Who is Responsible?

I was reminded this week about responsibility regarding my hearing loss.  A friend of mine was caught in an emotional moment, and got… well EMOTIONAL and couldn’t hear.  Instead of letting the other person know that she needed a moment to “get a grip”, she gave up.  I’ve done that so much myself, however, I wasn’t about to “cast stones”!  Even with my cochlear implant, if I get really emotional about something, I find it very difficult to understand what I’m hearing.

If I’m not hearing well, it is my responsibility to stop the conversation and “come clean” about not hearing well.  Sometimes I do that well… and umm… well, sometimes I pretty much make a mess of things.  If I act frustrated and angry because I’m not hearing well, the other person is bound to feel defensive.  I’m trying to learn that if I feel frustrated and angry, I should even say,

“You know?  I’m really frustrated right now.  I can’t hear you hardly at all and frankly it makes my head hurt to try and make sense of what you are saying.  It’s not you, it’s me.  Could you say that again and maybe speak just a little slower and lean closer?”

Sometimes people with disabilities tend to make their problem… everyone’s problem.  It can get so bad, in fact, that they end up thinking the whole world owes them the favor of setting up perfect communication settings. (for those with hearing loss).

At times, I have tried to be creative about making the best of a listening situation.  This past Sunday, my Redskins played.  After church, I generally remove my cochlear implant for a couple of hours as I have a bit of a tinnitus buzz and headache from concentrating on the sermon.  I’m many times exhausted from communicating in a restaurant , which is where my family always heads after church on Sunday morning.

My husband turns the closed captioning off for ballgames.  Those words scrolling at the bottom of the screen, tend to make it a HABIT to get in the way of that perfect interception, fumble or sack!  Normally I’m wearing my cochlear implant, so it isn’t to much of a problem.  I decided to “give in” about the CC as it was only during ballgames.

But this time… I had removed my cochlear implant.  So “free thinker” that I am, I didn’t think twice about sitting close to the television with the ear that has a tiny bit of residual hearing left in it, pressed close to the speaker.  I made sure I wasn’t in the way of anyone watching.

Now that I think about it, I have to laugh.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing!  The fact that I was sitting so close that my hair began to sizzle and spark with static electricity, means that I had to sit close enough I was practically cross-eyed.  I had the remote.  Hard to believe with hubby six feet away, yes?

Slowly but surely I began tapping the volume up.  I like to think it was unconscious, but I was pretty frustrated that I couldn’t hear the game.  So I’m reasonably certain some of that “tapping of the volume button” was conscious.

Something I’ve come to realize in the last year is that the residual hearing I have left in my right ear is practically non-existent.  It doesn’t take a genius to realize that if your cochlear implant batteries die, you scramble for fresh ones and discover the hearing aid in your “regular ear” picks up nothing… NADA… zilch… then you probably don’t have a lot of hearing left in that ear!  (And YES.  Don’t email me cuz I have had my hearing aid checked recently to make sure it works!)  Still, I was caught off guard when my daughter threw a pillow at me to get my attention.

She and my husband both had their hands over their ears, and I noticed the dogs were missing from the room.  It seems I had the volume a little high… and was still having trouble hearing.

I quickly turned it back down and was immediately bombarded with questions which included, “Why don’t I just ask for the captioning to be on?  Is that so difficult?”

The reality of it is, I simply wasn’t thinking at all.  After all, I have a cochlear implant.  It was sitting in my Dry ‘n Store upstairs just waiting for me to put it back on so that I could enjoy the ballgame like a “real” Skins fan.

But… it isn’t my family’s responsibility to remind me of that.  It is mine.  If I’m not hearing well, then I need to be pro-active in finding a way that I can.

It didn’t take me long to run retrieve my cochlear implant.  The dogs were glad to come back and enjoy the game.

Denise Portis

© 2008 Hearing Loss Journal

5 thoughts on “Who is Responsible?

  1. Denise,

    You have my admiration. I love your transparency… and I wish my son was old enough to read this and get it!

    It is my mission to help him self-advocate in a polite and respectful way… you’re one of my role models!


  2. Julie, I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

    Thing is… I’ve done PLENTY of self-advocating in a very negative way. A friend in NC set me straight and helped me see the error of my ways.

    Having a disability is fairly easy to manage when you don’t play the blame game. “Play” the other way and you run off all your support!

    Have a good one! (Which could only happen if you leave the spiders ALONE! Grin!)


  3. I know you’re not perfect :0) (You do NOT come off as a know-it-all).

    And I hope I don’t make it sound like Tate is doing it all wrong – he’s a great kid! He usually handles himself amazingly well. I can’t begin to understand how frustrating things must be for him, when everyone is talking fast and together and he missed the beginning – the context – and has no idea how we got where we are in the conversation.

    Trying to slow down…


  4. Tate has a lot of things I didn’t at his young age. A mama who will tolerate spiders (grin).

    Kidding aside, I know he’ll do well. Kids tend to copy positive advocating very well. I suggest sometime when everyone is talking 90 miles an hour all hyped up on sugar… that if you are having the least bit of trouble understanding, ask for clarification yourself. Or… next time someone is talking with mashed potatoes in their mouth (big grin knowing you have boys), say, “Wow I need you to say that clearer AFTER you’ve swallowed what is in your mouth.”

    I’ve even seen parents of kiddos with hearing loss play “synonym switch” with each other. Someone will say something, and one of them will say, “hmm… could you say that a different way? I want to make sure I’m understanding it right”. The HoH kiddo listens… and learns. It’s ok to ask for clarification… and hey! It improves their vocabulary!

    I love peeking into your “school room” each week! (I only have a Junior in H.S. left and it just isn’t the same!)

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