Category Archives: Physical Handicaps

Tomball Potpourri

This is my first newspaper article about my new book.  I was so excited.  Anna-the reporter did a great job covering it and her photographer captured some great images!

archives|Tomball Magnolia Potpourri News

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Twice-deaf woman uses challenges to teach through childrens’ books

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Susanna Dussling, who got cochlear implants after experiencing sudden hearing loss, is now raising awareness for cochlear implants through a book series she’s written.

Find Sunny

The first book in Susanna Dussling’s ‘Sunny’ series is available for purchase online through her web site, www.susannamdussling.com, and through the publisher, at www.authorhouse.com/bookstore/ItemDetail.aspx?bookid=71912

By ANNA SCHUMANN
Updated: 07.18.10

When her parents realized she was deaf at three-years-old, they had to decide whether Susanna Dussling would grow up hard-of-hearing in a hearing world, or deaf, in deaf culture.

Growing up in deaf culture would have meant not hearing, not speaking, and learning sign language. Growing up hard-of-hearing meant hearing aids, struggles with hearing and speaking, and being teased by classmates.

She has nothing against deaf culture, she said, but Dussling can’t imagine growing up without sound. She got hearing aids as a child and said all things considered, really had great hearing and speech.

She made great grades through elementary school and Klein Forest High School, and succeeded at what was then called Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos.

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–>She went on to work in retail management, and though tasks such as answering the phone were difficult, she made it through and has been successful in the field ever since. She never disclosed her hearing loss, but she suspects now that people could tell.

In June 2005, when Dussling had just gotten new digital hearing aids, she realized she couldn’t hear with her left ear, her best ear. She just figured it was her new aid acting up, and made it through the rest of the day.

She came to her parents’ Tomball home very upset, tried on her old hearing aid, and still couldn’t hear. She realized she’d become deaf a second time after sudden hearing loss syndrome.

Many thoughts ran through her head: she’d been supporting herself for years and now she’d lose her job. She wouldn’t be able to support her expensive hobby, training Arabian racehorses. She wouldn’t be able to hear and now would have to learn sign language and other elements of deaf culture.

She went to the audiologist the next day to confirm the diagnosis. When she walked up to the receptionist to pay for her appointment, she got her first taste of what life was like without hearing. She couldn’t communicate and got by only by reading lips.

The next day, she returned to work depressed. Her speech got worse and her duties were cut back.

Though she’d explored the possibility cochlear implants before, she hadn’t needed them before her sudden hearing loss and hadn’t been eligible to get them.

Cochlear implants are electronic hearing devices implanted into one’s head to produce hearing sensations. One piece of the device is worn on the outside of one’s ear, like a hearing aid.

“With implants you lose all hearing in your ear,” she said. “I thought, ‘What do I care?’”

The implant in her left ear became active in February 2006, and at first she was disappointed in the results. She couldn’t hear sound right away and had to retrain her brain to adapt to this new object.

She also had extreme tinnitus, which she explained as a symphony going off in her head. The sound in her head was competing with the outside sound and it was frustrating.

She did hearing exercises, and in Summer 2006, one year after her loss, she began to really hear again. In December 2006, she got her other ear implanted, and she said the transition for her right ear was much easier than with her left ear. She could hear better than she ever could before.

Cochlear implants changed her life in more ways than just being able to hear better.

“I was in denial my whole life about my hearing loss,” she said. “I didn’t want to hang out with other hard-of-hearing people. I didn’t want to be seen as different.”

Once she got her implants though, she joined the Hearing Loss Association and served as the organization’s co-president in 2009.

She didn’t like the way cochlear implants and hearing loss were portrayed on television and in the hearing world, and she wanted to do something about it.

She is a member of Toastmasters and hopes to grow her speaking skills. She’s passionate about speaking and often speaks on goal-setting and overcoming diversity when she’s not working her full-time management job.

Another new passion of hers is writing.

In June she released the first book in a series about eight-year-old Sunny, a happy-go-lucky girl who gets cochlear implants. The book, Dussling said, is semi-biographical, but from a child’s perspective.

The book is available through her web site, www.susannamdussling.com, and through her publisher, www.authorhouse.com.

“My goal, Sunny’s hope, is to show that no matter what challenges one faces, they can still have a purposeful, meaningful life,” she said. “The ‘Sunny’ books are about hope, acceptance and positivity.”

Dussling hopes to place the books in hospitals, doctor’s offices and schools and hopes to open conversations between adults and children. She hopes to fight what she considers a hearing loss stigma.

Through Sunny, she hopes to draw attention to different aspects of hard-of-hearing culture, such as assistive devices including flashing lights on phones, doorbells and smoke alarms.

She continues to lead a normal life: horse racing, snow-skiing, and being outside. She will write more Sunny books in racing season’s downtime, she said.

“Everyone has challenges in life whether they have a disability or not,” she said. “I’m not going to let life be stopped just because I have cochlear implants.”

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Filed under Cochlear implants, Hearing loss, inspiration, Physical Handicaps, Uncategorized

Sunny and her Cochlear Implants

 

This is my first children’s book.  I just published it this summer at Author House. 

I am excited about this story.  It is a story based on my life as a deaf child, who was a lifetime hearing aid user, until I suffered sudden deafness in 2005.  Then, I became a successful bilateral cochlear implant wearer.

Sunny is about a happy-go-lucky deaf girl, who lives her life in a hearing world, with hearing aids.  Then her life changes when her aids no longer help, but there is a solution.

Sunny in an educational book about hope, acceptance, cochlear implants and a positve “can do” attitude. 

To learn more about Sunny go to www.sunnyandhercochlearimplants.com

Go to http://www.authorhouse.com/bookstore/ItemDetail.aspx?bookid=71912  to order or contact me directly at susannadussling@yahoo.com to order in volume bulk.

I discoved my life’s purpose is to share my story with others to inspire hope that we all can overcome our personal setbacks in life with lots of hard work, perserverance and a positive attitude.

Not only do I help others with my book, I also speak to groups, associations, school groups, etc with my uplifting motivational messages.  Go to my speaker website at http://www.susannamdussling to book me for your next event.

In additon, please forward this blog entry to others who might enjoy this book or enjoy an inspirational presentation.

As Always, Have a Sunny Day.

Susanna

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Filed under Hearing loss, Hearing Loss Association, inspiration, Physical Handicaps, Public speaking, Uncategorized

“The LifeSaver”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tP8TTMI0OkU

Hello Everyone!

I can not believe Summer is almost over.  Where did the summer go? I guess that what happens when you keep yourself busy.

Well, the above is yet another video that I created for another video contest.  This contest was presented by ATIA – Assistive Technology Industry Association. www.ATIA.org   This organization is all about creating awareness of Assistive Devices for those that have physical disabilities.

Many people  are not aware that their are all kinds of awesome devices to make one’s life a little easier, no matter what kind of physical disability one has.

As most of you know, I was born deaf and now I wear cochlear implants.  I love using Assistive Listening Devices, they come in all shapes and forms.

In this video, I share my personal favorite Assistive Listening Device and how it helps me to compete at horse shows.

I hope you enjoy the video, even if you don’t have a physical disability.   I encourage you to watch it, because you will be learning some great information, that perhaps you could share with someone in your life!

Here’s a little more information about ATIA direct from their website.

About ATIA
The Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) is a not-for-profit membership organization of manufacturers, sellers and providers of technology-based assistive devices and/or services. ATIA represents the interests of its members to business, government, education, and the many agencies that serve people with disabilities. Its mission is to serve as the collective voice of the Assistive Technology industry so that the best products and services are delivered to people with disabilities. For more information about ATIA’s educational opportunities and conferences, visit www.atia.org.
Since 1999, ATIA has held an annual conference that provides a forum for education and communication to professional practitioners serving those with disabilities. In conjunction with its conferences, ATIA holds a Leadership Forum and Workshop on Accessibility which provides corporations, government agencies, and higher educational institutions with the information needed to expand their accessibility efforts. In addition to the Chicago conference, ATIA Orlando will be held January 27-30, 2010.
 
Goals of ATIA
ATIA’s goals include:
  • Establish and manage an annual Assistive Technology (AT) conference. The conference provides a forum for education and communication to professional practitioners serving those with disabilities (teachers, occupational therapists, rehabilitation counselors, physicians, psychologists, etc.), with the overarching goal of providing enhanced benefits and opportunities to people with disabilities. The ATIA Conference has been held every year since 1999 and is now established as the largest, broad-based AT conference in North America.  In 2009, ATIA added a second AT conference to be held in the Midwest in the fall, (October 28-31), at the Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel and Convention Center in Schaumburg, Illinois. The ATIA 2009 Orlando Conference had over 2,300 attendees, more than 300 educational sessions and 125 exhibitors.
  • To “speak with a common voice” for the AT industry, and work closely with Electronics & Information Technology (EIT) companies and government, on matters of common interest such as Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and comparable continuing issues.
  • Support publications of itself and in conjunction with non-profit partners.
What is Assistive Technology?
·         Assistive Technology (or AT) is any item, piece of equipment, product or system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities.

As always, Have a sunny day!  Susanna

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Filed under Cochlear implants, Hearing loss, inspiration, Physical Handicaps, Uncategorized

Housing and Employment Resource Expo for People with Disabities

face_photo_croppedOn February 11, 2009 I was off from work, so I volunteered at the Houston Housing and Employment Resource Expo for people with disabilities  www.houstonhereexpo.org held at the George R Brown Convention.  I was at the Houston Hearing Loss Association booth.

This expo was hosted by the City of Houston and fully supported by Houston’s Mayor Bill White.

It was a big step for me to attend and help at this event. Why? Well, I knew it would be attended by disabled people.  I had never really been around many disabled people at one time.  To help you understand, most people with hearing loss are in denial most of their lives, because they do not desire to appear “different” to others.   I admit, I was in denial most of my life with my hearing loss.  I just recently came out of denial this past summer and started to share my story with others.  I am getting better at sharing and being open about my hearing loss; however, it is still a work in progress.

I finally got over my apprehension, and finally went inside and sure enough, I was surrounded by all kinds of “challenged people.”  I went to the HLA booth and got busy immediately giving out information and providing awareness of Houston HLA. I worked the booth with other members of Houston HLA.  I love to talk to people and meet people.  Thus, my discomfort went away, as I started chatting away with others.  It was great to meet all kinds of people.  I began to realize they are just like everyone else, with real needs for employment and housing.  It is a little harder or maybe even a lot harder for them to obtain housing and employment.  I was able to have empathy for their needs because I have been down that road before, especially the challenges with employment.   There is much to share about my personal challenges with employment as a hard of hearing person, thus it will be a future blog entry.   I do remember “wondering if I was ever going to be able to get a good job.  ”

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On the other hand, I walked away with a deep appreciation and gratitude, that I was blessed with my life, and that I have many wonderful qualities to share with others, in spite of my hearing loss.  I realized that there are many people who have physical and mental challenges that are much more severe than mine.  Therefore, it helped me to put my hearing loss in perspective.

In addition, I walked away from this event, having tremendous respect for these other people and I admired their courage and determination to prevail against all odds.  After all, deep down they are not any different from anybody else, they have the same basic needs as the rest of us: such as a warm home, a place to work to pay the bills, and to surround themselves with loving friends and family.

Next time, you see a “challenged person,” please show them respect and kindness and be grateful for the positive things in your life!

As Always, Have a Sunny Day! Susanna

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Filed under inspiration, Physical Handicaps

Assistive Listening Devices

ellowAssistive Listening Devices?  Do you wonder what these devices do?  There are so many of these on the market, unfortunately many hard of hearing people and hearing people are not aware that these devices even exist.  First off, let me tell me you what an Assistive Listening Device (ALD’s) is.  These are electronic marvels that enable people who wear hearing aids and/or cochlear implants with telecoil switches to hear better in noisy situations.  Most of us with hearing aids and/or cochlear implants do really well in a quiet situation; however the biggest challenge for us HA/CI user is the ability to hear in noisy situations, i.e. restaurants, bars, airports, etc.  For us, our devices, pick up every noise, therefore amplifying all sounds including the ones we don’t want to hear! Therefore, this is the biggest problem! that audiologists, HA dispensers, etc. encounter when fitting their clients.  So, what’s one to do? I highly recommend that the patient ask their “audie” for a compatible ALD’s for their needs.

To break it down even further, the ALD works by enabling the client to put their HA or CI on Telecoil switch, by doing this, this cuts out all the background noise and the only thing that HA/CI user hears is the voice of the immediate person using the microphone of the transmitter.  I know this is pretty technical and I really don’t know how to explain this better except to tell you of my personal experiences with ALDs.   I also suggest, you contact Teri Wathen if you live in Houston,Texas at  HLRS6A@dars.state.tx.us
or go to this page and find a Hearing Resource Specialist in Texas that lives near you at http://www.dars.state.tx.us/dhhs/specialistlist.shtml .  All these hearing loss specialists are a really great group of people, they are passionate about helping those with hearing loss.  Most of them, also have their own personal hearing challenges, therefore, they are extremely sympathetic about helping others with hearing loss.  These specialists also have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to ALD’s. 

For instance, several years ago, when I lost all the remainder of my hearing in my left ear, my mom discovered Teri Wathen of CAAG through many phone calls.  Here, I made it easier for you, click the above link.  CAAG in Houston is a treasure cove.  My parents and I made the trip to CAAG and I was in awe of all the ALD’s they have.  It seems like hundreds! Okay, I am exaggerating, but still they have lots and you can try them all out while you are there! Furthermore, they will even loan out a system for you to try in the real world!  There are gizmos that do everything but clean the toilet bowl!  There are telephones, neckloop, room systems, personal systems, devices to help you with the tv, mp3 player, at work, at church, the list is endless!  Folks, you must check it out!  Truly, these devices help me to live my life fully in the hearing world.

What inspired me to write this article.   Well, I have a horse show coming up,  I use an ALD to compete.  I use an FM system called “the Comtek. ”  http://comtek.com  This device has literally saved my life in the show ring. 

The challenge for me was that I had a hard time hearing my instructors when they were giving me lessons at home, or away at a horse show.  In addition, another challenge was hearing the announcer during my class at a horse show.  Horse shows are tough and competitive!

In the early days, I remember looking at my instructors for hand signals.  We came up with a series of hand signals, similiar to a baseball pitcher and umpire.  It worked okay.  However, the problem was that by looking at the instructor, it took my focus off the horse I was riding, thus creating another problem.  You have to be in tandem with your horse at all times, creating the perfect picture of unity, so this gap caused me to lose my connection with the horse, even if it was momentarily.  This is not good. 

Luckily, Max McCarthy  of Hearing Systems, at www.hearingsystemsinc.com came to the rescue, he is another great source with Les Calloway with ALD’s.  They also have a gold mine of devices for you to try and they will educate you as well for the right device for you.   I told him about my horse showing challenges and how I needed help hearing at meetings at work, so he told me about the Comtek.  This device has been a godsend.  It enabled me to hear at meetings at work and for the horse show ring.

All my horse trainers absolutely love this device.  They loved how they didn’t have to shout at me anymore, or use hand signals no longer.  I love it because I do not lose my concentration anymore, I can focus on the horse and ride.  All my trainers want one for their hearing clients! It doesn’t work for them; however, that is how much they really like it.

I am able to use this device at horse shows too!  Now, I no longer miss calls from the announcers and I able to concentrate on my ride.  Yes, I had to get approval with a letter from the governing body of horse showing at USEF.  There is a process to go through with USEF.  It is worth every step.

I also use many other assistive listening devices, I will explore those, in another blog.

I really hope this helps everyone!  Once again, I realize this is not an easy concept to grasp, therefore, I highly urge everyone to seek help with the above mentioned resources or check out my links on my blog roll, they will give you more information.

By the way, I will be giving a presentation on “How I use ALD’s in the Show Ring”  at the monthly Houston HLA meeting in March 2009.  All are welcome, even hearing people!  I will include more details later on, 2nd Saturday am in March in Houston.

Assisted Listening Devices! Can’t live without them!

As Always, Have a sunny day! Susanna

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Filed under Cochlear implants, Hearing loss, Horses, Physical Handicaps

“Front of the Class”

“Front of the Class”  When I think of “Front of the Class” I actually think back to when I was child growing up and I was mainstreamed in public schools on Long Island, NY and Spring, Texas.  The only “special” arrangement I had in school was my mom made sure I sat in the first row in class at school. 

I remember, I used to hate that first day in class, because I always prayed and hoped that, I would naturally end up in the first row of class  by alphabetable order or if luck had its way, I got to choose my seat.  However, I remember I hated it when I had to tell the teacher why I had to sit in front, especially in front of all my peers, on the first day of school! The first day was exciting enough! w/o adding to the excitement!  You see, I was like every other kid and I didn’t want to be thought of as “handicapped” or “different.”   Well, I survived many “first days” and “front of the class.”

However, the “Front of the Class” I am actually going to write about, really hit home to me this past Sunday.  Why?  I watched the Hallmark movie “Front of the Class” about Brad Cohen and his Toureg’s Syndrome.

You are probably wondering, “Why did it hit home?”  It really touched me for many reasons.  Yes, I don’t have Toureg’s but I do have a physical disability- profound deafness. 

My life and Brad’s life were similiar in just about every way, except for the obvious type of disability we have.  I also learned how to prevail with a “can do” attitude and lots of perserverance.

There were some real good examples in the movie, that really reverbated with me. 

The first part that hit home was when Brad went   to the Support group with his mom and he was surrounded with others who had Toureg’s.  He and his mom stayed awhile, but Brad and his mom were thinking, “he and I are not like these others.”  Yes, in reality we are, but we choose to handle our challenges with a “winning attitude” which made the difference! I knew exactly were he was coming from, those others accepted Toureg’s and did little to fight it! Brad was thinking, “I am not like them” and he went on to show the world, that Toureg’s was not going to win.    As soon, as I saw this scene, immediately a child hood memory, came racing to my mind!   The memory of my mom, taking me to speech therapy, at this “special hospital” about an hour away from home.  I used to hate going to speech therapy!  In reality, it wasn’t the speech therapy that bothered me, it was seeing the other children at this hospital ( a hospital for children with physical and emotional disabilities.”  You see I was like Brad, I was not like those other kids and I was determined not to be different.  I would come home so unhappy and I was a happy go lucky, outgoing kid.  So, thank god, mom stopped taking me there, because in the end, it did more bad then good!

The Second part that hit home, was the part when Brad was going on those gazillion of job interviews……that has happened to me too in my job search and when I first started showing horses….I failed so miserably at first, but I hung in there, and tried again, and tried again, and tried again, etc….until finally obtaining a job and having success showing horses.

The third most important point that I related to was whether you should disclose your disability or not……I have not ever done that in a job interview.  I will be brutually honest, great jobs are very competitive even when you are “perfect.”  I just never felt comfortable relaying my hearing loss, part of the reason was, I considered myself  just like everyone and I never wanted my hearing loss to be the reason why I did or did not obtain a position.    However, I usually told my boss after I had been on the job for a while and I had a chance to get to know my boss and my work enviroment.  I had to be totally comfortable to do this.  Look, I realize my way, may not be the best way, but it worked for me…….  I realize with ADA and all that, things may chance, but then again, they may not change depending on the person’s knowledge and how attune they are to people who are physical “challenged.”

Another part that I totally agreed on! was that physically “challenged” people are great workers! Brad was First Year Teacher of the Year!  We know what it is like to be “different”  and we always proving to the world that we can do an outstanding job in spite of our disability.

Finally, the “Can do  and Positive Attitude” combined with tons of perserverance.  I totally related to that too!!!  I also had to use those same qualities in my life to help me live a fulfilling, satisfying and rewarding life.

Thank you Brad Cohen for sharing your story and telling the world.  Brad is also a speaker and I am too, I am sharing my story too! to help inspire people too!  We do not need to let our physical disabilities take over our lives, instead we learn to live with our disabilities and do awesome things in spite of our disabilities.

If you missed the movie, I highly suggest your buy it or rent it when it comes out on DVD.

“Anything in life is possible, if you believe!!!!!!!!!!”

As Always,  Have a Sunny Day!!!! Susanna

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Filed under Physical Handicaps