Tag: Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Resources for Deaf, Late-Deafened and Hard of Hearing People

Debra Lobsitz, Information and Referral Specialist from MCDHHThis month we have been focusing on the services and resources available for people living with hearing loss. As the Information and Referral Specialist at the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (MCDHH), I respond to inquiries from individuals and organizations on a broad range of topics.

There is never a dull moment in my job! A day doesn’t go by that I don’t learn something new about the technology, services, or needs of the people living with hearing loss in Massachusetts.

Common Topics Of Discussion

Some of the most common topics I discuss with people include American Sign Language (ASL) classes, Deaf Culture, becoming an interpreter, working with interpreters, and who is responsible for paying for interpreters.

Assistive Technology (AT) is also a common topic including related funding, and vendors for AT use in the home, the classroom, and the office.

Direct services available for deaf and hard of hearing people of all ages are a resource shared with many, as well as hearing aid technology, funding, coverage, and how to choose the best hearing aid. I also get a lot of questions about the Americans with Disabilities Act and its application.

Why I Love My Job

In my position I discuss the physics of sound and the physiology of hearing with individuals and organizations making inquiries. The range of technology includes everything from pen and paper to Smartphone apps; the simplest assistive technology in use for decades to the newest technology still in a development phase.

The best part of it all is I have the privilege of seeing the power of information change people’s lives.



The following  ASL videos highlight services offered by the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

 Additional Resources

Best Practices: Assistive Listening Devices and Systems / Information for Consumers and Information for Vendors
These documents are made available in keeping with the Mission of MCDHH to provide accessible communication, education and advocacy to consumers and private and public entities.

The Savvy Consumer’s Guide to Hearing Loss by Karen Rockow
This wonderful resource guide provides invaluable information for people that have lost all or most of their hearing during their teenage or adult years.

 Improvements in our Educational System for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Schoolchildren- MNIP Fact Sheet
Aurora Wilber, Project Coordinator at the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, is the contributor for information on this fact sheet.

For additional information, contact Massachusetts Commission for Deaf & Hard of Hearing at  (617) 740-1700 TTY, (617) 740-1600


A Personal Journey to Cochlear Implantation

My name is Jonathan O’Dell, and I’m the Assistive Technology and Training Specialist at the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

When Hearing Aids Were No Longer Enough

I became ill with meningitis at age 10 and I lost my hearing quickly. I remember wondering why I couldn’t understand the radio or television anymore, but it wasn’t until a few months later that my father thought to have my hearing tested and we found out I would be needing hearing aids.

I used a body aid at first, a big box with a wire snaking to my earpiece; then I wore smaller behind-the-ear types for many years. Unfortunately my hearing kept getting worse, and soon even the most powerful aids didn’t help me anymore. That’s when I decided to see if a Cochlear Implant (CI) would help me.

What Is A Cochlear Implant?

CI‘s are designed to help people with severe nerve damage – “sensorineural hearing loss” is the medical term – by taking over the functions of the damaged cochlea. That’s the part of the ear where speech and sounds are received as vibrations and sent to the brain as electrical signals.

When the cochlea is damaged the brain doesn’t get the full signal anymore, which means that while you may hear something you might not understand what it is, or what someone is saying to you, even though you can hear them speaking.

A CI requires surgery and is done under full anesthesia, so I asked a lot of questions about safety and effectiveness from my surgeon and his team. They told me it was a safe procedure, problems were fairly rare, and that while they couldn’t guarantee my hearing would be better, they were pretty sure it would help me quite a bit. So I decided to go for it, and my left ear was implanted in the winter of 2011.

Internal Component of Chochlear Implant
Internal Component of Chochlear Implant

After The Surgery

It took me less than two weeks to recover from the surgery, and just a few weeks more to get used to the initially very strange way that everything sounded. After I had gotten used to it, I was tested to see how much it helped.  I had improved from 0% speech discrimination (understanding words without speechreading) to almost 60%.

I did so well that I decided to get my right ear implanted also, which was done in February of 2012. The surgery was more complex this time, and the recovery period longer, but the results were equally impressive.

Is A CI Right For You?

If you notice that even a really strong hearing aid isn’t helping you anymore, maybe it’s time to look into getting a CI for yourself. You’ll have to undergo several tests and doctor’s visits to see if you are a candidate. The process takes a long time, but it was absolutely worth it for me and many other late deafened adults I’ve talked to who also went for it.

External Component of Chochlear Implant
External Component of Chochlear Implant

I’m much more confident now in approaching anyone, anywhere to have a conversation. My hearing aids just amplified sounds and didn’t make them any easier to understand, but making sounds easier to understand is what CI‘s are designed to do. The implants are only getting better; they keep getting smaller, and at least one manufacturer has come up with a waterproof CI for people who want to hear while on or in the water.

If you have personal questions for me, I’ll be happy to answer them if I can. Contact me at Jonathan.ODell@MassMail.state.ma.us

Want to learn more? Check out the Food and Drug Administration’s Cochlear Impant Information.

The Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Programs and Services

MCDHH-bannerThe Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing is the principal agency in the Commonwealth for enabling Deaf, late-deafened, DeafBlind and hard of hearing people full participation in all areas of life. This is accomplished through efforts to facilitate effective public policy, provision of technical assistance, offering specialized services, advocacy, and public education.

Debra Lobsitz, Information and Referral Specialist from MCDHH

This month we are pleased to introduce Debra Lobsitz, Information and Referral Specialist from the Commission to share her expertise and personal experience at the Commission.


Addressing Questions

As the Information and Referral Specialist, I try to provide people with up to date information on topics of interest to the people we serve. Most recently, The Children’s Hearing Aid Bill – Chapter 233 of the Acts of 2012 (HB 52) was implemented. As of January 1, 2013, on the date of renewal for your medical insurance, hearing aids for children must be covered by your medical insurance. There have been several questions about the details and I want to address some that are most frequently asked.

Who is covered?

Children 21 years old or younger with fully insured medical plans. Self-funded/self-insured plans are not required to conform to this legislation. Here is a list of self-insured employers in Massachusetts.

What is covered?

Expenses up to $2,000 for one hearing aid per ear requiring a device are covered every 36 months. In addition to that, the initial evaluation, fittings, adjustments, and supplies are also covered. Batteries are considered supplies.

Where can I find more information?

The Massachusetts Hearing Aids for Children Coalition or MassHAFCC , a grassroots statewide network that focused on the passage of the Bill provides a blog. This blog offers guidance on what steps to take if coverage is denied.

Consumer Affairs and Business Regulations issued a bulletin on December 31, 2012

Topics for the upcoming weeks will include improvements in our educational system for Deaf and hard of hearing students, a personal account of receiving a cochlear implant, and technological solutions for communication access.

Join us in the weeks ahead to learn more.