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Cochlear Implants, hearing loss and more! I carry an interesting perspective: someone who had normal hearing growing up, lost it all slowly as an adult, then regained it with cochlear implants. So I'm deaf, but I can hear - a true miracle. If you'd like to know more about me and my bilateral cochlear implant experiences right away, my two books have a wealth of information - see the links below. Check out the list of upcoming events too - perhaps one day we'll get to meet!


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

CI Moment - 20 years later

I've just celebrated my 20th anniversary of my cochlear implant!  Back when it was all new, fellow CI users would talk about our "CI moments" - events that were notable because we could now hear, but would have been impossible before getting our CIs.

Well, wouldn't you know - yesterday, I had a "CI moment" - an experience that surprised me because I was hearing something that was totally unexpected.  This event would have been totally impossible without my CI, but I suspect wouldn't even have been possible without many years of CI practice.

I was in a large drug store, getting a prescription refilled. I had told them that I would shop in the store while waiting for it to be ready.  I was engrossed in checking out all the various make-up and Halloween displays, when I thought I heard "Arlene to the pharmacy please" over a loudspeaker. It wasn't very loud, and I had never been aware that they would make that kind of announcement, but I went back to the pharmacy and asked if they had paged me.  Yes - indeed they had!   Definitely a CI moment, for sure!

There's more to the story, though.  Recently, I have been listening to recorded books while driving in my car - something I hadn't done in many, many years.  I used to listen to "books on tape" as audiotherapy practice, but had given that up long ago.  Just recently, though, I had gotten very tired of listening to the radio - the news reports were so depressing - so I figured getting some books on CDs would be a good alternative. 

I had just finished the 29-CD recording of the biography Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow, that had inspired the Broadway show.  I found it fascinating, and looked forward to driving so I could listen to more.  What I discovered, interestingly, was that I seemed to be hearing "better" in general situations.  It was just an impression, and certainly still not "totally normal" hearing, but definitely relatively "better."  I seemed to be able to get words at greater distances with improved clarity.  And this practice was also forcing my brain to rely only on sound - no captioning or other cues. 

Fast forward to the "Arlene to the pharmacy" announcement, and it fits right in with my recent experience.  Getting better speech discrimination, and awareness.  Just what I had been practicing in my car - and plan to continue doing!

Progress - with practice - after 20 years!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Better Speech and Hearing Month Crossword Challenge

Here it is May, again - which is Better Speech and Hearing Month!  Last year, the HLAA magazine, Hearing Loss, published a special crossword puzzle in celebration of this event.  It's called Hooked on Bionics, and is really fun - well worth bringing back for an encore!

Just click here for the puzzle, and click here for the answer key, as well as bio information about the puzzle constructor, George Barany - and some more info about me, too!

If you're curious about how this came to be, then you might want to check out a great bunch of crossword puzzle enthusiasts here.  There's nothing else about hearing loss at that site, but I think you'll agree that's a refreshing change of pace!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

In Memoriam: Ira Z. Romoff (1947-2013)

My beloved husband of 43 years, Ira, passed away suddenly on Tuesday, July 30, 2013.  The funeral was held Thursday, August 1, 2013 where open captioning was provided.  I delivered the following eulogy in his honor.  Additional eulogies were delivered by my son and daughter. Donations in his memory can be sent to the Center for Hearing and Communication www.chchearing.org  A detailed review of his professional accomplishments can be found at    http://leasingnews.org/Pages/extra_romoff.html


AUGUST 1, 2013 – Arlene Romoff

This is such a difficult task for me – yet seeing all of you here today – friends, family, colleagues - I just have to tell you that it means so much to me to have your support and your love.   

And, speaking of love, let me tell you the story of Arlene and Ira – it goes all the way back to the High School of Music & Art in Manhattan – starting in Mr. Howard’s English class in 1963.  Ira was somehow partial to redheads – and I enjoyed being adored – so that was a pretty good way to begin a 50-year relationship.  Our first date was a New York Philharmonic rehearsal at Lincoln Center – I bought the tickets – a dollar each!  By our next date, the 1964 World’s Fair, romance was blossoming by the moonlit fountains.  And did you know that Ira came to my Sweet 16 Party – and was annoyed that there were other people there!  Next – on to City College – and a ZBT fraternity pin – and then an engagement ring by our senior year. We were married in 1970 – and our first dance was “Someone to Watch Over Me.”

And THAT song was prophetic.  As I started losing my hearing, Ira did, indeed, watch over me.  He was devoted to me, to my well-being, and to my happiness – just as he was always devoted to his family and to his friends. 

 We did work as a team, though – as I became “the banker’s wife” – and we became “Michael and Emily’s Mom and Dad.” We were quite a team, too – and outwardly looked so normal.  Yet my hearing loss was the invisible damper that couldn’t be ignored.  

But – for those of you who knew Ira in business – good strategy can triumph over weaknesses. Just last week, Ira told me that when we were tennis doubles partners, many years ago -  he would call “SWITCH” so our opponents would think I would cross the court – but he knew I wouldn’t hear it, so wouldn’t switch.  (Are you following this? It’s really quite brilliant!) 

We had other strategies too (that I was actually aware of!)  I communicated by subtle facial expressions when I needed his help understanding something – and he always “got it.”  He most surely “watched over me” – and I really needed him to.  And he never faltered – or complained. 

And then a miracle happened – something we never could have imagined back in 1970 - cochlear implant technology allowed me to hear again – and with two devices, one in each ear, I could finally turn to the sound of my name – something that had eluded us for four decades.  Can you imagine the look of joy on Ira’s face when he could finally do something as simple as call my name, and I would turn around?   No matter how many times we did this, we still smiled – it just never seemed to get old.

And that brings us to the present – just as recently as this past weekend, Ira helped me participate in a cochlear implant convention – assisting in my booksignings and such. He took such joy in being that “someone to watch over me” – as if nothing had changed in 43 years.  Except today I’m on my own – but I’m pretty sure he’s still watching over me – and watching over you, too.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

NE Cochlear Implant Convention - persistence of memories

The  Northeast Cochlear Implant Convention 2013 is coming up next week, being held at the Holiday Inn, in Boxborough, Massachusetts on July 26-28.  This year, I am one of the presenters - doing a session on bilateral cochlear implants on Sunday, July 28 at 9 AM, and also doing a booksigning on Saturday, July 27 at 4:30 PM.

The history of this convention runs deep for me - I was at the very first one, held  in June of 1997, researching my own cochlear implant options.   I wasn't alone, either - it was there that I met many of what became a close-knit group of "first generation" cochlear implant users.  We weren't exactly pioneers, but cochlear implants weren't exactly commonplace yet either. 

Those were the days when you had to have very little hearing left to qualify - about 20% using hearing aids.  I didn't have to worry, though - my hearing at that point was just 8% in my "better" ear.  I met people like myself, researching their options - and I also met people who had already gotten their CI's.  I didn't have to be sold, though - I was desperate - my long journey from normal to profound deafness had reached its ultimate destination.

I made a return visit to this convention in 2001, to sign copies of my first book, Hear Again - Back to Life with a Cochlear Implant.  And now, in 2013, I'm looking forward to talking about bilateral cochlear implants, and also signing copies of my second book, Listening Closely: A Journey to Bilateral Hearing.  

 I have to smile at the thought of returning to my "alma mater" once again this year, as a member of its original graduating class.  

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

CAPTIONING ADVOCACY: Playbill from the first Open Captioned Broadway Performance - 1997!

I was sorting through my papers, and came across a stack of old Playbills.  These weren't just any old Playbills - they were all from open captioned Broadway shows.  What is distinctive about these Playbills is that the Theatre Development Fund (TDF), which arranged the open captioning of these shows, always had an insert stapled into the Playbill, just under the large advertising centerfold. 

I kept all the Playbills of the shows I had seen over the years because they represented a triumph - to be able to attend a Broadway show, without missing a word - a mission that I had spearheaded back in the 1990's.  Although I hadn't looked at these Playbills in years - they were stashed away in a box - I knew what was in that stack - the Playbill from the very first Open Captioned Broadway performance - Barrymore, a one-man show starring Christopher Plummer - on Wednesday, September 24, 1997.  And it turned out that I had saved two copies of this Playbill! Here's what it looked like:

Playbill from the very first Open Captioned Broadway performance.



It turned out that I saved more than just the Playbill - I also saved the ticket stub!  And here is the insert from the Playbill, announcing that this is the very first open captioned Broadway performance.

Special Playbill insert announcing the FIRST Open Captioned Broadway performance and the ticket stub - September 24, 1997. Historic!

And here are the insert pages that explain about open captioning, the captioner, TDF, and the audience that benefits from captioning.

Program Notes about Captioning and the Captioner

Program Notes about TDF and the people who helped make this captioned performance happen. Note my name mentioned, recognizing my "advocacy and perseverence"!

This is such a significant find - as it documents a milestone in captioning advocacy and accommodations for people with hearing loss.  And it also represents a dream of my own - to be able to walk through Times Square late at night, carrying a Playbill - a souvenir of a wonderful theater experience - just like everyone else.

Additional documentation:
The New York Times ran an article about this event, entitled "Device Opens the Theatre to the Deaf" , published on September 16, 1997.

My second book, Listening Closely: A Journey to Bilateral Hearing (Charlesbridge/Imagine 2011), contains a brief history of captioned live theatre advocacy, on pages 24-25. Click here to access the Amazon website for the book, and click on the "Look Inside" feature to find the excerpt.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Cochlear Implant Miracles: Opera! Bravo! Encore!

I'm no novice with cochlear implants, having gotten my first CI in 1997, and being bilateral since 2008.  I always was able to enjoy music with my CIs - it took a while to adapt back in 1997, with some music genres taking longer than others to sound "normal."  I had never been an opera buff prior to losing my hearing, though, but being deaf and enjoying music has made me want to try it all.  I do listen to classical music, so opera wasn't exactly a huge leap.  I learned about the Metropolitan Opera HD simulcasts a few years ago - these are live performances that are beamed by satellite into local movie theaters. The ticket price is a fraction of a live Met performance, and in some respects, the simulcast experience has additional benefits unavailable in the live theater.  

With that as background, I looked forward to the first opera of the season - Verdi's Otello - which had Renee Fleming in the leading female role - a wonderful opportunity to see the best!  This opera would run 3 1/2 hours with one intermission.  The interesting part about going to the opera is that it is wonderful music practice.  Even though I do well listening to music, it still does get "better" after listening for 3 1/2 hours.  

There were several movie theaters in my area showing this performance - a few of them sold out.  Arriving a bit early  ensures getting the pick of seating location - no extra charge!  And so, waiting for the 1 PM curtain, I always pack a picnic lunch - the theaters don't mind, understanding that popcorn and Verdi aren't really made for each other.   The countdown to the opera begins about 5 minutes before, with this on-screen update: 

Waiting for Otello to begin 

Knowing that this is being broadcast live is exciting. There are rebroadcasts at other times, which I've attended.  But there's something special knowing that a mere 10 or so miles away in NYC, all this is happening "live from New York"!    And then, the focus is on that massive curtain and stage!

Metropolitan Opera awaiting the beginning of Otello

There are several benefits to attending these simulcasts:  
  • Subtitles are placed right on the screen, in perfect sync with the lyrics, in easy-to-read font size.
  • They always have some famous opera star doing interviews with the performers at the intermission (but not captioned). 
  • The cameras zoom in on the performers so you can see them up close - much closer than even front row orchestra seats!
  • The camera also zooms into the orchestra pit to highlight the instrumental passages.
  • The cameras are behind the curtain during scene changes, showing the incredible infrastructure that allows for these elaborate stage sets. And they interview the production personnel as well.
  • And, my absolute favorite part, which begins the excitement, is when the production manager speaks into the intercom, "Maestro to the pit!" - signaling that it is showtime, the production is ready to begin, and the conductor is needed to start the overture!
And now to the music!  This was the first time I was going to be listening with my new software program, ClearVoice, set on my processors.  I've listened to music with it, and actually prefer the sound with ClearVoice on, but this was my first opera, so I was curious about how everything would sound.

And  . . .   I liked it!  ClearVoice seemed to give greater clarity to the instruments and to the voices.  I switched back and forth to my non-CV program, but CV won every time.   The bass voices are the ones I have the most difficulty with, as each ear hears that register slightly differently. But as I expected, I was doing better with this during the last act than in the beginning. The tonality was still good, it was just hearing the baritone as low as it really was. The sopranos were angelic, as usual.

When I first started going to these performances, I thought I'd never be able to sit through hour upon hour of opera.  But the sound, the sets, the costumes, the subtitles, the camerawork, the interviews - all make it a most enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.  And with each opera, I sit there in utter awe, never forgetting that I am a deaf person, enjoying the enchantment of the Metropolitan Opera - and I still can't quite believe it.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Bilateral Cochlear Implants - happy feelings again

I had another "better hearing" experience today - and the happy feelings that seem to go along with that.  I'm still adapting to the new software on my processors, called ClearVoice.  It's geared to dimming droning background noise, but in doing so, it seems to have benefits on beyond obviously noisy environments. It seems to enhance all environments, and seems to keep getting "better" - especially with two ears.  And that's what happened today.

I was having a routine diagnostic x-ray procedure, done as an out-patient in the local hospital.  To navigate this appointment, I ended up speaking to a half-dozen people in a variety of environments, on all sides of me, and sometimes without looking - and I did it all!

First was the valet parking guy, then the information desk attendant, and then the receptionist.  These offices always have you sit in a waiting area and then call your name. Even if you tell them you might not hear your name being called (one never knows with acoustics, voices, distance, etc.), they don't always "get it."  Because of this situation, though, I found myself in a lively discussion with the receptionist, explaining my cochlear implants. It was a wonderful conversation, and we were really getting along!

Then to the waiting area - and I had no problem when they called my name.  YAY!  Then into the x-ray area - and these rooms always seem to have ever-present fans or electronic hums.  I was doing fine hearing the radiologist. But then she moved across the room, and kept giving me instructions. I hadn't really expected her to talk to me from that distance, but before I could tell her that I might not hear her, I realized that I had heard her clearly.  I mean CLEARLY.  Unexpected dialogue, without looking, across the room (okay - not a big room, but still not standing next to me) - and the words went straight to my brain!  That is definitely "better"!

So then I started having a chatty conversation with her - even asked her name (Carolyn.)  This was definitely not my "usual" behavior, but it felt good, and there was that happy feeling coming on again.  As I left the room, I had to pass the receptionist's desk - and then, for some reason, I backtracked a bit, and said good-bye to the receptionist I had chatted with when I first came in.  I had connected with her as a human being, and it was so interesting - the connection flowed both ways.

Socialization bumped up a notch - that's what I was experiencing.  The words coming in "better" were somehow allowing me to interact faster, easier, and in a more meaningful way.  And that definitely registered on my brain's "happy" scale.  Makes me think that on the four-year anniversary of my bilateral hearing, I'm up to what a normal 4-year-old would be mastering - socialization skills with strangers in new situations.   Just what I need to "work a room"!