Monday, February 4, 2013

No, I am not a stuck up bitch. I'm deaf.

     I don't want to be Debbie Downer, I hate those kind of people. But here I am, Debbie Downer-ing. It's mostly because I feel sort of shitty and vulnerable at the moment. Mine and Gage's allergies are through the roof lately. Gage has always had this problem, and luckily we have been able to treat it quite well with Claritin and Nasonex, but here, his symptoms are far worse than in California, I assume just because he is getting used to new allergens. Here, the allergies cause him to get migraines. Poor thing. For me it isn't as bad, just mild sniffles and coughing, but the worst part is why I feel vulnerable...ear congestion. I am already deaf in my left ear, so to have my right ear clog up so bad that I can hear my heart beating is almost scary. I was at the grocery store today and couldn't hear a thing the cashier and bagger were saying. It was even worse because my bagger today was the lady with Down Syndrome and a southern accent.

     People always get so confused when I can't hear them. If I tell them I am part deaf, they often over-compensate by speaking loud and slow, and over-pronouncing their words, which I don't mind, I just feel bad that they look so ridiculous doing it. I guess I don't tell people about my hearing because I don't like making anyone uncomfortable. Wow...I can't believe I just said that, given all the crazy shit I have done or said in my life, but it's true! I don't think people know what to do with me when I hear so little of what they say. Mostly I find they think I am ignoring them. I have always heard a lot of, "I always thought you were a stuck up bitch until I got to know you!" At which point I always explain, "No, I am not a bitch, I just can't hear anything. I'm deaf". I have even had people tell me they thought I was SLOW - translation: mentally disabled. I assure you, I am not. The whole of my hearing issue is simply too much information to give out in a quick exchange at the grocery store, the gas station, a party, or most anywhere else. Even my friends don't know the whole of my story, because honestly, I never thought I was different enough from anyone else to bother explaining my problem. It wasn't until my most recent ex started getting annoyed and angry with me all the time when I couldn't hear her that I started to realize I had a significant problem. Then I met my husband, who cared enough to ask me questions about it and try to find solutions, and now, I have realized that it might be something I should work on accepting and maybe even finding help for.

     Officially, I have about 10% hearing in my left ear, which is great for hearing a jet engine when I am right next to it. As a result of chronic ear infections as a child, I lost my hearing in that ear, to the point of nerve deafness. "Nerve deafness occurs as a result of damage within the sensory cells of the inner ear and other in related areas dealing with hearing. The damage from this type of defect is usually uneven and not a loss of all hearing. Those afflicted with this type of hearing loss, may loose sensitivity to different tones (usually the higher tones). Particularly in the case of nerve deafness, a person may be able to hear normally average tones, but would have decreased sensitivity to loud or higher-pitched tones. The zone of normal hearing is greatly narrowed with this type of defect. This creates a difficulty for people with nerve deafness when distinguishing consonants, because it is the high sounds of the consonants which distinguish them from each other. This causes people with this type of nerve deafness to have difficulty hearing speech when there is background noise. The other cues which may allow better understanding of the speech are masked by the background noise." -macalester.edu

     The icing on my shit cake is central auditory processing disorder (CAPD). From Learning Disability online  "The easiest, quickest way to communicate is simply to say something and then deal with the other person's reply, right? Right, unless your listener has a CAPD (Central Auditory Processing Disorder), then your remark might come through with certain words drowned out by other noises, or with some words sounding like different words or as meaningless strings of verbiage. You might begin to suspect this when the other person's expression doesn't register understanding, or if he "answers the wrong question," or he asks you for additional information which most people would have been able to infer from what you just said.
Most of us aren't that sophisticated about CAPDs, however, and are much more likely to wonder if the listener is just not very intelligent or doesn't really care about us and what we are saying. People with CAPDs (which are usually part of a learning disability) have been embarrassed by situations and reactions like these all their lives."

     That pretty much sums it up. I don't always hear what you said, and sometimes even if I do hear what you said, my brain interprets it incorrectly and I will think I hear you say something entirely different. This is more likely to happen if we are in a noisy place, if I am reading, watching TV or doing something engrossing when you say it, or if what you are saying is complicated (like directions on how to do algebra) and requires me to think and hear at the same time. When I was doing my clinical rotation at the hospital for surgical tech, I had to hear what the surgeons were saying from behind a mask. That was already hard enough, but it was even harder when that surgeon had an accent, which was most of the time. To make matters worse, I was often standing in a position which didn't allow my good ear to be closest to them. Oh yeah, add in the awesomeness of me not knowing enough about the job yet to anticipate which instrument they might be asking for...it was almost impossible to function. I have maintained that the job "just wasn't for me", but as I look at it now, I think I just wasn't right for that job.

     Living with this disability has required me to develop certain coping and survival skills. For example, I can read lips. Not as well as a spy, mind you, but well enough that when I put your lip movement, body language and recent topic/current physical situation together with the sounds I am hearing, I get by. My husband thinks I am non-observant, and my family did too, when I was growing up. To some degree, I think they're right, but I also think that I concentrate so much on words and sounds, other things tend to fade into the background for me. Like, socks on the stairs. Yeah, I didn't see that.

     So, my day was quiet (har har). I spent part of it looking up home remedies for ear congestion, with little success. I'll try the Claritin tomorrow, hopefully that will bring some relief. In the meantime, I think I'll contemplate the benefits of trying to learn sign language again (I took a class in college and forgot most of it), or finding out if there is some type of hearing recognition therapy out there that I could benefit from, while I play pool with husband. I need to relax. Goodnight!

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