Staying Connected with Assistive Technology for Hearing Loss: Meet @julieo4

Aug 14, 2020 | Teresa, Volunteer Mentor | @hopeful33250 | Comments (17)

Member Spotlights feature interviews with fellow Connect members. Learn more about members you’ve connected with and some you haven’t met yet. Nominate a member you think should share the spotlight.

Julie Olson, mentor

TERESA: What brought you to Mayo Clinic Connect? What motivates you to take part in
the community?

@julieo4: I came to Mayo Clinic Connect after the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) notified its membership that HLAA had collaborated with Mayo Clinic and the IDA Institute to create an online support group for people with hearing loss.

I have been active in HLAA since 1983, and was elected to the organization’s first elected board of trustees in 1984. I served for 14 years; which included 2 terms as president. I’ve remained actively involved in the organization at the national, state and local levels for over 37 years. I felt that my experience and knowledge could be helpful for people in Mayo Clinic Connect’s hearing loss support group.

My involvement in HLAA, which was SHHH when I discovered it (Self Help for Hard of Hearing People, Inc.), gave me back my life. I learned I wasn’t alone with my hearing loss. Until I discovered this organization and became involved, I thought I was the only person under age 65 who was living with progressive adult onset hearing loss. I was diagnosed with progressive bilateral sensorineural hearing loss at age 21. I was told then that there would never be a cure or treatment in my lifetime that would change the outcome of my becoming deaf in my 40s. I was told to learn to live with it. I learned about SHHH/HLAA when I was 40. I had retired from a teaching job I loved, and was resigned to becoming a recluse. I do wonder how I found the courage to become involved in SHHH because it meant exposing my hearing loss publicly. It was the best thing that could have happened to me. It gave me purpose. My motivation to become involved in Connect relates to my understanding of the value and importance of peer support.

My involvement in SHHH/HLAA also gave me the opportunity to witness progress in the fields of hearing technology and medicine. I learned to embrace technology that goes beyond hearing aids. I learned how to advocate for myself. I watched the development of cochlear implants and saw analog hearing instruments become digital devices with many enhancements. Today I use both a hearing instrument and a cochlear implant. They work remarkably well together. Had I not watched other people go the cochlear implant route, I doubt I would have done so. Yet, it was the best decision I could have made to help myself hear. My audiology test results show that I went from 30% understanding with only hearing instruments to 95% understanding when using both technologies together in a quiet setting. Noisy settings can be remedied with technology.

TERESA: What motivates you to take part in the community?

@julieo4: I’m comfortable sharing my experiences on Connect, because I know they may be helpful to others. I hope to encourage people. My involvement in HLAA gave me the courage and confidence to complete a master’s degree in my early 50s. I learned ‘I could’ rather than being stuck in an ‘I can’t mode’ for the rest
of my life. I want to point out that other people with hearing loss were my motivators. The hearing healthcare professionals, while being kind, empathetic, and professional, put no value on peer support. Nor did they share information about hearing assistive technology beyond basic hearing aids.

TERESA: What groups do you participate in?

@julieo4: I have chosen to participate in the Hearing Loss group on Connect. I observe the Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT) group. I think it’s important that people who come to Connect understand that peer support is different from medical advice. While we can share what has worked for us, we should refrain from trying to give medical advice.

TERESA: Tell us about a meaningful moment on Connect.

@julieo4: Several moments on Connect have been meaningful to me. There are many myths about hearing loss and a lot of misinformation. Many hard of hearing people have been told by people they trust that nothing can be done to help them. There is confusion about the difference between being hard of hearing (partially deaf) and being culturally Deaf. I enjoy helping dispel those myths and confusions when I can.

TERESA: What surprised you the most about Connect?

@julieo4: Mayo Clinic Connect is about peer support. I really have no surprises about it. I know what peer support can do for someone who is confused or misinformed about a health issue or disability. It’s pretty much what I expected it to be: supportive and informative.

TERESA: What energizes you, or how do you find balance in your life?

@julieo4: I’m energized by many things, including my daughter and my grandchildren, who are all of college age as I write this. I enjoy writing, reading, traveling and socializing. I play bridge. I’ve always been athletic and have enjoyed many years of golf, tennis, fishing, etc. I knit and sew and enjoy a variety of crafts when I have time. My two granddaughters are thespians and singers. I LOVE watching them perform.

Generally, I like people. Hearing loss makes socializing in some settings difficult. However, I have embraced the use of assistive technology for communication access, and work very hard to remain social. I am also energized by educating and advocating for people with hearing loss. I have been doing presentations and in service training on hearing loss for groups who want and need more information for years.

TERESA: Tell us about your favorite pastime or activity.

@julieo4: I guess at this age; I just had my 78th birthday, my favorite times are those when I can enjoy family. Right now with COVID-19, things are different. Learning how to use video conferencing has been enlightening. Once upon a time we dreamed about speech to text technology. Now it’s here! I look forward to the time when my husband and I can do more with friends and family. My favorite quiet pastime is writing. I’ve not published a book yet, but I will. I hope. I publish newsletters for HLAA Wisconsin and also for HLAA Fox Valley Chapter.

TERESA: What do you appreciate the most in your friends?

@julieo4: I appreciate people who accept the reality that I sometimes need hearing help in noisy social settings. I enjoy times when I can be one on one with a friend over lunch.

TERESA: If Hollywood made a movie about your life, whom would you like to see cast as
you?

@julieo4: If a movie was made of my life I would like my granddaughter, Colleen, who has a BA
degree in theater performance to be cast as me. ☺

TERESA: What do you love about where you live or vacation?

@julieo4: I love Wisconsin where I reside. I love Minnesota, where I spend my summers. I love the Alabama Coast where we spend a couple months each winter. I love the United States of America.

TERESA: Puppies or kittens?

@julieo4: I’m very partial to golden retrievers although we do not presently own a dog. We enjoy our kids' dogs instead.

See more Member Spotlights.

What a wonderful and informative interview. This new discussion group will bless all and give hope to those who seek understanding and support as they look for improved function in their world.
Thank you, Julie! Nancy

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Julie- What a wonderful outlook you have! I have some hearing loss but it is my husband who has a major hearing loss. After many years of having to shout to him, my voice is now too loud when he's wearing his hearing aids and he yells when he doesn't have them in! Go figure

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@julieo4
Hello Julie,
Thank you so much for the opportunity to interview you for this Spotlight. You have contributed so much to our members who are hearing impaired. It was great getting to know you and sharing you with the rest of our Connect community!

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Knowing Julie personally is a pleasure and seeing this interview is icing on the cake. I've met her at a couple of conventions and communicated with her by e-mail. I happy she got the recognition she deserves.

I also have hearing loss and Julie has inspired to be more active in advocating for the hearing loss community. She has helped by editing my writing and suggesting avenues of approach. Julie didn't mention a lot of things she has done to help other people, but she is the kind of person who just helps out so willingly.

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Thank you 'arrow shooter'. Meeting you has been a pleasure. Always meant to ask you about your moniker. I learned to hunt with a bow when I was about 9 years old. Thanks to my dad; a WWII veteran (IWO Jima), who came home to my mom and me when I was 3.5 years old. We were very lucky, as so many were not. Dad left his dental practice in Rhinelander WI to enlist shortly after I was born, and returned to practice there until the mid 70s. He was an avid hunter; both bow and rifle, and also an enthusiastic trout fisherman. I ended up being the oldest of 3 daughters, so got to be the 'boy' in the family. I could hunt and fish with the best of them! I was the first of 19 female children in a row. All 3 of us had daughters and our daughters had daughters until after he passed away in 2005. We now have 3 boys in that lineage. Just thought you should know I was an 'arrow shooter' once upon a time. 🙂 Enjoy the weekend.

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@merpreb

Julie- What a wonderful outlook you have! I have some hearing loss but it is my husband who has a major hearing loss. After many years of having to shout to him, my voice is now too loud when he's wearing his hearing aids and he yells when he doesn't have them in! Go figure

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LOL. I'm going through something similar with my husband of 54 years! He's tolerated my hearing loss since we met in our 20s. I know he's gotten frustrated, but it always passed when we were able to talk about it. Now his hearing is diminishing. I have to work really hard to be patient with him. I realize how patient he has been all these years with me. Now, if I can just get him in to see an audiologist we'll be 'good'.

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@julieo4

Thank you 'arrow shooter'. Meeting you has been a pleasure. Always meant to ask you about your moniker. I learned to hunt with a bow when I was about 9 years old. Thanks to my dad; a WWII veteran (IWO Jima), who came home to my mom and me when I was 3.5 years old. We were very lucky, as so many were not. Dad left his dental practice in Rhinelander WI to enlist shortly after I was born, and returned to practice there until the mid 70s. He was an avid hunter; both bow and rifle, and also an enthusiastic trout fisherman. I ended up being the oldest of 3 daughters, so got to be the 'boy' in the family. I could hunt and fish with the best of them! I was the first of 19 female children in a row. All 3 of us had daughters and our daughters had daughters until after he passed away in 2005. We now have 3 boys in that lineage. Just thought you should know I was an 'arrow shooter' once upon a time. 🙂 Enjoy the weekend.

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Our meeting has been MY pleasure Julie. To answer your question I chose the name "arrowshooter" because my other name "JungleJim" was already taken. So, Yes I have been addicted to archery (target archery) since high school. I hunt with my bow a little bit, but I'm not serious about it.

So where is your place in Northern MN? I have a son living in Baxter.

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@julieo4

LOL. I'm going through something similar with my husband of 54 years! He's tolerated my hearing loss since we met in our 20s. I know he's gotten frustrated, but it always passed when we were able to talk about it. Now his hearing is diminishing. I have to work really hard to be patient with him. I realize how patient he has been all these years with me. Now, if I can just get him in to see an audiologist we'll be 'good'.

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I think some of that kind of thing is a "spousal" issue. My wife (of 45 years) has (I think) good hearing, but she frequently fails to hear me. I get the feeling that she hears me but her head hears "Oh – that's just Jim talking". Sort of a passive dismissal thing. Or maybe it is just old people who are unable to deal more than one thought at at time.

But the same thing in reverse – I can't hear her in the usual situations like when she is in a different room, or facing the wall, or washing dishes etc. I have given up asking her not to do that because it just causes trouble. Sometimes when she says something that I didn't hear and I ask her to repeat she replies "Oh, I was talking to myself" or "I was talking to the dog". – Maybe the dog was talking to her and I just didn't hear it. Who knows?

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@arrowshooter

I think some of that kind of thing is a "spousal" issue. My wife (of 45 years) has (I think) good hearing, but she frequently fails to hear me. I get the feeling that she hears me but her head hears "Oh – that's just Jim talking". Sort of a passive dismissal thing. Or maybe it is just old people who are unable to deal more than one thought at at time.

But the same thing in reverse – I can't hear her in the usual situations like when she is in a different room, or facing the wall, or washing dishes etc. I have given up asking her not to do that because it just causes trouble. Sometimes when she says something that I didn't hear and I ask her to repeat she replies "Oh, I was talking to myself" or "I was talking to the dog". – Maybe the dog was talking to her and I just didn't hear it. Who knows?

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🙂 Hearing loss is so invisible that people forget it. My husband's 'thing' is talking to me when he has the TV turned up loud enough for him to hear it…which is louder than it used to be. Then he gets on the phone with someone and talks extra loud because the TV is on! I grab the remote control whenever I can. It's so easy to mute the TV, so why is it so hard?

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@julieo4

Thank you 'arrow shooter'. Meeting you has been a pleasure. Always meant to ask you about your moniker. I learned to hunt with a bow when I was about 9 years old. Thanks to my dad; a WWII veteran (IWO Jima), who came home to my mom and me when I was 3.5 years old. We were very lucky, as so many were not. Dad left his dental practice in Rhinelander WI to enlist shortly after I was born, and returned to practice there until the mid 70s. He was an avid hunter; both bow and rifle, and also an enthusiastic trout fisherman. I ended up being the oldest of 3 daughters, so got to be the 'boy' in the family. I could hunt and fish with the best of them! I was the first of 19 female children in a row. All 3 of us had daughters and our daughters had daughters until after he passed away in 2005. We now have 3 boys in that lineage. Just thought you should know I was an 'arrow shooter' once upon a time. 🙂 Enjoy the weekend.

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@julio4 Glad to meet another archer @hunter Growin up just boys in my neighborhood Husband was a outdoors man

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@julieo4 @hopeful33250 Thank you for a wonderful, rich interview! My only regret: I wish I had known all this when I first joined the list!) I was so interested in your history with SHHH and then Mayo Clinic. And by the way when was it that HLAA and Mayo connected? I first heard about it in 2019. Another piece of history, both unforgettable and unforgiveable, being told your progressive hearing loss would end in deafness! I am very grateful for your presence on the list!

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@julieo4 your knowledge and experience in hearing loss helps a lot of us understand and possible help our own friends who have a hearing loss. @hopeful33250 thanks for all of your hard work on putting the interview together! Julie I'm with you! I love Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the good old U.S.A.. I also really like any coastline and the ocean being an ex Navy guy. That's a downside for being a landlocked Minnesotan, you only have memories of how beautiful they are. Thank you for letting us get to know you a little better!

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