All About Memorial Day

There are 3 separate holidays in the United States that focus on the 5 branches of the military. Each date has its own significant purpose. In 2021, Armed Forces Day was held on May 15th (the date is always the third Saturday in May) and recognized all military personnel currently serving. Veterans Day, which is always held on November 11th, celebrates anyone who has previously served in the military. This coming weekend we celebrate Memorial Day which is a date to remember those military persons we have lost. This blog focuses on several elements concerning Memorial Day and information in this blog came from three different articles with very similar names, The History of Memorial Day, Memorial Day History, and History of Memorial Day.

The Beginning of Memorial Day

Originally called Decoration Day, from the early tradition of decorating graves with flowers, wreaths and flags, Memorial Day is a day for remembrance of those who have died in service to our country. It was first widely observed on May 30, 1868 to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers, by proclamation of Gen. John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former Union sailors and soldiers.

During that first national commemoration, former Union Gen. and sitting Ohio Congressman James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which 5,000 participants (approximately the same as attends today) helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers who were buried there. This event was inspired by local observances of the day that had taken place in several towns throughout America in the three years after the Civil War. In recent years, the custom has grown in many families to decorate the graves of all departed loved ones.

In 1873, New York was the first state to designate Memorial Day as a legal holiday. By the late 1800s, many more cities and communities observed Memorial Day, and several states had declared it a legal holiday.

After World War I, it became an occasion for honoring those who died in all of America’s wars and was then more widely established as a national holiday throughout the United States.

In 1971, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act and established that Memorial Day was to be commemorated on the last Monday of May. Several southern states, however, officially commemorate an additional, separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead, sometimes referred to as a Confederate Memorial Day: January 19 in Texas; third Monday in Jan. in Arkansas; fourth Monday in Apr. in Alabama and Mississippi; April 26 in Florida and Georgia; May 10 in North and South Carolina; last Monday in May in Virginia; and June 3 in Louisiana and Tennessee.

Memorial Day is commemorated at Arlington National Cemetery each year with a ceremony in which a small American flag is placed on each grave. Traditionally, the President or Vice President lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. About 5,000 people attend the ceremony annually.

Red Poppies

In 1915, inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields,” Moina Michael replied with her own poem: We cherish too, the Poppy red That grows on fields where valor led, It seems to signal to the skies That blood of heroes never dies.

She then conceived of an idea to wear red poppies on Memorial Day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need.

Later a Madam Guerin from France was visiting the United States and learned of this new custom started by Ms. Michael. When she returned to France, she made artificial red poppies to raise money for war orphaned children and widowed women. This tradition spread to other countries. In 1921, the Franco-American Children’s League sold poppies nationally to benefit war orphans of France and Belgium. The League disbanded a year later, and Madam Guerin approached the VFW for help.

Shortly before Memorial Day in 1922 the VFW became the first veterans’ organization to nationally sell poppies. Two years later their “Buddy” Poppy program was selling artificial poppies made by disabled veterans. In 1948 the US Post Office honored Ms. Michael for her role in founding the National Poppy movement by issuing a red 3 cent postage stamp with her likeness on it.

The National Moment of Remembrance Act

To ensure the sacrifices of America ’s fallen heroes are never forgotten, in December 2000, the U.S. Congress passed, and the president signed into law “The National Moment of Remembrance Act,” P.L. 106-579, creating the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance. The commission’s charter is to “encourage the people of the United States to give something back to their country, which provides them so much freedom and opportunity” by encouraging and coordinating commemorations in the United States of Memorial Day and the National Moment of Remembrance.

The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation. As Moment of Remembrance founder Carmella LaSpada states: “It’s a way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day.”

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Voice Activated Products (No Wi-Fi needed)

Voice activated technology is everywhere from Amazon Echo, iPhone Siri, and every day appliances connected to Wi-Fi. There are times Wi-Fi is not an option either by choice, safety, or location. In those situations, it is nice to be able to find devices suitable for those who need the ability to establish things by voice only. This blog will look at three such items complete with linked URL.

Reminder Rosie Voice Controlled Clock

Before looking at what all this item can do let us look at the reason it was developed in the first place. This is especially important for those looking for ways to help/assist their loved ones with dementia and/or living alone.

According to Gary Rotman, Inventor and co-founder of Life Assist Technologies, “Necessity is the mother of invention. I invented a solution for my 80-year-old father who was diagnosed with dementia and often forgot to take his medications and other daily tasks and ended up back in the hospital. When I tested and tweaked the device over several years and started to sell to others, dozens of overwhelming and even life changing testimonials came back to me from users, caregivers, healthcare professionals and even experts- and Reminder Rosie™ was born! I had no idea at the time that there were millions of people worldwide that had similar challenges as my father. High levels of hospital re-admittances, high health care costs, many unavoidable deaths and caregiver stress, all due to poor medication compliance. And over the next 5- 10 years an ever-increasing and ageing population want to live in comfort of their own home longer, independently and with dignity. Rosie has shown she can really help everyday!”

Now that you know the backstory let us dive into what this nimble little clock can do. The Reminder Rosie™ 25-Alarm Voice Controlled Clock will record your personalized voice reminders for medication, appointments, bill payments, and other tasks. These reminders will announce at any time and in any language recorded. The loud alarm and large display make this clock great for sight impaired or hard of hearing individuals.

Set up multiple reminders for everyday, any day of the week, or today only. Your loved ones can even record daily messages on the Reminder Rosie™ which can aid in combatting any feelings of loneliness. Currently the clock is only available in English, but you can record in any language.

This is also a great low vision alarm clock with its bright 2″ high LED digits that are visible at any angle. Reminder Rosie™ is hands free and voice activated, you never need to touch any buttons.

Moshi Voice Controlled Talking Alarm Clock

The Moshi IVR (Interactive Voice Response) Clock is an amazing, modern styled talking clock that is totally voice controlled. Once set, through voice commands only, the current time, the alarm time and sound, the sleep sound, and even the date, can be retrieved by just asking for it. “MOSHI” is fully voice interactive and can be operated without ever seeing the clock. The 12 commands can be asked and answered without even leaving the comfort of your bed! In addition to the indoor temperature announcement in either Fahrenheit or Centigrade, choose from 5 different backlight colors. To Activate Clock, simply say, “Hello Moshi.”

MOSHI listens and responds to 12 voice-activated commands. You can select from 3 different alarm sounds: chime, chirp, or bell. A sleep sound of your choice may be played for 5 minutes, water, birds, or waterfall. It includes a night light and “help” feature. It can operate with either an AC/DC adaptor (located inside the Styrofoam packaging of the clock) or 3 AAA batteries which are not included.

A couple of things of note from the user manual are:

When you turn off the alarm when it is sounding, Moshi will tell you the time, date and inside temperature. When the alarm is not sounding, Moshi will not speak.

It is important to remember that you cannot give a command while Moshi is speaking.

When clock is telling AM time there will be no icon on the display, but when in PM time, the icon “PM” will appear in upper left corner. In addition, when setting time, if you do not specify AM or PM, it will automatically set to AM time.

Verbally, say “set alarm” to turn the alarm on. To turn off or cancel the alarm, say “turn off the alarm”. Manually, you can turn the alarm on by the switch located on the bottom side of the clock. The alarm icon on the display verifies that the alarm is activated.

Vocally 3 Freedom Voice Dialer

The Vocally 3 Freedom Voice Activated In-Line Telephone Dialer is quite easy to use. Simply attach it to your favorite telephone and record the name of the person or place you would like to program and dial that number on the attached phone one time. The next time you pick up that phone this unit will prompt you, “Who would you like me to call?” State the name you recorded, and the unit will confirm with you and then dial the number. This unit will allow you to record up to 19 digits for each name you record. Stores up to 60 names with phone numbers.

You can train the unit by speaking the name into your handset/headset and then entering the corresponding number on your telephone keypad. To call a number not stored simply press the # symbol on the attached telephone and then dial the number as usual. The dialer works with regular corded telephones and cordless phones provided you are not too far from the cordless base causing distortion on the line. Please note that it does NOT work with cell phones. Voice prompts are available in English, French, or Spanish.

To train the dialer correctly you must do so in a quiet environment.  If it does not understand what you are saying it could be because of noise interference. This can be any noise from people in the room with you, a TV or radio working in the same room, or even loud noises coming from construction taking place near you.

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May is Better Hearing and Speech Month

May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, a time to raise awareness about communication disorders and available treatment options that can improve the quality of life for those who experience problems speaking or hearing.  At least 46 million people in the United States have a hearing or other communication disorder. In addition, an estimated 17.9 million adults in the United States report having a voice problem. Problems with your voice can significantly affect your ability to perform your job. Information in this blog comes from The American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS), The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), and The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).

Taking Action on Hearing Loss: 5 Steps to Success

Hearing loss is a sudden or gradual decrease in how well you can hear. It is one of the most common conditions affecting older and elderly adults. Approximately one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing. Having trouble hearing can make it hard to understand and follow a doctor’s advice, to respond to warnings, and to hear doorbells and alarms. It can also make it hard to enjoy talking with friends and family. All of this can be frustrating, embarrassing, and even dangerous.

Do you think you could have hearing loss? By taking action today, you can start on a course to improved health and quality of life. Here’s what you can do:

Schedule a hearing evaluation. Contact a certified audiologist for a full hearing workup. An audiologist will perform various tests to find out more about your overall hearing health. This starts with ruling out other medical problems that may be affecting your hearing, ranging from wax buildup to fluid behind your eardrum. Then they will perform a hearing test to determine your exact hearing levels. Everyone’s hearing is different.

Listen to the audiologist’s recommendations. Keep an open mind when your audiologist explains your evaluation results and their recommendations. There are lots of different solutions for hearing loss.

These solutions may include:

• amplification technology, such as hearing aids or cochlear implants;

 • aural rehabilitation, which is when an audiologist provides strategies to help you hear better in situations where you have more trouble; and

 • external solutions, such as amplified telephones and/or assistive TV technology

Check with your insurance plan. Find out about your health care benefits for hearing aids. Medicare and Medicaid have their own requirements. If you have trouble paying, your audiologist may be able to recommend less expensive options. For example, the more expensive hearing aids offer many different features that you may not need. Loaner banks and financial assistance programs also may be available. Talk to your audiologist about local assistance programs.

Educate yourself. Read about the different types of hearing aids and make a list of which ones sound like the best fit for you. Check out trusted review sites and online forums. Hearing aids have many features to meet your needs and wants. Other hearing assistive technologies and strategies can help you, too. Talk to friends and loved ones about their experiences.

Understand the process. For many people who are fitted with hearing aids, it’s not like flipping a switch and then suddenly your hearing becomes perfect. Hearing aids are different than eyeglasses in this way. It may take a few visits with the audiologist to get your hearing aid settings just right. It also takes time for your brain to adjust to your hearing again; your brain processes information differently the longer you have lived with hearing loss. It’s worth the time investment of a few appointments up front.

Taking Care of Your Voice

The sound of your voice is produced by vibration of the vocal folds, which are two bands of smooth muscle tissue that are positioned opposite each other in the larynx. The larynx is located between the base of the tongue and the top of the trachea, which is the passageway to the lungs.

An estimated 17.9 million adults in the U.S. report problems with their voice. Some of these disorders can be avoided by taking care of your voice. You may have a voice problem if your voice has become hoarse or raspy, you’ve lost the ability to hit high notes when singing, your voice suddenly sounds deeper, your throat feels achy, raw, or strained, it’s become an effort to talk, or you find yourself repeatedly clearing your throat.

There are many possible causes for voice problems including upper respiratory infection, inflammation caused by gastroesophageal reflux (sometimes called acid reflux, heartburn, or GERD), vocal misuse and overuse, growths on the vocal folds, such as vocal nodules or laryngeal papillomatosis, cancer of the larynx, neurological diseases (such as spasmodic dysphonia or vocal fold paralysis), and/or psychological trauma. Most voice problems can be reversed by treating the underlying cause or through a range of behavioral and surgical treatments.

Healthy habits to take care of your voice include:

Stay hydrated:

  • Drink plenty of water, especially when exercising.
  • If you drink caffeinated beverages or alcohol, balance your intake with plenty of water.
  • Take vocal naps—rest your voice throughout the day.
  • Use a humidifier in your home. This is especially important in winter or in dry climates. Thirty percent humidity is recommended.
  • Avoid or limit use of medications that may dry out the vocal folds, including some common cold and allergy medications. If you have voice problems, ask your doctor which medications would be safest for you to use.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle and diet:

  • Don’t smoke and avoid second-hand smoke. Smoke irritates the vocal folds. Also, cancer of the vocal folds is seen most often in individuals who smoke.
  • Avoid eating spicy foods. Spicy foods can cause stomach acid to move into the throat or esophagus, causing heartburn or GERD.
  • Include plenty of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables in your diet. These foods contain vitamins A, E, and C. They also help keep the mucus membranes that line the throat healthy.
  • Wash your hands often to prevent getting a cold or the flu.
  • Get enough rest. Physical fatigue has a negative effect on voice.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise increases stamina and muscle tone. This helps provide good posture and breathing, which are necessary for proper speaking.
  • If you have persistent heartburn or GERD, talk to your doctor about diet changes or medications that can help reduce flare-ups.
  • Avoid mouthwash or gargles that contain alcohol or irritating chemicals.
  • Avoid using mouthwash to treat persistent bad breath. Halitosis (bad breath) may be the result of a problem that mouthwash can’t cure, such as low-grade infections in the nose, sinuses, tonsils, gums, or lungs, as well as from gastric acid reflux from the stomach.

Use your voice wisely:

  • Try not to overuse your voice. Avoid speaking or singing when your voice is hoarse or tired.
  • Rest your voice when you are sick. Illness puts extra stress on your voice.
  • Avoid using the extremes of your vocal range, such as screaming or whispering. Talking too loudly and too softly can both stress your voice.
  • Practice good breathing techniques when singing or talking. Support your voice with deep breaths from the chest, and don’t rely on your throat alone. Singers and speakers are often taught exercises that improve this kind of breath control. Talking from the throat, without supporting breath, puts a great strain on the voice.
  • Avoid cradling the phone when talking. Cradling the phone between the head and shoulder for extended periods of time can cause muscle tension in the neck.
  • Consider using a microphone when appropriate. In relatively static environments such as exhibit areas, classrooms, or exercise rooms, a lightweight microphone and an amplifier-speaker system can be of great help.
  • Avoid talking in noisy places. Trying to talk above noise causes strain on the voice.
  • Consider voice therapy. A speech-language pathologist who is experienced in treating voice problems can teach you how to use your voice in a healthy way.

Directory of Organizations

The NIDCD Directory lists selected national organizations that provide information on communication disorders. Each organization Is listed alphabetically and includes (when available) name, physical address, email address, and website. There is also an option to read the description for each listing as well by clicking on “view full description.” As an example of these listings, here is the overview for each site used to obtain information for this blog.  This list encompasses over 150 different organizations.


1650 Diagonal Road

Alexandria VA 22314-2857


Internet: is external)

View full description


2200 Research Boulevard

Rockville MD 20850


Internet: is external)

View full description


1 Communication Avenue

Bethesda MD 20892-3456

Email: sends e-mail)


View full description

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Teacher Appreciation

Since 1984, National PTA has designated one week in May as a special time to honor the individuals who lend their passion and skills to educating our children. This year that week was slated for May 2nd through May 8th. This annual week in May is the time of year to put the spotlight on teachers and school personnel but teachers should really be celebrated year-round, especially with all the challenges this past school year has presented. This blog will look at ways to show the teachers in your life that you care and think what they do makes a positive difference to the world around us both during Teacher Appreciation Week and every other week throughout the year.

Do It Yourself Gift Ideas

Remote or hybrid learning can make it tough to show teachers how much you care, but there are still plenty of options. From e-cards and thank-you videos to classroom goodies and decorations. The ideas in this section can be done with a little creativity and can be accomplished in tandem with your young child or by the child themselves if more advanced in ability. Ideas in this section came from 51 Ways to Celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week 2021.

  1. Have your child write and mail a letter to their teacher. This can be an especially heartfelt gesture if the teacher taught your child how to write this year. A snail mail letter sent to your child’s school to the teacher’s attention can certainly bring a smile to the instructor’s face. Don’t forget to include other school personnel, if writing multiple letters.
  2. If you can coordinate it, put together a classroom thank-you book with notes from every student who can participate. With technology, especially email, it could be easier than ever to create this sort of idea depending on how hard it would be to get permission to send information to each student’s family.
  3. For a silly gift that is sure to make a teacher laugh, make and give them this stress relief present. Use link for pre-made printable tag ideas and to purchase bubble wrap if you don’t happen to have any laying around.
  4. Record a video of your child saying thank you to their teacher and email it to them. To take this one a step further a song could be written about the school year/teacher to be sung to your teacher via video either live through video chat or through email.
  5. Plant a tree in honor of your teacher through the Arbor Day Foundation, The Trees Remember, or in your local community. Each card you purchase plants a tree helps to bring our Nation’s Forests back to life. You can personalize the cards for free-no minimum order required, and the cards will be sent to you to sign and deliver personally.
  6. Give your teacher something to help them practice a little self-care, like a journal or a nice-smelling candle. To read more on the importance of self-care and for more specific ideas check out the article Why Teacher Self-Care Matters and How to Practice Self-Care in Your School.
  7. If you are still distance learning, take a picture of your child learning from home and send it to their teacher.

Gift Ideas for in the Classroom and for Self-Care

These inexpensive appreciation gifts will help you say thanks to teachers and other school personnel without breaking the bank. The ideas in this section comes from the ILA website. The first section of gifts is for in the classroom and the second set are some self-care items available for purchase.

In the classroom:

Teachable Touchables Texture Squares: Blind children build tactile awareness interacting with these twenty textured squares (ten different pairs) in a variety of “hands-on” activities. Each textured pillow or patch measures approximately 2″ to 3″. Includes a cloth drawstring bag for storage and a tip sheet of fun activities that help teach matching, vocabulary, communication, and tactile discrimination skills. Grades Pre-K and up.

Time Timer 12 inch: This 60-minute alarm has an audible alarm and shows the remaining time in high contrast red making it easier to see from across the room.  

Wikki Stix Fun Activity Set: This innovative toy for the visually impaired can be twisted, stuck on surfaces, shaped into animals, geometric shapes, letters and numbers and then untwisted and used over and over again. This set comes with 84 vividly colored stix, a 2-sided re-usable playboard and an 8-page story booklet with creative ideas. Guaranteed to brighten the day of the visually impaired child in your life.


Angora Lower Back Warmer: Angora wool is the lightest of all-natural fibers – the hollow structure of the fibers makes it ideal for thermal clothing. Angora warmers allow the skin to breath, absorb moisture, and maintain a steady temperature at the skin surface for all-day wearing comfort.

Sleep Mask: A fabric covered opaque mask with soft padding around the nose that totally blocks out the light. The elastic band keeps the mask in place while you enjoy a restful sleep.

TheraBeads Neck Collar: This neck collar is specially contoured specifically for the neck and upper shoulder area, it is fully adjustable with hook and loop to help prevent slippage. It is ideal for soothing the neck and upper shoulder area. Microwaveable for 60 to 90 seconds for heated relief. Includes cover.

Teacher Discounts Available Year Round

Teacher discounts don’t often receive the same hype and attention as those for students. But be confident, oft-neglected educators of the world — businesses haven’t forgotten you. Feel free to pass along this list to teachers you know. Information in this section came from The Complete List of 81 Teacher Discounts, and Teacher Deals.

Apple Store: The House of Jobs is surprisingly generous to teachers of all grade levels, offering varying discounts up to $200 on computers and accessories through the Apple Education Store. This offer also includes librarians, home schoolers, university profs and even elected officers to PTA boards.

Adobe: Shop direct from the Adobe Education Store and receive discounts on select software, including bundles and suites. Adobe requires proof of employment as an educator before applying the discount.

Barnes & Noble: The B&N Educator Program provides teachers with 20-percent off the publisher’s list price on purchases for classroom use. This discount is ramped up to 25% during Educator Appreciation Days.

Cell Phone Companies (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint): This discount varies by provider, but teachers can save loads on a personal cell phone bill, sometimes up to 20 percent a month. Visit your provider’s business or discount portal and input your .edu email address to check if your institution is registered.

Costco: Costco wants to thank teachers for all they do for our children by offering an exclusive teacher membership. Teachers who join Costco as a new member are eligible to receive a $20 shop card. This exclusive teacher offer is only available online.

Blick Art Materials: Teachers should sign up for the Dick Blick Preferred Card. It’s completely free and gets you 10% off purchases at Blick and Utrecht stores. Blick also offers organizational discounts for bulk orders.

Half Price Books: Sign up for a Half Price Books’ Educator’s Discount Card and be rewarded with discounts of 10-percent year-round. This discount is truly all-inclusive, available to teachers, homeschoolers, librarians and even teachers who have been laid-off in the last year.

Joann Fabric: The free Teacher Rewards Discount Card entitles educators to 15-percent off all purchases. Home schoolers are also eligible for the card, and new members receive a 20-percent off bonus for signing up.

LOFT: Fashion forward educators are rewarded for their posh style through the Loft Loves Teachers program. Register to get 15-percent off all full-price, in-store purchases, plus perks like teacher appreciation nights and exclusive sweepstakes.

Michaels: Receive 15% off your entire purchase every day.

Staples: Register for Staples Classroom Rewards Program. First, enroll in the Staples Reward Program. The program offers perks like free delivery and up to 5-percent back in rewards for in-store purchases. Then, sign up to become a classroom rewards recipient where parents can gift rewards to your account to help pay for school supplies throughout the year.

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Vocal Disorders, Vocal Projection, and Personal Voice Amplifiers

Some people naturally speak more softly than others. This can be due to innate tendencies, how someone was raised, or due to any number of medical issues. There are things you can do to help project your voice when needed both with and without outside equipment. This blog will look at some causes for vocal disorders, tips and tricks to make your voice go further naturally and when you might benefit from a personal voice amplifier. Information in this blog came from Voice Disorders, 5 Tips to Amplify Your Voice, Why Are Voice Amplifiers Helpful to Teachers? and product suggestions from the ILA website.

What Causes Vocal Disorders?

You may have a voice disorder if you have a problem with pitch, volume, tone, and other qualities of your voice. These problems occur when your vocal cords do not vibrate normally. Your voice is the sound that air makes when it is forced out of your lungs and passes over your vocal cords. Vocal cords are the 2 folds of tissue inside your larynx, also called the voice box. The vibration of those cords is what produces speech.

Voice disorders can be caused by many factors. In some cases, the cause of a voice disorder is not known. Possible causes can include:

Growths. In some cases, extra tissue may form on the vocal cords. This stops the cords from working normally. The growths can include fluid-filled sacs called cysts, wart-like lumps called papilloma, or callus-like bumps called nodules.

Inflammation and swelling. Many things can cause inflammation and swelling of the vocal cords. These include surgery, respiratory illness or allergies, GERD (acid reflux), some medicines, exposure to certain chemicals, smoking, alcohol abuse, and vocal abuse.

Nerve problems. Certain medical conditions can affect the nerves that control the vocal cords. These can include multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, Parkinson disease, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and Huntington disease. Nerves can also be injured from surgery or chronic inflammation of the larynx (laryngitis).

Hormones. Disorders affecting thyroid hormone, female and male hormones, and growth hormones can cause voice disorders.

Misuse of the voice. The vocal cords can be stressed by using too much tension when speaking. This can cause problems in the muscles in the throat and affect the voice. Vocal abuse can also cause a voice disorder. Vocal abuse is anything that strains or harms the vocal cords. Examples of vocal abuse include too much talking, shouting, or coughing. Smoking and constant clearing of the throat is also vocal abuse.

5 Tips to Amplify Your Voice Naturally

If you are not restricted medically from trying to enhance your vocal output naturally, here are some projection tips that will help you amplify your voice.

  1. Do your warmups. If you plan on using your vocal cords a lot you will need to warm them up before using them, otherwise you may risk straining them or doing damage to your voice. Warmups can include humming, lip trills, breathing exercises, and more. Performing these techniques and warmups will prepare your vocals so that you can sound your absolute best when needing to project your voice.
  2.  Practice your breathing. When we breathe our lungs expand, which allows our vocal folds to vibrate. This increases a voice’s capacity. Exhaling deeply helps your diaphragm move up, which helps with projection – making your voice sound more confident and authoritative. (Do not do this if you are restricted due to medical reasons)
  3. Go bigger, not harder. When trying to amplify your voice, do not push your voice too hard. Pushing your voice too hard can make you hoarse and damage your vocal cords. Focus on going bigger. Imagine the inside of your stomach, throat, and mouth. Imagine them expanding. This will help prepare your muscles. Open your mouth and throat large and amplify your voice. Never force it out.
  4. Work on your posture. A person’s posture affects their voice. When speaking, keep your shoulders neutral and your head centered, including your jaw. The way you stand should ensure optimal breathing, which will give your voice the projections it needs.
  5. Practice. This includes completing all your warmups and doing what you can to ensure your voice and vocal cords are in optimal health.

What are Voice Amplifiers and Why Should You Use Them?

When using the tips above are not enough it is time to consider getting a voice amplifier. Also called a speech support device, a voice amplifier is a mini voice announcement system. A voice amplifier might be used as an accommodation for an individual who has difficulty speaking loudly enough to be heard in noisy environments or who has a medical need to speak softly due to voice limitations. Amplifiers can be personal, portable, hand-held or body worn systems, or large area sound field or public address systems. They differ from personal sound amplifiers and hearing aids which can both be worn in the ear and used to amplify the sound around them. 

A small voice amplifier has a built-in speaker and a lightweight, moveable headset. Some headsets are wired, and some are wireless. If you need more intensification of your voice, you can download amplification apps on your phone. They also come with a rechargeable battery and can be operated with one hand.

Most people feel tired after talking a lot. This is because talking requires breathing twice of air which stimulates the loss of vital oxygen (O2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) content in the brain. Intensified by speaking for long periods when stressed, this contributes to the development of problems in the voice.

Excessive talking can be straining whether or not you have medical conditions creating vocal issues. If you talk too much/long it can cause light-headedness, dizziness, unsoundness of the mind, muscular tension, and sometimes discomfort in the esophagus area. If you are getting these issues, you may benefit from a personal voice amplifier.  

ILA offers many different types of personal voice amplification products including the Naphon A-580U Mini Voice Amplifier, the Spokeman Personal Voice Amplifier, and the Geemarc Ampli550 Amplified SpeakerPhone W/Caller ID 50 dB. To see all products in this category see voice amplification.

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April is Occupational Therapy Month

During the month of April, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) celebrates Occupational Therapy Month and the more than 213,000 occupational therapists, occupational therapy assistants, and students who work nationwide to create fuller lives for clients and their families. This blog will look at the basics of occupational therapy (OT), reasons you may need OT, and a section specifically for OT for the visually impaired. Information from this blog can be found at WHAT IS OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY? and Occupational Therapy Services for Persons With Visual Impairment.

What is Occupational Therapy?

Your life is made up of occupations—meaningful everyday activities. These occupations can include many roles, such as being a parent, a friend, a spouse, a tennis player, an artist, a cook, or a musician. We generally do not think about our daily occupations until we have trouble doing them. Everyone has occupations—from the toddler whose occupations are play and learning to develop important skills, to the older adult whose occupations are engaging with family and friends and managing his or her home. If you are recovering from an accident or injury, your valued occupations may be disrupted. Occupational therapy incorporates your valued occupations into the rehabilitation process.

Occupational therapy practitioners are either occupational therapists or occupational therapy assistants. They are skilled health care professionals who use research and scientific evidence to ensure their interventions are effective. With strong knowledge of a person’s psychological, physical, emotional, and social makeup, occupational therapy practitioners can evaluate how your condition (or risk for one) is affecting your body and mind, using a holistic perspective.

OT is covered by most health insurance plans. Ask your physician about a referral for occupational therapy services or look for a private practice in your community. Talk to your child’s teacher about occupational therapy services at school.

Reasons You May Need OT

Imagine if an accident, injury, disease, or condition made it difficult for you to participate in your daily activities. A wrist injury means that getting dressed in the morning is painful. Arthritis makes driving challenging. Autism may hinder a child from interacting effectively with classmates. A traumatic brain injury keeps a wounded warrior out of active duty because of difficulties with memory and organizational skills. Or a small change in your activities or the environment could prevent a future condition (such as using ergonomics at work to avoid injury).

An occupational therapy practitioner will keep the focus on the things you need and want to do—your goals, your activities, your independence. With occupational therapy services you can:

  • Achieve goals, such as helping your teenager with a developmental disability gain the skills to transition from high school to independent living as an adult.
  • Stay as healthy and productive as possible, while managing a chronic medical condition.
  • Maintain or rebuild your independence, such as using assistive devices so you can care for yourself after a stroke.
  • Participate in the everyday activities important to you, such as driving, visiting friends, going to church, and other activities that keep you involved with your community.

In short, an occupational therapy practitioner can help you live life to its fullest no matter your health condition, disability, or risk factors.

OT for Persons with Visual Impairment

20.6 million Americans report experiencing vision impairment or blindness (Blackwell, Lucas, & Clarke, 2014). It is one of the top 10 disabilities among adults over age 18 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015).

Older adults with visual impairment are three to four times more likely than adults with normal vision to experience difficulties completing instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs), such as preparing a meal, managing medications, and utilizing community mobility options (Crews & Campbell, 2004).

Occupational therapy practitioners work to ensure that older adults are able to age in place and participate in their communities despite visual impairment. Occupational therapy practitioners are also part of coordinated rehabilitation teams that enable working age adults with visual impairment to acquire or continue independent living and productive employment.

Occupational therapy practitioners also apply their expertise with adaptive devices and assistive technology to enable older adults to use optical and non-optical devices to complete ADLs. The practitioner, for example, may work with the person to use a prescribed optical device such as a hand-held magnifier to complete shopping, or a non-optical device such as a talking glucometer to complete diabetes self-management.

Occupational therapy services for persons with low vision may be provided in any setting, including early intervention environments, schools, skilled nursing or other extended care facilities, rehabilitation centers, specialty clinics, community-based programs, and the person’s home.

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All About Reading Glasses

Like it or not, as we age, our vision tends to get worse, and you may eventually find yourself needing a pair of reading glasses. This blog will look at the reasons behind this phenomenon, how to know when it is time to consider getting a pair of readers, and how to determine which strength and style of reader is right for you. Information in this blog came from American Academy of Ophthalmology, Your Sight Matters, The Cleveland Clinic, and product suggestions from the ILA website.

Presbyopia, the Reason You May Need Reading Glasses

Presbyopia is when your eyes gradually lose the ability to see things clearly up close. It is a normal part of aging. In fact, the term “presbyopia” comes from a Greek word which means “old eye.” You may start to notice presbyopia shortly after age 40. You will probably find that you hold reading materials farther away in order to see them clearly.

Your clear lens sits inside the eye behind your colored iris. It changes shape to focus light onto the retina so you can see. When you are young, the lens is soft and flexible, easily changing shape. This lets you focus on objects both close-up and far away. After age 40, the lens becomes more rigid. It cannot change shape as easily. This makes it harder to read, thread a needle, or do other close-up tasks.

There is no way to stop or reverse the normal aging process that causes presbyopia. However, presbyopia can be corrected with eyeglasses, contact lenses or surgery. People who have trouble seeing both near and far may benefit from progressive lenses. In the future, presbyopia be treated with eye drops. If you do not correct presbyopia, you may be bothered by headaches and eye strain.

How to Know When You are Ready for Reading Glasses

OK now you know what could cause the need to have reading glasses but when is the right time to consider getting them? If any of these 5 reasons sound all too familiar it may be time to consider getting reading glasses, or at the very least make an appointment with an eye doctor to be sure.

  1. You are over the age of 40. Everyone’s eyesight changes at a different rate, but most people develop presbyopia in their 40s. Presbyopia is a condition in which the eyes strain to focus on nearby objects. This is different from farsightedness, or hyperopia, a condition in which you can see distant objects clearly, but objects nearby may be blurry. Hyperopia is usually present at birth, but presbyopia develops during the aging process.
  2. You need brighter light when reading. If you never seem to have enough light, regardless of the room type or the number of lamps you have turned on, it may be time to get reading glasses. According to a study, a 60-year-old requires three times as much light as a 20-year-old to do the same tasks.
  3. Your eyes get tired when reading or working at your computer. Do you find yourself dozing off at your computer, or do your eyelids get heavy when you read or do detailed work? If you are developing presbyopia, your eyes are working harder and straining more than they normally would. A temporary solution is to blink more often, take more breaks, or adjust your screen to reduce glare. Another option would be to get some reading glasses!
  4. You are getting more headaches. Consistently straining your eyes to read or focus on crafts could give you headaches. A headache right behind your eyes could be indicative of hyperopia. It is important to remember the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds. If your headaches persist, you should visit your eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam.
  5. You see halos. When your lens cannot focus light into your retina, it makes your vision appear blurry. You may see glowing circles around lightbulbs or car headlights. Glasses often solve this problem, but this may also be an early sign of cataracts.

Deciding on the Right Pair of Reading Glasses

Ok so maybe you are over 40 and at least one of the deciding factors sounds like you, now what? Trying to decide on the right pair of reading glasses may at first sound daunting but it does not have to. Here are three tips to keep in mind when searching for your first pair, or any pair, of reading glasses (also referred to as readers).

Tip 1: Find the right power. All reading glasses will have signs or stickers indicating their power. In most cases they will range from +1 to +5 diopter, in increments of +.25. Try the lowest power (+1) first.

Tip 2: Test-drive the glasses. If you have brought reading material with you, try reading it at a comfortable length. (Many drugstore eyeglass displays have an eye chart, too, to test the glasses.) If you have to hold the material too far out to be able to read it, increase the power. Keep testing the different powers until can read clearly at the distance that is most comfortable for you. If you are shopping online for reading glasses, you can also print off this printable reading eye chart to help you decide.

Tip 3: Go big the first time. While there are many styles and colors to choose from, you may want to start your reading glass journey with a bigger pair of specs. You may need larger glasses frames or lens to really get the sweet spot of where the prescription is. You can go down in size as you get used to wearing them.

ILA offers many different types of reading glasses including these Boca Linear Stylish Reading Glasses, Greenwich Linear Reading Glasses, and the Burgundy Designer Readers with Rhinestones.

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Information about the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled

Last week’s blog celebrated National Library Week and shared information about the things libraries offer their community. This week we will discuss the National Library Service (NLS) for the Blind and Print Disabled. Information for this blog came from the NLS website and product suggestions came from the ILA website.

What is the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS)?

The National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS), Library of Congress, administers a free national library program that provides braille and recorded materials to people who cannot see regular print or handle print materials. Established by an Act of Congress in 1931 to serve blind adults, the program was expanded in 1952 to include children, in 1962 to provide music materials, in 1966 to include individuals with other physical disabilities that prevent reading regular print, and in 2016 to permit NLS to provide refreshable braille displays. The NLS program is funded annually by Congress, and books and materials are mailed as “Free Matter for the Blind or Handicapped” through a separate appropriation to the United States Postal Service. Cooperating network libraries are funded through a combination of state, local, and/or federal sources.

Any resident of the United States or American citizen living abroad who is unable to read or use regular print materials as a result of temporary or permanent visual or physical limitations may apply for service.


The NLS Catalog contains more than 281,000 book records, of which more than 74,000 are braille books and braille music scores and 207,000 are talking books.

Books are selected for the NLS collection on the basis of their appeal across a wide range of interests. Approximately sixty-five percent are fiction, and thirty-five percent are nonfiction. Bestsellers, biographies, fiction, and how-to books are in great demand. The collection includes books in Spanish and a limited number of titles in other languages. Books for youth—from preschool to young adult—are provided in audio, braille, and print/braille. Registered borrowers learn of new books added to the collection through two bimonthly publications: Braille Book Review and Talking Book Topics. The NLS book collection and other resources from cooperating agencies are listed in the NLS Catalog.

Currently 51 audio and 40 braille magazine titles, selected for the program based on reader interest, are available through NLS by subscription. Other magazines are available on BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download). Readers may subscribe to such titles as People, National Geographic, and Consumer Reports in audio and ESPN: The Magazine and the New York Times Large Print Weekly in braille. A variety of magazines for children are also available. Current issues are mailed to readers shortly after print issues are released.

BARD and Equipment for Loan

BARD, a free online service, provides access to thousands of special-format books, magazines, and music materials. The same materials that are offered on digital cartridge and braille are also available for download in compressed digital audio and ebraille formats. The password-protected service is operated as a partnership between NLS and its network of cooperating libraries. Readers with a personal iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch can download and read audio and ebraille materials with the BARD iOS Mobile app. A refreshable braille display with a Bluetooth connection is required to access ebraille materials. Readers using Android devices, including the Amazon Kindle Fire, may use the BARD Mobile app for Android to access BARD’s audio materials. BARD Express provides NLS patrons with a simplified way to access BARD on Windows-based computers and transfer books and magazines to a NLS cartridge or USB drive.

NLS patrons are loaned playback equipment free of charge for use with talking books and magazines. Players are available in two models (standard and advanced), provide high-quality sound, offer variable speed controls, and have built-in audio instructions. The advanced player also enables bookmarking and navigation, allowing readers to skip to different parts of a book. Accessories for the players include lightweight headphones, adapters to facilitate the use of commercial USB flash drives, and a breath switch. Readers with significant hearing loss may request a high-volume player and headphones.

Devices for Purchase

Some people prefer to own their own equipment to have more freedom and ability to save/personalize their devices as they see fit. If you would rather purchase your own device ILA offers several different options to choose from.

Milestone 312 ACE Book Reader for the Blind: Use Milestone 312 ACE as your daily, portable companion and experience a new simplicity in digital entertainment that overcomes barriers. It represents a new generation of aids for visually impaired and blind people. Milestone 312 is furnished with a Voice Recorder, Music Player, superior Text to Speech voices, NLS-Audio Book Player, Clock, and Alarm. This unit can play and National Library of Congress books as well. Milestone 312 integrates enormous functionality in a small credit card size casing. The following formats are already usable with Milestone 312: MP3, M4A, M4, M4V, AAC, WMA, WAV, TXT, DAISY 2.02, DAISY 3.0, DOC, AA/AAX (NLS, Audible, Bookshare, and iTunes).

New Victor Reader Stream: The New Generation Victor Reader Stream is smaller and smarter than its predecessor with new wireless capabilities that will open up the world to the blind and visually impaired. With the new Stream you can receive content from books and newspapers to podcasts and radio. It features a louder speaker, superior text to speech and improved recording. The high contrast tactile keypad and popular Victor Reader bookshelf navigation makes this the easiest to use hand-held player on the market. This new model has been designed to be user friendly, compact, and lightweight. Read books from DAISY libraries, The National Library Service (NLS,), Bookshare, and Learning Ally.

Envoy Connect Book Player: Economical, rugged, and solar powered book player can play any file in an MP3, WAV, WMA, OGG, and FLAC format. Download books from Bookshare, LibriVox, or Open Culture. Navigation on the Connect is simple, with just a few raised, intuitive buttons for Bookshelf, play, volume, forward/back, and sleep timer. Connect has 8GB of internal storage or a microSD card slot for additional storage. High-quality built-in speaker, as well as an earphone jack and ear buds. Comes with an on-board audio tutorial as well as audible user feedback for all buttons. Solar powered or USB re-chargeable. Not DAISY compatible.

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Welcome to Your Library: National Library Week 2021

National Library Week (April 4 – 10, 2021) is a time to celebrate our nation’s libraries, library workers’ contributions and promote library use and support. This year’s them is “Welcome to Your Library.” First sponsored in 1958, National Library Week is sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) and observed in libraries across the country each April.  This  blog will look at highlights found from the ALA’s dedicated page(s) for National Library Week. Read to the end to discover all the ways in which libraries are able to help anyone in their communities.

Celebration of Library Workers’ Contributions on April 6th

Library staff play an invaluable role in supporting their communities both in person and virtually as the world continues to fight COVID-19. In times of crisis, libraries of all types and their workers serve millions of library users in need of free access to WiFi, eBooks, accurate information, and digital social services.

On April 6, 2021, the nation will celebrate National Library Workers Day (NLWD), a time to recognize library staff members for their public service contributions in transforming lives and communities through education and lifelong learning.

The ALA Allied Professionals Association (ALA-APA) invites library advocates, patrons, and staff to show their support of our nation’s library workers by posting words of encouragement and appreciation for their local library stars at Academic, public, special, school library patrons can “Submit a Star” by providing a brief testimonial about a favorite library employee. Patrons are welcome to share stories about how library staff has an impact on their lives or community. Each testimonial will appear in ALA-APA’s “Galaxy of Stars.”  Library staff and the general public can also share well wishes over their social media channels with the hashtag #NLWD21 or post messages to the National Library Workers Day Facebook page.

National Library Outreach Day on April 7th

Libraries across the country will observe National Library Outreach Day on April 7, 2021. Formerly known as National Bookmobile Day, communities will celebrate the invaluable role library professionals and libraries continuously play in bringing library services to those in need.

The American Library Association (ALA), the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services (ABOS), and the Association for Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL) agreed to rebrand National Bookmobile Day in recognition of all that outreach library professional do within their communities.

Library services surpass bricks and mortar, as library professionals continue to adapt and develop innovative ways to deliver library materials and services that transform lives and support lifelong learning. Whether bookmobile, outreach van, book bike, senior services, school services, library workers go above and beyond to ensure that marginalized, underserved populations and all community members have access to library services.

“During COVID-19, library outreach workers continue to provide essential resources and services to their communities,” said David Kelsey, president, ABOS. “Whether providing free Wi-Fi in mobile libraries, providing virtual programming and storytimes, calling seniors in isolation, or distributing food and clothing, outreach workers are there to meet patrons and their communities.”

During the day, libraries will participate in a Virtual Bookmobile Parade and post to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with the hashtag #LibraryOutreachDay. ALA will highlight examples of innovation over its social media channels and on its Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services (ODLOS) blog, Intersections.

Quotable Facts About America’s Libraries

The following facts are found from a 2019 ALA pdf entitled “Quotable Facts About America’s Libraries – January 2019.”

  • The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, with more than 167 million items on approximately 838 miles of bookshelves, which would span roughly the distance from The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., to Cape Canaveral, Florida.
  • Libraries play a critical role in the happiness of Americans. Communities that spend more on libraries, parks and highways are shown to support the well-being of community members.
  • Americans go to public libraries more often than they go to the movies.
  • There are more public libraries than Starbucks in the U.S. – a total of 16,568, including branches. Nearly 100% of public libraries provide Wi-Fi and have no-fee access to computers.
  • There were 113 million attendees at public library programs in 2016, more than all Major League Baseball, National Football League, and NBA games combined. That’s 16.5 million more than in 2013.
  • Students in high-poverty schools are almost twice as likely to graduate when the school library is staffed with a certified school librarian.

Libraries strengthen local economies.

  • 84% of libraries offer technology training to patrons in computer software use;
  • 76.8% of libraries provide online health resources and 60% offer programs to help Americans identify health insurance resources and get better informed on health topics;
  • 73.1% of libraries provide programs that assist individuals apply for jobs, create resumes, and prepare for interviews;
  • 97% of libraries help people complete online government forms

Libraries create healthier communities.

  • 77% of libraries offer online health resources
  • 59% provide programs on finding health insurance
  • 58% provide programs to help people find and evaluate health information
  • 23% offer fitness classes

Libraries are the place for lifelong learning.

  • 95% provide online homework assistance
  • 95% offer summer reading programs for children

Library access equals opportunity.

  • 100% of public libraries offer access to the Internet
  • 98% of public libraries offer free Wifi
  • 90% help patrons with basic Internet skills
  • 97% help people complete online government forms
  • 9 out of 10 libraries offer access to e-books

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*Blog banner reproduced with permission from the ALA National Library Week Press Kit

Time to Wake Up! Alarm Clocks for the Hearing Impaired

Trying to wake up from a deep sleep can be hard for practically anyone. This is especially true for those with varying degrees of hearing loss. Luckily, there are many options available to help rectify this issue to ensure that even the soundest of sleepers are able to wake up at their desired time.  This blog will look at bed shaker type alarms starting with an understanding of what bed shakers do and then delving deeper into the differences between wired and wireless versions of these products.

What are Bed Shakers?

Hearing a standard alarm clock can be a challenge for people with hearing loss. Specially designed alarm clocks for people who have hearing loss come in many forms, including those with bed shakers. These alarm clocks can operate by electricity or by batteries. Battery powered alarms can be useful when traveling.

Bed shakers (also seen as bed-shakers and bedshakers depending on source) are small disc shaped devices that are meant to be used either under a pillow or between the mattress and box spring. As the name implies, they are used to shake the bed to help awaken its occupant. It is connected either wirelessly or directly wired to a compatible alarm clock.  The alarm clock settings determine when (and often how strongly) the disc will start vibrating to help rouse a sleeper from a deep sleep. The vibrating discs can also be accompanied with high decibel sounds and/or some kind of flashing light/lamp. Even if someone is not hard of hearing these devices have the added benefit of making it harder to sleep through an alarm of pressing the snooze button.

Wired Bed Shaker Alarms

Obviously, the main difference between a wired and wireless bed shaker are the ways in which they are connected to the alarm clock device itself. Please note that even though the disc is wired to the clock that does not automatically mean that it is then wired to an outlet. Some of these clocks run off removable batteries but the disc is still wired to the clock itself.  Here are a few benefits for having a wired device.

Comes as one unit: Since the disc is connected to the clock there is only one unit/product to keep track of and they are always together.

Set location: Since the wires are a certain length, it may be easier to have a set routine in using them as they can only go in certain areas. This means that they will most likely always be in sight when near the bed.

Always within reach: Since the disc is wired to the clock there is little worry that it will move out of reach during the night or upon any movement created by shaking. If more than one pillow is used, or a pillow is often taken outside of the bedroom, it also makes it more difficult to accidentally move the disc outside of the sleeping zone.

An example of the wired disc bed shaker alarm clock is the Tactile Talking Clock with Bedshaker. This clock speaks the time and date in a male voice with adjustable volume. The clock face opens to reveal a tactile analog face. The time can be spoken on demand. It includes a wired pillow shaker. There are three different types of alarm combinations to choose from (vibration, audio, or both). It uses 2 AAA batteries which are not included. Being tactile this clock is also a good option for persons with vision loss as well.

Wireless Bed Shaker Alarms

Wireless devices are exactly that wireless. The main benefit these have over their wired counterparts is they can literally be used anywhere, so long as they have an adequate charge.

Convenience: No worry about accidentally pulling the cord (and thus disc) out from under the pillow or from between the mattress and box spring.

Mobility: Easy to travel with and take anywhere you go, even camping with an adequate charge.

Easy setup: Fast and easy to setup wherever you go without having extra cords hanging about.

Two examples of wireless bed shakers are:

AlarmDock Smartphone Dock with Bedshaker: Use your own smartphone and create an extra loud alarm clock with 100dB sound and/or a bedshaker. The docking station pairs with a personal smartphone and uses a wireless bedshaker and 100dB alarm to wake a hard sleeper or hard of hearing person. It uses a free iOS or Android app to manage alarms, timers, volume and tone control, flasher activation, and large clock read out. The wireless speaker can play music from the phone in clear, full sound.

TimeShaker Alarm Clock with Wireless Bedshaker: The TimeShaker™ BOOM alarm clock with bedshaker is a wonderful clock for the hard of hearing or the deep of sleeping. This alarm clock features a wireless bedshaker disc for placing under your pillow or between your mattress and box spring. The TimeShaker™ is loaded with features to help wake you up.

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