Archive for January, 2010

In Her Shoes

I wish I could put someone in my shoes for just a day, or even a couple hours, to really understand what I hear. Or not hear. I told my husband once that every time I talk to someone, if I only use my hearing, it sounds like I’m talking to Charlie Brown’s mother. Remember that? You hear her talking, but it’s this non-intelligible sound so that you just can’t pick out the words she’s saying. Granted, I do read lips, so hearing the sounds for me helps me understand when someone starts or stops a word, making lipreading a heck of a lot easier with hearing aids. But the point being? I can close my eyes, and for the life of me, I hear the sounds but can’t concentrate hard enough to understand one word from the other.

I tell people all the time that I can’t hear. All of my friends and family know it, but sometimes they just crack me up. Yesterday I told a friend of mine that I might not attend a scrapbooking retreat that some of us girls go to every year. I’m not trying to isolate, but when you hear Charlie Brown’s mother and all her non-intelligible friends laughing and talking all weekend long, it gets a little grating on the nerves. It’s like never-ending very loud white noise. For 72 hours straight. Her suggestion? Can’t I bring some headphones with some music to help?

To a normal hearing person, this is just a logical question. Music is soothing, blocks out unwanted sound, and a great stress reliever. But for me? If I can’t distinguish what someone is saying, shouldn’t it be obvious that I can’t tell one note from another? Maybe not. Keep in mind, I know my friend meant well. She was thinking of me, how to fix the situation for me so that I could go and have fun with them.

But the point is, it’s just virtually impossible for a full fledged hearing person to really comprehend or understand me without walking in my shoes. I will say that having the disability makes me sympathetic to other persons’ challenges. Because I know, no one can understand your situation quite like you can. They’re just not walking in your shoes.

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Musical Emotions

Every day I learn more about myself as a deaf person. The other day I put a movie on for the kids, and it happened to be my very favorite animated Disney growing up. Beauty and the Beast. I sat down and started to watch it with them, and not halfway through the movie, I got bored and got up to do other things. Obviously I just don’t enjoy kids movies like I used to.

And a few days later, I’m flipping through the channels and I stop when I find “You’ve Got Mail”. Cheesy movie it is, I just love the combination of Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. A few minutes into the movie, we see the two of them strolling along Manhattan, coffee in hand, enjoying the crisp fall weather, accompanied by that unmistakable melody of “Dreams” by The Cranberries.

It’s right then that it just hits me. I can’t hear the music. I can remember the voices, both the melody and octave-higher harmony of a song I’ve heard a million times over. But it’s not the same. I’m remembering it, not hearing it. I turn off the song in my head, watch the two walking figures, and I think about how boring this movie is too. But it’s not because it really is boring. Something is just missing. And it’s the music I can’t hear that puts the emotion into the whole scene. But what I’m feeling when I watch, is a sudden lack of emotion. Boredom. Tears come to my eyes as I realize it. It’s another depressing fact I learn about myself that I store in the archives of my memory, but I don’t dwell on it. I never do. I learn something about myself, and I move forward.

I do find it interesting to think that music affects us so much. It’s really something I didn’t think of so much. I knew it before, but I really truly appreciate it now. Music shapes our emotions and even our lives by just a simply melody of a few notes. It’s really an incredible thing.

I won’t depress over it. I greatly appreciate the experiences I’ve had as a full fledged hearing person. Believe or not, I’ve been humming that Cranberries tune for days, breaking out into song occasionally, only to see my kids looking at me like I’m crazy. I remember every note and instrument and I won’t soon forget it (no matter how loony the kids think I am).

Next time you watch your favorite chick-flick, I hope you listen to the music and really enjoy it this time around.

This is me.

One question people often ask me is if I was born deaf. The answer? no. I was born a perfectly healthy baby and grew up as most any normal child would, for the most part anyway.

I grew up in suburbia USA. My mom and dad have been married thirty plus years, they had three kids, and we all lived in the same house all my life until I moved out. I lived in a happy, well adjusted, Christian household which is a lot more than most people can say. But I think one thing robbed us of the whole white picket fence ideal. My dad was deaf.

Even from my earliest memories, I can hardly remember my dad being able to hear me unless I was yelling to get his attention. That’s just the way things were. On top of that, my dad’s mom (my grandmother) was also deaf. Believe it or not, we rarely even talked about it. I mean, what was to talk about? It was just a fact of life and we all adjusted the best we could.

But what happened? I don’t even really know. All I do know is that the the year I turned 17, my hearing went downhill. It began so gradual I couldn’t even tell it was happening, but by the time I got married at 20, I remember asking my soon-to-be husband if he would still want to marry me if he knew I might be hearing impaired. But even with all that, I never thought that after having my first child, my hearing would plummet so fast that by the time I was 27 I couldn’t even hear well enough to talk over the phone.

And today? Today I create a blog and realize that it’s the very first time I call myself deaf. Granted, I’ve seen it on the doctor’s hearing charts the last two years, but when you grow up hearing every music note and bird chirp, it’s just so hard to admit.

So where does that leave me now? Don’t think this blog will be about some seriously depressed crazy deaf girl. Far from it. I’m still in suburbia, just shy of the white picket fence. Today it’s my husband of nearly 10 years, myself, and my two beautiful kids (who hear perfectly fine I might add).