About Deafness — Chapter 92

I realized that it has been quite some time since I put out a post primarily about deafness. But the title of “chapter 92” is kind of made up.  🙂  This particular chapter is the result of an episode on the CBS News – Sunday Morning about being in an anechoic chamber. First off the program mentioned is not really about “news” but more of like On the Road with Charles Kuralt but with Indiana’s own Jane PauleyNow I know I am dating myself with this reference but for those of you who don’t know about “On The Road..” check it out on Wikipedia.

2017-02-12_10-01-21.pngGetting back to the anechoic chamber story, it was about a couple of guys who were amazed at the experience of sitting an anechoic chamber.  I have some personal experience with this as I rather frequently used a chamber in my early engineering years. I was hearing, at least to some degree, at that time and agree that is it a unique experience. An anechoic chamber basically stops all ambient noise.

Anyway the guys mentioned that they could hear each other’s breath and even when they moved their eyebrows.  I kind of doubt the eyebrow comment but they said this was an experience they have never had before.  That got me to thinking that I have been in an anechoic chamber for almost thirty years now, but not really.

To explain that a little further, I am plagued with tinnitus which is ringing in my ears. For me is it two frequencies overlapping each other. One is a low rumble and the other is a whistle type sound. They are constantly in my head.  Thank heavens that my brain is able to just ignore them most of the time but not always, especially when  I think of them as I am now. The roar would probably drive a hearing person to insanity. They say that Van Gogh suffered from tinnitus and that is the reason he cut off his hear.  I don’t know about that but it is an interesting story 🙂

I was hearing impaired most of my life and knew that one day I would go deaf. Luckily that day didn’t come until I was about forty.  I remember in my hearing aid days wondering what it would be like to not be able to hear anything. I once even tried to simulate it by keeping my head under water in the bathtub but then I could still hear the lower frequency sounds of the water and the tub so that just didn’t work.

It turns out that as is often the case it is not possible to simulate total deafness except in an anechoic chamber and even then you can hear yourself breathe.  One of the things that Helen Keller said when someone asked her which sense she would like to have the most either hearing or sight.  She said hearing as that is what keeps you attached to people. That kind of surprised me as I would have chosen sight but their is certainly a lot of truth in her words. being deaf is not for sissies…



Stop Using Sign Language Interpreters…

IMG_0542-crop.pngThe title above may seem strange coming from a deaf man but I really do think we have to stop using sign language interpreters for public announcements.  Its time to move on to better ways. Way better ways…

The facts show us that the ASL interpreters who are often behind a public official announcing something is understood by less that 20% of the people who are deaf and less than 2% of those who have hearing impairments.  But there is a technology that is understood by probably 90%+ of that population. That technology is captioning.  It is cheap, it is reliable and most of all serves the vast majority of those of us who are deaf/hearing impaired.  Here are some facts to back up these numbers:

The Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) is one of a few national surveys that regularly collects data identifying the American population of persons with hearing loss or deafness. Estimates from the SIPP indicate that fewer than 1 in 20 Americans are currently deaf or hard of hearing. In round numbers, nearly 10,000,000 persons are hard of hearing and close to 1,000,000 are functionally deaf. More than half of all persons with hearing loss or deafness are 65 years or older and less than 4% are under 18 years of age….

Source: How Many Deaf People Are There in the United States? Estimates From the Survey of Income and Program Participation

More than half the folks who are deaf went deaf as a result of the aging process and know very little or nothing about any type of sign language. I have been deaf for about 30 years now and have become quite proficient in understanding signed English, at least me and my wife’s version. ASL is just beyond my comprehension. One of the problems with ASL is that it is not an English type language in syntax and many adjectives are facial expressions instead of signed  words. Depending on the interpreter there can be many different ways to sign the same thing. Some, who do use ASL, sign it one way some another. Let’s quit pretending that an ASL interpreter satisfies the needs of the deaf/ hearing impaired community and move on to providing captions through a monitor to vastly increase the reach to this population.

Caught Between Two Worlds….

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This post is part of my continuing study of the Autism spectrum and particularly Asperger’s Syndrome.

I am stuck between two worlds in my life.  I am a deaf man who lives almost exclusively 2016-08-10_07-19-19in the hearing world but neither the hearing world or the deaf world considers me a homeboy.  I am seldom around other deaf people so I can’t speak for them but since almost 80% of us deafies are like me in that they went deaf later in life ways maybe I do.  One of my goals via this blog and a few other forums, is to help the hearing world understand that most of us who are deaf are really not much different from them.

In regards to Aspergers I am via this post going to give you a glimpse of the last chapter into my study .  I have taken a couple of standard tests and discovered that I am about equally spread between the Neurotypical world and the Neurodiverse world.   Those two words were new to me so I assume they are to you.  Simply put I have rather strong Aspergers’ characterisitcs in some areas but not others.  I will be going into that in somewhat detail in future posts.

Its hard being stuck between two worlds but I am used to it. My living with Asperger’s traits didn’t change just because it now has a name.   As with my deafness, I have lived with it most of my life.   But in some ways just having a name makes the struggle a little easier as I now know I am not alone.  At the same time I don’t want that to reduce my feeling of personal responsibility of trying harder to be aware when I hurt people’s feelings or give them a view of me that I don’t have of myself or any of a number of other social behaviors.   I need to do better more than ever now that I know I have a problem…. much more on that later.

Before I close out this post I want to make it clear that while I say I have identified personal characteristics that relate to Aspergers I am likely  not  typical of this overall group. I fully understand that there are many who struggle much more than I do.  In my limited studies I have not been able to find how spread out of severity levels are in the Aspergers population.  I don’t pretend to know what others with extreme conditions go through in their daily lives.  All I can do for this series of posts is to give you my story and hope it relates to others with Aspergers at some level.

Next time I will start giving you some of my real life examples of Aspergers traits. I hope they help you but just as importantly I hope they help me too….

About Closed Captioning (CC)…

2016-01-31_10-01-12.pngI wanted to pen a post on a topic most of your are probably unfamiliar with and that is closed captioning. I’m pretty sure most of you have at least a basic idea of what that is but for those of us who are deaf it is a lifeblood of keeping up with keeping up with the world. Without CC our world would be a quite different place.

If you want to get an idea of what that means I would suggest that for the next few days when you turn on your TV to hit the mute button and watch for a couple hours. I know you would never make it that long but it would take that long for the reality of not having sound to really sink in.

I was going to give you a history of closed captioning but quickly realized that it would probably bore you so here is the cliff notes version.

  • The first use of regularly scheduled closed captioning on American television occurred on March 16, 1980.
  • Prior to 1993 if you wanted to access closed captioning you had to buy a separate set top box that costs more than the TV itself and even then only a slight majority of network shows provided the capability.
  • As part of the Americans with Disabilities Act sometime around 2005 the FCC mandated that all TV  and TV broadcasts after an initial startup period must provide a closed captioning signal.

All of this made life a little easier for those of us who are deaf.  Most, but not all pre-recorded network TV show do a pretty good job of captioning but some cable channels do it on the cheap. The quality  and consistency of captioning varies widely with live broadcasts such as the nightly news.  Sometimes there are 30 to 60 second gaps when the captioned message just locks up. It seems to me that these periods are during the most critical parts of the broadcast but I am probably being paranoid about that.  🙂

On February 20, 2014, the FCC unanimously approved the implementation of quality standards for closed captioning, addressing accuracy, timing, completeness, and placement. This is the first time the FCC has addressed quality issues in captions.

Closing out this post I want to complain a little about some of the constant aggravations in my hearing challenged life. I started using hearing aids in the early 1970s. Being a technology focused engineer I quickly came to realize that hearing aid technology greatly lagged that of other fields and the low tech hearing aids I was able to get were very expensive.

The same can be said for Closed Captioning. If you want to realize the recent advances in voice recognition technology just turn on Siri on your iPhone. I realize that being deaf for going on thirty years my speaking voice has deteriorated and was skeptical that Siri would actually work for me.  But it does!! I am amazed at how accurate it is.  If only this same technology were applied to Closed Captioning I could say goodbye to all those  very annoying thirty second gaps in my nightly newscasts.

Over the years I have come to accept that hearing loss technology is a step-child when it comes to technological advances. While there are about 40 million who are hearing impaired only about 4 million are deaf  so there is just not much attention paid to it.