News, Information and Ideas on how to deal with hearing loss in a hearing world. Plus a few other topics!
Every once in a while, I try and put some thoughts together on the observations I've made over the years in my experiences with hearing loss. While some of this may seem a little far reaching to those without hearing loss, hopefully, it will answer or even explain some of the behaviours and tactics associated with how we think, perceive and react to the challenges that we come across in our everyday lives. Keep in mind, that this is my perception and there are probably others that have a differing opinion. With that being said, here we go!
Being a child of the 1960's, there was a very limited amount of Knowledge and 'Best Practices' when it came to Mainstreaming a child with hearing loss in the Public School System. Back then, if you were Deaf and happened to live in close proximity to an educational institution for the Deaf, you were probably immersed in the Deaf Culture way of living life. In my case, I attended the local Public School located in the small town that I grew up in. My hearing loss was not diagnosed until I was in Kindergarten. Luckily for me, my teacher was noticing that she didn't have a student that was not paying attention, but one that was really missing what was being said in the classroom. There were no hearing aids back then that would work for me and when you look at how they tested hearing at that time, they probably didn't even realize what type of loss I had or how severe it was.
The term 'Mainstreaming' was not a part of the school curriculum. Yet, in hindsight, that's what was done. As I've gone through life, I've realized that there was a lot that I missed in the classroom which in turn made it very difficult to put the pieces of the puzzle together when it came to being able to excel in Academia World. For kids like me, we usually found a way to figure things out. If we got really lucky, there would be a teacher that would spend a little extra time trying to explain things to us. Of course, we also had the teachers (through no fault of their own) that just didn't have the teaching sense to take the extra time to make sure we were on the same playing field as the other kids with normal hearing. In my case, if I did understand all of the parts of a lesson, it would show in my testing. If I was missing some key parts in a subject, the teachers would be baffled and wonder what I was up to. Again, without all of the technology and tools that we now have, there were many times where I was passed on ahead to the next level since they knew that I was intelligent. But, I'm sure that they were not quite sure of how I was processing what they were trying to teach me. I still find myself having to look things up now (thank goodness for the internet!) so that I understand how it all fits in certain subject areas. I also have to take a lot of time with my written word to make sure that I'm not jumping all over the place as well as looking words up since I'm not quite sure how to pronounce them.
As an adult, I've had many opportunities to live in both the hearing world as well as the non-hearing one. I've elected to learn as much as I can in both. Just a few years ago, I was able to broaden my world to include those that are classified as Deaf. The frustrations that I experienced were a little surprising to me. After all, at that time, I thought that there were just 2 worlds out there. Now that I've had the time to really experience and learn from some pretty awesome people, I realize that when you break down the Hearing Loss World, there are several categories that we all could fit into. There are also several thoughts and ways of doing things based on the type of hearing loss that you have. It's a never ending educational and personal journey to try and stay in step with all of it. My biggest challenge has been channeling the frustration of adapting based on which group I am in at the moment. And yes, there are many times when I'm ready to throw in the towel and retreat back to my safety zone. That's usually when I get quiet and just observe. Of course, this can also be perceived by others as rude or even condescending on my part. Again, another little nuance depending on the type of hearing loss you have or are surrounding yourself with.
I hear a lot about the inequalities experienced by all of us regardless of if we have hearing loss or not. I also get a little irritated when a person goes into the 'woe is me' mode. It's very easy to give up and expect those around you to adapt to your way of doing things. When they don't, that's usually when you start hearing about the discrimination of it all. Anger is an easy way out, in my opinion. It's one of the reasons that people tell me I'm so competitive. I compete to learn and adapt to the hearing abilities of others as well as myself. While most people only do this when they are in a game, job or testing situation, I choose to do it most of my day. It can be tough to be around me since I tend to challenge and ask a lot of questions. As my family has said many times, I am perceived as never letting my guard down. The mode of relaxing for those with hearing loss is very different from those that don't have to work on hearing everything that is going on around them. It can also lead to others thinking that you aren't quite all there if they don't understand the Hows and Whys in your approach on doing things.
Recently, I've been doing a little more work with all types of hearing loss. The modes of communication are amazing. It's also very tiring mentally for me. Imagine being in a room where you have CART (realtime captioning on a large screen for those to read that are not hearing everything), ASL (American Sign Language) and different facial expressions based on how a person is trying to get their point across in the conversation. That's 3 very big ways of communicating that you are trying to process all at the same time. Are you going to miss key points of the conversation and get left behind? You bet! Are you going to choose to just let part of the conversation 'miss' your comprehension? You sure are! Is that going to lead to you asking or answering something totally inappropriately? Definitely! And this is with people that you thought were just like you in that they are classified as having hearing loss. Imagine the confusion when you put a person in the mix that has normal hearing? The breakdowns in communication are immense and no matter how well each mode of communication is done, something is going to get lost in the translation on a personal level. If you live with someone with hearing loss, you know the frustrations you have when it comes to communicating. You also know how irritated all of us can get when talking with someone that is not 'Hearing' you correctly. No wonder there are so many issues we are all dealing with!
Add in the many businesses, articles, gadgets and latest inventions that are advertised or prescribed/recommended by the 'Professionals' and it's now turned into a very confusing world. For many years now, there have been many scams out there that have made a lot of so called 'good' Companies and Organizations a lot of money. There are some of us in hearing loss world that are still looking for that magic item, pill or cure so that we can be 'normal'. It's tough to admit that your normal is very different from those without hearing loss. And, society has always taught us that we should adjust and conform to their way of doing things. If we don't, we are automatically put into a category of 'not normal' or in some cases, 'defective'. When that happens, the situation can get negative quickly. Sometimes, it helps to step back and analyze what your personal needs are. You then have to take up the challenge of trying to meet those needs. This does not mean that someone is going to 'fix' it for you. You have to take the time to figure out what will work and what won't. And, then you have to realize that you are going to have to learn how to adapt when your situation changes due to a change in your hearing ability or even the people that you are now in a room with.
So, do you give up and become one of those that stays at home where it's safe and easy? Or, do you decide to give new things a try, talk in detail to those that you are with to explain how you communicate and learn that your situation is not unique? Take these opportunities to expand your personal horizons. Learn from others on how they communicate. You never know, you may realize that there is an immense opportunity for you to contribute to society as well as educate the people that really had no idea what the challenges are in whichever world you 'live' in.
Have a great week!