The loss of hearing can lead to isolation, depression and anxiety


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hcb-hand-earTalking to our families over dinner, chatting to a friend on the phone, listening to the news on the radio, asking the shop assistant for help or a stranger on the street for directions are all things we do without thinking about them. But what if you didn’t quite understand what others were saying, what if the world around you was becoming more and more silent every day?
For many this isn’t a hypothetical scenario and if you are aged 55 plus you may already be experiencing gradual hearing loss, if you are over 65 there is even a 50/50 chance that you already need a hearing aid.
There are over half a million over 65 year-olds in Ireland, and this figure is continually rising, and 50% or more of them suffer from loss of hearing, some more than others.
But while 91% of people have their eyes tested on a regular basis throughout their lives, only 9% have their hearing checked, so a recent study by Hidden Hearing.  The result of this neglect is that, on average, people get a hearing aid fitted about ten years too late.
“Testing early is important, as that way we can establish a baseline”, explains audiologist Leona Kane from MacNally Hearing, “hearing loss happens so gradually that it becomes the norm. But if we have a baseline we can see what the person used to be able to hear and fit them with a starter hearing aid early on.”
Many associate hearing loss with aging, so a big reason, for many, to not have their ears tested is vanity, believing that if they need help hearing that makes them old. This stigma however isn’t attached to glasses, most people just expect that they need some support to read, watch T.V and drive, if not at a young age, most likely as they grow older.  But the loss of hearing has a much higher impact on individuals than loss of sight actually does.
“We are very neglectful of our hearing,” Leona Kane points out “and we really should be more proactive about it.”
When you can’t hear, follow a conversation or hear something or someone approaching this can lead, and does in many cases, to isolation, loss of communication and even anxiety. People start staying home more, trying to take part in everyday life becomes hard work and stressful, tiring them out as they strain to follow what people around them are saying, so they avoid situations that make them feel uncomfortable.
Brendan Lennon from DeafHear is involved in several research projects and says that: ”People start believing others are mumbling as they lose the ability to hear sound such as ‘S’ or ‘K’, high frequency sounds that help us distinguish words from each other. On the other side, people think their parents, grandparents, and friends are changing their personalities, become irritable and grouchy, always giving out, asking them to speak up, speak clearly, turning the T.V up too loud and shouting at them.”
This combination of being unable to follow conversations and not being able to partake in them leads to isolation, and this in turn can even lead to other, bigger issues.
If you can’t hear your brain begins to forget how to process certain sounds, so when you do eventually get a hearing aid the aftercare is vital. No one expects to get out up and walk if they haven’t in years, you need help and rehabilitation to regain your strength and practice your muscles. Hearing works in a similar way; you need to train your brain to hear different sounds.
Audiologist Dolores Madden from Hidden Hearing explains: “All patients should have a custom build hearing aid, as people need individual testing and aftercare. So once we establish what is needed, we can accompany the on their rehabilitation journey. But the first step is testing!”
Of course there are costs involved, but the HSE does give up to €500 per ear if your PRSN enables you and your spouse to be part of the Treatment Benefit Scheme. This means if you have enough social insurance contributions this can help cover the cost of a hearing aid.
And as Dolores Madden says, “Can you put a price on hearing? After all it is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.”
Just like Suduko and crosswords train your mind and keep it agile and fit, so does hearing.  Listening to a programme and processing new information helps your brain stay young, being able to take part in discussions helps your brain stay agile, so when you can’t hear and you forgo all these vital experiences your brain can slow down, in the worse cases even encourage dementia to set in earlier.
A large-scale clinical research project in Sweden discovered that the loss of hearing is the second largest medical condition that affects people’s lives. They found that the personality changes and psychological issues, such as depression and anxiety, were directly linked to hearing loss.
Early testing seems to be the only way forward.  So while the HSE did start a neo-natal screening programme at the beginning of 2014, it is 20 years behind most other European countries, and it does not target the age group loss of hearing most frequently concerns.
So while hearing loss may not be avoidable, testing early and regularly can ensure that you get the right aftercare.

Article I wrote for Upside Dublin October 2014

Great night out – 1943 A Dance Odyssey


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Little Margaret Becker (about age 4-5) dancing in the studio

Little Margaret Becker (about age 4-5) dancing in the studio

After a busy and somewhat hectic day I was rewarded with a wonderful event yesterday evening. At 6.30 pm I sat in the Samuel Beckett Theater in Trinity College and watched a few enchanting Tiny Tots dance across the screen.

The wonderful Deirdre Mulrooney had invited me along to a special reunion screening of 1943 – A Dance Odyssey. The film shows original footage, shot by the great Liam OLaoghaire, of enigmatic Irish-German dancer Erina Brady in her studio teaching young Irish children the joys of modern dance.

As mainland Europe was torn by war, the 1940s in Dublin was a haven for bohemian creatives and free thinkers and during this time Erina Brady showed some open-minded people how the body could be used to express thoughts, be a symbol of freedom and be celebrated – no shoes required!

Over a period of about ten years Erina Brady taught some lucky children all about this way of thinking and some of those Tiny Tots from back then were heavily influenced by this unusual woman.

At the screening yesterday some of the little blond girls in plaits and flamed haired dancers were there, a reunion of the Tiny Tots to celebrate some very special childhood memories captured on screen.

It was wonderful to see these woman, 71 years after being filmed, and to hear all about how the seed of creativity, planted so very long ago, had grown for so many of them into a way of life. Creative strong women who told stories of a Dublin long gone, true treasures I was delighted to have met and talk to over wine and canapes.

In a few months time TG4 will be showing another film Deirdre Mulrooney has been working about the times and life of Erina Brady and I can’t wait to see it.

long days, short nights


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After a day at the desk yesterday I have a  long day ahead of me today: first five hours of teaching (no break), a meeting about some magazine design work and then supporting a friend at her film screening. Somewhere in-between meeting, teaching and viewing I’m going to have to find the time to eat.

As the day stretches long in front of me my mind wanders back to my sleepless night. For some reason I ended up working until early this morning and when I finally did get to bed i couldn’t sleep.

I hate that feeling when you’re lying in bed, knowing that you have to be up early in the morning and dreamland just won’t open up it’s doors and admit you. As I tossed and turned and watched as the minutes slipped by my mind just wouldn’t shut down and give me peace.

So today I am stuck with an overtired feeling and some rings under my eyes, I just hope that I can get to bed early tonight and that sleep will come. After all even if it is only a four day week for most I have to work this weekend.

So I will trudge through the day and hopefully I will find restful dreams at the end of it.


extra day – extra work


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Today is a bank holiday in Ireland and this means we all get an extra day to relax and kick back. After my me-day yesterday I have decided to use the day to get a few things that I have been ignoring for a while now.

There are a pair of socks that need darning, some clothes that need fixing (a dropped hem, a hole that needs a few stitches to close and a button needs reattaching) and my desk needs a bit of a tidy. And I do have a few other bits and bobs that need my attention and  a couple of letters to pen.

Then of course there are the normal things that need doing, a wash put on, a bit of tiding, water the flowers and preparing my classes or the coming week and starting some research on articles I need to write.

So maybe this extra day is just what I need to get my life back on track and to feel less stressed about everything I still have left to do. But then maybe, just maybe we could all need a few extra days every week to just keep up with what our lives demand of us. And if that is the case that maybe we are all just way to busy.

I was thinking about how time seems to be always full, how we are always rushing and never seem to get enough rest. How all days have transformed into working days, how we can’t really distinguish between weekends and weekdays anymore.

Here in Dublin the shops are open every day, so if you can’t go shopping during the week you end up using your Sunday to run errands. Few of us take the time anymore to allow a day of nothingness to feature regularly, a day when we just enjoy the peaceful relaxation of a Sunday walk, a family dinner or even to enjoy an afternoon nap.

So maybe instead of filling up these extra days with extra work, we should just let them be gifts of peace and quiet. But then when would I get a chance to finally catch up?




snapshots of my me-time


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I spent the whole day by myself, not doing much but enjoying the solitude and relaxation. Here are a few snapshots of my me-time.

the orchids on my windowsill

the orchids on my windowsill

an afternoon treat, some lemon slices a friend baked

an afternoon treat, some lemon slices a friend baked

afternoon occupation, knitting and reading (and yes some TV too)

afternoon occupation, knitting and reading (and yes some TV too)

some homemade chunky chicken soup ... mmmhhh really good ... I am so glad I took the time to make it

some homemade chunky chicken soup … mmmhhh really good … I am so glad I took the time to make it



all met out


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This week has been busy, very busy! On top of my lecturing duties and magazine work there have been meetings upon meetings.

Not all the meeting where job related, as I did meet up with friends and spent time laughing and catching up over beautifully cooked food, but today I feel as if I am all met out. After this busy week and with last week spent in a flurry of teaching, designing and spending time with my cousin I just need a little bit of me-time.

I think I just need a day to myself, a day to enjoy my own company and maybe catch up with me for a bit. So instead of rushing out into the world today, I am going to stay put, recharge my waning batteries.

As I flick over my calendar and look at what next week has in store for me I can already tell that time will be a precious supply so I think taking it slow, snail pace and sloth like for one day is allowed.

And while I have a long list of things I’d like to do (next to the one of things I need to do) I think I will just let my mood lead me and only do what feels right in the moment. Luckily for me tomorrow is a bank holiday here in Ireland, so I have another day off to tackle my lists.

I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.

Henry David Thoreau

Weekly Photo Challenge: Cover Art


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As someone who loves to read and as someone who designs magazines I have to admit that I sometimes pick the books that i buy based on their cover. Sometimes it’s the title of the book, sometimes it’s the blurb on the back but sometimes if I like the look of a book I may just pick it up and purchase it.

Now I know that many believe you “cannot judge” a book by it’s cover, but I don’t believe that to be true, if I don’t like the dustcover, if it doesn’t speak to me or if it shows me that the book is based in a specific genre I do judge a book by it’s outer appearance, whether or not that is a good thing.

And yes, maybe I don’t end up reading some very good books because my method of choice rules them out, but sometimes I end up reading surprisings ones, ones only end up on my shelf because I like the look of them.

Very elegant, reflecting it's title.

Very elegant, reflecting it’s title.

I love the black lined pages

I love the black lined pages

The spine repeats the simple design

The spine repeats the simple design

Film Review: This is where I leave you


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maxresdefaultAfter the abysmal August Osage County, This is where I leave you is another painfully humourless attempt at a family drama.

When Judd Altman (Jason Bateman) walks in on his wife Quinn (Abigail Spencer) having sex with his boss (Dax Shepard) he unravels, unsure of who is and what he wants in life.

In the midst of his depression Judd’s father dies and his grieving mother Hillary (Jane Fonda) orders him back to the family home, to sit Shiva with his siblings.

For seven days they must spend time together with their mother as the matriarch at the helm. The siblings fall back into their family roles: big brother Paul (Corey Stoll) as the annoying bossy boots: Wendy (Tina Fey) the nagging, over-protective sister; baby brother Philip (Adam Driver) who still gets away with murder and Judd the odd one out.

Childhood sweethearts show up, family secrets are exposed and old wounds are reopened, but instead of being a bittersweet tale of drama and love This is where I leave you is a mess of bad one-liners, weak characters, predictable plots and a lot of overacting.

This is where I leave you is a film better left unwatched, but if you must see this humourless piece by director Shawn Levy, be warned as it could leave you feeling a little nauseated and bereft for the time you wasted.

Film review: The Book of Life


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The-Book-Of-Life-Poster-Anime-Movie-Images1The Book of Life is a quirky animation film by director Jorge R Gutiérrez, celebrating Mexican folklore and the Day of the Dead.

The story begins outside a dusty old museum with a rag-tag bunch of temperamental children showing up for a tour and delightful guide, with long hair and a sexy smile showing them a hidden doorway.

With the help of wooden puppets she begins telling the old Mexican folktale of Manolo (Diego Luna), Joaquin (Channing Tatum) and Maria (Zoe Saldana).

As children the three are the best of friends, playfully teasing each other, both boys already in love with Maria, but on the Day of the Dead the stunning La Muerta (Kate del Castillo), the ruler of the Land of the Remembered, bets Xibalba (Ron Perlman), the lord of the Land of the Forgotten, that one day gentle Manolo will marry Maria.

Xibalba champions the adventurous Joaquin and decides to stack the odds in his favour, so he cheats and gives Joaquin a mystical medal.

The children grow up, each following the path their parents envisions them too, but when Maria returns from boarding school, things change, rules are broken and death happens.

But in this charming story, death isn’t permanent, love triumphs and staying true to oneself is the biggest victory of course there is a happy ending, moral and all.

The Book of Life is an original take on a predictable tale with the colourful take on Mexican artwork adding to its appeal. The figures look like they have been carved from wood and painted in as many colours as possible, but tasteful and endearingly so.

And even if the adventure down to the land of the forgotten may be a little scary for some of the more junior viewers, the happy and huggable Candle Maker (Ice Cube) lightens the mood ensuring that darkness never prevails for long.

With it’s 3D imaging and unusual design The Book of Life is an enjoyable film for everyone in the family and a brilliant Halloween treat.

Film review: Serena


Wrapping in 2012 Serena has sat on a shelf until now, and maybe it was better that way. Director Susanne Bier’s disjointed anti-romance starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper may be highly anticipated but doesn’t seem to capture it’s audience quite as hoped.

The melodrama is set in America in the 1930s and tells the story of logging baron George Pemberton (Bradley Cooper). When Pemberton’s timber empire begins to crumble he leaves the beauty of the North Caroline Mountains to seek help from big city bankers. While sipping cocktails he spots Serene Shaw (Jennifer Lawrence) riding on the back of a white stallion, the wind in her hair and he instantly falls in love.

After a short and passionate courtship, they marry and George returns home to his trees with his beautiful bride in tow. His colleagues aren’t very welcoming but that doesn’t deter the outdoorsy and very capable Serena to soon take over.

Buchanan (David Dencik), Pemberton’s main partner and best friend, isn’t the only one who feels that Serena is overstepping her boundaries, but he is the most vocal about it and a rift between the friends appears.

Serena suspects that Buchanan has homosexual feelings for Pemberton and when George’s ex-lover returns Rachel (Ana Ularu) with a lovechild on her hip, distrust grows just like Serena’s own baby bump.

Trying to keep Serena happy and battling it out with the local sheriff and conservationist McDowell (Toby Jones) proves hard work and expensive business as Pemberton pays off local authorities to keep his timber mill running. But when a violent murder occurs things begin to unravel and the couple drift apart.

Serena takes a long time to get the plot moving, and even when it does everything feels disjointed and superficial. The characters aren’t given the space to develop and their motives are never truly exposed.

Lawrence succeeds to straddle the line between siren and madwoman, her locks perfectly preened, her looks full of emotion. Cooper is the perfect counterpart to her silky presence in his tweeds and the chemistry they displayed in Silver Linings Playbook is evident in Serena, too.

The costume and set design are wonderful, capturing an era long gone, and one can’t help but admire the beautiful Czech landscape that fills in for the unspoiled North Caroline Mountains of the 1930s. But with all this splendour and brilliant acting Serena can’t disguise the fact that it doesn’t take the time to tell the story. Quick edits and abrupt direction changes make it nearly impossible to connect with the characters leaving the viewer somewhat unemotional about the outcome.

Overall Director Susanne Bier has created an anvantgarde-esque film that shows beautiful images but leaves its audience cold, so maybe Serena should have just stayed on that shelf.


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