Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Being deaf and useless...

Hear through your fingertips

A diagram of the Vibrating Auditory Stimulator, which required no training to use
Amongst the challenges faced by the deaf is what's known as the "cocktail party effect," in which they have difficulty discerning one speaker's voice from others in crowded, noisy environments. A new device could help, however – by buzzing two of their fingers. Led by The Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Dr Amir Amedi, an international research team started with 12 test subjects (both male and female), aged an average of 29 years old. All of them spoke English, although not as their first language, and none of them had any reported hearing problems. 

The volunteers were tasked with listening to 25 groups of 10 short, simple sentences, all of which were spoken in English in a male voice. Distracting, background-conversation-like noise was added to the audio. When the test subjects initially listened to the sentences using headphones only, they found it quite difficult to understand what the speaker was saying. Their understanding improved considerably, however, when they listened while also holding their index and middle fingers against an inexpensive tactile feedback device. 

Known as a Vibrating Auditory Stimulator, that device converted low-frequency speech audio signals into vibrations. The scientists believe that it helped the participants by allowing them to use two of their senses – hearing and touch – to interpret what was being said. All told, it produced a 6-decibel improvement in perceived loudness. For reference, 10 db represents a doubling of loudness. 

"Our approach suggests that multisensory stimulations providing the same type of information (in this case spoken language conveyed through touch in addition to hearing) should be processed in the same brain region (in this case spoken language centres), ultimately then predicting that multisensory stimulations (both sounds and touch) should enhance perception."  

Welsh Charity awards for the BSL-Friendly.

Is BSL awareness, deaf awareness?  It isn't.  We still do not get a breakdown of what the course of BSL awareness, is.  The irony being the AOHL is a Hard Of Hearing charity the BSL user deserted many years ago for repression of the sign user and the brutal sacking of the one (and still only), BSL CEO by Hard of Hearing members and hearing AOHL staff.  

One area * awarded, was an area where women feared to go to have their babies and were the subject of an NHS investigation.  The Welsh ambulance area they have just managed to get 5 people to stage 1 BSL which isn't even conversational level.  Is 5 a success?  What this is all about, is the corporate AOHL awarding just about anyone who can sign a bit some recognition, in the hope, such areas will give them funding.  To that end, much will be spent hosting a junket in a posh Cardiff Hotel.  One doubts ANY deaf or HoH will be there.  There are current concerns the AOHL website has again attempted to remove grass root feedback via their forum.  Last time it was pulled for years as criticism rose.  Also restructuring as donations fall.

Wales’ most deaf friendly organisations announced Guest Contributor, News from Wales Five Welsh organisations that go above and beyond to make their services and workplaces accessible to the one in six people in Wales with hearing loss have been recognised at the prestigious Action on Hearing Loss Cymru Excellence Awards. 

The organisations, which include construction firms, health boards and arts initiatives, were presented awards for their continuous and inspiring efforts to create a deaf-friendly Wales. Awarded the Excellence in Health Award, Cwm Taf University Health Board was recognised for its commitment to improving communication methods for deaf patients when wishing to change an appointment, confirm personal details or check treatment information. 

The Health Board, which covers Rhondda Cynon Taf and Bridgend, also boasts a new accessible buildings policy which means the needs of people with hearing loss will be taken into account when planning new builds and refurbishments; from contracting to completion. Peter Jenkins, Jack Griffiths and Paul Cachia of Cardiff-based Willis Construction won the award of Best Employer – PC by Matthew Horwood Cardiff based Willis Construction was awarded the Best Employer accolade for the support it’s provided to a profoundly deaf member of staff over the last three years. 

The firm adapted its recruitment process, utilised a BSL (British Sign Language) interpreter for the interview and implemented a buddy system to support him from a communication and health and safety point of view once he secured the position. Staff members were also invited to attend a ‘BSL at work’ training course in order to remove communication barriers when working together. Now flourishing in the role, Willis Construction actively promote the many benefits of creating an accessible workplace and the importance of being deaf aware in the construction industry. Action on Hearing Loss Cymru launched the awards in 2015 to celebrate businesses and organisations that take steps to support the 575,000 people in Wales who have varying degrees of hearing loss. 

The 2019 Excellence Awards were open to all public services, private companies and voluntary organisations providing services in Wales. The charity has been supporting people who are deaf or have hearing loss since 1911 and statistics show that deafness and hearing loss is on the rise and that by 2035, one-fifth of people in Wales will be affected, often with significant effects to their daily lives. Nine Welsh organisations were shortlisted in total and all shortlisted entries were judged by a panel of people who are deaf or have hearing loss. The awards were presented at a ceremony that took place last month (17 May) at St David’s Hotel, Cardiff Bay. 

ITV Wales correspondent, SiĆ“n Jenkins, hosted the awards, while charity volunteers, donors and previous award winners attended to celebrate this year’s cohort of winners. Western Power Distribution, winners of last year’s overall Excellence in Service award and this year’s winner of the coveted Ambassador Award, are supporting this year’s event. Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust won the People’s Choice Award which was voted for by the public, they also scooped this year’s Excellence in Service Award. The organisation was praised for its continuous engagement with the deaf community to understand the areas of improvement required by those with hearing loss. Over the past year alone, 100 members of staff have been trained in BSL and the organisation is already seeing the benefits of staff undertaking such training. 

The five Welsh companies recognised at the ceremony were: Artes Mundi, Cardiff Willis Construction,  * CardiffCwm Taf University Health Board Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust Western Power Distribution.

Speaking at Friday’s award ceremony, Liz Jenkins, Equality Manager at Cwm Taf University Health Board, said: “Being able to communicate with people whether they’re booking hospital appointments or receiving medical treatment is incredibly important. We want all of our patients to feel confident in the knowledge that they can contact the hospital when needed and that the correct level of support will be provided. We know our work has made a huge difference to staff and patients alike so we’re over the moon to have had our efforts recognised by Action on Hearing Loss Cymru.”