Category Archives: socializing

Things Learned in Two Years

I’ve thrown my passion into my job, it’s rewarding to help people who are in a tough spot with their hearing loss.  Support groups and resources have helped me great deal in the past and now I can give back. I still very much enjoy my job even when I experience setbacks, the challenges. I’ve continued to learn things, that never stops. Working with hearing loss for 40 hours a week has me wanting to set it aside when I get home. Computer use too since I use it so much at work.  Now I work at home too!

For the last few months I noticed I have missed writing here. This is my voice and not the states voice, not that there’s much difference.  The state and I are pretty much on par with each other for the hearing loss community and I have a couple of good supervisors who are supportive of my efforts.  Still, here I’m not on my ‘official’ platform.  I’m going to try to shoot for a blog piece twice a month. Today I thought I’d go over some things I’ve learned the past couple of years.

Number 1: I don’t have all the answers, but I have a large network of people to work with. I love my tribe. I’m so happy to have a network of hard of hearing friends to share knowledge with. That’s what counts in the end. Sharing with each other.

Number 2: I used to think there wasn’t as much opportunities for the hard of hearing so I wanted to create more events, more presentations and workshops. I was disappointed at first at few came but the few who came made it worthwhile. (But more on this for number 6.)

Number 3: It’s difficult to bring the hard of hearing together. Why is that? Are most of still stuck mostly in the hearing world? People take so long to seek support. Denial? The tribe has been so important to me and I’ve made some of my best friends within it. They understand me, we understand each other, so I love opportunities to hang out together. Together we can do a lot. If 20% of the population has some sort of hearing loss, why don’t more seek this out too? It’s been a valuable part of my journey.

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Some of the tribe

Number 4: Most hard of hearing people don’t advocate for themselves well. We can tell them how and what to do yet most won’t follow through. “I don’t want to be a bother.”  Or “my HR department would never do that and I can’t lose my job”. (These are hard times at the moment.)  Basically it’s fear of being different. We are the same, the only difference is we have other communication needs.  If you are afraid to ask for accommodations, then it’s best to be upfront about your hearing loss and there’s fear there too.  It’s a sort of vicious cycle. We need to learn vulnerability in order grow and gain confidence.  (See Brene Brown.)  Also, can you imagine if we all stood together? If more of us asked and introduced accommodations, we would pave a road.

Number 5: My sign language skills have improved. People say I’ve improved but it’s a slow journey.  I’m not fluent yet but I can get by now.  The reason for improvement is the 40 hours a week at work around the Deaf so I have someone to practice with. I also picked up another great hard of hearing friend who signs and she works me too. I compare my sign to my hearing loss, both have holes and I need to fill in gaps as needed with other ways…CART, slow down, lipreading.  It all combines fairly well these days.  This is a hard accomplishment for those of us who have no one to practice with.

Number 6: There are small blessings from COVID19. I was sent to work from home in mid March and I’ll be working home until the end of summer. Our program started having classes online the first week of April. We also started presentations online (Google Meet with Live Transcribe and CART too) and regular Friday morning social. We have hard of hearing assistants around the state and we were boxed in by counties. When we went online that border disappeared and we were suddenly open all over the state.  I invited out of state hard of hearing friends to participate and that opened each class and presentation up to more experiences. I’m slapping my forehead with a great big DUH! Why didn’t we do this before?! I now have more opportunities for more hard of hearing people and have helped people all over the state and then some. I’ve met other hard of hearing specialists from other states. This is the way to go. When things get back to normal (ha ha ha, whatever that may be now), we will continue online classes and combine them with in person events too.

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One of the socials

 

That’s enough for now. It felt good to share again, thank you. I’ll be back.

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.

CART 1

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.)

Lucy

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

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Blue Monday?

Today I heard the Monday after the holidays are officially over is called Blue Monday because people get depressed when the holidays are done.  Not me. I’m glad they are over and I survived another stress free holiday.  They are busy for sure and I went to a fair share of parties.  The last two HLAA webinars dealt with hearing loss and the holidays because typically, large family like get togethers are a huge strain on us.  I’m happy to report I made it through all the socializing fairly well.

My boyfriend and I went to a Thanksgiving dinner that had probably 150 people  in a building with high ceilings, tile floor and lots of windows.  Noise bounced all over the place but it was large enough I could wear my hearing aids the whole time.  I did great at the beginning socializing when it was one on one or even up to three people as long as we stood close.

My problem came when the hosts took the floor to make a speech.  They stood in the middle of the room and people circled them all around.  We happened to be just left and behind them as they spoke. My boyfriend wasn’t close enough to help, he was about 6 people and building post away so it wasn’t easy to get to him.  It was too late to maneuver into a better viewing spot to try to lip read so I stayed put and tried to hear.

Not a single word came through my ears, just a small drone lost in the acoustics.  Oh how I hate it when people all around me are smiling and laughing and I can’t catch one word.  I hate having to stand there and pretend to hear, to be polite when all I want to do is push my way out of the rapt crowd and go outside for fresh air.

I endured until the speech ended and when everyone lined up for the buffet style turkey dinner,  I pushed my way through and escaped into the bathroom.  I took about ten minutes in there to gather my wits and calm down again.  Ten minutes of self talking; it’s not my fault, it’s not their fault, it’s just one of those things, I can’t expect to hear and be a part of everything, next time go to Ken and see if he will help with translation, it’s not the end of the world….and I was ready to go out again.  I joined Ken in the food line and commenced socializing like I had been before the speech.  The rest of the evening was very nice.

There were two more parties to attend.

One was in a small house; carpeted, plush furniture and music.  I knew there would be music so I didn’t take my hearing aids.  Quite a few people were crammed together but as long as I’m relaxed, I lip read well and I got along great. The highlight of the night was karaoke.  I’ve never been around karaoke before.  When I first heard the music, I recognized it as a tune from the late 70’s and remembered the words (can’t remember which song it was now) and I panicked. Oh my God! Where are the words? Why am I not hearing the words? Have I gone suddenly deaf?  Ha ha, joke’s on me.  Someone picked up the mic and started singing and I slapped myself in the forehead for a great “duh!”  After that, I stood behind the singers and caught all the words to the songs and it was more like, “So that’s what they were saying!”  I had a good time and no I didn’t sing.

The next party was at a big house; cement floors, floor to ceiling windows, high ceilings with music and again a number of people talking.  I didn’t last 5 minutes with my hearing aids in.  I could not stand the sharp stab of noise.  Oh well, I made it through the last party doing a lot of lip reading and I did this one too.  I had another great time (no karaoke) and even found two other people who knew sign language at about the same level as me.  Ken and I got to talk up hearing loops to a guy who at one time worked with various handicaps.  As long as I’m upfront about my hearing loss, most people accommodate me, making sure they face me talking a little clearer.

My Christmas was a quiet one.  My daughter and 3 year old grandson stayed the night Christmas Eve.  We had a wonderful meal that night and the next day with just the four of us and a neighbor.  Easy to follow conversation and easy company.  Here’s a picture of grandson on his new tricycle.  We are slowly teaching him sign language.  He catches on fast!  He’s got the word ‘candy’ down.

Chase

How did your holidays go?

Are You Getting This?

Every Friday the boys meet at a bar near downtown for sandwiches and pitchers of beer. My boyfriend invites me every time but usually I stay home to get things done but last week I was hungry and I went.

Music and the bartender greeted us as we walked in. We found the guys and they put two tables together instead of the usual booth because a few of us extras showed up making eight instead of the typical four.

I took my seat and started talking to the person in front of me. I answered a few questions from someone at the other end of the table and then talked to the person next to me. So far so good.

A few beers further down the road, a few of the boys started talking at the same time to different people and they talked louder over each other and the music. It gets too hard to figure out where one voice ends and the other begins. It becomes noise instead of speech. I fade out and watch the TV screen for a few minutes.

Ken nudges me with his elbow. “Are you getting any of this?” He worries about me feeling left out.

“Not right this minute, no, but I was.”

Yes, I understand if I focus on each person talking. No, I’m not getting it if two or more are talking at once. I was thankful for the extra light coming from a window near the table making it easier to lip read. I’m glad I picked a seat with a TV in front of me.

I didn’t feel resentful or left out. I gave myself permission to fade out when conversations overlapped. It’s a break a brain break, a moment of rest before having to concentrate on conversation again. If I focus all the time, trying to hear every word, I’d be worn out by the end of lunch.

They start talking one at a time again and I follow, I laugh and add my comments. Then they started talking over each other again so I took another time out. They guy next to me sees me staring at the TV and asks me a question.

“Do you know where I can et om eh EEE?”  He wasn’t looking right at me but close enough.

I’m not getting this.  “What was that?”

Now he looks directly at me and it still sounds the same.  “Do you know where I can et om eh EEE?”

My mind raced to come up with clues. Does he need to know where the bathroom is? No, I’ve seen him go twice already. Does he want more beer? No his glass is half full. What the heck does he want?

“I’m sorry,” I apologized, “One more time.” Would I get it this time?   If I didn’t, I’d ask for Ken’s help. Three tries only is my hard and fast rule.

He repositioned himself in the chair, looked away briefly making me wonder if he was sorry he started talking to me.  Then he looked right at me and said it slower, “Do you know where I can get some red tea?”

Relief washed over me. I got it!

Then a sort of disbelief settled in. Red tea? He’s asking me about red tea in a bar? No wonder it took three times to understand. That not the kind of question I expected in this place. However, I am the only girl at the table so maybe he figures I know tea…and it just so happens I do. I’m a tea drinker, which makes me wonder if I like tea is written on me somewhere.

“That stuff is hard to find,” I tell him “I had some in Vegas a few months ago and when I got home, I couldn’t find it at first. Then Smiths had one brand finally. Are you going home to drink tea?”

“Oh no it’s not for me. I have this Indian friend who comes to visit and he drinks red tea instead of beer. I haven’t had any to offer him.” Whew. Mystery solved for both of us.

We leave. I’m happy I went to lunch and socialized.

Am I getting this?

I’m getting enough.