Category Archives: Mental Health

48 Million Americans have significant hearing loss

Accommodation and Regeneration

Nov. 26, 2020 Thanksgiving Day – PlanGreen

ACCOMMODATION

Most of my blogs these days focus on the main purpose of my business: achieving CLIMATE JUSTICE.  And I’m ever so thankful to friends in the myriad organizations I support who do that work (with or without me,).  Instead, I’m going to spend this blog on what I am (or would be) most grateful for with regard to my mental health.  I’m asking for your help!

Covid-19 restrictions have made most of us more aware how important connection with others is for our mental and emotional health. I thought that the pandemic might be a boon to my mine because large gatherings—especially happy hours with lots of background noise—were no longer any fun for me.  In fact, I often came home feeling depressed.

Image of the small rechargeable microphone that pairs with my hearing aid. The buttons on the side turn it up or down.

ReSound Multi Mic pairs with ReSound hearing aid

Despite my fabulous ReSound Multi Mic that I, or someone else in the meeting, would run around from speaker to speaker allowing me to get something out of some gatherings, I was beginning to feel less and less connected. But it was important to stay in touch by more than email, Facebook, Google Groups, Slack, MapApp  or listservs,

So I started out enthusiastically with virtual or online meetings!  But now I discover that I’m having trouble with those as well. I try to practice what I preach below so I have some really great headphones with an external mic to listen and talk to you.  (Those of you who give me feedback tell me that you can hear me clear as a bell.)  The problem is, with most of you, I don’t UNDERSTAND you!  My online hearing difficulty extends to public meetings too– both those who testify at them–and often city staff and/or Commissioners.

I’m deeply grateful to those few of you who are using best practices for virtual meetings—practices like:

  • USE AN EXTERNAL MICROPHONE close to your mouth
  • Use a front light and avoid backlighting–it’s important to those of us with hearing loss to see your face, even if we don’t read lips
  • Open your mouth and enunciate and keep your hands away from your mouth
  • Fill the screen with your face—as opposed to your ceiling, your ceiling fan, your window(s), your garden, your bed, your bookshelf, your kitchen, whatever. . .
  • Project your voice. Pretend like you are going to an interview for a radio sports announcer!
Editors Keys demonstrates what a difference good lighting, close positioning and an external mic can make in his 3 minute video. It was one of the first and most succinct of the many available.

Editors Keys answers numerous questions w/that name. His 3 minute video was one of the first and most succinct.

I’m one of those 48 Million Americans who have a significant level of hearing loss. You can better accommodate me–and a few others in your circles–by following the suggestions in this 3 minute video: How To Improve Your Zoom Video And Audio Quality .  There are hundreds more videos on the topic, but this was one of the first and most succinct .

Such practices will get you more than gold stars in my book, they will make you look and sound more professional and credible–maybe to your next employer.

Perhaps these facts from the Center for Hearing and Communication may inspire you Hearing loss: Prevalence 48 million Americans have a significant hearing loss; 1 out of 3 people over age 65 have some degree of hearing loss; 2 out of 3 people over 75 have a hearing loss; 14% of those ages 45-64 have some type of hearing loss; Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) affects 50 million people in the United States.

This struggle with online gatherings for me has been going on ever since Portland’s Mayor Wheeler told those of us who showed up at City Hall to testify in person on Portland’s Residential Infill Project on March 12 to go home.  It has caused me extreme frustration, alienating me from organizations I have long supported–organizations that have been an important part of my identity and sense of community. One example is expressed in my May 29, 2020 communication with Abigail Sheridan, VP of the Congress for the New Urbanism:

Abby,
After participating in each of the On the Park Bench sessions, I’m beginning to rethink my registration as there were many speakers that I could not understand–even with Bosch noise-canceling headphones on. I know I’m not the only one as I watched Marcela struggle to hear in the last session too. She was the best of that group–with a good microphone, front lighting and close so you could see her face well and hear her clearly.
Too many speakers are backlit, so that you cannot see their faces. They stand too far from their computer microphones and cameras besides.  That makes it hell for those of us with hearing loss–and probably some who don’t even know they have hearing loss.  . . .
Otherwise, I will need to take advantage of one of the other options for my registration money–requesting a medical exemption from your May 25 deadline.
Thanks,
Mary

For better of for worse, I didn’t  take advantage of one of the other options for my CNU 28.A Virtual Gathering registration money. Instead, I opted to try to get word out to speakers ahead of time via various social media. Nevertheless, I spent 5-6 exhausting days struggling to hear speakers at CNU28–only to be told at the end that my type of registration did not cover the ability to review any parts I may have missed! That would cost me another $50!!!

Before moving on from Accommodation, I do want to call out one organization that has demonstrated excellent online practices.  In a Sightline Institute webinar this summer, every speaker had headphones with an external mic and used the other best practices that I suggested above.  I understand that this was largely due to their Operations Manager, Riley Kent.  Their professionalism showed them to be highly worthy of my small monthly contribution.

BEYOND ACCOMMODATION

For more than ten years now, I have known about the research into hearing regeneration. With due consideration of their precious time, I’ve been seeking, hoping, cajoling, pestering researchers ever since.  I did get into one clinical trial on the hormone aldosterone–and that was somewhat effective in my case. But it became harder and harder to obtain supplemental aldosterone after the study. After a couple years, when the Canadian pharmacy in BC discontinued it, I stopped looking.

Until today, I did NOT know that 43 companies have therapeutics for restoring the inner ear under development–as reported in this issue of the Journal of Otology & Neurotology. I was only aware of 3-4 of them in the US and acupuncture with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in China. (I’m getting  at least one LAc here to try some of the techniques and to prescribe Er Long Zuo Xi Wan) but my hope of getting into a clinical trial in China has been put on a back burner!)

HEARING RESTORATION PROJECT CONSORTIUM

The Hearing Restoration Project Consortium is composed of 14 senior scientists working collaboratively on scientific research towards inner ear hair cell regeneration to accelerate the time frame for developing a cure for hearing loss. The HRP brings together researchers from Harvard UniversityStanford University, Oregon Health & Science University the University of Washington and elsewhere with the goal of researching and developing a genuine cure for most forms of acquired hearing loss. They seek to do this by regenerating the inner ear hair cells that enable hearing.

I started out corresponding with Ed Rubel at the University of Washington about UW’s research, but then Ed told me there was a whole consortium of researchers and that its director was here in Portland!  I then switched the focus of my correspondence to Peter Barr-Gillespie Ph.D., Scientific Director of the Consortium and Professor of Otolaryngology at OHSU.

Screen shot of Hearing Restoration Project's YouTube video: A Cross S[ecies Approach to Hair Cell Regeneration. It reads "Learn more about our work hhf.org/hrp. Donate to advance hearing loss cures uhf.org/donate. Thank you!

Donate to advance hearing loss cures uhf.org/donate

PRIVATE COMPANIES

Until recently, Dr. Barr-Gillespie was on the Scientific Advisory board for one of the private companies currently doing clinical trials: Decibel Therapeutics. Another company that may be a step ahead of Decibel is Frequency Therapeutics. They are both in the Boston-area. I follow both companies on Twitter (@DecibelTx  and @frequencytx) and have learned a great deal about hearing loss through them.

Screen shot of Decibel Therapeutics @DecibelTx Twitter home page. "Pioneering inner ear research to deliver life-changing medicines for hearing and balance. Boston, MA decibeltx.com

 

Screen shot of Frequency Therapeutics @frequencytx Twitter home page. "Working to advance regenerative medicine and develop a therapeutic to restore hearing for those with the most common form of hearing loss. Cambridge, MA frequencytx.com

I am not a frequent Twitter user, so, for those of you on Twitter, I would deeply appreciate your help in keeping up with the above.  And I would appreciate information on the 41 other companies who are developing therapies for inner ear disorders. Writing this blog post has already helped me learn a great deal by searching different topics and/or following links.  BTW, most of my images link to the URL where I “grabbed” them .  I hope you will check them out–and share them with your friends and relatives who just might have hearing loss themselves. I’m thankful for your attention–and I hope you will follow  PlanGreen on Facebook, connect on Linked In and follow it on Twitter.

Housing Density and Pandemic: Study the Facts

June 7, 2020

Portland City Council held hearings on three policies involving housing density in May and June. One of them–the Residential Infill Project–has been FIVE YEARS in the making.  A number of neighbors point to the current pandemic as a reason NOT to amend zoning regulations that would add more density to their single-family neighborhood (or historic district in the case of Central City 2035). I think that would be a big mistake as there is abundant evidence that density is NOT dangerous!  In fact, denser communities give their residents better infrastructure to shelter in place.

Facts Don’t Support Argument

Congress for New Urbanism journal editor Rob Steuteville’s Facts Don’t Support the Density is Dangerous Narrative was the first data I saw on the topic. Two comparisons that were particularly telling were:

• Suburban Montgomery County, PA v. Philadelphia, PA. As of Friday April 3, the county had one case per 2,924 people where Philadelphia had one case per 3,940 people. So Montgomery County had a greater infection rate, yet it has one-seventh the density.
• In New York City infection rates in Stanten Island were approximately the same as Manhattan—with 8.5 times the density.

I’ve taken quotes from a few more studies that may be helpful in assuaging our neighbors’ fears that further density in their neighborhood may fuel pandemics.

Density Is Not Destiny

Vancouver, BC is nearly 3x denser than Portland, OR, but it had a lower rate of infection--45 v 54; Seattle, which is about half as dense, had a rate of 205

Vancouver, BC is nearly 3x denser than Portland, OR, but it had a lower rate of infection–45 v 54; Seattle, which is about half as dense, had a rate of 205. Photo: Global News

 

In  Density is Not Destiny: Covid in Cascadia in City Observatory Joe Cortwright states “Vancouver [BC] is in the same region, and roughly the same size as Portland and Seattle. It is far denser, and yet it has performed the best of the three in fighting the spread of the Corona virus. It should be pretty compelling evidence that density is not a determining factor of whether one is vulnerable to the pandemic or not..”

 

The New Face of Urban Density

In late April, San Francisco had only 1300 confirmed COVID-19 cases compared to 8450 in Los Angeles. Photo: AARP Guide

In late April, San Francisco had only 1300 confirmed COVID-19 cases compared to 8450 in Los Angeles. Photo: AARP Guide

Liam Dillon, LA Times staff writer in Coronavirus: The New Face of Urban Density writes “At the same time, there’s lots of evidence that shows density isn’t destiny. . . “An analysis by New York University’s Furman Center found no relationship between the coronavirus and overall population density within New York City, with neighborhoods in Manhattan, the city’s densest borough, having some of the lowest infection rates.” “. . . The same is true for America’s next densest big city, San Francisco, which. . . [in late April] had reported only about 1,300 confirmed cases — compared with more than 8,450 in the city of Los Angeles.”  The LA Times continues to track figures throughout the state and the ratio holds today.

Evidence from China

Some of China’s densest cities--Shenghai, Zhuhai (shown here), Shenzhen, Beijing and Tianjin--have managed to keep the lowest infection rates.

Some of China’s densest cities–Shenghai, Zhuhai (shown here), Shenzhen, Beijing and Tianjin–have managed to keep the lowest infection rates. Photo: Shutterstock

On a World Bank Blog, Wanli Fang and Sameh Wahba’s write in Urban Density Is Not the Enemy in the Coronavirus Fight: Evidence from China:
“. . .To find out whether or not population density is a key factor in the spread of the coronavirus, we collected data for 284 Chinese cities.” They found that China’s densest cities tended to have the lowest infection rates. They surmised that “Higher densities, in some cases, can even be a blessing rather than a curse in fighting epidemics. . .For instance, in dense urban areas where the coverage of high-speed internet and door-to-door delivery services are conveniently available at competitive prices, it is easier for residents to stay at home and avoid unnecessary contact with others.”

Crowding Is Dangerous and New Zoning Policies Will Help

The NYU Furman Center study and the China study too, did find that the virus is more prevalent in areas where more people are crowding into homes—say six people into a two-bedroom apartment.  So it’s CROWDING that is dangerous, not density.

Crowding exists in Portland too, BUT rarely in the neighborhoods where neighbors are expressing the greatest concern. Adopting the housing policies under discussion: Expanding Opportunities for Affordable Housing and Residential Infill Project and Re-adoption of Central City 2035 will likely help to lessen, not exacerbate, such over-crowding in the Portland lower-income neighborhoods that currently experience it.

There is abundant evidence that density is NOT dangerous!  In fact, denser communities give their residents better infrastructure to shelter in place.  Regardless of whether you support proposed infill housing policies or not. I hope you will continue to educate yourselves! Please study the facts!

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Mary Vogel, CNU-A/PlanGreen consults on climate resiliency and climate justice. She is also co-founder of  Portland, OR Small Developer Alliance, a group related to CNU and the Incremental Development Alliance. She welcomes your response to this blog.