Archives For Coping in the Hearing World

About being deaf…

I Read…..

September 2, 2014

readingReading the written word is a very important thing for all of us but especially so for me.  For some reason I have been thinking about just how much I personally read. Being deaf hearing the spoken word is no longer possible so with that sense gone reading has become my primary method of knowing what is happening in the world around me.

My computer and the Internet are a vital part of my life. But then again they have been since their invention three decades ago. I spend between a half and a full hour each morning reading about what happened in the world lately. One nice thing about the Internet is that I can quickly browse a large number of articles and only spend the time to thoroughly read the few that I select. When I was growing up we never had the money to afford a set of encyclopedias. But now Wikipedia is just a click away for all my questions. I read things there very frequently.

There is no such thing as closed-captioned radio so that venue is worthless to me. For that matter I really don’t know how much about how radio is used since the invention of iPods and such. Maybe no one listens to it anymore. But I do know that some of the radical hot heads such as Rush are on the radio? Maybe that is the venue now? If so then I wish it would just go away.

When I sit down to watch my favorite TV programs it is still about reading. I thank heavens for closed-captioning but my eyes do get a little tired of trying to read the captions and watch all the action at the same time.  TV is as much about reading as most other media is for me.

Then there are books and magazines which I continue to consume on a daily basis. I even subscribe to a few of the hard copy versions. The one problem I have with reading is that the letters are getting smaller and smaller. Or maybe it is my eyes are getting older and older. I don’t know which?

Reading is who I am and what I am about. Like my hero Will Rogers about everything I know about the world I get from reading….

A few months after I came to America, one of my American friends showed me a picture of her sister. “Isn’t she precious?” she said. I was taken aback ; her sister had Down’s syndrome. On another occasion, when I first met my new neighbor, she revealed that she had a mentally retarded son who was sixteen but had the mental capacity of a five-year-old. I admire Americans’ openness about disability….

In Asia, the disabled are treated as less than fully human… Mental retardation or physical disability is a stigma to a family, partly because of the influence of Buddhism. According to Buddhism, life is a series of causes and consequences, and a person’s disability may be punishment for having behaved badly in a former life or for having a cruel ancestor. Thus, family members with mentally retarded children are often ashamed and rarely tell others about them. An elementary school classmate of mine in Korea had a handicapped brother. Whenever I visited her house, her mother put him in a bathroom or somewhere else where visitors couldn’t see him. Thirty years later, public perception of disabilities in Asia has not improved much. Even in Japan, the most industrially advanced and urbanized society in Asia, disabled people face discrimination, humiliation, and inconvenience every day.

Kim, Eun Y. (2001-07-05). Yin and Yang of American Culture: A Paradox (Kindle Locations 810-820). Intercultural Press Inc. Kindle Edition.

This post of course is going to get rather personal with me. Being deaf I have experienced prejudices in my life even in the U.S. but it has probably been very minor compared to those in Asia.  America was not exempt from the description above, it is just that we for the most part conquered that phobia years ago whereas Asia has yet to approach it.

Almost anyone who doesn’t know me and approached me as a deaf person automatically assumes several things. The one that gets to me the most is that I am less intelligent than most. Even though the saying “deaf and dumb” is pretty much a thing of the past the thought still flourishes among many. The second thing is that since I am deaf I am not worth the effort to get to know me. Many simply write me off as a possible future friend.  I must admit that these feeling are not limited to just those of us who are deaf. They also apply to many who are handicapped in other ways. A person in a wheelchair is for the most part ignored by most.  I personally make a diligent effort to make eye contact and greet everyone I come across who is handicapped.

I can’t imagine the obstacles put in front of people with handicaps in Asia. To be put into a virtual closet away from family and friends is shameful to me. Asians need to get over the idea that mental and physical handicaps are God’s punishment for past actions. At least for Christianity Jesus tells us very directly that that is not the case.  Stigma is hard to break in any culture. I am at least grateful that we have done a better job in this area than our Asian brothers and sisters. But haven’t we found that to be true in so many areas in this yin/yang study?

College Years 002The header of this blog contains one of my favorite Will Rogers quote.  “Do the best you can and don’t take life too serious”. It would be years before I realized the power of putting those two things together.

We all have different skills and capabilities. We all have different talents. I think that the secret to a satisfying life is to discover just what your skills and talents are and then do the best you can to make them flourish. My personal history it this regard is kind of so-so. But I did for the most part do the best I could with the knowledge I had at the time and maybe that is all I could have asked for.

As a kid I seemed to always be looking to the future and trying to imagine where my place would be in it.  But I never seemed able to latch onto that one specific thing. Looking back I seemed to be looking at the forest and not concentrating on any particular tree for potential growth. It would have been nice to have the knowledge and wisdom I now have in those early years.  But, I guess that is what growing really means.

As much as can be expected I did do the best I could with all my circumstances in life. I got into a profession that I really didn’t have much passion for but I did the best I could while there.  It would be more than twenty years into my thirty year work life before I found an area that I was passionate about and that was software development. My analytical mind thrived in that area.

But then along came deafness that put another obstacle in my path and it proved to be a tough one. What should have been sure fire advancements in this new area were not there because of my new affliction. My superiors just couldn’t see a deaf person leading a bigger team than I already had.  The depression that my deafness caused almost took me down for a while. And then I got my second wind and started coping as best as I could. Struggling without hearing in a hearing world was certainly  my biggest challenge.  But I did the best I could.

Perhaps the biggest challenge in realizing Will’s quote above was the last part. It would be years before I was finally able to not take life too serious. The first part of meeting that challenge was to not take myself too serious. I was convinced that I needed to change the world and was always disappointed in my lack of being able to do much of that.

The progression from not taking myself too serious to not taking life in general too serious was a natural one it seems. The first serious stage in that process was to realize that today’s politics are just not worth the worries that they inevitably cause. Our country is just too divided right now to allow any serious advancements in the political realm. I found it very satisfying to finally realize that fact and to put the muddy politics of our times to a very remote rear burner of my life.

So, here I am approaching my 68th year on this earth and I think I finally have Will’s quote down. It’s about time…..

The picture above is of me in 1966 during my college years….

 

 

During Doctor Visits….

March 10, 2014

NotepadThat second set of ears belongs to Sharon Wolozin, who takes notes the old-fashioned way – with pen and paper – and then reads some of the main points aloud to confirm them with the doctor. If the patient forgets a question she told Wolozin she planned to ask, Wolozin will remind her. But she is not an advocate and has no medical training.

“We don’t get between the doctor and the patient,” said Wolozin. Her role is only to create an accurate record of what happened at the appointment that she gives to Couturier, who can then share it with her children or others.

SOURCE: Note-takers volunteer to help the elderly during doctor visits | Updates | PBS NewsHour | PBS.

One of the many times I thank God for a hearing wife is when I have a doctor’s appointment. To say it very bluntly at the start of this post, I haven’t come across many doctors who have the patience or understanding to effectively communicate with someone who is deaf. So, my wife goes to 95% of my doctor’s visits with me to tell me everything the doctor says. The other 5% are what this post is about.

On the occasions where I must go to a doctor on my own I struggle to get the doctor to understand that I am not a hearing person.  If I ask him to write things down what comes out is usually just a few words. Something like “you need surgery”. Almost never a reason given until I emphatically press it. Now don’t get me wrong here, I am not saying that doctors are without empathy for their patients. What I am saying is that they just don’t seem to have an understanding of it from the patient’s end, especially a deaf patient.

I have been going to the same primary care physician for almost fourteen years now and when I go without my wife the same thing used to occur.  Like most doctors he only very reluctantly wrote limited things down for me to read. Fortunately we finally worked out a method of communications. Jessie, who is one of the more friendly nurses in the office, now is in the room taking thorough notes for me to read.  When the doctor is talking too fast she slows him down so she can get it just right. Problem solved, that is at least for one of my many doctors.

Doctors and other medical personnel, like many others who deal with the general public, just don’t have the training to be sensitive to  a hearing impaired persons needs. Some do much better than most.  When someone gets obviously upset because I am apparently not following an order to lay this way or that. I now have a speech worked out. I tell them.

What if you were were in a hospital in Germany where no one spoke English. Would you be able to understand their instructions? If not you can imagine what I am going through right now.

This often times get them to finally realize that just repeating the same thing again doesn’t do any good.

As We Dreamed…

February 12, 2014

DreamsThis is installment three of my melancholy post for this week.

Do any of us ever lead as full a life as we had dreamed? That is the topic of this post. The short answer to that question should be no. If we live up to our dreams then we probably weren’t dreaming large enough.  But this post is about the longer answer.

I’m sure in my early childhood years I had some pretty wild dreams of what my life would be but I don’t remember much about those years. The ones I do remember were that my parents would not fight so much. I was convinced that they fought because I was not as good as I should have been.  I understand now that most young kids feel the same way about dueling parents. When my mother abandoned us for “greener pastures” my dreams pretty much ceased for a period of time.

As I approached high school they began to come at a florid pace. But during those same years I was unable to shake my feeling of inferiority. I would not gain much self-confidence until toward the end of college.  Those feelings made my dreams seem impossible to accomplish.  I enjoyed math and science and astronomy  just fascinated me.  I dreamed of being a big time astronomer who discovered far away planets and had them named after me. I also dreamed that somehow I would find my soul-mate in life and I would have the perfect family that I lacked growing up.

I used to frequently lay out alone on the lawn on summer nights just staring at the stars and dreaming where I would be thirty years from that moment. I really don’t know how I ended up going to college for engineering. Being an engineer was my father’s dream. He even went so far as to spend some of his hard-earned income on some correspondence courses in that area but never got beyond the initial steps. Maybe I was just trying to live his dream for him?

Then when I graduated from college my dreaming seemed to take a serious downward turn. I was mostly concerned with having a  safe stable income than risk of doing something to fulfill a dream. The steady paycheck that allowed me to buy “stuff” and to live comfortably was just too enticing. I did dream that my bosses would see all the contributions I made in the workplace and give me constant promotions. But that dream was partially stifled due to my ever-increasing hearing loss. There were just too many prejudices surrounding deafness for them to see beyond that physical affliction to my true value.

Dropping back to today, it sounds like I am regretting the life choices I made. To some degree that might be true but I am happy with the life I have had.  At the age of 40 when I had for the most part given up the dream of being married it happened quite unexpectedly. My career, even though it was not my dream job, has given me the opportunity to live in my senior years with a certain level of financial freedom.  I am very happy for that. But I do wish I had spent more time following my dreams than clinging to a secure life.

Even today I never stop dreaming…. and that is as it should be…

2014-02-04_12-02-20One of the first books I read as a young man was Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities. The opening words of that book has been in my mind since that time. It would not be the last book by Dickens that I would read. Many of his books were about social reform. When his father was thrown into debtor’s prison Charles had to step forward. I think maybe my avid social conscience was at least partially formed by my early exposure to his writing. But as usual, the main topic of this post is not about Dickens but about the best of time happening concurrently with the worst of time…

One of the good things about this blog, at least from my standpoint, is that since RJsCorner is not a niche blog I can go just about anywhere with my posts and as you know I often do just that. I don’t have a set pattern for what and when I blog about a particular topic. Will Rogers is a major part of my being here. He is indeed one of my heroes  but this blog ventures way beyond that arena.

In some ways the variety I offer in my posts here is also one of the worst things about this blog, especially when it comes to readership. If RJsCorner were a niche blog addressing a particular topic such as UFOs, conspiracies, retirement living and such it would probably get  more readership. When I for the most part, left the political arena recently I lost a significant amount of daily views. Some people just gravitate toward those types of posts. I am not lamenting that loss of readership because of this decision as much as I am enjoying my life a little more when very partisan politics is not part of my daily menu.

I like to think that even though I post on many different topics that this blog has some central themes. Those are:

  • to always question things
  • that our diversity is the secret to our peaceful existence
  • to love your neighbor as God told us to do.

I think I have learned those lessons in life and hope that a little of those experiences rub off on some of you. Life’s choices are almost never made in leaps but instead by a number of very small nudges. I hope to nudge you a little that way.

Sometimes I wonder why I put so much effort into my blogs when relatively few people actually read what I write? Some of it certainly has to do with my lack of social interaction in the world around me. Being deaf is very isolating, utterly so sometimes. So, maybe I blog where most people would just call up a friend for some chit-chat. I know I like to write. It is a strong part of who I am.  I kind of like to think that when you read my words we are just sitting around my kitchen table with a cup of coffee shooting the bull. I greatly miss that part of my life. I really don’t know the core answer as to why I blog but I do know that it is just part of who I am now and will continue to be so. I just hope a few people enjoy what I write and maybe even get nudged a little…

Cantonese Sign Language

January 29, 2014

2013-12-10_08-13-49Americans “A forefinger pointed towards the temple and twirled rapidly to indicate craziness.”

SOURCE:  Cantonese Sign Language | TIME.com.

I am always on the lookout for articles about those with hearing impairments so this one got my attention. For those of you who are not aware every country, and even different parts of the same country have basic differences in what they use to sign a particular word or phrase. But most often the sign comes from some general characteristic about the person or thing.  It is kind of humorous to see that the sign for “Americans” in China is the same sign as crazy in American sign.  I suspect that most of the Chinese are very aware of that relationship.

Prosecutors had accused the two officers, who approached Thomas near a bus depot in July 2011 to question him about reports of vandalized cars, of turning a routine police encounter into an unnecessary and savage beating that cost the unarmed homeless man his life.

Attorneys for Ramos and Cicinelli argued that Thomas was dangerous and that the officers responded according to their training. Defense lawyers also said Thomas suffered from a weakened heart brought on by drug abuse.

“These peace officers were doing their jobs, operating as they were trained,” said John Barnett, who represented Ramos. “There was no malice in their hearts that night.”

SOURCE:  Ex-California policemen acquitted in beating death of homeless man – Yahoo News.

I certainly don’t know all the facts about this incident but I do remember watching a few minutes of the video capturing it.  From that it seemed like the police officers were simply stomping and beating on someone who was just lying on the ground screaming for help.  Of course this is not the first time officers of the law have killed unarmed men. It seems to happen almost weekly.

For that reason, the first feeling that comes to my mind when I encounter a policeman is trepidation and maybe even fear. The main reason for that is because I can envision a time when I will be stopped by an officer who could shot me because I am deaf and couldn’t hear what he commanded me to do. I can remember another incident where someone was simply reaching in his pocket for a cell phone was shot seven times. These incidents scare me! I even remember an incident several years ago when a deaf man was severely assaulted by a police officer who was unaware of his hearing impairment.

I know a police officer has a right to defend him/herself when they feel they are in danger but I also fully realize that most officers have had very little if any training in encountering someone with hearing loss. I certainly deeply appreciate and respect what they go through on a daily basis to keep our streets safe but unfortunately that does not ameliorate my fear…

2013-11-26_08-35-41The funny thing about Michael Galinsky’s photographs of malls, taken during a road trip across the U.S. in the winter of 1989, is not the feathered and hair-sprayed hair, the pleated and pegged jeans, the high-tops and acid wash, the puffy chests in too-small or over-sized tank tops. It’s not the whiff of Mrs. Field’s cookies, Orange Julius, and Chick-fil-A waffle fries. It’s not the fluorescent lights and pained efforts to bring the outdoors in: rubber plants, umbrellas hovering in food courts, faux snow fluffed, not falling, over Christmas scenes. That dusty, dim glow.

The funny thing is, looking at Galinsky’s photos, is that we can’t tell one mall from the other. We have no way of knowing if he was in South Dakota or Indiana, Arkansas or Kansas. Without marking his slides, Galinsky, too, realized then, he’d have no way of knowing where in America, exactly, he’d been. But it turns out, looking back some 30 years later, it’s not so much where that matters, but when.

SOURCE:  Flashback to the Timeless Malls of the 1980s – LightBox.

I am old so I remember when malls were not around. Kids cruised the local drive-in restaurant in their cars instead of going to the mall. The first mall I encountered did not have a roof over the stores so in many ways it was not as much of a social climate as the enclosed kind became. It was simply more convenient than having to drive from one store to another. Of course during those days there is also no such thing as McDonald’s or Wal-Mart. I don’t think the kids today can even imagine such a world!

When the picture above was taken I was already in my 40’s so malls were not part of my social life as they became for the kids in that picture. Another noticeable thing about the picture is that everyone is not wearing tennis shoes.  I know they are not called tennis shoes any longer but that is the name for them laser cut into my memory so just give me a break.

If I were to have to pick one of the most influential things of the previous century it would have to be marketing. We, I am told especially us in the U.S., tend to jump on board with every fad that comes and goes. It is somehow now emblazoned on our brains that we must have the latest thing. If we buck the trends we are called all types of name; in my day is was doofus, today it is nerd or something else. Marketing has taken most of us as its slave to toss us from one fad to another.

I have always been that strange guy who just doesn’t do what everyone else does. When I was a teenager I was just too shy and too poor to be trendy. As I matured into an adult I had learned to mistrust on one level or another everything I was told. I had to check it out myself before coming on-board.  Maybe my hearing impairments and later deafness had something to do with it. I don’t know.  I do know it separated me from others….

But I’m kind of proud how I turned out. Maybe too proud…

Baby I’m Yours……

December 17, 2013

Baby, I’m yours

And I’ll be yours until the stars fall from the sky,

Yours, until the rivers all run dry

In other words, until I die

Baby, I’m yours

And I’ll be yours until the sun no longer shines,

Yours, until the poets run out of rhyme

In other words, until the end of time

I’m gonna stay right here by your side,

Do my best to keep you satisfied

Nothin’ in the world could drive me away

‘Cause every day, you’ll hear me say

Baby, I’m yours

And I’ll be yours until two and two is three,

Yours, until the mountains crumble to the sea

In other words, until eternity.

Baby, I’m yours

(Til the stars fall from the sky)

Baby, I’m yours

(Til the rivers all run dry)

Baby, I’m yours

(Til the sun no longer shines)

Baby, I’m yours

(Til the poets run out of rhymes)

2013-12-16_15-38-46I have had this song stuck in my mind for a couple of days now so had to research it some to find where it started. I know I remembered it from my youth but didn’t realize that it originally appeared the year I graduated high school in 1965. It was number eleven on the billboards that year. Barbara Lewis, a young African-American blues singer I think was the original one to sing it. In my research I also know that it has been re-recorded by Cher and several others since then.

Even though I have not heard a sound through my ears in over twenty-five years and have lost the ability to even remember what musical instruments sound like songs like this one pop to the top of my mind on occasion. I can still hear it as if it were being played on an old-fashioned record player used in those days.

I don’t know how much longer it will remain captive in my brain. I kind of like it so I hope it stays around for a few more days. I think one of the things I would quickly do if for some miracle my hearing were to come back is to pull out all the hundreds of black vinyl records from storage and seek out a player to spend hours listening to them again. I really miss the songs of my youth but I’m not too sorry that I missed the rapping and such since then. :)

My wife laughs whenever I start singing this song to her now.  I don’t know if it is because of my singing or she is just moved by the emotion of my efforts. We did not meet for another twenty years but still it seems like the song was written for me to sing to her. I love it when my brain gives me back these sudden spurts of hearing. Even if they are only in imaginary….