Jan 24 2016

Game Night – by Sara Lundquist

Published by under Open Chat Night

Blog topic written by Sara Lundquist

Why is it so easy to stand up for a cause and take a stand? While we were in school we made posters, joined groups etc… But, why is it so hard to take a stand and stand up and advocate for yourself? Maybe this isn’t a problem for you, but it is for me. Why is it so hard to ask for accommodations or make a simple request? The reality is the majority of people don’t care if you wear hearing aids or have to ask people to repeat something. To an insecure mind, though, asking for these things can be like a large neon sign blinking over your head.

Around Christmas my family was invited to a young married couple’s home for a game night. I had never really talked to this couple before. I had interacted with the wife a couple times and had never talked to the husband. I am talking just a “Hi” here or there so never had said, “I am hard of hearing.” My daughter and I went to the game night and there were 4 families there. I kept thinking, “I should mention something before we played the games. I really should say that I need to be facing people, and not everyone can talk at once.” Did I do that, NO. There were a couple people there that did know of my hearing loss, but it wasn’t their job to inform others. That responsibility falls on me and only me.

The first game was pure torture. It was a game of song lyrics. Are you kidding me, song lyrics! I have always enjoyed music but very seldom know what they are talking about in the song unless I can read the lyrics. We split in two teams and were given a word. The teams yelled out song lyrics that contained the word and the teams went back and forth. I had a hard time keeping track of who yelled what and exactly what they yelled. I felt I had exactly zero worth to this team. I kinda kicked myself— I needed to participate so the next time when they announced the word we were to use, I took the card to read it since I didn’t understand them when they said it. WOW I was yelled at and told I couldn’t look at the card since it was announced for everyone. Then, to make matters worse, I finally thought of a song, so I announced it. A teammate started yelling at me that it was the other team’s turn, so I accidentally had given them a point. At this point I wanted to die. I wanted to fall into the couch—I could feel my cheeks burning red. I was embarrassed and I could tell my teammates were frustrated with me, and I just wanted to go home. I felt like this hurt little schoolgirl that wanted to run home so my mother could kiss and hug the hurt away. There were a few more times I screwed up, but thank God the game finally ended; my team lost. I really wanted to leave, but I stuck it out. I went to the kitchen to get something to eat. The next thing I knew I was getting a hug from a friend who asked if that game was really hard for me. Then another friend came to ask if I was ok. This was another kick, just advocate for yourself. How hard can this be, say something!!!

The next game was a card game with a total of 4 people. What a huge difference—it was fun and I so enjoyed myself. I did make a casual mention that I can’t hear well. The night was fun. I would go back and do it again. What would I do different? I would stand up for myself. It is the New Year and we all make resolutions, although most get broken. This year I vow to realize that I am important. I will stand up for myself and advocate for myself. How hard would it have been for me to say that I have hearing loss and hearing speech can be hard when there is more than one person talking at a time. I hope there will be a game night in the future. I will be proactive, and I will have fun because I have worth.

I can advocate for a cause I can get behind, but I have to get into a mindset that I am also an important cause and I matter also. We all matter, we deserve the same access and the same information. Let’s make it our New Year’s Resolution to recognize that we have worth and we are all worthy. Now I just have to get my game skills in tip top shape for next time.

Join us on Wednesday at this week’s Open Chat Night!

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Jan 19 2016

Signing Impaired: the Double Standard

Published by under Open Chat Night

Blog topic written by Hannah Mann, A Croaking Dalek With Laryngitis

I’ve posted about the use of “hearing impaired” and how it doesn’t bother me, though I do take care not to use it because many of my d/hh friends find it offensive.  In the Deaf community, though, I’ve occasionally come across attempts to turn the tables by using the term “signing impaired” to refer to hearing people.

Perhaps ironically, even though “hearing impaired” doesn’t bother me, “signing impaired” has never felt right to me.  Sometimes it’s used in the d/hh community as a joke, sometimes as a pejorative.  Either way, it’s never made much sense to me.  Here’s why:

  1. It comes off as hypocritical. You don’t like it when people use the term hearing impaired, so in turn, you use “signing impaired” to… I don’t know, teach them a lesson?  What lesson, exactly?
  2. The way most people use the term “hearing impaired,” they’re just referring to your level of hearing. Despite its overt focus on hearing, it’s not intended to diminish you as a person. “Signing impaired,” though, definitely carries an insulting connotation– in my experience, it is usually intended as such.  See #1 for my confusion on what it’s supposed to accomplish, exactly.
  3. It doesn’t mean anything. Ears are designed to hear. That’s what they’re for.  If they don’t hear, then they are nothing more than funny-looking flaps of skin on your head.  That’s what “hearing impaired” refers to. Hands… well, your hands work fine whether you use sign language or not.  “Signing impaired” is more about language proficiency, not physical ability; and that makes about as much sense as calling a Chinese native “English impaired.”

In the grand scheme of things, it’s pretty minor. On the other hand, words have power, and the little things add up into big things.  If we, as a community, want courtesy and respect from others, we need to model it in turn.

Join us on Wednesday at this week’s Open Chat Night!

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Jan 12 2016

Sometimes – by Marcia Shury

Published by under Open Chat Night

Blog topic written by Marcia Shury, author of Silent Hearer

New Year! “New start” and “new you,” these are words we often hear around this time of the year as we leave an old year behind and welcome the new.  Resolutions are made, some are kept, some are forgotten as soon as they are made, but sometimes it is worth the while to sit still and ponder what was, what is to come and what will be, and resolve in the New Year to do and be better.

One of those resolutions is learning to keep your mouth shut when all you want to do is confront someone who looks you in the face and lie to you—it is one of the hardest thing to do.  Deep inside you already know what their reaction will be – denial – and another new lie will replace the old one.

You tell yourself that the best thing to do would be to stay silent and take a mental note of the situation and circumstances and store it away for future use.  Being hard of hearing as it is already has its challenges, so why add more to it?  You can’t really speak to anyone about what you are going through because many do not understand your world of silence, and so you resolve to forge ahead and overcome.

Sometimes you just smile when all you really want to do is cry.  Sometimes you keep silent when all you really want to do is to scream and shout.  Sometimes you just watch people and shake your head when all you wish to really do is to confront them with their lies and betrayal.  And sometimes you just want to ask why, but you know it would be futile because you will never get the truth.

Sometimes you wish that you could go back in time and write a new chapter of your life or change events and circumstances, but times machines only exists in movies and The Twilight Zone.  Sometimes you wish those who don’t understand you and are trying to play you for their fool would get a reality check, yet you know that will never happen, but you keep hoping for a miracle.

Sometimes you think back and ask why are you still in this situation and circumstance when all you wish to do is leave, or else know you should make changes. Sometimes in a day, a night, situations and circumstances can change or feelings too, but because of so much uncertainty you hope for the best.

Sometimes when all the facts are laid out on the table and you know there will be no changes and you are in denial and don’t really want to face the truth, it is then you finally come to the realization that you will need to be brave enough, strong enough, bold enough, and smart enough to walk away. Walking away is perhaps the best thing to do…sometimes.

Join us on Wednesday at this week’s Open Chat Night!

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Dec 29 2015

We’re bringing in new blog contributors for 2016!

Open Chat Night started August 2009 and has taken place each week on Wednesday nights in our hearing loss chat room.  I have written over 200 blog topics, which have spurred insightful and intriguing discussions and conversations over the years.  I have talked a lot about my personal experiences ranging from social anxiety, hearing loss, technology, and many other related topics regarding the hearing loss community.

As we approach a new year, I have decided to open our chat room to bring in blog contributors to share their experiences that can open up new discussions.  One of our staff writers, Hannah Mann, who is profoundly deaf and wears CI, has been writing up some blog posts and we have used some of these for our chat room discussions once a month since last fall.  We now have a team interested to participate in 2016 for writing blog topics.  Rather than writing my own—which seems repetitive as I’m running out of topics—I think it would be beneficial to allow other members to write topics for our chat onwards.

If you’re interested to write blog topics and share your experiences related to hearing loss, please let us know—we’ll be happy to add more members on our list of blog contributors!  Your posts can reach potentially 100+ visitors per month.

Join us at this week’s Open Chat Night and Happy New Year!

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Dec 16 2015

Share your college stories

In the past, members of our chat group have shared interesting stories about their experiences in high school or college.  Since right about now students are graduating or starting their winter breaks, I thought it would be nice to bring up this topic again.

As I have mentioned before, I don’t have a lot to share, since in school I mostly focused on my studies instead of socializing with others.  However, I did have an interesting encounter with a dorm mate that didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped.

One year, I got to know the student who stayed in the room next to mine.  Although I thought he would be a good friend to hang out with, the relationship took a wrong turn when he became rather clingy and stalkerish.  For instance, every time he heard me come into the dorm suite, he would open his door immediately to greet me.  Sometimes it got to the point where I would quietly sneak into my room and lock the door so he wouldn’t bother me.  The next minute, however, he would come out and knock on my door for several minutes, even if I didn’t answer.  He pretty much crossed the line.  That experience discouraged me from any further attempts to make friends in college.  Looking back now though, I think it’s kind of funny, and yet discouraging, that I ended up with that type of person while I was struggling to find the right kind of friends.

This will be one of the stories I will be sharing in my future novel I plan to write about my life experiences.  That was one of the major setbacks in college regarding my social avenues I have encountered.

Have any interesting stories about your high school or college days?  Tell us at next Wednesday’s Open Chat Night.

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Dec 08 2015

Discrimination in the D/HH community

Published by under Open Chat Night

Blog topic written by Hannah Mann, A Croaking Dalek With Laryngitis

I was asked if I perceived there to be discrimination between various groups of those with hearing loss.  More specifically, did I see a difference in attitude between those who have hearing loss through either work or life experiences compared with those that are born deaf or hard of hearing?

My answer was yes, although the discrimination I saw and heard of didn’t necessarily fall along those lines.  They had more to do with communication modality (if someone cued or spoke vs. using ASL), and additional disabilities like blindness or cognitive impairment.

For all the isolation and loneliness that so many d/hh people experienced growing up, you would think they’d be more inclusive than the mainstream hearing world.  Turns out, they’re human just like the rest of us.

I can still remember the pain in her voice as Candace Lindow-Davies told us, through tears, about how badly her deaf-plus son wanted to fit in, to have friends at his residential school.  “Deaf kids can be very cruel,” she said, and I nodded with complete understanding.  Kids in general can be cruel, but combined with that characteristic Deaf bluntness… whether it’s cultural or neurological, we really don’t sugarcoat anything.

Moreover, I did some volunteer work with deaf-blind people in college, and I’ve heard some pretty sad stories of deaf-blind people being treated like lepers as soon as they started losing their vision– almost like the other d/hh people were afraid of “catching” the same thing.

Regarding communication modality, I’ve known of d/hh friends getting criticized for being “too English” when signing.  While I haven’t really experienced anything worse than pointed disinterest in Cued Speech, I do know of cuers at Gallaudet and RIT who did not publicly share that fact about themselves because of the possible societal backlash.  Nowadays, I think Gallaudet is more open-minded, but back in the 80’s and 90’s, especially during the Deaf President Now! movements, it probably wasn’t the best idea to advertise that you knew and used Cued Speech.

RIT, unfortunately, was not quite as progressive as Gallaudet; from what I gather, it is/was very much an ASL-only campus.  It was not too long ago that a fellow cuer, Rachel, struggled with getting even captioning access to her classes.  The way RIT had set it up was that, if you wanted captioning, you had to pick the one class section that offered it: all the others would provide only sign language interpretation.  And forget about Cued Speech transliteration– in 2003, Nicole Dugan had to file a formal complaint against RIT after they failed to provide her with CLT services for two years.  (In fact, Dugan had avoided becoming fluent in ASL for two years so that RIT would not be able to use that as a reason to continue using sign language interpreters instead– which I find absolutely shameful on RIT’s part.)

The long and short of it is that, yes, sadly discrimination within the d/hh community does happen. Quite often from those who most strongly claim to advocate for inclusion.

Share your thoughts at this week’s Open Chat Night!


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Nov 23 2015

Hearing Impaired = Broken?

Published by under Open Chat Night

Blog topic written by Hannah Mann, A Croaking Dalek With Laryngitis

Last week, I bought a giant canvas. It did not fit in my car.  I spent the next hour or so texting local friends trying to find someone with a jeep or a truck, contemplating the logistics of strapping it to the top of my car, and snarking about it on Facebook.

What on earth does any of this have to do with “hearing impaired”?

Well, I ended up asking the store to hold the canvas until I could get someone with a bigger car.  I came back the next day after work to ask the staff if there was a way we could take the canvas apart so it could fit. When we walked to the front of the store, where the canvas was sitting behind the counter, I spotted a note taped to it that read:

My first thought: “Yay!  They left a note so they know I’m the one who bought it!”  I didn’t think to say anything until after a very nice and accommodating store representative helped me try to fit the Giant Canvas into my car.  When both of us gave up and agreed that I needed a bigger car, I walked back inside, motioned for a pen and paper, and wrote:

“I saw that the note on the canvas [now gone] said ‘hearing impaired.’ I just wanted to warn your staff that many d/hh people find that term very offensive.  I don’t personally care, but some people do, a lot.”

The very nice and accommodating store representative apologized– from her gestures, I could tell she knew a little sign and was familiar with Deaf culture– and explained that she had taken down the note for that very reason before we’d carried the canvas out to my car. I reassured her that it didn’t matter to me; I just didn’t want them to have a bad run-in with other d/hh people because of an innocent slip.

The term “hearing impaired” has never bothered me. I used it growing up because I saw it as an useful umbrella term that encompassed all varying degrees of hearing loss.  It wasn’t until I took ASL classes in college that I learned its secondary implication for many d/hh people: the idea that we’re broken and/or need to be fixed.

I don’t quite agree with that definition of “impaired,” by the way; I interpret “impaired” as more like “lacking.” You just don’t have a particular thing– or you don’t have as much of it as others do– that doesn’t have to mean it’s broken, or that youare broken.  There’s no value judgment in it for me.

I do understand why other d/hh people interpret it that way, though. And I understand the larger picture it can reinforce.  What I don’t understand is the level of ire it seems to generate sometimes, particularly when the hearing person who uses that term has no reason to know that it’s offensive to some d/hh people, or why it would be offensive.  The thing is, unless you’ve spent some time around the d/hh community (and even then, a somewhat specific segment of that community), you won’t know.  And to add to that, to the uninitiated, often “hearing impaired” does sound like the more polite, PC term to use.

Basically, 99% of the time, when someone uses that term, it’s not meant to be hurtful or offensive.  It’s generally other d/hh people who use it as a pejorative (“signing impaired,” anyone?), and who object to its use.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t ask people not to refer to us as “hearing impaired,” or educate them about its implications.  Words have power.  We would do well to be aware of that, and to respect it.  At the same time, should it be taken as an insult if the intent isn’t there, if you have to contrive meaning out of it to turn it into an insult?  And how far do we want to go into policing the terms that others can use, especially if other d/hh people use “hearing impaired” to identify themselves?

Share your thoughts at this week’s Open Chat Night.

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Nov 17 2015

Is hearing loss a blessing in disguise?

Obviously many of our discussion topics have been related to the obstacles of hearing loss, but I wanted to take a more positive approach this week.  Even though hearing loss does have its downsides it can be a blessing in many ways.

For instance, I enjoy being able to sleep peacefully at night without hearing aids.  Those little sounds that might keep hearing people awake don’t bother me.  It’s also helpful in noisy places where verbal communication isn’t necessary, like outdoor festivals or factories with loud machinery—I can just turn down my hearing aids’ volume or switch it “off.”  No need for ear plugs for me!

Also, I recently got new hearing aids and they’re much more powerful than my last ones.  Thanks to the different settings and options, such as volume control and reducing background noise, I believe sometimes I can actually hear conversations more than people with normal hearing.  The technology is really amazing.  Also, my hearing aids have Bluetooth, so I can connect to my iPod instead of wearing headphones or ear pieces.  For example, it would be very beneficial listening to music on the plane that will eliminate the aircraft noise that’s usually loud.  I consider that another blessing.

Whether you’re deaf or hard of hearing, in what way do you consider your hearing loss a blessing?  Let’s discuss this at Wednesday’s Open Chat Night.

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Nov 09 2015

What impact do nutrients have on hearing loss and vision?

As I’ve previously discussed, studies have identified a possible link between our diets and hearing loss.  Good eating habits have been shown to reduce the chances of hearing loss due to aging.  However, I’m interested in whether eating habits can prevent progressive hearing loss across all age groups.

My own hearing loss has been fairly constant since I was born.  In recent years, though, I have noticed a slight reduction in my hearing.  Fortunately, it’s a very minor change; but what will happen as I grow older?  I’m already forty-years-old, and I have to admit my eating habits still aren’t great.  I’ve always been skinny with high metabolism and I find myself consuming more unhealthy foods (like sweets or fast food) than healthier ones (like fruits and vegetables).  My father is always forcing me to eat healthier to prevent future health problems.  Perhaps eating better and taking vitamins could prevent my hearing loss from changing as I grow older.

I’ve also realized it’s important to eat healthy food for my vision as well.  Studies have shown eating carrots are generally good for your eyes and that’s one of the least types of food I usually eat.  I am starting to take multi-vitamins, so that’s a good start, but I need to begin to eat more nutritious food such as vegetables and fruits.  It might not affect me now but I might notice a difference when I grow older.

Discuss the healthy foods choices you make at Wednesday’s Open Chat Night.  Can you make any nutritional suggestions that are good for your health or could prevent hearing and/or vision loss?

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Oct 26 2015

Interpreters as Advocates?

Published by under Open Chat Night

Blog topic written by Hannah Mann, A Croaking Dalek With Laryngitis

On and off, I’ve read discussions about the interpreter’s role as an advocate or ally for their deaf and hard of hearing clients.  Sometimes the discussion veers into a direction that leaves me a bit cold, because then I remember the story that Tony Wright told me last year:

One deaf cuer, as a child, had a transliterator who was originally a sign language interpreter.  She’d taken up Cued Speech in order to transliterate for him.  However, at some point, she switched from Cued Speech transliteration to sign language interpreting in classes because she thought Cued Speech wasn’t working for him.  She did this without his parents’ knowledge or consent, and in breach of his IEP.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the interpreting world, that is a massive, massive breach of ethics.  The interpreter does not get to make that call; the client does (or in the case of minors, their legal guardians do).

At the time, the student accepted it without complaint, not really being aware of interpreter ethics–children typically aren’t.  But years later, when he looked back on his experience, he realized just how out of line it was.

The thing is, the interpreter/transliterator is ultimately an intermediary, a go-between.  Her primary job is to relay information, not advocate for or protect her clients.  While there are definitely some situations that I think would reasonably warrant the interpreter to step out of that strictly-defined role (for example, a medical discussion that could be life-altering), in general, I’m leery of adding advocacy to an interpreter’s role.  This is especially true with minors since generally their parents and educators are the ones who call the shots, not necessarily the minor child himself.

Too many questions come to mind, and my most pressing one is: is the would-be “advocacy” what the client really needs, or what the interpreter thinks the client needs?

Share your thoughts at this week’s Open Chat Night.

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