Month: August 2012

Hard of Hearing in the world

Can you actually understand anyone with the radio playing?” I ask my roommate.  I have to ask because once the radio is on in her car I am swamped with noise.  I can’t distinguish her voice from the singers and instruments and I can’t lip read her. She turns off the radio and says she’s got no problem talking to another hearing person in the car – they can talk over the radio and understand each other with it on.  I’m baffled.  Later I remarked that if the radio speaker on the right side was off (in the door) and she had the radio coming only from her door (the left) that she’d be closer than the speaker and I might have a chance of hearing her – or not.  We’ll try that next time.

At a store a clerk accidentally rang up one item twice.  I repeat over and over (in what I’m guessing is a normal tone of voice) “You rang up an item twice.” She’s looking at the register and then turns around and says, “It’s not working.  Did you swipe the card?” I tell her twice more about the problem with the double ring up until she suddenly gets it.  At that point I realize I’m not the only HoH person in this verbal transaction – she can’t hear me any better than I can hear her.

One night I was almost t-boned by a police car rocketing out of the Littleton, Massachusetts cop shop.  One moment it was dark and the next second the blue flashing lights filled my visual world.  I jam on the brakes and head for the side of the road (with a day surgery patient in the passenger’s seat) and freak out because I didn’t hear the siren. (I’m afraid I’m losing more hearing or my hearing aid has a problem.)   The passenger says I didn’t hear the siren because there wasn’t one – the police vehicle waited until the end of the driveway to turn on the lights.  A few minutes later another cop car comes roaring up behind, flipping lights and sirens on just before reaching my car and scaring the snot out of me all over again.  If not for the passenger I’d have been convinced both my night vision and hearing were failing.

I realize that when I pull up to a drive-through window everything except the motor in my car goes off.  No music, no AC or heat, no noise of any kind.  I can’t handle any additional noise.  Sometimes passing cars cause so much noise I can’t hear the people inside and I have to drive to a window.  And then I see the offer of a braille menu (for us deaf/blind folks who drive?) and it always causes me to wonder who would use a braille menu in a drive-through.  I got news, if I need a braille menu I have no business driving!


Meniere’s and Tinnitus: a personal history

I was 14 years old and bored out of my mind that summer, so I enrolled in a summer school typing class.  It was during that class that I had my first Meniere’s attack. I felt light-headed and then nauseated; my balance was so bad I could not get from the typing desk to the door. After Mom got me I spent the next 24 hours clinging to the sides of the bed as the room spun around me, vomiting and sweating like I had the flu.

Only it wasn’t the flu. I ended up sick day after day, sometimes getting a day off, most times being sick part of each day. I was too sick to do my chores, ride horses, or much of anything else. I couldn’t walk, read, watch TV or turn my head without feeling as if I would be flung off into outer space. The low-level tinnitus I’d had all my life was raging. My hearing, never great, was in free fall and when I could hear my ears rang with sounds no one else could hear.

No one knew what was wrong. Doctors poked and prodded, drew blood, even hospitalized me for tests, including an EEG and a spinal tap. Then, when I was 16, a doctor got the bright idea to do the ice water in the ear test and as I spun out of control (and vomited) they congratulated themselves for finding out I had an inner ear problem.  I was sick for days after that test.  Oddly enough, no one ever tested my hearing.

Walking was my new final frontier. Walking a straight line was next to impossible and to this day I tend to veer to the right and bump people walking next to me. I learned how to focus on one spot like a dancer focusing on a spot on the wall. In time, I developed some control. I learned I had an “aura” and could identify when an attack was coming. I could drive because I had enough advance warning that I could pull off the side of the road and let the waves of dizziness and nausea pass.  I started focusing on reading – one letter at a time.

Once, in a bookstore I was surprised by an attack that hit so hard and fast I would have fallen down if not for grabbing onto a pole.  Those are called “drop attacks” and signal the later stages of the disease, although I didn’t know it at the time.  I lived on Dramamine. Salt restriction, mega-vitamin therapy, you name it – nothing helped.

My hearing, absent on the left side for as long as I could remember, went into a sharp decline on the right.  My ears felt full almost all the time. However, I never had ear infections until I was an adult and those infections were caused by an allergy to the plastic in my hearing aid.  Go figure.

In my late teens I developed severe headaches diagnosed as “cluster headaches.”  They often struck in the middle of the night with such ferocity that I literally fell out of bed and ended up at the hospital. I now see Migraines and Meniere’s tend to go together, so that those headaches may have been Meniere’s generated – or just an unlucky coincdence.  Between the headaches, the light-headedness and the dizzy spells I’m amazed I functioned at all.

I was 25-years-old when the Meniere’s finally burned out and the cluster headaches burned out with them. I’m still headache prone, but I no longer want to cut my head off to stop the pain. The dizzy spells are gone, but I still feel light-headed at times. I can’t abide rocking chairs or office chairs that tilt back. The tinnitus comes and goes.  Sometimes it is a low-level noise that goes on for days; sometimes it vanishes for a time and then comes back with a vengeance.

Wearing my hearing aid can exacerbate the tinnitus.  Or it can cover the tinnitus with other sound.  There is no rhyme or reason to these almost ultrasonic or subsonic noises in my head.

Loud, abrupt sounds are like getting hit on the head with a two by four. No matter how good my hearing aid is at cutting off abrupt noises, there’s a bit of a sound wave that gets through before the override kicks in, and for that one millisecond it is like I’ve had my brain stuck in a socket.  That’s all it takes to leave me reeling, light-headed, and disoriented.

It seems that there are so many more diagnostic tests these days than in the late 50’s and early 60’s, but the reality is that I don’t see much more than can be done to help people with Meniere’s or Tinnitus.  They are what they are.  All one can do is buckle down, endure, and hope for the best.

Low Carb Pizza

One place in which my hearing isn’t a barrier is cooking.  I happen to be a low-carb affectionado and I follow a blog called Your Lighter Side.   Awhile ago I read about a chicken breast and cheese pizza crust.

I deviated a bit from the recipe by incorporating the herbs into the crust rather than sprinkling it on top.  For a time I thought that I put too much marinara sauce on top of it, but I think it just needed to cool a little more because later the crust was just fine, although a tiny bit salty for my taste.  It might well be because I brined the chicken breasts for a few hours in salt and Italian spices before BBQing them.
It is quite a tasty and filling dish.  If you’re into low carb, it is a nice opportunity for LC pizza.

Ototoxic Drugs

I could list them all, but rather than do that, here is a link to a pretty complete listing on a .pdf document.   In case the link does not work the URL is:

It says that toxicity can be overcome by stopping the drug.  However, as Rush Limbaugh demonstrates (again, sorry to use a controversial figure, but he is the only one I can think of who is well known and lost his hearing due to ototoxic drug use) the cessation of the ototoxic medication doesn’t mean you get your hearing back without a Cochlear Implant.

There seem to be drugs in almost every category that can affect hearing – from aspirin to narcotics and from narcotics to meds used to control depression to ones used for anesthetic.  Probably good to discuss ototoxicity issues with the pharmacist because I’m not sure most doctors are up on this list.

Why not ear exercises?

It’s too bad you can’t exercise hearing muscles.

Case in point:  About 20 years ago I sustained a severe colles fracture of the right wrist.  I had to have surgery and  had Frankenstein bolts coming out of my wrist, poking through a hole in my cast.  My arm kept swelling and my hand kept turning a lovely shade of purple so  the cast had to be popped multiple times. I think it took something like 2 months for the swelling to go down enough that I could be fully casted for 3 more months.  Physical Therapy (PT) was brutal and went on for many months before I found out that there were a number of functions I was not getting back – ever (or so I was told).

Over the years I’ve gotten back the ability to oppose my thumb and fingers. – not much strength in the grip, but I can hold a pen for awhile before the hand says, “Nope, all done now!” and lets go on it’s own.  (shrug – that’s why we have computers, right?)

Unfortunately, the ear isn’t made up of tendons, ligaments and muscles that make it work.  We’ve got lots going on in there, but they’re all things that vibrate. We have an eardrum, the auditory bones, the semicircular canals, and the cochlea.  What photos like this one from photobucket show leaves out the hair cells that are the receptors for both hearing and balance.

Damage to those hair cells results in Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL).  That seems to be what happened to me when I sustained a serious head injury at age 18 months.

I’ve got mostly high range loss (including the upper ranges of human speech) and also low range loss from the Meniere’s.  I’ve lost teakettles to high voices, have muffled hearing in the mid-range and then lose it again when I get into the lower tones.   Plus I have the gift of tinnitus – high whine on one side and low on the other.

If the ear were a muscle I could flex I could work out, go to PT or OT in order to help it bend or get stronger.  “Okay, ear hairs, pick up the 5 pound dumbbells and let’s do a flyaway.  One! hold it for one second now.  Controlled down.”   Granted, I’m happy to have a state of the art hearing aid and things like an iCom and FM system to help me out, but as I’m doing exercises at the gym to get in shape or keep my right wrist at the peak of what is left of it, it seems to me that it is a shame we can’t do PT and OT for the ears.

A little test for you to read and play with

Tips for communicating with a Deaf/deaf or Hard of Hearing (HoH) person  – there may be more than one answer.

A.  If you start talking to me and I tell you I’m hard of hearing, this means:

  1.  Go away, hearie person.
  2.  I’m incapable of having a conversation because the HoH are demented.
  3.  I need you to scream in my face in order to hear you.
  4.  Face me when you speak to me and speak distinctly, in a normal tone of voice.

B.  If we are in a noisy environment like a restaurant or a bar you can expect my hearing aids to:

  1. Be radar ears so I can hear everything everyone says
  2. Be out of my ears or turned off because the sound is overwhelming
  3. Make all the noise into a tossed salad of sound so I may understand very little.
  4. Irrelevant, since all Deaf/deaf/HoH people read lips anyway.

C.  When I don’t hear you, what are your best options?

  1. Say, “Never mind” since it wasn’t important anyway
  2.  Face me and repeat the word or sentence clearly and distinctly
  3. Write it on a piece of paper.
  4. Sign it in ASL, even if you have to finger spell it – slowly

D.  If I come to your restaurant and mention I am HoH do you:

  1. Quickly get me a braille menu?
  2. Get me a wheelchair?
  3. Get me a pen and paper?
  4. Get me a menu, then face me when you talk to me and speak distinctly?

E.  If I am somewhere with my interpreters and you find us annoying, do you:

  1. Yell at an interpreter and tell them to get away from you?
  2. Yell at the manager that those deaf people are ruining your evening out?
  3. Come over and tell me to leave so you can enjoy your evening?
  4. Quietly ask the manager to seat you in a different location that is less distracting for you?

F.  If you want to talk to a Hard of Hearing person who is facing away from you, do you:

  1. Grab them and turn them around, after all they’re used to this.
  2. Tap them on the shoulder and wait for them to respond.
  3. Walk around in front of them, place your hand within the visual field of the person,  palm down and gently waggle it up and down to get their attention.
  4. Walk around in front of them and wait to see how long it takes to be noticed.


No cheating












Arn’t you glad you waited?

A.  4

B. 3

C. 2, 3, or 4

D. 4.

E. 4.

F 2 or 3

So, how did you do?


One of the very few times you’ll ever see me reblog from one of my blogs to another, but since it is legal it belongs on Law Office and since it has to do with Deafness and ASL it belongs on Another Boomer Blog. For those of you who subscribe to both, I hope you like it twice as much now.

Dear Non-Profit Organization:

You know who you are.  Your employee contacted me today.  I wear many hats, including that of a Host for an American Sign Language (ASL) Meetup in the greater Boston metro area.  Your employee had no idea that I’m Hard of Hearing or that I’m a lawyer.  This person was just trying hard to find free interpreters for you cheapskates cost conscious people.

Since you provide services to members of the public with a specific health disorder, one that can cause hearing loss, and since you accommodate other individuals with disabilities (such as wheelchairs), you missed the boat by thinking ASL Interpretation is the same thing as asking for a Spanish interpreter. Speaking Spanish is not caused by a disability.

Deafness requiring ASL interpreters or Computer Assisted Realtime Translation (CART) is because of a serious disabling condition.  (Deaf Community people reading this – please, I know…

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This is an absolutely “must read” for anyone who is hard of hearing, a late deafened adult or the family member or friend of an individual who is seriously hard of hearing or a late deafened adult. Brava to Ms. Karen Putz!

Lipreading Mom

By Karen Putz / Lipreading Mom Guest Blogger

I was born with hearing in the so-called “normal” range.  I started losing my hearing in elementary school and received my first hearing aid when I was nine.  I hated the thing.  No one ever saw it, because I kept it hidden under my long hair, or stuffed in my pocket.  The hearing aid didn’t help much, it merely amplified the scrambled sounds into my brain.  My lipreading skills began developing as a survival tactic when I was a teen.

I hid my hearing loss every chance I could get.  I played the bluffing game, feigning complete understanding when I didn’t have a clue what was said.  I nodded, I laughed, I smiled in group situations while missing jokes and friendly banter.  It was a lonely existence at times.

Shortly after celebrating my nineteenth birthday, I went out for a barefoot water ski…

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Oh where oh where has my hearing gone?

Even when my Dad was a boy, life wasn’t very loud.  He rode a horse to school because there were no school buses.  The most noise our distant ancestors lived with would have been the occasional use of a hunting rifle, and before that they were using arrows and clubs – not exactly high sound devices.  Our forebears lived in a pretty quiet world.  Let’s face it, there’s only so much noise banging on a horseshoe at a forge a blacksmith can make.

People still struggled with hereditary deafness of various kinds or deafness caused by illness – from Meniere’s to ear infections, but we didn’t have much in the line of ototoxic drugs such as aspirin.  Until a few hundred years ago tobacco wasn’t an issue except for aboriginal Americans and they didn’t seem to abuse it. In general there wasn’t a lot of type II diabetes because the diet was fairly basic and people generally worked off their food intake. Type I diabetics didn’t live long enough for hearing to be an issue – they had bigger problems. I’m not sure most folks today even know diabetes and hypertension can contribute to hearing loss.

Hearing is a pretty precious commodity, perhaps more precious than vision.  As Helen Keller said, blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people. Yes, I know a lot of folks in the Deaf Community feel differently, but for oral deaf or those transitioning in from the hearing community, severe hearing loss feels very isolating.

It would seem to me that if hearing people want to keep what they’ve got, they’d be well advised to avoid drugs that cause hearing loss.  Rush Limbaugh is a real world example of what drug abuse of an ototoxic drug can do.  (Sorry to use someone controversial, but he’s the only famous real-world example I can think of.)

And then there’s the pervasive noise in our environment.  It is everywhere and to add to that, we’ve got teenagers with significant hearing loss from loud music.  The House Research Institute (click House link) reports that in 2006 there were 5.2 million children from 6-19 years old with permanent hearing loss from noise exposure.  Yikes!

Perhaps a little known fact about military disability: the most common disability for military members now is disabling hearing loss.  (click military hearing loss link)

It seems to me that the major factor in hearing loss that the fully hearing and partially  hearing have control over (other than avoiding diabetes and hypertension plus choosing our ancestors wisely) is sound avoidance.  I’ve been doing reading on the topic of hearing loss and found a site called Dangerous Decibels (click Dangerous Decibels link) that has excellent information on damaging noises and how long it takes to be impacted by them. Concerts, headsets, gunfire, even loud thunderclaps, can cause fairly rapid hearing problems. There are plenty of other noises we might not think about that can be problematic.  I sometimes wonder, if I can’t hear it can it still harm my hearing?

If you still have good hearing and if you’d rather not pay $3000 an ear for excellent digital aids or invest in a CI and a surgery to correct hearing loss that could be avoided, maybe it is time to think of ways to limit exposure to hearing loss.

Dead Squirrel

Dear little black squirrel.  You know who you are.  I know who you are.

Last year you dined in my tomatoes and pretty much ruined my pepper crop as well.  I sighed and prayed you’d get indigestion.  You survived the winter.  You tease the dog.  You’re very cute, little black squirrel.

But eating the top off my sunflower plant as well as eating the major bloom off the side is over the top.  I wonder, little squirrel, what will make my sunflower plant smell like teen spirit dead squirrel.

Aha! I have researched and found out you don’t like red pepper.  Guess what I have large spice jars full of?  Red pepper.  This is war… And I intend to win, little nature spirit with the sharp front teeth.  Take that!