“Hearing Again” Woman #2

FOR TODAY… January 16, 2010

Outside my window…

It is dark. It is already 6:30 PM so I can’t see anything outside my window. Imagine that!

I am thinking…

The kids just left to go to a movie and I am thinking about how glad I am that they can “stand each other”. Oh sure, they argue sometimes but they also tend to get along pretty well. It’s nice they can go to a movie and just hang out if they want. It also makes me kinda miss my own siblings though!

I am hearing…

I can hear the hubby downstairs talking to his dad on the phone. This still amazes me. That I can hear someone in another room talking, recognize their voice, and even know who it is that they are talking too! I just love my cochlear implant. (Hubby talks VERY southern when he is talking to his daddy, so I know he has to be talkin’ to him right now! GRIN).

I am thankful for…

… my assistance dog. She woke me up around 1:00 AM this morning which is highly unusual. I turned on the light and asked her what the problem was. She took me to my husband who was passed out cold on the floor! She must have heard him hit! (He has a bruise on his head, so we think he hit his head on the way down). She was never trained for this and I am always amazed when she does something instinctive like this. Luckily he is fine… he had food poisoning yesterday and for whatever reason ended up passing out. I’m glad the bruise seems to be all that is evidence of his last 12 hours!

I am wearing…

Blue jeans, gray sweatshirt with black turtleneck underneath… and hiking boots.

A Cochlear Implant…

… always goes “dead” and need its batteries changed at the most inopportune time! I suppose that means that at ANY given moment of the day everything we are hearing “again” and experiencing are “important moments”. I have never heard my “warning” beep to change my batteries at a time that was convenient!

I am remembering…

… my cousin Candi tonight. I just got off perusing her Facebook and am just amazed at the distinct and genuine evidence of Christ in her life. She was just diagnosed with breast cancer and is just an amazing young mother. She has a new blog at: My Favorite Things

I am going…

… no place else today! GRIN! It’s dark and I don’t see well at night, so I’m “in for the night”. I plan to curl up with a book and read.

I need to…

Go find my NLT version of the Bible. I read something in my new ESV study Bible this morning that made me think (Proverbs 21). I wanted to see what another version said.

A disability is NOT…

… and excuse to put away your dreams. You can still have goals and dreams and find a way to reach them!

I am currently reading…

I just started Joyce Meyer’s “Managing Your Emotions”. Yeah… that’s right! I’m an emotional creature.

I am hoping…

… my mom calls me this weekend. She and Dad both had doctor appointments this week I believe. I’m anxious to see how things went.

From the kitchen…

I am going to slap a couple of sandwiches together for hubby and I. Aren’t I industrious?

Around the house…

… I need to get the clothes out of the dryer and fold them. I also need to put the “Haystacks” in an airtight ziplock bag for the kid’s college get-together tomorrow night. If there are broken pieces, I get to eat them with ZERO calories to add! Yup! Broken pieces of candy have no calories. Didn’t you know that?

One of my favorite things…

Warm clothes out of the dryer… yup! I can’t wait to go down and get those clothes! (Aren’t I strange?)

My husband…

… has been enjoying the playoffs today. I just don’t get football season or the playoffs. In the end, the only game that matters is the Super Bowl. Why not watch other things all year, and just tune into the Super Bowl each year? That just seems incredibly logical to ME!

My daughter…

… is looking forward to school starting. This is her first long winter break as she has always taken a class during the break in the past. All this free time has actually made her anxious for classes to start back. You go girl!

My son…

… is not looking forward to school starting. He seems to “relax and enjoy” better than his sister does.

My assistance dog…

… is resting quietly by my side. I’m rather surprised actually! It’s past her supper time! She usually REMINDS me by now!

A picture to share from this week…

In honor of my cousin Candi… May God bless your writing and chronicle of this new journey!

My Story

Hearing Elmo welcomes contributions by guest writers! Thank you to Tywanna for her contribution today!

By guest writer Tywanna

My Story….

I was the first born in a family of three children. As a child and later a teenager, I attended “mainstream” schools. I did what all kids do – play, get in trouble, argue with siblings, visit grandparents, take part in church activities, etc.

I first noticed the decline of my hearing while attending college. People would call my name and I wouldn’t hear them. Early on I thought it was because they were calling me from far away. At some point, I began to turn the television up louder. Again, I thought it was someone/something else. Maybe the television program was being broadcasted at a low volume.

I now wonder if people around me noticed my hearing loss before I did.

While shopping with a college roommate, I took a hearing test while in the mall. The conclusion was I had some hearing loss. I don’t recall asking to what degree or which ear. Maybe I was unwilling to accept the results. Hearing loss? Isn’t that for the elderly? What young adult asks for hearing aids? Could I start a new fashion statement on campus? Were hearing aids the “in” thing?

I must have placed the results of the hearing test in the back of my mind. Similar to placing the skillet on the back burner while the remainder of your dinner is cooking. We often place items on the back burner or in the back of the closet until we’re ready to retrieve them.

While attending college, I worked part-time and also found time to enjoy activities around campus. I made it through college just fine. I attended classes, studied hard and was successful. Maybe that one hearing test was wrong? Maybe my hearing loss wasn’t that bad. Who knows what I was thinking. I was a young adult enjoying life and having a good time.

After college I began working full-time. I was still young. I had my own apartment, my own car, and money in my pocket. What more could I ask for? Life was good.

As the years went by the hearing loss became progressively worse. I sought the help of a few more doctors and the results were the same – you’re losing your hearing. The doctors would say let’s explore hearing aids. My mind would think – WHAT? Here they go again talking about hearing loss at such a young age. I was not ready to explore that option. I wanted to know why I was losing my hearing. There must be an answer. Maybe there’s a cure. Things just don’t happen for any reason. If advances in science and technology can send a man to the moon, there must be an answer for hearing loss.

While I was searching for an answer, my hearing and understanding did not improve.

I the late 1990’s I located a doctor who tested my hearing again. This time I was open to talk about hearing aids. The audiologist showed me various models and discussed which of those would be better for me. She suggested a behind the ear (BTE) hearing aid for both ears. Again I was thinking – WHAT? At least this time the entrance door to my mind was unlocked and open for business. I recall asking could I get small hearing aids that go in the canal. She politely explained due to the severity of my lost, those would not benefit me.

I soon began experiencing life with my first set of hearing aids. They were brown and BTE. They came with a small discreet pouch and with a remote. Wow! I wore them on an as needed basis. I still felt in some situations I was doing pretty good. Little did I know I was learning to adapt. Survival is based on adaptability. My first set of hearing aids lasted for about 5 (five) years.

I went a few years without hearing aids. I was working full-time and had completed my Master’s degree. I began traveling for work and I felt I was communicating with people fairly well. I was able to watch and understand television. I was an avid moviegoer. I spent time chatting with family and friends on the telephone.

At some point my hearing took another decline. I could no longer understand people without visual cues. Television was just noise. I had to use closed caption to understand what was being said. I slowly began to stray away from the telephone. My life as I had previously known it was changing.

Their came a time when I realized that I needed another set of hearing aids. A BTE set can cost up to $5,000, and they are not covered under the medical insurance plan. I located a great doctor who performed a thorough evaluation. After many tests – MRI, CAT Scan, needle poking, etc. There was still no answer. All these years of medical advancements and no answer! What’s happening to all the funding that goes toward medical research? The doctor’s best guess was genetics. How can this be genetic if I’m the only person in the family with hearing loss? The ENT explained that I was almost deaf. I did not expect this. The tears began to flow like a stream. I couldn’t help but think why me?

Many days and nights my heart was heavy with sadness. My eyes were sore due to regular crying. My head ached due to constant thinking of hearing loss. Was I a walking medical mystery?

When I received my second set of hearing aids, I wore them faithfully. I had many consultations with the audiologist. Each time our conversation would go something like this. Me – “Is this a good brand? They don’t seem to be working very well.” Audiologist – “Yes, you have one of the best. Just give them time.”

After two years and half years of the same conversation, I had had enough. I was angry and frustrated. I expressed my feelings to the ENT and audiologist. The ENT referred me to another specialist. He stated he referred his complex cases to this other doctor. I felt somewhat relieved.

With my new doctor and audiologist, I began another chapter in life. My cochlear implant journey…..


I had to make a choice. I could continue to be sad or I could continue living. I chose the later.

After reading so many stories of others, my heart began to lighten. Who was I to complain? I saw others who were worse off than myself. There were people without food and shelter. There were people who had overcome adversity in spite of multiple disabilities. There were people who lives were turned upside down. And there were people who experienced grief beyond imaginable.

The tears that used to run freely began to dry up. Who was I to question God? The medical answer I searched for was not forthcoming. I began to realize God made me this way for a reason. There is no such thing as chance or luck. Everything is designed according to his well-orchestrated plan. God does not make mistakes. I may not have a medical answer in this lifetime, but I was determined to keep moving forward.

I no longer cared what others thought; if they did not want to be my friend, who cares. I surely didn’t. It was their lost and not mine. If they were staring at my listening devices, that means they’re curious. Curiosity can be a good thing because it can imply a change in current thinking.

I’m beginning to learn one of my purposes in life – to share and educate others. I began to speak to others about hearing loss. The door to newfound friendships opened. I was beginning to meet people like me. The shyness of my disability that used to exist was fading. The woe is me complex disappeared. I learned to become proud and comfortable with the way God made me. I’m unique, different, head strong, and I’m me!

Some days I’m happy. We’re happy when things are going right. We’re happy when things are going our way. Happiness is based on circumstance. Most of the time I’m joyous. I have joy in spite of my circumstances. Joy is finding peace in the midst of thunderstorms. Joy is finding peace in the midst of trials and tribulations. Joy is living with a calm heart.

While growing up I recall a song the choir used to sing. “I don’t feel no ways tired. I’ve come to far from where I started from. Nobody told me that the road would be easy. I don’t believe he brought me this far to leave me.” I now have a greater appreciation for those words. Where is it written that life would be easy?

I have a testimony – one of faith, the ability to bounce back, and a testimony of God’s grace and mercy. All these testimonies would not be possible if it wasn’t for a TEST. In order to testify as to the goodness of the Lord, our faith must be first be tested.

I have a hearing loss. I’m a disabled person. I’m deaf..as opposed to Deaf. When the right times comes, I pray I’m able to hear the Lord say, “well done good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23)


Braille Menus

Kyersten has always loved the outdoors... here she is on Lookout Mtn. in Georgia.

Kyersten, my “going on 20” daughter and I, went to Baltimore yesterday. She had a field trip she had to complete in order to earn some extra credit in her 200 level zoology class that she is taking. This has been a TOUGH class for her and she earnestly reasoned with me why she so desperately needed the car to go the National Aquarium. She can be pretty convincing. I had not been in awhile, so invited myself along so that I could spend some one-on-one time with her. Perhaps since we’ve recently visited some colleges on her “short list” that she will be transferring to next Fall, it was still keenly evident to me how precious little time I have left with her before life really changes! She was very willing to endure my company and cheerfully agreed (even before I promised lunch out!).

The aquarium is a great place to be with a CI and working dog. There is SO much to hear, and it can be a great place to practice using some of my special programs like “BEAM” to hear just Kyersten in a din of NOISE. It is good for Chloe, for we do not frequent really noisy places out of habit. It is good practice for her to stay calm and focused amidst all the “merry mayhem”. Towards the end she was wagging her tail at every squealing group of school children, and even met another service dog. Butch was a HUGE black lab that was built like a tank. He was very “lab-like” and friendly. He and Chloe said a brief hello and went on accompanying their partners. Chloe was much more relaxed after that – smile. A harmless moment of flirtation is enough to put the wag in the tail of my hound dog!

A Dolphin Show can be really noisy and tough to hear at with all the echo! Doesn't keep it from being REALLY FUN!

Lunch at the Cheesecake Factory

I gave Kyersten the option of several places to eat there in the Inner Harbor. She gave me one of those “duh” looks that 19-year-old’s are so good at… She loves cheesecake, so I really didn’t need to ask her! She eats a pretty light lunch there in order to save room for what is important. CHEESECAKE. Smart kid, yes?

Even though it was 12:30, we didn’t have to wait in line at all. Perhaps because it was a weekday? The young man asked us to follow him back through the restaurant. The area he led us to looked out over the promenade and one wall was all glass. I made the mistake of glancing around too much and caught site of the ceiling fans in my peripheral. I sort of “toppled” with a decided lack of GRACE into my chair. Kyersten just grinned at me, as she guessed my problem. I situated Chloe under the table, and turned to look at the young man who seated us.

“May I bring you a Braille menu, ma-am?” he asked politely.

I could see Kyersten’s eyes widen across the table.

Without missing a beat, I pointed to my CI and said, “Oh no thank you! I’m fine with this one” (and then pointed down to the regular novel-length menu on the table).

When the young man walked away, Kyersten rolled her eyes and said, “OH BRUUUTHER!”

I just grinned and said, “Hey! He was polite, and I do have a service dog with me. I toppled into the chair… for all he knows I don’t see well!”

Kyersten just looked at me, and looked at the cochlear implant on my head decorated in gold, red and green jewels for Christmas. She then looked at the opposite ear with the prominent BTE hearing aide and bright red ear mold.

She didn’t say another word, but that 2nd eye roll said it all.

Not the first, won’t be the last!

This was not the first time I’ve ever been offered a Braille menu before. I have friends with low-vision or are legally blind. I appreciate the fact that many restaurants have Braille menus!

I also appreciate it when restaurants train their employees “enough” that they have learned to recognize someone with a special need. Oh sure! They might not identify the need correctly, but I truly believe it is the thought that counts! When I have students in my ASL classes do projects like “go to the mall” without your voice and only sign, (“Deaf for a Day“), many come back to class and tell me that they were offered a Braille menu at the food court at various places. We discuss how they handled this and what this may mean.

Hearing Loss is Unique to Each Individual

Hearing loss itself is unique to every individual. The disability is not a “cookie cutter” change in hearing. I get some responses from people sometimes that do not like that I use the “disability” word. I’m OK with that, and respect their opinion and choice to not identify with that word. Personally, I am OK with admitting that I have a disability. I believe it does not strip away any power, self-esteem or pride to admit that. I am NOT, however, disabled. Yet, my disability may not be anything like that another person with hearing loss experiences.

I have Meniere’s disease. I do not meet many people with hearing loss who have Meniere’s. I am bi-modal (one CI, one hearing aid). I am more likely to meet bi-lateral people if I meet someone with a cochlear implant now! (Which I think is JUST TERRIFIC!) What they experience in their hearing loss is different than what I experience. Some people use a “bit of sign”, while others are culturally Deaf and do not use their voice at all. Some people have hearing aids that they do very well with, while others put their own in a drawer and “fake it” through life. I hear very well in quiet to “medium-noise” environments. I don’t even have to speech read anymore thanks to the wonderful technology of my Nucleus Freedom! However, in really noisy environments I do have to speech read even when using special programs. Other people with cochlear implants may do better in noisy situations.

I have had the privilege of participating in various forums, workshops, conferences and conventions. I have seen people with hearing loss really become defensive with other people with hearing loss. You know? (scratching head and really ponderin’ on that) I just don’t get that! So what if someone hands you a Braille menu! Were they genuinely trying to help? Does it matter that they don’t realize your hearing loss is different than their own? Perhaps they do not understand that what works for them may not work for you. Why come unglued and act defensive?

Here are a few real-life examples I have observed:

1. A person with hearing loss walked up to another person with hearing loss and pointed to their wires connected to their body-worn processor for their cochlear implant. “Why on earth would you wear something like that with all those wires showing?” Oh yeah… that produced a positive response!

2. “Bling” on cochlear implants and hearing aids are often disdained by other people with hearing loss.

3. “Why would you go with THAT company for your CI? The one I went with is so much better and their success rate is much higher!” (Should we just be happy someone is HEARING AGAIN?)

4. “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch the last part of what you said”. “What? You have a cochlear implant now, shouldn’t you be hearing better than I am with two hearing aids?” (Yeah… as long as you aren’t talking while crunching raw broccoli, bozo…)

Let’s face it! We will likely meet someone else with hearing loss who has chosen different techniques, coping mechanisms and technology in order to live life to its fullest. They may hand us a Braille menu. Our response should be positive… and let them know we genuinely appreciate their attempt to be helpful. An angry retort, thrown “menu”, defensive attitude and “hearing loss sermon” will not bring anything positive out of their mistake. Relax. Smile. Educate in a positive way.

Denise Portis

© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal


Raindrops on Roses

rose Some of you may have seen the title of this post and cringed. Me? I’m not ashamed to admit that I love “The Sound of Music“. I remember watching the musical on television as a kid, which very likely resulted in my seeing it at least once a year. As a young adult I purchased the movie in VHS, and saw it with closed captioning for the first time. Later, I asked for the DVD version! So now if I’m really in the mood I can slip downstairs, watch it, and sing along! (At least… if one of my teens turns the T.V. on and instructs me AGAIN about the TIVO remote!)

The Discover of Re-Discovery

You may HATE “The Sound of Music” – normally made evident by the cringe and shudder that rips through your body when you hear the name – but everyone has a list of “favorite things”. You may not even be AWARE that you have a list of “favorite things”, but you do! It’s there… tucked away in the corner of every person’s mind. Your list may not include raindrops on roses, but you have special things that make you smile with simply the thought of those “special things”.

I try to periodically look through my own special list and perhaps make updates or “tweek” it a bit! Yes (embarassed grin), my list is actually typed out and saved on my computer. But honestly! Did you expect any less from ME?

If you haven’t thought about your own list of “favorite things” in awhile, I encourage you to do so. You see? I believe it is important to re-discover the simple things that make us happy. Don’t fool yourself into thinking it is all about money either. You could win the lottery, sure… but you’d only be rich, not necessarily happy. I think you will discover like I did, that my “favorite things” list consists of relatively simple, yet heart-warming pleasures!

The Ever-Evolving “Favorite Things”

It may have been awhile since you really sat and thought about your own list of “favorite things”. In fact, it may have been so long since you indulged in this luxury of thought, that your list has changed quite a bit. I admit that at 43-years-old, my list looks different than it did when I was 23-years-old. Yup! A few things are reminiscent of my younger decades! For example I will always love “Curling up in my pajamas with a good book and a candle burning nearby”.

Obviously, my life has so dramatically changed since the activation of my cochlear implant, I have numerous new “favorite things” that make sounds. A cat’s purr, my hound dog’s longsuffering SIGH, and miracle of miracles? On a quiet afternoon on the back porch this summer, I heard the beating of a hummingbird’s wings. That was a real jaw-dropper for me, and one that I’m sure will be permanently etched in my own list of “favorite things”!

Care of the world on your shoulders? Worrying? Making mountains out of mole-hills? Just feeling blue?

“I simply remember my favorite things… and then I don’t feel… so bad!”

(If any of you ever find the video with captions, let me know?)

I’m not remiss in remembering to thank God for my “favorite things”. I’m certain the times I spy a double rainbow, He is tickled to have provided something special for me on a day I needed a glimpse of a “favorite thing”!

Denise Portis

© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal

Get My Attention First

Denise and Chloe at the Aquarium in Baltimore Aug. 23, 2009
Denise and Chloe at the Aquarium in Baltimore Aug. 23, 2009

Dog Training 101

When I first began training at Fidos For Freedom in Laurel, Maryland, I learned from trainer Tracy B. that it is very important to use your dog’s name. This was especially important on the training floor where there were numerous dogs present all of which were being given obedience commands by their human partner. Calling the dog’s name gets their attention first. Follow that with a command about what you what them to do, and then lavish praise.

Even though I only attend the trainings on average twice a month now, I still make it a habit to use Chloe‘s name first. We have another dog that is never far from Chloe when she is home. Tyco is our family dog and is a two-year-old Norwegian Elkhound. He’s a “dog’s dog”. Oh sure… he loves us, but he idolizes Chloe. So where Chloe is, Tyco is there as well.

My husband was running into a road block on the stairs when he first arrived home from work. Both dogs would park on the stairs – entire bodies all “a-wag” waiting for him to acknowledge them.

I have finally taught Terry actual obedience commands (you CAN teach an old dog new tricks) so instead of saying, “Would you please MOVE?” he will say “move” with some authority in his voice instead of a question. The only problem was that he failed to use either dog’s name. I had to remind my “old dog” that he needed to use their name first. Now when he arrives home he will say, “Chloe move” (and she does), and “Tyco move” (and he does only because he follows Chloe – GRIN).

When he gets to the top of the stairs, he can put his things down and greet the dogs “proper-like”.

Hearing with a CI

When you have a hearing loss for twelve years and then receive a cochlear implant, you still do not hear perfectly. In spite of the fact that CI’s are bionics, you will also discover that you are not Jamie Sommers who can hear BETTER than folks with normal hearing. As a matter of fact, hearing takes WORK. Don’t get me wrong… I LOVE what I’m hearing and am so thankful for this technology! In a quiet room with few distractions, I can usually carry on a conversation without even having to look at you!

Let’s face it… the world is not a quiet place and the times I find that I’m trying to have a conversation in a quiet room are few and far between. Instead there is normally background noise. It can be noises like the television, stereo, pets, restaurant noise, crowd noise, etc. So the majority of the time I am trying to hear ONLY your voice amidst all the sounds my CI picks up for me. I have special programs (Smartsound NOISE or FOCUS) that allow me to pull only what I’m looking at closer; a type of directional microphone really! However, it is NOT a perfect solution. The background noise never stays at a constant level. It can get louder or softer. Hearing will never again be something that just “happens” for me.

It takes work.

I must concentrate.

It’s a shame I don’t burn calories!

Is it any wonder why late-deafened folks are so exhausted at the end of the day? I require 8-9 hours of sleep each night. If I don’t get it, I do not function at 100% the next day. I’ve had days where a sick teen or ill service dog have kept me up most of the night. I rarely even attempt wearing my “ears” (cochlear implant and hearing aid) the next day as I know I will hear little since I cannot concentrate.

Use My Name Please

It is very helpful to first use the name of someone you are conversing with that has a hearing loss. Hearing with a CI, I learned pretty quickly that in a crowd of noise it is in my best interest to work at tuning out all the sound. I recognize my name very easily, even among the buzz of voices around me. I’ve always been very thankful my name starts with a harsh consonant! Hearing my name first allows me to identify who is addressing me. I can turn and face them and begin concentrating in earnest.

Unless we are having a face-to-face conversation, I may look away from you after we have visited a bit to see if Chloe is doing as I asked (normally a down/stay or stand/stay). Or, I may smile at people across the room, wave, etc. If I am not looking at you, it is VERY helpful to say my name again to let me know you are talking to me again. It gets my attention. My CI zeros in on the voice. I’ve even been able to discern my name coming from the mouth of someone across the room! I think the most difficult listening situation is to be in a small group of people who are talking in a larger room with other small groups talking. You find that you are “part of the group” and attempt following the conversation as different speakers say different things. It can be exhausting!

Look at Me Please

I find it amusing that people with hearing loss are often the worst communicators. At my local HLAA (Hearing Loss Assoc. of America) meeting recently, I attempted to have a conversation with someone after the meeting. People were talking and standing around; some were busy tearing things down. There was a LOT of noise. The person I was trying to talk to spoke to their feet. Granted… they had the nicest brown sandals I have seen in awhile. Out of habit I looked to see what they were looking at while they spoke. I had to apologize several times and ask them to repeat something. At one point, this person’s attention was snagged by the activity of another member who was cleaning up the snacks. The person I was talking to turned to see what this other member was doing. I could tell they were still talking, but it became a buzz of sound as soon as they turned their back to me.

I said, “Pardon me? I missed that part after you said what you did about the recent rains”.

They looked at me exasperated and said, “Even though you have a cochlear implant now you don’t hear any better than I do!”

I decided to walk away (as I didn’t think I could speak “kindly”). They were on their way to grab a snack before they all disappeared anyway.

You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!

I have learned a few things in the four years I have been “hearing again”. It is OK to stand next to someone who WAS talking to you and wait until you are spoken to again. A touch on my arm, or using my name alerts me to the fact that you wish to speak to me again. When I was first activated, I would attempt to not look as if I were ESCAPING after someone finished talking to me. I’d go and find a quiet place and look with wide eyes at the different groups of people standing around talking. If someone waved and then started toward me, I would “brace myself” for the difficulty in conversing with them.

Now I can stand in a crowd of people and wait to be acknowledged. If no one gets my attention, I am at ease. I find that I am even brave enough to start a conversation on my own. After all, I pursued a cochlear implant so that I could continue talking to the people in my life.

This week my schoolwork was interrupted by an “incoming IM” from my daughter. She was in between classes and wrote, “Hey mom! Do you have your ears in? Can I call you?”

Seconds later I was talking to her on the phone. Perhaps this isn’t a big deal to those of you who hear normally. But I haven’t been using the phone for very long. Even after receiving a cochlear implant, it took a lot of practice and courage to start using the phone.

… and here I was in the middle of the day

… talking to my daughter

… on the phone.

I cried.

But they were happy tears!

Denise Portis

© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal

Sweating Pullets

pullet Yesterday our air quit working. I had been painting all day, and was “hot” anyway so did not notice it seemed rather warm in the house. However, as soon as my husband walked in the door around 5:30 PM, he checked the thermostat and discovered the air was not working. We did everything WE knew to do, and then knuckled down for a long night.

I posted on Facebook the fact that our air wasn’t working. Misery loves company, right? Actually a couple in our church just had their air conditioner fixed THIS WEEK. Rick commented on my status and mentioned something about having “sweated bullets” the night they had to wait out the repairman.

Sweating bullets“? As soon as I saw it typed there I knew it was wrong and was seconds away from allowing my fingertips to “tease him mercilessly” about the mistake. Something in me paused though. I decided that before I teased him about using the phrase “sweating bullets” instead of the correct form “sweating pullets”, I’d better look it up and see where the phrase came from in the first place.

Well of course there is no such phrase. Rick was right. I was stumped.

Hearing it Wrong my Whole Life

Although I didn’t become completely deaf until the age of 37 after twelve years of progressive hearing loss, I have had a slight hearing loss most of my life due to a pedestrian-car accident as a child. I had never SEEN the phrase written out. I had only HEARD the phrase a great deal.

As I tried to digest how in the world I got this phrase wrong my entire life, I realized there were several factors involved:

1. I had a hearing loss and “heard” the phrase sweating pullets.

2. I was raised on a farm and we had chickens.

3. In CONTEXT, the phrase was used in conjunction with: feeling afraid, anxiety, “scared to death”, feeling “chicken”

4. pullet = chicken

It made PERFECT sense to me!

Gulp. Ok the REAL Meaning?

From “Answer.com” the real meaning of this idiom is:

Perspire profusely; also, suffer mental anguish. For example, We were sweating bullets, sitting in the sun through all those graduation speeches, or It was their first baby, and David was sweating bullets while Karen was in labor. The bullets in this expression allude to drops of perspiration the size of bullets. [Slang; mid-1900s]

But ya know? This just doesn’t jive with me! I mean… who first saw large drops of sweat pouring off someone’s face and equated the size with bullets? Why bullets? Why not marbles? How about ear plugs? Huh? (sigh)

It’s really difficult to re-train my thinking. All my life I have heard “SWEATING PULLETS” and it meant “chicken, scared to death”.


Just to be safe I went to look up “fraidy cat”. After all, I may have been hearing it wrong. For all I knew it was really, “frayed kneecap”.


Denise Portis

© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal

Plague of Small Things

sadI’m not sure where I first heard the phrase, “When it rains, it pours…” Perhaps from my mother who seems to be full of sage advice and quick with witty and appropriate tidbits of philosophical opinion.

It does seem that trouble comes in waves, breaking against my legs and threatening to topple me caboose first in the white foam of an incoming tide. I’m currently CHOOSING TO PARTICIPATE in great number of small worries. Why I seem so eager to engage in shouldering every care , I have no idea! I’m prone to do this and have to place some checks and balances in my life so that I don’t become truly handicapped!

Series on Job

My church recently finished a series of studies on the book of Job. How that man endured the loss he experienced in one day is beyond me! The Bible tells us that one messenger of bad news followed on the heel of another. “While he was yet speaking, there came another and said,” repeats four times in chapter one. I picture Job sitting there with a stunned look on his face while one messenger after another came to tell him his oxen and donkeys were stolen and servants killed, fire from heaven destroyed his sheep and servants, his camels were stolen and servants killed, and finally a natural disaster… a great wind… collapsed the house where all of his children and their families were feasting. No one survived! It always makes my own problems seem so minor!

And yet… it does seem that at times our worries, problems, stresses and cares come all at once. It can make us feel overwhelmed. They don’t even have to be BIG things, although at times they are! I think of friends who are facing cancer, advanced Lyme, depression and the loss of a home. Many of us experience a bunch of small problems all at once… a plague of small things. It is surprising how HEAVY these small burdens can be when shouldered all at the same time.

A Strange Song

A very strange, rather corny song has been going through my head this morning. I have so many things I have to accomplish this weekend I’m a wee bit overwhelmed. Chloe is even feeling my stress and does her best to cajole me into at least a snuggle moment or two! After my morning tea I found myself humming a song that I couldn’t place the name too. I even started singing the parts I remembered out loud in an attempt to trigger my memory of where I’ve heard it before! I’m fairly sure I was singing in tune too as I have my CI on! (smile) Chloe cocked her head and looked at me like I had lost it when I started deliberately placing my feet one in front of the other! Then it hit me! “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”! Now if you were born after 1980, you may have never even seen the cartoon. However it use to be one of my favorite!

Kris Kringle just befriended the Winter Warlock, whose icy heart had never known true friendship or love. Kris gave him a gift and it melted that hard, cold heart! However, Winter Warlock despaired of being able to change! After all, he’d lived his entire existence as a burdened, angry cold-hearted grump! He worried out loud to Kris,

“But will it last?” and “… it is so difficult to REALLY change!”  His concern was that this change of heart would continue. Would he revert to his old ways? Could he truly release his cares?

Kringle replied, “Difficult? Why look here, change from bad to good is as easy as taking your first step!”

He then bursts into song… “Put One Foot in Front of the Other”.They shuffled side-by-side as Kringle taught Winter Warlock how to take ONE step at a time.

I had to look up the lyrics so that I could entertain the dogs with more than just the chorus. Oh that we would all learn to release one care at a time! Change occurs one determined moment at a time. Releasing stress happens one deep breath at a time. Parking your semi loaded with burdens in the driveway of a Heavenly Father who CAN handle it, happens one trip at a time!

I leave you with the lyrics, which explains a wonderful mindset far better than I can!

Song Lyrics

Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking cross the floor
Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking out the door

You never will get where you’re going
If you never get up on your feet
Come on, there’s a good tail wind blowing
A fast walking man is hard to beat

Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking cross the floor
Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking out the door

If you want to change your direction
If your time of life is at hand
Well don’t be the rule be the exception
A good way to start is to stand

Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking cross the floor
Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking out the door

If I want to change the reflection
I see in the mirror each morn
You mean that it’s just my election
To vote for a chance to be reborn

(repeat chorus twice)

Denise Portis

© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal

Hearing Hail

Last Friday we had a terrific storm that dropped some nice size hail in our area. Normally the big storms come through at night and I’m asleep in my bed oblivious to the sounds of nature as my CI is in the “Dry ‘n Store”. For this storm, I was awake… and really enjoyed hearing it!

Our dogs couldn’t really understand my fascination, but they stood by the front door with me while I watched and listened. I was even able to get my son away from his computer for a minute to “come and listen”!

Denise Portis

© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal

Hearing at the GYN

chloe at door

Chloe is so accustomed to going everywhere with me, imagine her shock when I put her in her crate this morning to head to an early morning doctor visit! She goes to all my doctor visits with me, but as I’m still recovering from a sinus/respiratory infection I chose to leave her home for this particular visit as it is harder to keep track of her at the GYN’s office. Wouldn’t you know when I get there they all want to know where Chloe is? (I brought her last year).

Hearing at the Front Desk

The women’s medical plaza that I go to for my GYN visit is a big beautiful place. As you walk in the door, you enter a huge atrium and are completely surrounded by glass. It’s a huge, cavernous place and the echo off the rock, tile and marble is frustrating if you hear with a cochlear implant. I normally do pretty good. However, if you factor in that this is a OB/GYN office, there are various newborn babies crying in the waiting room as “mom” awaits a post-natal appointment with her doctor. There is a wonderful medical television service that discusses various “hot” topics among patients and provides nifty “quizzes” while you wait. They aren’t captioned, but I do really well if I’m sitting within 15 feet or so. However, if your goal while standing at the check-in desk is to communicate with the ladies behind the desk, that added background noise is not really “welcome“.

I asked for a couple of repeats as the friendly ladies at the desk … TALK to their desk as I’m checking in and providing responses to various questions. I happened to spy my chart open and so at one point after the lady again asked something of her DESK, I quickly reached down and tapped the card stapled to the front of my chart. I made the card myself and so easily recognized it. It has a picture of my smiling face and my cochlear implant with sparkly BLING above a paragraph explaining that I hear with a cochlear implant. It is very helpful if you face me when you speak so that I can pick up any visual cues and/or read lips if I miss what you are saying. The receptionist read where my finger was still pointed, looked up and beamed a big smile at me.

“Sorry about that!” she grinned.

“Not a problem”, I grinned back.

(They are the grinning’est office I’ve ever been in… )

Calling my Name and the Nurse’s Station

Because I’m concentrating and paying attention, I don’t have any problem hearing my name called. Sometimes I see other people in waiting rooms and they are deeply engrossed in a magazine, book, or their cell phone (grimace). I’m amazed that their name being called can bring them out of their “fog”, and to the realization that it is now their turn. I guess I’ve had a hearing loss so long, I don’t completely understand how people “hear without trying”.

So back to the nurse’s station I go and I get to go pee in a cup! That’s always such a joy (rolls eyes). Next… on to a room and the nurse asks me questions about my paperwork and takes my blood pressure. 128/76 which is VERY good for me when I’m in the doctor’s office. I monitor it at home as well since hypertension runs in my family, but normally when I go to the doctor my pressure is UP. I guess that means that although I’m smiling it’s not my favorite place to be? The nurse then tells me to “undress” and to remember the robe opens in the front and hands me a paper “drape”. (OH JOY). I repeat everything in order to make sure I understood correctly. I mean… who wants to get THIS wrong?


I have a new doctor because my old doctor of six years left the practice. Her name is Denise, so ya know… she must be pretty good! (smile). Seriously, though she was very thorough and was great about facing me and talking in a normal tone of voice. She asked me about my CI, and was pretty fascinated by the technology. She was very “game” for my request of “how to do this” as I’ve discovered a tried and true practice of how to talk to a doctor when your feet are in stirrups and you have a hearing loss.

I left my email at the check out counter so that that they can email the results to me. The receptionist at the check out desk said “no problem”. I explained that I hadn’t put my email address on anything, and could I write it down for her? Again… no problem, but hey! I’ve walked away before and then they never contact me!

As I was leaving, I felt what I’m sure ladies with normal hearing felt. Thank GOODNESS this only happens once a year.

Denise Portis

© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal

What’s Mine is Yours – What’s Yours is Yours (Most of the Time!)

Sharing some things is not difficult for Chloe
Sharing some things is not difficult for Chloe

Sharing “Stuff”

Having an assistance dog, means that I should strive to understand the “pack” in which I’ve brought Chloe to live. An assistance dog is not ever suppose to be “pack leader”. That’s my job, and the hierarchy trickles down through various family members until the canine members of the pack are finally represented. I’m not sure an assistance dog should be “head honcho” of the canine crew, but frankly the dogs in our family could never be “leader”.

Tyco, our Elkhound adolescent and family dog, is a major pushover and adores the ground on which Chloe treads. He follows her around with major PUPPY LOVE written all over his face. It practically oozes from ever pore of his wiggle, curly-tailed body. He’d let her eat his food, and sleep in his bed and simply lick her with infatuation while stepping aside to let her do so. I have to keep an “eye on it”, as she would take advantage if I let her!

Gingery’s Baby Pegasus (or Peg for short) is a naked juvenile ex-show dog with a shock of flashy white hair in all the right places. Frankly… I don’t think Chloe is completely certain he even IS a dog. When he barks, all the dogs stop dead in their tracks to turn and observe. Chloe will share her bed with Pegasus; after all, who can say no to a shivering “ain’t got no hair”, pack member?

Ebony is an ancient, black Pomeranian who sleeps 22 hours a day. When she walks I can hear her bones creak, and folks? I’m deaf. She has an enlarged heart, cancer “somewhere”, collapsing trachea, alopecia, kidney disease, and she’s deaf and blind. One drops like a rock if the “little bit” should happen to breathe on you. Chloe doesn’t have any problem sharing with her, for frankly she rarely sees her.

Chloe shares with the other dogs very well, and she shares with one of the three cats like Kiki is her best friend come over for “milk and cookies” and girly talk.

One thing Chloe will not share is the loveseat in the family room, and her walks with me. The latter I don’t mind, for honestly I haven’t a clue how I’d walk yet one more dog as I have enough problems walking with just Chloe on really bad balance days. The “MY LOVESEAT” in the family room gets a little old sometimes. I watch television (thanks to TIVO’d programing) about twice a week. When we go to the family room, Chloe knows I’m there for an hour or two and I give her a major “love on” scratch, massage, and belly rub the entire time we share that seat. It’s a wonder I don’t have carpal tunnel. If any dog even comes close to the loveseat she growls a threat and a row of hair stands up along her spine that has my daughter convinced she’s part Rhodesian Ridgeback. I let her know that growling is simply not allowed. I can’t very well fuss at her for giving a “look” if any dog creeps too close, but by golly they have sure learned to respect that knowing LOOK. As there are plenty of comfy and warm places to curl up all over our family room, I don’t worry to much that anyone is being neglected.

People normally have a fairly good idea what can be shared. It normally begins long before kindergarten, and we learn that sharing is “nice” and it makes mama happy. As we get older, sharing is still one of those ingrained rules but we do draw the line at items regarding hygiene, or perhaps requested Double-Stuffed Oreos when one is responsibile enough to write it on the list. (I added that last part for a 19-year-old daughter that rarely requests anything, and even more rarely writes it on the list to be purchased and then practically HIDES her stash!) People who share are defined as “giving, generous, considerate, charitable, unselfish and magnanimous”. (Actually, that last word has never actually crossed my lips, but it certainly looks appropriate!)

Sharing Feelings

Dogs just do not seem to have any trouble sharing feelings. If their entire body has gone “all a-wag”, you know they are happy. If they avoid eye contact and look away, they are feeling nervous and uneasy. If they stick their hind end in the air they want to play. If they bring you their leash and sit and stare at you until you “notice”, they may be trying to share their joy of exercise. Dogs rarely have trouble opening up, and if you are really good at it, canine body language can really help you get to know your dog. (Thanks to trainer Tracy at Fidos For Freedom, I’m a big fan of Canine Body Language – A Photographic Guide by Brenda Aloff).

People are more difficult to read, and often have trouble sharing feelings. People have to practice being vulnerable and readable. I’ve been reading the daily journal at Caring Bridge from a fellow mom who was recently diagnosed with cancer. She doesn’t have any trouble sharing her feelings, and frankly I’m often compelled to sit and reflect after reading what she views as most important on any given day.

I’ve a friend whom I’ve knitted my heart too for simply experiencing disability and life much as I do. (Small wonder THAT being that I cannot knit, but only crochet). She shares her feelings in two different blogs, and for a moment in time I’m sitting along side her seeing, hearing, tasting, and experiencing everything that she is. She’s THAT good at writing.

If you’ve lived enough of life, you know that it isn’t always safe to share your feelings. Tragic that we live in the kind of world that we do where there are situations that warrants keeping your feelings hidden. All of us know someone who is “toxic” to our lives. They’ve burned us so many times, we have scar tissue. When they are around we don a hazmat suit and deliberately hide who we are to them in hopes they’ll simply leave as quickly as possible. If we were a dog, we’d yawn and look away and pant nervously. Since we are people we smile and “play nice”, collapsing against the door in relief after we’ve seen them off.

Yes, we all have people like this in our lives, but something we should stop and think about is, “Are you this person to another?” May it never be said that someone waits anxiously for me to leave because I’m dangerous to their well being.

Sharing Faith

Why is it so difficult to share something that is so important? My faith is the single most important area of my life. Why? It SAVED my life. I don’t use religion as a crutch, for the truth of the matter is my faith freed me from a lot of negative things. I don’t think being a person of faith makes me a weak person, for people who have REAL faith are normally very strong. (Not that I don’t have my weak moments!)

My son loves “The Rebelution” and has read the book, joined the “cause” and challenges himself to make a difference in the lives of those who are IN HIS. A “funny”, yet true video clip posted there recently really made me think. You can view it here.

I hope that when people spend any time with me at all, it doesn’t take them long to learn the following:

1. I have a disability, and am ok with it. I wouldn’t change it if I could.

2. I love dogs, and welcome the addtion of an assistance dog in my life. She gives me independence.

3. I have a cochlear implant and don’t care who sees it. As a matter of fact seeing it will remind you that I don’t hear like you do.

4. I love my family, and joyfully color my hair to disguise all the gray hair living and loving them have brought.

5. I love others, and may unexpectedly throw my arms around your neck to prove it true.

6. I love my God, and do not mind sharing why my faith is so important to me.

7. It doens’t bother me if you believe differently than I do. I respect others, and have found most people respect my views as well.

8. I like green tea, white cheddar popcorn and blackberries.

(Actually I just threw #8 in to confuse you. If you knew this already, then we are pretty TIGHT).

The best kind of faith sharing is that which simply “happens” because you are living life as you always do. I want my faith to be such a natural “side-effect” of Denise, it just naturally creeps up and gooses you from time to time.

Denise Portis

© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal