Posts Tagged ‘tv’

The {not so} new show about a deaf girl

My sister-in-law recently told me about a show that she thought might interest me.

Switched at Birth.

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Synopsis, without spoiling anything, is that it’s about a teenage somewhat-spoiled high school girl who does some biology blookwork in class one day, and circumstances lead her to find that she was unconsciously switched at birth by the hospital.  Interesting thing is that when her upper middle class parents meet their actual biological daughter, they find that she is deaf. The show advertises the biological daughter as being Deaf, but because she wears hearing aids to help with sounds, correct me if I’m wrong but I think she would actually be termed deaf. The show spends a lot of time showing the deaf girl’s struggle as she floats between her life within a Deaf Community at school, and a hearing world with her biological parents.

I was pretty skeptical about the show, since Hollywood tends to make a mess out of a great many things (particularly books turned movies), but it was cute. Granted, it’s a teeny-bopper show. It’s low budget. It’s got not-so-great acting, and all the other usuals from pilot episodes, but it was still worth watching. It does skim the surface of what a deaf person would go through.

ABC Family gave the first season ten episodes, which played during the summer, and it has ordered 20+ episodes to complete the first season. Those continuing episodes will air sometime after the first week of January.

If you’re interested in watching, you can view those first ten episodes (optionally captioned) at ABC Family’s website, or they are also available on Netlix and can be subtitled.

I’m looking forward for the next few episodes. I’m betting ABC will give the show a better budget, since it was a hit during the summer, and hopefully the cast will beef up their performances and create an overall better show.

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Sweet Therapy

Sometimes I talk about doing hearing therapy with my cochlear implant, activated six months ago, and I’m not sure that I’ve ever explained what exactly that therapy is.

When I think about therapy, I either think about laying down on a overstuffed burgundy lounge chaise in a psychologist’s office or -and I realize these are two extremes- I think of the movie My Fair Lady. Ever seen that one? Classic of classic movies. Professor Higgins bets another chap that he can transform a lowly flower girl into a lady of high society. A big part of the movie focuses on the object of the bet, Eliza Doolittle, and her vocal therapy.

In the movie, Eliza is forced to say the same phrase over and over and over until she can say it in proper English. Eventually she does, of course, and there’s a whole entire song from the movie dedicated to that success.

My therapy, obviously being a hearing therapy, is actually done in a similar way. The counselor who oversees my cochlear implant support group recommends that I listen to about forty-five minutes of audio something per day. It can be audio books, tapes, podcasts, music, or just anything that I can hear but not see. It’s important that I can’t see who’s speaking for the sole purpose that I will be forced to listen and not lip-read.

In the first few months post-activation of my CI, I was pretty lenient with myself, wanting to just start somewhere with listening comprehension, so I started with episodes of a favorite TV show.  Before activation I couldn’t watch TV without reading subtitles, so I figured if I could pick up anything at all without captions, I’d be making progress! After my activation, my husband and I started would sit in bed at night and watch several episodes of a season of “The Office” on Netflix. At a few weeks post-activation, I would keep the subtitles on in case I missed something they were saying (which was very often at that point), but it was much more difficult that way. I’d want to watch the subtitles instead of listening, but if I did that, what they said was often further along than what was displayed to read. It was confusing! And it wasn’t until I completely nixed the whole subtitle ordeal that I really began to make listening progress.

By watching about thirty to sixty minutes of TV per day, I was able to help myself jump from 0% TV comprehension to about 80% in less than these six months. But keep in mind, every time I’d watched TV thus far, it was using an audio cable that goes from my CI, directly to the laptop, much like using headphones to block out other sound.

This month I’ve started doing other things:

I’ve been listening to a few songs at a time, a couple times a week, using my iPhone. This will help my music comprehension.

I’ve been watching a TV show from my living room- without my audio cable – three times a week. This will begin to help listening with sounds bouncing around.

I’ve also been doing a yoga workout in my living room several times a week, positioning myself so I can’t see the TV at all. This means I’m not only getting my physical, but I’m also placing myself in an environment where my kids are probably talking off and on, the TV sound is bouncing around the room, and it’s a completely imperfect way to hear what’s being said. It’s good for me because it’s helping me focus on the instructions being given by the TV, while forcing myself to learn to block out unwanted noise.

Phone calls! I’ve been forcing myself to answer my phone and talk on it at least, bare minimum, twice a week. Phone calls are hard. Most often, it’s not because I can’t hear whats said, but because if I hear even small noises from my kids during the phone calls, I have a really hard time concentrating on what’s being said. It’s just something I have to practice over and over until my brain learns to focus on what I want it to focus on.

Much like Eliza Doolittle had to repeat “The rain in Spain stays manly in the plain,” over and over again, I have to make a conscious effort to do listening therapy over and over. It helps. I know I’m in a much better place today than I was six months ago, but it’s important that I keep pushing myself to do more, create harder versions of therapy, and get my brain to use this implant to the best of its ability.

When I’ve listened to a half-dozen favorite songs or a half-hour of a hilarious TV show and have heard it? Therapy doesn’t seem so much like therapy. Who knew it would be so fun?

Day 3, part 2: TV and Music

Day 3 seemed to have a lot that I wanted to detail about, so I split it into two parts, so that I had time to blog about it all. Part 1 was done previously, and now I’m finally getting around to Part 2.

At the very end of Day 3, when the house was quiet and kids were in bed, I decided to sit down and watch some television. I’ve always had the captions/subtitles on, and didn’t change that when watching it this time around. Now the show I was watching just happened to be a past episode of the show called The Office. I’ve seen quite a few episodes of this show, and I’ve always thought they were pretty funny.

But here’s the thing.

If you’ve ever watched The Office, you’d know that a very large portion of the humor for the show is projected from the tone of voice from each of it’s cast of characters. It also has a lot of office pranks, and even slapstick type humor, but I never realized how much I was missing from the show until I sat down on Day 3 and could hear all the tone reflections in the voices. It was hilarious! Steve Carell was the highlight, obviously, and I can’t even describe how much I laughed!

When watching this episode, I actually watched it online. In my processor, I have an output where I can plug in a cable directly from the processor to the speakers on my computer. It’s pretty much the same as headphones, only I’m just plugging it in to my processor instead of placing earphones over my ears. Pretty cool stuff. But because I did that, I found the quality of the sound was much clearer than if I’d been talking to someone across the room, or obviously watching a television from across the room. It was clear enough that I was able to pick up about 80-90% of what some of the characters on the show were saying. The problem was that those characters were the low-voiced characters, whereas I had a much harder time understanding the higher pitched and fast-talkers of the show.

In addition, I found that if I just listened, and looked away so I didn’t fall into lipreading, I had to concentrate to understand what they said, and it didn’t always “click” (if that makes sense). It’s like finally understanding what the words are, but I just don’t process what they said because I’m concentrating on the next word.

If I lipread/listen at the same time, I process a whole lot more. So for now, I’m considering the lipreading thing as being an ok thing for me. Eventually I know I’m going to have to force myself to listen without lipreading, but I’ll have to wait until my brain can accommodate the listening without so much concentration.

It was still really weird with the subtitles. I could understand so many of the characters that when one of the high pitched people, or one of the fast-talkers made a comment, I’d have to search through the subtitles to find that particular comment. I was understanding so much from the other people that I wasn’t even reading all the subtitles. Work in progress for sure.

And now music. Lovely music.

The first song I listened to, or tried to listen to, was a song titled “Came to My Rescue” by Hillsong United. It’s an amazing song, but it unfortunately sounded a lot like static feedback. Or exactly like static feedback. I tried picking up several of the band’s other songs, but I finally figured out that part of the problem was that their songs were performed in front of a live crowd and also contained not just one, but a whole group of vocalists.

I left their YouTube site in favor of Maroon 5. Haha, no, that didn’t work out. Those dudes have accents.

Next was Celine Dion. Note that I’m not going for new songs, but songs I’ve heard a million times over so that I can try and filter the melody that I know is there. I barely got any of the melody out of Hillsong United songs, but I was able to pick up the melody in Celine Dion’s “All Coming Back to Me Now.” It was still very static sounding. Even though I hear all her high pitches, it’s still hard for me to feel comfortable with them because I’ve just been so long without them. It was too weird-sounding.

So I changed artists again and again. Finally I ended up with Josh Groban, simply because his voice is very low and his songs are usually very simple and clean. No electric guitars, extensive high pitches, or anything fancy. And success! It wasn’t gorgeous sounding, but it was much closer to music than any of my previous attempts. I picked up every bit of the melody, most of the words, and it was nice. Again, not a beautiful blend of instruments and lyrics, but it was progress in that it was enjoyable. Ha!

The music, just like television, will just take time to get accustomed to. All of the instruments tend to sound the same and if there are too many, it begins to give off the static sound. In time, as I listen more and more, I’ll be able to pick out the different instruments and vocalists. It all boils down to patience. It will come. I just have to wait on it, and practice as much as possible.