Things can go a lot smoother…
I belong to the League of Utah Writers which held a writers conference the 17th of this month. I read about the conference and really wanted to attend but I had the image of the disastrous ski patrol banquet firmly in my mind. (Click here for a review.) I held a lot of fear for a large scale social situation. One thing that fiasco taught me was to prepare in advance so I wrote the organizers of the conference before payment of registration. It was important for me to know I would be accommodated first before paying or I would not put myself through the frustration of going.
I let them know which writers group I belonged (even though I only attended one meeting before the summer break) and that I was hard of hearing. I wanted to know what accommodations they had for the hard of hearing. They wrote back within a day or two letting me know they didn’t have anything available, what would I suggest? I told them CART would be great explaining what that was (educating others about what is out there) but I was willing to try using my FM system alone if they the workshop presenters would agree to wear the transmitter. I named the workshops I was most interested in. A week went by without any word and I wondered if they forgot me then came the email letting me know the presenters were happy to oblige. I sent in my registration and money proud of myself for being brave enough, and smart enough, to ask for what I needed in advance and happy to know others were willing to help.
The day came. I woke up way too early with a troubling dream about trying to talk to chat with someone who had no mouth to follow for speech reading. Not a great way to start such an important day but at least I had lots of time to get ready. As left the house, I realized my tinnitus was screaming louder than normal. Great, just what I needed. I unlocked the door and ran back inside to get my iPod so I could listen to music on the way taking my mind off tinnitus. Back in the car with ear buds in place, I left for my newest adventure.
I arrived at the conference center about 45 minutes early. I thought I would write in my notebook while in the car to kill some time. Big, black clouds were rolling in and lightning streaked downward not far away. I did not want to walk into the center without having my hearing aids in and I didn’t want to walk there in a down pour getting them wet either so I gathered everything up and went inside.
At the registration table I check in letting them know right away I am hard of hearing. They give me a name tag and I find a corner to sit down in and wait. Nervousness took over. Not only was I doubting my right to be there as a ‘writer’ but I flashed back to the ski patrol banquet and wondered what the hell I was doing. Was I letting myself in for another disaster and more grief? I focused in on my tinnitus again and was about to panic.
Instead I took a few big, deep breaths and told myself to calm down. This was different from the banquet because I had prepared in advance. I won’t expect to hear everything but I do whatever I can in my power to make this a better experience.
At ten minutes to the workshop, I lined up at the door and readied my FM system. I needed a seat in the front row and I needed time to introduce myself to the presenter. As soon as the doors opened, I was not shy about going in and sitting front and middle. As soon as I saw someone setting up his lap top, I went over and let him know who I was. Did he know about my FM system? He did. He took it and put it on. I also let him know that lip reading also helped me a great deal. I told him I knew it was unfair to ask him to stay right in front of me the whole time but if he could face my way I would get it. He nodded and a few minutes later the presentation started. I think I was holding my breath.
He had a good voice for me, within my hearing range. The FM system did it’s job and he did stay to my side of the room most of the time making lip reading easier. I started to relax some but still had to stay alert as listening is never an easy process for me. He had a power point presentation which also helped because I knew the topic of each subject making it easier to follow him. I think I heard about 95% of what he said which is remarkable.
I looked around the meeting room. It had good carpet, there were windows along one wall but it had curtains hanging. The ceiling was not too high. The room’s acoustics were good aiding my understanding. It was a wonderful experience.
The only downside was I couldn’t participate with the audience in discussion because they were too far away from my transmitter. I could always see the person talking or their voice was so out of my range I couldn’t hear them but he usually managed to answer with a review of the question. The other thing that could have driven me nuts was he paced around often making the transmitter slide across his name tag. It made a horrible whooshing noise which mechanical means for hearing pick up all too well. Scritch, scritch, scritch. It was as bad as screaming tinnitus. If I focused on it, I lost his words so I made a point to concentrate on his voice.
I came out of that 2 hour workshop thrilled with my experience, hearing wise and what I had learned. I had an hour so I went to eat lunch where I sent my mom a few excited texts to the effect, “I did it! I’m fine!” I couldn’t wait for the next workshop.
The next workshop had a woman presenter. Again, I went in first snagging my seat up front and middle. As soon as I placed who the presenter was, I again went up and introduced myself with the same spill. She knew about the FM system too and put it on. Remembering the name tag business last time, I asked if I could tighten up the cord some to bring it closer to her head. Plus she had a soft voice though she did tell me her speaking voice would be different.
There was no power point presentation this time. It took me about 30 minutes to get used to her voice and I raised the volume on my hearing aids for more clarity. After that I relaxed again. I probably got about 85% of what she said which is still very good for me. Lip reading was more critical for me with her and she stayed near the center of the room to make it easier for me. Again, I was thrilled to be there and understanding most of what was said.
The downfalls here were again audience participation. Because I raised the transmitter there were no scritching sounds but she did have a metal water bottle which she held at chest level to unscrew and screw back on. It made and terrible scratching noise which made my eyelids flutter. Even worse was her crayon box. She wanted us to map out our childhood neighborhoods (memoir writing). The crayons were in a cardboard box held, again at chest level, and every time she grabbed a handful I wanted to rip out my hearing aids. It was an ear shattering noise. I ended up turning my hearing aids way, way down while she passed out the crayons. During the break everyone began chattering to one another. It destroyed the clarity of the FM system making it useless. I turned down my hearing aids again and made notes while everyone else socialized.
I came away from this workshop having learned a lot and happy with my hearing experience. I could do it! I was excited all the way home with possibilities running wild in my mind for writing and future hearing type of events. Preparation of this kind got me through this so maybe now I would not fear social events so much. It verified how advocating for myself in advance works. The FM system may not always be the tool to use but I am less afraid to ask for CART when needed now maybe. People are good and willing to help if make my needs known which was also heart lifting.