Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Gift of Hearing

I originally wrote this article about 5 or 6 years ago, but have added a few changes.

Several years ago, I learned I was hearing impaired.  I had been given an amazing gift.  I know, for many, it wouldn't feel like a gift.  Sometimes it doesn't even to me.  It still is, though.  Here are a few examples of what I've experienced before I was tested and try to imagine:

...watching a television with bad sound.  You see the people talking, moving their mouths, and pick up a few words here and there.  Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try to hear what they're saying, it's more like a hum or expressive mumbling you hear.  You can only fully hear a few words.

You're in a meeting and again, the odd words seem to make sense.  The rest are, again, more of a mumbling hum.  Someone turns to you and asks what you think.  You feel thrilled to be asked; however, there is a sense of embarrassment as well.  You know you were focusing.  You know that you weren't really thinking of anything else, but you've missed out on the main reason for being at the meeting at all.  This could also be a class you were in.  Your teacher picks you out of the whole class and asks you for an answer to her question.  You look at her blankly and she says, in front of the class, "Someone Wasn't Listening!"  The class laughs.  Unfortunately you did hear the teacher that time or at least the obvious gist.

At many points in my life, I've found it hard to see my hearing loss as a gift.  After years of experiencing situations such as this, I finally had my hearing testing in 1990.  I had been tested as a child. However, in those days, it was believed that you were either deaf or not.  There was NO grey area.  Tests kept coming out negative and I often heard "Nothing wrong with her hearing," they said, "she's just not learning well."  My marks in school were horrible.  I withdrew more and more into myself because it was easier than being around people I felt had perceived me as being stupid.  Some even outwardly said it.  As said earlier, I finally got my hearing tested (my husband waited for me in the lobby).  I was asked, as I was again today, to push a button whenever I heard a different sound in a variety of volumes and frequencies.  I then had to repeat words I heard through the earphones.  It turned out I was suffering from moderate to severe nerve deafness.  I could not hear different sounds the way they were meant to be heard.  Today, I found I was picking up very few words starting with consonants.  "D" and "T" sounded exactly alike.  I was hearing words along that were inappropriate for different situations or conversations.  I would wonder why people were laughing, but realized that my answers were totally out of sinc.  Sometimes, I would unintentionally hurt some one's feelings because they felt I was either ignoring them or criticizing what I thought I heard. 

Hearing aids were researched.  What would be the best solution to my problem?  I was fitted, at one time, with one hearing aid, thinking that was all I needed.  Later I purchased, with help from family (the hearing aids cost $2,500 per ear!)

I decided, once I realized what was happening, that I wanted to upgrade my English marks.  My marks were horrible in grade school, but, there I went, to summer school, tape recorder and binder in my arms.  For the first time in my life, I was getting "A's"  I was actually almost at the top of my English and grammar course.  I got 100% on an exam on Hamlet!  Something was happening and I was happy!  With my little tape recorder, I could play over and over again what my instructor was saying until I picked up the words and compared them with the notes on paper.  I really couldn't believe those were my marks!

Jason, my husband, got a job in Calgary (we were in Saskatoon at the time) and there, I decided to go to school.  I'd always loved libraries and heard there was a post-secondary technical school with a program in Library and Information Technology.  I started slowly, with just one course and then built up to several in one semester by the end.  I was absolutely terrified.  Even though my confidence had risen and I knew it was possible to get good marks, I worried that maybe it was all a joke on me.  I had had a very bad experience going to a college in Kingston, studying Early Childhood Education and had become deeply depressed, eventually having to drop out.  Would I go through that again?  No, I was a different person.  Jason encouraged me and stood by me and I knew that I was different as well.

Like the high school upgrading courses I did, I knew, despite my nervousness, that I would do well here too.  Again, I went to school, tape recorder, books, and binders in my back pack.  I was nervous, but because I now knew there were resources for me, I felt free to enjoy learning.  I graduated from SAIT with a diploma from Library and Information Technology with high marks.  Two years after my husband's untimely death, I'm going back to school again--this time to work towards a degree in English.  Despite hearing few words, I love words and reading.  Finding out I had a hearing problem can be a royal pain still and it doesn't always feel like a gift, but, I now know what I can do as opposed to what I can't!  I still struggle with Math, which I'm needing to upgrade, but, now, I'm learning patience!

Time to View the Trees and Boats

I was riding on the bus into Vancouver today and, because of an accident ahead, the bus was moving turtle-like along highway 99.  At times like that, I start out feeling a little anxious.  I was supposed to meet a friend and then go to get some hearing tests done.  My inconvenience was eclipsed, of course, by the inconvenience and trauma suffered by the family at the side of the road with the police.  It didn't look like a huge accident, but the family's day was already ruined.

Before I knew of the accident, I took a deep breath and looked outside the window at Deas Slough.  Despite the word "slough", it's actually a lovely body of water and I was fortunate to see several teams of rowers steadily moving their boats through water and leaving v-shaped wave patterns behind them.  It relaxed me, looking at those rowers. 

Before the bus reaches the place where we can see the slough and cafe, the light through the trees acts like a beacon showing the way to a place of calm.