One question I am frequently asked is, "What can you hear? How do you hear?"
I noticed that in my blog, I have not gone into details about my deafness. I thought it would be interesting, to those who really want to know, for me to provide the most detailed description of my deafness that I possibly can.
Basically, I have moderately severe-profound sloping deafness in my left ear (moderately severe-severe in frequencies lower than 1000 Hz and profound deafness in 1000 Hz and higher) and moderate-severe deafness in my right ear only in the high frequencies (higher than 750 Hz). I have typical hearing in the lower frequencies, 250 Hz-750 Hz.
I can't hardly hear anything in my left ear (I can feel vibrations and hear low and loud booms). For example, I am unable to talk on the phone using my left ear. I have always talked on the phone using my right ear.
I can hear fairly well with my right ear except in the high frequencies; I have trouble hearing whispering, water running, certain high pitch tones, voices of children, everyday speech, etc.).
From my most recent audiological examination from 2006:
The results of that examination revealed her hearing on the right side fall within normal limits only to 750 Hz. Thereafter, there was a rapid decrease in thresholds to 1500 Hz, with stabilized thresholds in the moderate loss range to the higher frequencies.
On the left side, there was a moderate to profound sloping sensorineural loss to 1000 Hz, with no recordable thresholds at the higher frequencies.
Tympanograms were normal.
My audiologist's informal analysis of my deafness was, "Wow! You weren't kidding! You really can't hear too well!"
I took an old hearing aid and made a special hearing aid tan mark on my leg to celebrate. : )
Disclaimer: Do NOT do the same with your current hearing aid. Direct sunlight is not good for hearing aids. I used an old one I no longer use. Also, I do not advocate tanning. I avoid it like the plague. This will be the only time I will spend time "tanning" which is to create a hearing tan mark for this post.
Bizarre, I know. I also think it is hilarious.
(Picture in 'contrast' to show more of the tan mark)
I got one of the greatest advice from a professor at graduate school (who was not in the deaf education program, unfortunately).
About working with a student, he told us, "Never tell a child that he or she is wrong."
He explained that instead we should say, "This is how most people do it." Or "Let me show you another way you can solve this."
There were several reasons he gave us for why we should not tell a child that she or he is wrong. First, it is dismissive and most children will see this as an attack and will lose the confidence and interest in working on the problem. Secondly, maybe they have seen their parents do the same thing (whatever it is that they are "wrong" in) and therefore you are basically telling that child their parents are wrong. For example, if a child pronounces a certain word in a certain way, keep in mind that maybe her parents pronounce it at home this way. Therefore it is better to say, "This is how we say this word at school." Thirdly, telling a child that he or she is wrong is simply a lie. The child is not wrong, perhaps you are not teaching it or explaining it in a way that he or she can learn.
Now, of course with little things like if a child says that 2 + 2 = 5, then you can say "That's not the right answer. Try it again. Not yet." I do not think it would be so terrible to say the child has the wrong answer then.
This is what I often think about when arguing with people or when I see the many debates and fights that happen all over DeafRead. Most people attack each other, screaming "Wrong!" rather than just simply state their points and ask reasonable questions. The ones who scream "Wrong!" with no good reasons are the ones who are not being taken seriously, I notice. There are a few bloggers who are able to maintain their cool and simply state, "Well this is another way we can look at it. This is what I see and understand. What do you think?"
My job, as an itinerant teacher for deaf and hard of hearing students, is to make sure I give my students the support they need. I come in to fix their hearing aids or amplification devices, provide a shoulder for them to cry on, scold them for not doing their work, cheer them on when they give a class presentation, tell the teacher once again that the student should not be sitting right next to the noisy air conditioner vent during class, and such.
But, what I find myself doing the most is really getting onto my students about advocating for themselves or being more responsible for themselves. I am not going to be there all of the time to hold their hands. They will have to learn how to take care of themselves. Part of it is also educating the parents and teachers about helping them become independent. My ultimate goal is for my students and their parents not to need me as much.
Eventually, it would be great if one of my students was able to say to his teacher, "Listen here buddy, my hearing aid is not working and yet again you have put me right next to the loud air conditioning vent. I am going to have to move to a better location in the class. Capisce?" OK, well maybe I don't want them to be that brazen. But there are several effective ways to self-advocate and this is what I try to work with them on. For example, I may suggest that the teacher and the student to come up with some visual cues and signs in the classroom (signs or cues for "I can't hear you" "My hearing aid is not working" "Repeat, please"). Then I taught this to the whole class so that she is not the only one using these signs and cues (some classes use the "bathroom" sign for "I need to go to the bathroom").
I cannot stand it when some of my students pity themselves, make up lies, or use excuses for not speaking up or taking care of the situation when they are more than capable of doing so. Now, I am sensitive to the ones who are new to this or who are painfully shy. But, they have got to learn how to take care of themselves. I do work with the parents on this. Reminding them that they are not babies, and that we can't use deafness as reason for why you are still helping them put on their hearing aids even though they are not in preschool anymore. I am sensitive to the parents. But, I am very honest too.
Another thing about encouraging independence, I do not want my students to feel as if they are entitled to getting help and benefits all of the time. I feel that because they are "special" we can tend to their needs a little too much instead of teaching them how to do it themselves. I cringe when I hear about adults receiving certain benefits they don't need because they feel entitled to them because of their deafness.
One thing I do with my older students when I am called for some non-issue that they could have dealt with themselves is ask them before going back in the class, "Do you want me to hold your little hand and help you get back to your desk?" Usually they smile and cry, "No! Go away!"
Yesterday was a great morning. I went to see one of my students in his classroom and no one was there. I had forgotten that today was 'Field Day'. So I spent a few minutes cuddling with two tiny ducklings. The class had a dozen duck eggs in an incubator and have been waiting for them to hatch. One of them hatched two days ago. I am afraid the other eggs are duds. The other duck is from another classroom; they were borrowing it so the little guy can have a buddy. They are so cute with their fluffy soft bodies and their tiny bills.
Then I went to check up on another one of my students who goes to the same school. I visited his classroom where he and his classmates were working on individual research projects about famous historical figures. My student decided to research Mozart. We spent some time listening to Mozart before doing work he needed help with. Ducklings and then Mozart, what could be better?
After I was finished with my student, I walked around his classroom and looked at everyone's projects as they were working on them. One of them was doing a project on Helen Keller. I told her that I knew a lot about this fascinating person and would love to see what she is doing. It was great! Lots of interesting facts and pictures. Then I noticed something that stopped me for a bit.
She had written down as an introduction:
"Helen Keller was blind and deaf and suffered like that for almost 80 years."
I immediately pointed this out to the student and told her, "Oh my goodness! Helen suffered for almost 80 years?! Was she in pain or something? Did she have a terrible life? Was she miserable?"
The little girl replied, "No, she did all kinds of stuff with her life. She did a lot! She traveled and published books. I think she was very happy."
I asked, "Then would you say she mainly suffered all of her life?"
The girl paused for a moment and said, "No, I guess not."
I am currently helping one of my students put together a class presentation about successful and/or famous people with deafness. Finding a good resources to get an extensive list of such is hard. Many books I found in the library are outdated. There are plenty of websites that will provide lists of famous deaf and hard of hearing people, but prove to be uninteresting and just that, a list (I am so sick of seeing Helen Keller!).
I found a great website called DeafPeople.com. It contains an interesting collection of various famous and successful deaf people (from past and present). The website seems to contain mainly culturally Deaf or people with severe-profound deafness.
More exposure to successful deaf people should help make the notion, that just aboutall deaf people will graduate high school with a 4th grade reading level, go away or seem meaningless.
My student and I have yet to find a good website about hard of hearing people or people with mild-moderate deafness like us. There are plenty of information out there, but I like DeafPeople.com's website. It would be great to have something like HardofHearingPeople.com. My student suggested that we start one. Not a bad idea. He is one smart cookie.
Perhaps people with mild-moderate deafness do not have to overcome as much as people with bilateral severe-profound deafness, so it is not as impressive. However, it would be nice to have a website of successful people who wear hearing aids or who are mild-moderately deaf, like most of my students. I would just like to see more role-models for my students. Maybe if Hannah Montana wore a hearing aid, my teenage student would not be going through so much trouble hiding her hearing aid.
When I went to school to get my Masters degree in Deaf Education, I was disappointed with the lack of emphasis on how to work with and teach children with mild-moderate deafness and non-signing deaf children. Most of the emphasis was on ASL (American Sign Language) and severe-profound deafness.
What about the kids who are in between (deaf and hearing) with the 'invisible' disability (hard of hearing)? I think they are equally as important as children with severe-profound deafness.
I am currently working with a young girl who has mild-moderate deafness. I am teaching her how effective it is to look at people talking to her. She did not know about lip reading or reading visual cues in people's faces. She is starting to understand how much she misses when she is not looking at people talking to her. "Oh, I can hear better using my eyes," she realized.
Many people do not think about teaching children with mild-moderate deafness to look at the speaker's face to help them understand what is being said.
I feel that these kids are often not paid attention to as much because they seem "fine." As long as they can communicate using spoken language, they are "fine." Just because someone talks well does not mean that they can hear "just fine."
These kids need to be taught how to communicate effectively, how their mild-moderate deafness impacts them, how to advocate for themselves, how to take care of their hearing aids or cochlear implants, and how not to further damage their hearing. I would even experiment with incorporating sign language, visual phonics, and cued speech (of course if they seem interested or if it seems as if it will help). Just because their deafness is not severe or profound does not mean we should not consider some sort of visual communication system or language.
You can't just stick a cochlear implant or hearing aid on them and expect them to be "fine." There's a lot more to it than that. I just wish that the Deaf Education program I attended paid more attention to mild-moderate deafness and self advocacy.
Thank goodness I have some deafness myself, otherwise I would not really know how to work with this population.
Again, I will be visiting the topic of how teachers of signing deaf children should be fluent in sign language and effective communicators.
I was reminded of the importance of this when I was trying to explain to a signing deaf child in sign language about something I knew a lot about: The Life Cycle of the Butterfly. The interpreter left the room momentarily.
Let me tell you, it drastically altered the way I taught, in a bad way. Why? Because I was trying to explain something in a language that is not native to me or that I am not fluent in. I left out a lot of details. My explanations were short, choppy, and uninteresting. Also, it was frustrating, because I knew I was 'dumbing down' the lesson.
When the interpreter came back, the lesson went much better as I was able to use more descriptions and explain it in a more interesting way using spoken language.
So, my main problem with some schools of the deaf I observed and student taught in were the teachers 'dumbing down' their education using a language they were not fluent in. It must be tiring and frustrating to be staying up nights creating lesson plans while learning new signs. I bet some non fluent teachers pray that their students will not ask questions that will require a complicated answer.
For teaching, ASL is not something I am 100% comfortable using as of yet. I feel comfortable teaching basic signs to young children, but I do understand that I will not effectively teach an entire lesson using ASL. I am only with my students for 45 minutes to an hour at a time. I think it is different when you try to teach an entire classroom all day using a language you are not fluent in.
I am only concerned about the quality of education signing deaf students are receiving.
I don't know what the solution is. There is no one size fits all when it comes to deaf education. It depends on the child and his/her family. Deafness varies from mild to profound. Some students have other disabilities. Some students come from families that do not have the time or access to resources to work with their child. There are so many different issues and situations to consider when working with a student.
Deaf Education is a daunting field. I would warn those who want to be a deaf educator (I for one LOVE it and am constantly excited by the challenges). I would advise those to really think about which communication modality they are most comfortable with. Do not pick up sign language because it is cool and you want to impress others with your signing skills. Take learning sign language seriously and think about how your sub-par signing skills could negatively impact your students' education. Access to fluent language is the key to everything.
Someone suggested that I find a sound clip of a cricket chirping and turn up the volume. I had to turn the volume all the way up to hear it, without my hearing aid. With my hearing aid on, I did not have to turn the volume completely up. The sound is so annoying! No wonder the teacher was hell bent on finding the cricket in her classroom.
Within close proximity, it is easier to hear it. But, if you expect me to find a cricket in a room, forget it.
A few weeks ago, I was in an empty classroom speaking with a teacher. She suddenly interrupted our conversation with, "Do you hear that?"
I looked around and all I heard was the air conditioner humming.
"What is it?" I asked
"It's a cricket! It is so loud!" she exclaimed.
I wanted to hear it. I got up and walked all over the room listening for it. The teacher told me it was coming from the back corner of the room. I walked over to the area straining my neck, cocking my head to the right, cupping my good ear with my hand desperate to hear the cricket. I pushed the buttons on my hearing aid changing the settings to see if it helped. But, I still could not hear it. Apparently, it was very loud. Even random people walking in heard it.
You know when you are told that you can't do something, you suddenly want to do it so bad? This was how I felt. I wanted to hear that cricket! I was really mad about this, because it was so stupid. It shouldn't matter if I heard the cricket or not. But, I wanted to hear it, damn it!
What does it sound like? I wanted to know terribly!
There is something that most people can't seem to help. When an interpreter (or spoken language translator for that matter) is interpreting for someone in a public place, whether it is school, a hospital, or a work place, people will communicate with the interpreter, occasionally looking at the actual person they need to communicate with. I don't think most people mean to do this or see this as rude.
My friend, a nurse, has to repeatedly remind people to look at the patient not the interpreter. Even though they had training in this area and attended workshops about working with sign language interpreters and deaf people. She told me that perhaps she is more aware of this than most people because of me.
But, what really upsets me is when the person being interpreted for does not speak up. Tell the doctor, teacher, or person you are dealing with, to look at you.
"Talk to me please. I am the one you need to speak with, not the interpreter. It is OK to look at me."
Don't get angry or shy. Educate.
I will admit, I made the mistake of looking at the spanish language translator when dealing with a parent. I would often look at the translator when she translated what was said in English. The mother at one point said, "Look at me, not the translator." I apologized and told her that I rely on lip-reading to understand what is being said. I should have said this upfront. Once, she understood, she was totally fine with me looking at the translator translating her words. However, I made a point to look at her when she spoke Spanish or when I asked questions. I did find myself naturally wanting to look at the translator to ask questions. I don't know why this is. But, I knew better than to do this.
Working with translators or interpreters can be an awkward experience, when you are not used to it. I think often times not many people know what to do.
Nevertheless, I commend the mother for speaking up. I would like to see more people do this.
I had an encounter with a guy at a gas station near the school district I work at.
The first thing he asked was, "Where are you from?"
I told him and he seemed surprised my my answer (I was born and raised in the south).
"Sounds like you have an accent."
I told him that I get that all the time. Some people think I am from the north, mostly New York or Boston. Sometimes they can't quite figure out where I could be from.
I then told him that my unique accent was due to my hearing loss that I've had since I was two at least.
He started asking me questions about what I do and where I teach. I noticed that his voice grew louder and he talked at a slower rate. Then it was almost as if he was shouting. He meant well. He may not even realize he was doing it. I did not have the heart to tell him that he did not need to shout. But, I heard everything he said, for sure! Loud and clear.
Usually, this never happens. I do not often come across strangers or acquaintances, who speak louder once they learn that I have some deafness. If this happened all the time, then I would have to say something.
My 3rd grade student yesterday (moderate-severe deafness) finally got her hearing aid back. It has been a little over a week since she wore it. A piece broke off and her mother sent it off to get fixed. As soon as she saw me she put up her hair and showed me her little pink hearing aid. She was beaming. "I can hear now.", she said. I smiled and responded, "You mean you can hear better. That's great!"
When she was not wearing her hearing aid it was so obvious that it affected her tremendously. Her voice was quieter, she did not seem as confident. She said she felt 'funny a lot' meaning she did not feel like herself. She did pretty well communicating, but I had to remind her that she needed to be extra mindful of her surroundings. Using ASL helped a lot. Thank goodness for her interpreter.
Now her confidence is back and her voice is louder. She walks with a tall upright posture. She kept telling me how she can hear this and that.
When we were working together, one on one, she stopped and asked, "What is that sound?" The AC came on, buzzing and whirring. After I tried to have her figure it out herself (by localizing the sound, giving her clues, "Feel the cool air?") I told her it was the AC. With a puzzled look, she told me, "I no hear before."
I responded, "You mean you have not heard it before. But, really I think you mean that you have not noticed it before."
I think it is so interesting how when you go without your hearing aid for a long time and when you wear it again, you instantly notice sounds you did not really notice before. Even if you have been wearing the hearing aid for a year or so, not wearing it for a while and then wearing it again is always an odd and new experience. You start to notice certain sounds more. The same happens when you get a new hearing aid. I remember when I got my new hearing aid, I could not get over how unnecessarily loud everything seemed. For example, my cat eating his food sounded like a giant pig snorting and crunching on some slop.
Link to this post: http://ehwhathuh.blogspot.com/2010/05/i-can-hear-this-and-that.html
The next time you ostracize or attack a hearing person for being ignorant, consider this. I met quite a few people in their 60s and above who have never met or experienced a signing deaf person first hand. Maybe their only experience with Deaf culture or deaf people are from the one or two times they are shown on television or in the movies. Maybe they have seen deaf people in various places from a far. Or maybe they have encountered only deaf peddlers trying to sell their sign language cards, unfortunately. For most hearing people, encounters with deaf people are extremely rare.
So how are they suppose to know that you are not supposed to use the term 'hearing-impaired'? How are they supposed to know that some deaf people have good speech? That sign language is in fact a language? That not all deaf people can lip read? And yes, that deaf people can drive?
Sure, getting asked 'stupid' questions can be annoying. But, it is good to be asked. This is your chance to educate in a positive light. Do not scowl, roll your eyes, or laugh. And please, do not cry, "Audism!"
Take the time to spread awareness. Don't attack the person asking the question. Don't cower in online Deaf forums making fun of hearing people; making unnecessary cruel jokes about 'stupid hearies'.
Until we see more deaf and hard of hearing people and deaf awareness in the media and the general public, we have to deal with ignorant comments and questions from hearing people.
By the way, I have heard and read plenty of deaf people asking ignorant questions about other people with other disabilities (such as little people, people with visual impairments, people who use wheelchairs, people with intellectual disabilities, etc.). Their questions are very similar to the questions deaf people get asked.
Think about it. Do you really know everything there is about everyone else in the world who are not deaf?
I thought of what might be a fun and simple way of teaching or reinforcing the signs for various colors to very young children. I was inspired by the creator of Signing Time and by Dr. Jean.
The activity would involve wearing different colored gloves (red, green, yellow, blue, etc.).
First, I would select a color, let's say red.
I would put the red glove on my dominant hand and hide it behind my back.
With my gloved hand behind my back, I would sing and/or sign,
"Where is red? Where is red?" (to the tune of frere jacques).
Then I would bring out my red gloved hand and sign and/or say,
'Here I am! Here I am!"
Looking at your gloved hand, "What do you say red? What do you say red?"
Then you sign and say, "Red, red, red. Red, red, red."
You keep doing this with the other colors you want to teach or go over.
When you are finished, you can ask your child or student do the song wearing the gloves.
There are many other ways you can do it.
I would like to hear from you if you have any other ideas or how you would modify this.
In one of her books, Dr. Jean has an activity which teaches the alphabet in signs by doing the same song and motions focusing on the letters of the alphabet. This is where I got the idea for the song. I thought the gloves would make it more visually pleasing and helpful in learning the signs for different colors. I got the idea of using colored gloves from watching the Signing Time creator put different colored tape on her fingers.
I am going to make my own gloves using felt. I will try it with my student tomorrow.
I hope he likes it.
Link to this post: http://ehwhathuh.blogspot.com/2010/05/neat-way-to-teach-young-children.html
Because I have been in such a good mood lately, I have been blasting high energy music while driving. One thing I do a lot is put my hand on the side of the driver door's armrest and feel the vibrations. I think it really adds to the music listening experience. It is interesting, because I notice that I can feel certain beats that I was not aware were there. It amazes me that no matter how loud the music is, there will be some frequencies I will not hear or perhaps notice. But, I can feel them. It's neat.
Anyone else do this while driving? I notice that throughout the documentary,Hear and Now (2007), a deaf woman would listen to her music while driving by feeling the beats through her hand resting on the driver door's armrest; smiling and bopping her head to the music. I loved that!
You can see her do this somewhat at the :43 mark in this trailer (I am sorry, could not find a captioned trailer):
When I was studying film in college I took a film production course. For the final project, we had to make a film together as a class. The first job assigned to me was to put on a set of headphones and listen to the dialogue to make sure they were saying their lines correctly or following the script. I also had to make sure it sounded right, because what I hear on the headphones would most likely be what it will sound like on film. I forgot the name or title for this job.
I looked at the teacher and thought, "Really? You think I would be the best person for this job? Really?"
The trooper I am, I went ahead and gave it a try. I held up the right portion of the headphone to my right ear, being that my left ear is useless in hearing dialogue or anything really. Their voices going directly in my ear while background noises were blocked out, helped tremendously. I experimented with looking at the actors and reading their lips and looking solely at the script, reading along. Reading along helped the most. I did not hear all of the nuances of their speech sounds, and I could only assume that they were saying their lines correctly by matching their speech sounds with the written words on the script. It was pretty obvious when they forgot their lines or if they did not sound right. I had to stop them at one point because I thought one of the actors sounded too quiet.
I did pretty well. It was not so bad.
The point is, don't opt out of certain opportunities because of your deafness. You might surprise yourself.
4) Whenever I want to escape irritating noise, I can turn off my hearing aid or press a button to block out the noise. It acts as an instant ear plug. I do this often when I have to sit in on a horrible school band or sit in a noisy school cafeteria.
5) It can be a conversation starter. "Are you deaf?" "What is that thing in your ear?" "Are those stickers?"
6) I think it looks cute. Like a little plastic shrimp.
7) It helps others be more aware that I have trouble hearing, especially since it is more visible now with the blue and white ear mold. What do you like about your hearing aid?