Ireland’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing ‘Heroes’ Honoured at National Awards

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Legendary singer Daniel O’Donnell presented the 2013 Hidden Hearing Heroes Awards Ireland’s annual awards to highlight the achievements and accomplishments of those who are Deaf or hard of hearing.

An all-Ireland joint initiative between Hidden Hearing and the Irish Deaf Society, the Awards honour those who are Deaf or hard of hearing and have made a significant contribution to Irish society, their community, workplace, family or through sporting excellence.

Members of the public nominated their ‘hero’ who they felt deserved to be recognised for an award. The winners included Maura Buckley, the first Deaf woman to become a qualified teacher (teaching for 32 years) and the first Deaf vice principal at St. Mary’s School for Deaf Girls, and Deaflympian footballer Stuart Foy, the most capped Deaf football player in Irish history.

CMC0906-10Congratulating the winners, Daniel O’Donnell said: “I would like to congratulate each of our six award winners here today as they are true examples of real heroes in Irish society. Each person has shown great determination to reach their goals and they have proven that all obstacles can be overcome.  Their achievements and successes deserve to be honoured and brought to the attention of the Irish public.”

Applauding the winners, Stephen Leddy, Managing Director, Hidden Hearing said: The ‘Hidden Hearing Heroes Awards’ is the only awards initiative to focus on the achievements of the Deaf and hard of hearing community in Ireland.  The judging panel had some extremely tough decisions to make this year, with some really high calibre nominees. All of the winners demonstrated that being Deaf or hard of hearing does not have to hold you back in life.”

Discussing the Awards, Kevin Mulqueen, Chairperson of the Irish Deaf Society said: “Over the last three years the Heroes Awards has proven an excellent platform for creating awareness about the Deaf and hard of hearing community in Ireland and of its role in Irish society.  We are delighted to be partnering with Hidden Hearing in celebrating the success and triumphs of those who are Deaf or hard of hearing.”

If you’re worried about you or your hearing contact your local Hidden Hearing branch.  Hidden Hearing offers free hearing tests at its 60 branches nationwide. To book a test Freephone 1800 370 000 or visit http://www.hiddenhearing.ie.

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Reality TV show Big Brother’s first deaf winner celebrates victory

Sam Evans was crowned the champion of Channel 5’s reality TV show Big Brother last night, and celebrated becoming the first winner who has hearing loss.

SamEvansBigBrother2013_largeA UK hearing loss charity has called for the victory to emphasise to businesses and organisations their duty to ensure that they meet the needs of people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

 

The production company behind the 10 week television show, Endemol, has described the modifications and changes created through their work with charity Action on Hearing Loss which ensured Sam Evans had a true experience of being a Big Brother housemate.

 

Katherine Hancock, Action on Hearing Loss senior access consultant said: ‘’We worked together with Endemol prior to Sam entering the Big Brother House to ensure that all his access and communication needs were considered and met.

“Changes were then made to the Big Brother House to ensure that Sam had the same equality of access as other housemates, with Endemol taking on our recommendations to ensure that Sam had the same chance of winning.

“We were in constant communication during the course of the show, discussing products and assistive technologies that could benefit Sam and people with hearing loss, while also helping the production company to be accessible to its staff and customers with a hearing loss on a long term basis. We urge organisations to take Endemol’s lead.”

A spokesman from Endemol said: “Sam has been a brilliant housemate and is a deserving winner. Working with the team at Action for Hearing Loss has been a good experience and was invaluable in allowing us to make sure Sam had everything he needed during the his time in the Big Brother House.”

After making Big Brother staff and contestants deaf aware, Action on Hearing Loss is now urging more organisations to mark their commitment to hearing loss by signing up to their Louder than Words charter.

The best practice charter aims to help and celebrate organisations who are striving to offer excellent levels of service and accessibility for customers of employees who are deaf or hard of hearing.

If you’re worried about you or your hearing contact your local Hidden Hearing branch.  Hidden Hearing offers free hearing tests at its 60 branches nationwide. To book a test Freephone 1800 370 000 or visit http://www.hiddenhearing.ie.

For more information visit: http://www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/

 

We have a handy information booklet on how we hear if you are interested apply below and we will send you a FREE copy.howdowehear2

How your mobile phone can cause acne, saggy jaw and hearing problems

Unknown-1Most people admit that they cannot go a day without their mobile phone but now a new study has found that your daily companion could be causing harm to your body.

From ruining your eyes, causing spots and damaging your hearing, the dailymail.co.uk contacted several professionals to investigate the effects that our favourite gadgets have on our bodies.

Damage to eyesight

Dr. Allon Barsam, a consultant ophthalmic surgeon at Luton & Dunstable University Hospital told the website that focusing on your phone screen for hours could lead near-sightedness in the future.

‘Presbyopia, or the inability to focus on close objects, usually develops in your mid-to-late-40s, which is why everyone after a certain age needs reading glasses,’ Barsam said.

‘People only notice this when they can’t read a newspaper, but we tend to hold phones far closer to our eyes than papers — around 10in away as opposed to 16in — so it’s becoming a problem sooner.’

Jawline

The way you hold your phone could also change the definition of your jawline. ‘I’ve seen an increase in the number of women in their 30s concerned about weakness in the lower third of their face,’ cosmetic dermatologist, Dr Sam Bunting was quoted saying.

‘As we age, our skin’s elasticity decreases and it’s feasible that bending our neck forward for hours on end to look at smartphones and tablets may mean there is more of a downwards tug on the delicate skin.’

To avoid this, Bunting advised holding your phone or tablet straight out in front of you, rather than below chest level.

Acne

According to a recent study, our cellphones have more germs on them than the flush handle in a men’s toilet. The constant pressure and contact of the cell phone along with the bacteria found on the surface of phones can aggravate the skin, and add to acne breakouts.

So be sure to keep your phone a good wipe, now and again.

Damaging your hearing

‘Playing music through headphones too loud can cause noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), which can make it difficult to hear speech, especially when there’s background noise,’  Dolores Madden from Hidden Hearing commented.

Solution: Always keep sound levels as low as you can and don’t listen for too long.

If you’re worried about you or your hearing contact your local Hidden Hearing branch.  Hidden Hearing offers free hearing tests at its 60 branches nationwide. To book a test Freephone 1800 370 000 or visit http://www.hiddenhearing.ie.

We have a handy information booklet on how we hear if you are interested apply below and we will send you a FREE copy.howdowehear2

How does our brain compensate for hearing loss?

sensorineural hearing loss is caused by abnormalities in the hair cells

sensorineural hearing loss is caused by abnormalities in the hair cells

The brain can do some amazing things and recent research into the effects of intermittent hearing loss has highlighted its impressive powers of adaptability, as well as the mechanisms it uses to locate sound.

Tracey Pollard from our Biomedical Research team tells us more about the research, carried out at Oxford University, and how it could lead to new approaches to treating persistent glue ear, whilst also having implications for hearing aid design.

Plasticity

The neurons, or nerve cells, in the brain are remarkable – they can change what they do depending on the information they receive from the outside world via the senses. This ability is known as plasticity – it means that the function of a neuron is not necessarily hardwired into it but can change depending on circumstances.

An example of this plasticity can be seen in deaf individuals, where the neurons that would normally be involved in processing signals and sounds from the ears are ‘diverted’ to the visual system. Here, they become involved in processing information from the eyes – so deaf people really do see more! This plasticity doesn’t just occur between sensory systems though; it can happen within one system. For example, if sound coming into the ears is distorted or degraded, the auditory nerves can adapt to make the best of the information they do have. This might happen when there is a lot of echo, or because sound is missing to some degree, as in partial deafness or deafness in one ear.

This adaptation isn’t always helpful, particularly if it’s persistent, as it may become permanent. In adults who receive a cochlear implant after being deaf for a long time, the neurons that have been diverted to other systems may no longer be available for the implant to stimulate which can make the implant less effective. Also, children who suffer from prolonged deafness in one ear during childhood can develop a ‘lazy ear’ when their hearing is subsequently restored (e.g. through surgery) – the brain is now too used to only receiving useful information from the unaffected ear. As a result, even though the brain is now getting information from both ears, it isn’t taking as much notice of the second ear as it should. This can cause problems later on, such as difficulties in picking out one particular sound from a noisy environment or locating where a sound is coming from.

Locating sound

The brain usually works out where a particular sound is coming from by combining the information it receives from both ears and using the differences between them to localise the sound. These differences are mostly ones of time (a sound from one side of a person will reach the ear on that side ever so slightly sooner than it reaches the ear on the other side) and volume (the sound will be ever so slightly louder in the ear on the side that it’s coming from than the ear on the other side). It also uses the information received from the external part of the ear (the pinna), which filters sounds coming from different directions in a particular way, to fine-tune the process.

However, if one ear is blocked e.g. by a persistent ear infection, or if a person is deaf in one ear only, the brain can still localise sounds by putting much more emphasis on the information from the unblocked ear. It can’t compare information between the ears, so instead it focuses more on the information from the pinna of the unaffected ear. This allows the brain to continue to localise sounds – it’s not quite as effective, but it’s good enough. However, as mentioned above, this strategy for localising sound may become hard-wired into the brain, so even if the hearing loss is corrected at a later time, the brain can’t go back to the old way of doing things, leading to the ‘lazy ear’ described above. This is a potential problem, as a significant number of children suffer from recurrent bouts of glue ear and thus lose their hearing in one ear until the infection is cleared. These children could therefore be at risk of developing more serious hearing problems later in life.

Glue ear and intermittent hearing loss

The hearing loss experienced in glue ear is not usually persistent – even in recurrent glue ear, once the infection is cleared, hearing in that ear returns to normal, at least until the next infection strikes! It might be that this intermittent hearing loss has a different effect upon the brain, and that’s exactly what Professor Andrew King and his team at Oxford University investigated. They modelled this intermittent hearing loss by plugging the ears of young ferrets and measuring how well they could localise sounds and what was happening in their brains whilst they were doing so. These ear plugs were routinely changed, meaning that the ferrets experienced occasional short bursts of normal ‘two-eared’ hearing. The researchers found that when one ear was plugged, the ferrets became dependent on the information from the unaffected ear for locating where sounds were coming from – they became very good at using this alternative strategy. However, when the ear was then unplugged, they immediately reverted to combining the information from both ears to locate sounds.

The neurons involved could adapt to the context i.e. whether information was coming from one ear or two and switched between the two strategies as appropriate. This meant that one process did not become hardwired over the other, and the ferrets could use whichever one was best for their situation; this is different to what happens when deafness is persistent with no periodic experience of normal hearing.

These findings could lead to new ways of rehabilitating children with glue ear that is serious enough to cause more permanent deafness – it suggests that every attempt should be made to restore their normal hearing whenever possible, so that they are less likely to develop more serious hearing problems later in life. The realisation that the information from the pinna is so important in this alternative strategy for locating sounds could have implications for the design of hearing aids.

If you’re worried about you or your hearing contact your local Hidden Hearing branch.  Hidden Hearing offers free hearing tests at its 60 branches nationwide. To book a test Freephone 1800 370 000 or visit http://www.hiddenhearing.ie.

Read More: From Action on Hearing Loss. Click Here.

We have a handy information booklet on how we hear if you are interested apply below and we will send you a FREE copy.howdowehear2

New device helps the blind see through sounds

blindsight2Today’s Irish Independent has an interesting article about a revolutionary new device that helps the blind “see through sounds”.  The vOICe sensory substitution device trains the brain to turn sounds into images, allowing people to create a picture of the things around them.  Researchers at the University of Bath say The vOICe could be used as an alternative to invasive treatment for blind and partially sighted people.

The latest synthetic vision technology allows you to see with your ears and is turning our understanding of the senses upside down.

Claire Cheskin used to love in a murky world of grey, her damaged eyes only seeing large objects if they were right next to her.  She could detect the outlines of people but not their expressions, and could just about make out the silhouettes of buildings, but no details.

Nowadays things are looking distinctly brighter for Cheskin. Using the vOICe, which translates visual images into “soundscapes”, she has trained her brain to “see through her ears”. When travelling, the device helps her identify points of interest; at home she uses it to find things she has put down, like coffee cups. ”

As if the signposting of objects wasn’t impressive and useful enough, some long-term users of the device like Cheskin eventually report complete images somewhat akin to normal sight, thanks to a long-term rewiring of their brains. Sometimes these changes are so profound that it alters their perceptions even when they aren’t using the device.

As such, the vOICe (the “OIC” standing for “Oh, I See”) is now proving invaluable as a research tool, providing insights into the brain’s mind-boggling capacity for adaptation.
A team from the University of Bath’s Department of Psychology asked blindfolded, sighted participants to use the device while taking an eye test.  Results showed the participants – even without any training with the device – were able to achieve the best performance possible.
Dr Michael Proulx, who led the University of Bath team, said: “This level of visual performance exceeds that of the invasive technique for vision restoration, such as stem cell implants and retinal prostheses after extensive training.
“The affordable and non-invasive nature of The vOICE provides another option. Sensory substitution devices are not only an alternative, but might also be best employed in combination with such invasive techniques to train the brain to see again or for the first time.”

If you’re worried about you or your hearing contact your local Hidden Hearing branch.  Hidden Hearing offers free hearing tests at its 60 branches nationwide. To book a test Freephone 1800 370 000 or visit http://www.hiddenhearing.ie.

We have a handy information booklet on how we hear if you are interested apply below and we will send you a FREE copy.howdowehear2