Careless Words

As a person with disABILITY, like any within a diversity group, I have experienced harm from words. Before you stop reading and think I’m going to blast the abled population, let me just say that people with disABILITY are often the worst offenders.

If I asked every person in the world to throw up their hand if they have experienced words that have…

hurt them

demoralized them

made them wince (inwardly and outwardly)

caused a “hitch” in your breath because of the unexpectedness

made you cry

made you SWEAR

caused you to “shut down”

forced you into isolation

triggered you to “fight back”

or scarred you for life…

… the sudden uplift of hands worldwide would cause a major shift in wind currents and likely tilt earth off its axis. Seriously. We’ve ALL experienced this.

I use the phrase “experienced words that have…” intentionally. Not all of us HEAR well and many who do hear well don’t listen well. The damage of careless and mean words is not something simply heard or speech read on the lips of fellow human beings. The words are EXPERIENCED. This experience is why damage is done. We take it in. We stew on it. We watch those words ping-pong back and forth in our brains and hearts like a pinball machine, drawing blood and causing wounds from every “hit”. We are scarred.

When my children were younger I would remind them that human beings can FORGIVE but we cannot FORGET. Our words have such power – it’s just freakin’ scary! I am an impulsive speaker. I say things without thinking through and that impulsivity causes regret more times than I can count.

People have told me things before that I needed.

Perhaps I was being a butt-head and careless with my own words. They put me in my place. Maybe it hurt but it was a disciplinary kind of hurt and I walked away wiser and un-scarred. (By the way, all of us have people in our lives whose very positional relationship with us allows them this power).

People have given me true (heartfelt) constructive criticism. This means the intent was clear, precise, and helpful. I am sensitive enough that even this at times can be hurtful, but it doesn’t WOUND.

Those types of experiences can hurt… but they aren’t spirit-murdering (a new word I learned at an Anne Arundel Community College workshop this week). I would like to argue that CARELESS words are never EVER helpful.

The word itself means, “not giving sufficient attention or thought to avoiding harm or errors”. Careless words can be both intentional and direct. They can also be unintentional and “oopsie” moments. Either way they hurt. They wound. They leave scars.

At the end of the semester a handful of students were sticking around to chat after the final. They were lovin’ on Finn, my 3rd service dog in training (SDiT),

… and just “messing around”, hangin’ out, and talking. One of my students muttered something and *I* (emphasis on that I, for I am deaf – grin) heard the collective indrawn breaths. So…

I nosily asked, “what just happened”?

The student said, “Good God, did you hear what I said?“, acting both horrified and astonished.

“Well, no,” I replied, “but I heard y’all’s REACTION”.

Her eyes filled with tears and she admitted, “I said something contradictory and stupid and then said, ‘GAWD that was bipolar of me'” She then slapped her hand over her mouth and looked around at the group with big eyes. The group all immediately patted her back and assured her that “we ALL say stupid things”, and “we knew what you meant”. She vehemently waved all their support aside and said MUCH louder…

“No, NO. You don’t understand! I AM BIPOLAR. I just slammed myself!”

At this point, the floodgates opened and she was sobbing hysterically. It was contagious… of the 8 students standing there, five of them were in tears within minutes!

Do you know they stuck around for another 20 minutes and discussed the power of words and stereotypes? I just stood there in awe watching what I hoped was a little bit of my teaching rubbing off as they expertly dissected and dialogued about intent, carelessness, and harm.


You are gonna spew careless words. Whether you speak with your voice or your hands, you are going to speak before thinking. Or… maybe you speak AFTER thinking but you simply don’t care about the damage you are unleashing.

Own it. If you care, if you want to minimize the damage, if you want to do better, if you are the kind of human being that understands the power of words, OWN IT.

Apologize if needed (and mean it)

Make amends

Strive to do better. Vow it!


Call it (when appropriate) when you see others do it

Follow up and use all five apology languages IN WRITING.

This last one I have learned the power of this conscious decision to OWN it by following up with a note. Whether it is a handwritten note, an email or text, etc., writing down a follow up with a person I threw careless words at is so important.

It becomes this tangible, concrete evidence of my regret and promise to do better. The injured party can re-visit it if they want. It may act as a future means of measurement to them about how far I’ve come in using words as weapons. For me, it acts as a literal pivot point from which I can measure my own growth, my own practice of intentional, encouraging communication.

Next week, I want to discuss how one goes about admitting and voicing that “ouch! that hurt”. If careless words can injure, we are all wounded warriors. What do you do or say if someone hurts you?

Have a great week y’all!

L. Denise Portis, Ph.D.

© 2019 Personal Hearing Loss Journal



This is My Fight Song

On “match day”, 2015.

The first time I heard Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song“, it was actually sung by a different  young woman who had faced a life threatening illness and “won”. You can find Calysta Bevier’s audition for “America’s Got Talent” HERE.

Yesterday, Fidos For Freedom, Inc. held its annual certification day. Service dog and hearing dog teams re-certify their skills and clients take a written exam. Milo and I passed with flying colors. While there, I was able to catch up with other teams. I overheard various teams refer to their service dog as their “partner in crime”, “wing man”, “partner”, “side kick”, “best friend”, and “best buddy”.

I’m a believer in the power of the human spirit. I have also seen many people who are differently-abled, dig deep and find the wherewithal to “just keep swimming” (as our friend Dory from Disney’s “Finding Nemo” taught us). At certification day, there is understandably some waiting in line. In an “all volunteer” organization, it takes a village of caring and committed volunteers to make certification day happen. However, clients do have to spend some time waiting for the next station to open up so that they can be tested on those skills. While waiting, I people watch. I’m easily caught up in emotion and found myself getting choked up looking around at various teams performing like super heroes. Can these individuals FIGHT without a service dog at their sides? Yes. I have no doubt. However, having a service dog makes each and every day a little easier.

It’s more than the skilled tasks they do, y’all! Milo retrieves dozen of items I drop each day. He is my alarm clock. He opens and closes the dishwasher, refrigerator, and gets clothes out of the dryer for me. He braces when I stand from a sitting position. He walks along side me and is only a touch away. Yet, the biggest benefit Milo brings to my life is psychological and emotional strength. Can I fight alone? Yes.

But I don’t have to do so.

Milo is with me 24/7. If I’m having a bad balance day, I go to work anyway knowing he’s got my back. If I’m dreading a large meeting, knowing in advance I will have trouble hearing, he provides the courage I need to do what needs to be done. I consider myself an advocate and “assumption destroyer”. However, Milo makes me a super hero. I think service dog partners forget those “under the radar” strengths our service dogs provide for us. On annual certification days, I am often reminded. Observing these teams and the trainers who coach/love them, brings these hidden benefits into startling clarity for me. We can count on other caring human beings to help and support us as needed. However, it is only a service dog partner that can be there ALWAYS.

I want to leave you with the lyrics and original video of “Fight Song”. I also am not ashamed to acknowledge that I found my own fight song with the support of a service dog. For me… it made the difference.

Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Into motion
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion
And all those things I didn’t say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time?
This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me
Losing friends and I’m chasing sleep
Everybody’s worried about me
In too deep
Say I’m in too deep (in too deep)
And it’s been two years I miss my home
But there’s a fire burning in my bones
Still believe
Yeah, I still believe
And all those things I didn’t say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time?
This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me
A lot of fight left in me


L. Denise Portis

© 2017 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

Sometimes? All You Can do is LAUGH

chloe hug

You’d think by now hound dog was accustomed to me bustin’ out into peals of laughter. I’ve done it often enough, after all! But I still take her by surprise sometimes!

I had a “Murphy’s Law” kind of day just recently. One of those days where if something COULD go wrong, it WOULD. Some interesting facts about Murphy’s Law and where it all began, visit this link. “Whatever can go wrong will go wrong”.

Chloe and I were walking one evening and the weather was DIVINE. Hardly any clouds, low humidity, and I had a “pep in my step”. For once, my Meniere’s disease was allowing me to walk at a pretty good clip with very little weaving. When I walk, I talk to my dog. Chloe would probably freak if I took a walk and was totally silent. It helps her pay attention to me, and I throw her name in there from time to time. However, sometimes I’m just…


Yup. Just talkin’ about anything and everything. It helps me to think out loud and I tend to go on and On and ON. I actually said out loud, “Wow, Chloe. Look at how easily I’m walking this evening! No wobbles! Moving along at a good rate! I’m smokin’!

Chloe gave me this LOOK. Almost as if she anticipated something going wrong after that lofty observation. Within 30 seconds (I kid you NOT), I stumbled on an ornery piece of elevated sidewalk and opened my mouth to shriek (for I do precious little QUIETLY) only to have a bee swoop in my open mouth as I began to fall into a nearby bush. So here I am choking on a bee, trying like crazy to spit it out while being impaled on various twigs and branches of a bush… a ROSE bush – wouldn’t ya know? So thorns grabbing me everywhere. Worse, it was damp earth under the bush thanks to recent rains so when I connected with the ground there was a obvious squishy sound and splat as my hip, knee and foot connected. So there I lay in the mud INSIDE a bush, choking on a bee, covered in thorns, desperately trying to hang on to my leash because Chloe was …



outside the BUSH.

I laid there a minute trying to go through my Meniere’s “play list” that automatically begins playing after I fall.

It’s a cute little jingle.

I’d share the wonderful lyrics with you so that you can sing along… but frankly I can’t carry a tune in a bucket and it’s one of those songs one whines and sings to oneself. So anyway… I run through the steps.

1. Am I dead?

2. Is anything broken?

3. Where is Chloe?

4. Can I move?

5. Do I need help?

So I was able to answer, No, No, *POINTS – somewhere outside the bush*, Barely, Yes.

I tried to turn to see if I could reach my bag. You know… the one with my cell phone in it that I carry in case of emergency? I can see it just out of reach out *there* near Chloe’s legs.

So… I asked Chloe to fetch the bag for me. She grabbed it up and ducked down to look under the bush at me. What she saw, made her drop her jaw and the bag tumbled back to the ground. Crap. Now my phone is laying outside the bag. So I tell Chloe to “fetch phone” – which is actually easier for her to do as it is something  she does several times a day. She grabs the phone, looks down under the branches again to where I lay and squirmed to reach my outstretched hand to give me the phone. Success!

Only… the phone is dead. That’s right, I carry around a phone with a dead battery on walks because it is SO helpful to do that. *rolls eyes*

So I decided that I needed to get out from under the bush. Easier said than done. I’m hung up, slightly injured, dizzy, muddy and on the verge of crying. Not a good combination. I thought, “Oh my gosh. I’m going to have to lay here until somebody walks by to help. How embarrassing! How will I explain this?” I didn’t have to lay there very long before I noticed that Chloe was now snuffling at my hung up hoodie sweatshirt.

TUG. YANK. R…I….P! Unbelievable! She tugged me free!

I rolled to one side to get out from under the bush and was wise enough to sit there a minute. Chloe plopped down and waited for me to “collect myself”. I fall SO OFTEN, if I am able to just go down without hitting my head I consider that a coup. So I checked out all my scratches and now torn clothing and thought that – heck. It could’ve been worse. It HAS been worse. So I started to laugh. Sometimes? All you can do is laugh. Chloe looked at me and just panted and “grinned”. It’s not the first time I’ve sat laughing covered in mud and trying to find the wherewithal to get up and keep going! (Likely won’t be the last time either!)

Can You Laugh at Yourself? Should You?

If you live with an invisible illness, have a disability, or a chronic condition, it can be helpful to learn to laugh at yourself. A great little article about the benefits of laughter can be found HERE.

But if you don’t believe in the power of endorphins or social connectedness, you still should learn to laugh at yourself. At least… that is my opinion. Here are some reasons I have learned to laugh at myself:

1. If I am laughing, it can reduce anxiety that others may feel when my disability pops up and causes me to do something like fall, mishear something, or other “Denise blooper”. Does it matter if someone else’s anxiety is lessened? Well… I don’t want people to feel uncomfortable around me. If I can laugh at myself, hopefully they will learn that I take who I am and my new “life parameters” in stride and am fine with it.

2. It reduces MY anxiety. Endorphins are real. It’s not some kind of borg nanotechnology that only re-routes and fixes sci-fy actresses. I FEEL BETTER after laughing.

3. If I laugh, it really helps me accept myself – just the way I am. You can’t change the unchangeable. I’m a klutz. I’m going to fall. As long as I’m in one piece and don’t have any odd bits of bone poking out anywhere, (Yeah, I know. Right?) laughing at myself helps me just accept what happened. It is MY WAY of embracing my flaws. This is who I am.

3. It helps me put things in perspective. While cackling like a hyena, I can take stock too. My little “jingle” may re-play. Some deep breaths – a mirthful hiccough or two, and I’m good as new!

4. Laughing helps me de-stress. Likely I’m laughing because I just did something that COULD cause me stress. (What if someone saw? Bet this mud will NOT come out of my jeans! Chloe tore my hoodie! I’m never walking again! As a matter of fact I’m just going to sit here on the sidewalk and feel sorry for myself! I’m going to stomp on my phone – when I finally get up. I hate my life! I want my mother… ) Laughing… de-stresses me. I can feel the tension roll off of my shoulders.

So I do believe “laughter is good medicine”. But…

There are perfectly good reasons to take the time to CRY too.

Or Scream.

… but those are best left for another writer to touch on! 😉

Denise Portis

© 2014 Personal Hearing Loss Journal


Purposeful Down Time


I’m back in school. I never thought I’d return to school to be honest. All that changed when I realized that I may not ever land a full-time faculty position if I am constantly going to be applying for the same jobs as those with doctorates. Here I am – back in school.

I manage my time very effectively, almost obsessively. I am a very organized and detailed person. Something I have learned to do, however is to be very purposeful in my down time. For some reason, even though I found that it was fairly easy for me to be organized and to schedule my day, I was unable to enjoy any free time I might have. When I was “off”, I wasn’t really enjoying the time. I even recall telling my mother that if I didn’t have plenty to do, I was convinced it would contribute to my feeling depressed. “Be so busy you don’t have time to feel blue” was my motto, I guess.

The truth of the matter, this is dangerous. Some folks think their time is too valuable to be spent in frivolous activities. Some believe that there is too much to do to waste time doing nothing at all. I argue that not taking the time to simply “be” is deadly. You don’t have to search very long to find reports of Americans who are stressed. We seem to be over-worked, over-scheduled, and over-committed. I have family members who don’t take vacation time because their company will pay them back for it at the end of the year if they don’t use it. My response is, “Whaaaa…?”

(I’m very eloquent).

I’ve been reading “Essential Guide to Online Learning” as many of the classes I am taking to finish up my doctorate are in an asynchronous classroom. The author of the book explained that we need to “be present in your downtime” (Laureate Education, Inc., 2013, p. 27). In order to make time for school, work, family, errands, and all the “other stuff” we squeeze into our schedules, I employ the use of Google calendar. Every task has a specific color. As detailed as I am, however, every day has blank time slots open. FREE TIME!

“Let’s Par-teeeeeey!” Or not.

I try to be purposeful with my free time. If I choose to use my free time to read a good book, groom my dog, or take a walk, I mindfully do those things. So often, folks spend their free time worrying about what they have to do next in their schedule! How is that enjoying your free time? How does one reap any benefit from having some time to yourself?

The first time I realized I had trouble with this was when I realized I couldn’t even go to sleep at night. Here I was, drop-dead tired and weary, exhausted from having to “hear” all day and needing a good eight hours of sleep. Instead, I would lay in bed worrying about what I had to do tomorrow – often things that I had little control over. I was losing sleep over losing sleep. Oh the irony…

I realized that I was going to have to get serious about fun and relaxation. There are things I do each week for just me. There are things I do each DAY – although some days I have more time than others. If I have the time every single day to walk my service dog, Chloe, then by gosh when I’m walking her I will do nothing but walk her and enjoy the moment. I run into folks who are walking their dogs too. By run into, I mean that quite literally. Their attention is on their cell phone instead of the dog at the end of the leash. They are not looking up and around, which means they may not be aware of their surroundings, who is in their vicinity, or what *blech* they are getting ready to step in with their brand new walking shoes. I breathe deeply, look around, talk to my dog, and intentionally notice the world around me.

If I have 30-45 minutes to read before bed in order to decompress and unwind, you can be sure I am not reading a required text. I will be reading something for me… something that “feeds my soul” or “fires my imagination”.

This morning I had two hours to put up my family’s Christmas tree. The house was quiet, with hubby already gone to work and kiddos sleeping in since their work schedules were later. I mindfully put up my Christmas tree. I didn’t think about the assignment I had due by 3 PM. I reminisced as I hung old ornaments and strung lights. I arranged and re-arranged. I asked the dogs if things looked “purtee”. Then I turned off all the lights in the room, pulled the blinds down, and turned on the twinkle lights. I listened to Christmas music. I rubbed my dogs’ bellies. At 11 AM, however, I had research that I had scheduled to do in advance. However, I deliberately refused to think about it prior to my free time being “up”.

Do you need to be more purposeful with your down time? Do you need to reduce stress and schedule “me time”? Please feel free to share tips and favorite “purposeful me time” moments in the comments.

Denise Portis

©2013 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

Laureate Education, Inc. (2013). Essential guide to online learning. Baltimore: Laureate International Universities Publishing, Inc.

The Road to Rescue

Hunter with service dog, Raven.

A young woman I have come to admire, Hunter Lia Zager, received her service dog from Fidos For Freedom, Inc. where I train with Chloe. Hunter has a rare and unusual disease that even leaves her doctors stumped at times. She desperately needs the funds to get her vehicle modified for accessibility. The state is helping with a big chunk, but she still needs to raise over $12,000 herself. Hunter is only 25 years old and currently relies on (often unreliable) public transportation to go to work, doctor appointments, and much more. Imagine being limited to your home many times, simply because you lack a vehicle that can carry wheelchair, service dog, etc. Minimum donations are only $1.00 and you can donate using PayPal, or debit or credit card. If you would do two things?
1) Share this need with others on your own BLOGS.
2) Consider donating – even SMALL amounts add up.

I know times are hard for many people. However, I want to help this courageous, wonderful young woman reach her goal so that she can have reliable, accessible transportation. Please help. Please share! Thank you!


Hunter’s story:

My name is Hunter Lia and for the first time in never I’m asking for help. At 25 years old I am terminal, but I have never held my arms up and said I was willing to stop my fight. 5.5 years ago I became ill with a very rare neurological disease, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), the most excruciating disease known to modern medicine. The road has been hard, but I am so terribly blessed to have such wonderful people and a wonderful service dog in my life who have helped carry me through the toughest of times.

This disease has consumed my entire body and caused me to reach deep stage 4. CRPS didn’t stop there, it turned my body into melting pot of other diseases. It has paralyzed areas of my body such as my intestines, which are incapable of processing food (Gastroparesis), created a neuro-cardio disease, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardic Syndrome, a neuro-pulmonary disease, Respiratory Dystonia of the Chest Wall, Spinal Stenosis, and countless other conditions and diseases. It is also now believed that on top of all this, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) might be one of my latest additions. Having every aspect of your body fail you is a tremendous burden for one to carry, especially when you’re just 25. Most 25 year olds are able to go out at night, travel, make plans for the future…for me, just the thought of that takes up all my energy. I wear devices for low hearing and low vision, but outside of attempting to take my wheelchair and service dog everywhere, it’s difficult to make my life easier and manage with a disintegrating spine, excruciating pain, and countless other symptoms and challenges.

One reason I’ve struggled so much is that my vehicle is not accessible. I traded in a SUV for a minivan in the hopes I could outfit it to all my body’s needs. I never realized the costs would be over $45,000 to adapt the vehicle. I am getting state assistance, but the last 25% is my responsibility. With all the other medical expenses I’ve had to incur, I don’t have even a fraction of the money to pay the company responsible for outfitting the car. I need your help. I am trying to raise over $12,000 to make my vehicle accessible. If I could do this, I would no longer have to worry I wouldn’t be able to keep my job and health insurance due to transportation challenges, worry about not having a vehicle in an emergency, reach doctors and specialists, and really just live life to the fullest. I know this economy is difficult, but every penny will help me reach my goal. And if that’s too difficult, passing this on would mean the world to me. Thank you for taking a moment to ready my story.


How Important is it to Prepare?

With family in Colorado dealing with the fires, and our own area’s recent experience with widespread power outages after a “land hurricane”, disaster preparedness has been on my mind lately.

Isn’t it crazy that we don’t think to plan for something until it actually happens? Then we get some things together for the next time, only for a decade to go by before it repeats itself. By that time batteries are dead, water is stale and evaporated, and extra dog food has turned to powder.

Preparing can be expensive too; something most of us have difficulty budgeting for should a disaster occur. Yet, little by little we CAN get together some essentials. Purchased over time, these items may be less of a punch to our weekly budget for food and other essentials. If you dislike gathering things together for a price, disaster preparedness kits can be purchased at stores or online.

What to Put in a “Kit”

You can find numerous resources online with information about what to put in a disaster preparedness kit. You may have to prepare with numerous people in mind, or even numerous pets. According to the experts it is best to have a kit on hand that can be picked up and taken with you in the event of an emergency – fire, hurricane, or flooding… things that can be predicted to some degree as the result of early warning systems in the area.

With power outages, however, you may need a bigger “kit” for numerous days. Power outages can be planned as the result of city construction or tree removal. Most of the time though? Power outages are an unpleasant surprise. Causes can range from results of mother nature at work, or a hubby at work with a shovel and a poor attention span. has some terrific ideas in what to put in a disaster kit. You can access the site HERE. FEMA and Ready.Gov has some additional plans and ideas at their site. These include how to let friends and loved ones know where you are and how you are doing. You can access these plans HERE. The ASPCA has some wonderful ideas and plans for those of us who may have service animals and other family pets. You can access that information HERE.  The Red Cross has some additional ideas for pet owners HERE.

The key is to BE PREPARED. When my family and I experienced 36 hours of no power in 95 degree heat, it isn’t something we decided to do for FUN. It was an unexpected and unpleasant surprise. We had plenty of water and gas in our cars, but could not even leave the house at night in sweltering heat because of numerous pets that needed attention, supervision, and assurance. We holed up in the basement and did our best to keep everyone calm and as cool as possible. Because I shop at Costco, when I buy batteries, I buy A LOT. But I wasn’t keeping close tabs on what sizes we had, and our flashlights and lanterns were scattered all over the place. (The power outage began late at night after the sun had gone down). I discovered after doing a little investigating after the power returned, that generators are expensive. They can also be dangerous to operate if you do not know what you are doing. Yet after our experience, I started a “generator piggy bank”. It may take us YEARS to have enough to actually buy one, but imagine being able to run some fans and keep the refrigerator running during a long-term power outage?

I welcome additional ideas our websites that may help folks prepare.

Disabilities or Health Issues?

As a person with disabilities I was prepared BY ACCIDENT. I purchase cochlear implant batteries in bulk once or twice a year. Thankfully, my cochlear implant is NOT the type that uses rechargeable batteries or I may have been deaf as well as sweaty! I noticed that because of the excessive heat, my balance was worse than usual. I was unprepared for a SUNNY day to be staggering around as if it were a rainy, overcast day. My husband who only has one kidney, was especially fatigued and weak because of the heat. I had friends that were unable to power their scooters that they use for mobility purposes, but their manual wheelchairs were in storage! These kinds of things can make a difficult situation much worse.

If you have special needs of ANY kind, be sure to take these into consideration when you do your planning. Because we are all aware of how important that planning is, right? (GRIN)

Denise Portis

© 2012 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

Attracting More Flies

Photo by Deborah Marcus, February 22, 2012, North Carolina

I just purchased a book through Amazon, Benjamin Franklin’s “Poor Richard’s Almanack”. I’ve always enjoyed books like these and have seen a number of quotes from this book over the years.

One American proverb from this book that many people have heard has to do with honey.

and vinegar.

and flies.

 Benjamin Franklin, “Tart words make no friends; a spoonful of honey will catch more flies than a gallon of vinegar” (Franklin, 1980).

When I first heard this quote I remember thinking, “Well who in the heck wants to attract FLIES”? Having grown up on a farm in SE Colorado, I can tell you that flies were a problem. The animals hated them, farmers hated them, and children relegated to policing the house with fly swatter and tissue in hand hated them!

However, like many quotes, you have to look past the surface to get at the true meaning. Gee, had I known vinegar would have kept them away I may have started sprinkling it around and dabbing it behind my ears.

Ok. Maybe not.

We don’t need to go raid our friend’s hives for honey, either. This quote has to do with being tactful – on purpose.

You know what I’ve discovered? To be tactful, I DO have to be purposeful about it. It is super simple to be tactless. Especially when angry! I’ve learned that if I’m to be tactful, thereby attracting more attention with my “honey”, I have to set out with very real purpose ahead of time. It seems we were created to have a lot of excess vinegar on hand.

Tart Words

I think a lot of folks do not realize that the quote begins with, “Tart words make no friends”. Last week I received a lot of private responses about the post “A Special Kind of Stupid“. Some things people with disabilities shared with me made me very upset. You just would not believe some of the things that “normal” people say to folks with invisible illnesses or disabilities. Then again, if you follow “Hearing Elmo”, perhaps you would believe it as you likely have some connection to the disability or chronic illness communities.

Though it may be difficult, we really have to remember to put a cap on our – erm – vinegar when responding to some of the stupid things we hear in our day-to-day lives.

No, She Is Really Unhappy

Take an example from last week in “A Day in the Life with a Service Dog”. At Walmart, as per my usual mid-week major errand, Chloe and I ended up attracting some attention. As I outlined in an article for Gale Hannan at “Hearing Health Mattters“, if you don’t like attention then do not mitigate your disability with an assistance dog. You are going to attract attention. It becomes easy to ignore and if you are deaf like I am, you don’t even hear all the exclamations of surprise. However, sometimes I’m stopped. Dog-lovers like Walmart… or so it would seem. Most of the time I am very glad to stop and answer questions. I carry information about hearing dogs and balance-assist dogs with me for opportunities just like these. I’ve discovered, however, that if I stand around TOO LONG, folks begin to unplug their brains before asking questions. There is this “fine line” of how much time is “long enough”, prompting me to move on with my shopping. I evidently have not discovered that important timeframe yet. As I answered this lady’s reasonable questions, a lull occured in our conversation. That should have waved the red flags for me. Heck I’d take explosions in my underclothes if I could learn to pick up these cues.

But nope.

I stuck around too long.

“So does your beautiful service dog ever get to just be a dog? Does she ever get to play?”

Vinegar began pooling under my tongue. Chalk it up to living with a house full of very sarcastic people. I wanted to say, “You know? As a service dog she needs to earn her keep. The vest comes off at night and she is allowed to finally rest. She’s a working dog – not a playing dog. It wouldn’t do me any good for her to go around thinking she could ever play, right?” (said with saccharin sweetness).

Tactful Responses Ultimately Educate

Instead I swallowed the vinegar (grimace) and plastered on my best “WHAT A TERRIFIC QUESTION” face and replied, “Well she is a dog! She is a beloved member of our family. She gets play breaks at work and doesn’t actually wear her vest at home. She still does alerts and helps while at home, but she is off duty more than she is “on”. A healthy service dog is allowed to just be a dog. That is why she loves working for me. I set very realistic boundaries and expectations”.

Being tactful and pleasant is important if I’m to hope that I play even some small part in helping to educate others about hearing loss, balance disorders, and service dogs. If I’m angry and belligerent, I’m not going to “win friends nor influence people”.

And neither will you.


Is It Ever OK to “Let ‘er Rip”?

I have lived with hearing loss and balance issues more than half of my life now. That means I have some experience. That does not mean that I do everything right. Folks ask me from time to time when it is OK to put others in their place.

We can’t exactly take out a megaphone and announce to everyone within earshot, “This person just said something STUPID”.

To demean others is never the right way to go. For one thing, it only makes US look bad. You certainly won’t promote education, compassion, or understanding in others if you deliberately embarrass or fuss at them. Having said that, I do believe that there are times that responding with sweetness and “honey” may not be the right answer. After all, it may be that you no longer WANT to attract that particular person who simply cannot and WILL not treat you like a normal human being. I believe the right time to load your water pistol with vinegar occurs when:

1. You’ve responded the right way over, and OVER again.

Maybe it is a family member that thinks their comments are funny. Maybe it is a co-worker whose remarks border on the unkind. At some point you may discover that the only way to educate someone is to be a little more FRANK – pardon the pun Benjamin Franklin!

Tired of the eye rolls and deliberate condescending response at a dinner table of “I’ll tell you later” after asking for a second repeat of what someone said? Perhaps it is time you gently laid your hand on their arm and said in a normal tone (for they likely do NOT have a hearing loss), “You know? It hurts my feelings when you say that and sigh and roll your eyes. I only want to hear what you said. You never actually remember to tell me later what it was. Don’t blow me off. What was funny? I want to participate in your life. I care about these moments and we will never re-live them or have them as “do overs”. I want to know what you said because I love you”. Others at the table may have grown quiet at this calm announcement. But that can work in your favor too. Sometimes educating others occurs by observing someone else getting educated. You may have let a little vinegar taint what you said. A little “sting” may be necessary to get through to calloused hearts.

2. You respond in defense of others.

Sometimes you may need to put up the honey aside and gear up with vinegar in order to stick up for someone else. I’m much quicker to speak up to a bully when the person being picked on is NOT ME. This has to be done carefully, however, as you do not want to take away an opportunity for someone else to stand up for themselves. When you live with disability, chronic illness, or invisible differences, you need to learn to be as independent as you can. It is healthy. You may need assistance in technology, puppy power, or by swallowing your pride and learning to ask for help.

However, there are times I believe, that we should step up and even figuratively lock arms with another who is being misunderstood to let them know they are not alone, and let a bully know they are being irrational – or STUPID.

We Won’t Always Do it Right

I can be a sour puss. Vinegar is more likely to run through my veins than honey. I’m allergic to bee stings.

Sometimes I blow it. I respond as if I don’t care if someone better understands disability and hearing loss. As a person of faith, I know this dishonors not only me, but also God. I have learned to say “I’m sorry” – and really mean it. Acknowledging that you aren’t feeling well today and mis-spoke or are feeling belligerent and should have kept your mouth shut shows maturity. Did you blow it? Well make it right. You know what to do.

Franklin, B. (2007). “Poor Richard’s Almanack”. Skyhorse Publishing, Inc. New York : New York, p. 44.

Denise Portis

© 2012 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

Walk a Mile in My Shoes

Gonna change directions here today as the death of Whitney Houston coincides with something I am seeing more and more in the disability community.

It doesn’t matter whether or not you like Whitney Houston. What I am disappointed to see is some of the comments and “hatin’ on” this artist since her death. I actually saw on one person’s Facebook that drug addicts and alcoholics get what they deserve. “Someone with so much talent shouldn’t have wasted it”

Wow. I mean REALLY?

Unless you were thrust into fame and fortune at a relatively young age…

Unless you had to deal with the media on a daily basis, giving up any hope of privacy…

Unless you married for love and were crushed by disappointment…

Unless you raised a child as best you could in the backdrop of an industry that can be unforgiving…

Unless you developed an addiction because of life’s crushing problems and entered rehab while the whole world knew it…

Unless you made mistakes and fell back into bad habits – all while the whole world watched…

… then keep your mouth shut about Whitney Houston.

Why Does This Upset Me? Why Should it Upset YOU?

Anytime people begin to criticize and judge someone else a change takes place. Amnesia.

I rarely hear someone criticize and judge someone who is just like THEM. It usually happens when someone is different than you are. Criticizing is easy when we don’t walk in that person’s shoes. Judging is a simple task when we cannot hope to understand what really caused someone to do something when they are different than we are. We forget all the times we have been hurt for being judged and criticized by people who do not understand our own choices in life.

Wanna get me ticked off? Criticize and judge someone who chose to mitigate their disability with a service dog when you don’t live with a disability. Sometimes even others within the disability community may scratch their head and wonder why a person would choose a service dog when “they have the same disability you do”. What they may not know is that there ARE various differences between your disabilities. Your lives may be different. They may have 24/7 help that you do not have access to in your own life. Why don’t we celebrate “whatever works”?

In the hearing loss community, I know people who criticize people who don’t allow “nature to take its course” and embrace their deafness. To some, if you do not learn ASL then you are shunning a community that could be your family. For others who have accepted technology and/or surgery to stay connected to the hearing world, they may criticize those who have learned ASL for various reasons – personal reasons! I know people who criticize other people’s choices about hearing aids or cochlear implants. Why are we prone to criticize anyone who makes a different choice than what we have made for ourselves?

I think perhaps it is a form of self-protection. We may somehow feel that if someone who is very similar to us chose another path, that their choice may mean that our own path was a wrong one. It may be a form of defensiveness. If we see someone successful at living life with a disability, we may feel the need to criticize because we still have some problems with our own disability. If we see someone floundering at living life with a disability – and they chose another path? Many point and say, “I told you so”.

We could all learn to be more compassionate. We could all learn to listen more and keep our mouths shut.

When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.” –
Wayne Dyer

If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” –
Mother Teresa

What May Happen if You Reserve Judgment

If you can keep your opinions to yourself, you may just make some discoveries:

You didn’t understand why they did what they did until you got to know them better.

You misunderstood their choice

After learning more about the person, you actually agree with their choice.

After time you find that you still would have done it differently yourself, but it seems to work for them.

If you can keep your negative opinions to yourself and instead pray for and encourage that person, you may discover a…

FRIEND who has the same taste in shoes!

Denise Portis

© 2012 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

My Goals? Stop Apologizing…

At City Dock in downtown Annapolis near the U.S. Naval Academy

I find it a little hard to believe it is 2012. Normally, the New Year doesn’t sneak up on me. However, this year it certainly did just that. In the past, I’m almost obsessive-compulsive about planning and organizing my resolutions for the New Year. I suppose that I haven’t allowed myself to obsess about it this year, points to the fact that I continue to change and evolve as I age. I think change is important and hope that I will always grow, mature, and change from one year to the next.

Sometimes though? Sometimes I see things in myself that I need to change because they are negative. In my reflection of 2011, I discovered a real negative that I really want to work on in 2012. Introspection did not really help me discover WHY I have developed this bad habit, but I can make some educated guesses.

I apologize. I apologize a great deal. I apologize for things that are not my fault. Some reasons I may do this?

1. I feel as if it will keep others from feeling the blame or reacting in a defensive way.

2. I default to shouldering the blame for most things.

3. I hope to diffuse any uncomfortable thoughts or reactions by others.

4. I hope to garner apologies and acceptance of responsibility by others by my own example.


Please don’t misunderstand me. I believe that people should accept responsibility and offer apologies when they are warranted. However, I have developed a habit of apologizing for things that are not my responsibility. Sometimes when I say “I’m sorry”, it is simply a matter of miscommunication. I need to say something… but do so in a way it more accurately communicates my real meaning.

An example: “I’m sorry you misunderstood me”.

A better response would be, “I believe I have been misunderstood. May I clarify my meaning and intent?”

As a person with hearing loss I even respond with a “sorry” when I missed something. Example: “I’m sorry. I didn’t catch that”. It may very well be that it is no one’s FAULT that I missed it. After all… I am a late-deafened adult. Yes, sometimes folks may cover their mouth with their hand, or mumble. When that happens it is better to say, “I didn’t catch that. Could you repeat it please?” – or – “You were covering your mouth and I didn’t catch that. Will you repeat it please?” I’m going to try to stop myself before I respond with a habitual “I’m sorry. I didn’t catch that”.

It’s My Choice to Mitigate My Disabilities with a Service Dog

Recently, I “replied all” to an email in which a group of employees were nailing down details about when to meet for a book group. We are reading “Storm” by George R. Stewart. I actually typed out, “I apologize in advance that I will have my service dog with me as she is with me 24/7”. I sat and looked at that sentence for a minute and thought to myself, “WHAT IN THE WORLD?”

I deleted that sentence and re-typed, “Just a heads up so that no one is startled, I will have my service dog with me as she is with me 24/7”. I re-read and re-thought that sentence for several minutes. I like to give people I’ve never met before heads-up about Chloe, but it isn’t required. However, some people ARE afraid of dogs or have allergies. I like to let people know in advance when I can.

When I interviewed at the local community college, before hanging up the phone I let the person know that I would have my service dog with me at the interview. When I arrived to meet with the panel of people interviewing that day, the director let me know that he was glad I told him about Chloe. He normally has his dog with him at work during the summer, and he didn’t want his dog to interfere with my working dog.

Sometimes it cannot be helped. I arrive and people are surprised (or dismayed) that I have a service dog with me. In the past, I have intercepted looks and stepped forward to apologize that I have Chloe with me. I’m not sure why I felt compelled to do this. I’m NOT sorry I have Chloe. She has given me the independence and confidence I needed to follow my dreams! Yet, I often felt as if I needed to apologize for her presence.

When someone asks if they can pet Chloe, I would automatically say, “I’m sorry. She’s a working dog and cannot be pet while she is in vest”. A better response that I’m trying to remember to say is, “She’s a working dog and cannot be distracted right now. Thank you for asking permission though!”

I realize that many people use the “I’m sorry” phrase without thinking about the ramifications of the meaning. To many it is simply a way to break the ice, or begin communicating a difficult idea. For me, I believe that the overuse of the phrase has only served to weaken my own self-esteem and even development as a confident adult with a disability. Please understand that I am talking about ME – and how being overly zealous with apologizing has inadvertently affected ME in a negative way. You will never hear me correct YOU if you choose to use this phrase.

I believe in giving heartfelt apologies when they are needed. In the right circumstances, it conveys the desire to make right a wrong and to restore a good relationship with another person. One of my favorite books is “The Five Languages of Apology” by Chapman and Thomas. I believe in caring about our fellow man and to learn to apologize in such a way it restores good communication and healthy relationships.

It’s no one’s fault I do not hear well. There is no one to blame that I stumble around on rainy days nor am able to retrieve things from the floor. You may be surprised to learn that I wouldn’t change anything about me. Sure… it’s taken a long time for me to accept who I am and to “like me” just the way I am! I do want to correctly communicate my heart, mind, and intent to others. I believe I apologize in far too many circumstances. I want to accurately relay information without demeaning or demoralizing myself.

You may be thinking “poTAtoes” – “po-TAH-toes”. What is the difference? For me… this is something I choose to work on this year. I want to better communicate with others without taking the blame for things that cannot be helped.

In October I was at a training class at Fidos For Freedom in Laurel, Maryland. One of my least favorite exercises is the “Meet and Greet”. I hate it, yet know it is one of those necessary (evil) tasks that I must learn to accomplish with an assistance dog along side of me. Reality check? I will have to communicate with others in a group when there is background noise. It is very difficult for those of us with hearing loss to do this exercise. I have to remember to turn my t-coil off on both cochlear implant and hearing aid. Thankfully, our training room is looped and I hear the trainer very well when commands are given. However, I have to turn these OFF in order to hear a group of people in the “Meet and Greet”. We introduce ourselves and give a little information about our dogs to new people. To folks we know well we simply “catch up”. Our dogs are suppose to remain in a safe place (sit or stay) and we learn to communicate while also keeping an eye on our partners. When you also speech read, it can be very difficult to watch faces while also keeping an eye on your dog. At this particular training, Chloe was in a down/stay for the inevitable “Meet and Greet”. Some of these dogs Chloe has known for a long time. Some of them are newer puppies recently introduced to the training floor to eventually be matched with a client. I spotted Chloe stretching in her down/stay with tail all a-wag and kisses galore for another dog in a down/stay. I corrected her and then realized I missed what the fellow client said.

“I’m sorry. I missed that”, I said with exasperation.

The other client didn’t hesitate and said, “Don’t be sorry. I don’t apologize for weaving around with both a cane and a dog!”

It hit me that I was implying my inability to hear well in this environment could be changed. It is what it is. I do NOT hear well in “Meet and Greets”. It is not anyone’s fault that I do not. No apologies are necessary. I’m learning to ask for repeats without apologizing.

I wish you success in planning your own New Year’s resolutions and goals. I’m keeping it simple this year. Happy New Year and welcome 2012!

Denise Portis

© 2012 Personal Hearing Loss Journal



When you think of “entitlement”, do you picture someone with their arms crossed and a demanding attitude? Do you associate  negative thoughts with the word? I have heard the word “entitlement” discussed at length in various groups lately. Parents may bemoan the fact that “kids today have a sense of entitlement that promotes a feeling of justification for all they do and all they DESERVE“. My husband and I even “shake our heads” at our own kids from time to time. Don’t get me wrong… our kids are TERRIFIC. They are well-adjusted, do not use drugs or drink alcohol, their language is acceptable, they make good grades, they are responsible and willingly reach out to others. But sometimes? Sometimes they act as if they deserve certain things even before earning the right to have that luxury, trust, or understanding. Thankfully, we can simply remind them about the blessings they have and use a comparison or two between their own lives and the lives of some of their peers and they are quick to apologize for their previous attitude.

Teachers  confess that students in classrooms across the country are morphing into groups of individuals who demand respect and favors they have not earned. Elayne Clift (2011) said, “Whether it’s rude behavior, lack of intellectual rigor, or both, we are all struggling with the same frightening decline in student performance and academic standards at institutions of higher learning (para. 6)… when teachers refuse to lower standards, those students seem to resort to a new code of conduct that includes acted-out rage, lack of respect, and blame”(para. 8). From what I understand, this attitude is reaching epidemic proportions in classrooms. Thankfully, I have not experienced this in my own classrooms yet. I do, however, believe it CAN be a problem and is certainly happening in many schools. Parents and caregivers may unintentionally (or with very real intent) foster and promote this attitude in their children.

What about “Occupy… ” a city near you movement? I’ve listened to some of my peers argue that those camping out and “occupying” locations in cities across America, are individuals trying to make a point about those in power and wealth, yet harbor a sense of entitlement.

I’m not here to debate any of these issues. Instead, I wanted to point out that a sense of entitlement is alive and well in the disABILITY community. I support being a positive advocate and for educating individuals as to what their rights are under the ADA. I’m not here to debate these issues, however, and recognize that there are plenty of examples of people with disabilities being misrepresented, mistreated, and unfairly judged.


Webster’s defines “entitlement” as:

1. a : the state or condition of being entitled : right b : a right to benefits specified especially by law or contract
2.: a government program providing benefits to members of a specified group; also : funds supporting or distributed by such a program
3.: belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges

When I first began losing my hearing at the age of 25-years-old, I knew next to nothing about hearing loss and how it can impact a life. I spent the first decade of progressive hearing loss learning about hearing loss in general. I sought support and information about how to better communicate and how to deal with the emotional consequences of an acquired disABILITY. When I developed Meniere’s disease as well, I challenged myself to learn all there is to know about a disease with no cure. As a result, I’ve learned what my own triggers are, what steps I can take to lesson the symptoms experienced, and reduce the severity of flare-ups. I’ve become an advocate for those with hearing loss… especially those who are late-deafened. I support and advocate on behalf of those who use service dogs to mitigate their disABILITY.

I’ve met PLENTY of folks who do the same. This does not mean, however, that I have not met people with hearing loss, Meniere’s disease (or other balance disorder), and people with service dogs who exhibit an attitude of entitlement. Many have taken laws that protect their rights and use them as a weapon of mass destruction. Instead of resting on the assurances these laws were meant to produce in the lives of individuals with disABILITIES, these laws are used to insist on more than what is deserved and intended. Don’t get me wrong! Companies and local and federal government should be compliant with specific criteria the ADA outlines and determines as provisions for equal access. A person with disability should be given any available means and technology at work so as to do their job in such a way they are on equal footing with another who does not have a disABILITY for promotions, raises, and opportunities. My “beef” with people with disABILITIES begins where folks insist everyone else in their life adjust their attitudes to satisfy their fragile egos.

Respect is earned…

Whether you have a disABILITY or NOT… respect is earned. We are not entitled to respect by our fellow man. Let’s face it. There are mean people out there… and mean people SUCK. But we as individuals who live with disABILITIES are going to get a whole lot further if we treat even mean people with – respect.

In the service dog industry mean people can “bring out the mean” in others. I’ve seen it happen time and again, and frankly? It’s happened to ME. Some wise-guy person in “charge” will barrel up into my personal space, put out a hand to physically stop me from entering an establishment with chest puffed out, hand on a hip and a look on their face as if to say, “over my DEAD, lifeless body“. My first reaction? “That can be arranged…

Nothing gets my back up quicker than a cocky, insolent ignoramus who chooses to invade my personal space as well! Especially since the latter may mean I over-compensate and “fall down go boom“. I know my rights. I have copies of the law. I’ve been trained (thanks to Fidos For Freedom). But I have learned that fighting “fire with fire” only leaves me with singed body parts. Sure, I may gain access, but at what cost?

One of my favorite Bible verses is Proverbs 15:1. I just love Proverbs! You could read one verse a day… strive to learn and apply something from it and be busy a very long time… or close to three years since there are 915 verses to be exact, but I digress (grin). Proverbs 15:1 (ESV) says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Pardon my grammar… but AIN’T THAT THE TRUTH? Nothing takes the “wind out of the sails” of an angry store associate quicker than to be gently confronted with the truth of the law. The law is on our side, after all. Some folks are “deaf” to the truth though and because of preconceived ideas will thumb their nose at the law and insist persons with service dogs STAY OUT. Even if you need to call the police to file a report and insist on your right of entry and service, staying poised and in control should be paramount. When we lose control, it only exacerbates the situation. Worse? It sets up the next person with a service dog to encounter this same store associate with an even BIGGER chip on their shoulder.

Tired of paying the same ticket price as person’s with normal hearing at a theater, only to hear VERY LITTLE? If you want to promote open captioning or rear-window captioning… do so with a positive attitude armed with information about who uses it, what the law says, etc. Marching up to a theater manager with both guns a-blazing… accomplishes very little. When theaters do provide these services and use this available technology, be sure to thank the management. I’ve heard some HoHearies say, “why should I? Folks with normal hearing don’t have to thank the management for being able to hear a movie they paid for!” But is that the point? We are trying to raise awareness and help companies like movie theaters to provide these things so that we all benefit. (Hearing has a great article here). We need to earn their respect. Thanking management does a number of things:

1) it reminds them who we are… real people who enjoy attending things like movies.

2) it helps them keep the numbers in perspective… many people use and enjoy captions. These “thank you’s” equal number of tickets sold and helps them remember the big picture…

3) it helps them see we ARE appreciative… not demanding snobs or spoiled people with a sense of entitlement.

A great blog post by Shanna Bartlett Groves on this issue can be viewed here and here.

Are you trying to get your church on board with providing an induction loop for people who use hearing aids and cochlear implants? Is the task difficult because there are not very many this would effect… or perhaps there is ONLY you? You will have an attentive audience and lay the groundwork for actually achieving this freedom to hear in church if you handle it the right way. Do not march up to the deacon board with a self-righteous sense of entitlement. Should they care that ALL may hear and participate in church? Well duh – of course they should! But we need to ask in the right way… with the right attitude. Non-profits have more freedom to say “no”. However, we can help them understand what this may mean for those who utilize t-coils in a way that our churches are eager to spend that little bit of money necessary to put in a virtually hassle-free technology that allows us to hear. If you hurl accusations about their lack of “Christian love” and belittle and chastise them… you will only insure they begin to believe that people with disabilities are demanding folks with a sense of entitlement. You may even need to show them how much you care about this issue. Offer to head up fund-raising for this technology. For many smaller churches, funds may be very limited in what they can provide even if they WANT to do so. (Hearing addresses this issue here). I have a friend in another part of the country that finally talked her church into purchasing an induction loop system. She then went straight to the local newspapers and pushed for a story to be done on what this small church was doing to provide equal access for those with hearing loss. Her church ended up getting a great deal of positive publicity… reminding all in the community what churches are suppose to be doing in the first place. (A great blog post by fellow HoHearie, Shanna Bartlett Groves can be viewed here).

Yes. I think knowing our rights and standing up for equality is important. It is the “how” that concerns me. Heaven forbid that the way I handle something negatively influence the NEXT person who has a specific life challenge! We influence the thinking of those in the general public as well…

Several weeks ago I was at Costco picking up bulk items that we insist on purchasing in case the world should end. The carts there are ginormous (hey… it’s a word!), if only to hold the huge packages of paper towels, toilet paper, and bottled water we purchase to save a little money. In the pharmacy section I was busy searching for generic antihistamine. An older couple noticed me, first by spotting Chloe and then by noticing the cochlear implant (after reading her vest). They sidled closer with genuine interest on their faces. The lady said, “That’s one of those bionic things that people use to hear better with, right?

Yes,” I replied with no small amusement. Noticing the hearing aids in the ears of the gentleman I added, “I have no regrets about getting one either!” I had to repeat this actually, for he didn’t hear me very well the first time! I started to share a little information about my own hearing loss when the man piped up and said, “Well if God wanted me to hear better than I do now, He wouldn’t have allowed me to lose my hearing.

Now I could have gotten all feisty about someone questioning my own acceptance of what God has allowed in my life. I felt a little “twinge” even – to set this man straight. But I knew this would help very little where as a gentle response would accomplish much more in the long run. “Really? I look at my cochlear implant as using technology available that HE allowed as a blessing in this day and age in which we live!” The man looked confused as he had not heard me very well, but the woman said, “Honey never mind him. He can’t HEAR. You hear so much better than he does! Where did you get your implant?” … and with that I had the opportunity to plant a seed of hope and to share information that may one day provide better hearing for this (ornery) man. It is, after all, all in the attitude!

What is your attitude as a person with disABILITY? Do you at times behave as if you are entitled? Learn to gauge the reactions of those around you as you share what could be done to help you communicate more effectively. Ask for evaluations of how you handle these situations from people who are close to you. Respect is earned. May I never behave or respond in such a way that another person with disABILITY is judged at the onset to be a person with a sense of entitlement.

Denise Portis

© 2011 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

Clift, E. (March 27, 2011). From Students, a Misplaced Sense of Entitlement. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved November 14, 2011, from