptacles take in those sounds and transforming them into electrical signals, sending them to the brain for interpretation.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Can Apes Learn ASL?

Beginning in the late 1960s, several famous projects claimed to have taught language to baby chimpanzees. These claims quickly captured the public’s imagination and were played up in popular science books and magazines and television programs. Most of the trainers were schooled in the behaviorism tradition of B.F. Skinner and are ignorant of the study of language; they latched don tot the most tenuous resemblance between chimp and child and proclaimed that their abilities fare fundamentally the same.

The apes did not “learn American Sign Language”. This preposterous claim is based on the myth that ASL is a crude system of pantomimes and gestures rather than a full language with complex phonology, morphology, and syntax. In fact the apes had not learned any true ASL signs.

Steven Pinker
The Language Instinct

Saturday, August 16, 2008

American Sign Language Facts

• ASL can be traced at least to the late 1600s when a form of sign language was used by the deaf community on Martha's Vineyard.
• ASL moved closer to its current form in the early 1800s with the help of Protestant minister Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet.
• By the late 1860's signing was outlawed in many schools for the deaf. Some offenders were even forced to wear mittens.
• It's the primary language for as many as 500,000 people
• ASL is the second most taught language on college campuses according to National Public Radio.
• ASL has a distinct vocabulary. One dictionary lists more than 7,000 entries.
More than 100 four-year universities accept it as a foreign language requirements
• More than 700 public high schools offered sign language classes in 2004 (456 more than in 2000)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Getting to Know… Marlee Matlin

  • Born August 24, 1965
  • Grew up in Morton Grove, Illinois near Chicago
  • Became deaf when she was a year and a half old after she suffered a series of fevers
  • Won an Oscar for her role as the deaf student in Children of a Lesser God
  • Played a lawyer on her own TV series, Reasonable Doubt
  • Took the role of a political analyst on The West Wing
  • Plays a character on Showtime’s The ‘L’ Word
  • Attended the Jewish Temple for the Deaf B’nai Shalom located in Skokie
  • Discovered by Henry Winkler
  • Author of two Children’s books

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

72-year-old Gets Implant

A report from WCBS-TV in New York on one woman's implant story (no captioning provided).

Gallaudet.. By the Numbers

Mid 90s: There were as many as 1600 undergraduates

1999 – 2005: undergraduate graduation rates are about 42%

2001 - 2005: graduates who found jobs the first year out of Gallaudet drops every year

2002: 758 high school seniors applied to Gallaudet

2006: The number of new students shrinks to just 281

2006 – 1200 undergraduates

2007 - 1080 undergraduates this year

2007 - The institution of choice for only 13% of US deaf and hard-of-hearing high-school graduates who enroll in four-year colleges (according to the US Department of Education)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Call Center Shutdown Planned

Communication Service for the Deaf is shutting down its call center in Jacksonville, Florida in October. The move will put 114 people out of work. The center takes calls from people all over the country and has been in operation for three years. The nonprofit company is based in South Dakota. A spokesman admits that new technology is slowly eliminating the needPublish Post for the text relay service.

Monday, August 11, 2008

New App for iPhones and iPods

There’s a new tool for learning the ASL alphabet. An educational app has been designed for the iPod and iPhone called ABC Sign. Three choices are presented on the iPod or iPhone touch and the user selects the correct one. A quarter of the profits will go toward the benefit of deaf artists.

Lottery for the Deaf

A scam is going around the US that promises money through a so-called “lottery for the deaf.” The trick involves a call, mail contact or text that tells the person they get their winnings after paying taxes and fees up front, often through Western Union. Sometimes, they attempt to gain personal information from the deaf person, such as a Social Security number or bank account numbers.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Fundraiser for Deaf Boy

A benefit concert takes place a week from Friday (August 22) for a deaf Honduran boy at The Fine Line Music Cafe in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Sponsored by the Help Me Hear Foundation, tickets to the benefit concert are just $15. All the money that’s raised will go toward the purchase a cochlear implant for the boy. Seven local bands have agreed to appear for no charge.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Right Brain, Left Brain

When deaf people shadow one-handed signs in American Sign Language they find it harder to (simultaneously) tap with their right finger than with their left finger. That’s because the right finger competes with language for resources of the left hemisphere. When a person (either a signer or speaker) has to shadow a goodbye wave, a thumbs-up sign, or a meaningless gesticulation, the fingers of the right hand and the left and are slowed down equally.

Deaf signers with damage to their left hemispheres suffer from forms of sign aphasia (a loss of the ability to produce and/or comprehend language ) that are virtually identical to the aphasia of hearing victims with similar lesions. (They) are unimpaired at nonlinguistic tasks that place similar demands on the eyes and hands, such as gesturing, pantomiming, recognizing faces, and copying designs. Injuries to the right hemisphere of deaf signers produce the opposite pattern: they remain flawless at signing but have difficulty performing spatial tasks, just like hearing patients with injured right hemispheres.

It is a fascinating discovery. The right hemisphere is known to specialize in (spatial) abilities, so one might have expected that sign language, which depends on (spatial) abilities, would be computed in the right hemisphere. (But) language.. is controlled by the left hemisphere. The left hemisphere must be handling the abstract rules and trees underlying language, the grammar and the dictionary and the anatomy of words, and not merely the sounds and the mouthings at the surface.
From The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Most Widely Studied Foreign Language in Colleges

1. Spanish

2. French

3. German

4. Italian

5. American Sign Language

Source: Modern Language Association

Screening Newborns

All but seven US states now require newborns to be screened for hearing loss before leaving the hospital. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says all children should be screened for hearing loss before one month of age. The procedure takes less than 10 minutes. Hearing loss is the most common birth defect in the US, occurring in three out of every 1,000 newborns, according to the CDC. Two of those children will have a partial hearing loss while one will be profoundly deaf. That means roughly 12,000 babies are born each year with permanent hearing loss.

But many babies that fail hearing tests do not get the follow-up they need. About a third of the 76,000 newborns that did not pass their screening test last year did not get the further testing needed to determine if they actually have hearing loss, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, The CDC blames a shortage of audiologists and a lack of understanding on the part of parents. If a child doesn’t get a follow-up and diagnosis by 3 or 4 months, the problem isn’t likely to be caught until age 2 or 3 when it has started affecting language and social skills.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Randy Rutherford

Folksinger Randy Rutherford describes his journey toward hearing loss in his one-man show called Singing at the Edge of the World. Rutherford began losing his hearing during his 20’s and has left the musician with 70% hearing loss at the age of 58. He now wears digital hearing aids but still struggles to make out conversations.

Noise Levels: Ordinary and Military

Lawnmower: 90 decibels

Rock concert: 110

Blackhawk helicopter: 110

Abrams tank (speed increases decibels): 117

9 mm pistol: 157

M60 machine gun: 160

Hand grenade (50 feet from target): 164

TOW II missile launcher (on vehicle): 179

105 Towered Howitzer (artillery on tank): 183

Source: U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventative Medicine

Your Hearing Doctors

A physician who specializes in problems of the ear.

A professional who can identify and measure hearing loss who can help you determine if you need a hearing aid.

Lawsuit against St Paul Police

Doug Bahl is suing police in St. Paul, Minnesota. The well-known deaf activist was arrested and beaten during a traffic stop. Bahl was stopped for running a red light (this photo shows him with swollen, black eyes and blood on him). When he tried to communicate that he was deaf, officers sprayed him with mace and hit him. The policemen blame Bahl for starting the confrontation, saying he hit and bit one of them. But the officer's written account indicates show they were frustrated that Bahl did not "speak" with them and they failed to grasp that Bahl was deaf during the altercation. Then Bahl spent nearly four days in the Ramsey County Jail without the knowledge of his family. He says deputies wouldn't get him an interpreter. The sheriff says he offered Bahl a TTY phone the first day but he wanted to send an email to his family. Bahl says the next three days he was not provided an interpreter or allowed access to TTY. His first court appearance was even put off because Ramsey County authorities failed to provide him with an interpreter. Bahl ultimately was convicted of a misdemeanor. The Sheriff’s office says conditions have improved since the incident.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Closed Captioning State Law

A new Minnesota law requires candidates for state-level offices to include closed captioning in advertising. That means professionally produced ads that run on television and internet videos of two minutes or more will have to provide text. Transcripts of radio ads must be posted on the candidate's Web site. The exceptions: Judicial candidates are exempt. And ads for senate and presidential campaigns won’t have to abide by the law because they fall under federal campaign rules.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Hearing Loss Among the Young

A new study suggests more young Americans may be suffering from hearing loss than what has previously been reported. Here are some of the findings:

  • 16% (about 29 million people) have hearing loss in one (9%) or both ears (7%)
  • 31% (about 55 million people) had high-frequency hearing loss (12% in one ear and 19% in both)
  • Hearing loss was especially prevalent at high frequencies for people age 20 to 29 (8.5%) and age 30 to 39 (17%)
  • Men were 5.5 times more likely than women to have hearing loss
  • Black participants were 70% less likely to have loss of hearing than white participants with white
  • Mexican American men having the highest occurrence of both high-frequency hearing loss and hearing loss in both ears.

Details of the study are published are in the July 28 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Deaf Hockey Coach

Devils Lake High School in Dickinson, North Dakota has a new hockey coach – who’s deaf. David Zimmerman has been an assistant coach at the school for the past six seasons. He uses hearing aids and reads lips to communicate and played hockey during his entire time in high school. For two decades, Zimmerman has given himself to coaching peewee and bantam hockey teams.