Random Contemplations

istock_woman_thinking.70184934 I was trying to fall asleep last night and decided to brainstorm about what I could write about this week. It’s been an “uneventful” week, which is really a good thing! I don’t mind uneventful weeks.

As I tried to think of something that might interest YOU, I realized that my brain was busy with random contemplations. Some were serious. Some were… erm –

NOT.

1. Why is it that now I am over 40 I get these stray hairs on my CHIN? And why must these hairs have roots that stretch all the way to your big toe? It’s the only reason I can think of that when you pull one with the tweezers your big toe curls as you scream.

2. Why is it that I enjoy hearing with my cochlear implant so much, and yet there is a certain relief to remove it at night before bed? Perhaps it is just the knowledge that I always know I’ll sleep well (unless I’m brainstorming). Perhaps it’s because there is a difference between hearing and hearing WELL? It takes work in the form of attentiveness, concentration and perseverance to communicate in this noisy world. I’m not complaining… I’m just sayin’! Relief!

3. Why do dogs turn around three times before they lay down? Why do three of our dogs turn in “one direction” before they lay down, and one of the dogs always turns in the other? Is he “left-handed”?

4. Why is it so difficult to find plain sweettarts in a roll? Who carries those now? I can’t find them anywhere!

5. Why does my cochlear implant always give me a warning “beep” that the batteries are low when I’m driving in the car? Why can’t it happen at home before I leave? How DOES IT KNOW? Sigh.

6. Why do young adult kids in college sigh and roll their eyes if you knock on their door to bother them while they are doing homework, yet will pop into my office to bother me while I’m doing homework of my own now? Why doesn’t it matter to me? I drop everything and give them my undivided attention and sit and contemplate how special they are after they leave. I’m pretty sure they don’t do that when I leave THEIR room!

7. Why am I the only one that can close the bread properly? I don’t even eat a lot of bread! How hard is it to twist the excess plastic at the end, and twist a “twistie-tie” around it? It apparently requires a college degree.

8. Why does God always send me “something” just when I need it most? Whether it be a verse, or an email/post from a friend who cares, or a song? I had forgotten how much a song can do for the soul, and try to “tune in” now that I can hear again. Sometimes? I don’t even realize how much I need something from God until He sends something my way.

9. How did I let blackberry season come and go and not get out somewhere to pick some? What will I do this winter without blackberries to eat? I’m going to have to corner friends next year and beg them to go with me.

10. Why does it seem like we don’t have time to send someone a “real” card (not an e-card)? It isn’t until I get one in the mail myself that reminds me why it is so nice to see the real hand-writing from someone who cares.

11. Why does Chloe bark at horses if she’s in the car, causing my cochlear implant to stop (ADRO program) because her bark is too loud, but when she sees a horse face-to-face and outside the car she tries to hide behind my legs?

12. Why do people say men are from Mars and women are from Venus? Cripes, people… we are all living on EARTH. Get over it! Yeah we act different, but that makes life interesting.

13. How does Chloe know when I turn my alarm off the night before I know I can sleep in? She must have an internal alarm clock, because she gets me up at the same time regardless. If my alarm is SET and goes off, the licks my arm or hand and bumps my face. If my alarm is NOT set, she jumps on the bed and tackles me?

14. Why do I love bananas, but cannot stand banana pudding, popsicles, taffy or moon pies? Sorry… can’t add much to this one.

15. Why is that I felt like my mom was a know-it-all growing up, and now that I don’t live with her I realize she really did? I miss my mom…

16. Why can’t the Denver Broncos have a winning team? I mean… I miss the Orange Crush. I even (gulp) miss Elway. Somebody shoot me…

17. How hard can it be to find the LOTR trilogy in DVD? I can’t find it ANYWHERE because they are coming out with Blue Ray soon. What about those of us who still use regular ol’ DVD players?

18. Why is it that I have a college degree and am in grad school and can’t work a remote? I can’t even turn ON our television. There is one remote that turns it on, one that runs the TIVO, and one that runs the volume. My kids can do it, and I cannot.

19. Why are solitary walks (with perhaps just a dog by your side) one of the most peaceful things a person can do? Why don’t I deliberately and habitually make time to do something that brings me so much peace?

20. What’s not to love about Facebook? I love to look at … faces.

Denise Portis

© 2009 Hearing Loss Journal

“I’ll take ‘Dead Dogs Can’t’ for $600, Alec”

aacc3

(Alec) “For $600, the answer is… a video clip”:

(Denise) bites nails… “Umm, ‘What is ROLL MY OWN BLANKET’?”

(APPLAUSE)

Kyersten and I attended a play at her college yesterday afternoon.  She attends AACC and had one requirement for ‘Fine Arts Survey’, that she hasn’t been particularly excited about completing.  She had to attend one of the performing art productions and then write about it in a two-page paper.  Somehow, I managed to allow myself to be talked into going with her.  ‘Chalk it up’ to wanting to expose Chloe to new things, while attending something I use to enjoy tremendously – a musical.  “Guys and Dolls” was actually very good and I’m glad I attended.

We arrived early in order to find a good place to sit.  I was thankful I chose to do so, as our tickets had me sitting in an aisle where the floor sloped dramatically towards the stage.  Since I didn’t want Chloe to slide down through the audience during the show, I quickly found a manager and asked permission to change our seats to a section where the floor was level.

We settled into our seats and waited as the opening act was still about 10 minutes away.  A couple scooted around behind us and passed Chloe and I on the left.  The woman jumped a little bit, and slapped a hand to her chest as she looked down at Chloe.  Chloe looked up from a perfect down/stay (perfect because she had already drifted off – smile)

The woman exclaimed, “Oh my… I thought she was DEAD!”

I looked at her with rather bewildered astonishment, and said, “I’m sorry?  What?(I said this while signing “sorry”.  It’s hysterical to me that even when I hear, I start signing if I don’t understand.  Like that clears it up for me?)

She repeated, “Oh, I thought SHE WAS DEAD!

Her husband took her elbow and they moved on down the aisle. Perhaps he wanted to take her to a more private location to HAVE HER HEAD EXAMINED!  I looked over at Kyersten with my eyebrows raised, while Chloe laid her head back down and continued her imitation of a dead dog.  Kyersten has a flair for the understated “duh“.

“Yes,” she snorted rather unladylike, “we carried a dead dog in here and laid it down on a blanket!”  She said it under her breath, but loud enough for me to hear.  (What this lady said must have bothered Kyersten too, as she later whispered, “I think she was just so startled to see a dog, that she said the first thing that POPPED into her head!” She rationalizes well, don’t you think?)

We giggled about it for a few minutes.

———————

SIDE NOTE: I have a very weird sense of humor and my thought process is rather… erm… unique.  I just talked to a trainer at the “Ask the Trainer” booth for the 10th annual Stroll ‘n Roll, “how do you get your dog to fetch something new?”

Tracy B., talked to me about how to teach Chloe to fetch my cane.  (Santa is bringing me one for Christmas because I’ve been a ‘good little girl’)  You start with simply clicking and treating when she TOUCHES what you want her to notice.

So I pictured:

“Chloe… touch the silly lady…”  (Chloe gets up and pushes her nose on the hand of the lady who thought she was dead) Good touch Chloe! (Click… treat…)

Yeah.  Like I said… I have a strange sense of humor…

——————-

The performance was nicely done, and I was rather proud of how much I heard AND understood with the help of my cochlear implant.  As musicals have much of the story line put to “song”, it’s rather important to be able to not only hear the spoken lines, but the ones that are belted out to music as well.

Chloe did great too.  She slept through the whole thing with the exception of one scene where a police officer blew a whistle while chasing after the gangsters involved in “Crap games”.  She sat straight up and peered over the heads of those in front of us and watched the chase.  I threw my arms around her neck to talk to her quietly and to insure I could feel any bark getting ready to erupt from her chest.  Fidos For Freedom Inc., does such a great job preparing these dogs for new experiences even from the puppy stage! Chloe simply settled back down immediately after being given the assurance that “all is well”. (Plus the acknowledgment that she wasn’t invited to participate in the chase!)

Sometimes people with disabilities give up on even trying to participate in things they once enjoyed.  They don’t believe that they can make a difference.  They can easily get caught in a vicious cycle of thinking they ‘can’t do anything’ and therefore think ‘everyone should do things for them’.  Don’t get me wrong – there are things people cannot do if they have a hearing loss and have a cochlear implant.  I can’t deep-sea dive, nor hear really well in places with a tremendous amount of background noise.  I can’t fit in a size 4 dress either… although that may be a bit off-topic.

People who hear VERY well, have things they cannot do.  No one in my family has a hearing loss but me, yet they can’t deep-sea dive either!  (OK, I might should clarify that the fact of the matter is, no one in my family can swim!)

But every individual is capable of “something”.  Every person can make a difference.  You know that scary stairwell I talked about here?  In the very corner of the picture, you can see the edge of a wheelchair.  This wheelchair belongs to one of my students.  She was born with a disability that makes things like walking – – difficult.  Yet, she

comes to classes,

leaves her chair at the top of the stairwell,

with assistance goes down the steps,

and then cheerfully grabs her walker and heads to her classes in the basement area.

She doesn’t walk well… but to know her is to love her. She always smiles, and is graceful and beautiful in her performance of music in sign.

I’ve met a number of bloggers through the internet who also have disabilities.  Each and every one of them make a difference,

somewhere,

to someone.

… and you can too!

Denise Portis

© 2008 Hearing Loss Journal

Acceptance is…

Have you ever had a time in your life where you realized that accepting the way things are is all you can do right now?

The advocate in me chafes at what acceptance means. There is a part of me that yearns to be instrumental in change; that other late-deafened adults will be encouraged and helped by the things I do. In the public arena I try to be a good example, a positive influence that stimulates change in access, communication strategies, and coping mechanisms.

As a person with a working dog and one who has carefully counted the cost of what that means, I want to be a good role model. I hope to help create an awareness that there are other types of working dogs that are not guide dogs for the blind. I want to be instrumental in other’s acceptance of other types of working dogs.

It is much easier for me to “go to bat” for others. If it means a sacrifice will help someone else, I do so with little thought about whether or not I should. However, exerting emotional, mental and physical efforts in which the end result helps only me? Well… that is much harder!

When I first began losing my hearing, I lived in North Carolina. I had a friend who had a great deal of experience in working with people with hearing loss. Thoroughly exasperated one day, she put her hands on her hips and exclaimed, “Denise! You are the most difficult person to HELP! If and when we can, would you just sit down and LET US?” To this day, it is still something I struggle with each and every day. I want to “help”, but don’t help me!

I hope that I’ve mellowed with age, for in truth it is pride that keeps me from humbly accepting assistance from others. I’ve actually learned to ask for help! That’s GROWTH in my opinion! (grin)

Acceptance can be difficult to embrace. I accept that I have a hearing loss. I have a disability that at times makes communication difficult. I accept that I will need to ask for help at times in order to clarify, and that I will need to clearly communicate my needs.

Sometimes, acceptance means that right now… nothing can be done to improve your situation. My family and I are members of a really wonderful church here in Frederick. Our church is “big” on “small groups”. It is a way for the members to really get to know one another and to become involved in each other’s lives on a more personal level. Without going into a lot of unnecessary detail, there is no place for me in any of the current small groups. I’m encouraged that there are “plans in the works” to create a small group this fall that will be in a quieter setting with no children, etc. For now, however, I accept that there is not a place for me. Acceptance can mean to be brave and smile right through the feelings of loneliness. Acceptance does not mean that you “give up” emotionally and wrongly convince yourself that “this is the way it will always be”.

I am in a tough situation with my assistance dog, Chloe right now. A new person in my life has a very severe allergy to animals with fur. It is actually a life-threatening asthmatic reaction to pet dander, and she is unable to be near me if Chloe is with me.

Chloe isn’t a pet. As an assistance dog, her job is to be with me even if I do not immediately need her ears to hear or her “steady stance” to balance. To leave her at home in her kennel on occasion is not a problem. But to do so regularly, affects our bond in a negative way. It’s tough when a “new person” enters your life that you want to get to know better, but you must limit getting together with them because you cannot leave your assistance dog at home a great deal. I must accept that sometimes I can’t get to know someone like I would hope, as I cannot undo all the work and training I have gone through in order to live a more independent life.

Acceptance isn’t always an easy, “feel good” choice. At times, one must courageously determine that you can “accept” the way things are for the present. Right now, “acceptance” has actually caused a lot of heart break in my life… it has caused many a heated argument, frustration and sleepless nights. I can, umm… (BIG SMILE) accept that!

Denise Portis
©2008 Hearing Loss Diary

Kiki’s friend… Denise’s assistance dog

We are blessed with 3 cats. I say “blessed”, because if you’ve ever had a cat… one that was a real pet and not the “mouse police” for the barn, you know that cats have their own endearing ways and are a blessing.

I don’t know that families ever own indoor cats, as really indoor cats own families. All 3 of our cats have completely different personalities. Kiki, (shown above with Chloe), is rather fond of my assistance dog. You’ll note that Kiki gets the comfy chair and Chloe? Well Chloe knows her place. Kiki and Chloe have a unique relationship. Kiki is a very smart cat. She knows that Chloe is mine, and that I’m her “pack leader”. I know this because Kiki will come and “tell on” Chloe, and also let’s Chloe know that although she may be a working dog… Kiki will never, EVER… be caught working.

Wednesday I went out back to mow the lawn. I walked out the back door, across my deck, commanded Chloe to stay in a “down”, walked down the steps and over to the shed, drug the lawn mower out… started it and mowed the backyard. These details are important. It took me 30 minutes to mow the backyard, and Chloe watched from the top of the steps the entire time. She’s not crazy about the noise of the lawnmower, but she trusts me and she obeys. She was very glad to have me come back up the steps to her. She seemed a little extra excited to see me, and it didn’t take me long to discover why. It seems Kiki darted out the door with Chloe and I. She couldn’t get down the steps because Chloe was in the way, and the lawnmower is very noisy. So she lay down right next to Chloe in the morning sun and “made biscuits”. She purred and slept, and kneaded that 30 minutes away. Chloe obediently stayed in a down. The hair on her back was sticking up ever which way, but she obeyed ME… and tolerated her friend’s massage.

It struck me that the two have actually become friends. Chloe is my alarm clock and wakes me up when she hears my alarm. First thing we do is run Chloe outside to “hurry up”. The cats have their own room. (Don’t think very hard why the cats think they own the family and not the other way around!). I’ve been noticing that when the cats are let out of their room in the morning, Kiki comes over to actually greet Chloe. Chloe has learned not to sniff Kiki’s umm… Kiki’s… Chloe has learned not to sniff Kiki. However, Chloe has also learned that Kiki will tolerate nose sniffing and some playful face licks. Kiki will curl around Chloe’s legs and rub up against her purring all the while. They are buddies. “Who’d have thunk?”

One of the reason’s I love Fidos For Freedom, is that the puppy raisers are encouraged to have all kinds of pets. The assistance dogs have really “seen it all”, by the time they get to their partner’s home. However… I don’t think Chloe’s puppy raiser had rabbits.

Denise Portis
©2008 Hearing Loss Diary

Facing Our Fears

red-horse-004.jpg

I wrote about a “red horse” that Chloe took a dis-liking too. The post can be accessed if you click here. As time has passed over the last couple of months, her discontent at seeing the red horse has become WORSE — not better! With a new driver in the van in the form of my 17-year-old son, Chris, I decided that perhaps a trip to the restaurant was in order so that she could see the horses up close – and personal. I wanted her to face her fears not only for her own good, but also so that my inexperienced new driver could continue to learn to drive safely!

There are three horses actually. One horse is in a tiny street level “corral”, the second one is on top of the restaurant sign, and a third is on top of the motel associated with the restaurant.

red-horse-005.jpg I was actually a “wee bit” nervous as I wasn’t sure how she would respond. Chloe understands commands and the tone of a voice. But I couldn’t exactly “reason” with her as we exited the van to face her fears. I was surprised that she practically drug me to the first red horse. I didn’t want her to “freak out” as I was in my Fidos For Freedom gear, having just returned from a DEMO to a brownie troupe. I certainly didn’t want Chloe and I to be poor representatives of my favorite organization!

I was a little bewildered that she didn’t even growl at the horse! She has such a fit in the van, I just knew the hair on her back would stand straight up as she barked her head off! As she doesn’t look nearly as cute without a head, I was glad to see her under such control. red-horse-008.jpg

Towards the end, she actually started wagging her tail. I was very glad to see her so calmly approach, study, and relax around something that has been upsetting her for months.

What made Chloe so calm around something she’s been so disturbed about for so long?

Perhaps facing her fears along side of someone she trusts helped.

I thought about how true this is of my own life as well.

Facing my fears, is much easier to do and much more successful when I have someone I trust beside me. Obviously, my biggest fear is that of my deafness. I am blessed to have a wonderful cochlear implant that maximizes my hearing, various technologies that improve how well I hear in different environments… yet I will always be a “deaf person”. I don’t hear “normally”, but I do hear. Having Chloe gives me confidence… but her partnership doesn’t give me my hearing back. I trust Chloe’s ears, and she is always beside me. So she helps me face my fears, just by her presence… which in my case is being able to hear the world around me in such a way that I stay “safe” and “aware”.

It’s also important to find people who can come along side you when you are fearful. I think that is why many people search out support when they acquire a disability. The internet is a GREAT thing. One can research, search, and FIND people who are facing the same thing they find themselves now living. There are numerous support groups, organizations, clubs and message boards for those with hearing loss.

Sharing your fears, worries and challenges with like-minded people, allow most individuals to face their fears with a little more determination, a little more courage, a little more optimism, and a little more success.

Denise Portis
©2008 Hearing Loss Diary

What You Can’t See Can be Scary!

I have had “my ears out” for the majority of the day so far, as I’ve been grading sign language presentations for two of my classes. (It drives my kids nuts sometimes, when they know I need only to clip my CI on, and stick my hearing aid in to hear “semi-normally”). I tape my student’s presentations, thanks to the help of my daughter and “teacher’s aide”.
kp-crop.jpg I have no idea what I will do without her next year! (sniff!)

I watch the videos of my student’s presentations “deaf”. It gives me a better picture of how a culturally Deaf person might see and understand the presentation given. It takes me about 30 minutes to grade a SL1 presentation, about a hour to grade a SL2 presentation, and about 2 hours to grade a SL3 presentation. I watch them over and over again… looking for different things. It’s amazing what I pick up not being able to “hear”. At the very end, I put my “ears on” (cochlear implant on the left, and hearing aid on the right) and watch the presentation one last time. My students would be a little disgruntled to learn that sometimes this is where points come off! “Hearing” their presentation while “watching” as well, allows certain mistakes or “wobbles” to be discovered. I’m sure they’d appreciate it if I only graded “deaf”!

Today in the backyard I was giving Chloe, my hearing assistance dog, some “down time”. I had my “ears in”, and so I do hear some of what she hears with those wonderful ears. However, I’m amazed at what I still miss. For one thing, she hears with BOTH ears. I have difficulty discerning “where” a sound is coming from as I really only hear through my implant on the left side. Imagine my surprise, when Chloe stopped dead in her tracks and started circling a spot on the ground and barking! I came closer and said, “What is it, Chloe… show me!” This is Chloe’s clue to point, or take me to a sound I can’t identify. She didn’t move! She kept growling, barking and circling a spot on the ground. I got down on my knees in order to get a closer look and really used my eyes to check out what she’d found. Chloe came over and sat right next to me, and I was astonished to feel her shaking. She was very upset! As something very obviously had her rattled, and bolted back into the house as Chloe stood “guard” over the spot.

A quick shriek, “Come quick!” had both my teens at my side almost instantly. I asked Chloe to “show me again”, and she again circled the same spot, growled and barked. The kids told me that it was a bark that definitely said, “I’m afraid”. Her trembling clued me in to that, so I certainly didn’t doubt their word.

We never did discover what it was! What you can’t see can be scary! Perhaps it was a vole? We just don’t know! It was obviously something Chloe could hear, as those wonderful ears would suddenly perk up and she’d growl and stare. (The thought that I may have a vole in my yard just makes me incredibly happy! NOT!) vole.jpg

Kyersten must not have been as rattled as I as she put her “naked dog” (Chinese crested), Pegasus, in his exercise pen for a suntan this afternoon. Who knows what voles eat?

peg3crop.jpg Apparently not “Peg”, as he is still sunning himself outside.

You know? Many things that we cannot see can be scary! Deafness isn’t something you can see. One of my kiddos works in a small retail store and have noted more than once, the look of apprehension on co-workers or other customer’s faces when it is discovered a customer is Deaf. The person “looks” normal, and it isn’t until communication takes place that differences are readily apparent. I’m very glad my kids know some sign so that they can make the Deaf feel comfortable! What people with normal hearing do not realize, is that Deaf people can do everything except… hear!

SIDE NOTE: For those of you who may be new to my blog, Deaf with a capital “D” denotes those who are culturally Deaf and use ASL to communicate. Deaf with a small “d” (deaf) are those who are oral and use their voices to communicate, but they cannot hear.

There are many disabilities that are invisible; deafness is only one. I got a little “grief” from some of my extended family for choosing to get a working dog to help me. My acquired disability was invisible to others! Why on earth would I want to make something “invisible”, visible? (I’ll save that for another post!)

What we don’t understand… things that may unnerve us? Things that scare us, may be nothing more than a cute little vole! (Actually I hope my daughter doesn’t read this as she may go out… unearth the vole and adopt it!) It would be great if all of us would learn to pay attention to things using all of our senses. God has given us intuitions and gifts that are not necessarily included in what our 5 senses pick up either! Take the time to “pay attention”. What you cannot see may be scary, but what you can hear, feel, taste, empathize with, discover and enjoy may be a … well? A vole!vole2.jpg

Denise Portis
©2008 Hearing Loss Diary

I Left the Assistance Dog in the Van

My family and I went to Harper’s Ferry Saturday afternoon. It’s one of our favorite hangouts. I was having a really good “balance day” too as we had clear blue skies. I felt SO good, we even hiked up to Jefferson Rock.

I left my assistance dog in the van though. I decided that “today… Chloe gets to be a dog!” She had a great time, and I brought her longer leash so that she could “just be a dog” if she wanted. I was kinda of tickled that she refused to go very far from me, and was plastered to my side on the steep stairs. I can’t explain to her that I’m “having a good day”.

hferry-013.jpg

The great thing about having a canine partner, is that sometimes they are “just a dog”. I love dogs… so that’s a good thing. She works really hard, so she deserved the “day off”!

Denise Portis

Preferences

amish-country-lancaster-pa-october-2006-003.jpgMy daughter, Kyersten was my “picky one” as a toddler. Her diet consisted of a very short list of acceptable foods. She would eat hot dogs, Banquet Chicken Nuggets, Spaghetti’os and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. I mention brand names in this “short list”, because it really did matter. The kid couldn’t read yet, but really did know whether or not what was placed before her was her “acceptable” food or not! I remember keeping a Kraft Macaroni & Cheese box out and buying the “cheaper stuff” just to test her taste buds. Much to my chagrin, the little tyke ate only a bite! She wouldn’t touch McDonald’s chicken nuggets, but would eat Banquet’s nuggets in a heartbeat! Was I ever glad she would chew a Flintstone’s vitamin once a day! Forget fruits and vegetables!

Thankfully… she grew out of that. I remember celebrating when she would finally eat pizza. Now she eats a great variety of foods, many of which actually happen to be good for you. (Imagine THAT!) The only food that remains a CONSTANT in her life? The only edible thing that has followed her through the terrible two’s, grade school and high school? CHOCOLATE.

In fact, she is so opposite of “picky” now, she comes up with her own concoctions that frankly only she will eat. Some of them are “scary sick” in my humble opinion. But she eats enough healthy things, I count my blessings and ignore the “strange” meals that sometimes grace her plate. Her favorite this year, was discovered by accident. She’s one of those “strange critters” that actually prefers instant potatoes to the “real thing”. She makes potatoes by “eyeballin’ it” (in that she never follows directions and just dumps a little of “this” and a little of “that”), and then adds cubed ham and gigantic chunks of cheddar cheese. I know I blanched in distaste the first time I saw it. It looked… it Looked… well, it LOOKED MONSTROUS! potatoes-004.jpg

As she rarely gets enough calcium, I don’t argue about the amount of cheddar cheese we go through each week. Thankfully, Costco saves me a little on this, and she is skinny as rail so I’m not worried.

Everyone in the family looks at her “creation” and says “no thank you”! (Aren’t we a polite little family?) Her preference is to eat this and OFTEN.

What she considers “yummy”, nutritional, and “worth the effort” is OK for Kyersten. I wouldn’t eat instant mashed potatoes, ham and cheddar cheese all mixed together. But hey! If she likes it… “make it yourself dear and ENJOY”. She is happy to do so.

I thought about how this often parallels people with hearing loss. One person with hearing loss may have a preference for a “label”, while others refused to be labeled at all. One person may welcome assistive devices and tools that make their hearing loss very visible. Others, however, may choose to “appear as normal as possible” and keep things like cochlear implants and hearing aids hidden and private. Sadly, I have witnessed more than one disagreement between people with hearing loss and their choice of “labels”, or their choice of acceptable tools to improve their situation. It seems we aren’t very respectful of other’s preferences.

LABELS

I consider myself an adult with a disability because I am late-deafened. I know plenty of culturally Deaf people and folks who became deaf later in life, who are deeply offended by the word “disabled”. I guess I don’t have a problem with that label because I don’t consider it a negative word. I was born hearing, and I no longer hear “normally”. I hear in a wonderful new way thanks to a cochlear implant, (New Freedom from Cochlear Americas) but I do not hear like I once did. I don’t sit around feeling sorry for myself, and yet I fully recognize that I do have a disability. I am “not ABLE” to hear like I once did. In my thinking, something that was “able”, is now “disabled”. I embrace the accessibility rights I am guaranteed under the American’s with Disabilities Act. I only ask my peers to be accepting of the fact that I’m OK with the label “disabled”, as it certainly does NOT mean that I am not very ABLE in other areas! I don’t judge others who choose not to identify with that word. My preference? I am a disabled American with an acquired disability.

Hearing Dogs

I am often asked, “Why a hearing dog?” They require training, supervision, attention and care. I carry a backpack now that is for “Chloe”. It contains her access documentation, as well as treats, baggies, towel, water bowl, and first aid kit. It reminds in in a weird sort of way, of the diaper bags I use to have to lug around for the kids when they were little. But it’s a burden I gladly carry as it was a choice I made and decision I acknowledged that… YES… the advantages of having a hearing dog far outweighed the disadvantages.

I have had some of my late-deafened peers ask me: “Why would you want to have something with you all the time that makes something invisible… VISIBLE.” I’m sure the fact that I wear BLING on my implant is another reason why I don’t mind my disability being visible. It is my preference to allow others to know that I require a little patience in communicating. I may not hear you if you are a cashier and you say, “I’m open over here!” But Chloe… my bling… allow a cashier to see that there is something different about me. I may need “waved over” to their open line. I’m OK with that. It’s my preference.

If you are late-deafened and only use ASL to communicate with others, and use an interpreter in order to communicate with oral Americans… I’m OK with that! That is your preference, and I respect it.

If you have a cochlear implant and/or hearing aids, but prefer for no one to know that you have a hearing loss… I’m OK with that too. It is your preference.

I suppose everyone… hearing and deaf alike… would get along better if we respected each other’s preferences.

I don’t have to eat instant potatoes, ham and cheddar cheese though!

Denise Portis
©2008 Hearing Loss Diary