Tag Archives: hearing loss

To My Mother: She Heard Me and Held Me

In the 6 years I’ve had this blog, I’ve not once written anything in honor of my amazing mother. Well, today that’s what I’m doing. It’s to be a perfect tribute to a woman who took on the extra mile of being a mother to a deaf and partially blind child… And it’s Mother’s Day.

To start, my mom was a very young woman, just in her first year of her marriage to my dad, when she became pregnant with me. To top it off, she became sick with German Measles in the first trimester.

It is also called Reubella, and if you know about it, you can understand that it is a terrifying situation for a woman that early in her pregnancy. She could have chosen to terminate it, knowing there would be a good chance I would be severely disabled, but she didn’t. My mom had faith that God would protect me and things would be fine. She trusted God’s will, no matter what that would mean.

I’m glad she did.

When I was born, my mom was thrilled to find me healthy and whole. She didn’t know of my deafness or of the weak retinas I gained from Reubella. I grew, cried, and ate like any baby. I babbled and played, which didn’t reveal any of my disablities, until I was around three years old. I was still babbling, and a friend of my mom hinted, “I think your daughter is deaf. Maybe you should get her hearing tested?”

That meant my family, which now included my little brother, would need to drive down to a bigger city hours away from home for me to have the test done. If I remember correctly, from what my mom had shared with me, it was in Tucson, Arizona, at the University of Arizona, where I got my hearing tested.  They were able to confirm what everyone was wondering.

“Yes, your daughter is deaf.  She has a severe to profound hearing loss.”

That shook my family’s world, and we all moved down to Tucson to give me the best access to services to help me get hearing aids, an education, and family support.

I went to a school in Tucson called “Clinic for Hearing Impaired Children.” Now, the term “hearing impaired” went out years ago as it was considered not “politically correct”, but it was the ’80’s, and people were still learning how to help deaf and hard of hearing people gain a better quality of life and education.  I learned “Total Communication,” which is the method of teaching sign language while teaching how to speak and understand the English language.

While I was going there, my mom came every day and watched me in my classes through a one way window. She took the time to learn the signs and continue what I learned in school at home.

I wish I could say that was common with deaf children, but sadly, it isn’t. Most of the time, parents send their deaf children to a residental state school for the deaf and let the dorm parents take care of them. A few of them took the time and effort to learn sign so they could communicate with their children, and I do know a few of them.

As I grew up, my mom was there being my “coach” on the swim team, my interpreter at church, and my advocate as I was mainstreamed in the public schools. She even became my teacher as she homeschooled me for a couple of years. She taught me to stand up for myself. She ingrained Philippians 4:13 in to my head. “Just because you are deaf, it doesn’t mean you can’t do anything.”

At 11 years old, I lost partial vision in my right eye. I went to eye doctors and specialists and found out that I had a tear in my retina in the central part of my vision. Once it healed, it left a permanent scar in the center of my vision. My eye became lazy and permanently shifted to the right, giving me the ability to use the remaining of my vision to see some things around me.

That didn’t stop me.

I went to Hawaii with my Girl Scout troop, and my mom was my offical interpreter for the trip. What a blast! She encouraged me when I found my love for signing songs. When it came to deciding college, she was all for me going 2000 miles from home to Gallaudet University. What mom would do that?! She knew it was the right school for me.

Now as a mom, she has been a huge support and friend when I went through rough patches, and in turn, I was able to be there for her when she went through hers.  We are miles away from each other, but thanks to technology, we visit online almost every day, and we do video chats to share how we’re doing.

All of that…. Is my Mom. God blessed me in having an amazing Mom, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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Purple Ears

I had gone to the audiologist way back in October of last year, and not too long after that visit, I was given two brand new hearing aids. The shock of all the noise was a lot to take in for the first couple of weeks. There were appointments of adjusting certian sounds through the months of November and December. We were just getting it right, but for some odd reason, I just could not get my hearing aids to stop distorting my voice when I yelled for my kids, or when I heard certian high pitches.

My audiologist and I were baffled. It was at the point of, just before Christmas, she said, “It might be that it would be something you’ll have to live with.”

In the middle of that whole process, I decided to make my hearing aids stand out by exchanging the beige colored ones for some bright purple ones. IMG_0136

Eventually, I plan on getting some bright colorful earmolds to go with the purple hearing aids. I’m not going to hide the fact I wear them to hear the world around me. My future students need to see their teacher isn’t ashamed of being deaf/hard of hearing.  (The reason I use both is because I am profoundly deaf in my right ear and severely in my left. I’m right on the edge of being completely deaf, though with hearing aids, I am hard of hearing.)

That doesn’t mean I can function like a hearing person does, though! I still have to work twice as hard as a hearing person. I still lipread, use sign language is my primary language, and can’t hear certian speech sounds. My clear speech is all due to some amazing speech therapists I  had growing up. I still can’t hear my voice completely. I can’t hear the “s” or “th”  sound, but when I talk, I know what it feels like to make those sounds. I’m just a great fooler… No one can guess I was born deaf with the way I can talk.

Even though I thought I would need to resign to the way my world now sounded, which was different than what I had grown up with. I was beginning to resent wearing hearing aids, but something nagged in me to keep fighting to get the sound I was familiar with back.

It had been a month since our last appointment, and I decided I should try one more time to see if we could figure out how to get it the way I had with my other hearing aids.

I called through my video relay app on my phone, and immediately, the secretary knew who was calling. I tell her that I just can’t stand the way a a certian pitch gets distorted, and I just want to try one more time in adjusting my hearing aids. “Sure!” my interpreter signs back to me, “Would tomorrow at 11:45 work for you?” I nod and sign, “YES!” I had a glimmer of hope that my hearing aids could be adjusted to be what I wanted.

The next day, as I walked into the office, I was greeted cheerfully by my audiologist and she immediately tells me that she now knows what needs to be done for me. “I had a client yesterday who is just like you, but he had a bit of a nerdy way of figuring it all out.” The guy apparently had a pitch app on his phone that helped him find what pitches his hearing aid went crazy on him. After a few minutes of detective work, she discovered that, according to the computer program, the hearing aids had a feature called a whistle diffuser and a feedback diffuser. At the pitches of whistles and feedback, the hearing aids would automatically try to “dial” down the down, causing it to sound robotic. Once she turned those features off, the whistle pitches came through the hearing aids just as they were supposed to sound. With the feedback diffuser off, you would hear the feedback. It just happened that the guy didn’t like hearing the feedback or the whistling, so he had his turned back on. “I’ll learn to live with it!” he had told her.

“You grew up with having analog hearing aids. Feedback and the whistle sounds are something you’re used to. Lets try turning off those features and see what happens.” It dawned on me, at that moment, that my old digital hearing aids had the feedback reducer feature and was turned off as well. I told her, and she laughed. “That could be just it!”

The second those features were turned off, I suddenly could hear clearer. I asked her to bump up the volume, and that helped quite a bit.

Its been four days since that final adjustment, and I say final because everything sounds like what I am used to. Music is clearer, and I can hear the high saprano voices I love without it becoming distorted. I called for my kids the other day to tell them it was time to go home, and I didn’t sound like a robot. It’s amazing how that made me feel. I was me again.

The con is I can hear feedback in my right ear now. It is a sore reminder that I do need new earmolds soon. Once I do get new earmolds, that feedback will be gone, and they’re going to be colorful, too! That will be fun.

 


Deaf Educating the Hearing

Tonight I had the opportunity to teach a group of hearing, plus one becoming deaf, people about my world.

I had been working on it for a while, especially in preparing a series of slides and making an outline of what to talk about in the allotted hour that I was given. That was a challenge. There is SO much I could say about it.

I narrowed it down to the basics- Hearing loss, how we try to function in a hearing world, and all the things that involve our lives, such as closed captioning, hearing aids, and interpreters. I figured that would be good enough information to help them understand a little bit of our world.

I was pretty nervous all day about how I was going to start, and yet, I knew I was going to be okay. I had my slide show done, and got some ear plugs to have my “students” put in their ears to give them a little bit of deafness for a game I had planned on doing.

I started out with explaining a bit of about the wide range of deafness and what mine was, which was from birth. It was interesting to see the reaction of how my mother didn’t know I was deaf until I was around 3 years old.  I shared a little of my own memories of hearing with my hearing aids for the first time.

I signed and spoke as I went along… Then I had everyone put their earplugs in. We came to find out they didn’t cancel out a whole lot of sound, so I modified the game to where I just whispered the words while they wore the ear plugs. It was hilarious!  Simple words had them baffled. We laughed as we saw each other’s puzzled faces, even after repeating the words several times. I had them write down what they thought I said, and at the end of the game, we all had a lot of fun seeing who got it right and who didn’t. We also had a little bit of fun hearing what others thought I had said when they were wrong. I went on to say that reading lips for a long period of time, for a Deaf person, is exhausting. I saw one person, who is going deaf, nod with agreement.

The next thing we talked about was the variety of hearing aids over time, and I even threw in a comical picture of a “hearing aid” that was an exaggerated piece of art in reality.  I shared about the struggles of having a hearing aid, especially with how expensive they are. The topic of the Cochlear Implant was also brought up, and, even though it’s not something I feel is right for me, it is an option for anyone who feel it is for them.

TTYs and TTDs came up, and then I discussed how videophone has opened such a great way for Deaf people to make phone calls. I had tried to call a friend on my VP, but there was a bit of a technical difficulty. Fortunately, I had the sense to have some pictures of what a VP conversation roughly looks like. The class could even see a picture of how VRS (Video Relay Service) works.  What was really awesome was we had someone who worked at the 911 center share his own experience of working with the relay services to help Deaf people who needed the 911 service.

When we came to talk about ASL (American Sign Language), I shared a little bit of history and how sign language is different in every country. I showed a little bit of what I knew of BSL ABC signs. It was a bit awkward. I told the story of my brother’s experience of finding out how different Australian sign language was from the sign language he had learned from being my brother. We had a little fun of showing how expressive the language is and the necessity of facial expression. My daughter even piped up about how it looks when I am mad.  “Show them, Mom!” I told her no… I didn’t want to scare them off!

Before we knew it, the hour was over. Questions shot up and a lot of them were really good ones. The creation of name signs, how to learn the language – book vs. class, and questions about my own experiences.

Now that I’m done with this class, I am wondering where this will take us… Perhaps a sign class? I think it would be a great way to open up communication between Deaf and Hearing people, even if its just in my church!  One thing I am excited about is being able to help a couple communicate with ASL with one of them becoming deaf. They’re looking forward to it, and I am, too.


Music for Different Ears

I had the sad experience of having my beloved ipod stolen from me yesterday and it really made me realize how vital music plays in my life.

Its a tad ironic that it does since I have been born with a hearing loss, and music wouldn’t be naturally considered a part of my life, especially with my right ear is profoundly deaf. To help you understand what that means, there are four different levels of hearing loss; Mild, Moderate, Severe, and Profound, in that order. People who usually have moderate to slightly profound have found assistance through hearing aids to help them be able to get something out of the sounds around them. Once you’re in the deep profound range, hearing aids usually don’t have the power to help you. I do have several friends who are in this range who have opted to use the controversial Cochlear Implants to give them some kind of hearing to function in a very noisy world. As for me, I am able to use hearing aids to pick up most of the sounds around me, though there are some ranges of sound my ears will never be able to pick up like any normal person would be able to, and it is worse in my right ear, as my husband can attest to when the battery in my left hearing aid goes out. That doesn’t stop me from listening to my music. I crank up my music on my ipod to the point where sometimes people around me can hear it a little bit, or I have my hearing aids on while I have music playing in my car or in my home.  Right now, with my earphones on, I have the volume cranked all the way up to 100 off my computer to listen to music. I’m sure the normal hearing person wouldn’t have it cranked up that high with headphones on.

Growing up, my home was always filled with music. My parents sang in the church choir. I loved my mother’s voice and was jealous of my bother’s gift of music. It was hard being the only one who wasn’t musically gifted, all thanks to my hearing loss, but I did find a different way to channel my love for music a different way eventually.  Signing songs gave me a way to truly enjoy the music I listened to, and I love a very wide range of music.

Pandora has been a favorite access site for me to dabble in the many different forms of music available to me, and currently I am sitting here listening to the “New Age” music. It calms me and invigorates my imagination. I would write my poems, which I have not done in a long time, or create short stories in my head inspired by some of my favorite literary settings or characters. My all time favorite is Middle-Earth, though I have visited Prince Edward Island, Narnia, England, and the Renaissance era, just to name a few. But when I’m not in the need of calming, I use music to motivate me.  Techno or Rock moves me to exercise or clean around my home. For encouragement during a rough time in my life, I turn to my Worship music like Chris Tomlin or Michael W. Smith.  When I’m driving, I find it hard not to turn my radio on to listen to the Christian Radio station. If I don’t have the kids in the car with me, I would listen to the Country music station. I’d have my cds playing, but my cd player is currently broken in my car. The reason for not having my kids in the car is because some Country songs are a little questionable for a young child, since they’re reputably known to be about broken relationships and sad situations. I don’t feel comfortable letting my five and three year old hear songs about such things. In this world we live in, I’d like them to keep their innocence for as long as they can.

Back to the subject of music…

Music plays a big part of who I am, and I am grateful for it. Sure, I am an ipod-less person at the moment, but I am not without my hearing aids, a huge collection of cds, a computer to play them on, and, last but not least, there is Pandora to entertain my ears and mind with.

Next month, with the Deaf Ministry group at my church, I will be signing two songs for our annual Spring Sign Concert. The first is a solo of Stand Up by Fireflight and, the second is Healing Rain by Michael W. Smith with a friend of mine. There are to be many other people signing songs during the concert, but for me, its a great way for me to share my love of music and God’s creation of it. He did make us musical creatures – Afterall, we’re the only creation that sings just for the pure expression of the deeper part of ourselves, either it be grief, anger, joy, or peace. Birds and other animals sing for communication, though it is very beautiful to listen to… But that altogether is a whole new subject to get into.

My mind is wandering with pictures of Paradise; green pastures, crystal clear waters, radiant flowers blowing gently falling off trees by a coaxing spring wind, and peace becoming a tangible thing…. Isn’t music a beautiful thing? I know Heaven has to have perpetual music, and I’m looking forward to it.  As for now, I will enjoy my music on Earth and thank God for it everyday. I’ll consider it training for the day I enter His kingdom to “Sing of His Praise Forever”… Even with these different ears of mine.