Saturday, 18 February 2012

My Cambridge Satchel

I'm not sure where I first came across Cambridge satchels, but the idea of a traditional-looking satchel in lovely bright colours immediately grabbed me. When my Mum kindly gave me some money for Christmas I decided to buy one. I went for the 13 inch size as I want it to be an everyday bag that can carry my usual bits and pieces, and have space for a book or my filofax as well. 

I also bought this necklace which was hugely reduced in the sale (originally £88!!), so feel I got quite a bit for my money. I'd never heard of Pascale Monvoisin before, but it's a lovely classy and grown-up necklace which is very light to wear. Thanks, Mum!  

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Lip reading classes

After writing my previous post about Tinnitus Awareness Week, I feel I want to say more about my lip reading classes as they have benefited me so much.
Before I started classes in 2007, I was struggling quite a bit in social situations and would often attempt to follow the conversation, eventually give up and then go home early feeling grumpy. If there's a fair amount of background noise, I can struggle to identify individual voices or noises and it all becomes a confusing jumble of sound.

I was lucky to come across a leaflet at the library advertising local free lip reading classes and rang the tutor (Maggie Short) for a chat. I suppose I felt like a bit of a fraud, as I don't have a hearing loss but she said I would be very welcome to come along. My employer was happy for me to make up my time later in the day.  

So, what happens in a class?
The tutor would use a variety of methods to help us learn how to recognise the different shapes of how a word, vowels or consonants look on the lips. For example, what our tutor called the green vowel group contains 'ear', 'ee' and 'i' which all mean the mouth moves in a sort of outwards sideways movement. Or we would focus on looking at words containing the consonants P, B or M as they look very similar on the lips. Maggie would use things like articles, poetry, recipes, group work and some times a 'guess what's in the bag' exercise to cover the basics and principles we needed to know. At first, I found it very hard work due to the amount of concentration involved, but it definitely got easier and I was moved from the beginners to the improvers class.  

I attended classes for about 3 years and they were always useful and fun as the tutor covered a broad range of subjects, ranging from the history of Spam to Thomas Hardy poems! 3 years may sound like a long time, but many words look very similar and it can really depend on how an individual speaks. For example, one fellow student naturally talked quite quickly and it could be very hard to lip read him. Also after a while, I thought I'd mute the sound on the TV and found I really couldn't pick up much at all on the news. As our tutor would say, it's often because you need the context of the conversation to be able to pick it up.

Here's a little exercise to try 
In front of a mirror, say the word 'sugar' without your voice and look at how your lips move.
Do you think you'd be able to pick up in a conversation that it was that word? I doubt I would, unless I was very confident about the context as what you mostly see is a forward movement and the second syllable is nearly lost altogether.

Things that help me when I'm lip reading:
  • The person speaks clearly and not too fast
  • They don't cover their mouth with their hands 
  • They face me when talking.
These might seem obvious, but when you're rushing around, it can be easy to forget and carry on the conversation when you've turned your head away from the person.

I think it's a fascinating subject, and studying it was a way to take action and not feel helpless and stuck in certain situations. It's also been helpful in some surprising ways. I used to sing in a gospel choir and when singing with a visiting choir, I didn't know some of the songs so well. As the person conducting normally sings along, I found I could quite easily lip read him and join in.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Tinnitus Awareness Week

I'm a bit late with this, but today is the final day of Tinnitus Awareness Week.
More info can be found at Action on Hearing Loss (previously called RNID).

My tinnitus started suddenly one afternoon in 2001 and has only stopped briefly once since then. Our TV at the time used to hum some times, so I initially assumed it was that until I went into the kitchen and the sound still persisted. After repeatedly pushing on my ears with my fingers and swallowing to see if my ears wanted to pop, I discovered that this irritating noise wasn't going away. I had great difficulty getting to sleep that night and found this sudden intrusion on my daily life upsetting and irritating. It's a constant very high-pitch squeal or whine which becomes louder if I put my fingers in my ears. I am also over-sensitive to loud noises and can struggle to catch conversation in places with lots of background noise.

At the doctors, I was first prescribed antibiotics (due to a suspected infection) and then had my ears syringed. Neither helped and I was referred to the Ear, Nose and Throat department, with my doctor saying, "You should get used to it, as you're probably stuck with it for life now!" ENT were very nice and I had 2 hearing tests with them with the conclusion that I had no hearing loss. They confirmed I was quite young to have it and didn't know why. I was advised that they have a regular clinic for helping people cope, but luckily by that time I had habituated and no longer felt anxious.

So, how is it now and what have I done about it?
I still have tinnitus and it's become a part of me really. Yes, I'd be delighted if it stopped, but I'm lucky that I don't notice it for most of the time unless it's worse due to stress or illness.

Here's what I've done (and still do some) to help:

  • Wear earplugs at the cinema and at any event with louder than normal noise levels
  • Had acupuncture and shiatsu - neither have got rid of it, but have helped with my over-sensitivity to noise and to feel less anxious at the initial on-set
  • Taken ginkgo biloba for 12 months - unfortunately this didn't have any effect for me personally
  • Attended lip reading classes to help with conversation in loud environments - I cannot recommend these enough! Maggie Short is a wonderful teacher and I use lip reading every day
  • Signed up to the Action on Hearing Loss tinnitus forum
  • Taken herbs prescribed by a qualified practitioner of Chinese herbal medicine - for a period when my tinnitus was extremely loud and assisted in getting back to normal levels
  • Use a guided meditation or sounds of nature app on my iPod touch to take my focus away, or if I'm having problems getting to sleep
  • Go for a run - this generally helps most things! 
  • Listen to music or do some thing I enjoy, so that I don't notice it so much.  

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Rub it better

'Massage really does heal tired muscles. A genetic analysis of leg-muscle biopsies taken before, directly after and 3 hours after a post-exercise massage shows that gene activity linked with pain and inflammation is reduced compared with unmassaged muscle (Science Translational Medicine, DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3002882)'.

My husband found this for me in the New Scientist magazine dated 04/02/12 and I thought it was quite interesting. Further details can be read here. As a runner I've read articles in the past about the benefits of post-race massage and there seem to be conflicting opinions, like with any thing.
Also, from a shiatsu practitioner's perspective I not only want my sessions to help a client, but am very interested in the practical reasons why my techniques will work. I've just signed up to a 5-week online course with New Energy Work to look into the latest scientific ideas about how shiatsu works.   

I've been thinking recently that I want both my aikido and shiatsu to be grounded, practical and actually work. Both of them have, in my opinion, fascinating theory and philosophy but in their own ways aren't just about waving your hands around and hoping you'll get the results you'd like! So, I've decided it's time to set myself some more goals in both areas and put some further study time in. I realised last night at aikido that I'm just starting to scratch the surface of just how much power I'm capable of and it's been my habit in the past to hold back. I can understand holding back when I'm practising with a beginner, but at the second class yesterday I was practising with a lovely guy who's trained for close to 20 years! And I know I was holding back, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense, as he can definitely look after himself. So, it's all about varying my practise for each individual person at their appropriate level. I'm really enjoying assisting in the first class and I like that I can challenge some one of a lower grade, like other more experienced students and teachers can do for me.