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Valentines to My Friends in Hearing Access

Sound Advice by Ruth D. Bernstein

Ruth Bernstein, Hearing Access Advocate

I have a long list of Valentines to distribute this year, all of them related to my hearing loss and new Covid-19 lifestyle. I will remember 2020 as the year when I, along with the rest of the world, learned how to communicate in various ways we had seldom used before. It is also the year I became a great-grandmother for the first time, and Isaac and Nicole, my grandson and new granddaughter, married.

Valentines to my family and friends who, along with me, learned different techniques of staying in touch. We use Google Meet a lot because Google provides free AI-powered captions along with clear views of the participants. Zoom is available too, although they do not provide captions unless you have a commercial account. I use Otter, an automated-transcription app, with Zoom. I use FaceTime on my iPhone with Otter on my iPad, if necessary. InnoCaption, a service that provides live CART or AI transcription, works well for the phone.

Valentines to CHC staff, who created a series of webinars (see links below) and shared information on how to cope with hearing loss during the pandemic. They also provide online one-on-one speech, auditory and emotional wellness therapy sessions and help with technical problems when hearing devices need TLC.

Valentines to the Hearing Loss Association of America, NYC Chapter. Our Chapter meetings, all online with CART, help us find our way during this challenging year. We celebrated the 30th Anniversary of the ADA and heard about Music and Hearing Loss, Auditory Training, Safety in the Home, and Balance and Hearing Loss. At our next Chapter meeting on March 2, 2021, Kevin Franck, PhD, Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of HLAA, will talk about “Whatever Happened to Over-the-Counter Hearing Aids?” On April 2, 2021, Michael Harvey, PhD, will discuss “The Psychology of Hearing Loss.” Click below to see a list of upcoming and past meetings and view recordings of past events.

Valentines to HLAA National for the many informative and worthwhile webinars they present as we learn to live with the restrictions of Covid-19.

Valentines to the museums providing online captioned tours of their collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Special thanks to the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., for hiring a CART operator to caption their “The Art of Looking” sessions.

Valentines to the Museum Access Consortium for providing a gold mine of cultural and arts information, much of it hearing accessible.

Valentines to all the teachers of the weekly Zoom art, exercise, discussion and reading classes I attend. They have adapted their lessons and teaching techniques so we online students can continue learning, even though we are doing it remotely. I use Otter AI transcription to participate.

A Valentine to Rabbi Brian who conducts Shabbat morning services from Portland, Oregon, and added for AI transcription.

Valentines to Apple for their technology, which keeps me connected and feeling safe. In 2017, I wrote a Valentine’s Day story about my love affair with my Apple iPhone (see link below). My phone love affair continues to this day. Last year, I fell in love with my Apple Watch 5 because, when I’m wearing it, it will notify 911 if I fall. I was skeptical about the technology until I tripped on a curb on my way home from a walk in Central Park on a beautiful fall day in October. When I landed on the sidewalk and broke a finger, the watch sent me a written message, asking if I needed help getting up and if it should call 911. I clicked “no” to both questions because people who saw me fall helped me get up, and I was able to stand and walk home. The watch checked in with me a few minutes later to make sure I was OK! Needless to say, I wear the watch all the time at home (except when I’m sleeping) because I live alone. Although I understand the watch is waterproof, I prefer not to wear it in the shower. Instead, I keep my iPhone, set on the “slide to power off” screen, which also has an “SOS 911 emergency” button and a “medical ID” button, on the step to my shower, where I can reach it easily if I fall.

I recently received my first Pfizer Covid-19 inoculation and will be getting the second shot in three weeks. I’m grateful to be on my way to immunity from this terrible disease and send special Valentines to all those who made the vaccines and vaccinations possible.

With the advent of some immunity from Covid-19, I don’t plan to change my Dr. Fauci- (BIG VALENTINE!) prescribed routine—wear a mask, wash my hands and keep six feet away from others because of the developing, more infectious form of the disease. I look forward to the time I can have an umasked, in-person conversation and allow my relatively new cochlear implant to give me more access to speech and environmental sounds, something it hasn’t had a lot of opportunity to do since the pandemic began.

A final Valentine to the Covid-19 doctor who said: “To anyone who can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, I want to spread a message of positivity. Hang on. Have faith. The only way out is through.”

I hope we all go out and through this difficult time relatively unscathed and will celebrate the holiday together in 2022.

Be well and have a happy Valentine’s Day!

Ruth D. Bernstein Hearing Access Advocate

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