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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!


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Christopher Plummer: Oscar winner and captioned theater pioneer

Like many others around the world, I watched the Academy Awards presentations on Sunday night. I had actually seen many of the movies, thanks to the Rear Window Captioning available at many movie theaters in New Jersey.  I was particularly delighted, though, when Christopher Plummer won his first Oscar ever for best supporting actor.  Evidently, at age 83, he became the oldest actor to win an Oscar.  I realized that I knew something most people probably didn't - that Christopher Plummer was a first in another area of the entertainment industry.  He was the first actor to star in an open captioned live theater production on Broadway.

The year was 1997, and after a triumphant debut of open captioning at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey, the year before, we set our sights on Broadway.  Enlisting the aid of Lisa Carling, director of the Theatre Development Fund's (TDF) Theatre Access Program (TAP), we were hoping that Lisa could convince a Broadway producer to take the pioneering step of open captioning the very first Broadway show ever.

It took a lot of banging on doors, but Lisa finally was successful in lining up captioning of the musical "Jekyll and Hyde" - and we all looked forward to that with great anticipation.  But then we got word that Lisa had also gotten the go-ahead from the producer of "Barrymore", a one-man show with Christopher Plummer in the title role.  I don't know how this came about, but a date to offer open captioning for this show was scheduled before the "Jekyll and Hyde" date, giving "Barrymore" the historic distinction of being the very first open captioned live theater production on Broadway.

There's no doubt that Christopher Plummer must have agreed to this - thus elevating him to hero status for being the pioneer to say yes to this endeavor, which would remove the barriers of exclusion to those with hearing loss who needed the text to enjoy a theater performance.

And so the word went out - with the New York Times running the following article in its September 16, 1997 Arts Section, in anticipation of this historic event:
Device Opens Theatre to the Deaf

When I resurrected this archived article, I beamed it to Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.  I didn't realize that my own name was actually mentioned in the article, down "below the fold" of the ads running in the center of the piece.  But look closely, and you'll see it there, along with Lisa Carling - who convinced a Broadway producer to be a pioneer - and Don DePew, the court reporter who loaded the very first Broadway script into his computer, and scrolled it in synch with Mr. Plummer's rendition of "Barrymore."

We needed to drum up an audience, so collaborated with the Center for Hearing and Communication, then known as the League for the Hard of Hearing.  We had 150 people turn out for that historic performance.  And then, as I describe in my book, Listening Closely, I got my first cochlear implant one month later.

This performance laid the foundation for C2 Caption Coalition - which provides open captioning to theaters across the country - and was the inspiration for Stagetext in the United Kingdom, which was founded in 2001, and provides open captioning of live theater in the UK.  Captioning has also spread to Australia with Captioning Studio providing live theater captioning as well.  And there are other theaters around the country, independently providing this service as well.

But we knew, back in 1997, that to capture the credibility of open captioning of live theater, it had to be done on Broadway - and with that first performance Christopher Plummer made theater history. 

Now go and "share" this with everyone you know!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Cochlear Implant Adventures: Trip to Advanced Bionics in California - Part I

I just spent the most amazing week in California, and I can't wait to write about it!  Advanced Bionics, the maker of my cochlear implants, has its headquarters in Valencia, California. They have a wonderful Connect to Patient program, where their cochlear implant recipients come to talk to their staff about their experiences. Many of the researchers and technicians don't get out in the field to meet the real people who use their cochlear implants, so this is a way for them to meet face-to-face and learn the impact these miraculous devices have on people's lives - what works well, what's on our wish lists, what suggestions we have. 

This wasn't my first time doing a Connect to Patient presentation.  I had come three years ago, while I was writing my book, Listening Closely: A Journey to Bilateral Hearing.  At that time, I was researching certain aspects of the book, and it helped to speak directly with people who were involved in developing and producing my cochlear implants.  I ended up writing about the visit itself, which became a chapter in the book, called "The Visit" (page 151).  The presentation I gave at that time was recorded, and that video is available on my website www.arleneromoff.com , captioned in English and Spanish (see previous blog entry about "Clickable Transcripts").  That visit had been an enchanting experience, so I was truly looking forward to this trip.

My husband accompanied me on this trip, and we flew out of Miami International Airport, into Los Angeles. I've flown on my own before, but it's always easier to have a companion to fend for all the communications along the way (and carry luggage) - so I didn't have to be extra alert, particularly in those noisy environments. It was like flying with a staff - made everything stress-free. The flight was uneventful, we touched down on time, picked up a rental car, and headed up I-5 to Valencia. Our hotel was next door to the Advanced Bionics building, just a short walk across the courtyard.
I was scheduled to spend the next day at AB, doing my talks and meetings throughout the day. I was still on East Coast time, so woke up bright and early - too early, actually. I peeked out behind the curtains, and nearly fell over. My room overlooked the AB building, and faced East. The "dawn's early light" was in front of me, with the sun just starting to emerge above the surrounding mountains.
A spectacular vision was unfolding before my eyes, beyond my imagination.  As the sun rose slowly into view, it cast an illuminating light on the AB building. 
Here I was contemplating how to begin my talk about the miracle of my cochlear implants, and I was being treated to a most amazing and unexpected vista to start my day! 

 The glow on the AB building - especially the significance of that building and what it represented to my hearing and my life - was inspirational.

 I knew exactly how I would begin my talk.

 " I woke up this morning, took a look outside my hotel window, and thought I had arrived in heaven."

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bilateral Cochlear Implant presentation with Clickable Transcripts (captioned in English and Spanish)

If you've been to my website at http://www.listeningclosely.com/ then you may have seen the video links available there.  One of the videos is a presentation I gave on bilateral cochlear implants to the staff at Advanced Bionics, the maker of my cochlear implants, at their Connect to Patients program three years ago.  I was still writing my second book, Listening Closely, at that time, and had only been bilateral for a few months, so it's interesting to see my behavior in the process of adapting to bilateral hearing. 

When I embedded the video on my website, I made sure that it had accurate captioning - and  the Captioning Studio (based in Australia) did a great job. Then it was suggested to provide the captions in Spanish as well, so thanks to Galindo Publicidad, Inc , the video is also captioned in Spanish.  The video can be viewed on the http://www.listeningclosely.com/ website, or click on the screen there to view the Video on YouTube.

But then, the Captioning Studio suggested trying their new innovation called Clickable Transcripts - and that's where the fun begins.  When viewing the video on my website (not clicking through to view it on YouTube), you'll see the entire transcript to the right of the video screen.  Click here to go to the Presentation video with the Clickable Transcripts

You can select the English or Spanish transcript. When you point your cursor to a sentence in the transcript, the video will automatically advance to that part of the video.  That allows you to browse the transcript and go to the portion of the video you want to view. 

There's also the option of putting English or Spanish subtitles below the video. That allows subtitles to be put onto videos that don't have captions. 

Now that I've given you the instructions, it's time for you to go and play! 
 Click here to go to the Presentation video with the Clickable Transcripts

And while you're playing, you'll get a great preview and behind-the-scenes look at my book, Listening Closely: A Journey to Bilateral Hearing 

It's rare to get caught on video in the middle of writing a book - but here it is, with captions. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Another Cochlear Implant WOW Moment: Are you listening?

Let me describe what happened, then we can discuss it.  Here's the situation:

I was in the living room, sitting at my desk facing the wall, working at my computer, with my back towards the room.  My husband was also in the living room, 15 feet away (I just measured it), talking with my two cousins. I thought I was engrossed in my reading and writing at the computer, yet my husband asked me a question - as if I had been a part of their conversation all along - and I turned around and answered him!  Without a moment's hesitation or skipping a beat!  Way to go, brain!

I was so shocked at doing this - and also because my cousins didn't realize anything extraordinary had just happened - that I had to inform them of the amazing hearing trick they had just witnessed - unannounced and unrehearsed - and never before performed, ever!

Now comes the commentary.  How did my husband know:
a) that I was even listening to the conversation from 15 feet away with my back turned when I didn't even know I was doing that
b) that I could follow this conversation from 15 feet away with my back turned
c) that I could answer his question without asking for a repeat or risk being embarrassed
d) that I could do all of the above when I had never done this before.

The short answer is that my bilateral hearing is still getting "better," but it's not only impacting my behavior, it's also impacting the behavior of those around me.  My husband already knows that I will turn to my name if he calls me.  We've been doing that for three years now (I started turning to his voice three months after going bilateral), so although we still don't take that for granted, it's become routine and reliable that I will turn if he calls.  It's not a leap of imagination to figure out that if I can do that, I am probably attuned to more than just my name by now - casually taking in conversations in range without consciously trying to.  And so it was!

It is also another example of what I consider one of the key sentences in my book, Listening Closely: A Journey to Bilateral Hearing:
"People treat you differently when they know you can hear them."