Get My Attention First

Denise and Chloe at the Aquarium in Baltimore Aug. 23, 2009
Denise and Chloe at the Aquarium in Baltimore Aug. 23, 2009

Dog Training 101

When I first began training at Fidos For Freedom in Laurel, Maryland, I learned from trainer Tracy B. that it is very important to use your dog’s name. This was especially important on the training floor where there were numerous dogs present all of which were being given obedience commands by their human partner. Calling the dog’s name gets their attention first. Follow that with a command about what you what them to do, and then lavish praise.

Even though I only attend the trainings on average twice a month now, I still make it a habit to use Chloe‘s name first. We have another dog that is never far from Chloe when she is home. Tyco is our family dog and is a two-year-old Norwegian Elkhound. He’s a “dog’s dog”. Oh sure… he loves us, but he idolizes Chloe. So where Chloe is, Tyco is there as well.

My husband was running into a road block on the stairs when he first arrived home from work. Both dogs would park on the stairs – entire bodies all “a-wag” waiting for him to acknowledge them.

I have finally taught Terry actual obedience commands (you CAN teach an old dog new tricks) so instead of saying, “Would you please MOVE?” he will say “move” with some authority in his voice instead of a question. The only problem was that he failed to use either dog’s name. I had to remind my “old dog” that he needed to use their name first. Now when he arrives home he will say, “Chloe move” (and she does), and “Tyco move” (and he does only because he follows Chloe – GRIN).

When he gets to the top of the stairs, he can put his things down and greet the dogs “proper-like”.

Hearing with a CI

When you have a hearing loss for twelve years and then receive a cochlear implant, you still do not hear perfectly. In spite of the fact that CI’s are bionics, you will also discover that you are not Jamie Sommers who can hear BETTER than folks with normal hearing. As a matter of fact, hearing takes WORK. Don’t get me wrong… I LOVE what I’m hearing and am so thankful for this technology! In a quiet room with few distractions, I can usually carry on a conversation without even having to look at you!

Let’s face it… the world is not a quiet place and the times I find that I’m trying to have a conversation in a quiet room are few and far between. Instead there is normally background noise. It can be noises like the television, stereo, pets, restaurant noise, crowd noise, etc. So the majority of the time I am trying to hear ONLY your voice amidst all the sounds my CI picks up for me. I have special programs (Smartsound NOISE or FOCUS) that allow me to pull only what I’m looking at closer; a type of directional microphone really! However, it is NOT a perfect solution. The background noise never stays at a constant level. It can get louder or softer. Hearing will never again be something that just “happens” for me.

It takes work.

I must concentrate.

It’s a shame I don’t burn calories!

Is it any wonder why late-deafened folks are so exhausted at the end of the day? I require 8-9 hours of sleep each night. If I don’t get it, I do not function at 100% the next day. I’ve had days where a sick teen or ill service dog have kept me up most of the night. I rarely even attempt wearing my “ears” (cochlear implant and hearing aid) the next day as I know I will hear little since I cannot concentrate.

Use My Name Please

It is very helpful to first use the name of someone you are conversing with that has a hearing loss. Hearing with a CI, I learned pretty quickly that in a crowd of noise it is in my best interest to work at tuning out all the sound. I recognize my name very easily, even among the buzz of voices around me. I’ve always been very thankful my name starts with a harsh consonant! Hearing my name first allows me to identify who is addressing me. I can turn and face them and begin concentrating in earnest.

Unless we are having a face-to-face conversation, I may look away from you after we have visited a bit to see if Chloe is doing as I asked (normally a down/stay or stand/stay). Or, I may smile at people across the room, wave, etc. If I am not looking at you, it is VERY helpful to say my name again to let me know you are talking to me again. It gets my attention. My CI zeros in on the voice. I’ve even been able to discern my name coming from the mouth of someone across the room! I think the most difficult listening situation is to be in a small group of people who are talking in a larger room with other small groups talking. You find that you are “part of the group” and attempt following the conversation as different speakers say different things. It can be exhausting!

Look at Me Please

I find it amusing that people with hearing loss are often the worst communicators. At my local HLAA (Hearing Loss Assoc. of America) meeting recently, I attempted to have a conversation with someone after the meeting. People were talking and standing around; some were busy tearing things down. There was a LOT of noise. The person I was trying to talk to spoke to their feet. Granted… they had the nicest brown sandals I have seen in awhile. Out of habit I looked to see what they were looking at while they spoke. I had to apologize several times and ask them to repeat something. At one point, this person’s attention was snagged by the activity of another member who was cleaning up the snacks. The person I was talking to turned to see what this other member was doing. I could tell they were still talking, but it became a buzz of sound as soon as they turned their back to me.

I said, “Pardon me? I missed that part after you said what you did about the recent rains”.

They looked at me exasperated and said, “Even though you have a cochlear implant now you don’t hear any better than I do!”

I decided to walk away (as I didn’t think I could speak “kindly”). They were on their way to grab a snack before they all disappeared anyway.

You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!

I have learned a few things in the four years I have been “hearing again”. It is OK to stand next to someone who WAS talking to you and wait until you are spoken to again. A touch on my arm, or using my name alerts me to the fact that you wish to speak to me again. When I was first activated, I would attempt to not look as if I were ESCAPING after someone finished talking to me. I’d go and find a quiet place and look with wide eyes at the different groups of people standing around talking. If someone waved and then started toward me, I would “brace myself” for the difficulty in conversing with them.

Now I can stand in a crowd of people and wait to be acknowledged. If no one gets my attention, I am at ease. I find that I am even brave enough to start a conversation on my own. After all, I pursued a cochlear implant so that I could continue talking to the people in my life.

This week my schoolwork was interrupted by an “incoming IM” from my daughter. She was in between classes and wrote, “Hey mom! Do you have your ears in? Can I call you?”

Seconds later I was talking to her on the phone. Perhaps this isn’t a big deal to those of you who hear normally. But I haven’t been using the phone for very long. Even after receiving a cochlear implant, it took a lot of practice and courage to start using the phone.

… and here I was in the middle of the day

… talking to my daughter

… on the phone.

I cried.

But they were happy tears!

Denise Portis

© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal

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