Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Teachable moments

This is the third day that I've been, practically speaking, deaf. Indications are that it's quite temporary. A sudden overproduction of cerumen has both reduced my hearing by over 75%, and favoured me with a non-stop Greek chorus of tinnitus. All this is a sign of age, I'm told. Sheee-ittt!

Today's first round of heftier treatment has given me a little more hearing in one ear: enough to hear my spouse yelling at me because the news shows are too loud. It's an encouraging sign that the rest of my hearing should be back in a few days.

But what if it didn't come back?

Many years ago, I was much involved in accessibility for historic sites, and dealt with people from a number of (spade a spade time) disabled populations. Historic sites like ours, using a great deal of textual information, were well-placed to handle the basics of communicating our message to people with hearing disabilities. What I found necessary to teach the staff had to do with getting beyond the basics. We had an interpretive programme that had built a reputation for doing just that: not just administering what a trustee called "cultural sheep-dip," but answering in-depth questions and giving people something to take away and think over. Interpreters needed the patience to listen attentively to the speech of those who could not fully (or at all) hear what they said. They needed in turn to be conscious of their own speech and enunciation when responding. Even skilled lip-readers may be less than 50% efficient, so the best-framed questions and answers might take two or three repetitions to become clear.

We still learn. This experience has come upon me in the working half of my week. What I do requires constant, detailed conversation and a good number of phone calls. Yesterday I luckily realised that my phone's volume control controlled the volume of the call as well as the ring, allowing me to get some phone stuff done. Yet I couldn't train my co-workers to adapt to my problem, and thus I shared just a little in the isolation and frustration that goes with hearing loss.

Those who hear can't understand. It's not stupidity; rather that the experience of even partial deafness is quite beyond them. The hearing live in a world of noise and sound. Not all who do not hear as you do hear nothing. Ears that don't work can produce a variety of sound that belongs only to the possessor. Those whose deafness is acquired still speak in their minds the words they want to make clear with their tongues. In this third day I've already begun to notice my articulation getting worn round the edges. The simplest statement already requires care and concentration.

In the several advocacy communities I worked with, the deaf at times had the name of being cranky and difficult to please. If I ever bought into that, I'm paying now with insight. If this were my lot hereafter, I would be even more cranky and hard to please than I already am.

(As I've been writing, I've had "Celtic Thunder" on in the background. A song has finally come up that I can distinguish as English and not Irish: and as a song.)

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Blogger massmarrier said...

Did you see the recent piece on which deaf people (by when they lost hearing) think in sign language?

5:28 pm  
Blogger Uncle said...

Interesting. Even more was the remark about the Deaf (from birth) and the deaf. Likewise there were the Blind and the blind, as I recall. Would it just be possible that disadvantaged populations would get more done if they did NOT waste so much energy on intermural distinctions?

10:36 pm  

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