If It Sounds Too Good to Be True, It Probably Is

Have you been invited by someone you know through social media to join a group so you can get in on a “guaranteed great investment opportunity”? Before you turn over your hard-earned money, read on for information from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on how to recognize and report investment fraud and financial scams. Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) spoke with the SEC’s Charu Chandrasekhar and Owen Donley.

keyboard-computer-user.jpg

HHF: When and how did you become aware that investment schemes and fraud are a problem within Deaf and hearing loss communities?

Chandrasekhar: Historically, the SEC’s Enforcement Division has brought cases where large investment fraud schemes targeted individuals in Deaf and hearing loss communities as victims of fraud. We have a strong interest in encouraging investors to understand what to look out for, and importantly from an enforcement perspective, to report suspicious investment schemes and professionals.

HHF: Can you describe how Deaf and hearing loss communities may be targets of fraud?

Chandrasekhar: The tactics we’ve seen include fraudsters soliciting investors by posing as, or recruiting people from, trusted parts of social networks like family, friends, or community members. We’re also aware that some fraudsters take advantage of the use of social media within these communities to target potential victims who may be socially isolated in other ways. The Deaf and hearing loss communities overlap with many of the other groups on which we’re also focused, such as seniors, active military, and veterans. Some fraudsters may view members of these groups as vulnerable to their tactics. 

Donley: Yes, unfortunately, fraudsters may be, or pretend to be, part of a group that they’re trying to take advantage of by using a common bond to build trust. When fraudsters target victims based on their membership in a group or community, we refer to it as “affinity fraud.” Our office has an Affinity Fraud section on the Investor.gov website. It’s only natural to want to trust someone with whom you have something in common, but that’s exactly what fraudsters are counting on. 

Even if you know the person offering you an investment opportunity, check out the person’s background and be sure the person is a currently registered investment professional. You can easily find this information by typing the person’s name into the red search box on Investor.gov. It’s a great first step to protecting your money.

HHF: Can you share some of the main warning signs that individuals should be looking for when they’re approached with investment possibilities?

Donley: A guaranteed high investment return is a hallmark of fraud. High returns generally involve high risk. If someone guarantees you astronomical returns with no risk, the person is lying. Investors should remember that if an investment sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Investors should be wary of unregistered or unlicensed sellers and high-pressure sales tactics. Finally, investors should be skeptical if they are asked to use a credit card or wire money abroad to invest.  

HHF: What if you’re asked to join an investment group, whether online or in person, and told that time is running out on your chance to be part of the investment?

Donley: Often fraudsters claim to have limited opportunities available or limited time left to make you feel like you’re at risk of missing out. You should take the time to do your own independent research of the investment opportunity and should not feel rushed into making these types of important decisions.

Chandrasekhar: Whenever you’re considering an investment or have chosen to invest, keep detailed records of your communications. Save emails, marketing materials, and statements, and make notes of your conversations. These may be helpful to you if you report potential misconduct to the SEC.

HHF: How can investors figure out whom to trust?

Donley: I can’t tell you whom to trust, but I can tell you whom not to trust. If anyone offering you an investment misrepresents his or her background, steer clear. You can use the tools on Investor.gov to see if the seller is currently registered and if the seller has any disciplinary history.

Chandrasekhar: Bottom line: If you’re offered an investment opportunity, or hear about a friend or loved one who is getting solicited to make an investment—and if anything about the investment or the seller seems too good to be true or doesn’t seem quite right—please report it to the SEC. 

This article originally ran in the Fall 2019 issue of Hearing Health magazine. Charu Chandrasekhar is the chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Retail Strategy Task Force. Owen Donley is the chief counsel of the SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy. For references, including direct links to report fraud and to read press releases about prior cases, see hhf.org/fall2019-references. The Securities and Exchange Commission disclaims responsibility for any private publication or statement of any SEC employee or Commissioner. This article expresses the authors’ views and does not necessarily reflect those of the Commission, the Commissioners, or other members of the staff.

SEC Charu Chandrasekhar.jpg
SEC Owen Donley.jpg
Print Friendly and PDF

Out of the Box

By Michelle Pitts

I have been struggling with my hearing for quite some time, but finally made the decision to do something about it now, at age 40.

Even though I work with individuals with disabilities, starting the process of treating my hearing loss feels like I’ve been thrown into a new world about which I know so little. 

After my hearing test and official diagnosis, I was shown a few hearing aid models to choose a pair. Simple, right? 

So I thought.

Over the course of a few minutes, my audiologist tried to explain the different technological features, colors, and brands available. I knew that agreeing to one of her suggestions would also be an agreement to thousands of dollars of my family’s healthcare savings. I felt guilty and sick to my stomach about spending this money if, God forbid, a bigger health emergency came up.

Making such a big purchase felt like rolling the dice. I still knew almost nothing about the hearing aid options and I felt like I wasn’t given enough clarity on the matter. With every hearing aid brand making similar claims about their technology, it’s difficult to be sure you’re making the right choice for your hearing loss.

Testing pairs of hearing aids wasn’t easy for me, either. “How’s that sound?” my audiologist would ask after putting them in my ears. And I’d just think, I have no idea! Only a few seconds have passed, and this is a quiet room with only one other person in it. Then I’d leave the office and everything sounded harsh, giving me a headache and then at home having a difficult time understanding my kids. 

I reflect: So maybe this will be harder than I expected, with trial and error adjustments. And maybe I need to do some of my own research to find the best technology for my ears.

Michelle Pitts and her family.

Michelle Pitts and her family.

I dug into the technology offerings from each brand using their data sheets, often only to find that the features I desired were not available for my preferred style of hearing aid. And back to square one I’d go.

Eventually I discovered an exceptionally helpful internet forum. It contains users’ personal experiences with various aids, technology information, links to data sheets, and definitions of technical terms. 

One of the terms I came across on the forum was a “cookie bite.” Someone wrote in a comment to another user, “Since you have a cookie bite, it’s more difficult to fit you with hearing aids. You need to find a very well-trained audiologist to handle your type of hearing loss.” 

What’s a cookie bite? I wondered. Down the internet rabbit hole I went—and found that a cookie bite is a midrange frequency hearing loss, and the audiogram is shaped like a bite taken out of a cookie. Wait a minute! I grabbed my audiogram, and lo and behold, I have a midrange frequency loss. So what does this mean?

Midrange frequency loss is a type of sensorineural hearing loss that is genetic. It is present from birth, but usually isn’t severe enough to be noticed until someone is in their 20s or 30s. The midrange is where sounds like speech and music occur. Usually hearing loss is more prominent in the high frequencies or the low frequencies, like what my parents and my brother have.

Learning more about my hearing loss has prompted significant recent revelations about my life, too. Now I know why I have such a hard time understanding speech sometimes. I see why I miss a lot of lyrics in music and dialogue in movies. 

I can even remember being at a wedding reception in my 20s when someone asked me, “Isn’t this your favorite song?” All I could hear was the thump of the bass. I was pretty amazed that they could hear the song, and they were pretty amazed that I couldn’t. I think that was one of the first times I started to question if I had a problem. 

I usually have to turn the radio down in my husband’s car or tell my kids to lower the TV volume because I can’t handle the noise. Noise drives me crazy, and sometimes I think I’m turning into my mother. But now I know that it’s actually loud high frequency and occasionally low frequency sounds that drive me crazy, because that is what corresponds to my hearing loss. And I can pretty much forget about being able to understand someone if there are multiple, competing sound sources.

While I’ve wanted to throw in the towel several times on the whole hearing aid business, I have been pushing my audiologist to help me find a pair that will work for me, in part by using real ear measurements, a way to directly measure the sound that hearing aids produce in the ear canal.

Now I can understand when some people who have hearing loss won’t wear their hearing aids. Chances are their hearing aids don’t fit right, they are uncomfortable, and/or they are programmed wrong for their unique hearing loss and they can’t hear right. 

If this is you, you should know that things can be much better after your audiologist works with you to adjust your hearing aid programming. Most importantly, I’m learning to advocate for myself while also better understanding what my clients experience, so that we can overcome our challenges together. My clients often come in and don't know what services are available for them or what technologies are available that can help them. These things can change their lives, but sometimes service providers don’t take the time to educate their clients or don’t keep up to date themselves. I try to make sure I pass along any of this information because I experience the difficulties of navigating a disability.

Michelle Pitts is an instructor for vocational rehabilitation with the state of Tennessee. After primarily working with people with vision loss, Pitts’ role has expanded to include people with all types of disabilities who are seeking to enter or re-enter the workforce through vocational rehabilitation.

Print Friendly and PDF

New NIDCD Director Debara Tucci is Committed to Hearing Protection

nidcd-tucci.jpg

During National Protect Your Hearing Month, NIDCD Director Debara Tucci, M.D., talks about the importance of preventing noise-induced hearing loss.

Debara L. Tucci, M.D., M.S., M.B.A., became the director of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), on September 3, 2019. Dr. Tucci was funded twice by Hearing Health Foundation’s Emerging Research Grants (ERG) program in the 1990s for her research attempting to demonstrate if age is important to obtaining maximum benefit of auditory nerve stimulation in cochlear implant recipients. She later served as a member of the ERG’s governing body, the Council of Scientific Trustees.

As NIDCD director, Dr. Tucci supports research and education on noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), a permanent and preventable form of hearing loss. She is committed to increasing awareness about the causes and prevention of NIHL through It's a Noisy Planet. Protect Their Hearing.®, the NIDCD public education campaign that targets preteens, parents, and teachers.

“Teaching young people healthy hearing habits early on is critical to helping them preserve their hearing throughout life,” says Dr. Tucci, a pioneer in understanding the causes and impact of hearing loss and in developing ways to restore hearing. 

Noisy Planet Protect Your Hearing 2019.jpg

Dr. Tucci joins Noisy Planet and the NIDCD after being on the faculty of Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, for more than 25 years, where she co-founded the Duke Hearing Center and directed the medical center’s cochlear implant program. She has served on numerous national advisory and review committees, including the National Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Advisory Council (2013-17) and the NIDCD Board of Scientific Counselors (2017-2019).

One in eight people in the United States aged 12 years or older (13 percent, or about 30 million people) has measurable hearing loss in both ears. Prolonged or repeated exposure to noise at or above 85 A-weighted decibels (dBA) puts you and your child at risk for hearing loss.

“Our understanding of how loud noises affect our hearing is continuing to evolve, and our estimates on the prevalence of noise-induced hearing loss are likely very conservative,” says Dr. Tucci. “Researchers are also exploring how to fix or replace the delicate structures in the ear that are damaged by noise. For now, however, once our hearing is damaged by loud sounds, the hearing loss is permanent.”

“The important message is that we can help our children—and ourselves—avoid hearing loss caused by noise,” adds Dr. Tucci.

To protect their hearing, encourage your kids to:

  • Lower the volume.

  • Move away from the noise.

  • Wear hearing protectors, such as earplugs or earmuffs.

Learn more about Dr. Tucci and her vision for the NIDCD.

This article was repurposed with permission from the NIDCD.

Print Friendly and PDF

October is Dedicated to Hearing Protection

By Lauren McGrath

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) invites you to celebrate the National Institutes on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)’s and the American Academy of Audiology (AAA)’s National Protect Your Hearing Month. During National Protect Your Hearing Month, observed each October, you are reminded of the importance of protecting yourself and your loved ones from noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).

NIHL affects our inner-ear hair cells as well as the auditory or hearing nerve, and occurs when noise damages tiny hair cells within the cochlea—the small, snail-shaped organ for hearing in the inner ear. When hair cells are damaged, they can’t send information about sound to the brain. For a more in-depth understanding, see: how hearing works.

Noisy Planet Protect Your Hearing 2019.jpg

Not only can this type of hearing loss be permanent, it can also lead to tinnitus. Tinnitus is hearing a constant ringing, buzzing, or roaring without an external sound source. It can be in one or both ears and often occurs with hearing loss.

There are two types of NIHL:

  • Impulse noise, a one-time exposure to a loud sound such as fireworks, blasts, gunfire, or sirens. 

  • Continuous exposure to loud noise. This type of hearing loss happens gradually over time.

NIHL can affect anyone and, luckily, it is preventable. You can help prevent hearing loss from noise by following these simple lifestyle changes:

  • Turn down the volume. Keep the volume low on smartphones, tablets, computers, and TVs, and set maximum volume levels on devices used by children and teens. Sounds below 70 A-weighted decibels (dBA) are generally considered safe. Sounds at or above 85 dBA are more likely to put you at risk for NIHL, especially if they last a long time or are repeated. You can measure the decibel levels of devices and environments on your smartphone.

  • Move away from the noise. To reduce sound intensity and the impact of noise on your ears, increase the distance between you and the sound. Think of this simple step when you are near fireworks or concert speakers.

  • Wear hearing protectors, such as earplugs or earmuffs. Sometimes you can’t easily escape the sound, whether you’re at a movie theater, a concert, a sporting event, or in a noisy work environment. Earplugs or protective earmuffs can help. If you’re a parent, carry hearing protectors for your little ones and be a hearing health role model by wearing them yourself. If you’re caught without hearing protectors, you can cover your ears with your hands.

If you suspect a hearing loss because you are having difficulty hearing or are experiencing ringing in the ears as a result of exposure to noise, schedule a hearing test right away.

Print Friendly and PDF

Size Control of the Inner Ear Through Fluid Pressure

By Kishore Mosaliganti, Ph.D., and Ian Swinburne, Ph.D.

The inner ear senses sound for hearing and body movement for balance. In the embryo, the rudimentary ear grows from a fluid-filled balloon that is enveloped in a tight layer of cells. In our paper published in the journal eLife on Oct. 1, 2019, we examined how this balloon grows into the more complex ear. Our work helped us formulate a new mathematical theory on how ear growth in animals is controlled.

To do the research, we took advantage of the zebrafish embryo’s transparency by using a high-resolution microscope to take detailed 3D pictures of the inner ear as it grew during the first two days of fish development. 

We observed that the ear grows dramatically and increases its volume by four times over a period of 24 hours. Most of the increase in size originates from the accumulation of fluid and not because of cell division to increase the tissue mass. This was a very surprising finding since most tissues in development grow by increasing the number or size of cells. 

These are cross-sectional pictures from live 3D microscopic images of the developing zebrafish ear. The images are from time-points at 12, 16, 24, and 45 hours after egg fertilization, a span of time during which the ear rudiment grows more than four times in volume. The black coloring is a fluorescent protein targeted to the outer membrane of individual cells. The red is from a fluorescent protein targeted to the nucleus of individual cells where it binds to DNA. At 45 hours post-fertilization, the length of the embryonic ear’s long axis is approximately 1/10th the thickness of a penny.

These are cross-sectional pictures from live 3D microscopic images of the developing zebrafish ear. The images are from time-points at 12, 16, 24, and 45 hours after egg fertilization, a span of time during which the ear rudiment grows more than four times in volume. The black coloring is a fluorescent protein targeted to the outer membrane of individual cells. The red is from a fluorescent protein targeted to the nucleus of individual cells where it binds to DNA. At 45 hours post-fertilization, the length of the embryonic ear’s long axis is approximately 1/10th the thickness of a penny.

A second observation was that the ear pushed out the neighboring brain structures, and that the ear cells that envelop the balloon appear stretched. 

Both of these observations suggested to us that pressure within the developing ear was increasing. We wondered if cells control this pressure directly or if it is just a byproduct of the growth process. We decided to dive deeper.

We designed and built a nanoscale pressure probe small enough to insert into the tiny ear of the fish embryo and sensitive enough to detect the first increase in fluid pressure. To examine if the pressure is monitored and controlled, we popped the ear with needles and we observed that the ear would collapse, much like a balloon that has been popped. To our amazement, we watched the popped embryonic ear recover and rapidly catch up in size to the unpopped ear by briefly accelerating its inflation with fluid.

Just as an engineer may design a thermostat to maintain the temperature of a room, we began to think that the developing ear has a way to tell itself when it has reached the correct size by monitoring the internal fluid pressure. We developed a mathematical model of this process. 

Next, we began to use this model to predict and test if the pressure also shapes the ear. The mechanical properties of the enveloping cells offer resistance to growth much like a waist belt. If the belt’s elasticity is locally changed, then growth rates can be controlled locally. This helps explain how the inner ear changes from a spherical shell to an elongated football-like shape.

To summarize, our paper demonstrates how biology does not limit itself to gene regulation and protein activities. Mechanics matter. To function in a 3D world where there is inertia and resistance to growth, an embryo and its developing organs actually control physical forces and collect feedback on these forces to inform regulatory processes. This is yet another reason why animal development is so orchestrated, robust, and precise. 

Additionally, the crosstalk between mechanical forces and the behavior of cells in the ear is important to understand when investigating hearing and balance diseases where inner ear fluid pressure is out of control, such as Pendred syndrome and Ménière’s disease. 

Ian Swinburne, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral researcher in the department of systems biology at Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts, where his colleagues included Kishore Mosaliganti, Ph.D. Swinburne is a 2019, 2018, and 2013 Emerging Research Grants recipient.

SwinburneHHF.jpg
Print Friendly and PDF

ERG Applications Open Monday, October 14

By Christopher Geissler, Ph.D.

2019 ERG recipient Anat Lubetzky, Ph.D. Lubetzky, shown here in her lab at New York University, seeks to advance the understanding of the relationship between hearing loss and falls. Credit: Sy Abudu.

2019 ERG recipient Anat Lubetzky, Ph.D. Lubetzky, shown here in her lab at New York University, seeks to advance the understanding of the relationship between hearing loss and falls. Credit: Sy Abudu.

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF)’s next Emerging Research Grants (ERG) grant cycle is approaching its start. HHF is especially pleased to announce a significant increase in funding available for our future ERG grantees. Please see the below key details about the program.

APPLICATIONS OPEN
October 14, 2019

APPLICATION DEADLINE
February 10, 2020

FUNDING
Up to $50,000 per year for each project for an initial period of one year, renewable for one additional year.

PROGRAM DATE
October 1, 2020 – September 30, 2021

FUNDING DECISION NOTIFICATION
May/June 2020

GRANT PAYMENT SCHEDULE
October and April

The ERG program provides seed money to researchers with innovative approaches to hearing and balance science. Grantees advance knowledge in the following under-researched areas, among others: 

  • Hearing loss in children

  • Auditory processing disorder

  • Hyperacusis

  • Tinnitus

  • Ménière’s disease

  • Usher syndrome

  • Reducing the ototoxicity of cancer drugs

  • Links between hearing loss and diabetes and heart and kidney disease

ERG Logo Print.jpg

Within the scientific community, the ERG program is known as a competitive process that awards grants to only the most promising investigators. Recipients are exceptionally well-positioned to win funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), leading to dramatic innovations in the field. In fact, ERG alumni have gone on to be awarded an average of $91 for every dollar of their ERG grant.

While early career researchers are especially encouraged to apply, ERG awards are open to both early career researchers and senior investigators.

Christopher Geissler, Ph.D., is HHF’s Director of Program and Research Support. To remain up-to-date on ERG funding opportunities, including notifications about the upcoming grant cycle, subscribe at hhf.org/grants. To learn more about ERG, including past grant recipients and their projects, see hhf.org/erg.

Print Friendly and PDF

Inside My Head

By Bob Liff

I am certainly not the only person whose realization that I suffered from an increasingly severe hearing loss came upon me gradually. My difficulty became noticeable when I was working as a newspaper reporter in the late 1990s. I could manage okay on the phone but had trouble following conversations in person if there was any ambient noise. Crowd situations were unbearable.

I also suffered from periodic tinnitus, which of course is utterly frustrating, but still did not attach it to having a chronic hearing loss.

I withdrew from social situations. I started making jokes: My wife says it’s not that I can’t hear, but that I won’t listen. Because my hearing loss is asymmetrical—much worse in my right ear than my left—I was losing my echolocation. I could not tell where a sound was coming from, and would spin around to find the source.

Eventually, reality kicked in. I went for a hearing test about 12 years ago and was shocked at the degree of the loss in my right ear—more than 50 percent in the midrange frequencies, less so in other ranges—and a slight loss in the left. 

My ENT and audiologist suspected Ménière’s disease, but could not come to a conclusion, which illustrated for me how much research still needs to be done to fully understand hearing and balance issues. I was fitted with a hearing aid for my right ear. Because of the nature of my hearing loss, I could not use an in-ear aid and had to use one that went over my right ear with an external microphone.

Both ears continued to deteriorate, the right more than the left. I could hear sounds in my right ear, but could not make out words. As it was explained to me, my auditory nerve was working normally, but the other parts of the ear where sound travels before reaching the nerve, especially the hair cells inside the cochlea, were not.

Bob Liff Cochlear Implant.jpg

My audiologist finally said there was not much more he could do for my right ear and suggested a cochlear implant (CI) on that side. I met with Ana Kim, M.D., at Columbia Presbyterian in New York City where I live, who performed the surgery.

One of the absurdities of the health insurance industry became apparent to me when I chose a CI that would be paired with a hearing aid for my left ear. While the hearing aid alone was not covered by my insurance plan, the far more costly CI in combination with the hearing aid was covered because the two devices were synched. 

The surgery was more extensive than I expected. Dr. Kim opened up my skull behind my right ear and burrowed out a bed in the dura on my cranium to insert the implant, which was then wired through my cochlea. I maintained my wise-guy attitude about the situation, posting a picture of my bandaged head on Facebook, explaining they had opened up my head and found nothing.

I had to wait three weeks for the effects of the surgery to subside before my new audiologist, Megan Kuhlmey, Au.D., also at Columbia Presbyterian, hooked me up for the first time—and nothing happened.

I was not the first patient who expected instant magic. It took several months before hearing began to return to my right ear. Each hearing test showed progress, though I did not feel it. The hearing aid in my left ear allowed me to compensate for deficiencies in my right ear, but eventually I began making out words in my right ear as well.

That is when I discovered one of the ways I had previously been coping with my hearing loss. While having morning coffee with my wife, she would have me cover my left ear; I was hearing things with my right. When she casually covered her mouth, I could no longer make out what she was saying. In that instant, I realized I had been reading lips for years without even realizing it.

Two years after the surgery, the CI has not yet restored full hearing in my right ear, though it certainly has improved it, and I no longer have problems figuring out which direction a sound is coming from. With the type of implant I have, I cannot have an MRI, since the magnetic force could tilt the device inside my head, and I get conflicting advice on whether I can go through a metal detector. Since the technology is always improving, if you are a candidate for a CI, discuss with your doctor which one best suits your needs and lifestyle.

As an aging baby boomer who just turned 70, I find lots of company in the hearing loss crowd. It is hard to generalize how hearing loss affects people individually, but I am surprised that for many, vanity remains an issue. For me, the prospect of improved hearing outweighs any concern that signs of the vagaries of age are visibly hanging on my ear lobes. 

I do wish I had tackled this earlier, and had not dismissed comments by well-meaning people saying I was not hearing them properly. And since I have also had surgery in recent years on my eyes, nose, and throat, I realize I have kind of a bionic head anyway.

What is inside my head is another matter.     

Bob Liff is a public relations professional in New York City.

Print Friendly and PDF

Combined Federal Campaign: Show Some Love

CFC Show Some Love.jpeg

By Lauren McGrath

It’s easy to give to Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) through the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC).

In 2018 donors pledged a total of more than $90 million through the CFC, the workplace giving program for current and retired federal and military personnel.

CFC donors and other generous individuals choose HHF because they believe it offers the most practical approach to dealing with hearing-related issues and the best research opportunities to find better treatments, technologies, and, eventually, cures for hearing loss and tinnitus. 

This year, the CFC continues its theme of “Show Some Love.”

Your support of HHF through the CFC will:

  • ensure that groundbreaking hearing and balance research progresses;

  • advance future therapies for hearing loss, tinnitus, auditory processing disorders, Ménière's disease, hyperacusis, and other related conditions; 

  • better the lives of more than 50 million Americans and their loved ones; and

  • enrich public knowledge of hearing health.

CFC Logo.png

Please designate #11853 – Hearing Health Foundation as your charity of choice through the CFC campaign season that ends on Jan. 12, 2020. Thank you for your support!

Print Friendly and PDF

A Wonderful Stroke of Luck

By Janet R. Douglas

My stroke eliminated the 20-year age difference between Bruce and me, making me older than him in some ways. I was supposed to be pushing him around in a wheelchair at this stage of our lives. He is, after all, 94 years old. 

We cope with dueling disabilities. As a result of his military service, Bruce is almost totally deaf and my voice, as a result of the stroke, is weak and quiet. This makes for some interesting miscommunication. At a distance, he cannot tell the difference between even a “yes” or a “no” so while we are grocery shopping I end up with miscellaneous unwanted drinks, snacks, and grocery items and am deprived of things I really need.  

jan and bruce douglas (1).png

When we are in a public place and get separated, Bruce calls my name loudly, making me cringe. I respond as best I can, knowing that he will not hear me. He keeps on yelling my name until he sees me, by which time we have usually attracted a crowd of curious onlookers. 

“Why do you keep yelling my name when you know you can’t hear my response?” I ask.

“Because then you know where I am and can track me down,” he responds with a beatific smile.

Our interchanges are often hilarious. As we were getting ready to go away for a weekend recently, I asked, “Can you get my suitcase?”

“Put your foot up on the bed,” came the immediate order. 

“Why?” I asked, puzzled.  

“So I can tie your shoelace,” he grumbled. “You know I don’t like bending down.”

Bruce wants more than anything to be helpful but we sometimes struggle with the concept of what “help” means. My definition of help is that he does exactly what I ask him to do and only when I ask him. His definition of help is sometimes tinged with overtones of “father knows best,” such as when he assumes he knows what I need and refuses to listen to my request for something different, using the excuse that he can’t hear what I am saying. 

Bruce and I are, in many ways, a typical couple who have been married for 40 years, a mix of compassion born of passion, friendship, bickering, shared interests, patience and impatience, and great love. 

There is one big difference—with our daughter Sandy, whose marriage broke up shortly after her son was born, we are raising a young boy. Joey, tall for his age, with dark brown curls and shining blue-gray eyes, is a merry, loving presence in our lives. We are expected to be ready to read stories, play ball, play hide and seek, and engage in endless tickle-fests at any time. The regular presence of our grandson makes it hard to get hung up on either old age or disability because he has a zero-tolerance policy for either.

jan douglas C0020-Douglas_Jan_105 (4).jpg

I approached my stroke as an enemy to be fought and conquered. It did not work out that way. It took me many years to accept that I wasn’t going to achieve the 90 percent of prestroke function that I said I would settle for, much less the 100 percent that I really wanted, but what matters is that I became 100 percent of who I am now.

Janet R. Douglas lives in Illinois with her husband Bruce, who wrote our cover story in Fall 2018, at hhf.org/magazine. This is excerpted with permission from her book “A Wonderful Stroke of Luck: From Occupational Therapist to Patient and Beyond,” at amazon.com.

Print Friendly and PDF

In Memoriam: Robert Dobie, M.D.

We are saddened by the recent passing of CST member Robert Dobie, M.D. Photo credit: Jeffrey Gould, Action Media Productions.

We are saddened by the recent passing of CST member Robert Dobie, M.D. Photo credit: Jeffrey Gould, Action Media Productions.

Hearing Health Foundation (HHF) is deeply saddened to report that Council of Scientific Trustees (CST) member and Senior Scientific Trustee Robert Dobie, M.D. (Bob), passed away on September 4, 2019. He spent his career committed to excellence and innovation in otolaryngology research and clinical practice.

Dobie was a highly respected member of our CST, the body that governs the grantmaking process for the Emerging Research Grants (ERG) program. His duty as a CST member was to ensure that only the most promising hearing and balance research was funded, and as Senior Scientific Trustee, he facilitated correspondence with the press and others outside of HHF. Dobie was also an ERG alumnus who received awards in 1986, 1987, and 1988 for his research on tinnitus at University of California, Davis.

Beyond his service to HHF, Dobie was a Clinical Professor and Chairman in the Department of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. He previously served as the Director of Extramural Research at the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), part of the National Institutes of Health and was a founder and initial Director of the Virginia Merrill Bloedel Hearing Research Center at the University of Washington.

Dobie authored more than 200 publications, including Medical-Legal Evaluation of Hearing Loss. He performed particularly impactful research on the effects of noise exposure on age-related hearing loss that provided insights to regulatory agencies like the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the International Standards Organization, and the World Health Organization.

HHF will fondly remember Dobie for his compassion and his influence on our understanding of hearing loss and tinnitus. Board of Directors member Judy Dubno, Ph.D., of the Medical University of South Carolina remarks, “Dobie has a remarkable legacy with limitless impact on science and health. Many of us have learned from reading his books and journal articles and hearing his presentations. In all these ways and many more, Bob touched so many lives and made each one better for knowing him.”

Print Friendly and PDF