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Sunday, January 25, 2015

First Night of Class Discoveries

On the first night of my new class, Communication Training, my professor had us take a Myers-Briggs personality test. I was very interested in this activity because I had taken one about 25 years ago and remembered my result was ESFJ. I was able to remember that distinctly because it was around the time I was in library school and the typical librarian is an ISFJ. I was curious if my personality type had changed over the years. My results showed I was now an ISFJ. At first, I attributed that to nearly two decades of working in libraries. But then the thought occurred to me that perhaps it was partly because of my hearing loss. The old extraverted me has had to develop more of the rich inner world of an introvert as it's become increasingly difficult to communicate in social situations. Frankly, it can be more relaxing to stay home and read a book or watch a captioned television show alone than go out with other people and struggle to understand what they are saying.

Another part of our class session involved introducing ourselves and sharing what we hoped to gain from the class. When it was my turn, I stated that I am hard of hearing and am interested in developing a training class for friends and family members of people who experience a hearing loss later in life. The objective of the class would be to learn techniques and strategies to help them improve their communication with their loved one. My teacher was surprised. She asked bluntly, "How would I know that you're hard of hearing?" Her question was brilliant and gave me an opening to explain the concept of invisible disability.

This was easier for me to do because another student speaking before me had shared her situation of being legally blind with a continuing decline in her vision. To look at her one would never guess that. I was pleased when that student immediately invited me to join a campus group that tackles the stigma of disability. My professor checked in with me later when we had moved to another room to be sure I was hearing her. She noted that it must take active listening on my part to keep up which I readily agreed to, admitting it can be tiring.

I did not tell her that earlier in the class session, I had made a false assumption I attribute completely to my hearing loss and not catching all the words that had been said. Seated in my row were two Muslim women wearing hijabs with long-sleeved dresses. Only their faces and hands were visible. I recognized one of them from a previous class and she had greeted me warmly when I came in the classroom. When the teacher was talking to them, I caught her saying the word mother and noticed that she gestured towards the woman seated nearer to me. The teacher responded that they looked more like sisters. So I figured out that one was a mother and the other was her daughter. Then I thought that the woman I knew was the daughter and the other one was her mother because I had heard her say the word mother. But I was not sure I was right. I stole a few more glances at their faces and hands and saw one had a wedding ring and the other did not. I realized that the one sitting closer to me was actually the younger looking one and so must be the daughter. When we had a break, I asked her if she was the daughter and she said yes. I was grateful I had the extra time I needed to process that and figure out their identities correctly. If I had spoken too soon, it would have been very embarrassing for me.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Jury Service Jitters

When I got a standby jury summons notice in the mail, I knew what to do based on my past experience. But this time my experience was slightly different, so I thought I would share what happened to me.

When I emailed the jury accommodation staff regarding a CART request, I was told I could either confirm with the office that I was coming in that day or request a postponement. I decided to go ahead with the January date rather than put off the inevitable. As it turned out, I heard from another juror that I would have been called in as a juror that day (according to the letters of the alphabet of last names chosen) so it worked out to my benefit to have made this plan in advance rather than risk having to come in without making an accommodation request.

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As the day approached, I found myself feeling nervous about the experience. On the day I had to report to the courthouse I had a full-blown case of the jitters. I did fine going through the security at the courthouse and finding the jury waiting room. When I handed my jury summons in at a check in table, the clerk mumbled something which after a moment I figured out was "Is the spelling of your name and address correct?" Mine was so I nodded and received my panel number on a small slip of paper. This number is the key to the whole jury waiting room experience. When a panel number is called, all the people holding that number assemble and as a group proceed into a courtroom to be interviewed as potential jurors.

With my number in hand, I found a seat in the same section I had sat in the last time which had a clear view of a wall-mounted video screen. I knew there would be a video orientation which would be shown with captions. I could not remember if the screens were also used to display the number when a panel was called to the front. It turned out they were not but I think if they could be that would be excellent. I know it would have eased my nervousness about not hearing if my number was called.

As soon as the video was finished, I made a beeline to the office. I explained that I was hard of hearing and had requested CART captioning services. The clerk asked me my name and she seemed to recognize it. She offered me a seat and telephoned for the captioner to come and meet me. After a short wait, a nice woman came in and introduced herself to me. She said, "I will be with you today to help you." I was very reassured, but also a bit misguided as I thought that meant she was going to be sitting next to me in the jury waiting room. No, she left after confirming that she would be called if her services were needed.

I returned to my seat in the waiting area. I smiled and told the woman sitting next to me, "They've got me all set up." She said, "What do you mean?" I explained that I had trouble hearing and they had someone who would type the words out for me to read if I were called to go into a courtroom. I was glad I had shared that with her because for the rest of our day, she was kind about making sure I knew what numbers had been called. But even so, I still felt jittery. At one point, I was clutching the paper with the panel number on it tightly in my hand, even after they had called numbers which I knew were not mine. My friendly neighbor leaned over and said, "It's okay. You're good."

But someone else wasn't. One of the groups called was missing a member. This resulted in a bit of entertainment for us bored onlookers as the clerks tried to figure out who was missing and who was there. I think everyone was looking around to see who hadn't been paying attention. After about 20 minutes, a woman came up to join the group. She did not seem particularly embarrassed or upset. I would have been mortified.

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One woman who announced panel numbers was very emphatic as she spoke into the microphone, "Number __, get all your things. You're going to court!" After hearing that a few times, I commented, "I hate how she scares me," and the two women sitting on either side of me burst out laughing. By that time, I had caught on to the fact that these court employees were used to dealing with jurors who didn't quite get what they said the first time. I was really in good company. In fact, I wasn't the only nervous one. There were others who were nervous about the jury experience for their own reasons, completely unrelated to hearing loss.

It turned out that my number was never called. Even though we had been told at one point that they expected to need all 600 of us and that we could expect to go into the courtroom for selection at least once that day, it didn't happen. Apparently there were lots of cancellations where the cases were settled at the last minute. That was fine with me. Since I had not been selected that day, I could go home and not return for jury service for at least a year. If and when I do return, I want to remind myself of today's experience so I won't be as nervous next time.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

My Visit to the Audiologist

I see my audiologist about every 6 months to get my hearing aids cleaned. I also buy supplies at that time, which in my case includes batteries, dome tips, and wax guards. My hearing aid batteries generally need replacing every 7-10 days and the other items are replaced on a monthly basis. Sometimes I ask the audiologist to change my hearing aid settings. For example, bumping up the volume or adding a telecoil program.

At this appointment I asked for the car program I had heard about at the HLAA convention. When I am in a car travelling on a highway, I usually take out my hearing aids because I can't stand the road noise. When I asked my audiologist about a car program, she said that not all hearing aid manufacturers have that as a preset option and in my case it was not available. So instead she set me up with a non-directional background noise suppression program. I am taking a day trip soon that will allow me to test it out, so I will let you know if I like it or not.

I also asked for one notch up in the volume. I was a little unsure about this request, but my audiologist seemed pleased. When I had my volume levels increased a year ago, she thought I might come back to have them turned down, but that wasn't necessary. At this visit, I told her that noises that seemed bothersome to me in the past (such as the sound of hair dryers, vacuum cleaners, and electric mixers) no longer sounded as loud. The audiologist surprised me by saying that was good. I had assumed that it was bad because it indicated further hearing loss. Instead, she explained it meant that my brain was actually growing accustomed to these noises. I noticed that after she turned up the volume, my own voice seemed much louder to me. She told me I would get used to that as well and it would not be as noticeable.

While I was there, the audiologist also cleaned my ears. This was my first time at having that done at her office. I was impressed by the amount of wax buildup she removed. Naturally, having this done should also help me hear better.

Before I left, I made a follow up appointment upon her advice. She told me to give the increased volume and car program a trial for a couple weeks and if I needed any adjustments, I could come back for the follow up at no charge. If I did not need any, I could simply cancel the appointment.

I left her office feeling very satisfied. I'll let you know how the car program and extra volume work out for me.