Do you use captioning? On TV, perhaps, or in the theater, or on internet videos? Perhaps you enjoy CART (Communication Access RealtimeTranslation) at live events?
It’s not easy to explain the simple power of turning the captions “ON” for people who have difficulty hearing the spoken word. It’s the difference between dark and light, confusion and clarity, misinterpretation and understanding. Instead of being locked outside in a storm, we’re chatting with friends around a fire.
In whatever form we use it, captioning brings the spoken word to life. It turns blah-de-blah-de-ya-da into meaningful conversation. It gives us access to people, and that’s what we’re all here for, right? So what happens when we lose the words, when there’s no captioning to fill in the blanks?
It’s the kind of news that makes the hard of hearing heart beat faster.
No, there’s been no proclamation of National 50% Off Hearing Aids Day.
No announcement of a little pink pill that will make damaged cochlear hair cells spring back to life.
No scientific proof of a twice-daily mantra that will calm the neurons firing off tinnitus cannons in our heads.
It’s more like a climate change event, with the barometer rising in the world of hearing health care.
On June 2nd, the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) issued what is considered a ground-breaking report: Hearing Health Care for Adults: Priorities for Improving Access and Affordability. A powerhouse expert committee, comprised of members from all stakeholder groups, assessed the state of hearing health care, its affordability and accessibility for adults in the United States.
Everybody asks for things to be repeated. Whether you can hear people whispering in a noisy restaurant or have trouble understanding even your oen mom on the phone, everyone needs to say pardon me on occasion.
Maybe a person is talking with a mouth full of food, munching words beyond recognition. More than one person is speaking at once, and your ears can’t keep straight who’s saying what. Words don’t seem to match the speaker’s facial expression—sad words but happy eyes, for example—and you don’t want to give the wrong response. In these situations, even ‘hearing’ people ask for repeats or clarification.
But for the person with hearing loss who needs darn near perfect listening conditions, these are only a few of the reasons our days are punctuated with Hey? What was that? Pardon me?
It’s Monday, the beginning of the week, and time to update my hearing loss To Do list. Because hearing losss is what I have as well as what I do, my list never changes much from week to week—nor does it ever quite get done.
Call the audiologist to book a hearing aid cleaning. It’s like getting your teeth cleaned—no one likes doing it, but whiter teeth or sparkly, crisp sound are worth it. At least hearing aid checkups don’t hurt. And while I’m there, I’ll ask—again—why there’s no information on hearing loss for hard of hearing (HoH) people to read as they wait. Just accessible phones for sale and offers of rewards if you get your friends to come in for a hearing test.
Note: If you’re looking for tips on how to get oil stains out of your shirt, or how to remove old wallpaper, you’re in the wrong place. People with hearing loss deal with those issues in the same way as hearing people. This article is about dealing with noise, Enemy #1 of people with hearing loss.
Housework is noisy. Yesterday, as I moved through the house dragging the central vac hose behind me, I could focus only on the boredom—and the noise. My cats feel the same way, flying into a hiding place at the sight of the vacuum.
Noise is often defined as unwanted sound, so I guess that means that nobody likes noise. But what hearing people consider to be wanted sound is often just sheer noise for people with hearing loss (PWHL), especially those of us who . . .
How’s this for a salad bar of communication strategies?
Hearing aids. Cochlear implants. Speechreading skills. Assistive listening devices. Telecoils and looping. Bluetooth. Captioning on TV, at the movies, on our smartphones. Assertiveness in having our needs met. Manipulating our listening environment with lighting, good sight lines, and low-or-no background noise.
People with hearing loss pick and choose the ones they need, want, or can afford in order to communicate to their best ability. And with the right attitude, it usually works. But what about those days when attitude turns sour, when coping with hearing loss becomes a grind? At times like this, what are you gonna do?
Over the past 25 years, I’ve taught all grades in the elementary school, as well as serving my large, urban district as a literacy coach. Currently, my classroom is full of fresh-faced first graders.
I am deaf.
Three years ago, I lost my hearing in what my otologist deemed to be idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL). It was quite a blow. Having been a “normal” hearing person until that moment, experiencing a sudden and dramatic hearing loss was overwhelming. Indeed, my first thoughts were of my students. When my doctor delivered the bad news, I cried out that I had 28 students coming to my room the next day—the first day of school.
I’m not going to lie. It took every ounce of resolve I had to walk into my classroom that morning knowing that I was virtually deaf .
I adore Christmas, especially the tingle-inducing music. But this holiday season, I’m wondering—when did I lose the ability to sing it? (Some in my family would tell you that I never had that ability, but they’re such kidders. They know I can sing well—if I manage to stay on key.)
Growing up, I sang in Christmas choirs (being flanked fore and aft and side by side by other singers helped keep me on key) at school and in church. My family sang Christmas carols in the car, belting out Joy to the World in harmony, more or less.
But it’s not easy anymore. When surrounded by other singers, I have trouble hearing myself and it shuts me down. But music made by other people still thrills—especially familiar music played at a reasonable volume, and if it’s a single voice not drowned out by an orchestra. When I’m home in my own house, I sing because there’s no one to wince if I’m off-key; our cats don’t recognize bad singing from good and my husband loves me too much to complain. But at Christmas time, music is meant to be shared, to be sung together so if I’m in a group, I just kind of move my lips and let little sounds out, audible and felt only to me.
It’s that time of year again—the season of being pummeled with advice on how to survive the holidays. All sorts of issues pop and bloom with the festivities: anxiety and stress, weight problems or financial worries. For me and my people, we have holiday hearing issues that exclude us from what’s going on.
This time of year is particularly tough for those of us who don’t hear very well and who may use hearing aids or cochlear implants. Almost every day, articles appear in our inbox from hearing professionals or other people who have it, telling us how to make the holidays more accessible and meaningful.
But really? All we want for Christmas is to understand what everyone else understands, and to be able to participate in real-time without having to ask for repeats every few seconds.
That’s not easy in a season of low ambient lighting, constant jingly-jangly music, and excited wine-fuelled people talking over each other around a long rectangular dinner table. We fall off the conversation boat and the people we love may not notice. That’s the most painful part of this season of togetherness—being left out.
I have a small bone to pick with people who can hear well. It’s not that I begrudge them their hearing—but do they have to be so show-offy about it?
These people let you know when they hear a pin drop. They can understand what’s being said way over there. They can understand speech in noisy situations—on a roller coaster, for example. And that’s all very nice but why do they need to ask me—a certified HoH (hard of hearing person), the crowned Queen of Pardon?—if I hear that itty-bitty chickadee on top of that tree half a mile away. Why even bother excusing themselves for a burp? There’s no way I would hear what must be all of 15 decibels, hardly a Richter-scale vibration.
In those moments, in the grip of a secret fit of hearing-envy, I have to remind myself, who really wants to hear all that stuff? Pretty birdsong is one thing, but when it comes to indelicate sounds, people with high frequency hearing loss
It’s probably not an easy thing to learn that your two year-old daughter has permanent hearing loss. You worry, because she is also a sensitive child for whom the sky will be always bluer and the grass always greener than for some other people.
That’s how my father, a few years ago, described my mother’s discovery that my willful behavior was actually hearing loss (the psychological analysis came from their close friend, a professional who worked children).
Several decades have passed; my initially mild loss is now severe to profound and I wear two hearing aids. I love the blue of skies and the green of grass, but I don’t know if they are any different than what you see, although I do admit to a tendency of being over-sensitive.
Have you ever been tossed on the stormy seas of hearing loss nomenclature?
That’s the term or terms applied to someone or something, and in the hearing loss and deaf worlds it’s what you’re called if you have it, if you are it, if you have some of it, or if you ain’t got none of it.
Deaf. Deafened. A little deaf. Legally deaf. Late-deafened. Oral deaf.
Hard of hearing. Hearing-impaired. Person with hearing loss. Hearing aid user. CI-user.
If things are too calm at meetings of people who are deaf or have hearing loss, stand up and say, “Hey, just wondering. Why don’t we just get our act together and agree that we’re all hearing-impaired.”
Then quickly leave the room and jump into a waiting car.
Nothing gets people more riled up—particularly those whose deafness plays a significant role in their everyday life—than having an undesired label slapped on their forehead. Most people, especially those with milder hearing losses, pick a description and stick with it. For them, there are no political overtones, social agenda or disability awareness attached to any term they use. It’s simply how they’re used to describing someone with the issue, or perhaps they adopted it from their hearing care professional. . . .
People with hearing loss bluff. It’s what we do, a basic fact of our lives. We pretend to understand what’s being said and what new direction the conversation is heading (if we got it in the first place), whereas in reality we have lost the connection and so we fake it.
It’s not that we want to bluff. Exactly the opposite—we’d love to be fully engaged with what other people are saying, in the exact moment they’re saying it. Unfortunately, our reliance on visual speech cues makes it difficult to follow the ping-pong nature of conversation or when background noise obliterates speech sounds.
For the record, I am vehemently opposed to bluffing. It’s dishonest to other people and counter-productive to our own well-being. Yet in spite of my personal vendetta against bluffing, I still do it. Yep, ignoring my own best intentions, I bluff. Like last night at a house party; people were gathered around the living room playing . . . Read more . . .How to Bluff Like a Pro
Recently several articles on what NOT to say to deaf people have been floating on Facebook. I understand the writers’ exasperation, having been on the receiving end of many of the comments. Although I’m no longer insulted by most of them, once in a while I have to grab my chin to keep my jaw from dropping to the floor.
The inane remarks usually just reveal a profound ignorance about how hard of hearing or deaf people communicate. This is not their issue;