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2009/09/09 The Beatles Digitally Remastered CD’s !

It’s yesterday once more! So many memories from my childhood!

I have been enjoying my new Beatles Remastered Box sets, both the Stereo and the Mono versions, released on Sept. 9, 2009.

All of the Beatles 13 original studio albums have been digitally remastered and carefully repackaged in digipak. The Mono version is packaged so carefully that it is identical to the original vinyl version. Every cd I pulled out from the Mono set was carefully placed inside a small half-circle/half square plastic wrapper, mimicking perfectly the original manner in which the vinyl versions were presented back then. Today’s younger generation would not appreciate the significance. Nor does the  Stereo version have this special plastic packaging. The memories the wrapper brought back had me digging through my old records to see the original record packaging!

The sound quality of the Beatles Remastered set is truly beautiful, sharp, crisp and clear! An audiophile and Beatle lovers ultimate dream! And oh, the peace, comfort and sound of my treasured Beatles that came flooding back, yeah just like a friend I had not seen in over 40 years:

“And when the broken hearted people
Living in the world agree,
There will be an answer, let it be…”

Not too long before my mom died in 1991, Disney released a VHS video of the 1940 classic Fantasia. My mom loved this movie, the animation and the classical music. She had seen the movie at the theatre when she was a teenager, and when I was a child, she took me to see it as well, so that I could share her love of this beautiful movie! It was was a highlight of my life, watching my mom’s beloved Fantasia at the theatre !

When I bought mom the new VHS tape of Fantasia, we sat down to watch it together for the second time. When the movie was over, she turned and said to me: “Never in a million years did I ever dream that I would be watching, Fantasia in my own home in my lifetime.”

Disney will soon release a blu-ray version of Fantasia and Fantasia 200 in early 2010, and mom sadly won’t get to see them. She never even saw the more recent Fantasia 2000. And even more sadly, she will never know of the joy I have received from my cochlear implant this year. But I will continue to listen to Fantasia’s quality and sound, and also the spectacular Fantasia 2000.

In my mom’s words, I have to say that never in a million years did I ever dream that I would have a cochlear implant in my lifetime and listen to a gorgeous crisp and clear remastered set of Beatles albums, in my own house!

Even I can distinguish the extraordinary sound quality that comes with this remastered package! I can distinctly tell the difference between quality remastered songs like this remastered Beatles set, and the poor quality from some cd’s which I began collecting about 15 years ago. In the last 5 months, I have lived in total amazement at the miracle that my new cochlear implant has become! Yeah, I have always heard speech, sound and music, but everything sounds so much better, and if it’s digital, it’s even better!

I know that my hearing was much better when I was a child. I grew up with music my entire life. But the Beatles remastered set is so very special! And the Remastered Mono box set presents 10 of the albums as they were originally presented in mono at the time. The beauty, the words are so clear I hear almost every single word! The music is so distinctive, but does not overwhelm the words.

I think I went right from nursery songs to the Beatles. I don’t remember anything in between. I guess my first introduction to the Beatles was in August 1964. I was all of 7 years old, but I knew something special was happening that night. By the end of 1964, the Beatles had completed 4 albums. And on that night of August 22, 1964, I knew that these 4 lads from Liverpool were at the Empire Stadium. It was all everyone could talk about.

With the release of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967, the world of music had changed. The Beatles were becoming more and more controversial. John Lennon said they were ‘greater than Jesus”. But my mother never ever disagreed with the musical tastes my brother and I were discovering.

Following the Beatlemania of 1964, my mother’s best friend’s daughter, Wendy, six years older than me, kept me well involved with current musical trends of the day. It seemed that everytime she came over to our house, she had another record for me to enjoy. Yesterday, and Michelle quickly became my favorite songs. She also introduced me to Tom Jones in 1968, with The Green Green Grass of Home and Delilah. By that time, the Tom Jones TV show was a regular feature on local television, so I grew up a diehard Tom Jones fan. The day she brought over another album for me is well etched in my mind. It was Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, album, and I played it for weeks on end.It was so stirring. The songs just burned into my brain.

But in 1967, the Beatles were even bigger than they were in 1964. And they were becoming very controversial. After all, they had long hair… they were doing drugs… And Yoko was coming on the scene and having an influence… Everything  you DON’T do in 1967!

My brother had bought the St. Pepper’s album, and I listened to these amazing songs in the background. It became a ‘where were you when you first heard Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” memory.

But the Beatles were out of my reach. Not because of my hearing loss, but because back then, I was just not considered old enough to be a part of this amazing musical group. They were too good, magical. They were almost “censored” to me, like some of today’s music is labeled with warnings that the lyrics are ‘explicit’. But I couldn’t help it. I listened to my brother’s Beatle records when he wasn’t around.

My brother was only 17 months older than I was. But he was able to enter a world that I couldn’t. In 1968, I was 11 years old, and my brother had bought the Beatles new White Album. I wanted to hear it. I wanted to see what was inside this colourless and plain looking album. It is often called the Beatles “grandest statement”. But it was written in a period of turmoil for the Beatles.

He showed the new White Album to my mother. We both looked at this newest album with curiosity. There were four big 8×10 glossy photos of each Beatle. That was a big treat, because in 1968, the Vancouver public schools did not even do single photos of each child, let alone in colour. When they actually did doing individual colour photographs of each child, the biggest they would only give you 5×7 photos. Not 8×10! So these colour 8×10 glossy photographs were so unique and different

.

Controversial the Beatles were! Today the controversies seem almost silly! “Oh my…,” my embarassed mom asked my brother. “Is he holding his, uh…dinck?”, looking at a picture of a naked John Lennon sitting on a bed in the White Album’s large poster insert. My brother shugs. He was oblivious to it. It was no biggie. Mom never knew about the Two Virgins album released by John and Yoko a few months later, sold in a plain brown paper wrapper. But hey, it’s 1968. Today, nudity is everywhere, on TV, on billboards, in magazines… It sells…

My brother played the Beatles White Album constantly for the next year or so. I learned the songs well. My brother was constantly humming Ob-La-DI, Ob-La-DA. Or, Hey, Bungalow Bill, What did you Kill? and Rocky Racoon. The guitar on While my guitar gently weeps kept playing over and over. I came to associate the giant green apple logo on the vinyl records with the Beatles.

The White Album was followed by the Beatles final three albums (Yellow Submarine, Abbey Road, and Let It Be), and the disintigration of the Beatles band in 1970. But their influence on me musically will never die. But I learned quickly that the Beatles were just one part of a whole wonderful world of music. The Beatles breakup was quickly superceded by my love of new and talented artists. The Jackson 5, The Osmond Brothers, Michael Jackson, Donny Osmond, John Denver, The Bee Gees, Andy Gibb, The Carpenters, ABBA, David Cassidy, Engelbert Humperdinck, and many others who filled my world with a love of music. But I think it all began with the Beatles…

“Hey Jude, don’t make it bad… Take a sad song, and make better”

Shortly after the Beatles released The White Album, I was getting interested in Tom Jones, a rising singer from Wales with a booming and powerful voice. My brother couldn’t hide his total disgust of my musical tastes.  “Tom Jones has absolutely no talent at all.” he told me.  “NOBODY is better than the Beatles!”

So, my brother was a part of the group who actually believed that there was nobody who was capable of topping the Beatles. He seemed to have taken to heart John Lennon’s comment that the Beatles were bigger than Jesus. But B=by this time, I had been well taught by my parents not to believe everything I was told or had read. I learned to question things which did not make sense to me. So now the fight was on…

“Why are the Beatles better than Tom Jones?” I asked. “The Beatles write and sing their own music.” my brother rationalized. “Tom Jones only sings other people’s songs.”

“Oh,” I said. “Well, that doesn’t make sense. You mean that if you don’t write the songs you sing, you have no talent at all?” “Yes,” he said. “But that’s crazy! Tom Jones sings some amazing and beautiful songs” I said. The arguement went on for weeks. And finally, my mom took my side. “Some of the greatest singers in the world sing songs written by other people. Some people have voices so unique that it becomes a musical instrument.  And some great songwriters have no singing talent at all ” she said matter-of-factedly. And just as quickly, the arguement was over.

My Mom introduced me to one of my favorite musicals of all time: The King and I. The Beatles were my mom’s Nelson Eddy, Jeannette Macdonald, and Mario Lanza. She adored them. But she never ever showed any distaste for our choice in music. She actually loved our music! “I can sing you a song about anything you can possibly think of! Try me!” she challenged me.

“Mmm.” I thought. “How about a clock?” I asked?

My grandfather’s clock was too tall for the shelf, so it stood 90 years on the floooor. It was taller by half than the old man himself, though it weighed not a pennyweight moooore.” she sang.

“OK.” I thought. I watched as our cat Buffy scratched herself persistently. “How about a flea?” I asked. She won’t get this one I thought.

“Once upon a time there lived a king, who owned a handsome flea….”
A flea, ha ha ha ha ha …..a flea.
He cherished him and loved him As though a son were he…
A flea, ha ha ha ha ha …a flea ha ha ha ha ha ….a flea”
she sang.

The game went on. But I wasn’t going to beat her at this game. She was too good. I gave up.

I still enjoy the exact same music I loved 40-50 years ago. I have always believed that a good song is a song you never get tired of listening to. Just like over 200 years later, we still enjoy listening to music by Mozart. We never get tired of Mozart! Good music is timeless, eternal and makes you very happy.

Karen Carpenter sang it best in her song Yesterday Once More:

When I was young
I’d listen to the radio
Waitin’ for my favorite songs
And when they played I’d sing along
It made me smile.
Those were such happy times
And not so long ago
How I wondered where they’d gone
But they’re back again
Just like a long lost friend
All the songs I loved so well.

Every Sha-la-la-la
Every Wo-o-wo-o
Still shines
Every shing-a-ling-a-ling
That they’re startin’ to sing’s
So fine.

When they get to the part
Where he’s breakin’ her heart
It can really make me cry
Just like before
It’s yesterday once more.

Lookin’ back on how it was
In years gone by
And the good times that I had
Makes today seem rather sad
So much has changed.
It was songs of love that
I would sing to then
And I’d memorize each word
Those old melodies
Still sound so good to me
As they melt the years away.

Every Sha-la-la-la
Every Wo-o-wo-o
Still shines
Every shing-a-ling-a-ling
That they’re startin’ to sing’s
So fine.

All my best memories
Come back clearly to me
Some can even make me cry.
Just like before
It’s yesterday once more.

Freakin’ Amazing!

On Sept. 1, I celebrated my 3 month post activation birthday . On Sept 4, I saw Jowan Lee for my 3 month assessment and new Map #3. Yeah, it’s the best map yet. It’s just freakin’ AMAZING!

CID, CUNY and HINT measure the percentage of words in sentences that are understood. Sentences are read to the subject, who repeats them back. The percentage of words repeated back correctly is measured. CUNY sentences are relatively easy, while HINT is more difficult in its design (and thus reflects lower scores). My CUNY sentence average was 95% (this means out of 204, I only got 13 words incorrect). My HINT average was 82%

CNC is the most difficult test administered which measures recognition of single-syllable words. A list of words is read, and the percentage of words understood is measured. My score for CNC Words was 26/50 (52%). But this was such a huge jump from the CNC test 2 months ago, where I scored half that!

I rushed back to my Sound & WAY Beyond software, Cochlear’s interactive listening rehabilitation program. I have been using it on an off, with pretty good results. I created a new user for Map #3. My pure tone discrimination tests with Map #2 were 100% at Level 1, 2 and 3. I was getting 90-95% at Levels 4 and 5. I know I now need to start work at the advanced modules, I have gone past the basic levels. I was pleased to find that with Map#3, I was now getting 97% on the pure tone discrimination test at level 5  Yeah, this is the good life!

I went for a walk down a busy 22nd Ave, and listened to the traffic going by. I walked by a new house being built, and listened to the distinct pounding of the hammer. Everything sounded so clear! I kept walking, still listening to the hammering. I was still hearing the hammer, over 2 blocks away! When it stopped, I either wasn’t hearing it anymore, or the construction worker had stopped hammering. Some blocks later, I walked by yet another house being built, but this time there was more than one worker hammering. I could actually tell each hammer apart, and they each kept up their own rhythm and melody. I kept walking, and 2 blocks away, I could still hear the sing song pounding of each hammer! Even when a lawn mower started up and began to drown it all out!

Again, remembering that every CI user has their own personal results, and will progress at their own rate, Jowan was totally thrilled with my test results. I was, he said clearly ‘way ahead’ of the average, and of mark I should be at the 3 month point. “It just gets better and better,” Jowan keeps telling me. “It’s like a fine wine, it keeps getting better with time and age.”

I just can’t fathom it! I just can’t imagine that this implant will continue to help me hear even better! At 3 months post-activation, I am hearing way better than I have heard in probably over 20 years. It’s almost like I have superhearing! I never had it this good with my hearing aid! If this is where I am at 3 months, I can’t wait for my 1 year post-activation birthday next year! This has truly been such a miracle for me, but that’s not over yet??? This….this miracle is not finished yet? Isn’t it enough just to have that miracle? I feel like Oliver Twist, ungrateful for what I have been given, and scared to ask for more,

Now my friends keep reminding me how terrified and uncertain I was before my implant surgery! “You must be getting excited about getting your implant activated,” they kept saying to me, in spite of my strong doubts…

I haven’t looked back…

The Amazing Sounds of Las Vegas!!!

I just came back from Las Vegas! There is probably nowhere else in the world you can go to get a full 360° listening experience, a place to take a cochlear implant for a tryout, and to fill your head with wonderful sounds and music! The sounds of Las Vegas are unique and distinctive, as well as loud and clear! It is so hard to choose from all the shows playing, and every casino is filled with the distinctive noise and sound effects which scream and cry ‘Jackpot’ and ‘Play Me’ at you. And the background music in each hotel or mall shops suits each theme. Sound is always present in Las Vegas, and sounds of Las Vegas, each sound is exactly as my brain remembers it, only way better! It is fantastic because each sound is now layered and distinct! For the first time in years, I actually heard Las Vegas with the crispness, clearness and sharpness that I haven’t had in years! But the one thing I really missed was the sound of metal on metal, the sound of metal coins or jackpots being released to the metal catch bins below. Sadly, the casinos have now upgraded their machines to a new system where credits and jackpots are paid out on paper.

I stayed at Treasure Island, and my room came with a view of the spectacular volcano at the Mirage Hotel next door. I heard the volcano erupt every night with the sounds of volcanic fury! I loved it!

The first show I saw was Mystère™. It’s classic Cirque du Soleil®, with music surrounding intensive and absolutely incredible acrobats and imagery. The shows includes a band using violins, keyboards, percussion, drums, guitars, and singers. The Mystère adventure came to a frenzy with the deep rhythmic reverberations from the pounding of the rhythmatic beating on these HUGE, GIANT Japanese Taiko drums! These drums were about 5-6 feet tall, as tall as a human! You don’t just hear them, you feel them! Awesome! You are completely swept into a different world, and the skilled acrobats make everything look so simple, easy and effortless! The aerial cube juggler is mind boggling. And don’t trust the popcorn tossing clown! I enjoyed this show so much and fully appreciated how the driving musical sounds of funk, african, and celtic enhanced the acrobatics. It was an unbelievable experience! Cirque du Soleil® lives up to its reputation of creating top class productions. Mystère is well worth the experience!

Donny Osmond meets the Bicentonical Woman!


Click to enlarge image

To add to my thrill of hearing (and seeing) Mystère, the next night I saw Donny & Marie Osmond at the Flamingo! I was delighted to have a front row seat, which added visually to the hearing experience!

The show is highly reminiscent of their TV show which ran from 1976-79. Donny and Marie are in top form, showing elegance, beauty and class. They are even better now than they were as teenagers on the Donny & Marie TV show. I was simply 15 years old all over again! Now the Osmonds are a family to be respected and enjoyed, their moral integrity and values is woven into their show. In spite of what you may think of them, they still have lots of high energy and are both highly entertaining. This is currently a top rated show in Las Vegas! Their voices have matured a lot, and all their classics sounded so wonderful: I’m leaving it (all) up to you, Make the World Go Away, It takes Two, I’m a little bit country, I’m a little bit Rock ‘N Roll, Morning Side of the Mountain…. Their famous teenage bantering that they were known for in the 70’s was constantly present as they teased and tormented each other ("There was a child…" Marie taunts Donny). Donny interacted with the audience by walking on the tables and high-fiving his fans. And the sets and outfits were just dreamy! If you think their dress was classy on the Donny & Marie TV show, it is even way better visually in a live performance today!! Marie’s dresses were just to die for on every single set, you simply can’t take your eyes off all the sparkle and glitter! Marie sang her classic Paper Roses, and also did an Opera/Broadway set. Donny danced to a set with young and agile dancers half his age to honor his idol Steve Wonder (I Wish, My Cherie Amour). And amazingly, he kept up with them very well! But my favorite from Donny has to be Any Dream Will Do, from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat!.

So you are probably wondering… what did Donny and Marie sound like through a cochlear implant???… Absolutely beautiful! For me personally, I have to say that music is so far the greatest success story coming from my cochlear implant! Yes, I am playing my CD collection all over with a vengeance and fury you have never seen before!

  • I have always heard and enjoyed music from childhood. Actually the only period in my life where I did NOT hear and enjoy music was my 5 week post cochlear implant period. This adds to the success of listening to music.
  • Music with my cochlear implant sounds remarkably like I remember music sounding through my hearing aid, but with complete clearness, sharpness and crispness.
  • With music, especially classical music, there is not as much pressure to hear and understand the words to the songs. I hear the melodies and the instruments with incredible crispness and clarity. Every instrument is distinct, layered and recognizable. And with songs from my early childhood, I already know and remember the words and melodies. And much to my surprise, I can actually hear and understand the words of newer songs, or songs I have never heard before. Hearing each singer so distinctly is an added benefit. In fact, using a personal audio cable, or Noizfree t-coil connection, the singer is very pleasantly inside my brain. I hear the singing separately from the instruments. In fact, my tests with the Sound & Way Beyond software show my melody and instrument discrimination at the 100% level. This contrasts with how music with my hearing aid became merged and muddled as a single dulled sound. I am now enjoying music as well and better than I did 25 years ago! I can’t imagine hearing music better than I am right now!
  • Some fabulous advancements have been made with cochlear implant programming to allow maximum enjoyment of music. However this is my specific response to music with my cochlear implant. This may not be the case with some people who receive a cochlear implant in their adult years after being pre-lingually deafened, or those who have never heard sound and music before Every CI recipient is different. Some professionals say that music will never sound like normal hearing, but many CI recipients with an auditory memory of sound say that it is pretty much like they remember it. Remember, the brain is an amazing and fascinating organ, and the brain remembers sound and accomodates gaps in missing senses remarkably well! We still have much to learn about the brain, and today’s current cochlear implant research is tomorrow’s next version of this miracle!

What was especially meaningful to me about seeing Donny & Marie is that the two oldest non-singing Osmonds, Virl and Tom Osmond, are both profoundly deaf. Donny and Marie grew up in a family with deafness and well understand its impact. I imagine how devastating it was for the Osmond family to deal with 2 hearing impaired children, especially over 55 years ago, because things are so much easier, and there are many more options to treat deafness today. And this is a singing family and singing is the family business. The most moving performance I have seen from the Osmond family is from their 2007 50th anniversary concert at the Orleans Hotel in Las Vegas, where they sang He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother with Virl and Tom signing the song. On this show, Jimmy Osmond said that "Our brothers got started in show business because of Virl and Tom. They were singing to raise money to buy them hearing aids and to put then on missions for our church. And Virl and Tom have been with us every step of the way."

When I met Donny after the show, I told him that I came to Las Vegas to celebrate the two-month activation of my cochlear implant, and that their show had sounded so GOOD! His mouth dropped open, and then he asked me "So, it was successful then?" I assured him that they never sounded so good and crystal clear, and that I thoroughly heard and enjoyed every single second of their show!

Mmm. It seems I didn’t stay long enough! I didn’t get to see another favorite of mine, Tom Jones!

Broadcasting and Telecom Regulatory Policy CRTC 2009-430: Accessibility of telecommunications and broadcasting services in Canada

After public consultations conducted by the CRTC last November, hearing and visually impaired Canadians can breath a sigh of relief after the CRTC finally released it’s long awaited Regulatory Policy CRTC 2009-430 regarding the accessibility of telecommunications and broadcasting services in Canada on July 21, 2009.

What does this policy mean?

  • It requires telecommunications service providers to provide a new relay service – Internet Protocol Relay Service.
  • Requests mobile service providers to provide at least one wireless mobile handset to serve the needs of disabled groups.
  • Directs television broadcasters to improve and control the quality of closed captioning.

"Why?", you say, "but we already HAVE decent closed captioning on TV broadcasts, and the telecommunications services in Canada are quite adequate!"

Sadly, that misconception is far from the truth. And now, it’s time for a dose of reality. Canada has simply failed to meet, equal and match the emerging newer technologies being used by our close neighbours to the south. Not because we don’t know about or are blind to these new technologies, but from the submissions of the telecommunications providers to the CRTC, you would mistakenly believe that these service providers are already doing a decent job of providing adequate services to the disabled in Canada. Throughout the hearings, telecommunications providers complained that they did not need such regulation ("let demand equal supply of services"); that they had received no complaints from the disabled; that they were already providing adequate service to the disabled; and that such regulation would be cost prohibitive.

There is a parable which suggests you can’t really understand someone else unless you live their life, walk in their shoes. I have to wonder, how many telecommunications and broadcast providers actually have employees who are hearing or vision impaired, and who actually use their employer’s services with absolutely no disadvantage?

Canada has also failed to acknowledge the death of archaic devices such as the TTY (telephone typewriter or teletypewriter), also known as a TDD (telecommunications device for the deaf ). To continue with these devices, and not look to newer technologies only keeps us in the dark ages. After all, this IS 2009!


Image by Sclozza at Wikipedia

"Oh," you say, "but we already offer ‘carry-over’ services" (voice carry-over, a.k.a VCO and hearing carry-over, a.k.a HCO).

Well, the problem with VCO in my perspective is that you cannot actually "hear" the person you are calling. A live relay operator would provide the captions of the callee via a special VCO telephone. Much too archaic and slow for someone who actually does hear, but only requires captioning of the parts of the conversation they have missed, much like closed captioning on a TV. Trust me, it’s not easy to conduct a telephone conversation with someone you cannot hear in real time. Today, this is entirely possible.

Back around 1998 (maybe earlier), a U.S. based IP relay service called IP-relay allowed people to use their computers to enter any phone number and place a telephone call, anywhere in North America. Their web site proudly states: IP-RELAY.com was the first service to offer deaf and hard of hearing persons the ability to place calls over the Internet.

On a simple web interface, you simply typed in the number you wanted to call, and a relay operator would instantly come on and act as the relay for your phone conversation. Much like VCO, and very much mimicing the messenging services like America Online, and MSN Messenger that have become popular today. But real time messenging services are even better, as the messengers actually see the text being typed BEFORE the message is sent. Just like a spoken conversation is conducted in real time (hey, you don’t actually get to take back, or change words you have already spoken!). In general, real time messaging makes a conversation go much faster, usually as fast as speech. But IP-relay’s only disadvantage was the obvious use of the human relay operator in between. It is very obvious to the caller that an intermediating relay operator was involved in the call. But I used these IP relay services for several years back around 1998-2001.

Somehow, these U.S. IP relay service providers got wise when they realized there were a lot of hearing impaired Canadians using their services. They had to take on phone calls which terminated in Canada. One by one, each IP relay service provider blocked the calls coming from and to Canada. That was when I got cut off from using this technology. Today at IP-Relay, and other relay providers in the U.S., the terms of use are clearly spelled out: Calls terminating within the United States (i.e., not Canada) are placed confidentially and free of charge. Uh, calls within Canada do not terminate within the United States. Too bad for Canadians… So for close to 10 years now, the U.S. IP service providers have, understandably so, blocked the Canadian hearing impaired community from using their services. And there was nothing available in Canada for us to continue using that technology.

So, I waited patiently. I figured our day would come in Canada. I would just wait. And I waited. And I complained about the unfairness that Canadians did not have equivalent services. I complained to Telus and to Shaw. I complained to our mobile service providers. I complained to the CRTC. But after many years of complaining, it was to no avail. I contacted my local MLA. I did not hear back from him. I even went to my MP, who thoroughly agreed that we needed a Canadians with Disabilities Act, like they have the Americans with Disabilities Act in the U.S. If we had such an act, the intervention of the CRTC would likely be unnecessary. My conclusion: it’s awfully HARD to achieve constructive change for the disabled in Canada!

Then, about 5-6 years ago, an experimental product in the U.S. was unveiled by Ultratec. A captioned telephone! This was way way cool! How does the captioned telephone work?

Captioned Telephone (or CapTel for short) is a new telephone technology that allows people to receive word-for-word captions of their telephone conversations. It is similar in concept to Captioned Television, where spoken words appear as written text for viewers to read. The CapTel phone looks and works like any traditional phone, with callers talking and listening to each other, but with one very significant difference: Captions are provided live for every phone call. The captions are displayed on the phone’s built-in screen so the user can read the words while listening to the voice of the other party. If the CapTel phone user has difficulty hearing what the caller says, he can read the captions for clarification.


From: What is the Captioned Telephone (CapTel)?

And the great part is that the CapTel telephone is now provided free, or at a greatly reduced cost in many states.Wow! Amazing! But wait! It gets better! The captioned telephone also provides USB CapTel!, which provides large print captions for the vision impaired! With this USB connection and a captioned telephone, you can control the font size, colour and style! Wow! Well I could certainly use the captioned telephone technology. I was already planning to buy 2 captioned telephones. One for work, and one for home! I was already counting my chickens to use this product, and yes, I was already eagerly anticipating how much easier my life would be! Yeah, I can hardly wait to get this phone! I was almost drooling!

Again, I waited patiently. I asked questions. I once again spoke to my MP. I contacted board members of the CHHA (Canadian Hard of Hearing Association), and asked if we might get this telephone in Canada. The response I got was extreme interesting. Many board members had no idea that this captioned telephone even existed. Some approached their provincial telephone companies, but these phone companies simply said "no". They had little interest in providing us with this phone (Read my lips: "too costly, we do not want to undertake this infrastructure"). I contacted the manufacturer, Ultratec, and was told that they were receiving hundreds of inquiries in Canada, but they sympathetically said they were helpless to implement the required infrastructure and make this captioned telephone work for Canadian hearing impaired people. They told me that things worked differently in the U.S. Every single telephone user in the U.S. was charged around 25 cents on their monthly bill, money which went to provide such services for the disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Not only is their population way larger than the population in Canada (thus generating much more money with the 25 cents), but the Americans with Disabilities Act was on their side.

I walked away, there was no joy in being a Canadian today.

But wait! It still gets better and better! To rub salt in our wounds, the U.S. started unveiling some IP services which left me even more ashamed that my country did nothng to provide for their hearing impaired community. In March 2008, Sprint released a service called Sprint WebCapTel, which combined the use of a regular telephone and an web captioning via your computer service, in real time!

Sprint WebCapTel is a web-based service that allows a person who can speak but has difficulty hearing over the phone to read word-for-word captions of their call on a web browser during the call, while at the same time hearing the other person using any telephone.

A WebCapTel user would make or receive calls while logged into a website (www.sprintcaptel.com) and hear the person on the other line using their own cell phone, desk phone, cordless phone, or even an amplified phone. The user (if they have any residual hearing) hears the person speaking through any telephone, not through the internet or web browser. During the call, captions appear on the user’s web browser. Skilled human captioners are fully trained to caption your calls as quickly, accurately, and privately as possible.


From Sprint WebCapTel FAQ: In short, what is Sprint WebCapTel?

All you need is a regular telephone and an internet connected computer. Now, unlike a VCO phone, you can actually HEAR the person you are talking to, or the person calling you, and read the captions simultaneously online. The person you are talking to has absolutely NO idea that there is a relay operator behind the call! It is completely transparent! You simply log in to your WebCapTel service, and either make a call, or set your account to receive incoming calls at your specific phone number. But wait! And it still gets better and better and better! This service can be used with wireless mobile devices!

This was a whole new level, and a whole new wonderful world of telecommunications for the hearing impaired!

Once again, WebCapTel is a U.S. only service, and restricted to calls made and placed in the U.S. Now things were getting desperate! Some of the brighter people in Canada who were willing to take on the additional expense figured out very complicated ways to bypass this restriction, like purchasing 2 U.S. based telephone numbers, and using U.S. IP address services. It’s tricky to do, but can be done. But why should we Canadians be forced to take such drastic steps to use a service which should simply be made available in our country? IP-Relay has now expanded to provide Hands-on Video Relay services in the United States.

But wait! It gets even better and better and better and better! Ultratec’s newest, latest and greatest captioned telephone, the 800i, your voice conversation is carried over a telephone line (RJ11 jack), while captions are carried over an IP/Internet connection (Ethernet jack). Your callers do not have to dial a special number to connect to the captioning service like they do with the regular captioned telephone! They call your own number, and the captions simply come on automatically.

How is it even possible that can we be so far behind with new technology in Canada? It was looking to me like the use of telecommunications technology in Canada was getting worse and worse and worse and worse. I bow my head with shame.

At the CRTC public hearings on accessibility of telecommunications and broadcasting, Mr. David Poirier commented that

Web CapTel currently offered to the deaf and Hard of hearing in the US through Sprint is changing lives. The deaf have affordable technology, (all that is required is a computer and an internet connection and their standard home phone or cell phone) and bringing the deaf into the world of communication. How wonderful not to have to purchase a cumbersome and expensive TTY phone. TTY is an outdated technology that is hardly recognized in N. America anymore. CapTel services on the Web would allow us profoundly deaf to hold decent employment in society. It is time to give us real time caption on internet connections. It is past time for many who have had to turn down employment because TTY phones are not available.


CRCT submission by Mr. David Poirier 28-08-25

I won’t even start about the closed captioning problems from Broadcast providers on TV. They range from the extremes of no captioning at all, to captions which do not synchronize with the audio, and very garbled captions. I didn’t realize now BAD it was in Canada until over the past few years I have been watching TV programs in hotels in the United States. I never once saw the garbled captions, or the captions which did not synchronize with speakers that I am so used to in Canada. Surely we can do much better job in Canada today.

Yeah, it’s a new and better day for the hearing impaired and the vision impaired in Canada thanks to CRTC 2009-430. Maybe NOW we can meet, equal and match the technologies used by our neighbours in the south. We will get better and better and better and better. But, does this mean that we will get the captioned telephone in Canada? I don’t know. Hopefully we will get this captioned telephone, or some variation of the WebCaptel service in Canada, because IP relay services have now been mandated by the CRTC. Let’s hope we get both. But the CRTC has not specifically regulated the captioned telephone or its specific required infrastructure. But the door has surely been opened. The CRTC has said that these new services must be implemented by July 2010. A long year of waiting and watching is ahead for the disabled. But from some of the comments public comments I read in response to this regulation, not everybody is overjoyed. We still have a way to go with public education. But I think this is a good day for Canadians. Let’s see what direction this regulation will take. For certain, I expect telecommunications and broadcasting to be distinctly different a year from now!

And for the telecommunications providers who feel that regulation is not needed, or that they are doing a good job in Canada for the disabled, I would like to ask you why is has taken you so long, why it takes a CRTC regulation to move forward? Sadly, if we didn’t need regulation, or if our telecommunications providers had risen to our needs, the Canadian hearing impaired community would have had the captioned telephone. Years ago!

I raise my head with hope.

Links:

Today, I mourn the loss of once of the best pop performers I have ever heard, the voice of Michael Jackson. I first heard Michael Jackson when he was ten years old. I was fascinated with his beautiful voice from the very first moment I heard him. Here was this 10 year old kid, wise beyond his years, whining and begging us to give him once more chance with the passion and intensity of a grown adult, like his life depended on it.

Every street you walk on, I leave tear stains on the ground…

And the professionalism, and dancing was out of this world. I just couldn’t take my eyes off the smooth moves of the Jackson 5! I would never ever miss a J5 performance, and I am thrilled that today, I can enjoy old J5 TV shows on DVD. And I just knew this kid was going to be special. And he was. In spite of the strangeness of his life, his voice was simply this gorgeous musical instrument that I was so fortunate to have heard. Michael Jackson’s songs were the first songs I played with my new cochlear implant. And the experience is overwhelming and beautiful. Again, I am truly humbled for this experience to have heard him all these  years. I will now enjoy his songs for the rest of my life, and I know what I would have missed if I hadn’t heard him. To the Jackson Family, I extend my deepest sympathies and sorrow for his loss. To Katherine Jackson, thank you for having Michael.

To finish my activtion week, I would like to leave you with a humorous look at how the ear works..


Click on the image to enlarge.

Reflections on activation week…

I had promised myself I was not going to make any judgements on my progress until I had a chance to reasonably adjust to my new bionic ear, months down the road actually. After all, my new bionic ear is just 5 days old. But the truth is, I have done far better in the first 5 days than I had initially expected. I had truly believed that it would take me many months to get to the level I have achieved after 5 days. Everybody has a different experience in using a cochlear implant, just like the hearing aid experience is very different. I am fortunate that I have adapted so quickly to my bionic ear. I never dreamed I would be saying this so soon, but I am not just thrilled, I am ecstatic! I can really say that I hear better, and much more than I did with my hearing aid 20 years ago. But I need to emphasize that every activation is different for each person.

My immediate gains are:

  • Lipreading is far far easier, and less stressful. In almost every instance, lipreading provides me with a 100% understanding of and discrimination of conversation with far less effort.
  • Every sound is sharp, crisp and very clear. The way things are supposed to sound. Imagine that everything you have seen through your eyes for most of your life has been very blurry. Then suddenly your vision becomes sharp, crisp and clear. In some cases, you might not recognize exactly what you are seeing. But you ARE seeing everything.
  • Music sounds beautiful! Instead of one blended and blurry sound, I can hear each instrument clearly. If there are 2 singers, I hear 2 singers. They are all layered and distinct, like you have layers using Photoshop.

There are so many factors that go into the cochlear implant experience, but through research, the factors that make a CI recipient do well are recognized. It is known for example that when the hearing nerve is left unstimulated (i.e., no hearing aid stimulation) for a long period of time, the recipient often must work harder to discriminate the sounds. The theory is that if you don’t use the hearing nerve, you lose its use over time. In my case, my right hearing nerve has been left unstimulated for a period of only 4 weeks in my entire life; that was the brief healing period following my CI surgery. For me, I have an instant identification of what the sound I have heard is because I have heard it before. It may sound a little different, but I absolutely know what the sound is. It’s the water running, the click of the glass on the counter, the swishing of my pants, or the footsteps on the floor. In contrast, pre-lingually deafened people who have never heard these sounds have to learn their associations. This is why they recommend implanting children as young as 1 year of age. They will then go through the process of learning sound in the same way a normal hearing child would.

I have been reading the cochlear newsgroup for many years, and a lot people maintain that there is really no such thing as a disappointing activation. No matter what the beginning is like, with time, it always ends with a good result.

So the obvious moral of having a cochlear implant is that it is a way of getting there.

After my first week, I am so humbled by the whole experience. My appreciation for the miracle that it really is has grown intensely, and has overtaken my previous fears that I was not at the right stage for this yet, and that I would lose much more by giving up my hearing aid, because I would not be able to go back. I keep thinking how fortunate I am that I was chosen to receive this miracle. Imagine completely losing a sense: sight, hearing, taste, touch, or smell. The only sense that we can treat bionically is the sense of hearing. It is still a dream for a sightless person to have a bionic eye to restore the sense of vision to people with degenerative or inherited vision diseases. There is currently a prototype under development, but it is years away. But cochlear implants began over 30 years ago, and today, Cochlear boasts hundreds of thousands of cochlear implantees. Cochlear implants are now the normal standard of treatment for a hearing loss, not the exception.

And to drive this humbling experience home, every part of this journey has just been full of extremely skilled and extremely caring people at St. Paul’s Hospital, every single step of the way. From my first CI assessment meeting in 2002 with one of the SPH Adult CI program’s firt organizers, Dr. Sipke Pijl, to Heather’s second assessment in the fall of 2008, to Dr. Westerberg’s highly skilled surgical techniques, with the surgical staff who walked me through the surgery on April 27. I now will be cared for by the most skilled audiology staff at the SPH audiology clinic, Heather, Jowan, and Cindy who all show their delight and joy at seeing someone achieve success with their cochlear implant.  I offer my deep thanks to Dr. Westerberg and his incredible staff at the St. Paul’s Audiolgy Clinic for my bionic ear!

And what truly brings this all this home is that I have spent most of my life working in a medical library full of dedicated librarians and support staff (including my colleagues Darlene and Barbara at the SPH Library) who directly serve the very same people who undertake the research required to produce miracles like this. We participate in the training of UBC’s Medical and Dental students. My own family doctor is a graduate of UBC’s Medical program. I now see the whole picture of this long process coming full circle. 

And I am so grateful.

Today Heather continued to perfect my new map. We repeated the tedious process of counting beeps and equalizing the loudness levels. She hooked me up to a machine that tested the integrity of my internal implant. We went in the sound booth and tested my residual hearing. As expected, the residual hearing in my implanted ear was pretty much gone. But the speech discrimination tests were a pretty big improvement compared to the pre-implant tests. Amazing! My bionic ear was only 4 days old.

I came back from the morning coffee break, surprised to see a former colleague that I had had the privilege to work with in the 1990’s walking down the hallway in the waiting room. She was also one of Dr. Westerberg’s patients. She had been placed on a permanent disability leave in 1999 after cancer ravaged her face. She was left blind in one eye, and had lost her hearing in one ear. Her good hearing ear had been worsening over the years, and both ears were covered in wax and crust. Dr. Westerberg had to suck out the fluid and put in a tube for drainage. Sadly, she is one of the less fortunate ones who cannot benefit from a cochlear implant because the radiation therapy she had for the cancer in her face had likely damaged her hearing nerves. You see, one of the requirements for a cochlear implant is that you must have a viable hearing nerve. Not everybody is a candidate for a cochlear implant.

In spite of her worsening chronic conditions, she had always maintained a postive attitude, and she hugged me with joy and delight. But I was so heartbroken to see what she was going through. I felt so guilty for feeling so much happiness with my new cochlear implant, and for being one of the more fortunate ones.

Somehow, humans still see a beautiful world when they have been given huge burdens to bear. In spite of all the suffering my colleague was going through, she says to me, “I will never give up with life – I know GOD is with me.”

My mother suffered for years with a ravaging and violently severe form of rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis brought on by the same rubella virus that damaged my hearing. The last four months of her life, she lived with a portable oxygen tank to breathe. Through all this, I never ever heard her complain or whine. I never once heard her bemoan the pain and suffering that she had to live with. But I still knew she was hurting and suffering so much pain. Even though she did not ask for it, she probably would have been more comfortable with a powerful narcotic painkiller. She told me that with arthritis, you develop a high level of pain tolerance. I knew what she was really saying is that you simply live with the pain. I told her one day that she was simply amazing, and that I was so filled with admiration for her because she always kept her spirits high. But I knew she was very depressed. I asked her how she kept up her courage. She quoted me a poem that I have never forgotten:

God Forgive Me When I Whine
by Red Foley

Today, upon a bus, I saw
A pretty girl with golden hair.
I envied her, she seemed so gay.
I wished that I could be so fair
But then, when she arose to leave,
I saw her hobble down the aisle.
She had one leg and used a crutch
And yet, she passed me with a smile.
Oh, God forgive me when I whine
I have two legs, the world is mine.

And then I stopped to buy some sweets,
The lad who sold them had such charm.
I talked with him ~ He seemed so glad.
If I were late, it would do no harm.
And as I left he said to me,
“Please come again, you’ve been so kind.
It’s nice to talk to folks like you,
Because, you see,” he smiled, “I’m blind.”
Oh, God forgive me when I whine,
I have two eyes, the world is mine.

Then, walking down the street I saw
A pretty child with eyes of blue.
He stood and watched the others play,
It seemed he knew not what to do.
I stopped a moment, then I asked
“Why don’t you join the others, dear?”
He looked ahead without a word,
And then I knew he could not hear,
Oh, God forgive me when I whine,
I have two ears, the world is mine.

With legs to take me where I’d go,
With eyes to see the sunset glow,
With ears to hear what I would know ~
Oh, God forgive me when I whine,
I’m blessed indeed, the world is mine.

Today I will pray for all the people who so courageously live with their sufferings.