Well, the original draft of this post got lost when the power strip was unplugged, even though I *thought* it was saved. My 9 month old is a constant explorer and these things are bound to happen, despite my very best efforts to prevent them. In this case, he jostled the right piece of furniture enough to cause the plug behind it to come loose. Oh, well.
I have been choosing to take my hearing aids off for the past couple of days for “Deaf Days”. Without my hearing aids, I hear zilch. Okay, not really. If Pud is really, really mad, he is very loud and piercing. If he’s next to my ears when he’s screaming at me, I hear him screaming. Except what I hear is not screaming but only a phantom of the piercing qualities that make listening to a baby cry send chills of tension down adult backs. Very strange to try to describe. Words fail.
Seriously, though. Voices- none.
My husband would have to yell in my ear for me to know he was talking to me, but there’s no way I’d make words from the noise. Thunderstorms that keep him up at night, I sleep through… until it’s right overhead and shaking the house OR the lightening is close and bright enough to light up the bedroom. When I mow the lawn, I don’t wear hearing aids, and I hear nothing, except the constant ringing in my ears that’s always there. The airplanes flew overhead- I only knew because of their shadows.
“Deaf Days” are the reason I stay sane. Please don’t be offended by this statement; it’s just my reality. Being a really good actress who plays the role of a hard-of-hearing person rather well is exhausting.
There is a scene from episode 2 of Switched at Birth in which Daphne (deaf) is surrounded by her biological family (all hearing) and is doing her very best to keep up with the conversation. She failed. Anyway, this scene perfectly mirrors my daily life in many ways. I can speech-read. I can speak. I can’t keep it up perfectly 100% of the time. There is much that I miss. So much! I do exceptionally well in conversations that are one-on-one, yes, provided all the other requirements are met- good lighting, clear view of face, few distractions in the background, and a pal who’s good at speaking clearly and at a comfortable pace (not too fast or too slow; not too soft or too loud; not too low or too high). Let’s see… how many people fit that description perfectly? How many situations fit those circumstances perfectly? Not many; therefore, I have to do even more of my “magic” to be a good speech-reader.
Guess what it is?
Filling in the blanks. All.day.long.
Using my hearing aids, and heaven help me if one or both go on the fritz, provides many important auditory clues to figure out the difference between “elephant shoe” and “I love you” and “onion juice” or whatever other silly phrases people like to use to try to trick speech-readers.
Did I mention my entire day is fill-in-the-blanks? Can you imagine if your entire daily life consisted of constant quizzes which contain trick questions? It’s exhausting and it gets frustrating.
Therefore, I take joy in having “deaf days” when I need them. I usually don’t take them for the break from the hearing part of my life, but for more practical reasons, as I have the past couple of days. Yesterday was “mow the lawn and take a shower in the middle of the day” day. Mowing in 80-90+ temps in our lovely humidity (God bless you Louisiana natives) means sweating from pores you don’t know exist, including ones in the ears. This sweat jams up my hearing aid circuitry. No good. Likewise, heavy rainshowers cause hearing aids to get wet. Today started off with a doozy of a storm. Also no good. The things are $1850 apiece. I can’t afford to replace them any time soon; they aren’t covered by insurance and I do not qualify for assistance from Vocational Rehabilitation… and that is a rant for another time.
Why do I find these days so joyful? Once upon a time, I found them distressing after merely a couple of hours. This distress lessened as I was blessed with the opportunity to learn sign, which soon led to people in my life who can sign, including my beloved. Being able to remove some of the stress of communicating easily and getting to enjoy understanding so much more of conversations that happen in less-than-perfect situations makes me feel connected to the world and less of an outsider looking in.
The addition of Callie Rose to my life really changed everything. My loyal and faithful companion removes the fear of going out and doing my thing in public without hearing aids. She also removes the fear of being at home alone without hearing aids, as it is incredibly easy to sneak up on someone who can’t hear you, especially if you can do so without vibrations.
In the past two days, I have taken 2 lovely long walks around our neighborhood with the dogs in tow, confident that I wouldn’t get hit by any siren-bearing vehicles or bell-ringing ice cream trucks or crazy motorcycles or anyone else, because they will move me out of the way. I’d never ahve done this B.C. (Before Callie). I could have been confused with a person who has paranoid schizophrenia, the way I constantly was on edge and trying to look around for signs of danger. A.D. (After the Dog came): The two walks were peaceful, relaxing ventures around some unexplored parts of the neighborhood with my son.
I played outside in the baby pool with Pud this afternoon. We had so much fun. I can’t play in water and hear- and I can’t relax if I’m supposed to be the responsible adult who listens for incoming strangers and dangers if I’m deaf. Unless I have my Callie, who listens and lets me relax and have fun with my son.
Pud got to enjoy seeing more sign and hearing a little less of my voice the past couple of days, too. This is good, because I desperately want to know that he’ll be able to sign with me when I’m too old and tired to try speech-reading and listening anymore. Selfish, I know, but what I want is to know I will always have a way to communicate with my family. It’s also good for me, because when I play the role of the hard-of-hearing woman, I don’t sign enough and I get really, really rusty. Receptively, I never get rusty, but expressively, I lose my rhythm, clarity, flow, and accuracy. Not good. In fact, I seriously need to brush up, so there’s going to be some efforts in that direction soon.
There is a simple joy that comes in relaxing and accepting who God made me. I am deaf. I can and do survive and thrive in a hearing world. I am thankful for hearing aids and I’m thankful (begrudgingly) for 10 years of year-round speech therapy and parents who didn’t let me off the hook in between or since. They do give me some opportunities I might not otherwise have, like jobs teaching hearing students in public schools and adult education programs. I’m especially grateful for my service dog, who allows me the opportunity to relax and be deaf in ways that technology does not.
I choose to enjoy my deafness once in awhile because I am often expected to do what it takes to “fit in” with a larger hearing society. This in itself isn’t terrible. It’s just that it makes it harder to remember that God gave me my deafness for a reason. It is not a curse. It is a blessing. Striving so hard to “overcome” all the time makes being deaf feel more like a curse. Being praised for fitting in so well by well-meaning people is frustrating because… well… do we praise African-Americans or Latinos for being “white enough”? Seriously. There’s something backhanded in the compliment that shames me into continuing the farce, for the sake of holding a job or attending school or “being a good mom”.
Sometimes, it feels good to be able to remember that I don’t always have to work so hard, and that my mechanical ears do not have to define my whole life.
It’s nice not listening to the “too tired and teeth hurt too much to go to sleep easily” screams. There’s been an awful lot of those lately. Ah, but this mama with a dog hasn’t had to listen to them for 2 blissful days, and Pud and I have been able to enjoy each other so much more, as I have a much more serene outlook. Told you. It’s a blessing! One that *may* have to continue tomorrow…