Category Archives: sign language

Always Learning, Never Stops

I miss writing, a lot.  I think I said that in my last post months ago. 

My full time job is to assist others with hearing loss, I’m the Hard of Hearing Specialist. That’s a fancy title however it doesn’t mean I have it all down, I’m still learning and experiencing new situations.

Situation #1

A few weeks ago I was required to attend a 2 day training. Being mindful I requested CART (live captioning) in advance and even helped to hook them up with the CART provider we use. It was a smooth process, the state accepts that accommodations are needed at least in my department. I went in confident and came out feeling apart from the process even with the best accommodation. The source of the problem, a workbook.


Only I didn’t have a screen, I was reading off her laptop.

It’s not just the workbook, it started off on the wrong foot. Usually when I go into a group I introduce myself and my hearing loss but that didn’t happen this time because this workshop was about getting outside of yourself and thinking as a team instead. They instructed us to get to know the person sitting next us and introduce them instead…and go! (About 20 people.)

The room erupted into so much noise I was rattled and had to take out my hearing aids so I could focus on the person next me. It was a woman and her voice was mostly out of my range so I had to keep turning around to look at CART until I got used to lipreading her. I was back and forth so much between her and CART that I could not properly introduce her. (Next time take notes.)

She did not properly introduce me either. I was upfront about my hearing loss with her, she saw my initial struggle after the room erupted into noise and was too nice to mention it during the introduction. She did say I came from the Deaf and Hard of Hearing center but didn’t say I was hard of hearing though it was kind of obvious I was getting some special attention with CART set up right beside me.  I think she was trying to be politically correct and draw attention to me in that way. I’m not just a hearing loss but it is a map for communicating with me. (Next time go ahead and speak for myself after.)

The workshop progressed, we had new books and a workbook. It came down to writing in the workbook several times, a pause to write a bit then, “Go ahead and write while we keep talking.” That was just not possible. The first few times I rushed to get my thoughts down on the workbook, which we shared with the others at the table, only to have my thought process interrupted by voices. I hear enough to know people are talking but can’t understand what they are saying unless I’m looking, at either them or CART. So I watched CART and lost my chance to work in the notebook. After about the 3rd time I gave up trying to write in the workbook.

Teamwork was the key topic of the workshop and I was highly aware that I was not participating, it was depressing. Usually CART gave me the freedom to participate but because of a workbook I was not able to. How ironic. (Next time ask about about the training process so I’m better prepared.)

So I went home upset but it doesn’t take long for me to turn from pity party to how I can I make this better? 

  1. Show up early and explain to the training leaders what’s happening on my end, how I cannot write and listen at the same time.
  2. Introduce myself properly to the other 2 at our table and explain why I have very little written in my workbook.
  3. Don’t stress the workbook anymore. 

Which I did and felt much more relaxed on day two. I learned things, appreciated the books and someday soon maybe I’ll be able to look at the workbook more closely. 

Situation #2

I attended the HLAA convention last week. I agreed to go to a breakfast with a group of people I hardly knew and I was excited to get to get to know them better to expand my network within the hard of hearing community.  

First of all, I tend to see a lot of people I know at hearing loss conventions and I tend to want to stay up too late, soaking up being around those of my tribe. I stayed up too late the night before and then couldn’t sleep well the rest of the night. I went to the breakfast meeting over tired and you know what happens when you’re over tired with a hearing loss, right? It makes it a lot harder to concentrate, the brain doesn’t work fast enough piecing together sounds and in fact, it doesn’t work well at all. (Next time plan for more sleep, being well rested means a lot to a hard of hearing person.)


How I felt.

There I am walking to breakfast with everyone and there’s a lot of signing going on so again I feel my confidence sliding. I’m learning sign language and I’m nowhere near fluent. When I’m around the Deaf I tend to want to slink back into the shadows and then forget everything I know about sign. Here’s strike 2 right off the bat in this situation, I’m over tired and my sign is painfully slow. Sitting down in the restaurant without my usual alertness, I sat in the worst spot possible spot, the majority of my party were back-lit against a wall of windows. Strike 3, you’re outta there! 

I think all of us were at least hard of hearing and hard of hearing people tend to vie for the same spot in restaurants, it’s a comedy to watch if in the know. So there I was trying to read sign and lips when I could, failing terribly and feeling very sorry for myself. I ate breakfast in silence watching the others and not feeling a part of the group at all. It’s not often that I feel like I’m in no-mans-land anymore, it used to be in the hearing world mainly but sometimes it’s the Deaf world too. I could not wait to get away.

Feeling frustrated with myself I went for a walk after to shake it off. Why did I not speak up for myself? When would I ever be fluent enough in sign, will I ever learn?What a sorry hard of hearing specialist I am.

After a mile or so, I forgave myself. I was over tired and if there’s a time I will break down its when I’m overtired, my brain simply doesn’t function as well. I am learning enough sign that I could follow some of the topics even if I didn’t know the why of the conversation so give myself a pat on the back for picking up a portion of it. I am improving if slowly. When I’m around other hard of hearing people I tend to start signing as I go and it comes naturally. When I around Deaf people I freeze so maybe it’s time to put myself in the path of more Deaf people at work to get myself over that hump.


mt fluency

I’m not quite to conversation ridge.

In the space of two weeks I had two experiences that made sure to tell me I’m as much the student as I am a teacher. It’s always going to be that way. I learn from my failures and in working through them,  which in the future build confidence even if I don’t feel it right this moment. 

Now to lighten up with some favorite pictures from the convention because I really did have a good time!

HOH tribe

welcome party

maclains workshop



My World

I attended a small SayWhatClub gathering in 1998, about 30 of us camped out in Rocky Mountain National Park.  No one felt left out of conversations, everyone was included even it took 5 repeats.  We hiked, toured the country and hung out late around the campfire.  I left feeling happy, super glad I went to spent time with others who are hard of hearing like me.

Two weeks ago, I went to the Hearing Loss Association of America’s convention in Rhode Island.  I left Salt Lake with smile on my face  knowing it would be ‘my world’ there.

I had two roommates, one I found on the message boards and the other found me through someone I know in the SWC.  Laura came from Massachusetts and  Robin from Colorado and we were all three in 40’s which we didn’t realize until we met.  We hung out on the edge of our beds, talking like girls at slumber party until late. Laura is hard of hearing with only one hearing aid right now, waiting for money to buy another.  She’s mellow and a calming influence, easy to hang out with. Robin is basically deaf, hearing only enough noise with her hearing aids to make her look up but is the most excellent lip reader I have ever come across.   If she’s looking at someone, she comes across totally hearing.  It’s amazing and she shrugs off admitting she’s one of the few.  She grew up oral not allowed to sign.

Before I left Salt Lake, I set my phone with times and places of each workshop I wanted to attend and forgot about it.  When I looked at my schedule Thursday morning, I thought things were off somewhat but couldn’t be sure without a program book and access to all my email.  I poked my head into a research workshop I signed up for thinking maybe I was half an hour late and found out I missed the whole thing!  I spent half an hour with them and went out to take a closer look at my phone/calendar.  Oh man, there’s a button to push to change time zones for each event I enter into it.  I showed the research event for Denver time.  So I sat down with my phone and switched all the other events to New York time.

Mostly I attended workshops around building our local chapter.  Thursday afternoon was all about harnessing group dynamics with a two-part workshop.  Before the actual workshop started, a lady reminded us to turn on our T-coil because the rooms are looped.  I did and WOW!!!  I never experienced it before this and I was totally amazed at the clarity of sound coming through my hearing aids at the push of the button.  I heard so well, I hardly needed CART (it’s also helpful the that the presenter was male).  I’m all for loop technology now and wish it was in more places in the U.S.  It’s all over Europe but we are slow getting it going here.  Anyway, he presenter made the class a lot of fun and I left feeling high on life.

Next came the Presidents reception where I met two SWC people in person I never had before but they each had a group around them and I guess I didn’t want to intrude.  I felt a little awkward there, sipping wine, wandering around, chatting to people I didn’t know.  Before I left, I wanted to thank someone for all his help during our first Walk4Hearing here and he introduced me to a dynamic lady who is working with 6 Walks in the north-east.  I got so many wonderful ideas from her to share with my group here.  That was one of my best contacts made while there.

When the reception was over I wandered to Meet and Greet sponsored by Caption Call, from the Salt Lake area.  Feeling good about being there, making connections.  I walk by a guy making balloon hats and I gotta have a balloon hat, not just a regular hat, it had to be a great hat I explained to the artist.  After getting the hat, I saw someone I knew from Caption Call and she took a picture.

Then I saw Laura and we wandered over to the tables with 3 caricature artists at work.  He wanted the balloon hat off.

I put my hat back on started to mingle.  I met so many neat people and I have such a hard time remembering names.  I wound hanging around a guy who’s been coming to these things for 15 years.  He kept introducing me to people so by this time, faces started to blend together.  John’s another great person, born basically deaf, growing up in the oral world (but doesn’t lip read like Robin) and learning sign later. He has two cochlear implants and loves techno music for the beat.

The next night I joined his group for dinner and he introduced to me two more neat people, Nini and Elenore there with their families.  They were hard of hearing and signed as they talked.  It’s an additional tool to use they said.  At first I felt a little intimated around them as they signed but as I relaxed I started picking up some of the sign and even using some of it myself.  What I didn’t get verbally, I sometimes caught in sign.  How wonderful to be around people like that.  I soaked it up.

There were more workshops with loops and CART, more lunches and dinners with more people to meet.  I couldn’t get enough of it, staying up late with everyone but being an early riser made for very little sleep.

The city of Providence puts on a weekend show on the river called Firewater. They have steel bowls anchored into the river, load the bowls with wood and boats go around lighting the fires with ceremony and music.

Complete with a fire spinner.  Most of the people around me hadn’t seen this type of thing before but me being an experienced Burning Man person had.  I bet the guy spinning in front of the boat (not the best of pictures, sorry) is a burner.

There were some oh’s and ah’s as the guy spun some steel wool.

And that was my last night there. I don’t think I went to sleep until after 3 a.m.  I met more neat people that night.  Of course I woke up early. I attended the morning awards breakfast to watch a local friend of mine receive a distinctive award for all the advocating she does.  I also got a token award for working with the Walk4Hearing.  The event came down fast after that.  A handful of us stayed, talking in the convention center until we decided to go to one last lunch together.

I’m in the middle on the right with Robin the most excellent lip reader sitting in front of me.  John with the two CI’s is sitting almost across from me.  We sat there right up until the time I had to go to the airport, thank goodness I made for a later flight.  My original plans were to see Rhode Island that afternoon, to explore the area since I’d never been there before.  That never happened and I don’t regret it either. It was much better hanging out with people who understand my world, who are part of my world.  John had his car with him so he drove me to the airport.

I got on the plane thinking my time had ended. I settled in while people continued to file in.  I look up and there’s one of the SWC people I didn’t get to talk to much.  I waved Debbie over and she sat in the seat next to me.  We talked all the way to Chicago, convention bonus time.  I enjoyed the time spent with her, getting to know each other and it was the perfect way to end it all.  Once in Chicago, we had different flights to catch.

What and awesome world it was.  The SWC convention will be here in Salt Lake next month. I helped arrange bits of it.  There will be 50 of us instead of 600 + but it will be all the same sort of affair; workshops with loops and CART,   people I’ve met including Debbie on the plane and more neat people to meet.  There will be late nights, lots of noise (good noise) and more learning.

I came home sort of high, super tired and, I admit, a little cranky about having to come back the hearing world.  Thank goodness for the Sanderson Center where I get small slices of the above.

I think I could be addicted to these conventions.  I can’t attend the ALDA convention this year but next year it will be New Mexico.  Next years HLAA convention is in Portland.  I will do my best to get to both, getting as much of ‘my world’ in as I can.

When health issues interrupt hearing

I’m having issues with hiatal hernia lately. The other day I had an attack meaning I didn’t eat much all day. I thought I felt better in the afternoon so I made a meatloaf, had some greens ready to go and a sweet potato. While the meatloaf cooked, I felt the tightness or odd feeling in my chest that meant the attack wasn’t over yet. Eating would just make it worse and the meat loaf smelled so damn good, I had to leave the house early for a writing workshop I signed up for.

That night was the first of a 3 workshops on writing short stories. I arrived hungry and upset, not a good way to start a ‘hearing’ event. The more upset I am, the harder it is to hear for some reason. I tried some deep breathing but being hungry made it hard to relax.

The guy leading the workshop remembered me as hard of hearing which was good. I reminded him I needed to see him as he talked or I lost everything. He nodded his head in understanding and the class started shortly after. As we went around the table introducing ourselves, I knew I was using my lip reading skills because the air-conditioner overrode many voices. I had the look of concentration on my face which others interpret as a “mean” look. When it came to my turn, I let them know I was hard of hearing and not mean.

Another girl stepped in to help lead the workshop and I didn’t get a chance to tell her how to help me hear. Her voice didn’t carry over the air-conditioner at all for me, plus she spent the whole time talking to the white board. I tried hard to hear her and couldn’t. I started to get so frustrated, I was near tears so I stopped trying to hear her. I wrote down what she wrote down, getting the gist of it but missing many, many details. I wanted to get up and walk out. Instead, I disappeared into the world of my notebook and I felt a little better. My world, my writing. I played with the character I was to create as the others still listened.

Then the guy did some talking and he was good about making sure he faced us while talking. His problem was he started out strong but at the end of what he was saying, he would taper off into a mumble. So I was only getting half of his information. Sigh.

At the break, he asked me how much I heard. Not much! I let him know about his mumbling, not nice perhaps but I was upset. I paid for this class and I wanted to get as much out of it as I could. Besides, if he’s going to teach a class, he needs to learn to speak clearer. He asked what they could do to help so told him about the FM system I meant to bring and forgot it in my hurry to get out of the house. I also said some sort of outline would help me be able to follow things keeping from guessing so much. He wrote that down and then told me next week’s class will be more one on one, which always works better me. I felt better after getting some validation and admitting where I went wrong.

We started up again and this time we were put in groups. The two girls I was with, filled me in on some of the missing information. One of them asks me if I used sign language at all. I told her I know some but don’t have anyone to practice with. Her listening skills aren’t that great because she next said, “You should use it more often.” It’s kind of hard when I have no one to practice with I said again and she changed the subject.

We were given magazine pictures and told to pick on and create a character as group. Little miss Perky, who thinks I should sign more, took charge and created this really dull character. I tried adding some humor but she by passed it. Maybe that’s why writing is mainly a solitary thing, no two people agree. I missed the other groups presentation of their characters, which had humor because the others laughed. See! We should have gone with my older couple idea with viagra to spice it up.

Leaving the workshop, I could see where I failed. Being upset and hungry makes things worse and that wasn’t entirely my fault. My FM system probably would have helped me and it is my fault that I forgot it. Next week I will be more prepared and it should be a better experience.


 A few weeks ago I went to Disneyland with my youngest son, Cutler, Robert and Kris.  I screamed as usual on each roller coaster ride and in the Haunted House.  Cutler is about deaf in one ear so he was the one to ride next me.  He was careful to sit on that side each time.  After the first full day, I went hoarse and everyone rejoiced.

When we walking through the park we had to switch sides to put each other in our good ears.  The only way I can remember which is his good ear is let him drive and me be the passenger.  Once off the rides, we start in out with our bad ears then stop abruptly and do a little dance around until our good ears were together.

Last year when I went with the boys I taught Cutler some sign language, mostly “who, what, why, where and when” signs.  He remembered them.  This time I taught him lots of basic signs and he remembered them fairly well.  We used them on and off through out the park.  He’s going to be the one to sign to me when I’m older, I bet.

One late night while waiting to ride Space Mountain, we stopped into Captain EO which stars Michael Jackson.  It’s a 3D movie and some years ago I saw “Honey I Shrank the Audience” in the same theater.  (I liked that one much better than Captain EO.)  I knew from before they had ALD’s available and it is rear-view captioning.    It’s a little hard to focus on the captions and a 3D movie at the same time but it’s doable. I remembered rat tails streams of air and sneezes from the Honey movie and enjoyed it.  Captain EO just bounced around with music mostly.  I don’t think I would bother with that movie again.

It was another fun trip and it’s nice to be able to teach my son some sign language.  Too bad we live about 9 hours apart or we could practice more.

Lip Reading Class

The Sanderson Center is having a lip reading class starting next month. I signed up.  This time around 20 of us signed up so it’s a go!  I signed up 2 or 3 time the past couple of years but the number of people who signed up were always too low, so the classes were canceled.  One time they held class at a senior center somewhere in town, but I got lost for awhile (typical for me in Salt Lake with all the numbered streets) and then a circus train, of all things, was stalled on the tracks across the road I needed.  By then I was quite late and decided to forget it.  I have wanted this class since coming to the Sanderson Center in 2008.

Sign language is great but I need someone to practice with.  Without that, it’s almost useless.  I sign a little for my 9 month old grandson, he laughs when I do but isn’t able to sign back yet.  Lip reading is a little more practical, although it will never be totally accurate, and keeps me in the hearing world.  Next spring or fall, I will try taking sign language again but will switch from CASE (English order signing) to ASL (American Sign Language) for a change.  A deaf person teaches the beginning ASL class so there should be less talking which would be nice.


I’m sometimes surprised at how many people know simple sign here in Salt Lake.  In noisy situations I will often tell people I’m half deaf and many times I don’t hear my name (or number) being called.

Yesterday I went to an Einstein Bagel place.  They take names down and at the point, I let him know I was half deaf and probably won’t hear my name called out.  I asked him to wave at me instead.  He went behind the counter, tapped a girl on the shoulder, pointed to my order and then me.  She nodded her head so I relaxed.  When she brought my order to me, I told her thank you and she signed back to me thank you.  She must know someone who signs or took an interest in the language.  I walked out smiling.

Another time I went to a Jiffy Lube to get an emissions test on a car.   I went through my routine of letting him know I was half deaf and wave at me. He smiled and started signing at me instead.  He was better than me!  When my car was ready to go I asked him where he learned sign.  He said a friend of his signs so he learned too.

One of my favorite burger joints around here is Crown Burger.  It is a busy place with lots of noise and they call out numbers. Every time I go in,  I go through my routine of not hearing well.  They always tell me to go ahead and sit down, they will bring my order to me.  At first it made me feel awkward.  I can’t hear but I’m perfectly capable of carrying my food to the table.  After a few times, I relaxed into routine and came to really appreciate it.  There was no struggle in for me.  I like going there and there’s a been a few times someone there has also signed thank you to me.

Such a simple, easy sign but it almost always makes me smile.

Sign Language

A few weeks ago I went to visit my friend Susan in Montana for a few days.  We met through the Say What Club (email list for the hard of hearing) back in the late 90’s.  I think when I last saw her, her hearing loss was probably close to what mine is today.  Since then she has lost a lot more hearing and now wears two cochlear implants.  Now she hears better than me!  She heard better in the car and she would always tell me when the toaster or microwave beeped which I never did hear.  It’s amazing.

Some years ago she took a sign language class or two.  I guess I gave her a sign language dictionary when she visited me all those years ago so she knows some sign.  I know some sign.  It was very helpful.  In the morning without her CI’s on she is completely deaf. We signed some and mimed for understanding.  In the car when I couldn’t hear very well she would sign a word for me for understanding.  Just sitting at the table when one of us was stuck on a word finger spelling came in handy.  It was delightful experience for me as I’ve had no one to use it with before.

My daughter says next month we can start teaching the baby some basic sign. I’m so happy she’s following through with this.  I hope the baby will be my practice buddy later.  I will need him to know some sign or at least finger spelling (later I know) to be able to understand him anyway.  I have the most difficult time with kids voices.