Misconceptions

I’m always so tickled when one of Hearing Elmo’s guest writers offer to post something! This one was really “timely” for me and I needed the reminders about what some common misconceptions are! Thank you to Tywanna, one of Hearing Elmo’s guest writers!

MISCONCEPTIONS

Guest writer: Tywanna

The American Heritage Dictionary defines misconception as “A mistaken thought, idea, or notion; a misunderstanding.”

Prior to the decline of my hearing, I could not explain what it was like to live with a hearing loss. I was incapable of completely explaining something I’ve never experienced. If I had tried to do so, my words would have been awkward, confusing, incorrect, or ignorant.

I’ve cross across some people with “normal” hearing who feel as though they understand but their reality is often a misconception.

Here’s a list of the top misconceptions I’ve heard and experienced throughout my hearing loss journey.

1. All people with hearing loss use American Sign Language

According to Wikipedia, while there has been no reliable survey of the number of people who use ASL as their primary language, estimates range from 500,000 to 2 million in the United States. As of 2009, the United States population was estimated at $307 million people. If these statistics are close to the actual numbers, ASL users are in the minority.

In 2006, Gallaudet University published a study which indicated the estimates need updating.

2. Yelling will make the person with hearing loss hear better

Imagine speaking with someone and hearing but not fully understanding what’s being said. To a person with hearing loss this is a regular encounter. Sometimes we often nod, smile or shake our head out of politeness or because we don’t want to interrupt the speaker with “what” or “can you please repeat that.”

Sometimes when people with a hearing loss find the right moment to intervene with a polite “can you repeat that”, we’re faced with someone yelling so loud that their words become distorted.

I often feel compelled to ask, “will yelling make me hear or understand you?”

3. People with “normal” hearing may not talk with someone who has a hearing loss

A manager at work explained to me that she knows I’m smart but she was afraid people would not talk to me because I could not hear them. Is this the way my co-workers feel or the way she feels? I’m inclined to believe it’s the later due to her ignorance about hearing loss and her lack of being comfortable around someone who is slightly different than herself.

What does being smart have to do with hearing loss? How are the two related?

4. The word “impaired” sounds nicer than hearing loss or deaf

While taking an ASL class for the first time I used the word impaired with our instructor who was born deaf. She politely explained to me impaired means broken. After that experience I looked up the word in the dictionary. Impaired is a synonym for broken, ruined or messed up. Wow, did God make me broken? – of course not. He made me exactly the way he intended. He made me to be unique, different and one of a kind. Since finding out the true definition of the word impaired, I have eliminated the word from my vocabulary when referring to others with hearing loss or myself.

The terms dumb, mute, and handicapped and several others are no longer acceptable. Let’s band together to eliminate the words that may be offensive or degrading to certain members of the population.

Let’s ask people what they would prefer to be called and honor their wishes.

5. All people with hearing loss want to be “fixed”

Have you ever come across people who feel as though they have the answer to everything? Every time a new product or infomercial comes on television, they feel compelled to let you know.  “Oh my, I’ve seen this wonderful new head phone set that will enable you to watch television without using closed captions.” Well, I’m wearing a BTE hearing aid that costs $3000 and you’re telling me a product for $19.99 will enable me to understand the television?

“You’ll never guess what, “I’ve seen a new hearing aid that is suppose to fix all types of hearing loss.” Who told these people there is a cure for deafness?

Who also said deaf people want to be fixed? As a whole, the hearing loss and Deaf community are proud of who they are.

6. Deaf means “No Sound”

Wrong! The term deaf does not mean without sound. According to the Center for Disease Control, deaf is the inability to rely on your hearing to understand and process information without the use of visual cues.

7. Deaf people want sympathy

Recently while interacting with my supervisor at work, I explained to her I would prefer written instructions because I was going deaf. Her reply was “I’m sorry”. I quickly explained there is nothing to be sorry about. People who are Deaf, deaf or hard of hearing want empathy not sympathy. I don’t want people to pity me or feel sorry for me. That’s not the way I see myself. I’m using my hearing loss as a way to help others.

My cousin recently sent me an e-mail with the following quote:

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

–Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

People with “normal” hearing, may never be able to fully understand our journey. Often times true understanding comes from experience. We do not have to live in continued ignorance. There are so many libraries, books, television programs and Internet websites. Let’s educate people one at a time. Let’s band together to wipe out the misconceptions. Let’s continue to share our experiences to help others.

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Have a Great Imagination?

Chloe and Denise at an old Rock Quarry April 2010

So do you have a great imagination? Unfortunately, I did not have my camera when the incident occurred that I’m about to explain. Even had I located a camera at the time, I certainly would not have had time to “snap” pictures! (You’ll understand in a moment).

So allow me to try to explain with words what happened at work yesterday. Perhaps it is just “one of those things” that happens to people with assistance dogs. This had never happened to me, however, and so I was totally taken by surprise!

I tread carefully in the tellin’ for it took place in the bathroom of all places! Ever wonder what a person with an assistance dog does when they have to go to the bathroom? It’s not like you can hitch your dog up at the post while you go in and “do your business”. You do not want your assistance dog sitting or laying on the floor. I mean… we are in the BATHROOM, folks! A “stand” and “stay” is the perfect obedience command for this environment.

If the handicapped stall is free, I always head for that one. The extra space is nice when accompanied by a furry partner. Sometimes the handicapped stall is NOT free, so then we have to make do with the smaller area. Yesterday the handicapped stall was free, however, so Chloe and I went into that space.

I put Chloe in a “stand” and “stay” first. She rarely moves, however she will sometimes duck her head to peek into the next stall. I try to watch for this because honestly? What would you do if a furry, friendly head looked under to say “boo”? (I’ve heard screeches and even SPLASHES before… so yeah. I try to keep her from doing this!)

Now yesterday was a sunny day. For those readers who may not know me very well, for ME this means that my balance was pretty good. My Meniere’s disease is at its worst when it is rainy outside. Mine seems to be triggered by the weather. So on a sunny day, I … like most grown women… have the ability to erm… HOVER. It’s very handy. (Men just have it made in this regard, don’t they?) On rainy days I have to make sure I can locate a seat protector, or take the time to lay toilet paper down to cover the seat. On sunny days, I can get right down to business and out of there fairly quickly.

My restroom “OH MY GOSH I’LL HAVE TO WRITE ABOUT THIS” escapade was one of the last things I accomplished at school yesterday. I already had my car packed up, and only took my keys and Chloe to the restroom. Because it was sunny, I was able to HOVER, but I needed to be able to put my keys somewhere. They have a long purple strap on them so that Chloe can pick them up easier on my “bad days” should I drop them. I put the purple strap in my TEETH, hovered … and took care of business in 10 seconds.

Without going into a lot of detail about what happens immediately following the “hover” (use your imagination), I still had my keys in my teeth. Chloe was still in a dutiful “stand” and “stay”. Remember that this was a “good balance day”? I never flush the toilet with my hands on a day I can stand on one foot and accomplish the task with my other foot. It’s the germs ya know? So I did a “karate kid” immitation, and used my left foot to flush the commode.

Chloe decided to side step out of the way. (She’s seen this WEEBLE wobble and FALL DOWN so many times, she evidently wanted to make sure she had space to move if needed). I saw her out of the corner of my eye getting ready to move, so I said, “Ach… wrong”.

Funny thing about holding something in your teeth and deciding to talk at the same time? Yeah. The natural law of gravity will never let a person down. My keys tumbled and bounced off my extended “flushing” knee and right into the toilet!

I screeched. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t quietly.

Chloe retrieves objects that I drop in what the trainers call an “automatic retrieve” for partners with hearing loss. So she scooted around me and looked down into the disappearing water in the commode at my keys in the bottom of the bowl.

I screeched. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t quietly. (This isn’t a typo… it simply happened twice).

I was scrambling… what to DO? I didn’t TRAIN FOR THIS. Chloe put her paws up on the toilet seat to better lean down into the bowl so I reached for my treat bag, and my hand connected to my clicker. Now… I was running on adrenaline at this point. When my hand came into contact with the training clicker, I did an automatic “click”. (Erin would be so proud…) So now Chloe thinks that what she is doing is what she is SUPPOSE TO BE DOING! I clicked … which indicates to HER… “YUP, you got it right”! She now has her head down in the toilet bowl and is bobbing for apples my keys.

I screeched. I’m pretty sure is wasn’t quietly. (yeah… you get the picture!)

I pushed her wagging body out of the way and quickly reached in to pluck my keys from the toilet bowl. It now had completely filled back up with water. Chloe stood there expectantly … eyes on the keys… waiting for me to drop them again. Cuz, ya know? This was a TERRIFIC GAME!

There I stood in the bathroom of Chieftain Institute on the campus of Gaithersburg Church of the Nazarene with dripping keys in one hand, while looking into the dripping face of my assistance dog. I had two choices. I could laugh – or cry. So I…

screeched… I’m pretty sure is wasn’t quietly. (There was a 3rd choice).

I exited the stall with as much grace as I could muster. I washed my hands well, and my keys. I tried to avoid getting soap and water in the electronic key to my car, but honestly? Did it matter at this point?

I walked forlornly to my car with a very happy assistance dog in heel, my head bowed in defeat. As I neared my car I tried to unlock my car with the very wet key… which of course didn’t work. I went around to the driver’s side of the car and looked for the “unlock” key hole which I had NEVER HAD TO USE BEFORE. After loading Chloe up and getting her settled, I climbed into the car and adjusted my mirrors. I caught sight of Chloe’s wet head and finally saw the funny. (You really DO have to laugh to keep from crying sometimes!)

When I pulled into my driveway about 45 minutes later, the first thing I did was use a hair dryer on my key. (Yes… no worries! Chloe got a bath too!) Would you believe the key is working this morning? It will lock and unlock my car just as if I hadn’t given it a “swirly”! I DID have to give it a new attachment though! I carefully washed my other keys and rings, and used a macrame stitch to create a new “bob” for Chloe to be able to pick up.

On the bright side of things, at least it matches Chloe’s vest now!

Denise Portis

© 2010 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

It’s a Shame You Don’t Burn Calories

Darn, but his voice is changing YET AGAIN!

Geesh, I’ve had a tough week. I hate to complain because I am aware that my frustrations in no way compare to what some folks are going through right now.

I mean, everyone in my family is relatively healthy; we’re employed; doing well in school; have connections with people we care about… but let’s face it –

We can still have a tough week in spite of how well things may be going generally.

Part of the reason I enjoy connecting with people through their blogs, Facebook, email and SKYPE is because it can serve as a sobering reminder just how well I have it!

Hearing Loss Can “Suck”

I do hate to admit when a “bad week” is because of the fact that I have a hearing loss. After all, I make a great effort each and every day to live my life as a positive role model, proactive advocate, and enthusiastic recipient of a cochlear implant. But ya know? Sometimes I’m going to have a bad week because of problems I encounter as the result of being deaf.

1. My son’s voice is changing – – AGAIN. Like it could get any deeper? I noticed this last week that it has become more difficult for me to understand my son’s voice again simply because it is so much deeper. I have a mapping appointment at Johns Hopkins Listening Center in May. Do I drag the kiddo with me so that my programs can be tweaked to hear him better? Or, because I’m “so darn independent”, simply tell my audiologist that I’m having difficulty with deeper voices and let her “tweak” based on what the computer tells her to do?

Honestly I inwardly “grimace” when I’m trying to have a conversation with him. I have to actually be face-to-face in order to lip read some as that voice of his just DISAPPEARS in some lower octave that I’m unable to hear. You’d think I’d burn calories as I must intently concentrate and fixate on the conversation.

2. My wonderful husband is having allergy problems like many in the mid-Atlantic states are having this year. It seems pollen is at an all-time high, breaking records across the state. (How exactly does one measure pollen I wonder?) I do know that our cars and porch are always covered in a coat of fine particle yellow dust! For some reason, this year it has really “done a number” on my husband’s voice. Some days (especially in the morning) he actually HAS no voice! It can be very frustrating trying to talk to someone whose voice cuts in and out! Normally, I can be in a different room and carry on a conversation with the man! (Thanks to the Nucleus Freedom!) But this week, I can be looking right at him and some of the words just sort of disappear into space. How can something SO HARD – intently concentrating and trying to understand conversation – be so exhausting? Honestly I’ve been going to bed with a mushy brain.

So yeah… most days I embrace the fact that because of invisible disabilities I live life a little differently, but certainly with an attitude of gratitude. This week? Not so much.

That’s OK, too ya know! We are not always going to be accepting or appreciative of having to do things a little differently. A short list of hearing loss belly-aches?

1. Having to PUT your “ears” on each and every day before being able to hear that first sound of the morning.

2. Having to change batteries to “hear again”… and they never die at an opportune moment!

3. Having to fumble and juggle THREE Size 13 batteries to start with!

4. Not being able to hear myself sing in the shower. As memory serves I am pretty darn good at it!

5. Not being able to run out in the rain and splash and play while HEARING.

But ya know? My list of jaw-dropping, heart-warming, deeply perceptive acknowledgments of what I CAN hear is much longer!

Denise Portis

© 2010 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

Acclimation

I talked to my mother on the phone yesterday and she and Dad had a big project in which to look forward to for today. They have a beautiful lanai in the back which includes a very nice fish pond and miniature waterfall. In spite of a pump and filters, the pond does need cleaned once in awhile. Evidently, the time had arrived. The Koi have to be erm… “fished out” and placed in big 5-gallon buckets. Then the pond is drained. Next, the rocks and pond are scrubbed and washed with a high-pressure hose. It takes time, and I imagine it’s a messy job. I also imagine one gets a little wet – at least I would.

I called Mom again around 3 PM today. She was pretty bummed. It seems that when putting the fish back into the now clean pond, they didn’t provide enough time for them to acclimate to the temperature change. At the time I talked to her only 4 were still alive, and she lost some of her “big ones”.

Use to the Scum

I suppose my parents could have chosen not to clean their pond. But it evidently gets bad enough you can’t see the bottom. They have a proliferation of live plants and lily pads, but all of these natural AND man-made filters can’t undo the fact that the pond does not have a constant source of fresh water being piped in like mother nature provides. The Koi do not seem to care that the water gets to where they cannot even be seen swimming around. They grow accustomed to all the scum.

Aren’t we that way sometimes? I remember when I first got married, my husband and I did not go to a movie if there was harsh language, sex and nudity, or “adult themes”. We now use a service from “Screen It” . Before going to a movie, we literally screen it. Screen It tells you how many cuss words are in a movie and what they are. It tells you if the movie has any nudity in it, or adult themes. As a matter of fact, it will actually give the entire movie away if you read the whole review – grin! But we have used it a great deal because I just have trouble sitting through movies that are one curse word after another. I don’t care who plays in it or how highly acclaimed it is. But you know something? We make a choice that our movies have to have “less than 10 curse words” in them, and certain curse words are “worse than others” in our thinking. But are they? Aren’t curse words, curse words? And who decides how many is too many? It’s a slippery slope, let me tell you! It takes a lot of dedication and determination to stay true to what we’ve determined we’ll pay money to see for entertainment. I can’t help but feel as if we are agreeing that “a little scum” is OK though.

I heard a young lady recently say that someone they work with let them borrow a book to read. The owner of the book said, “There are no curse words, and it’s clean… you’ll like it!” This young lady was astonished at not only the language in the books, but there were sex scenes. She wondered out loud how that could be? I hypothesized that perhaps the other woman had grown accustomed to the language and written scenes where they didn’t have an impact on her anymore. She didn’t recognize the “scum”.

The SHOCK Killed Them

I’m a bit of a homebody. (I cringe knowing how my family would groan about that). OK, OK… I’m a HOMEBODY. However, my personality is pretty outgoing. I do like talking to people and interacting with them. However, after I lost my hearing and developed a balance disorder, I pretty much began staying at home. Even though I hear voices very well now (in most environments), I still haven’t reverted back to my (literal) outgoing self.

I’m going to a lady’s home this Wednesday for lunch. She leads a Bible study for women in my church. I use to lead Bible studies; in fact, I was one of the main leaders and went from one study to another ten years ago. I use to go shopping and hang out with friends quite a bit too. Now… not so much.

Don’t get me wrong… I’m HAPPY. But I didn’t start out this way. The more silent my world became, the more silent I became as well. I quit everything that required I interact with people. I intentionally isolated myself. It took some time. It was a slow process – I didn’t wake up one morning having become a hermit. So now that I am hearing again with my cochlear implant, and have some of my independence back thanks to Chloe, it has taken some time to make a gradual adjustment to “getting out there” again.

My parents should have kept their Koi in a 5-gallon bucket a while longer. They may have still died… Koi can be very sensitive to change. People can be too – especially people with acquired disabilities I think. Making adjustments in our lives can take time. For one thing… learning to trust can be hard. Learning to believe in yourself again can be even harder.

I have a friend with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. She is a self-isolated individual. It happened very slowly over time. It became harder and harder to explain her disease to other people. She had more “bad days” than “good days”. Constantly having to cancel plans eventually led her to not make any plans. When you look at her she LOOKS FINE. Try explaining that you are NOT. I feel for her. I know what it is like to have an invisible disability. (Still another reason I sport CI “bling” and decided to be partnered with a canine. Nothing says, “something is DIFFERENT” than going everywhere with a working dog!) She is now trying to reach out again, but she is taking it very slowly. After all, it can be “two steps forward and three steps back” many times. I think taking it slowly is a good idea. Acclimation TAKES time, after all.

Do you know someone with an invisible disability? Do you know someone who has a disease that exhibits “silent symptoms”? Perhaps they have isolated themselves and are convinced they are a homebody by CHOICE. They may seem happy. I’m not saying go BUG the heck out of someone who has opted to avoid being in public as much as they can. But I think it is also OK to reach out. Maybe bring lunch to THEM. Working in your garden? Pick some tomatoes or flowers and take them to this person. Email them occasionally. Offer to take them shoe shopping. Who says no to that? (GRIN) Just be aware it may take them some time to re-acclimate themselves to being out more, or having a friend over.

One reason I love the Internet and love to blog? I have “met” an awful lot of people just like me. Some I call “friend” too… for we’ve gotten to know one another and have learned to share our life’s story. We’ve connected. Things like Facebook can do that too, or joining online support groups. I’ve heard some people say, “yeah but those aren’t REAL people”. Excuse me? Behind that keyboard is the mom of a child with hearing loss – and she homeschools too just like I did! Behind another keyboard is a lady who lives with invisible disabilities who is training her own service dog in a big lovable Great Dane. The person who clicks that mouse has MS and has a wonderful service dog who gives her some independence. Numerous “point and click” folks out there have cochlear implants and love to talk about them too! These are real people; our connection is real.

If you know of someone who seems isolated (whether self-imposed or not), encourage them to get a good computer with reliable Internet service. You’d be surprised at the amount of support they can find out there… the connections… the friendships!

Denise Portis

© 2010 Personal Hearing Loss Journal