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I don’t need hearing aids!

I have heard so many people tell me their spouse needs hearing aids but refuses to get them.  It is hard for some people to motivate to take the plunge, so I would like to share with you something my cousin, Susan, wrote to me in an email.  It is such a great description how hearing loss can creep up on you and how hearing aids can improve the quality of your life.  I hope her experience will motivate some of you who are undecided.

Dear Marilyn,
I know this is your specialty! My comments are probably just like those of many other people with whom you’ve spoken over the years….the loss was gradual, so I didn’t realize what was happening. I thought my husband had started to mumble, I kept asking him to repeat—I couldn’t understand him when his back was turned, or he was too far away, or he leaned on his hand so it covered his mouth (and I couldn’t read his lips–but I didn’t realize what I was doing)….then it seemed like EVERYONE was mumbling! I could always hear the volume, but I couldn’t distinguish the words—–especially women’s voices, children’s voices, radio, TV, telephone….. I started to avoid conversation and contact because I just couldn’t follow clearly….wrapped myself in a cloak of quiet solitude…. And
when I taught my folk dance classes, I couldn’t hear the beat of the music very well… Most bird songs disappeared. No crickets! None at all! Whew–finally I had a good diagnostic test (after driving my husband crazy with my requests to repeat—what? what? what did you say?) and found I had lost most of the upper frequencies, in particular those that define the consonants, so I couldn’t distinguish back, track, pack, sack, stack, lack, etc—all sounded the same–some low tones too, but seems those high frequencies were the worst. The test also explained why so many sounds were impossible to distinguish:  rain on windows vs. refrigerator motor vs. car passing on the road vs. washing machine vs. TV or live conversation in the next room vs. all sorts of other ordinary things all were to me the same ambiguous rumbling with no special clue for identification…because the special defining tones (similar to the consonants that distinguish one word from another) were gone.

Anyway, I actually bought my hearing aids at Costco, because the price was so reasonable. The brand is “ReSound,” a wireless receiver-in-the-ear type of instrument, tuned specifically to correct my loss. (The receiver is tiny, connected by a thin tube to the behind-the-ear case that holds the battery & multi-function switch.) They let me try a set in the store before making my decision—–for 20 minutes I walked around with the programmed aids in place, and to my delight I could distinguish separate conversations around me, determine the directional source, understand the words–instead of just hearing an ambiguous wall of noise all around me….what a revelation! So—- I bought these, and I have them checked and adjusted every 6 months, have my hearing retested each year— They work very well for me. I wore them full time from the first day on, and when we went back to Italy for the second time, I was thrilled to have recovered the ability to hear, comprehend, and reproduce the sounds of the language correctly. Another sort-of funny affirmation occurred when we were camping one time in south central Washington during the summer. With the hearing aids I was so happy to be hearing a monumental chorus of crickets—-then when I was ready to go to sleep and took my aids off—-ABSOLUTE SILENCE. Aids back in—the full cricket concert magically resumed!!!!

Well, that’s my story, you’ve probably heard it many times before. (No, I have never heard it described so eloquently, Susan!)
Love,
Susan

Many thanks to Susan for letting me share her story!  Not everyone adjusts to hearing aids so quickly, but with persistence you should be able to find a pair that  works for you.  Be sure your audiologist or hearing aid dispenser gives you at least a 30-day trial and is willing to fit you with other hearing aids if you are not satisfied with the first pair.  Soon you’ll be hearing those crickets and birds again!

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Cell Phone Accessories

Do you have trouble hearing your cell phone ring?
Do you use your cell phone as an alarm clock?
Do you have trouble hearing on your cell phone?

Well, now there are several accessories available to help with all of these problems!.

Ring Alerting Devices
Serene Innovations has several cell phone signalers.

Serene Innovations smaller

The RF 200 Cell Phone Signaler is a desktop signaling device for landline and mobile phones, notifying you when you have incoming calls with a loud ringer and bright flasher.

Hc-CACX

The CentralAlert CA-CX Phone Signaler does all of the above and can also transmit a signal to the Serene Innovations CA360 Clock/Receiver in another room.

Alarm Signalers

Do you use your cell phone as an alarm?  Is it under your pillow or right next to your head?  Or worse, on your chest?!  Now you can use a Bluetooth TCL Pulse Alarm.  It will wake you with vibration or sound or both.  It works with iPhones and iPads (and the free TCL Pulse App) and once it is programmed, the phone can be turned off or in another room. Keeping your cell phone at a distance, eliminates any worries concerning cell phone radiation that is emitted.

Cell Phone Amplifiers

SI Hear All Cell Phone

Serene Innovations HearAll Cell Phone Amplifier SA-40 is a Bluetooth cell phone amplifier that will pair with your cell phone. It amplifies up to 40dB, has tone control and t-coil mode, and can be used with our without hearing aids.

Other devices to help you hear better on the phone:

I hope some of these devices can help you with your cell phone.  If you have other techniques to help, please share in a comment below.  Thanks!

 

Assisted Listening Devices 201

In my last blog post, Assisted Listening Devices 101, I gave an overview of Assisted Listening Devices (ALD’s) with a focus on personal amplifiers.  A quick review before we move on:

Personal amplifiers are small portable microphones that can help you hear better in many different situations.  There are 2 types:

1.  Wired – these are attached to you with a wire from the headphone or necklooop.  These are best for listening to someone close by.

2.  Wireless (FM/Digital) – these have two parts:  the transmitter (microphone) and the receiver.  The receiver is attached to you with headphones or a neckloop, but the transmitter can be 4 feet away or 150 feet away, near the person speaking.  These can be used to listen to someone close by or far away.

Now I would like to go into more detail about the types of personal amplifiers available and how they can be used.

Important Facts about ALD’s

1.  Check with your audiologist or hearing aid provider to see what wireless accessories are available from your hearing aid manufacturer.  Most hearing aid companies make ALD’s such as Bluetooth phone clips or neckloops, wireless clip-on microphones, TV streamers, and more.  I described these in a previous post, “Hearing Aids with Wireless Connectivity.”  The advantage of these devices is that they work seamlessly with your hearing aids – you do not need to turn on your t-coil.  If you order one, be sure you get a trial period.  Some have excellent sound quality and some do not!

2.  Other ALD’s that are “generic” and will work with any brand of hearing aid, work best if you have t-coils in your hearing aids.  With t-coils you do not need to wear headphones or earbuds, you can wear a neckloop that will send sound into your hearing aids.  So, find out if you have t-coils and get them turned on!  You can read more about t-coils and neckloops here:  “T-coil? What’s a t-coil?” and “What is a Neckloop.”

You can still use a personal amplifier without t-coils, but you may need to remove your hearing aids to use them.  The advantage of the generic ALD’s is that they are less expensive than the devices from hearing aid manufacturers and if you change to a different brand of hearing aid in the future, they will still work with them.

3.  If you  don’t wear hearing aids, you can still use a personal amplifier with headphones or earbuds.

4.  ALD’s are not for sissies!  ALD’s are for people who have a hearing loss and are brave enough to say, “I have a hearing loss and I am using a device to help me hear.”  These devices are mostly visible.  No more pretending you hear just fine.  No more denial or bluffing!  ALD’s are for someone who wants to take control of their hearing challenges and keep actively involved in life!

Why Do I Need a Personal Amplifier?

You may have just spent $3,000 – $6,000 for a pair of hearing aids.  Why isn’t that enough?!   Hearing aids are great and I strongly recommend getting hearing aids as the first step in treating your hearing loss.  But even the best hearing aids will not make your hearing “normal” again.  It isn’t like getting glasses which give you normal sight.  It can still be a challenge to hear in these situations:
1.  Rooms with poor acoustics – sound reverberates off the walls and ceilings.
2.  Distance from the speaker – volume and clarity will be reduced with distance.
3.  Inability to see the speaker – we all lip read whether we know it or not – it helps to see the speaker’s face.
4.  BACKGROUND NOISE – the biggie!

So personal amplifiers will help with all of these situations by getting the microphone closer to the speaker, reducing background noise, and amplifying what you want to hear.

Where Do I Begin?

If you have never used a personal amplifier, I recommend starting with a wired device.  My first choice is the “Pocketalker” by Williams Sound.  The new Pocketalker 2.0 is small, light, powerful and easy to use.  You can read more about it here:  Introducing the New Pocketalker 2.0
At $189 it is the most affordable and versatile personal amplifier I own (and I own a lot of them!)images

For a wireless device, I recommend the Comfort Contego by Comfort Audio.  I previously described the Comfort Contego in “The Pros and Cons of FM Systems.”  One of the FM systems I reviewed, the Motiva PFM 360 by Williams Sound, has been discontinued, so I have recently been trying out the Comfort Contego and am very happy with it. It is small and has a microphone in both the receiver and the transmitter, so you can choose to listen to the person with the transmitter, or to people close by, or both.  If you will only be listening to someone close by, you can use the receiver by itself, just like a wired device.  When the speaker is farther away, you can hang the transmitter around the speaker’s neck or put it on the speaker’s podium.There is an excellent 6 minute video simulation that demonstrates listening with and without an FM system in “The Magic of Personal FM Systems.”  Be sure to watch the entire video as it is in the 2nd half that he demonstrates what his voice sounds like when using an FM system.

Where Can Personal Amplifiers Help Me?

RESTAURANTS – Let’s start with noisy restaurants.  This is the MOST difficult situation for people who are hard of hearing.  I have a great solution when talking with one other person at a  restaurant.  I wrote about it here, “Noisy Restaurant – Recipe for Success!” and it is still my favorite set-up – using the Pocketalker and a lapel microphone.  It is very effective and makes dining out so much more enjoyable.  You could also use the Comfort Contego with your partner wearing the transmitter around his/her neck.
Unfortunately, I have not found a good solution for easily communicating with 3 or 4 people around a table at a noisy restaurant.  All the ALD’s I’ve tried pick up too much background noise.  If I ever find such a device, I will let you know!Restaurants cook up ways to muffle noise

MEETINGS, CLASSES, and LECTURES – Wireless devices are best in meetings, classes, and lectures because they can be worn by the speaker or placed on a conference table to pick up voices around the table.  Many hearing aid companies have developed a wireless microphone that will send the sound directly into your hearing aids.  This is the BEST – but be sure to try it out.  Some have excellent sound quality and others are distorted and/or have a tinny sound.  The Pocketalker is also very helpful at meetings.  I often use this and try to sit near the front of the room.  It works very well in a quiet room.  If several people are talking at once, it won’t work as well.  Book Club meetings can be particularly challenging.  Try to get 10 women to talk one at a time!

GAMES – I recommend the Pocketalker for games such as bridge, Mahjong, etc.  You can just lay it on the table next to you and it will help hearing bids in bridge, discards in Mahjong, and the conversation.  You could also use a wireless device, just place the transmitter on the table and clip the receiver to your belt or put it in your pocket.

IN THE CAR – Hearing in the car is so difficult!  You have the wind, the engine noise, and the inability to see the person’s face.  Both a wireless device and the Pocketalker are  great for this.  With the Pocketalker, just clip the lapel microphone on the person’s collar and you will hear great.  If you are in the back seat, clip it to one of the front seats to hear what’s going on.  You can do the same with a wireless system in the car – with no wires hanging between you.

in a car

TELEVISION – There are many good TV Listening Systems, but a personal amplifier may also be used to listen to TV.  I prefer the wireless devices as you can simply place the transmitter near the TV speaker as you listen with the receiver.  A Pocketalker can also be used.  It comes with a 12 foot extension cord and Velcro clips so you can plug the external microphone into the extension cord and place it or clip near the TV.

There are many other excellent personal amplifiers.  I have just used the Pocketalker and Comfort Contego as examples to illustrate how ALD’s can can be used (and because I’ve found these two devices to provide excellent sound quality).   The choices can be overwhelming, so feel free to contact me for help finding the best device to fit your needs.  I can be reached by email at marilyn@heargear.net

Do you have a favorite ALD?  What has helped you hear better in challenging situations?  I would love to hear from you!  Please leave a comment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Assisted Listening Devices 101

If you are thinking, “What is an assisted listening device?” this is the blog post for you!  I am writing this for those who have no idea there is anything beyond hearing aids to help you hear.  Eight short years ago, I had never heard of assisted listening devices (ALD’s).  I was a teacher, I wore hearing aids, but I was still having trouble hearing my students.  To make a long story short, my school district purchased an ALD for me and it was so helpful, I decided when I retired from teaching, I would purchase demonstration devices, teach people how to use them, and create a website to sell them.  Thus Hear Gear was born!

So, what is an assisted listening device?  The simple explanation is that ALD’s are devices that help you hear.  Hearing aids and cochlear implants may be considered assisted listening devices, but this term usually refers to devices used in addition to hearing aids and cochlear implants.  There are many categories of ALD’s such as:  TV listening devices, telephone products, alerting devices, personal amplifiers, and large area systems for auditoriums and theaters such as FM, infrared and induction hearing loops. I will be focusing here on personal amplifiers because I think they are so important to help keep hard-of-hearing people active and busy with activities they might otherwise avoid.

canYouHearMeNowBunny

Personal Amplifiers

A personal amplifier helps you hear better in noisy environments and when the speaker is far away from you.  The speaker talks into a microphone and the sound is sent into your hearing aids or can be heard through headphones or earbuds.

There are two types of personal amplifiers:  wired and wireless.

Wired:  for hearing better in one-on-one conversations, small group discussions and meetings.  These devices are small, light weight, hand-held microphones that amplify speakers near you and in a quiet room can even amplify speakers farther away, classroom teachers, the television, and other sound sources.  They are limited by being physically attached to you with a wire.  The advantage of the wired personal amplifiers is they are less expensive than wireless, ranging from $130 – $200.

Wireless:  FM/Digital – for hearing better when you are far away from the speaker.  These systems consist of two parts – the transmitter (microphone) and receiver.  The speaker’s voice is sent wirelessly from the transmitter to the receiver.  You are attached to the receiver, but the system can work at a distance up to 150 feet!  If you have never tried an FM or digital personal amplifier, you will be amazed.  Suddenly the speaker on the stage 30 rows ahead of you sounds like he is sitting next to you!  Wireless systems can also be used in small group settings and often the receiver can be used alone for this purpose.  Prices range from $750 – $900 or those made by hearing aid manufacturers – $1,000 – $2,000.

You can use a personal amplifier with or without hearing aids.  If you wear hearing aids, you must find out if you have t-coils in your hearing aids in order to get the most benefit from a personal amplifier.

The Miracle
The miracle of using a personal amplifier is that suddenly background noise is diminished and the speaker’s voice comes directly into your ears, loud and clear!  Hearing aids and cochlear implants are wonderful, but the microphone is on your ear.  With a personal amplifier, you can get the microphone closer to the speaker, so hearing is greatly enhanced.  Below are some resources to help you learn more about all the amazing technology available to help you hear.  Read on!

Resources
1.  My previous blog posts:
“T-coil? What’s a T-coil?”
“Get Looped”
“Get Looped – Part II”
“What is a Neckloop?”
“Wireless Microphones for Hearing Aids”

2.  The Hearing Loss Association brochure “Get in the Hearing Loop”

3.  National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) web site “Assisted Listening Devices for People with Hearing, Voice, Speech, or Language Disorders”

4. Article in the 2011 Nov/Dec issue of Hearing Loss Magazine by Brad Ingrao, “21st Century Connectivity in Hearing Devices”

Homework
Did you skip the resources above?  Uh-oh!  Go back and read them!  (I told you I was a teacher!)  This is your homework to prepare you for the advanced level of “Assisted Listening Devices 201” – my next blog post that will give you more information about how to use personal amplifiers.

Introducing the NEW Pocketalker 2.0 Personal Amplifier

As a hard-of-hearing gadget geek, I have a lot of different assisted listening devices.  People often ask me which one I usually carry with me.  No doubt, it was the Williams Sound Pocketalker Ultra.  It is small, versatile, easy to carry and has very good sound quality.

So, I was very excited to learn that Williams Sound has come out with a new (and improved) Pocketalker 2.0 Personal Amplifier!  Of course I had to buy one right away and try it out!  I love it!

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Pocketalker 2.0

Some of the new features are:

  • smaller and lighter
  • built-in telecoil for use with hearing loops  (If you don’t have telecoils in your hearing aids, you can use this as a receiver in a room with a hearing loop installed.)
  • balance control  (If one ear needs more amplification, you can can adjust the balance.)
  • optional charger   (Can be used with regular batteries or rechargeable batteries.)
  • internal omni-directional microphone (It still comes with an external plug-mount microphone, but you don’t need to use it.)
  • can be used with mono or stereo headphones  (The Pocketalker Ultra had a mono jack and could only be used with mono headphones or adapters.  Now you can use your favorite headphones, earbuds, or neckloop.)

One of my favorite features of the Pocketalker Ultra is the removable microphone. (See my blog posts: “Noisy Restaurant – Recipe for Success.” and “Advanced Tips for Using a Pocketalker.”)  This allows you to add different microphones, depending on the situation:  a lapel mic, a shotgun mic, a headset mic, or a conference mic.  I was very glad to see that the new Pocketalker 2.0 still has the removable microphone, but it also has an internal microphone.  I experimented in several different environments and found it works quite well with just the internal microphone.

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Sleek new look using the internal microphone

And last, but not least, “she” is taller and slimmer (2″w x 4.9″h x 1″d).  Very nice looking!  Would make a great holiday gift!  Click here to buy yours now!

The Way Gael Hears It!

I just finished reading Gael Hannan’s new book, The Way I Hear It, and I LOVED it!  I can recommend it highly to anyone with a hearing loss, as well as their family and friends, and professionals who work with the hard-of-hearing.

Gael-Hannan

I met Gael at an HLAA conference a few years ago and enjoyed her very entertaining and informative presentation.  I have been following her blog at Hearing Health Matters.  If you are not familiar with Gael, you can read about her and subscribe to Hearing Health Matters (HHTM)  here.  Gael is a very talented presenter and writer.  She uses humor to discuss some very sensitive topics, while at the same time sharing insights and advice about difficult hearing loss issues.

I found this book easy to read and well organized with dialogues, tables, and lists such as “Principles of Hearing Loss Success,” “How to Stop Bluffing and Get Back into the Game,” and “10 Good Reasons to Wear Hearing Aids.” Gael shares personal stories, original poems, a few of the articles from her blog, and provides a great deal of helpful information for anyone affected by hearing loss.  Some of the topics covered are communication strategies, hearing technology, traveling with a hearing loss, and working with your audiologist.

Gael had me laughing out-loud at many of her stories, usually because I could relate so well to her experiences.  Her introduction starts with “Living well with hearing loss is achievable–that’s the exciting news” and reading this book will help you achieve that goal.  Click here to purchase Gael’s book for $16.20 from my website.

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The Trials and Tribulations of Traveling with a Hearing Loss

I am doing a lot of traveling this year between leaving San Diego and moving to Denver.  I wrote about some of my experiences in March when I was traveling in Asia (see “Traveling with a Hearing Loss“).  I would like to share a few more of my experiences as I now am traveling in Europe.

ADA Guest Room Kit

I am currently on a Baltic Cruise.  This time I requested an ADA Guest Room Kit in advance.  Upon my arrival, I was happy to see that it was already installed. The phone alert works great – it is attached to both a bright flashing light and a bed shaker.

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I can never miss a call!  However, I can’t hear a darn thing on the phone as the sound quality is so poor!  Oh, well, it’s progress. There is also a device hooked to my door to help me hear when someone knocks.  I’ve never seen a set-up like this.

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I believe this is supposed to be sensitive to vibrations, but the door is about 2 inches thick and very heavy.  If I were worried about someone entering my room, this would be great.  When the door opens, the light on the door flashes and the device by the bed also responds.  HOWEVER, when someone knocks on the door, nothing happens!!  Well, if you pound really hard, preferably with a hard object, it does work.  Sigh.

So basically it is very annoying as anytime we go in or out, all the bells and whistles go off!  I figured out how to turn it off and only turn it on at night.  I wonder if this door knock sensor would be better.  Serene Innovations hanging door knock sensor.  Have any of you used this, either at home, in a hotel or on a cruise?

Assisted Listening Device

I wrote to Royal Caribbean before the trip and mentioned I would also like to have an assisted listening device for the theater.  When I went to the Guest Service Desk to check out the listening device, the man at the desk had to make several phones and proudly told me:
“Yes, I have confirmed it.  An assisted listening device is installed!”
“Yes, but I need a receiver.”
After more calls and a trip to the back room, he brought me a nice new pair of Listen Technologies headphones, still in their original bag.  LOL!!

This whole scene would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic.  Obviously, Royal Caribbean has not trained their staff on what accommodations are available.  Anyway, I told him to go back and look for a little black box and also to see if there was a wire to go around the neck.  Amazingly, be returned with the receiver and a neckloop.  Once we determined it needed batteries, I was good to go! I rushed to a lecture I was now late for, turned on my handy dandy receiver and………..nothing!

It was clear no me that the FM transmitter was not on.  After the Guest Services man made a few more calls, we determined, indeed, it was not on.  They turned it on and at all future events it worked.  Success!

I used my own neckloop with it as the Listen neckloop is not powerful enough.  You have to hold the wire right next to your ears to hear anything (or loop it over your ears and look really geeky!).  I have found that to be true of any neckloop that is not amplified (has a battery and a volume control).  I  recommend always traveling with an amplified neckloop.  The Clear Sounds CLA7-V2 is a good one.  Or if you like silhouettes, that would also work better than an unamplified neckloop.

Here I am, happily modeling the finally working FM system!

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TV Captions

This is a sad story!  As soon as I got to my room, I turned on the captions but did not see any appear.  I called the tech guy and he could not get them on either.  He said some shows were prerecorded, but even the shows that were not prerecorded had no captions.  So basically he told me the TV’s on the ship do not have captions.  Not being one to give up easily, I went to the gym and asked the staff there if she could get captions on their TV.  She tried but no success.

I have asked about the captions at the Guest Services Desk three times (I think they know me now!) and got three different answers:
1.  It only works on certain channels.
2.  It only works when the ship is within range of the satellite that sends the captions.
3.  Since we re-did our system, we no longer can receive captions. (Oh, and the first guy told me HE received captions on CNN in his stateroom!)

I am persistent and will not give up on this issue until I am sure there is nothing more I can do.  I wrote an email to the Special Needs Department of Royal Caribbean, but they have not answered.  Finally spoke to one more person on the ship who seemed to know for sure that there are NO captions on this ship!  Bummer!

If you ever go on a cruise, I suggest emailing the cruise line and find out if the ship you are thinking of going on has captions. And try to ask the question in two or three different departments as some people just don’t know.  This is the address for Royal Caribbean Special Needs Department:  special_needs@rccl.com.  They are very slow to reply, but I am going to ask for a list of all their ships that DO have captions.  If I get it, I’ll post it here. Don’t hold your breath!

Don’t cruise ships need to provide ADA accommodations?  Royal Caribbean was founded by a Norwegian group but based in Miami.  Does anyone know if ADA regulations apply to cruise ships?

Counter Loops

Before getting on the ship, we spent one night at a hotel in Harwich, England.  I saw this sign at the front desk.

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Cool!  I knew Europe and especially England were way ahead of the U.S. in using hearing loops.  I told the young man at the front desk I would like to use the hearing loop.
“The what?”
I pointed to the sign.
“Huh?  I don’t know nothin’ about that.”

The next morning a different person was at the front desk. She knew what it was and turned it on.  I turned on my t-coil.
“Can you hear me?”
“Not well.  Where is the microphone?”
She showed me a small 4 inch desk microphone sitting about 3 feet from her mouth.  If I leaned forward and she leaned down, I could pick up her voice through the loop….barely.  I’m not very familiar with counter loops but I suspect it was not installed properly.  Or maybe the microphone was just too far away.  I have experimented with the Portable InfoLoop  and it works great with a lapel mic or even better with a headset mic.

Sign Language

I’d like to end with a more upbeat story,  When traveling in Asia, I was hoping to meet people using sign language.  I am studying ASL and want to learn about sign language in other countries.  In the most unlikely place, while hiking in the hills north of Ubud, Bali, I ran into this cute couple from Australia.

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They were sitting at a cafe and signing to each other!  I was so excited!  I  approached them and started signing.  I learned that in Australia they use British Sign Language, but the man understood me.
“How can you understand me when I am using ASL?”
“I watch YouTube videos and they are in ASL!”
Yay!  YouTube!  I was surprised to learn that British finger-spelling requires 2 hands. Seems like that would be difficult.  I am hoping to visit a school for the Deaf in London so hope to learn more about their education system and British sign language.

Thanks for listening to all my woes.  If you have had similar successes or failures while traveling, I would love to hear about them.

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