Dec 2017 Sierra Star

Try as she might, Noni just couldn’t cut it as a Seeing Eye Dog. It was because of her incessant sniffing when out and about that she failed the “no sniff” test repeatedly. And so, the 2 & 1/2 year old yellow Labrador was sent for training as a Certified Hearing Dog in Oregon. There, she found her true calling, and a forever home here in the Mountain Area with Richard Walter. After six months of intensive training with apprentice trainer Katie Ware with Dogs for the Deaf, a national assistance dog training and placement facility in Central Point, Noni came to live with Walter.

NoniService dog, Noni, has made a huge difference in the life of Bass Lake resident Richard Walter.

“I chose her for Richard because she has a a nice calm gait (Richard has some balance issues),” Ware said. “Noni is very calm, is easy going and is really good in public.”

A retired regional insurance sales manager, Walter is referred to as “late deafened,” meaning he didn’t become hearing impaired until later in life. For him, it was during his mid-teens. “My parents and teachers noticed I was having a hard time in high school,” Walter, now 78, said, “that I just wasn’t hearing what I should have been hearing. So a test was done and I was given a hearing aid.”

It wasn’t until his early 60s that Walter decided to try cochlear implants. “To understand the difference between a hearing aid and a cochlear implant,” he explained, “picture an eight-slice pizza, with each slice representing a hearing range. Hearing aids amplify only what you could hear before the aid. However, with a cochlear implant, you start out hearing three-to-four of those slices, and work up to all eight.” Following the out-patient procedure, Walter called that first year his “wow” year. “I’d be sitting there and hear something and say, what’s that? My brain couldn’t remember ever hearing that sound before. Then I would identify the sound ... leaves blowing through trees, gravel under feet, and I’d say ‘wow.’”

After his divorce in 2006, Walter found himself living alone. He soon came to realise how much he wanted a dog. He heard about Certified Hearing Dogs, completed an application, sent in a doctor’s report, a current hearing test, and following his approval, he waited for just the right dog to enter his home and his life. His first dog, Jonah, a black lab, alerted Walter to sounds by pawing. Sometimes the pawing was so aggressive that he would knock Walter over. When Jonah died last October, Walter felt the need for his second Certified Hearing Dog and, so, the long wait began.

“This is as close to as you’ll ever come in a dog’s world,” Walter said. “Just to give you an idea, I was first on the list from October to June. It took them that long to find an appropriate match for me. They consider your age, where you live, your lifestyle, and the number and ages of family members in the home. I kept calling every three months, and finally when I called last May, I asked ‘Did you find that black lab for me yet?’ They responded, ‘No, but will a blonde do?’ And I said, ‘Well, I am partial to blondes.’” Apparently the organisation did have a potential black lab, but this particular lab (like most) loved water. Given that Walter has a pontoon boat on Bass Lake, it was feared the dog would jump in the lake at every opportunity.

In steps Noni, also a lab, but of a different nature. A water lover, she’s not. While Jonah had been trained to paw, Noni was trained using an entirely different method. “She alerts Richard to the phone, smoke alarm, oven timer, alarm clock, name call and door knock,” Ware said. “She does this by tapping Richard’s leg with her nose and then leading him to the sound that’s going off.”

Noni only responds to these sounds within Walter’s home. Her biggest challenge at the moment is waking Walter to the alarm clock, which seems to be hit-or-miss at this point. “She snuggles up close to me and sleeps right through it,” Walter laughs. “I have to wake her up so she can wake me up.” The most important thing Noni alerts Walter to is when someone is at the door. “My back is to the door when sitting at my desk,” Walter said, “so someone can knock all day and I won’t hear it. My neighbour and friend Diane O’Brien got to the point where she would walk right in and scare the bejeebers out of me.”

Richar & NoniRichard Walter of Bass Lake with his Certified Hearing Dog, Noni, who came to live with him last June after six months of training with Dogs for the Deaf.

For the first year, Walter will make a monthly progress report. A Dogs for the Deaf representative will then come out to make sure Noni is doing what she’s supposed to be doing. To retain her certified status, she will have to work three of her targets satisfactorily. Noni and Walter have, quite naturally, developed a tight bond. While there are those rare occasions when Walter leaves Noni home alone to foster an understanding that he will return, the pair are practically inseparable 24/7. She gives Walter a sense of security he could never feel as a hearing-impaired man living alone.

“Believe me, she’s a little princess,” O’Brien interjected, as Noni sniffed around for hidden yummy treats. “She’s so funny. I have three indoor cats and Noni is afraid of them, so when she comes over to my house and one of the cats walks by, she runs and hides under Richard’s chair. My cats now know that and they prance around right in front of her. One even chased her across the room.”

While chuckling at the retelling of this anecdote, Walter gently rubs Noni’s head, drops down closer, and softly whispers “what a sweet girl ... well worth the wait.”

Dec 2017 Ottawa Herald

A local business owner learned from birth to tackle all obstacles head on. Angie Arnett, owner of Salon 101 in downtown Ottawa, was adopted when she was three days old. “My life started at the county welfare office,” Arnett said. Fighting to live a normal life had just begun for Arnett. Her parents found out when Arnett was in kindergarten that she was deaf. “I did not pass my hearing test,” she said. “They took me to get hearing aids when I was five years old. They knew I had a speech impairment when I was two.” She spent 10 years in speech therapy and can speak as normally as most people today. Arnett taught herself to read lips, which is why her parents were unaware of her hearing loss before entering school.

“They had no idea that I was hearing impaired because I was communicating with them,” Arnett said. Her parents were the backbone of her perspective in life. “My parents have been my biggest supporters,” Arnett said. “God led me through a lot of things in life. My parents always told me there is no dis in disability. You have the ability to do whatever you want in life. Nobody calls me disabled because of my challenges. I have always overcame my [lack of] hearing. Do I get frustrated? Sure.” The kindergarten teacher told her parents she needed to attend the Indiana School for the Deaf and not public school. Once there, the deaf school administrators wondered why she was there because she could speak. “They were amazed,” Arnett said. “I owe that to my parents for all the years of speech therapy.”

Her life took another twist two years ago this past June when she lost all hearing on her left side. She went for testing at St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. “I went from 65 percent hearing loss to 100 percent,” Arnett said. She received a cochlear implant in her left ear. “I can hear with hearing aids, but once I take them out, I hear nothing,” Arnett said. “I can hear 33 percent with my cochlear implant and 40 percent with my hearing aids. I rely 100 percent on lip reading because that is my first language. Always will be. I don’t concentrate on hearing, I concentrate on reading lips.” Her life took a few twists and turns before becoming a licensed cosmetologist. “I have always known I wanted to be a hairdresser,” Arnett said. “At 19, you know it all. My parents tried to get me to go to cosmetology school, but I did not do that. Instead I went to college and [got] a business degree. I did business management for awhile. I got burned out on that. I went to cosmetology school when I was 26. I have been doing hair for 22 years now.”

Dec 2017 Weston & Somerset Mercury

A deaf rugby coach from Winscombe has been named unsung hero for the West of England for his commitment to sport. Gareth wears a cochlear implant; he set up girls rugby at Winscombe RFC five years ago and he now has four teams and more than 100 players. The coach was given the award by the BBC and he will attend the Sports Personality of the Year ceremony to find out if he has been chosen as the overall winner. Gareth was speechless when he won the award and wants to thank John Podpadec for nominating him.









Gareth celebrating with his team and coaching the under 18s squad

He said: “It has always been my dream to go to the awards evening with the world’s best sporting stars. I’m humbled that I am seen as an inspiring coach as all I have ever wanted since I had my cochlear implant and couldn’t play anymore was to introduce the brilliant game of rugby to children.”

Dec 2017 Baltimore

Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore are looking at 3D printing to help treat hearing loss. A study presented at the Radiological Society of North America’s conference in Chicago shows how 3D printing was used to create implants for ossicular conductive hearing loss, which occurs when three bones of the middle ear are damaged. It happens through trauma, infection or other complications. Currently, prosthetics are used to help restore hearing in the form of implants made of stainless steel or ceramic. But the surgery often fails. “The ossicles are very small structures, and one reason the surgery has a high failure rate is thought to be due to incorrect sizing of the prostheses,” Jeffrey D. Hirsch, an assistant professor of radiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who authored the study, said in a statement. “If you could custom-design a prosthesis with a more exact fit, then the procedure should have a higher rate of success.”

That’s where 3D printing comes in. It’s been used for other kinds of implants, so Hirsch explored how to apply it to this form of hearing loss. Using CT imaging and Mimics Innovation Suite software, researchers created models of implants. The implants were then printed using a Form2 3D printer.

PennyThe size of the bones in the middle ear required working on a “sub-millimeter level.” The study’s abstract states four surgeons were asked to match to the correct bone. They were able to detect the differences, even with the very small size. “Each prosthesis had unique measurements. Each of the four surgeons was able to correctly match the prosthesis model to its intended temporal bone. The chances of this occurring randomly are 1:1296,” the abstract states.
“With these models, it’s almost a snap fit,” Hirsch said.

For Hirsch, the accuracy of 3D printing shows promise, and also presents the potential to cut surgery time. Next, the research team plans to look at using biocompatible materials to see how well a 3D-printed prosthesis is able to conduct sound.

A size comparison between the 3D printed implants and a penny.