Resolution Acheived.

This will be a quick blog post.  I have been in contact with the management at Spring Rolls and they have done the following.

  1. The have apologized for what transpired.
  2. They have agreed to add the appropriate signs stated that Service Dogs are welcome.
  3. They have agreed to provide sensitivity and awareness training for their staff.

Note that this is not just about complying with the Ontario Human Rights Code but also the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.  Specifically, as of January 2012, all providers of goods and services must comply with the Customer Service Standards.  I urge you to click this link for more details. 

I am pleased that Spring Rolls plans to take the necessary steps to ensure this experience does not happen to others with disabilities.  Thank you.

Discrimination Against Hearing Ear Dogs

Photo by Richard Lautens, Toronto Star.

Photo by Richard Lautens, Toronto Star.

On Thursday April 18th at around 12:30 p.m., I attempted to go for lunch with my two work colleagues at a restaurant called Spring Rolls.  When we arrived, the manager told us we could not bring my Hearing Ear Dog in.  We immediately informed him that this was not a pet but a Hearing Ear Dog and as such was legally entitled to come into the restaurant.  He still continued to refuse to seat us, telling us first that Health Code laws prohibit this.  We told him this was nonsense and in fact the law allows me to bring a Hearing Ear Dog into the restaurant.  He still refused, saying that we cannot have a dog near other customers.  Again, we pointed out this was nonsense as well and the law allows us to be served.  He then proceeded to suggest we sit on the patio or in an upper area of the restaurant that was closed, but he would reopen so we would not be seen near anyone else.  We rejected those two options.  First, it was not warm outside and did not want to sit on the patio.  Second, segregation is also a form of discrimination.  We don’t segregate on the basis of skin colour, gender, or anything else, so why should I be segregated because of reliance on a Hearing Ear Dog?

After about 5 minutes of arguing, and his continual refusal to serve us, we were forced to leave.  We then proceeded to be served without any problems whatsoever at Jack Astors.

Lets review what the Ontario Human Rights Code says.

Ontario’s Human Rights Code  is a provincial law that gives everybody equal rights and opportunities without discrimination in the social areas of:

  1. employment
  2. accommodation
  3. goods, services and facilities
  4. contracts
  5. membership in vocational associations and trade unions

The Code’s goal is to prevent discrimination and harassment because of many areas (race, gender, age sexual orientation etc.), including disability.  Section 10 (1) of the Code defines “disability” as follows:

“because of disability” means for the reason that the person has or has had, or is believed to have or have had,

  1. any degree of physical disability, infirmity, malformation or disfigurement that is caused by bodily injury, birth defect or illness and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes diabetes mellitus, epilepsy, a brain injury, any degree of paralysis, amputation, lack of physical co-ordination, blindness or visual impediment, deafness or hearing impediment, muteness or speech impediment, or physical reliance on a guide dog or other animal or on a wheelchair or other remedial appliance or device,
  2. a condition of mental impairment or a developmental disability,
  3. a learning disability, or a dysfunction in one or more of the processes involved in understanding or using symbols or spoken language,
  4. a mental disorder, or
  5. an injury or disability for which benefits were claimed or received under the insurance plan established under theWorkplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997

The two relevant themes are that I was discriminated in the social area of “goods and services” due to a “disability“.

Through various contacts, two media outlets were contacted and agreed to do a story on this issue.  The Toronto Star published an excellent article.  Here are the contents of the article.

Interesting how the manager has modified his story to the Toronto Star reporter.  The article states the following.

“At the Spring Rolls restaurant on Queen St. W., Rupinder Bahl told the Star the reason Stelmacovich and his friends were offered seats upstairs or outside was because the tables at the front were either occupied or reserved. Stelmacovich, however, says many of the tables up front were empty.

When the restaurateur was asked if he understood that under Ontario’s Human Rights Code Stelmacovich cannot be refused proper service, Bahl said the dog didn’t need to be inside because he had friends who could help. Asked if he refused proper service he said, “Of course not.””

Point of clarification.  The restaurant was almost three quarters empty.  He never mentioned the need for reservations, this is something he made up after our incident.  The only reason he offered the upstairs area was to segregate us.  This was a special area used for parties and events and was not open to the public.  There was absolutely no reason that we could not have been seated in the normal part of the restaurant.

In addition to this article, the CBC also sent a camera crew to interview us.  This segment appeared on CBC on Saturday April 20 on the local Toronto 6 p.m. news.  Here is a link to the story of the CBC website.

Again, he brings up the lie about reservations.  Here is the relevant quote:

“The manager of the Spring Rolls restaurant didn’t want to appear on camera — but over the phone he told CBC News it was never his intention to offend anyone. He said the empty tables were for other patrons with reservations and he offered to welcome Stelmacovich back with a free meal.”

I told both reporters from the CBC and the Toronto Star that I will not file a Human Rights Complaint under the following conditions:

  1. That he acknowledges that he made a serious mistake by discriminating against me.
  2. He apologizes for this error.
  3. That he guarantees that it will not happen again not only to myself, but to anyone who relies on a service dog.

He failed to do that.  As such, I will be forced to proceed with a formal Human Rights Complaint.

Some may wonder, why bother with the hassle? My experience recently in Ottawa is the reason.  Before, when I had Amie, my previous Hearing Ear Dog, I had some incidents with taxi cab drivers.  However, when I went again to Ottawa with Flora, all the taxi cab drivers were excellent.  I asked one driver what he knew about the rules on service dogs  and he replied “Yes, we have be clearly instructed we must take people with service dogs”.  Obviously someone took a stand, and by doing so, made my life easier.

Now it is time for me to return the favor.  So this is not about me, or Flora, and a free meal.  This is about all people who rely on service dogs and face this kind of discrimination every day.

Keep your free meal buddy.

Meet Flora my new Hearing Ear Dog

Flora 1

Well folks, we have a new working family member.  Meet “Flora” my Hearing Ear Dog!

Flora is a Flat Coat Retriever.  I never heard of this breed before meeting Flora (but then again, I never hear a lot of things…).    This is a fairly old breed.  Dating back to the early 1800’s, this breed was the most popular birding dog, before Labradors and Golden Retrievers were developed.

Flora with her cool camo vest to keep burrs off her beautiful coat.

Flora with her cool camo vest to keep burrs off her beautiful coat.

In appearance, the Flat-Coated Retriever resembles a black or brown Golden Retriever. Flat-Coats are often called the “Peter Pan” of retrievers. They generally mature more slowly than other dogs and maintain their puppy-like exuberance for years. In my experience, the best Hearing Ear Dogs combine intelligence, playfulness, and an eagerness to please.  So far Flora seems to be all those things.  I do notice that she while she is a responsive and sensitive dog, harsh corrections will cause her to shut down until I make amends.  She tried to eat some nachos off the coffee table, and I scolded her for that.  She marched into the corner to pout for 20 minutes until I encouraged her to come back into the room.

This is her usual happy-go-lucky face!

This is her usual happy-go-lucky face!

Flora is a tolerant and friendly dog.  She adores everyone, perhaps a bit too much.  Thank goodness for the “Halti” head collar.  These things are a godsend for anyone trying to control a large or busy dog. Flora is definitely both of those things. The Halti works off the theory that a dog does not like to walk with its head turned left or right. If Flora pulls the leash, or forges off in a different direction, the energy is gently transferred into turning Flora’s head, thus stopping the behavior.


Note that even though Flora may appear to be a bit of a spaz in public, this same energy and playfulness are what will make her a fantastic hearing ear dog.  Plus, she is only 14 months old; she is still a bit of a puppy.  For the record, for those of you who knew Amie my previous hearing ear dog, she also required the use of a Halti for the first 3 years I had her until she settled down.  Radar, my first hearing ear dog, was a breeze to handle in public, but he never had the passion for hearing ear dog work as Amie did.  So my point is that smart and playful dogs are the best Hearing Ear Dogs.

One thing I am working on with Flora is to curb her desire to jump up on everyone and kiss their faces (she is long enough to do that with most average sized people).  First, the Halti collar will get rid of most of this behavior.  Second, the rule for everyone is as follows.  If you want to pet Flora, she must be sitting first.  Training a correct behavior that is incompatible with the undesired behavior is better that a harsh correction.  So in this case, we will make her sit first, give her a treat for a reward (I will have them, not you) and then we pet her and say hello.  If she tries to jump up, I will restrain her with the Halti, and you must not pet her.

Flora, like all Flat-Coat Retrievers require a fait bit of exercise. Flora needs a give 45-minute walk, run, or other activity daily to satisfy her exercise needs. The nice thing though is that once she has her exercise, she enjoys relaxing with us at home.  So she does have the capacity to settle down.  As I like to run, this makes her a perfect match for me.  We have gone on 2 runs so far and it has been great!  I now have a buddy to run with.

I am also amazed at how loyal Flora is and how well we have already bonded after only a few days.  She follows me everywhere, even to the bathroom, which is not a wise thing to do especially after I have consumed some Chicken Tikka Masala with extra Pataks Hot Curry Paste.  I left her with the family yesterday while I went to the gym…apparently she just stared at the door for almost an hour waiting for me.  Here’s the picture my wife took…

Flora is waiting for me to come home...

Flora is waiting for me to come home…

Just as a final reminder why I have decided to get another Hearing Ear Dog, please click here to read my previous post on this topic.   If you are too lazy to do that, then I will sum it up again.  Without my CI, I hear nothing whatsoever.  Therefore for at least 10 hours out of 24, I won’t hear any sounds such as fire alarms, door knocks, alarm clocks or phone calls.  Secondly, the microphones of hearing aids or CI’s really work best in a 2-3 meter (6-9 foot) range.  So if I am on another floor of the house for example, my ability to hear sounds is very inconsistent.  Finally, there is the issue of signal to noise ratio.  Even if something is close by I can’t hear it if there are other competing sounds such as the television.

Some Rules for Everyone.

  1. Don’t feed Flora.  Anything.  Ever.  Don’t even ask me.  No exceptions.
  2. Don’t pet her unless you ask me.
  3. If I do allow you to pet her, she will need to sit first, and then you can pet her.  If she tries to jump up and kiss you, turn away.  This behavior should go away in time.

That’s really it for rules for you.

I want to thank Tracy Church and the Hearing Ear Dog Team at Lions Foundation of Canada for training such a wonderful animal for me.  If any of you are feeling the urge to donate money to a worthy cause, I cannot think of a better one.

Top Ten Reasons Why I Need a Hearing Ear Dog

As many of you are aware, my sweet dear Hearing Ear Dog Amie passed away on June 13 of this year.  Initially, I did not even want to think about getting another dog.  As a family, we all needed time to grieve the loss of such a special friend.

Are we over the loss of Amie yet?  Absolutely not.  But I think I can now start to think about  getting another Hearing Ear Dog.  This is of course not about replacing Amie.  That is impossible.  But our hearts are certainly big enough to make room for a new dog to become part of our family.

One interesting thing that has happened to me over the few months is other people have also enquired as to whether I will get another hearing ear dog.  Interestingly, the question is not always posed the same.  In fact, they can be classified into three categories.

First, are the “Genuinely Curious”.  These people are truly just asking out of interest.  They do not hold any biases or preconceptions.  They are not fully aware of the impact of hearing loss in general, nor do they fully understand my particular details.  To these people, I do not mind explaining both my situation, the nature of deafness, and the role of hearing ear dogs.

The second group I call the  “Erroneously Positive”.  These people may make comments like “I really do not see you as deafened” or “You seem to be doing just fine”.  Generally, I do not sense any animosity or ill will.  Instead, I believe these people are actually complimenting me.  They judge my degree of disability (or rather lack of disability) on my functional abilities in a one on one conversation, rather than the results of my audiogram.  Interestingly, this flies in the face of the so-called ‘hearing aid effect” in which people with larger hearing aids are judged less positively than those with smaller devices.   These studies were done with photos.  I believe that showing static photos bears no relationship to the real world of communication.  Here I am with a cochlear implant, bigger than the biggest BTE hearing aid from 25 years ago, a hearing aid in the other ear and an FM system in my hand and yet folks don’t think I have that much of a hearing loss at all.  Its quite remarkable really.

The third and last group are what I call the “Ignorantly Hostile”.  Sadly there are quite a few of these people.  They make judgmental comments laced with suspicion and almost hostility.  They make comments like “Yeah, but you don’t really need a hearing ear dog…you just want a pet”.  Some comments are just ignorant, not so much hostile but annoying nonetheless.  Example “Now that you have your cochlear implant, you don’t need Amie anymore, right?”  I am not alone…I have read similar stories from other CI users.  For example, a CI user named Denise wrote “So? If you have a cochlear implant now, why do you need a dog? Didn’t that (as she gestured towards my CI and bling) fix you?”

One thing that many CI users would like others to know is that the cochlear implant is not a cure for deafness.  We have artificial battery operated ears that does not sound like normal hearing (See What Does a Cochlear Implant Sound Like).  It has an electronic microphone that does not have the same sensitivity as the normal ear.  Hearing aid and cochlear implant microphones work best in a 3-5 foot range.  Moreover, the CI or hearing aid does not have the same capacity to filter out noise like the normal cochlea.  Lastly, we cannot wear these devices 24-7.  When we sleep at night we are even more deaf than we were before we got our implants!

To illustrate the limitations of microphones, try this experiment.  Stand about 20 feet (6 meters) from another person.  Have a recording device in your hand.  Most mobile phones have a voice recorder.  Now have the other person speak to you and record their voice.  Did you hear and understand ok?  I am sure you did fine.  Now play it back the recorded version.  Listen to how thin it sounds and how much background noise there is.  Now do it again, but add some additional background noise from say a stereo or TV.  Listen again to how much harder it is to understand the recorded version.

Welcome to the world of people with hearing aids or CI’s.  This little experiment only shows the limitations of electronic microphones.  It does not even address the lack of noise filtering of our impaired auditory systems.

In short, here is tonight’s Top Ten List entitled “Reasons Why I Still Need a Hearing Ear Dog”

1. When I sleep at night, I take my CI off and I hear absolutely nothing.  I need to wake up to get to work in the morning and a regular alarm clock will not work.  Vibrating alarms are not bad…but read on.

2. Similarly, most fires occur at night when people are asleep.  Studies show that visual fire alarms do not work effectively in waking people up (see this article on Waking effectiveness of visual alerting systems ).  A hearing ear dog will physically wake me up.

3. I travel extensively for my work and I cannot take a suitcase full of technical devices with me everywhere I go.  I am not sure how I can hook up these devices to the main fire alarm of a hotel anyway.

4. I have had hotel staff march into my room while I was in my birthday suit.  I did not hear them knock.

5. Hearing aid and CI microphones are not as sensitive as natural hearing.  So I am hit and miss with sounds.  The hearing ear dog will ensure consistency.

6. Many times the sounds I need to hear (doorbell, phone, microwave etc) are not at an adequate signal to noise ratio for a person with hearing loss.  It is buried under noise making it impossible for our damaged cochlea to detect.

7. If I know someone is coming to my house and I am alone, I must sit and wait on the main floor in order to hear them knock or ring the doorbell.  I can’t reliably hear these sounds from another floor of the house.

8. I sleep better at night knowing someone is there listening for me.

9. Traveling is actually easier with a working dog, at least to the countries I go to.  It reminds airline staff I cannot hear the announcements to board so they come get me ahead of time for pre-boarding.

10.  Hearing ear dogs help to filter out the assholes of the world.  If you don’t like dogs, I won’t like you.  So I get to find out a serious flaw in someone’s personality a lot faster.

For more information on Hearing Ear Dogs see the links below:

Lions Foundation of Canada

Pacific Assistance Dogs Society

Amie, Bass Guitars, and Good Health.

I have not posted in a while.  I needed some time off.  Amie, my sweet friend and hearing ear dog passed away on June 13.  She was such a big part of our family; her passing hit us all pretty hard.  I wrote many tributes to her already in my blog, you can read them here and here.  Amie, we miss you terribly.

Two happier items to talk about.  My band played another event on Saturday July 21st.  We raised over $800 for the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada.  This time I really got the sound right.  I had all the settings tweaked really well so I could hear exactly what I needed.  Moreover, what pleased me most was my ability to keep playing the correct parts when our singer deviated from the song.  I was able to hear that we were not at the part of the song I expected and still played correctly.  In addition, my guitarist was able to glance over at me and mouth instructions.  It was such a massive confidence booster to know that we can screw up but still recover without anyone in the audience even knowing it.  For more information on how I play live music with my hearing loss click here.  Also, this link here talks about how I keep the beat.

Also, I continue to improve my health.  I started in March at about 260 lbs and I am now 221 lbs.  I continue to run, work out, and avoid eating most things that are white (Salt, sugar, starch-filled things, white bread, white pastas, creamy things etc).  I blogged about the weight loss here.

I will be back to regular blogging again soon.  Meanwhile, here is a picture of me on the far left in the black t-shirt with some friends at my Saturday event.  Next picture is with my wife enjoying the vineyards of Niagara region.


Hanging out with friends at the MS Fundraiser I did with my band Below the Belt. Thats me on the left in the black v-neck.

Enjoying time at a vineyard in Niagara Region with my lovely wife.

World’s Best Travelled Hearing Ear Dog

Amie loved her long walks.


Last weeks blog posting was a bit heavy. Its time for a lighter blog post…and a fan favorite in the blogosphere.  Amie the Hearing Ear Wunderdog.

I guess I am getting sentimental again because Amie is having a tough time these days.    Due to the Transitional Cell Carcinoma in her bladder, she is having suffering from urinary incontinence.  We need to keep her diapered at all times or in the crate with an incontinence liner.  Its stressful for all of us…

Hence the need to reflect upon better days when Amie and I travelled the world together.  We came up with a list of all the places Amie and I have been together.  I must say, it’s pretty impressive for a dog.  Here’s what we came up with:

  • San Diego, California
  • Salt Lake City Utah
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Vancouver, Victoria, Whistler, and Kelowna in BC
  • Calgary and Edmonton in Alberta.
  • Hiking in the Alberta Rockies
  • Saskatoon and Regina Saskatchewan
  • Winnipeg and other parts of Manitoba
  • Pretty much every city in Ontario
  • Quebec City and Montreal, Quebec
  • Halifax, NS
  • Charlottetown, PEI
  • Moncton, NB
  • Whitehorse, Yukon
  • Zurich, Stafa, Bern, Kandersteg, Murton, and other places in Switzerland.
  • Plus more, but cannot recall

It is during these trips that I have had some of my funniest stories with Amie.  One time we were doing a training session at the Westin in Ottawa.  Normally Amie just sits in the room while I present, or maybe greets some guests.  But this time she we suddenly realized she was gone.  Turns out she sniffed out that some bankers in the next seminar room had a way better buffet of cheeses and meats (we had veggies and dip…boring!).  Little monkey.

Amie sitting nicely, hoping for treats.

Another time I was in a Montana’s Steak House.  We were seated in a booth and I took Amie’s leash off while she sat beneath the table.  She couldn’t go anywhere…we were in a booth.  Right?  Wrong!  Turns out the walls to the booth did not extend all the way to the floor.  She snuck out and was seated in front on a table of a nice old couple who were sharing their Prime Rib with her.

Another favorite is during a trip to Kandersteg, a village high up in the Swiss Alps.  The Inn owner was terrified of dogs her entire life…until she met Amie.  Amie’s sweet and kind disposition essentially cured this woman’s lifelong fear of dogs.  By the end of our trip, the Inn owner was taking Amie by the leash and introducing her to all the other guests in the Pub.

For years I have done what I like to call “Kids Days” at Phonak. Here we bring kids to the Phonak office and give them a factory tour, followed by a pizza lunch and an Amie Hearing Ear Dog Demonstration.  But for the longest time, I kept getting the same kids returning year after year.  The teacher’s explained that the kids could go wherever they wanted for their trip, but they all wanted to come to Phonak.  Well, it really turns out that they all wanted to come see Amie again. “Forget the Zoo, forget Rock Climbing, we want Amie”.  And here I thought they wanted to come see me.  Nope.

Going to Bass Pro Shops looking for matching outfits.

As we get closer to the difficult day, I want to make sure we always remember Amie in her glory years…as one of the most well travelled and loved Hearing Ear Dogs in the whole world.

Everybody loves Amie, especially her mom.

What’s It Like To Have A Deafened Father.

This week’s entry was written by a person of whom I am immensely proud of and adore: my son Alexander.

Alex and Amie in Algonquin Park

Growing up with a father with a significant hearing loss is an experience that I have lived with for 17 years. As I write this, I am awaiting my father’s summation of morning routines, in which he will put his “ears” on, as I so boldly used to state when I was younger. This of course referring to the hearing aid and cochlear implant that he must put on each day before I can speak with him. Having a deafened father is not something that I see as common where we reside, so when I speak of this upbringing, it can only be based purely on my experiential knowledge and very little external influences.

There are many things that shape my father as the man that he is and the father that he is, and whilst his disability is undoubtedly a significant trait; with the power of today’s technology, it is not a difficult one to deal with. Certain aspects of my upbringing in this regard are difficult to recollect, as I have been accustomed to it being reality. And not reality in some form of bleak, cold, hard sense, but rather that I have never known any different. Growing up with a deafened father forces you to adapt to certain mannerisms that are prevalent in all people with this condition. Whether it means patiently waiting for my father to put on his hearing aid and cochlear implant before engaging in a conversation, or knowing to always get his attention by means of small hand signs or light physical contact, these things have become second nature. My father’s ability to engage in conversation and interact with me on a day to day basis is in no way diminished by his hearing loss, and if anything has increased the intimacy of our most heartfelt conversations. I say this because if his body language does not read as being fully immersed in the topic at hand, then I know from experience, and due to the fact that he would have difficulty expressing an opinion if he had not been fully listening and reading my lips that his response would seem distracted. This allows for a much more human feel to our household, as it removes a large majority of the potential for noisy dinner conversations, shouting across the house and scattered voicemail reminders of family plans.

As a young child, my father’s hearing loss did not provide any genuine troubles. The teasing on the matter from my cohorts would only exist as an extension of an insecurity, and a lack of terms to call me after the basics would be used up. However, as my mother and father instilled the values of confidence and compassion in me at a young age, I had the ability to recognize this as no substantial attack towards my father, but rather a last resort due to a lack of genuine teasing to conjure up. To draw upon a previous point, part of the reason it never bothered me is because I did not, and could not ever know any different. This was my father they were speaking about. Why should I care if they wish to tease, when my father had done so much for me? This was never became a prominent issue.

One joy that I have had the pleasure of sharing with my father is that of music. As he has mentioned in previous entries, playing and listening to music is no easy task for anyone with any form of hearing loss. This has been a struggle for my father since day one, yet he never hesitated to give me his utmost support when I decided to pursue music as a passion. In fact, he joined me on this and our basement (or man’s den as my mother would say) has now been transformed into a small recording studio. The values that music has brought to my life are innumerable and without my father’s utmost support, I may not have gone nearly as far as I have. Music has allowed me to grow intellectually, emotionally and has given me confidence I needed after traveling to play shows to people across Ontario. None of this would have been possible without my father’s support, and the many long nights spent listening to me practice and helping me progress. Also, as mentioned in previous entries, a huge silver lining in the cloud, is our hearing ear dog Amie. Growing up with a dog has changed the very essence of who I am, and my love for animals and living beings has grown to be insatiable. My father and I have matching Amie tattoos, which is something I will carry proudly with me forever. When my father’s laser eye surgery took a turn for the worse, as a child I jokingly stated “This is a good thing Dad! We can get a seeing eye dog now too!”. These are two great things that have come out of my father’s hearing loss, that I feel a father without such a condition may not have been able to offer to the same extent.

All in all, growing up under this has had immense implications on me. It does go against many of the typical father son paradigms that exist in the all too unrelatable parenting advice columns, and it has most definitely been different. It goes without saying that there are ups and downs, as in any family relationship, but the majority of them have not been anything that any other family would not face. It has changed my outlook on people with disabilities, culture, society, technology and opened my eyes to many things that I would not have been aware of before. In many regards, it truly has shaped me into who I am today.


Thanks son!

10 Lessons My Hearing Ear Dog Taught Me.

As you may know, dear reader, my Hearing Ear Dog “Amie” has been living with cancer in her bladder (invasive transitional cell carcinoma) for some time now.  In fact, it has been almost 20 months ago that we were given the news that she may only have 2 months to live.  Somehow, she has beaten the odds and has survived much longer than expected.  All the vet can tell us is “Keep doing what you are doing.  I am not sure what it is is, but it seems to be working!”  To be honest, I am not sure either.

My wife and I were reflecting on the impact Amie has had on our lives.  In addition, how how Amie has changed my personality.

Here are some of the lessons Amie has taught me:

  1. Praise is Better than Punishment for Changing Behavior.  Amie never responded well to being punished.  She hated it and would shut down even if I simply raised my voice a bit. But boy did she love praise.  Works much better for humans too.
  2. Don’t Yell!  I was raised in an Eastern European household in which there was quite a bit of yelling.  We were all used to it and thought it was acceptable to fly off the handle once in a while.  Well, Amie never liked that, nor did my English wife.  However, whenever I had what our family referred to as a UTT (Ukrainian Temper Tantrum), Amie would hide in a corner and shake.  Within just a few short weeks of getting Amie, my UTT’s dropped off dramatically.  And they have stayed low for the 12+  years that Amie has been in our household.
  3. Virtue of a Simple Life.  We can get all hung up on the latest toys and gadgets in life.  Oh look, the Joneses next door now have an Acura and a Beemer.  But Amie had no use for any of those things.  Her favorite toy is a squeaky hedgehog and a tennis ball.  Her favorite activity was a walk in the woods.  She kept us grounded and humbled.
  4. Fortitude or Keep your Chin Up Despite Adversity.  Despite having herniated a disk in her spine, having cancer, and Idiopathic Vestibular Disease, Amie keeps wagging her tail, and loves our company. Similarly, being deafened may suck, but it clearly is not the end of the world.
  5. Forgiveness.  If I forgot to feed Amie, or didn’t take her for much of a walk, she always forgave me unconditionally.  So if, for example, someone forgets to speak clearly for me, I try to forgive.
  6. Identification of Good Character.  Amie is so sweet, she loves everybody.  There was no one that she hated, she saw good in everyone.  Some even overcame their life long fears of dogs after meeting Amie! But still, some folks did not like her.  And you know what, these people ended up not being nice people at all.  So having Amie saved me time but not wasting energy on these people.  On the other hand, there were folks I thought were unsavory characters, but because they took a positive interest in Amie, I also gave them a chance.  Turns out they were ok after all.
  7. Naps are a Good Thing.  Amie was always ready to alert me at any time, 24 hours a day.  How did she do it?  By being well rested!  We should all take more naps or at least get a good night’s sleep.
  8. Live Life to the Fullest.  A dog’s lifespan is much shorter than ours.  And there is nothing anyone can do about it.  Amie is 14.5 years old now, which is a pretty good life span for a dog.  But like all of our lives, it will end.  The Existentialists tell us that we could all use a healthy dose of Death Awareness to give us that kick in the butt we all need to get on with Living.  Nothing like seeing another creature’s life come to its end stages to reinforce that point.
  9. Adapt.  After Amie’s back surgery for her herniated disk in her spine, one of her back legs did not have the same strength.  But she quickly learned to get up and down stairs by lifting up this weaker leg.  For larger flights of stairs, we carried her up, but she didn’t complain.  So if we need to communicate differently due to our deafness. so what?  Wear the damn hearing aid, use the FM system, stop complaining and get on with participating in life.
  10. Be Sure to Say “I Love You”.  Ok, Amie can’t speak, but she can sure communicate her thoughts.  She always ran up to my wife, son, or myself with her tail wagging and gave us kisses.  Every single day!  You never get bored of being reminded that you are loved.

Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye. Very fun. Very inaccurate.

I was watching a rerun of Sue Thomas F.B.Eye the other day.  This show was aired in the early 2000’s, but was cancelled in 2005.  Thats too bad. , because it was fun entertainment.  It was loosely based on the real-life experiences of an actual deaf women whose ability to lip-read landed her a job with the FBI.

What I liked about the show is the positive image it portrayed of a deaf person.  Moreover, I like the idea of making lemonade out of lemons.  Also, her hearing ear dog Levi is adorable.  He’s almost as cute and smart as my hearing ear dog Amie!

I also almost had an opportunity to assist in law enforcement with my lip-reading skills.  I was asked by a police department to lip-read a surveillance video tape that had no audio.  They believed the two men were plotting a murder.  Unfortunately, the men were not speaking English, so I was unable to help.  Thus ended my career in law enforcement.

As enjoyable as the show was, it was also grossly inaccurate.  In the show, you never see the character Sue Thomas ever asking for people to repeat things.  She perfectly seems to understand everything just by lip-reading.  This is impossible.

Only about 30-40 percent of speech is visible on the lips.  Some sounds such as /k/, /g/, /h/, are produced at the back of the throat and cannot even be seen at all.  Other sounds look exactly the same.  For exactly, /p/, /b/, and /m/, are all produce with both lips and look the same.  Therefore words such as “pat”, “bat”, and “mat”. will look the same.  Other examples of homophonous sounds include /s/ and /z/, /f/ and /v/, /t/ and  /d/.

Only hearing can allow you to distinguish between all the speech sounds.  So it is critical that you have the proper hearing equipment if you plan on communicating via spoken language.

One new technology that is helping improve the understanding of speech is something called “Non-Linear Frequency Compression”.  This technology is found in many Phonak hearing aids.  Basically what it does is it shifts high frequency information from an area of poor of completely missing hearing into an adjacent area of audible better hearing.  As a result, many high frequency sounds like fricative consonants  (e.g. /f/, /s/, /th./ or environmental sounds such as birds chirping become audible again.

This technology has been independently evaluated by a number of researchers.  For example, Dr Jace Wolfe concluded that “non-linear frequency compression can be considered as a viable option for children with moderate to profound high-frequency hearing loss”.  Similar results have been found in adults as well.

Note that this technology cannot help if your hearing loss is too severe.  This is the case with me.  But then we have the option of getting a Cochlear Implant.  These devices do a good job of restoring audibility of many of these consonant sounds.  For more information on Cochlear Implants check out Advanced Bionics, Med-El, and Cochlear Corporation.

Who’s That Cute Doggy?

I know I promised a discussion on directional mics and FM systems.  But it is a pretty big topic and I thought I would quickly explain why I have a dog on my banner.

Well that adorable creature is my Hearing Ear Dog named Amie.  Amie was trained by the Lions Foundation of Canada and I have had her for over 12 years now (she is 14 now). Amie has travelled extensively with me.  In fact, she has been to Switzerland several times, parts of the United States, and every province in Canada (except Newfoundland…I really want to visit there as well).  In total, she has probably been on over 400 flights with me.

Hearing Ear Dogs help by alerting the owner to such sounds as an alarm clock, doorbell, oven timer, microwave oven, telephone, baby crying, and smoke alarm.  Because one cannot sleep with a cochlear implant on, Amie mainly alerted me to these sounds at night.  Without Amie, I could not get a proper sleep as I was always concerned about the possiblility of not hearing the fire alarm.  Moreover, you cannot keep gainful employment if you do not wake up to go to work.

Amie is retired now.  She unfortunately has cancer in her bladder and may not have much time left.  But she is the most loving, kind, intelligent living thing I have ever known.

If you would like more information about Hearing Ear Dogs, click this link.