Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Difference-Part 3

Part 1
Part 2

At that moment, I realized I had a conscious decision to make. I could get defensive, cry, storm out and say they weren't legally allowed to ask me about my hearing loss (were they? I'm still not even sure?), or I could put my advocacy skills to good use and actually educate them. So I put on a composed front and reassured them that everything would be fine, carefully answering each of their questions. I should note that they were really friendly and seemed to actually care and were genuinely concerned, but it was still a little overwhelming.They barraged  me with questions that included (but were not limited to):
  • How will you hear in (various listening situations described)? 
  • There's 2 teachers... one microphone. How will that work?
  • What if you and the other girl with the microphone are in the same class? Will it still work?
  • Will you tell us if you can't hear?
Apparently they had a really bad experience the one time they had accepted a deaf/hard-of-hearing student. My understanding is that she was oral but relied on lip/speech-reading quite a bit to comprehend what was being said. All year, the girl would stand in the back whenever they were teaching how to do skills for the CNA exam taken during the year as part of the class. The girl was going through a bad time in her life or something and refused to look at the teachers to lipread them. And of course, all year the girl never came to the teachers to let them know she was struggling, so they never really had any inclination. Their main concern was that I might be struggling to hear, and they just wanted to be sure I would tell them if at any point there was an issue so they could help me.

I could see where they were coming from, and it's certainly easy to think one individual is representative of an entire group, especially since she's the only one in the group of students with deafness they had met! It's a shame that it was a bad experience, but they were open enough to see that I wouldn't be like that. Although I felt I had handled the situation well and responded confidently, I was still extremely worried that I wouldn't be accepted because they would view the FM and hearing loss as an extra burden. As I have posted previously, I was ultimately accepted. The other girl with cochlear implants was accepted as well. At an informational meeting with all of the students, the teachers came up to me to be sure I heard everything okay. They really seem comfortable with the whole idea and I can tell that they care and want me to succeed. I brought up the whole stethoscope issue and mentioned that it was not yet resolved, but we were working to find a solution. They assured me that even if I can't get it to work, they will figure something out and work around it if we have to. Of course I would like to ultimately be able to use the stethoscope, especially if I end up following my current dream of becoming a doctor, but I am really glad to hear they're willing to work with me if it's not possible.

I am really excited for the class. I really do think it will be a great experience. Anyway, the main reason I shared this was to demonstrate how positively they reacted. They openly voiced their concerns and listened when I gave my input, and I do feel that they will work with, rather than against me to solve any problems that might spark up along the way. In the next few posts I will share another experience, but it's not a positive one. Actually, I'm still kind of in the "what should I do?" state. I have received quite a bit of advice and I am trying to figure out my next step.

Anyway.. stay tuned for part 4!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Difference- Part 2

This is part 2 in a series. If you haven't already done so, I recommend reading part 1before continuing.

I slowly got up and walked towards the interview room from my desk. An outspoken girl in my class shouted "good luck!" as I got up, but I assured her I had already interviewed and had no idea why I had to go back. I knew it wasn't to say I got in since they told us the list would not be posted for another month.

I hesitantly opened the door and peeked my head in the room. "Come in! Sit down!" they said. Well, they were being friendly... That seemed like a good sign...

Then, one of the teachers explained how during the course of the interviews that morning a girl in another class (who also has CI's) had brought in her FM and stated that the teachers needed to use it. This sparked the teacher's memory (who had visited our classroom before), and she made a comment along the lines of "Hey, last time I had to wear one of these things twice. I wonder if the other girl that used one also applied."

At this point, the girl being interviewed decided to be helpful, and said "Oh, yeah!" and then stated my full name.

This was one of those moments in which I mentally screamed "Really?! Was that really necessary?!"

I can't really blame anyone else, it really wasn't the girl's fault that she shared her knowledge... But I was still slightly annoyed. Anyway, there wasn't much time for me to get annoyed because one of the teachers continued.

"We were shocked... We had no idea, and you speak so well!"

Okay, this wasn't the first time I'd heard this...So far, so good...

"I can understand not wanting to be identified as the girl with hearing loss first," she continued, and told me about how she doesn't introduce her own daughter who has a chronic condition to people as "Jane, the girl with (disease)."

"But," she continued, "we have some concerns."

 "Here it comes," I thought to myself, and I took a deep breath.

Look for part 3 tomorrow!

The Difference

Occasionally, people with little experience with hearing loss will make a hearing-related comment or ask a question that sounds absolutely ridiculous and stupid to someone who has dealt with hearing loss his or her entire life. It's easy to jump on these people, and write them off as ignorant of hearing loss and possibly even people with disabilities as a whole. What I've learned is that rather, it's how these people react after you try to educate them that demonstrates that they're either willing to learn and open-minded, or indeed ignorant. I've been putting off sharing these stories on my blog for a little while now, but they truly demonstrate the polar opposite reactions I've faced when trying to educate people about hearing loss. I'll split this up into a few posts- one story has a happy ending, the other with an unresolved and leaves-a-bad-taste-in-your-mouth feeling.

A while back I shared that I had gotten into a program at my school that's medically oriented with lots of hands on and observational experiences in medicine. It was a big deal to me because the program requires applying, getting recommendation letters, and an interview with the teachers of the class.

The interview required getting dressed up in formal business attire. Before the interview, I weighed the pros and cons of disclosing my hearing loss. While it seemed like it would be easier to be honest and upfront, I also didn't want deafness to be the topic of the entire interview, which would be short anyway. In addition, when people hear the word "deaf", it's easy for them to jump to conclusions based on their minimal experiences with other deaf people. Rather than focusing on my qualifications, I was afraid that their minds would instead start racing about the possibilities of things I *couldn't* do.

It was for those reasons I decided it would be best to wait until *after* I was accepted into the program to tell them about my CI's and hearing loss. My only concern was that one of the (two) teachers had visited with some students taking the class to tell us more about it a few months prior to the interview. She had been given the FM to wear, so I wasn't sure if she would remember that I was the one that gave it to her. I figured I'd take my chances, and if she said mentioned anything about it I would simply say that I used my FM to deal with noisier situations, but that I hear pretty well most of the time. It was true, and it seemed to be a good way to avoid talking about hearing too much.

So the interview came, and I got all dressed up and was so nervous. My sister (who took the class) told me not to shake their hands since one of them is a slight germaphobe, but someone else said it would be rude not to. Should I extend my hand, or just see if they extend theirs? What if I misheard their questions? What if I said something stupid?!  In the end, they only asked me one question, and then spent a couple of minutes talking about my sister. At the end of the interview, the teachers told me "Your grades are great, you have outstanding recommendations and a flawless attendance record. I think we know everything we need to know!" and asked if I had any questions. I took that as a good sign (since those were the assets they listed as the most important to get into the program).

So I was relieved that I was done interviewing on the first day, since the teachers were there over a course of two days and some people wouldn't get interviewed until day 2. That night I had tons of homework and tests to study for. I barely got 4 hours of sleep, and I don't even think I had time to shower (that's not a regular occurrence, just fyi, haha!). That morning I was running late, so I pulled my frizzy hair into a messy bun, threw on an oversized T-shirt and jeans, and ran out the door without a touch of makeup on. I usually wear very little  make up regularly, so it wasn't a really a huge deal except for the sunken in dark circles around my eyes. It was just one of those days where I looked (and felt) like hell!

With this mental image in your head, you can no doubt imagine the shock that came over my body when I arrived to medical science and the teachers came out and called my name and stated they "needed to talk to me." My heart and mind began racing. What could they possibly want?

To be continued...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

My Greatest Accomplishment?

So I'm going to a program this summer for teens with hearing loss. I'm excited for it, but before I go we have an assignment to answer a series of personal questions about ourselves using only a visual for each question (images, photographs, etc), but no words. I haven't had issue with the majority of it, but I am stuck on one last question "What is your greatest accomplishment?"

I've been pondering over it for days now, and I am still at a complete loss. Of course, I've had months to do it and now I only have a few days left, but sometimes life gets in the way!

Anyway, it's an interesting question. You'd think something like your greatest accomplishment would be something you'd know off the top of your head. One of those things that flashes before your eyes as you die and can say "Yeah, I did that!" Okay, maybe I'm being melodramatic... But gosh, reducing everything I've done in my sixteen-almost-seventeen-years into my greatest accomplishment? I just don't know what I've done that is worthy of the title... I've never done anything particularly great. Shouldn't I have accomplished something by now? I mean, you hear about those teens who have climbed Mount Everest or sailed around the world or memorized the dictionary or whatever...but what have I done?  My family is convinced that I'm nuts for getting so worked up over this.
"This is ridiculous! Just pick something!"
"You're sixteen, it's not like anyone expects you to have found a cure for cancer!" (..yet)

So here I am, feeling extremely unaccomplished. If you think you know my greatest accomplishment, then please, enlighten me..

I really need to stop obsessing over everything..

By the way, if you have anything you'd like to see/read me write about, or a question you'd like me to answer, or anything like that...I'm open to suggestions. I feel like I'm running out of things to say, believe it or not! I'm not quite ready to see this blog die.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

It passed right by...

Monday was my 4 year anniversary of bionic hearing! It was a relatively uneventful day.. I kinda just remembered that it held any significance!

Now it's just normal. Wearing my CI's is just so natural, that I never really think too much of it. My new favorite hearing thing to do is blast my car radio and sing along. They're still not perfect. I still need frequent mappings, but that's getting better as my 2nd ear is growing and not fluctuating as much. I never really adjust my hearing settings. In fact, I don't carry around the remote (and seldom know where it is...). Although occasionally when it gets ridiculously noisy and it is necessary to scream to be heard, I switch to the Zoom/Focus program. I'm not quite sure how it works, but it works wonders! And for those know-it-alls that claim the Nucleus 5 is just a smaller Freedom, I can tell you that I feel the Zoom feature alone was worth cost of upgrading. The sound is different. Don't ask me how it works, don't tell methat I must be wrong because the technology is the same...

I know what I hear, and it's pretty amazing!

For those of you wondering, the Ultimate College Guide is under way and is now being done in partnership with Rachel Chaikof of Cochlear Implant Online. It should be pretty amazing! If you'd like to participate/be featured, just message me!

In other news... I'm probably giving up French :(
No, it's not by choice. Yes, it is a hearing/accommodations thing. Yes, I am upset by it because it absolutely sucks. 


Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I speak well. 

I didn't always, but after many years of speech therapy, I'd say that if you didn't know anything about my hearing ability, based on hearing me speak, you probably wouldn't suspect anything. Occasionally I don't fully enunciate the /s/ sound, but I've been told that after I got my CI's my speech improved... Anyways, that's  not really the point of this post..

I don't think a person's speech should matter, as long as someone's speech is intelligible, what difference does it really make? Some (hearing and ignorant) people, though, think that the way a person speaks reflects his intelligence. Some people think it's okay to make fun of another person's speech just because it doesn't sound the same as theirs.

This has caused me to be stuck in the middle of some extremely awkward situations. I've realized that:
1)Many people don't think of me as deaf
2) Some people are complete idiots
Looking back on some of these incidents,  I definitely wish I had spoken up.

When I was in middle school, a group of girls who I was acquainted (but not particularly friends) with were sitting at my table gossiping before class started. I listened without actually saying anything. The conversation topic soon turned to a girl who was deaf that went to our school, who one of the girls at the table had gotten into a fight with. They began rattling off all the things they disliked about this girl.

Then, one of the girls gossiping says, "Have you guys ever noticed the way she talks?"

I cringed but didn't look up.

They all laughed and nodded in agreement with the girl.

Then, they all took turns pinching their noses in amazingly ignorant attempts to imitate her voice. I was horrified, but didn't say anything since I wasn't actually involved in the conversation. The girls were very outspoken, and I was certainly on the shyer side.
There was another incident that occurred within the last couple of months. In my Health Sciences class, we have vocabulary quizzes are administered orally every couple of weeks. Our teacher had been out sick for the last couple of days, and there had been a substitute teacher in her place. He was a really chill, friendly guy.  He was always smiling, but was originally from somewhere in Africa (I can't remember anymore) and had a very thick accent. I usually do okay with accents, but I honestly could not understand a single thing that came out of this guy's mouth, so I just smiled and nodded whenever he said anything (we were doing group projects, so he wasn't actually teaching us, just making conversation).

Knowing that I could not understand this man, I was concerned about the impending quiz. Since I didn't have that class until later in the day, I asked some friends who had Health Science in the morning if we had the same sub administering the test. When they said that we had a new sub, I admitted that I was relieved because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to understand the previous sub. One friend said she felt the same way, and assured me I would be able to hear the new sub just fine.

Then, another girl (infamous for her tendency to speak *way* too much,) chimed in.
"Yeah but the new sub talks funny. It's really annoying"

My friend glared at her. "That's so rude! Don't say that!"

"Ugh but it was so annoying," the girl said, and then turned to me. "Her voice was really weird."

To be honest, I was completely confused as to what she could possibly mean. I figured the sub had a lisp or something. 

Alas, when I got to the class, the sub introduced herself. She explained that she had hearing loss and her hearing aids were broken, so we'd have to get her attention before speaking to her. Her speech was completely intelligible, by the way (and I aced the quiz). 

I had pretty much forgotten about what the chatty girl had said. I figured it was a moment of poor judgement, and just kind of shrugged it off. But then I saw her that evening at some sort of school function. We were making small talk when she suddenly blurted out,
"Wasn't I right about the sub? ugh Her voice just like bothered me so much." 

Then she laughed. I shrugged and then did my best to escape from the conversation.
I feel cowardly. The voice inside my head was yelling all sorts of not-so-nice things, while my actual voice remained silent, pretty much implying agreement.

I really need to get over the whole "quietness" thing. I always regret not saying something, yet I never learn. So frustrating!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Quote du Jour

"No one ever said life would be easy... they just promised it would be worth it."

Today, I felt like Alexander..
 I haven't even taken any of my hard exams yet. However, my day started off with locker clean-out during study hall. During this time of absolute chaos, a herd of rather tall teenage guys was stampeding through the halls like no body's business. Apparently my foot was in their way, so rather than running over it..they just ran on top of it it. My typically pasty white foot is now puffy and an ugly purplish color. It hurts pretty badly too :(
In my excitement and enthusiasm for starting a new school in the fall, I had been lulled into a false sense of security and assumed that the few accommodations I currently wouldn't be a problem come next year. It's not the district that's putting up a fight, but it doesn't really matter whose fault it is when the outcome is all the same... I'm always the one who ends up losing out, and yet I was completely blindsided. Silly, silly me.
 Why did I have this crazy idea that I could actually enjoy the right to an equal education without having to fight for it?
I need summer. All I want is to be back playing with and "helping" the sick kids. It brings a strange peace to my heart and I just need to see those beaming smiles to put everything back in perspective.
They make it worth it.