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

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Into the Deafness

Yesterday I posted "My Journey from Mild to Moderate Deafness". Today, my journey continues.

Several years after I got my first pair of hearing aids, I entered college for the second time. I had attended evening classes at our local college while I was yet a senior in high school thinking I could get into the secretarial field. I took typing, over and over, but I never mastered the art of setting margins, columns and all the other mathematical skills that were involved back then. Those old typewriters were a challenge. By that summer I knew I was not cut out to be a secretary.

After I received my first hearing aids, and we had moved from Germany back to the United States, I entered college for my second time looking to get a degree in education. My passion was to be an English teacher. I buckled down and took all the basic classes, and I did well except for math. Even with a tutor I still could not keep numbers straight. They always ended up backwards, inside out, upside down, everywhere but where they were supposed to be in the equation. I turned in all my homework and the extra work, much to the chagrin of the professor. At the end of the course, he did tell me that he had never had a student try as hard as I, or turned in as much work, or struggled so much just to pass.

I also took my first sign language classes at the college during this time, and I took more a few years later. The classes were free as a community service by a wonderful teacher who worked out of the Education Service District with special needs children. She had graduated from Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. She also taught speech reading classes (where I learned to read lips more efficiently).  The assistant teacher was Deaf. The classes were for Signed Exact English, and the deaf friends I hooked up with after these classes all used the same form of Sign Language. Our community was very fortunate to have her offering so much help and support.

As I continued with my education, "life" became more difficult and I had to deal with unexpected issues. I ended up divorced with a young child and headed out to the work force to provide for the two of us. By this time, I could no longer hear well on the phone. When I got my job, I had to ask my co-workers to handle all the phone calls.

Eventually, my hearing aids were starting to wear out, and the cost of repeatedly having them fixed was getting out of hand. It was suggested that I try Vocational Rehabilitation to see if they would provide me with new hearing aids. Not only would they provide me with a new pair, they also sent me back to college. This time, my goal was to become a counselor to help others who were losing their hearing.

As I continued to have larger degrees of loss, I tried to find help. There were no self help books such as A Survival Guide For New Deafies  by Amy Sargent, yet, or counselors to help a person through adapting to hearing loss and deafness. I went to college for the third time in as many decades, this time to get an Associate's Degree in Applied Sciences. I already had a good sum of credits earned from previous years, and this particular program would take less than years for me to complete. The degree was the equivalent of a Bachelor's Degree in the field of Human Services.

I loved it, but I struggled with just trying to keep up with what was being said. I joined fantastic study groups with older adults, and the college provided a note taker so I could focus on reading lips. It was near the end of the spring quarter when I became very ill. I ended up with ear infections and such a degree of hearing loss, the classroom setting was no longer an option for me.

It was also during this time I found out my vision hindered my lip reading skills. I have rotary nystagmus. This also makes it hard for me to catch many nuances with Sign Language, especially someone signing at a moderate or fast speed.

I eventually applied for Social Security Disability benefits, and after one appeal, I began to receive benefits.

I didn't enjoy going to movies much, but would go simply to be sociable or to take my daughter to movies she wanted to see. I finally figured out during this time why I disliked cartoons all my life. I couldn't read their lips because cartoon faces and lips aren't "real".  I found a wonderful device, a closed captioned decoder that  when set on top of my tv allowed captions to come through to my tv for a few of my favorite programs.

I didn't enjoy group activities any longer because it just wore me out trying to concentrate to hear all the time. After all that concentration, I would just go home and sleep. After while, I just really did not want to go through the trouble or the insecurity of wondering if I heard something right, or trying to decipher what a soft voiced person was repeatedly saying over and over as I asked them to repeat themselves.

I struggled with amplified phones, trying to keep up with all that was said and all the guesswork. Tty machines were so tedious, typing what I wanted to say, then the relay operator reading what I type to the person, then waiting for the relay agent to type back to me what  the person was saying in return. Imagine how thrilled I was to have my first captioned phone ! I could now use my voice and  read what the person is saying. Today, I use the Hamilton CapTel App for Iphone  It is wonderful.

It wasn't long after this I met Fabulous Husband, who has witnessed my declining hearing. I'll republish the post about that tomorrow in conclusion to the story of my journey into deafness.


  1. Thank you for sharing your story. :)

    1. Liz, thank you for stopping by and reading. :-)