Monthly Archives: March 2013
I’ve written about this before, but it’s on my mind again because tomorrow marks 15 years (15 years!!) since the day Dave and I met in person. Before I met him and started hanging out with him, I had really never been around someone with a hearing loss. I learned the hard way that personally having a hearing loss did not mean I was automatically aware of how to communicate with someone else who was hard of hearing. Kind of like how going deaf didn’t suddenly give me the power to understand and communicate in sign language.
I’m the only person in my immediate family with a hearing loss, so I grew up knowing they could help me out if I didn’t hear something. All of my friends, boyfriends and my first husband had normal hearing. I was 33 when I met Dave, so I’d had plenty of time to get used to having other people help me out when my own ears fell down on the job. That was the first big eye-opener for me.
I’d hear something and turn to Dave. “What was that?” He’d shrug and say, “Beats me!” I’d leave the water running in the sink, walk off and forget about because I didn’t hear it. He didn’t hear it either; who knows how much water we wasted before one of us noticed the silent stream gushing forth from the faucet.
We’d go out somewhere, and I would actually have the advantage because I was better at reading lips. The cashier would give me the total, and I wouldn’t really pay attention because I was used to the person I was with being able to hear and relay the amount to me. Dave would be silent – he had no idea either. I learned to be more vigilant, especially in noisy situations. I couldn’t hear well, but I could read lips and thus became the ‘hearing person’ in that situation. Talk about role reversal!
I was used to just talking, probably at a lower volume than normal since my own voice always sounds loud to me (whether I had hearing aids or CIs). I didn’t bother to make sure Dave could see my face, or that I was even in the same room. I’d get no response at all from him and I’d realize, “Huh. What an asshole I am – I’m not even attempting to be considerate!”
It probably took a month or so for me to get used to this, checking my annoyance if he didn’t hear me at first – it was my fault, for not doing what I knew needed to be done for him to understand me. It was so weird to realize I was really bad at being considerate and thoughtful when it came to communicating with the man I loved. It truly was not second nature at all.
When we first met, my hearing loss was a little more severe than Dave’s but in the opposite ear. So he wears a hearing aid in his right ear; I wore mine in my left ear (and the transmitter on my deaf right ear – they were wireless bi-CROS aids). Dave just wears the one hearing aid and is profoundly deaf in his left ear. So we got used to positioning ourselves so our good ears were next to each other. We have a double computer desk and Dave sits to my left; when we watch TV or movies, I sit on his right side. When we go for walks, I’m on his right side. If we’re both in the car, he always drives (that way his good ear is next to me). The only time I drive now is if I’m going somewhere alone – I’m getting a little spoiled, always being able to kick back in the passenger seat! 🙂 I contribute to our road trips by operating and translating the GPS system for him – half the time he can’t understand what it’s saying, and the other half of the time he chooses to be ornery and ignore the directions while yelling at Maggie (our Magellan GPS…you’ve named yours too, right?!) and telling her she’s crazy.
I learned that even though our hearing losses were a little bit different in severity, being able to read lips gave me the advantage in noisy situations. I got used to being the one to help if he didn’t hear a question from the waitress or cashier or salesperson.
So over the years I learned the tricks to communicating with a hard of hearing person. Make sure they can see you when you talk, and make sure you’re talking clearly…not too loud or soft, no exaggerated lip movements, not too fast or too slow. Dave tends to leave his hearing aid out, especially in the morning, so I try to remember to look at his ear and see if he’s wearing it. If not, I talk louder and stand right in front of him.
If I’m behind him, I’ll gently touch his arm to get his attention. Sometimes this still scares the crap out of him, but I learned a gentle touch is better than a tap or grabbing his arm or something. If there’s a really loud noise (coffee grinder, loud music), I’ll wait until it’s over before I talk. Sometimes I can’t tell if he can hear me or not, so I ask. “Can you hear me? Am I speaking clearly enough?” We both sometimes still do the deaf nod thing with each other, but by now we can usually tell when the other is faking and I, personally, derive great joy from calling Dave out on it.
When I went deaf (almost five years ago now), Dave was so amazingly patient and thoughtful. He never expressed a single iota of frustration over having to repeat himself. He happily learned signs with me and was willing to try whatever I was interested in (we even watched a DVD on cued speech). He never told me, “It’s not important; never mind.” I think patience and kindness are so important – it goes such a long way when someone wants to communicate with you and you take the time to do what needs to be done to facilitate that. No eye rolling, no exasperated sighs, no sharp tone of voice – just kindness and patience. It’s easier said than done!
Now I’m in a weird position where sometimes I hear much better than Dave does, even though I’m technically deaf. I have a much better time understanding people with accents, using the powerful combination of my cochlear implants and speech reading. Many of Dave’s doctors have accents, and they share information we really need to know, especially with his Hepatitis C treatment coming up (it starts April 10th). Whenever he has an appointment with a specialist or for anything other than a routine checkup, I go with. I take notes. I make sure he doesn’t miss anything, and that we advocate for whatever he might need.
It’s been 15 amazing years, and he has taught me so much. It really all started the first time I realized this was going to be a different experience, dating a guy with hearing loss. He was adding milk to my coffee, and he told me to say ‘when’ because he didn’t know how much I wanted. He poured; I said, “When.” He kept pouring, and I thought, What the heck?! Why isn’t he stopping?! It finally dawned on me…he didn’t hear me! I yelled, “WHEN!” and he looked over, startled, just as the cup was about to overflow. And so it began…my hearing loss education. 🙂
On Friday Dave and I went over to our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore, since everything in the store was 20% off. We scored a few great deals that saved us lots of money – 5 gallons of driveway sealer for $4, a brand new (in the box) toilet seat for $4, a bunch of stainless steel screening for $2.50 and some cove base to use in the downstairs in the entryway (a whole box of it for $2). As we were leaving, I noticed a flyer for a demonstration the next day on Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint. I’ve heard a lot about it (kind of hard not to if you follow a lot of home décor blogs or Pinterest boards) but had never actually seen it, so I was curious.
So we went back yesterday, and at first we couldn’t find the demo. There was no signage, so we walked through the whole store. I couldn’t remember how long the demo was for, so I started to think maybe we missed it (we got there about an hour after it was supposed to start). Finally, after walking the perimeter of the entire store and ending up back at the front, we noticed a table set up at the far end. Bingo!
The women demonstrating the paint were really nice, and there were a few other people gathered around the table. I positioned myself so I could see their faces, and then started asking questions. Lots of questions. It was awesome – I was able to find out everything I wanted to know, got to see examples of various ways to use the paint and wax finishes, and the demonstrators seemed happy to have lots to talk about. We hung around for about 20 minutes, and then thanked them and moved on.
After we left the store and we were talking about the demo, Dave said, “Boy, you were talkative. Really talkative.” Then we kind of laughed, because usually I clam up in those situations. We’ve been to lots of conventions with vendor/exhibit halls, and usually I just walk by and look, or maybe stand in the back and watch. I never talk or engage the people in conversation. When we used to go to candle conventions, I even knew many of the vendors because we ordered from them; even then, I was very quiet. A big reason is because it’s so hard to hear in those situations; I really didn’t want to be in a position where someone was telling me all this stuff and I was doing the deaf nod, pretending to understand. (Back then I had my bi-CROS analog hearing aids, which had no program to suppress background noise…it was all just LOUD.) Part of it was worry that I’d be pressured to buy something, when I just wanted information. Part of it was just my natural shyness and discomfort with making small talk/casual conversation.
After we started going to HLAA conventions, once I had my CIs, I started to come out of my shell a little bit. I was still kind of shy, but I started to ask more questions, make eye contact (one thing I really avoided, since it invited conversation) and participate more in the product demonstrations.
Even though the ReStore was loud (lots of banging from things being moved around, as well as the general cavernous, echo chamber effect due to the building) I did okay as long as I could also lip read. I didn’t miss anything, and I just had a blast asking all the questions I had about the paint. I could see Dave periodically looking at me, kind of like, ‘Who is this woman and what has she done with Wendi?!’ I know this isn’t a big deal to most people, but for me it’s nice to shed some of that fear of starting a conversation with a stranger!
In non-hearing-loss-related triumphs, I actually picked up Maxie, our former-feral mom cat. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll remember an entry I wrote where I worried about how we’d get Maxie and her two girls, Alice and Grace, into carriers when it comes time to move. Although they’ve been living indoors with us for almost seven years now, we still can’t really pick them up. In all other aspects, they’ve become regular domestic cats (although it took a few years) – we pet them, they come to us when we call them (and also just for attention), Maxie has progressed to sitting on my lap if I’m laying down or sitting on the couch; the girls (we still think of them as kittens even though they’re now seven) are more shy, but Alice has occasionally jumped up on the couch with me, and Grace will lay next to me in the morning if I’m still in bed and Dave has gotten up.
But picking them up, or manipulating them in order to trim their nails or get them into a carrier? Hell no. With Maxie, as soon as you run both hands along her sides, she slinks to the ground, out of reach, and runs away. The younger girls don’t even let us get that far! Well, a couple days ago Maxie was sitting on my desk chair and I wanted to sit down. With our fourth cat Sabrina, it’s no big deal – I just pick her up and deposit her somewhere else. (She’s the only one, besides Maxie, that ever sits in my chair.) Well, Maxie was pretty comfortable and I figured if I slid my hands along her sides, it would freak her out and make her jump off. I was shocked to see her stay in a sitting position, so I figured what the heck…let’s try this. I leaned over, slid my hands underneath her and lifted her to my chest (not a long distance, since I was leaned over her back). She started complaining, making this moaning kind of meow she does when she sees an outdoor cat on the deck. I kept talking to her and deposited her on the floor; the whole time she kept her ears erect and her tail perky so she didn’t have her usual physical signs of distress.
Dave watched all of this in shock, then immediately began to praise her. And that little stinker just strutted around, tail held aloft, as we petted and complimented her on her bravery. I haven’t tried it again but the next time the opportunity presents itself, I will…hopefully we can do this enough that she’ll finally realize we aren’t trying to hurt or trap her when we do it. Yay, Maxie!
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but every time we watch a movie or TV show with an apocalyptic sort of setting (mainly where there’s no electricity), I always think, If I were in that situation, my CIs wouldn’t work and I’d be deaf. Of course, I’m deaf either way but you know what I mean – I wouldn’t be able to hear, ever. Unless the electricity came back and I could recharge my batteries, that is. Even Dave would be in a bad way – he could use his hearing aid only until his batteries ran out (and we could no longer find a store that carried them).
Or, in the case of the tsunami in Indonesia and other countries near the Indian Ocean (we watched The Impossible last week…what a great movie!), we definitely would be screwed because our hearing instruments would be ruined by being in that water (assuming we survived, of course). I actually told Dave, “Wow…if that was me I’d be deaf and practically blind, because my contact lenses would definitely get washed out of my eyes in that situation!” (I am very, very nearsighted – if I didn’t have contacts/glasses that could correct my vision, I would be legally blind.)
It’s just this weird little thing I do; I have no idea why. But the other day I got myself all worked up over something similar in The Walking Dead. In that show, most of society has been infected by a virus that turns them into zombies; the survivors are banding together (or fighting each other, in the recent storyline) and we see them doing things like going into abandoned stores and looking for food and supplies. So you figure it’s been a while, right? At least a year, maybe more? Well, I noticed that only one person on the show seems to wear glasses. And, come on, I imagine a lot of people in real life need glasses or contact lenses…is it really possible that every character on the show but one has 20/20 vision? What do they do if they wear bi-weekly contacts (like me) and need more? You can’t exactly order them or go to the doctor. What if a zombie chases them and they lose their glasses? What do they do – they can’t really replace them, after all. I know it’s silly and it’s TV and it’s a zombie show, don’t take it so seriously, omg, but it still drives me crazy.
That’s the kind of thing I’d get a kick out of watching — instead of all the fighting and warring factions and all of that, I’d like to see how people deal with the reality of living in a world where all the things we take for granted are suddenly wiped away. This doesn’t apply to The Walking Dead, by the way. I love the way they handle the show and keep a mix of personal stories and violence, actually. I’m thinking more of shows like Jericho (which was canceled a few years back). The scenario was that nuclear bombs went off across the US and the people in this small town in Kansas don’t know why they suddenly have lost power and are cut off from the rest of the world. I was hoping they would focus on the real-life “How do we deal with this?” scenarios, but instead they spent too much time focusing more on fighting. The first few shows were promising, though!
I guess it wouldn’t be very fun to watch people stumbling around on The Walking Dead because they don’t have glasses anymore. But Dave did get a good joke in, after I was done with my mini-rant. He pointed out that if, in fact, I was in a zombie apocalypse and no longer had contacts or glasses, I would also be shambling along with my hands out in front of me, just like the zombies. I would fit right in!