Are you gambling with communication?

Bluffing – “To engage in a false display of confidence or aggression in order to deceive or intimidate someone.” Google bluffing and watch gambling come up. Are you gambling with communication?

bluffing 1

Bluffing is the first coping strategy we pick up as hard of hearing. I don’t think we are aggressive in nature and probably most are the complete opposite being more in the passive range. We bluff to pass as normal (whatever that is). We bluff to make others think we are keeping up with conversation when we aren’t. The consensus seems to be three repeats and if we don’t understand it, we resort to bluffing. Why? Because we are embarrassed. By three times we should have heard it. What’s wrong with our hearing aids? We paid good money for them and we still can’t understand what people say? We also dread the question, “Are your ears on?”

Instead of asking for another repeat at number three (or even better, a rephrase) we judge the other person’s tone, body language and facial features for clues, then come up with a one or two word answer to fit the question. I could say the word “wow” in several ways to fit what I saw and I got by with it until my ex-husband started outing me. He knew my whole routine and would laugh. He’d tell the other person, “She didn’t understand a word you said.”

How dare he?! If I wanted to bluff, it was my right, only he kept outting me, giving me no other choice. Part of me hated him for it but another part was grateful. Every time the other person, be it friend or salesman, would apologize, back up and look at me to repeat. It worked so I didn’t complain too much. After awhile I learned to beat him to the punch instead, “I’m hard of hearing and couldn’t understand what you said.” At least I did when it really mattered to me.

The rest of the time I went right along bluffing sometimes at work and sometimes while running errands. Not everyone needed to know I was hard of hearing. Being a hairdresser, half my clients wanted to talk at me and required little response… usually. Sometimes I read the person wrong and came up with the wrong “wow.” Seeing their surprised look I back peddled, finally admitting I was hard of hearing and could they repeat that since I misunderstood. I might even show them my hearing aid to prove it.

It took joining the SWC in the late 90’s to get over bluffing most of the time. All these years later, however, I still bluff at places like the bank because most of the time they are asking about the weather or wanting to know how I want my cash back. I also do it at the grocery store where the typical questions are:

  • Did you find everything okay?
  • Paper or plastic?
  • Stamps or ice?

Later I learned this as the coping strategy “prediction” so it’s not really bluffing. Or is it?

Out of curiosity, I asked my SWC friends how they broke their bluffing habit. Here’s some of their responses:

  • I broke it after joining SWC, said another person.
  • “Bluff? I found it easier to be antisocial until I embraced my hearing loss.”
  • “I developed new ways to communicate after joining SWC. I learned from others experiences.”
  • Someone else said “I’m deeply entrenched in the habit. I don’t want to disrupt the flow of conversation.
  • Another friend said, “I entertain people with what I thought I heard. I’m okay with faking in a crowd as long as I don’t have to give my opinion. If I want to know I ask later. I do not bluff in a one on one conversation.”
  • “I’m tired of telling people I’m hard of hearing.”
  • One friend said, “I can always ask later if I want to know what was said.”
  • “I bluff when I’m too tired and can’t cope anymore. It’s too much work to hear.”
  • “I hate hearing the words, Never mind.”

There are a lot of reasons why and when we bluff. Many of us stop bluffing as much after joining a support group. With support comes more ideas and courage to tell it like it is. Hearing aids are imperfect and while they help it doesn’t compare to normal hearing. We learn to tell people what hurts and hope they make positive changes.

My husband called me out for bluffing a few years ago. He came in while I was typing something at my computer. He said, “yadda yadda yadd.” I didn’t look up and replied “Uh huh.” He stood on the other side of my desk pointing a finger at me. “You just bluffed. That’s the same to me as never mind is to you!” I stopped typing and stared at him. (Why did I hear that and not what he said?) His answer blew me away. I hit the roof anytime someone tells me “never mind” (he’s experienced it) and here he felt the same way over bluffing. Is that really the way the hearing people close to us view bluffing? To be fair, he should have got my attention first before talking…but I did bluff.

While it is a coping strategy, it isn’t the best one and we miss many things and we may agree to the wrong thing with the deaf nod.. But sometimes we are tired. When I’m tired I fall back on bluffing. Auditory fatigue is real.

Prediction is another strategy and can be confused with bluffing. At the grocery store the clerk might ask that odd question and then I back peddle. Other times I nod in encouragement because I’m waiting to see if I understand the rest of the conversation before stopping them to ask for a repeat. My brain might fill in the missing pieces and understand the second half. I wait because about the time I ask them to repeat, my brain already filled in the missing slots and I understand so I learned to have patience.

I’m not going to say stop bluffing because I haven’t fully stopped myself. I have cut way, way back compared to those early days. I used to be embarrassed but I’m not anymore. I have a different way of communicating, why should I be ashamed?

Many, many people withdraw because of hearing loss. There are links to dementia for that sort of withdrawal from society. I had a grandma who helped build a senior center in a small town, she knew many people and was social until she got diabetes. She changed her whole life because of that diagnosis and the downhill turn was alarming. I don’t think it’s just hearing loss that makes people withdraw from society, people have too many reasons why they can’t do it anymore. They can do it. You can do it because if I can, you can. It’s an obstacle from the normal (there’s that word again) not the end of the world. There are ways around those obstacles if you choose. The answers above suggest joining a support group helps a great deal. Join SWC, join a local hearing loss chapter. Get to know others, make new friends and find new goals. I find my life very enjoyable these days in spite of hearing loss and maybe even because of it.

Meet My Friend (Blank)

Chelle, this is my friend (Blank)… (Blank) meet Chelle.

forgot your name

Conversation continues after introductions so I don’t stop to ask for a repeat.  I’m trying to keep up with words and names don’t seem as important right away.  Then again, names are important.  When I see them again I’m embarrassed when they remember my name and I don’t know theirs.  I can lipread some names because they are common but other names are different.  Other times I miss most of the letters in their name because it’s out of my sound range.  This is typical for a lot of hard of hearing people.

Ken helps me sometimes by finger spelling the names before or after meeting someone.  Last summer I made it a point to understand the names of several new camp mates by telling them I was about deaf.  (I didn’t want them thinking I was snob when I didn’t answer them also.)  They all faced me and we repeated names until I got them right.  That worked but I haven’t done it since.

I put the question to Facebook friends and they came up with a lot of good answers.

  • Have them write the name down. Carry a notebook and pen or get them to type it out on your phone.  My friend Susan said she needs it written down or she gets frustrated with the repeats also.  Another friend Michele agreed with this. She said the more they repeated their name the more panicked she became, now tells people, “This isn’t working, let’s try something else.”  Several of us agreed it’s easier to see names written. Maybe we should always wear name tags?
  • Ask them to spell it out.  This can work but sometimes I get stuck on letters so for me this isn’t a sure thing either.
  • Drawing the letters in the air or on a desk.
  • Michele says she might put the ball in their court and asks them to suggest something to help her understand their name.  What a creative suggestion. Sometimes a rhyme helps.  Chelle Belly as kids called me in grade school though I was stick thin.  Or sometimes I tell people Chelle, it’s short for Michelle.
  • Eleanor said “Ask for a business card.”  Wow.  That’s a great suggestion. I know I have one I can hand out to people so others must have them too.  Rosie says people in other cultures have ‘visiting cards’ and hand them out to people as they call on them.
  • Cheri says if there’s a list of attendees for an event, she’ll ask to look at it before hand.
  • Another great suggestion came from Jan.  She takes a picture of the people she meets and puts them in her phone right away.
  • Finger spelling came up a few times.  Ken has a hard time learning sign language but he can handle the alphabet and that has helped a great deal. A lot of people have learned the manual alphabet at some point so maybe we can ask.

Another common factor came up through all the replies.  A lot of us fake or bluff when it comes to names.  Henry was upfront about this.  He says he can never remember names.  Amy agreed.  She says she does the vague “Have you met….” and hopes the other person fills in the blank.  Henry also says it helps to remember the face, then we can get away with all sort of “shenanigans.”  He also uses Mrs. Miss or Madam as needed.  I called bluffing and he agreed.  “We are great poker players, aren’t we?”

As I thanked everyone for the comments on Facebook, I brought up how hard it is for me to recognize people.  It feels like another disability as  I cannot remember faces either. I have to see them several times and/or make some kind of mental connection before I can remember who they are.  Henry brought up a an article written by  Oliver Sacks, M.D. who had issues remembering faces too.  Just in case you have these issues too, read Face-Blind.  After reading that article, I was glad it’s only faces I have a hard time with.  Knock on wood, I have an excellent sense of direction and can remember places I’ve been.

I love a group effort, it turns into team work.  Sharing their ideas is what it’s all about.  I’ll try working on new habits myself made by the suggestions of all my friends.  Thank you. I feel like I know some of the best people on earth due to hearing loss.

Talking to a Hard Of Hearing Person

Talking to a hard of hearing person is easy!  Follow these communication guidelines to improve conversations and cut back on repeats.

  • Always get the person’s attention first.  Say their name, wave until the person looks at you or tap their shoulder.
  • Face them when talking.  Be within 6 feet for the best listening advantage.
  • Make sure your face is in the light and not in the shadows.  Hard of hearing people use lipreading to some degree.
  • Take care to enunciate.  Speak at a moderate pace and make sure nothing is in your mouth or in front of it.
  • Use gestures and facial expression as every little bit helps.
  • Do not shout.  Shouting distorts words and faces making it hard to understand.

Sometimes hard of hearing people get stuck on a word or phrase.  Instead of repeating the same thing, try rephrasing.   Use a synonym if possible.  Include more facts in the sentence.  If it’s a long list break it up into smaller sentences.

***

-Their new sofa was so comfortable.

“What?”

-Their new couch was very comfortable.

***

-We’re all going to watch a movie on 33rd this afternoon, do you want to come?

“What?”

-Rhonda, Brenda and I are going the movie theater on 3300 south this afternoon.  Do you want to come?

***

-Hello my name is John.  Welcome to our café. Here’s our specials for the day: Stout braised bratwurst, chipotle barbeque pork sandwich and citrus marinated chicken tacos.  Would you like to try any of those?

“What?”

-Our specials are bratwurst, spicy pork sandwich and chicken tacos.

As a hard of hearing person, instead of saying “what” or “say that again” try making these a habit instead:

Can you say that again but in a different way please?

I heard this part (repeat what you heard) but I missed the last part. Can you say that in another way?

Can you slow down and break it into shorter sentences for me?

Tell me more about the chicken tacos.

With a little practice rephrasing becomes second nature.  

rephrase

Could you rephrase that?

The Benefits of a Hard of Hearing Tribe

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They aren’t weirdos to me, I love them.

Most of us who are hard of hearing live among the hearing and probably don’t have hard of hearing friends to hang out with, on a local level anyway. Some of us may be lucky enough to go to HLAA meetings and experience being around other hard of hearing people where we know to practice the rules for proper hard of hearing communication, we know how to talk to each other. When that’s done we slip right  back into the hearing world.

Hanging out with with other hard of hearing people for an extended amount of time tends to set a routine within the first 6 hours (or less) and suddenly we have a new normal. This happens at hearing loss conventions and it’s heaven. Not only is there live captioning at all the workshops and during the banquets but loops are available too so it’s a world catered to hearing loss. To top that off, the people are awesome away from the workshop settings too. There’s almost no impatience with repeats or with the various modes of communication; hearing aids, cochlear implants, personal amplifiers, lipreading and even writing things down when all else fails. As most of you are already aware, I come home with a natural high after conventions.

minnesota

Last month I went to Minnesota for a week to hang out with hard of hearing friends, most of who I met at past conventions only this was no convention. There were no workshops or fancy accommodations. This was several of us visiting for what we call a “fling” and it was my first time doing this and it’s just as wonderful as going to the conventions.

I kept a running list of my obsersevations while I was there. Here are 10 things I loved about hanging out with my tribe.

  1. We get each others attention before talking. Whether it was touching an arm or waving a hand around, we got the other person’s attention which avoids half the repeats.
  2. We faced each other while talking which also cuts down on unnecessary repeats.
  3. If we were out walking we’d stop to face each other to talk instead of continuing to walk. This keeps someone from walking into a sign, a light pole or falling off the curb. In my case, it kept me from slipping on ice a few times. We may not get anywhere fast this way but communication is better.
  4. No matter who’s house you go to, the captions are already on the television. Woo-hoo!
  5. We can advocate together. At a restaurant we told the waiters we lipread and we wanted captions on the TV. Together we complained to management about improper maintenance of CaptiViews at a movie theater. I think together we make more of an impression.
  6. No one talks with their mouth full because most of use lipreading to some degree. We start chewing fast while holding up a finger or waving a hand around in front of our mouth to signal ‘wait a second’ until food is gone. No flying food with us!
  7. If we are bunking in the same room together, snoring isn’t going to bother either one of us. Bonus!
  8. There’s very little talking while driving which may seem odd at first coming from the hearing world but it becomes comfortable. Hearing in cars has been one of my most difficult situations since I was a teenager, trying to hear above the radio, road noise and traffic noise. I’m exhausted in cars after a few hours of someone talking the whole time. It’s a huge strain on my mental capacity to hear in a car and will eventually wear me out physically too. It was quite nice to sit back and enjoy the scenery with the driver’s eyes on the road.
  9. I had lipreading backup. By far, my friend Michele is better than I am so when we went into a grocery store and both of us only heard/saw one word on the cashiers mouth the entire time I felt relief. Some people are just harder to lipread than others for various reason.
  10. We joined several other friends in a fancy, business style, dark hotel bar. We sat by the fireplace and all our eyes squinted in concentration with a few of us in the shadows. Only with a group of hard of hearing friends can I turn on my cell phone flashlight and put each speakers face in the spotlight with out complaints. (We also had some fun with shadow play.)

There were a few odd things about being with others who are hard of hearing.

  • Without thinking about it, we vie for the best positioning. We want to be front and center. We want to face the room in restaurants for visual purposes. We always want the others persons face in the light.
  • Usually we know when the other person doesn’t understand something that was said. We recognize the look in the far away look in the eyes, the deaf nod or the blank smile…but sometimes we don’t. Some of us are good bluffers but it will usually come out in the end anyway.
  • Niether of us can hear the tea kettle screaming away on the stove. I’m used to my husband telling me when the microwave is done or a timer is going off but that option is not available with other hard of hearing people.

Here’s a couple of things that came to light about those of us who are hard of hearing.

  • We are followers. When with a group of people who are going out to do something we lose track of the back and forth conversation and end up following. (Of course we blindly follow along only with people we trust.) Where are we going? I don’t know but we’ll find out.
  • Without meaning to be, we are noisy in the kitchen. My husband tells me to “take it easy” every now and then when I’m cooking. I don’t think I’m loud but I am and now I know others get the same things from their family also. We don’t know we are being loud, trust me.

The week went by fast, too fast. Coming home I was in my element at the airport and in the plane. I told people what I needed and got a few surprises like the ticket agent telling me he was learning sign language just so he could talk better with those who were deaf. Without being aware of it, I was riding that natural high the whole time.

I came home to reality, sigh. I’m not complaining about my home life because Ken is good about most of the communication between us but it wasn’t my world anymore. Someone told me that’s the sign of a good vacation coming home a bit bummed because it’s over. I can agree with that. It sure makes me look forward to the next SayWhatClub convention.

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Past SWC convention in Salt Lake

Personal Review on the Quattro 4.0

The demo room at work offers a variety of HATs (hearing assistive technology) to people who are hard of hearing.  Utah has a try  before you buy program because let’s face it, as hard of hearing we often buy that new gadget hoping it will be a miracle.  When it’s not our personal miracle it ends up in a drawer somewhere as money wasted.  The demo room has FM systems, personal listening devices, TV listening systems, alerting systems and more (even different phones to try but they can’t leave the site).   People can borrow them for a month to test, to see if it’s worth buying. Being surrounded by technology for the hard of hearing is pretty cool and I play with them as needed.

A few months ago and older man came in and wanted help for an upcoming lunch with a friend who was soft spoken.  He didn’t want the PockeTalker or the Mino and he really didn’t want to try the FM system either; nothing so obvious.  I brought out the Quattro 4.0 which I never used before but heard good things about from someone I once volunteered with on a committee.  It’s a Bluetooth necklace device that also works with T-Coils. The client loved the removable microphone option.   He wasn’t sure if he had T-Coils in his hearing aids so he made an appt with his audiologist and came back to me a week later.

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Over that week I played with the device. The Bluetooth paired easily with my phone and I could use it as a T-Coil as well.  I heard my music fine but I admit I didn’t try calling anyone because I gave up the phone years ago.  I was bummed I didn’t have any control over the bass/treble, that’s always a nice option.

Next I tackled the removable microphone which took me a few hours of re-reading the directions and trying again. The device kept saying’dialing’ and since I had no desire to dial anyone I cancelled the process multiple times.  It took a few hours to figure out that ‘dialing’ is more of a timer instead.  Eventually I had a victory which I could reproduce do I did the Snoopy dance.

As I fussed with the device it talked to me, in fact, it talked too much for my liking.  An annoying voice told me the call was terminated, pairing and a few other things.  If could have shut the voice off I would have.  I do not understand why companies make talking devices for the hard of hearing. If anything, give us captions people!

They guy came back the following week an  I got it working once to show him how to do it but we couldn’t getting it going for him.  We fussed for half an hour and still couldn’t figure what we were doing wrong.  He was determined to make it work so he took it home anyway with the directions. A few weeks later he came back in to return it.  He never could get the removable mic to work but he enjoyed the music from his phone through it.  He decided not to buy it.

While I was learning with the Quattro, I was pleased to see it didn’t drain my phone battery too fast.  It would be an awesome device if the mic was easier to work with.  It would also be great if the mic could be clipped onto someone’s shirt. The one I tried was only lay it on the table.  In the end, I packed it away in the cabinet and haven’t brought it out since.  I think about that experience and I’m not tempted to bring it out again until I have someone who knows how it works to show me what to do.
Others may have figured it out but I couldn’t and that client couldn’t either.  If anyone has tried it and had success please tell me the secret!  Over all the Comfort Contego FM system remains my favorite device for for workshops, lectures and classes.  It’s pricey but it has lots of options and is a whole lot easier to use.
music
*Side note: Yes I listen to music through my phone.  It’s my music meaning it’s old stuff from the early 90’s and below when I could hear or it’s my techno music which is a hard, fast, bass beat typically (really good for the aerobic machines at the gym).  I still don’t understand lyrics most of the time, even through my phone or a Bluetooth device.  Listening to music without the worry of return conversation is easy.  Talking on the phone to someone who expects me understand and reply is a whole lot more work and there’s no guarantee I’ll understand even with the extra effort.

Why I Don’t Identify as “Hearing Impaired”

I had to back up and think about my statement on Facebook the other day. I don’t identify with being hearing impaired and I know several others with hearing loss who don’t identify with it either. I’m not everyone and I’m not most people because some have said they don’t mind the label hearing impaired. I didn’t get my first pair of hearing aids until 23 yrs old and the lable I got then was “hard of hearing.” Since that was my first label maybe that’s what I’m most comfortable with??? I just can’t do the ‘hearing imparied’ for myself.

I looked up the definition of impaired:

1. Diminished, damaged, or weakened

2. Functioning poorly or incompetently

3. Having a physical or mental disability:

n. (used with a pl. verb)

People who have a physical or mental disability considered as a group

Truly, I felt all of the above at one point. Mostly that was before gaining support from others like myself, learning better coping strategies and educationing myself about high frequency hearing loss. Since then, the only time I’ve felt dimished, damaged or weakend is when I haven’t been given proper accommodations. When given those accommodations, I feel included, empowered, fully functional and able to participate.

Before learning better coping strategies, I may have seemed mentally incompacitated when I bluffed and guessed wrong. Once I gave up bluffing, most situations improved. When I took control of my hearing loss, more situations improved. When I educated myself and others about high frequency hearing loss, communication and relationships improved. I had to learn a different style of communication.

A different communication style plays into my current thinking from my past. When my middle son was in grade school, he was 2 ½ grade levels behind. When I took him to school in the morning he dragged his feet and sometimes cried before getting out of the car. He knew he was the ‘slowest’ child in class. Every day when I picked him up, I could see his self-esteem falling and it broke my heart. I demanded the school test him and they found out he has an auditory processing disorder. Because of all the ear infections as a baby/toddler, he learned visually instead of through his ears so he has a different learning style. Schools teach the auditory method. They wanted him to adapt. He didn’t even qualify for extra help while at school because his average peer was one grade level behind and since he was only “one” grade level behind, he was fine! I could not stand by and watch his self-esteem continue to plummet.

Instead, I researched his learning style and found out many kids are visual learners such as ADD and dyslexic. More and more kids were becoming visual learners but the schools won’t change. I took my son out of the public school system and homeschooled him for a couple of years teaching to his learning style. He blossomed, he caught on and he started learning again. I told him all the time he wasn’t the one who failed, it was the school who failed him.

When we moved to a different state he went back into the public system with an IEP (individualized education plan) in place this time. A few years later in high school he had it figured out, we dropped the IEP and he assimilated into the school without distress or low self-esteem. Success! He wasn’t impaired, he needed a different learning style.

judge

I now apply that to my hearing loss. I haven’t failed, the set mode of communication has failed. More and more of us are becoming hard of hearing. Are we dimished, damaged or weakened? No, we have a different mode of communication that doesn’t fit standard society. Society is the one who makes me feel dimished, damaged and weakened, if we let it. It is part my fault not getting proper accommodations when I don’t educate others.

Why is everyone expected to be the same? We’re not. We all have different needs.

Is it my fault when others don’t accommodate me? Not neccesarily. I now know education is the key and I educate others almost every chance I get. Unfortunately there’s more educating to do, a lot more. I’ve learned things through trial and error. What works for me may not work for everyone. I apologize if I offend people, it was not my intent. I only know how the word ‘impaired’ affects me.

I can’t identify as deaf either. I’m somewhere between the worlds because I still use what’s left of my hearing and my eyes too. I have learned some sign language but I’m far from Deaf. Maybe that’s why it’s hard to label us, we all have our own ways.

There’s another word in the definition of impairment I don’t agree with; disability. I feel like I have a lot of ‘ability’ in the right environment. I like what these people have to say:

disability

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I’ll add if could accommodate people, there would be no disability.

Please, share your views. I do my best to keep an open mind and I can be swayed. When some people use “hearing impaired” I don’t say anything because I know they mean well. When the state uses it to define me, I got a little riled up. It may take me a few days for comments to soak in but I really do consider all views.

The Super Bowl as Hard of Hearing

For years I have mostly stayed home to watch the Super Bowl because I want to watch it the way I want to watch it.  Mainly I want to control the captions.  I don’t like the captions on during the game because they are often displayed right in the middle of screen where all the action is going on.  Or they put the captions over stats, times, scores, etc and sometimes I want to see all that too. However I like to turn the captions on during the commercials for they are half the fun!  So watching football with me means I push a lot of buttons.

This year I have the hearing loop to top it off.  Now I really don’t need or want captions during the game and I can hear the commercials that aren’t captioned.  This year it looks like all the commercials were captioned anyway but I was prepared.

We got an invite this year and Ken politely turned it down after talking to me (see my reasons above).  His friend came back and said he has 3 TVs so I could have the captions on one of them.  This is where I took over and thanked him for the offer then explained my remote control control use.  “I’d need to be the remote control queen.”  I also told him I have the hearing loop here at home and that’s an added benefit.  He came back with “You get to be remote control queen and bring your loop too.”  Wow!  That’s not an offer I get everyday.  I get to watch the game the way I want and get to be social too???  Okay then!

He sent Ken a picture of the back of his TV so we could figure out the connection ahead of time.  Funny enough, we used a spare connection from the Bluetooth TV streamer I have and don’t use (I can’t keep my necklace charged to use it).    We got there a little early and this is what I see as I walk into the living room.

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I’m near tears.

Ken pulls out the loop and it connects to the TV without a problem.

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And I’m all set with lots of options.  I can watch the game. I can hear the game.  I can socialize.  I can move in and out of captions especially fast because his remote control had a special CC button.  I was in Super Bowl heaven.

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With my phone of course.

Good food, good people and a pretty good game even though I wasn’t cheering for the team who won.  It was a unique experience and I was honored to be included, I was touched.

I think that was the first time I’ve told someone the full reason why I don’t go to Super Bowl parties.  It was also the first time someone asked why not?  Why haven’t told people that before?  Probably because I figured people would be irritated by it all but not so.  Of course there were other TVs in the house others watched it from our TV too.

A few things I want to remember…

One: I could be more proactive and not automatically assume it’s not going to happen.

Two: There are really good people out there and I think most people fall into that category. It’s not like I hang out with many bad people anyway.

Three: I want to make a hard of hearing party soon around a movie or something.  I want to invite my friends with hearing aids over.  If I had that much fun with hearing people, I want to do it with my hard of hearing friends too.