Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My Hearing Loss and My Son


The person who's been most affected by my hearing loss has to be my son. He's the one who talks about the most unexpected things leaving me in a daze. He's the one with the longest stories told in an excited manner that leave me lost somewhere in the middle. He's the one who helps me out in public places when I don't quite catch what a shop clerk or another customer is saying. He's the one who has to repeat himself the most often. Sometimes when I'm stuck on a word he will resort to fingerspelling it as only a frustrated pre-teen can do.

Sometimes he turns the situation around to his advantage. Last April 1, we had the following dinner table conversation. Charlie: "Is your sinus infection better, Mom?" Me: "I think so." Charlie: "Mom, I said is your science infection better?" Me puzzled: "Huh?" Charlie with a smile: "April Fool!"

He also likes to give me spontaneous tests. Charlie: "Mom, tell me what two words I'm saying." Me: "OK." Then I hear him say ah and ah. Charlie responds to my reply: "Wrong! I said off and toff" (fingerspelling both for emphasis). Me: "Toff?" Charlie knowingly: "Short for toffee." [Note: You can see he's well aware that t's and f's give me trouble.]



The other day I told him about a four eared cat I saw in People magazine. His comeback was "I bet that cat hears real good!"


Clean Tubes

Yesterday I went to the audiologist to get my hearing aids' ear tubes replaced. This has to be done about once every 3-4 months. In the last week I had noticed a reduction in my hearing ability probably due to ear wax accumulation. Soon afterwards the tip of one of the eartubes started breaking apart. Time to call the audiologist. When I got home from my appointment, I mentioned to Charlie that I had new tubes. He decided to give me one of his tests. This time I could easily discern between his ah and his off. Then when I was across the room from him, he gave me another challenge: uh and the. I got it right again. "Hooray!" he cheered, "you can hear better again."

Monday, September 29, 2008

Amazing Race 13: Episode One

Last night the thirteenth run of the Amazing Race started at the Los Angeles Coliseum. The teams were sent immediately to Salvador, Brazil. After the introductory pieces on each team, my family chose favorites.


My husband and son both picked Anita and Arthur, the married beekeepers wearing tie dyed shirts. I could understand their choice. They seemed like nice people and a hippie team won it all once before. I probably would have labeled them Sentimental Favorites. Watching them move ever so s-l-o-w-l-y towards the stairs of the Coliseum however, I decided they probably didn't have what it took for the race.


Instead, I was impressed by the brother and sister team team of Nick and Starr. They were obviously young, physically fit, and beyond that seemed to have a positive energy pushing them forwards.


A team that will probably provide some drama along the way is Team Frat Boys, Andrew and Dan. They messed up in two key moments. At the airport, they followed the herd mentality and went to the counter where other team members had lined up without checking to see that it was the right one. It wasn't. This mistake cost them the chance to be on the first flight to Brazil. Their second mistake came when they broke away from everyone else and were the only ones who chose Detour option: Hard Way Up. This would have worked out great for them if only they had read the directions carefully. A "mystery question" was going to be asked once they climbed to the top of the stairs on their hands and knees. Really what other question could it be except how many stairs had they just climbed? Because they hadn't prepared they had to do the task over costing them time. Hopefully they learned from their mistakes on this first leg and will do better next time.


Nick and Starr made a nice strategic move on this first leg of the race. They realized being younger they lacked some of the travel experience of the other teams. They approached Ken and Tina and asked if they could form a loose alliance with them for two legs of the race. To make the deal even more palatable, they told them they were going to refer to themselves as "The Kids" and they wanted to call Ken and Tina "Mom and Dad". Nice. Of course, Ken and Tina went for it.


The team dynamics of Terence and Sarah seemed really strange to me. At the group's first overnight stop, Sarah took the opportunity to meet the other racers. This seemed like a good strategy to me - sizing up one's opponents in a friendly manner. But Terence pouted that she should have been paying attention to him. In this duo Sarah seems like the smart one as she used her Portugese language skills to propel them forward in Brazil. Terence should be showing her some respect!

In the end, Nick and Starr came in first and won a trip to Belize. Sadly, Arthur and Anita were last and were eliminated. A full recap of the episode can be found on one of my favorite sites, Reality News Online. All photos are from the CBS Amazing Race 13 website.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mondegreens: When Hearing People Make Mistakes

On this blog I’ve shared some of my funny “Say what?” moments. But hard of hearing people aren’t the only ones who hear things wrong; it can happen to hearing people too. Have you heard of mondegreens? A mondegreen is the phenomenon of a commonly misheard song lyric or phrase of poetry. How does this happen? According to TVTropes.org : “Sometimes it's the speed or pitch that a lyric is delivered at, but often, a song lyric or recited poem will become famous not for what it says, but for what it sounds like it says to the uncareful ear.”



I remember a funny example that was featured on a T-Mobile ad awhile back. There’s a couple in a car discussing the lyrics to a classic Def Leppard song. The guy thinks the song says, “Pour some shook-up ramen on me.” His girl is incredulous that he doesn’t know that the correct words are “Pour some sugar on me.” To settle their argument, they use a T-Mobile cell phone to call a librarian. The next scene shows a librarian primly reading Def Leppard’s racy lyrics. Fortunately, I’ve never had to answer any questions like that!

One of my favorite mondegreens from TVTropes is "There's a bathroom on the right" (the line at the end of each verse of "Bad Moon Rising" by Creedence Clearwater Revival. The correct words are "There's a bad moon on the rise"). The site says that “John Fogerty has been known to sing the Mondegreen at concerts, for a laugh.” I’m listening to the song as I write this and now all I can hear is the wrong lyrics. Tee hee.



If you’re looking for a chuckle check out this funny website dedicated to misheard song lyrics. The address (kissthisguy.com) is a nod to the famous mondegreen of Jimi Hendrix’s song “Scuse me while I kiss the sky.” You can click on each mondegreen to read the right words and vote whether you thought the mondegreen was funny or not.

Jon Carroll a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle publishes mondegreens regularly in his column. You can read one of his classic articles here.

Do you have any mondegreens you’d like to share?

Monday, September 22, 2008

My Personal Journey Towards Deaf Awareness

Photo credit

September 21, 2008 begins Deaf Awareness Week in the United States. Whether this is an outdated concept or not, I thought I would reflect on my personal journey towards Deaf awareness.

My general nature is to be rather oblivious until forced into awareness by a change in my circumstances. For example, once I became pregnant I suddenly noticed pregnant women everywhere. Where had they been hiding before? After my son was born and I started pushing him around the neighborhood in the stroller I noticed that the sidewalks were in terrible condition.

Regarding my hearing loss, it's possible I had been experiencing it for years without realizing anything was wrong. Naturally I just assumed everyone heard the way I did. But not hearing an emergency door alarm that everyone else could hear jolted me into awareness that something was wrong. Thus began my journey into Deaf awareness.


As a child I learned how to fingerspell "hello". That's all the sign language I knew before 2007. Taking an introductory sign language course taught me that ASL is not "English in the air" but a beautiful language all its own complete with regional signs. Attending a deaf theatre event I learned to wave my hands in the air to signal approval rather than clap. Going to church services that offered deaf interpretation, I discovered I love to sing praise songs with my hands.


I began seeking out movies with deaf characters. My favorite film of all is Beyond Silence. The scene where the song "I Will Survive" is signed by Tom to Lara gets me every time. This film is German and is subtitled. I was able to order it through my public library and I recommend it highly to you. Other movies I have enjoyed are the better known Children of a Lesser God and Mr. Holland's Opus.


In addition to seeing films, I also wanted to read books with hard of hearing and deaf characters. You can find reviews of some of these on my blog. One book that totally tore me up is In This Sign by Joanne Greenberg. Words fail me on it but you can read reviews of it at Amazon.


I went online to learn more. A wonderful source is DeafRead where d/Deaf bloggers/vloggers write or sign about their personal experiences. I have learned so much there! For example, deaf and Deaf are not the same. I am proud to be included as a blogger about the experience of a late deafened person.

Before I became late deafened/hearing impaired/hard of hearing/fill in your own label, I thought that to be deaf meant someone could hear no sound at all. Total quiet. Now I know there is a spectrum of deafness with degrees ranging from mild to moderate to severe to profound hearing loss. But the underlying reality is that to be deaf means to not be able to rely upon one's ears to accurately comprehend speech. A hearing aid, an assistive listening device, a cochlear implant, or sign language are needed to enable successful communication.


Sadly, I've learned on the Deaf awarness journey that some people will use my difficulty in hearing against me. To fight this, I've learned to use humor to my advantage. It's okay to laugh with me, believe me my life produces lots of humor these days, but don't laugh at me behind my back! Most importantly, I've learned that life with hearing difficulties doesn't stop communication. There are many ways to connect with others and it's vital to stay in touch.

Where the road leads next I do not know. I have so much more to learn.


Photo by CATeyes. Used with permission.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Hearing Loss Connection


Julie & me at Hearing Loss Support Group picnic

Last weekend there was torrential rain in my area. This Saturday was sunny and perfect weather for enjoying the outdoors. The Hearing Loss Support Group in my area had a picnic outing planned for a nearby park.

I had marked this event on my calendar and RSVPed the day I got the invitation. I was resolved to go and make new friends. I was looking forward to it. Right up until it was time to get in the car that is. Then I got nervous. I had been to a support group meeting only once before and that was six months ago. Would any of the people I had met that day be at the picnic? Would I be able to make small talk with people I didn't know?

I decided I needed a companion. I was already bringing my son but I knew he would abandon me once he met any other kid. No, I wanted someone who would stay close. Who would be available at this last minute? Aha! I would bring Rusty my sweet natured golden retriever who loves to meet new people. Everyone would want to pet his soft fur and it would be easy for me to talk about him. He would be the perfect ice breaker.

When we got to the park, the first person I saw was Julie. I had met her at the previous meeting. She was also new to the group. I went right up to her and got started socializing.

About twenty-five to thirty people were at the picnic. Some were born deaf and communicate in sign language. Others have had cochlear implants and speak. Several people there were hard of hearing like me and wore hearing aids. There was one man there who is studying ASL possibly to be an interpreter someday. The rest were hearing relatives of group members. I got the chance to meet almost everyone.

I had varying degrees of success with communicating. A year ago I had taken a beginning ASL class and signs started coming back to me as I watched others signing. But of course there were many signs I didn't understand. I ended up nodding my head in agreement when I wasn't exactly sure what had been expressed. That was very frustrating for me. One time someone was signing to me about my dog and I thought he signed orange. No, he had actually used the sign for age. Oops. Interestingly, my best conversations were those that combined speech with sign. As the afternoon wore on, I started incorporating signs into my conversations even when communicating with people who could hear. It just felt natural to be signing whenever I knew the right sign for what I was saying.

Rusty was a big hit at the picnic. Most of the people there have had a dog in their lives at some time. Rusty was well behaved as usual and loved all the attention he received. My son Charlie hit it off with Julie's son and another boy there about his age. I only saw him when it was time to eat and time to leave. He was off playing the rest of the time just as I had predicted. His social skills are much better than mine!

In coming to terms with my hearing loss, I have became aware of how often I avoid socializing in groups. That could be partly my personality but it is probably also caused by my trouble with keeping up with group conversation. I'm perceived as being quiet because I don't talk much as I'm usually a beat behind everyone else. Nowadays, I only feel comfortable being in group conversation with my closest friends. That's why coming out to a social event like this was an important step out of my comfort zone. I'm glad I took the risk, though, because the people I met today were welcoming, friendly, and interesting. I look forward to interacting with them again and getting to know them better.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Why I Like Sarah Palin

This is a slightly tongue-in-cheek endorsement of Sarah Palin, Republican vice presidential candidate. Until she came on the scene I had little interest in this year's election. Finally there's a candidate I can relate to!

Reasons Why I Like Sarah Palin (and you probably don't)
1. She has a winning first name!
2. She wears glasses and looks great.
3. She has a big smile like me.
4. We're practically the same age!
5. She's a working mom.
6. I've learned a new acronym.
7. She dressed like Tina Fey for Halloween.

However you feel about Sarah Palin, you will probably enjoy the following video that appeared on Saturday Night Live:
Captions are available at Bill Cresswell's site. Thanks, Bill!



If you think it's easy to look gorgeous like Sarah, check out this New York Times article about Tina Fey's hairdo for the show.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Pancakes for Puppy


Photo by Speakuplibrarian

My family loves pancakes for breakfast. There's only 3 of us so I often only make half of the recipe on the Bisquick box. One morning I made the whole recipe and we had two pancakes left over after everyone had their fill. My son suggested giving a pancake to Rusty, our red golden retriever who was hovering hopefully near the table. I said, "Let's take a family vote. All in favor, raise your hand." Immediately Rusty lifted his paw. We all laughed and gave him both of the pancakes.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Acronym Soup



I've always been fascinated by acronyms. If I come across an unfamiliar one, I want to know right away what the letters represent. So I should have known better than to assume that all my readers would be familiar with the acronym HOH on this recent post. My friend Pam asked me if it stood for "humor on holiday". Well, no not exactly. My friend Diane guessed "head of household". No, that's not it either. I quizzed my husband who I was sure would know. He had no clue. I said here's a hint, it's an acronym that describes me. "Hard of head?" was his reply. Thanks a lot. No, the answer is hard of hearing.

When my husband and I were dating, I had a funny experience when I thought I knew what an acronym meant. My sweetheart told me he was going to be bowling a tournament at the ABC headquarters in Milwaukee and asked me if I'd like to go along to cheer for him. Sure, I said. I was a little bewildered by the ABC headquarters part, though. To me ABC stood for American Broadcasting Corporation. I wondered why would they have a headquarters in Milwaukee. New York or California would make a lot more sense. When we got to the bowling center and went inside, I asked him where all the lights and cameras were. He said, "This tournament's not going to be on TV." I said, "But we're at ABC headquarters!" That's when he patiently explained that ABC also stands for American Bowling Congress. Ahhh. [Does that hard of head comment make more sense to you now, dear reader? Tee hee.]

Friday, September 12, 2008

My New Job Description: More Digital & More Deaf Friendly

In the beginning of August, I was unexpectedly transferred from my library's Information Organization Department aka Cataloging to the Library Technology & Digital Resources Department. This was a lateral transfer so no additional salary was involved (drat!) but my family friendly work hours would remain the same (hooray!).

More Digital
My new responsibilities involve metadata cataloging for digital and electronic library resources. While I was looking on the web to learn more about metadata, I came across this short video I want to share with you. It does a great job of explaining the challenges of organizing information in the digital environment. I like that the film uses a familiar library setting in the beginning to explain basic assumptions about information, then moves to the web to show how these assumptions play out online. This video was directed by Michael Wensch and has no subtitles. For my deaf readers be assured that all the essential information is portrayed visually. The audio contains only background music. Something else I liked!



So now my job no longer involves dealing with books on carts. I definitely don't miss dealing with the dusty books and government pamphlets that needed to be withdrawn from the collection and discarded. However, it's quite a transition from completing a task when all the materials on a cart have been processed to having ongoing projects that are mainly web-based. People from other departments in the library wonder just what I'm working on!

As fate would have it, this week I went to a training session on "Technical Services Workflow" with several others from the library. The two speakers at the workshop emphasized the importance of downplaying a library's work on their print collection and instead moving staff and workflow towards having electronic resources be the priority of the library's collection. I felt so good when I heard that. I'd say my library director must have known what she was doing when she transferred me! Secretly, I was also glad that my colleagues heard this information too.

More Deaf Friendly
Part of the transfer process involved rewriting my job description to reflect my new responsibilities. I took advantage of this opportunity to make my job description more deaf friendly. What do I mean? Take a look at the wording of my previous job's physical characteristics requirements: I was shocked by the "hear a normal speaking voice". When I started working at the library I was unaware of or not yet experiencing my hearing loss so I paid no attention to that part. Of course, now it's a different story and I didn't want that part included in my new job description. I checked my new coworker's job description and hers didn't say it so I was pretty sure that mine didn't need to.

Since my library director is aware of my hearing loss, I talked it over with her and said that I wanted my new job description written so that I would be able to perform it for many years to come. I explained that if my hearing loss worsened and I became unable to work at the reference desk, I would be willing to offer virtual reference service through instant messaging and email. At first she misunderstood and thought that I was trying to get out of working the reference desk now. I said no, that wasn't what I meant. I want to continue in person and telephone reference service as long as I am able. Nevertheless, it was important to me to write my job description in an enabling manner and that meant leaving off the part about "hear a normal speaking voice". We reached agreement on this point. If I become completely deaf, I can still perform my job as written. That's progress.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Web 2.0 and Why D/deaf Blogging Matters

Because I work at a university library, part of my job involves teaching workshops. Last winter I began teaching online for the first time. My coworker Diane and I created a course designed to train our library's staff on web 2.0 tools like blogs, wikis, social networking sites, and more. A local public library director also took the course. He liked it so much he wanted to make it available to his staff. Diane and I were happy to do that as we had learned so much as novice online instructors. We were eager to create a new and improved version of the course and we offered it this past July-August.

In the summer course one of our students posted the video below to our online discussion on YouTube. In a very thought provoking way this video titled "The Machine is Us/ing Us" explains what web 2.0 is about in less than 5 minutes. For my deaf readers I want to reassure you that it's not captioned because it doesn't need to be. The soundtrack is only instrumental music. All the information you need is visual. Check it out and then read below for my further thoughts on the video's message.



I was really struck by the video's assertion that we are teaching "the machine" [ourselves] every time we participate in social networking online. I immediately wanted to read the entire article that the video highlights briefly. I found it in Wired magazine's August 2005 issue. Wired 13.08: We Are the Web

The premise of the article is that in 1995 we couldn't have imagined what the Internet was to become in 10 years time. Here's a section of the article I found fascinating (keep in mind the article is now 3 years old):

"The scope of the Web today is hard to fathom. The total number of Web pages, including those that are dynamically created upon request and document files available through links, exceeds 600 billion. That's 100 pages per person alive.

How could we create so much, so fast, so well? In fewer than 4,000 days, we have encoded half a trillion versions of our collective story and put them in front of 1 billion people, or one-sixth of the world's population. That remarkable achievement was not in anyone's 10-year plan...

No Web phenomenon is more confounding than blogging. Everything media experts knew about audiences - and they knew a lot - confirmed the focus group belief that audiences would never get off their butts and start making their own entertainment. Everyone knew writing and reading were dead; music was too much trouble to make when you could sit back and listen; video production was simply out of reach of amateurs. Blogs and other participant media would never happen, or if they happened they would not draw an audience, or if they drew an audience they would not matter. What a shock, then, to witness the near-instantaneous rise of 50 million blogs, with a new one appearing every two seconds. There - another new blog! One more person doing what AOL and ABC - and almost everyone else - expected only AOL and ABC to be doing. These user-created channels make no sense economically. Where are the time, energy, and resources coming from? The audience."



In my job I see people interact with computers every day at my library. (The photo at left shows half of my library's computer area.) With a little imagination, I can see all these blank screens as windows into the human experience. If as the author of the article and the producer of the video believe, we are truly teaching the "machine" [each other] by blogging about our unique experience as a human on this particular planet in this specific era, then our blogging is important. The "machine" needs to know what it's like to be D/deaf or hard of hearing. Who can teach it? We can by blogging our stories, our opinions, our disappointments, and our dreams. Don't be afraid to add your voice to the online chorus. The "machine's" [our] education will be incomplete without you.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Sweet School Stories


Photo credit

I read yesterday on Jamie's blog about a kindergarten teacher in New York who reached out to a hard of hearing boy who would be in her class. The little boy who was born deaf now has a cochlear implant but even so still has trouble blocking out background noise . His teacher Joan Cruz wanted to help him have the most successful start in school she could provide him so she contacted the U.S. Tennis Association for used tennis balls and had them attached to all the chair legs and desk legs in her classroom. To me the touching part is that although the teacher is not hearing impaired herself, nevertheless, she understood that quieting her classroom this way would help her new student hear her better. You can see a photo of the boy in his classroom and read the whole story in the New York Daily News.

Here's another story of a teacher who cares. My neighbor Wendy works in a local public school as a teacher's aid in a special education classroom. One of the kids in her class this year has cerebral palsy and uses crutches to walk. Wendy's class was located on the second floor and she told me how the boy would struggle to climb the stairs. Of course my first thought was why isn't an elevator or one of those electronic seats that go up stairs available for him. Apparently for reasons I'm still not clear on, this wasn't available. Fortunately, the teacher Wendy assists is a compassionate soul like Ms. Cruz and she got the classroom moved downstairs. The kids in the class pitched in and helped carry things.

I'm sure we all remember how tough school could be. Imagine having a teacher who understood your needs and made every effort to help you succeed. What a difference compassion can make!