Monday, February 25, 2008

Everybody's Someone.

Hello All—

Why can’t we be accepted, or fit in? What does it take to be fit in to this deaf world of yours? Do I have to take off my hearing aids to be accepted? Do I have to learn ASL, or not talk? Forget I learned cued speech? I see a lot of people like me, those who got CI’s, etc; have their back be turned against them.

Why? As I have come to learn posting via deaf read, and the comments, individual people chatting with me, pretty much no one agrees with my lifestyle or what I did. Example, I call myself Hearing-Impaired for a reason. My hearing was just that, impaired. I do call myself disabled, because I just am that, disabled. I don’t call ANY of you that, because I respect everyone’s choices and opinions and lifestyles. Yet…I am the one who’s told I did the wrong thing. I am calling myself the wrong label. Etc.

All my life, I have been continuously bashed or told off that period, I did the wrong thing. I shouldn’t be wearing hearing aids because I am allowing hearing people to make a profit of my disability. I have abandoned the deaf world apparently by not learning ASL and such. I don’t understand it. The deaf people talk about having their world, and such. Is it wrong to want to hear? Is it wrong to want to be accepted by everybody HEARING and DEAF? I am sorry I chose a life style that is not agreed by many people here.

I don’t remember much about actually losing my hearing, but I remember the day that reality actually HIT me that there was going to be things I just could never, ever do in my life. I would never be able to 100% talk to hearing people without having to read lips. I will never be able to be a pilot for a commercial airline or a flight attendant, my one true dream I’d love to succeed maybe. Sitting there being frankly told, you won’t be able to do it. Until technology exists to allow it I won’t.

I struggle enough trying to identify myself as a person, now I have to find a label for the deaf world, whether its hearing impaired, deaf, hard of hearing, whatever the label is. I love that though..the labeling. Deaf people talk about wanting to be created equal, yet you enclose yourself into the deaf world. You label yourself as deaf, you are angered at people who get Cochlear Implants, who get hearing aids, or who might actually would like to try and hear?!?!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying every deaf person treats me this way, but I sure run into a lot of them in public, and unfortunately people from deaf read don’t help either. I remember a situation sitting at a pizza restaurant. Mom and I were talking and she is cueing to me and talking vice versa. A group of deaf people came up to my mother and signed “what are you doing to him?!” Mom looked back and shook her head and I don’t know sign. So they took out paper and pen, and the basic gist of the conversation was, my mother did the wrong thing by not teaching me ASL, and teaching me cue. My mother was a bad mother for not putting me in a deaf school. She didn’t do the right thing. I was going to grow up feeling alone, and secluded in “my own world” and the hearing people would never accept me, nor would the deaf people. I was ashamed of the deaf people and “left the deaf world”.

Well…what does that say about anything? They didn’t step back and look to see how I functioned as ME. That was extremely rude of them to tell my mother those things. Not ONCE did we go up and tell them, you should have learned cued speech, or you should have not learned ASL. No we minded our business, but they did not. They insulted me and my family for our life styles. Not once, have I EVER insulted the deaf people and their choices. What is there to insult?! Absolutely nothing.

I don’t know much what else to say, but I do ask this of you and all deaf people. Take the time to sit back and THINK. Do you REALLY want to tell people and bash them for the choices they make? Is it really that wrong to WANT to hear, and by all means, if they have the chance to hear, to let them go for it? If it means getting a cochlear implant, getting hearing aids, god forbid, and stem cell research issues comes up, you can bet I’ll be first in line to get it if possible. I am sorry I offend you people by calling myself hearing-impaired. I am not sorry for the life choices I made or my parent’s made.

There a few people who are like me and fully understand where I am coming from. There are also those who don’t agree with my decisions, but why are they different? They showed RESPECT, and all they said was “I don’t personally like how you call yourself, but that’s how you chose and if it fits you then so be it” That was ALL that needs to be said, and I have the utmost respect for people like them, you know who I am talking about.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Hearing/Understanding-What's the difference?

Good Afternoon All!

I really should be focused on trying to figure out how to set up my online class at SIU-C but I find this more intriguing! J

A topic I wanted to talk about, I assume is one of a common thing but leads me to GREAT frustration among the Hearing World. This is basically the actual difference between calling myself deaf/hearing-impaired yet still able to hear just about everything.

Basically, if I wear hearing aids I am deaf, and I cannot hear anything right? WRONG. Yet most hearing people cannot fathom that type of explanation. They seem to think it is an all or nothing situation. When I meet people all the time, I explain in simple lay man terms I am Deaf, though to be nit picky I consider myself hearing-impaired. I simply say Deaf because some people really just don’t want to hear the specifics. Example if a guy comes up saw my hearing aids he would probably ask “Are you deaf?” I’d respond “Yes”, leave it at that and move on. If the conversation goes further I’d be willing to explain more specifically my hearing or lack of it really.

Basically though, I have a 75% hearing loss in my left ear and 80% loss in my right ear, yet essentially wearing hearing aids virtually brings almost 100% of it back! So this allows me to be able to hear just about any type of noise. However and unfortunately my nerves inside my ear were damaged. So that means that I cannot UNDERSTAND conversations on the phone, in person, etc WITHOUT the aid of text or lip reading or anything. However a lot of hearing people just do NOT seem to understand that concept.

I will go out in public, and be on my cell phone talking to someone. I am stopped by a public person and go “Aren’t you deaf?” I would respond “yes” or “hearing-impaired yes, why?” They’d go “but, but your wearing hearing aids...and you’re deaf. You’re not supposed to be able to hear!” In my head I am thinking “...and precisely dear...WHERE does it say I cannot hear? Are you stereotyping as I figured?” I then explain, in the simplest terms, Yes I lost a lot of hearing, but I wear hearing aids which helps aid me to hear so I am able to hear most of the noise and sounds in the environment. They treat it as if it’s the MOST amazing news they ever heard. My gosh, a machine, that like, actually allows us to hear again?! My lord what will they think of next, something that allows people to see better?! Oh wait… ;-)

I don’t know if it is simple ignorance or something, but people seem to link, deaf=not hearing. We all know in the deaf community there are many, many levels of hearing loss. Yet for hearing people there is only one. I remember another situation where I was with new co workers, and we were discussing music. I offered my music advice and suggestions, which I enjoyed listening to in my car and favorite songs. The silence was unbearable, and one goes “ya right you cannot hear music your deaf right!” DOH! *goes off to bang head against the wall*.

I once again explained how my hearing worked and with the hearing aids, and how I can hear words, and music, but I cannot understand what people say unless I have the song memorized, or I am reading along lyrics, subtitles, text, etc, list goes on! The questions are absolutely hysterical too. Can you drive? So like how do you dance to music then? Ok then, if your deaf, then you can read Braille right? (Hahaha, yes I was actually asked that by a co worker...). Oh here is the kicker…Can deaf people have sex? *screeches to a halt—WHAT DID THEY ASK?! Yes you heard me, oh sorry perhaps ill re type it or sign it again... CAN...DEAF...PEOPLE...HAVE...SEX? Hmmmh, I sit and think to figure out a response to that. Then I thought, if they want to ask me a stupid question, I’ll respond with a stupid response. I’ll say to them “That’s a good question! I don’t know, lets go home and find out, have sex all night and THEN you can tell me if deaf people can have sex, agreed?!” J

I DO understand some people just don’t think, and what’s normal for them, maybe hard to figure out for different people. But as far as I am concerned there is nothing to hear to make sure you doing good. Ok maybe being deaf has an advantage for the guys; you don’t have to hear the dreaded question from the girls in bed asking the guys “is it in yet?” *smirks*

That’s basically it. This was more so a rant then anything and to share my own experience and questions. Hope you found this funny and a good read as always!


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Trying to fit in...One sign at a time.

Hey Guys-

First off, I want to thank everyone for the support and praises I have heard from each and every one of you. It means a lot to me! I also want to thank those who are reading but didn’t leave a comment, again thanks for reading! I also read all comments and take them to heart, and again anything you want to hear from me or anything send me a message I’d be glad to give an opinion about it.

This blog is going to be about how I lived in the hearing world as a hearing impaired person. You may be wondering, wait; we all know what it is like. You do, but in this situation, I grew up in a hearing world, with hearing people, friends and families. I virtually and literally had NO contact with any deaf people. This means I talked to people, I never did ASL, or attended deaf meets, etc etc. Take a look at the next paragraph and tell me not so much what’s wrong with the situation but see how my life was.

Alex to a hearing person-Hey Dude what’s up?

HP (Hearing Person) - Hey Alex not much just chilling

Alex-Sweet, you all going out tonight?

HP-Ya we are wanna come?

Alex- Nah, I gotta go home and study for a test but thanks!

HP- Ok bro no problem see ya!

This situation involved me and a hearing person talking face to face, no ASL was involved no interpreters or anything. Now I am going to run into a deaf person on the street in the next story.

DP (deaf person) - He waves to get my attention notices my hearing aids. He signs and goes hey do you know ASL?

Now, I am like a deer in headlights. How can I communicate to this deaf person? He wants to talk to me because he thinks I know ASL. But, I don’t! What to do?! I shake my head and speak but I circle my lips and go can you read my lips? Unfortunately he doesn’t and only does ASL. This is a HUGE communication barrier on my part. I sort of shrug and go Im sorry and sign it a bit and go I don’t know ASL.

By now you’re probably thinking what on earth is the point of this? Glad you asked. I am trying to get you to see how I lived my life and the frustrations I had with deaf people as a hearing impaired person. Basically when deaf people talk about the frustrations of living in a hearing world, I didn’t have that. My frustrations came from interacting with deaf people. Not knowing ASL was the key point. A lot of people may actually see my situation but in reverse or something.

For example, when I first started going to deaf meeting. I was used to simply clapping and all. However, when speeches were finished, I stood up to clap! Immediately, I was the only one clapping but surrounded in a wave of shaking hands. “Oops” I thought, I sat down embarrassed. Sort of funny I thought. Also shows how used to the hearing environment I was!

I wanted to talk about a story where I went to a Deaf Event where I felt like I was in the minority. Do remember this is from a non-ASL person’s point of view. Mom and I go to the deaf program at JALC to check the place out. We both do not know any sign language. So once we arrived there, we had like 5 people come up to us and start signing to us. I did not have a CLUE what they were saying. I only knew finger spelling and that was it. This professor came up and starts signing my name and I said or rather signed to the best I could Y-E-S. I felt so stupid! He clapped and said “oh good, good, wonderful!!!” I'm thinking “why?” They kept signing some more of course I cant understand a word, and my mom and I looked at each other and were like "lets get out of here, LETS GO FIND ANGIE! (Angie is the coordinator for this program and was someone I could easily communicate to without ASL)

So mom and I took off running to her office, we found her and told her what happened, and she said “ohh I see you met Paul” (who was the professor who signed my name) I said “ya if that’s his name?” she said “ya it is.” We walked back down together. We went back into the room, and it was really quiet (since most of them were signing) and then as we are signing our papers, I heard a HUGE slam as if someone dropped something. It startled me so I screamed like a girl a bit and said “oh my gosh, that scared the crap out of me. Then I looked around and realized no one else heard it and then I said out loud, "WAS I THE ONLY ONE WHO HEARD THAT NOISE?!" my mom and Angie laughed, at they way I said it without thinking.

Then we found a table and sat down, and we kind of talked amongst ourselves... Well rather we talked, and the rest signed, then like I really felt like I was in the minority here. Even though I am deaf/Hearing-Impaired like they are, I can talk and read lips and not be able to do ASL like they could! They all had a clique, something to belong to, I did not. Then people were signing and acting out skits and stuff, and we had a speaker come up and he tapped the microphone and said "ok, can anyone hear me?" this is when I lost control of myself and started laughing abruptly thinking, your asking a room full of Deaf people if they can hear him? I actually heard the room chuckle a bit, while my mom laughed and so did Angie. I assumed he did it as a joke, since a lot of the others also laughed along.

One of those, you had to be there. Then one last funny thing I did, when you clap in sign language you wave your hands in the air kind of shake 'em a little bit and such? Well I forgot that. So every time we "clapped" I started to clap my hands and would clap once or twice, then id forget and start waving my hands in the air. I totally felt like a dork for forgetting. It never failed every single time I start to actually clap then remember and then id wave the hands. Too funny. It was a very fun time and I had a great time. I just got to learn sign language one of these days.

Once again, I want to reiterate that this was MY situation. I typed this out for people both hearing and deaf, to see the light hearted situations I found myself in. Even though I am hearing-impaired, I was so used to being surrounded by hearing people I had to literally readjust, and what was normal for deaf people was not for me. Hence my surprise reactions and thoughts to the different situations. I hope you enjoyed seeing a different side of another hearing-impaired person and enjoyed the irony and situations that had played out in front of me.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Cued Speech-My Story

Hello All!

Glad to see your here reading about Cued Speech. I understand this is a very controversial issue for many involved, myself included. Deaf People are either against it, support it, or mutual, they don't care too much to see both ways. After my parents found out about my hearing loss, the first thing they did was to seek about ASL. However my parents were adamant from the start that I was not to go to a deaf school. They were at a doctor's office for one of my regular check ups when my mother came across a story about cued speech in a sesame street magazine. Most of us are already familiar with cued speech, whether you support it or not. A basic description is it is based on the sound/phonetics of the speech, and not so much the visual aspects of it. A quick look on or will yield you many search results.

My parents were fascinated by cued speech and learned using this would widen my vocabulary and help me learn to speak as well. They contacted some people through the magazine to get some more information, and figured this would be a perfect tool to aid me when I am mainstreamed. My parents pulled me out of the deaf school to put me in kindergarten. The deaf school apparently was not going to have that. Battles ensued, back and forth about what was the right thing to do for their child. The deaf school wanted me to stay put and raise me in a deaf world surrounded by deaf people. They knew I would be a role model for other people, but my parents did not want that. They wanted me surrounded by hearing people and to grow up like them-hearing.

Battles however STILL went back and forth. Meetings were held, but the stance was always the same. Deaf school telling my parents they were doing the wrong thing. Parents saying no, we want him raised in a hearing environment and he will learn cued speech. If I recall lawsuits almost were brought up or threatened by the schools as a legal ground to hold me at a deaf school, but don't hold me to that. It was a really bad time for everyone.

I was placed to enter kindergarten, by then I had the vocabulary of a hearing kindergarten student. I stuck with cued speech all the way until now. I had a cued speech interpreter all throughout elementary, and High school.

Of course only learning cued speech, meaning I am able to read it but not able to be fluent in actually cueing it. This allowed me to communicate with many people deaf and hearing who were able to talk or speak enough I was able to read their lips. Unfortunately I was not able to talk to deaf people who only did ASL. So I was still stuck and lost and left out of the deaf world because of that. You can believe I was harassed and bashed and called everything in the book for leaving the deaf world and going to the hearing world. I was told my parents did the wrong thing for myself; I didn't help the deaf people's case in trying to be a community. I no longer belonged and I was shunned. That was fine, I had hearing people who accepted me and embraced me. It was a shame I couldn't see the same with deaf people. Why the reason? I don't know, I have guesses but I won't say them here. They have their reasons for being upset at me for taking the direction I went and the choices my parents and I made.

Now I am finished with High School, I have entered the real world. I went to go work for Southwest Airlines, and this broadened me to more deaf people then ever. Every day almost I was meeting Deaf Customers, and I could not help them one bit. I felt so sorry for myself and for them but then thought no, I am the one that needs to teach myself. After being surrounded and such and struggles of my self in the job I took a leave of absence with the airline, and am currently trying to go back to school in college. With this I hope to become fluent in ASL. I went online to search stuff on you tube and such and came across Geo's site- I was absolutely fascinated by the vlog content and surprised to see people like him signing online and using subtitles for people like me who could not follow along.

I got to speak to Geo and many others and was lead to the site as well. Oh my gosh, there was MORE OF THEM?! Immediately I was surrounded by all these deaf people who were using ASL, and I was literally like deer in headlights. So I felt it is now my duty as a hearing impaired person to learn ASL and build a bridge between the hearing and deaf community. I don't mean to become an interpreter, but simply have the flexibility to speak to the hearing and sign to the deaf and vice versa.

I still support cued speech and always will because of the huge success I have had with myself. I promote it for educational purposes, and beyond. Cued speech not only helps deaf people but hearing people who for some reason cannot speak well or have low vocabulary experience. Deaf people seem to be threatened by cued, but correct me if I am wrong about that. I do promise cued speech will NEVER replace ASL. ASL is a beautiful language and it is an art in itself and to see it expressed in so many ways and different languages is fascinating. It is everyone's choice to take the road they want to, and the direction they want to. But please, be respectful of the choice they made, and not every thing is for everyone.

I was lead to that’s site for a reason, why not sure just yet. But so far I am meeting many online people. I am being pushed to learn ASL as expected, however I hope they respect my decisions I made with cued speech and know I will never leave cued speech and will continue to support cued every way I can. With that, I hope to become fluent in both cued and ASL and broaden my knowledge, vocabulary and language in everything!

Thanks for reading!


Sunday, February 17, 2008

How did I lose my Hearing?

Hello All!!

When we meet other people with hearing loss, the first question is always typically, how did you lose your hearing?! I was born hearing to hearing parents. I had a medical condition that somehow stopped my skin cells in my stomach to stop forming. This allowed my organs, more particuarly the stomach, liver, intestines, bladder, kidneys, and so forth to spill out of my body. Basically everything but my heart and lungs were outside of my body in a sac. Doctors had to immediatly close me up and rush me to St. Louis hospital. I ended up having over 30 surgeries, 27 on my stomach, and 5 on my neck (was also not born breathing). I was at the hospital for three months recovering. The doctors had to give me a medication to help me survive, unfortunatly the side effect would cause me to lose hearing. They were not sure how much loss would occur IF any. Parents had to sign a waiver agreeing they were warned of my possiblity of a hearing loss, and doctors would not be held accountable for causing my hearing loss.

Fast forward two years later, mom dropped a pan besides me. I didn't even flinch. Mom got concerned and worried, and suddenly remembered the doctors warning. It had come true for them. Their son actually lost hearing, but to what degree? They waited a week doing their own home testing and some sounds I responded to, some I did not. They took me to a hearing test locally, and it was official. I was diagnosed as profoundly to severely deaf, with 75% hearing loss in my left ear and 80% on my right ear. However I am not convinced that is totally correct because I can hear some voices. I listen to music very normally, and can hear cars, trains, loud rumbling noises, thunder, etc etc without hearing aids.

So then it was time to get hearing aids for me. We went to a doctor in St. Louis and tried different ones and I put it on. Immediatly I started screaming and crying. What was this thing coming into my ear?! It was LOUD! It was coming from EVERYWHERE! Finally my mother said to me without looking "Alex?" I immediatly turned into her direction and for the first time I heard my mothers voice and actually recognized it. Mom started crying as did Dad and they believed they finally found something that worked for me.

We left the hospital and I was distracted by everything I was hearing! The hearing aids brought back essentially 90% of the hearing back. With my hearing aids I still cannot hear birds chirping or VERY low soft sounds. But I am able to hear pretty much everything, UNDERSTANDING is a bit different, and I will discuss that later in other posts. Then a Trans World Airlines Boeing 747 roared over head and I was actually silent, but not because I didn't hear it. Believe, me I heard it! But I was more amazed, and I turned and looked at the plane and pointed. Thus was born my desire to go into aviation. But again thats another topic! :)

That's the story of how I loss my hearing and a little bit of the background of it. Coming up I will discuss, topics such as "But your not really deaf are you?" as well as "Hearing/Understanding-Whats the difference?" and many others including Cochlear Implants, Cued Speech, Sign Language and many things!

Thanks for reading!!