A few months ago I started working for the Sanderson Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing as a hard of hearing assistant. One of the my responsibilities is booth duty. Last Thursday I did booth duty for the first time at the Senior Expo here in town. For five hours I was in a noisy convention hall with booming announcements on the overhead speakers that were just horribly intrusive to conversation. Even the hearing people said it was loud, annoying and hard to understand. Not far from the Sanderson Center booth was an assisted living company with their own speaker system doing a raffle with lots of yelling and applauding too.
Even with all that and terrible acoustics, I had a great time talking to people. I had to concentrate, get repeats and lip read but I did fairly well. A few people taught me things and the most interesting one was that Europe has high definition telephones, kind of like the TV only for phones. This lady swore it sounded ten times better than our phone system here in the USA. She wants to advocate for the kind of system here. I helped a lot of people understand what the Sanderson Center had to offer. The candy dishes set out attracted many people to our booth. It’s amazing how big a draw that was alone. A shiny gold Elvis showed up late in the afternoon and I saw an older lady in sparkly blues and greens and admired her too. I enjoyed my booth duty so much, I sort of feel guilty getting paid to do it. My boss laughs and tells me not to because I helped many people.
I had a first time experience while there, an oral interpreter. Several of my co-workers use sign language fluently and I was the only one there who doesn’t. Because they knew it would be noisy, there were two sign language interpreters there to help out which the others used. I didn’t think I’d use them at all but at one point, all my co-workers were wandering the hall when a guy came up who I could not understand. I waved one of the sign interpreters to me telling him I couldn’t sign but needed help so he listened to the guy and then turned to face me, about a foot away, and enunciated his words carefully without going to monkey lips and I understood everything. Even though I only used him once, it was so nice to have that accommodation as a back up. I was so happy to have that accommodation as a back up and felt incredibly lucky to have it available and to be working where I do.
How did I get this job? I think all my past volunteering paved the way. Why did I volunteer? Because I care about hearing loss and helping people who have it. Already what I’ve learned from my bad experiences has helped others. Not everyone seems to want support with hearing loss but the lost souls who ask, I can help. They feel less alone and it makes me feel good. It gives my own hearing loss a purpose.