"Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive." Anaïs Nin

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Keith Wann Interviews Author Amy Sargent, Deaf Girl Amy

 Keith interviewed  my friend Amy Sargent. Amy wrote a delightful, informative book, "A Survival Guide For New Deafies". I wish something like this was available at the onset of my own deafness. If you know someone who is experiencing hearing loss or deafness, please get this book for them and for their family.  Every audiologist should have a copy of this in their office.  
Here's a video trailer of her book, and below that is the transcript of her interview with Keith Wann.

This pic of Keith Wann and I was taken after his comedy show at NTID in Rochester, NY 1/14/2012
Keith Wann Live Interview Transcript from 
"That Keith Wann Show -Cultural Bridges"

KEITH ...So speaking of the ASL, the Deaf community, a lot of our friends are late deafened adults.  They're new Deafies.  They may not know Sign Language.  They may be in relationships, and all of a sudden, everything changes.  Well, you know what?  There's a solution out there for them.  There's a new book out called a survival guide for new Deafies.  And this book is specifically written for people who suffer from late onset hearing loss and for the people who love them.  The author is deaf girl Amy Sargent.  How are you doing tonight, Amy?
AMY:  I'm doing good.  How are you doing?
KEITH:  Great.  You're up in New York?
AMY:  I'm up in Rochester.  So you're coming up to my neck of the woods.
KEITH:  Are you coming to the show?  You better say yes.
AMY:  I'm definitely gonna be there.  Front row and center, waving my hands.
KEITH:  I'm reading your bio.  You're married.  Your husband, Arthur.
AMY:  Yes.
KEITH:  Anyway, welcome to our show.  Glad to have you on here.  I read your book and I love your sense of humor.  I loved -- in the beginning of the book, you stated very obviously this is about your experience, and you approach it with a sense of humor, to help those people who are experiencing a late onset hearing loss.  Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, and how we got to this book?
AMY:  Sure.  First of all, thank you for having me and sharing this with everybody.  I was born Hearing.  I was a Hearing person until I was 27.  During that time, I was a broadcast engineer, and then I was struck with bilateral hearing loss at age 27.  No one else in my family is a Deafie.  It literally turned my world upside down.  I spent probably five years just in a really bad place.  Trying to figure out how to live as a Deaf person.  And actually, I lucked out.  You know?  Looking back.  Because I grew up in Rochester, New York, and as most people know, there's a huge Deaf population in Rochester, and they do have a lot of things that support Deaf people.  So... Although I missed the boat the first five years.  I finally jumped on the boat.  So life is good now.  But I had to get retrained.  With a new career.  I couldn't do television, live television, anymore.  As a Deaf person.  So I just... It was a tough go back then.  But now --
KEITH:  And you said -- so, again, what I heard was you had a rough five years.  And to me, that is -- the transition.  You're Hearing, and all of a sudden now you're deaf.  So your world is pretty much turned upside down.  Is the main reason you wrote this book to help others like yourself?
AMY:  I did.  It was actually one of those things where -- going through it, first of all, let me state that the biggest lessons that I have learned, that Hearing people don't understand, and people who were born Deaf don't understand.  Is that we have certain life skills that we have as a Hearing person or as a Deaf person, to navigate our life and stay out of harm's way, forms of communicating.  But there are two separate sets of skills.  And once you're acclimatated to the hearing skills -- I spent five years as a deaf person trying to use Hearing skills, and it really doesn't work.  You can think about it, but I can still remember being able to hear a car coming up in a parking lot.  I would know I need to slow down or speed up and watch out for that car.  But as a deaf person, there's a different set of skills.  And that's basically having a head that's on a pivot, that is constantly moving and assessing.  And I didn't know that.
So through the course of it all, I'm finally finding my way through.  I've had so many people ask me, you know, a coworker.  My brother just woke up, and he can't hear a thing.  Can you talk to him?  And seeing the angst in them, and feeling the turmoil, when trying to talk to someone -- I don't want someone to take five, six years, like I did.  That's why I wanted to write the book.  To figure out what changes you needed to make within yourself and the people around you to make it easier.  Because Deaf people who were born deaf, they don't get it, unless they want to listen to my story.  They don't see how this -- what's the big deal?  You're Deaf.  You're no different from anybody else.  But their skill sets were in place, growing up.  So yeah.  I did write it to help people.
KEITH:  And what's interesting -- and knowing that Wink and I are the super CODAs out there, you're right.  Our world is different.  Our parents are Deaf-Deaf.  They were born Deaf.  And it's interesting to me -- when the word Deaf is... Like your book says -- it's a survival guide for new Deafies.  I think that's the keyword.  Is new.  And you do use the word Deafies, instead of a hard of hearing, or a person with a hearing loss.  Even though that population -- when they say 10% of the American population has a hearing loss, I think it's like maybe 2% are actually Deaf or use ASL.  And the bigger population is late deafened adults.
AMY:  Exactly.
KEITH:  Have you met more people like yourself?  Are you very involved in that community now?  Are you involved in the signing community now?  Are you still full both feet in the Hearing world?
AMY:  I tried to go in between both.  I have learned ASL, but I find that because I'm oral, I tend to do a version of ASL with English.  I'm not great at it.  I'm much better at receiving it than signing it myself.  I love ASL.  I love American Sign Language.  I think it's a beautiful language.  I really, really try and support other people.  I encourage them to learn a new language.  Whether you're hearing impaired, deaf, whatever you wanna say or not.  But I have been involved with a group -- I don't know if you've ever heard of it.  It's called ALDA.  And it's an acronym for association for late deafened adults.  I just found them last fall.  And I've been deaf for 16 years.  But it's a wonderful organization for people like me, because it's more open to using whatever you need to use to communicate.
WINDELL:  When you lost your hearing, did you take any type of oral classes or anything of that nature to hone in your speech skills?  Or did you feel like since you spoke pretty much all your life 'til 27, you didn't necessarily need any speech therapy?
AMY:  You probably can hear a deaf accent now, because I am speaking without one of my hearing aids.  The way I hear is I have an iPhone that is jacked up as high as it can possibly go.  And so when I don't have both my hearing aids on, my speech is obviously -- I have the deaf accent now.  I never took therapy for it, but I can tell you that it gets much worse if I've been drinking.  A couple of cocktails, I'm gonna start slurring my words.  For a lot of reasons.
WINDELL:  Why do you think that is?  That you have a deaf accent without your hearing aids?
AMY:  I can't hear the endings.  I can feel what my mouth is doing.  Like right now, I'm really trying to enunciate.  But it's one of those things.  As a Hearing person, you start talking, and you don't think about it, but you can hear yourself.  The less I hear myself, the heavier my accent gets.  And if I'm tired or have been drinking, there's a level of focus that's missing.  What people don't understand -- and I can't -- I don't wanna speak for the Deaf community, because I'm not a part of that.  I didn't grow up Deaf.  But I can tell you, as a new Deafie, oral communication is exhausting.  So... The more tired you are, or the more you've imbibed a couple of glasses of wine, your level of concentration -- focus -- diminishes.  So therefore my accent gets heavier and my understanding of verbal communication gets less and less.
KEITH:  Hey, Wink, we actually have 30 seconds left 'til break.  So let me have -- Amy, before we ask you another question or follow up on this, do you have a website or contact information where people can get your book?
AMY:  Absolutely.  You can find me at deaf girl Amy.com.  At deaf girl Amy on Twitter or deaf girl Amy on Facebook.
KEITH:  And we are now going to break.  When we come back, we'll talk more with deaf girl Amy Sargent.
>> This is That Keith Wann Show! Opening doors, shining the light, building bridges, educating us all. It's the CODA Man, Keith Wann, and we'll back with more, right after these
 Welcome back to That Keith Wann Show. He's here to help us with a cultural bridge between the Hearing and the Deaf, with guests from the American Sign Language community and others who are here to share, encourage, and to teach. Now let's get back to the show. It's That Keith Wann Show on Toginet. And here again is your host, Keith Wann.
KEITH:  Fast machine!  Real quick, before we go back to Amy Sargent, I want to announce that StenoKnight, Mirabai, will be the CEU presenter, I believe, in February.  She's gonna be talking about CART, realtime, and she also -- most of her work is with the late deafened community.  She does a lot of captioning.  She's out of New York.  And I love her.  We just -- her and I had lunch last week.  She's been doing the show since day one.  She's a big part of the show.  She's the silent trio.  It's me, Wink, and her.  Sometimes I wish Wink and her would switch, and Wink would be quiet.  I miss you so much that I'm gonna insult you.
WINDELL:  Yeah, and I feel it.  I feel it deep down inside.  Cradled in my soul.
KEITH:  Amy, somebody in the chat room says they can't find your Facebook page.  Can you give that address again?
AMY:  The address for -- I'm sorry?
KEITH:  For your Facebook page.
AMY:  It's Facebook.com/deaf girl Amy.
KEITH:  Okay.  And Wink, I'm gonna get a new tattoo and it's gonna have you all over it.  You know I love you.
WINDELL:  Thank you!
KEITH:  But enough of that.  Let's get back to our guest.
WINDELL:  Let's never bring that up again.
KEITH:  So Amy, let's talk about your book.  You have a chapter in there which I thought was great.  Great advice.  It's called the dos and don'ts for family and friends.  Can you give us some examples of them?
AMY:  Yes.  One of the first things that really struck me, when I was going through that whole horrible period was -- hearing people do not like to have to repeat themselves.  And it got to the point where they were always saying -- never mind.  It doesn't matter.  That will send a deaf person into the stratosphere.  Because what hearing people don't understand is when you say that all the time, you are basically letting the deaf person know that you just don't really care that they missed that communication.  It's not what they're thinking.  I don't think that's what people are thinking.  At least, that's what my family told me.  But never, ever, ever tell a deaf person -- never mind, it doesn't matter.  When they miss a piece of the conversation.  It's very hurtful.  And I can tell you -- I think I put it in my book.  Most of the time it just takes place at a large gathering, at a party, and someone's telling a joke, and the deaf person misses the punchline.  I mean, they're totally invested in the joke.  And they miss the punchline.  There's 15 people laughing, and you ask the person to repeat themselves, and they say never mind.  That is just... So infuriating.  Because once you say it to that deaf person, it's gonna be the first time they heard it.  And as far as the other stuff... It really is important to not use someone's deafness against them.  If you're in a relationship.  Kind of like with Switched At Birth, where you've got a hearing person and a Deaf person.  To use the deafness against that person as a weapon.
KEITH:  What do you mean by that?
AMY:  I'm sorry?
KEITH:  I'm trying to -- what do you mean by that?  Give me an example.  Because the comedy side of me is like... What do you mean?  I grew up having Deaf parents.  I tried to take advantage of them.  Again, as a kid, though.  Later on I realized parents are parents.  It doesn't matter if they're Deaf or Hearing.
AMY:  One of the biggest things with my husband -- my husband is a Hearing person.  He met me as a deaf girl.  He wouldn't know what to do with a hearing Amy.  But there have been past arguments where I know I heard something, and I know I heard it correctly, but he will, like you said, use it to his advantage, and try and tell me -- how could I really know what I heard?  I'm a deaf person.  Or try to undermine my belief in what I heard.  That's using it as a weapon.
KEITH:  I understand.  Do you have kids?
AMY:  I have two stepdaughters, and I have two grandsons.
KEITH:  You might not want them to see my show.  Just kidding.  You'll see an example this weekend, but again, my whole thing is -- I teach comedy.  I teach culture through comedy.  It's not what you're talking about.  Your husband is evil, and he does not represent all of us husbands in the world.
AMY:  He's great!  But I'm just saying.  That's one of the things.  You know, you just don't do that.
KEITH:  You just said hearing Amy.  So I'm actually curious.  What are some differences between -- besides the hearing loss.  What are the differences between hearing Amy and deaf Amy?  What's changed?  If I knew you -- if I went to high school with you and I knew you as hearing Amy and I met you at the reunion, and now you're deaf Amy, besides the hearing loss, what else is different?
AMY:  I guess the difference is... What caused my deafness is a syndrome called Waardenburg's syndrome, and some of the symptoms is -- you can have acute hearing, or you can have a hearing loss.  In my case, I swung to acute hearing growing up, and then it swung to deafness.  So there was... In my 20s and teens, I was someone who could be able to pick up conversations three or four tables away in a restaurant.  I could carry on conversations from three other rooms.  I was very attuned to what everybody was doing and what they were saying.  Whereas... Now I don't have all that knowledge from incidental learning.  I was full of gossip.  I was full of knowing which way things were going.  I'm not that anymore.
KEITH:  I'm curious about this.  So as a person who is hearing and not deaf, when you watch TV and the captions are on, and you see things like -- soft music -- mystery... I mean, does that frustrate you?  To go... Okay.  Why are you saying soft music?  Or as a hearing person, you can kind of go into your cattle lag... Your cattle lag?  Your catalog.  Your file cabinet and remember what soft music might sound like.  So is that not frustrating, then, for you?
AMY:  Is it not frustrating for me?
KEITH:  Is it frustrating or not frustrating, when you read captions.  And obviously, a stoned deaf person... Not stoned.  A Deaf person who is deaf all of their life since birth, they don't have anything to relate to that.  They don't know.  Soft music?  What do you mean?  Like my pillow?  I don't understand that description.  But for you -- do you say -- okay, I understand what they mean by soft music?
AMY:  I do understand what they mean by soft music.  It really... For me, when I'm watching a movie, I don't know how much really adds... Do I really need to know that?  Unless it's like... A romantic scene, and some guy is trying to be a player, and he turns on music, and he's doing a little snicker, and it kind of feeds that information.  Whereas if they just say soft music is playing, it doesn't really parlay into the story line -- then I don't really care.  It doesn't matter.  Does that make sense?
KEITH:  Yes.  Wink?
WINDELL:  Do you utilize Sign Language interpreters?
AMY:  I'm sorry?
WINDELL:  Do you use Sign Language interpreters ever?
AMY:  I really... Rely on them when I go to large conventions or a concert of some sort.  I always try and get the Deafie section.  Where they have interpreters down there.  Because between the large screens and the interpreters, I probably get 95% of what's happening.  Whereas if I don't have them, and I just have the large screen, I probably only get about 80%.  But if I'm going to the doctor, I don't take an interpreter with me, no.  But I have -- my lip reading skills are at 97%.
KEITH:  And the average is what?  33%, Windell?
WINDELL:  I was about to ask you about that.  Is that lip reading supported by residual hearing that you have with your hearing aids?
AMY:  No.  It is... What they did is the audiologist removed all the sound.  And just mouthed different words.  And I got marked up at 97%.  I didn't realize I was doing that, but the first five years, part of the hellish experience was -- no hearing specialist had said -- you know, you probably could use hearing aids.  So I spent the first five years unaided.  And apparently, when I found my second specialist, one of my coping mechanisms that came into play was -- I unconsciously taught myself, or subconsciously -- is the word -- taught myself to lip read.  I had no idea.
KEITH:  Hey, Windell, or Amy -- is there even -- is there a standardized program out there?  Besides the residential schools, having an audiologist come in there, slapping people's hands and tying them behind their backs, is there an official program out there?  If I wanted to learn lip reading, I wanted to become Sue Thomas, is there a place to learn that?
AMY:  NTID offers three labs in lip reading.  I wouldn't say there's a major in it, so you could become the male version.  But they offer three different labs.  They have a speech and language place up there.  They have an audiology department where you can go and practice speech reading, lip reading.
KEITH:  I'm gonna do that while I'm up there this weekend.
AMY:  It's something fun.  You know.  For me, it's funny, because my husband knows I can do it, so when we're watching football, and the coach is going off, he'll be like -- what did he say?  What did he say?
KEITH:  That's funny.  Hey, Amy, we're coming up to a break.  We have 30 seconds 'til break.  Windell, I don't know if you have the chatroom open.  My internet thing is not letting me read the chat.  If there's any questions from the chatroom, please jump in.  Amy, there is one question from the Toginet chat room.  Do you consider yourself deaf or hearing?  You know what?  Let's answer that when we come back.  Here come the tunes.  Wink and I are gonna sit by.
>> This is That Keith Wann Show! Opening doors, shining the light, building bridges, educating us all. It's the CODA Man, Keith Wann, and we'll back with more, right after these!
.......commercial break.........
KEITH:  Amy, so as we went into break, one of the questions from the chatroom -- there's two different chat rooms here.  There's the everpopular StenoKnight chat room, and there's the Toginet chatroom, where the Hearing people go that don't know about the cool people chat room.  So how do you label yourself?  Hearing?  Deaf, hard of hearing?
AMY:  I'm deaf.  I'm not Deaf Culture.  But I am deaf.  If you look at my audio gram, I am deafer than deaf.
KEITH:  You're deafer than Sean Forbes!
AMY:  He told me that.
KEITH:  So then do you have some humorous experiences, stories, about how -- when you say I'm deaf, do people all of a sudden jump into their Deaf Culture mode?  Maybe they're in the Deaf community, and they just assume you're in Deaf Culture.  Does that happen to you?
AMY:  I know that I have made a practice to, when I meet new people, I just come out and say -- I'm a deaf girl.  And I always lead that with -- you don't have anything in your teeth.  I just need to look at your mouth so I can understand what you're saying.  And I really haven't had the prejudice of the Deaf Culture, as far as -- are you part of that or are you afraid of that.  But I have just met up with that pure apprehension of -- oh, crap, what do I do now?  And so... I mean really, you can see the people's shoulders tighten, and they step back and they get very quiet all of a sudden.  And they just don't feel comfortable.  And I don't want to associate that with Deaf Culture.  It's just -- they don't know what to do.  And I have found that it's like leading a little kid to a bathtub.  It's okay.  You're not gonna get hurt.  These are my needs.  And if they want to continue talking to me, I'm very open about it.  And I have to say 95% of the time, that uncomfortableness disappears within two to three minutes.
KEITH:  Have you had somebody like me, then?  Because I tend not to run away.  I actually tend to gravitate to somebody who says they're deaf.  Deaf mind, Deaf heart.  So if you say I'm deaf, I would jump the other way -- I would jump into your eye space and I would start whipping out some ASL.  Have you had to say -- slow down there, skippy!  I don't understand the hand waving you're doing there.  I need you to move your mouth.
AMY:  Living in Rochester, I do have to tell people that you need to slow down your sign.  I have had that.  But I love it.  Bring it on.  I love it.
KEITH:  There's a chapter in your book called the pros of being a Deafie.  Can you give us some?
AMY:  Sure.  One of them, the biggest one, because I sleep with a snoring man, is you don't have to listen to that!  But unfortunately for me, there are some times where he is so loud, and my good ear is facing him -- that I lose it.  So yes.  One of them is you don't have to listen to your spouse snore.  And one of the biggest pros is, if he's pissing me off and he won't stop, I take off my hearing aids and I walk out of the room.  And I don't have to hear him.  Major pro.
KEITH:  Another chapter.  My life as a deaf girl.  So now that you've gone through that five year period, now that you're grounded, now that you're able to -- you've taken care of yourself, so you're able to write a book to help other people.  You're able to help take care of other people.  What is your life now like as deaf girl?
AMY:  My life now, 16 years later, is wonderful.  If I could twinkle my nose and not be deaf... Absolutely.  I would want that.  Because I know what I'm missing.  I know how hard I work to maintain my communication skills, being able to talk and to listen and to understand.  But at the same time, I have met so many wonderful people.  And I have a new appreciation for things that, as a Hearing person -- was not even on my radar screen.  So in a way, even though it's been hard, living life as a deaf person, once you were hearing before, it's a hard transition.  But if you do the work, and you don't isolate yourself, and you don't put so much... Oh, what is the word I'm looking for?  So much stock in being able to hear, instead of being able to see, and talk to people, and communicate any way you can -- life is great.  Life is wonderful.
KEITH:  What I love most about your book -- it's littered with humor.  And your number one rule -- you have the top ten rules.  The number one rule is always have a sense of humor about your hearing loss.  Can you tell us about the Bible on the computer story?
AMY:  Oh my lord.  Okay.  In all fairness to me, I'm a deaf girl.  I can't wear hearing aids in a pool.  We were all in a pool.  And we were swimming, and our wedding was coming up.  And my husband said -- I swore he said -- he wanted to get the Bible on the computer.  And I was like... what the hell are you talking about?  And everybody is laughing at me.  And he had said we have to get a book about Bermuda.  Because that's where we were going on our honeymoon destination.  And stuff like that happens to me all the time.  There are a lot of times where my husband will say something to me, and I have to lead in with -- okay, I know you didn't say this.  But let me tell you what I just heard.  And completely off base.  But one time I did that, and I can't repeat what he said, because I'm on the radio.  He was very raunchy.  I thought I heard it wrong, but I heard it right, which is more frightening.
KEITH:  Actually, you can say it on the radio.  We had Sean Forbes on here give us 37F bombs.  We're not FCC regulated, because we're through the internet.  I don't know the rules.  I just know every week I get a $30 fine.  I have to pay it.  Anyway, I would actually love to see a book.  Windell and I, we collect stories on how Sign Language students do the wrong signs.  You know?  They try to sign license or pizza, and they're actually signing vagina.  I think, coming from your point of view, it would be hilarious for your next book to be about, you know, what you thought you saw somebody say.  What you thought they meant.  That would be hilarious.
AMY:  Yes, my sister's been writing them down.  But I do have to say -- I myself -- you know the sign for special?  And then the sign... I did the wrong one for special.  And everybody thought that was quite hilarious as well.
KEITH:  What did you do?  I wanna throw it in my comedy show.
AMY:  I think they said it was penis.
KEITH:  So what was the sentence?  You said I'm a penis?
AMY:  Yeah, I did the whole wrong thing.  Completely wrong.  So... You know, it happens.  It happens!  But you just roll with it.
KEITH:  Absolutely.  And rule number eight -- so we go from humor, from humor to rule number eight.  Allow for small moments of pity.  What do you mean by this?
AMY:  There are gonna be times where you're exhausted, trying to understand people.  There are gonna be times when you're faced with prejudice and frustration by other people.  There are gonna be times where I sat in the car with my grandson, driving him the other day, and he said this one word 14 times.  I counted it.  And I couldn't understand what he was saying.  He's 3 years old.  And he was getting very frustrated.  So when you have those things happen to you, you have to accept and say -- okay.  This is happening.  You know, I don't like it.  Have your moment.  But by god, don't go in your room, close your door, and all hell breaks loose, and your life is miserable because oh my God, I'm deaf, and I'm never gonna be happy.  Take your moment, acknowledge it, accept it, but move on.
KEITH:  Absolutely.  Well, Amy, we're down to the last two minutes of the show.  The show always goes by so fast.  Before we go, again, I'd love for you to give out your website, Facebook page, and a way for people to order your book, a survival guide for new Deafies.  Where do we go to get this book?  Besides being me, a CODA, going -- hey, give me a free book -- where can other people buy it so you can earn a living?
AMY:  It's available on Barnes and Noble.com and on Amazon.com.  It's eformat for the Nook and Kindle, in Rochester, it's carried in a bookstore called (inaudible) in New York.
KEITH:  Awesome.  I want to thank you for coming on the air tonight.  Any last minute shoutouts to family and friends that you want to say hi to?
AMY:  I want to say that I have a new foundation called flaunt your bits and pieces, and the mission statement is to eliminate the stigma attached to hearing loss through exposure to people who have a hearing loss.  So check out our website and support us if you can.
KEITH:  What's the website again?
AMY:  Deaf girl Amy.com.
KEITH:  Thank you for coming on the show tonight.  We'll see you in a couple days.
AMY:  Thank you very much from me.
KEITH:  I'm gonna bring the book.  You're gonna have to sign it for me.
AMY:  Absolutely!


Be sure to visit Amy's webpage here:    http://deafgirlamy.com/
If you work with audiologist, if you know an audiologist, get this book into their hands so they can distribute to New Deafies and those experiencing hearing loss. You will be doing a great service!
Catch more of the Keith Wann show here:  http://www.toginet.com/show/thatkeithwannshowculturalbridges

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