Okay, you’re deaf, we get it …


Actually, if you “got it” there would not be millions of late deafened adults out there trying to get friends and family to understand what is going on without being considered a crank, a faker, or just delusional.

Most late deafened adults are not totally deaf.  We hear environmental noises – like lawnmowers and jet airplanes and car engine motors.  Unfortunately, human voices are not in that hertz range.  What is a hertz range?  I hope Bitco David stops by to expound, but non-sound engineer little me will make a stab at this.

Sound comes in different frequencies.   The important sounds to humans is often called “the hearing banana” or “the speech banana” because the range curves like a banana. I’d show you mine, but I’ve misplaced it again.  I can’t find a good commons photo, so here’s a link to a chart.

Once people start losing down into the 40 hertz level, the ability to understand human speech is adversely impacted.  Shouting doesn’t help since the issue is the tenor of the voice, plus shouting distorts sound.  Lowering of the voice can help. at least, to a point.  For instance, I understand men better than women.  The higher the voice the harder it is for me to understand.  Those piping high voices of little kids are often beyond the range I can hear – except for my grandson, whose voice is somehow turned into James Earl Jones playing Darth Vader by my hearing aid.

More than that, certain speech sounds are higher or lower than other speech sounds.  So a mild hearing loss may take:  f, th, s v, m, n, ng, and l out of the range of understanding. It will also make j, i, b, and p as well as z, u, d, a and k dicey to hear.  But that still leaves us with g, o, r, sh, and h as well as a crying baby.   This might explain why, when we don’t know you’re speaking to us you’re nothing but background noise.  

Just out of curiosity, how many words can you make up using  the letters g, o, r, sh, and h?

Speaking for the HoH, there are things you can do to make life easier for all of us – that “us” includes YOU.

1.  Make sure we know you are going to talk with us.  Use my name.  Wave your hand at me.  Get my attention.  Only when I am looking at you should you start speaking – and speak directly to me – not the walls, floors or ceiling.

2. Speak clearly and distinctly.  Don’t over-enunciate or speak   s  l o  w  l  y   because that makes your lip movement distorted. And speaking of lips – I can’t read them if you cover them with a mustache.

3. If there is background noise and you have control over it – turn it off.  If not, turn it down.  If you can do neither, get up close and personal so I can read your lips while you speak clearly and distinctly.

4. If you know I cannot hear you well use pen and paper or text me. I’ve had text conversations while at the same table with another person.  Often a Deaf or HoH person will have their own pen and paper for such moments.

5.  Never, ever, say “Never mind.” That’s a dismissal. It’s rude and hurtful. If the communication was important enough to get my attention and speak to me, it is important enough to complete.  Even if you have to write it down.  Even if it is no longer funny or timely to you. Let me be a part of any communication you begin.

6. Never make assumptions about what I can hear from what I have heard before.  Background noise can mask sounds one moment – yet  are crystal clear the next.  My daughter thinks because I can hear something once I can always hear it – and she’s known me for 35 years.  I can hear only what I can hear at the time I hear it – your HoH or deaf relatives are just the same as I am.

7. I do not deliberately misunderstand and present you with a non-sequitur for an answer.  I thought I heard you and I thought I answered reliably.  If I don’t understand, please say it again.  Refer to #5 if unclear on this point.

8. Remember that this could be you someday.  By the time we are 75 years old MOST adults have hearing loss.

9. A HoH or Deaf person is not “broken.”  I do not need to be “fixed.” I could be very happy with my limited hearing and ASL if everyone spoke ASL. That being said, I do not object to wearing a hearing aid in an attempt to fit in with hearing society.  My lack of full hearing does not make me lesser than a fully hearing person. I am just as vital and vibrant and alive as you are – and people I know who are DeafBlind are also vital and vibrant people.

ILY sign

I love you

10.  If you know at least some ASL offer it.  If the HoH person or deaf person does not know ASL, at least you tried.  If nothing else, tell me “I love you.”  Here, let me show you.

I know at times I go over and over and over the same ground on hearing issues.  The reason I do is that so many people either don’t get it or, for some reason, don’t want to get it.

As HH the Dali Lama says, “Be kind whenever possible.  It is always possible.

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39 comments

  1. Thank you for this! And grazie mille, merci beaucoup and a big ol’ Vielen herzlichen dank!

    My hearing took the last train for the coast when I was 46 — 8 years ago. I feel like I’m still adjusting to this new world. Can’t say that I miss the sound of babies yowling on airplanes or loud cell phones talkers on trains but I surely do still miss the music of Satie, Ravel and Debussy.

    I write about deafness, Neurofibromatosis type2 and a bunch of other random stuff at my blog Donna-Tell Me A Story — this is a link to posts on deafness http://donna-tellmeastory.blogspot.com/search/label/Deaf

    Again — thank you for this wonderful post!

      1. Thanks for explaining what it is like. That is the way I hear with my hearing aid. With my hearing aid, I can hear the voice sound but I still need to see the speaker’s face. Without my hearing aid, I don’t have any hearing in the banana. My hearing begins at around 75 db at the deepest frequency and then it goes to 80 db, then to 100 db , then to 110 db with no response on the 2 highest tones. I wish more hearing people could understand that. I can enjoy organ music, guitars, and the drums. However, I cannot understand the words. Thanks again for writing this article.

      2. Thanks so much for stopping by, reading, and commenting. We HoH have to stick together.

        I’m glad to hear you have the ability to hear voices with your HA. I recently heard from one person who got a CI and he reported his hearing is much clearer now. Makes me almost wish I was CI eligible.

        I rarely sleep with my HA in. Too uncomfortable for me. But I know I can hear snores because I can hear it when I am places with guy friends and they commence to making snoring sounds.

        Wishing you all the best,
        Marsha.

    1. I guess that if it is forwarded enough, the whole world “could” read it. 🙂 One of my FB friends did a repost of it. Who knows where it will end up? Thanks for reading and commenting, Rachael!

  2. So nicely written. You’ve described my experience. My banana is all squashed. I’m off the bottom of the chart but can still hear snores and engines! How lucky!

    1. Thanks, Cathy. I’m glad you found this post to be a good description. Sorry to hear your banana got that squashed. All that is left to do at that point is make a smoothie or banana bread – my kitchen or yours? 🙂 The great part of my hearing loss is that I can sleep with my good ear smashed into the pillow and pretty much not hear a thermonuclear explosion outside the window. Because of this I use a vibrating alarm. 😀 And guess what, the vibration is such a deep sound that – you got it! – I can HEAR it! LOL

  3. To Marsha: Thanks for your reply. If I was close and touching my ex, I felt the snoring but I could not hear it. I was probably born with the severe to profound hearing loss. I acquired lipreading. People thought I was slow. When I was 5, the doctor thought I was delayed in my speech because my tonsils were big. I had the operation but that didn’t help my speech! 🙂 When I was almost 7, I was tested at the Board of Public Education. The nice lady noticed that I did not hear the record player and I did not hear her when she spoke behind me. When she was in front of me, I understood her. I got my first body h.a. at age 7. I did not like it at first. The noises gave me a headache.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story. I had a head injury at age 18 months and probably lost most of my hearing then. My Mom realized I could not hear out of one ear when I was 3. Like you, I acquired lip reading. People thought I was many things – obnoxious, slow, stubborn, you name it. After Mom figured out I’d lost hearing on one side no one checked the other. In fact, no one knew that I was Deaf in one ear and could not hear out of the other until I was 18. I never got a hearing aid (no one suggested one) until I was in my mid-30’s. I had the grouchiest grump of an audiologist I’ve ever met. I kept complaining about “static” so she slammed the window shut and it stopped. It was the sound of the tires on wet pavement. My HA’s can still give me incredible sound headaches. I remember seeing older men with hearing aids they kept in a shirt pocket with wires up to their ears. Is that what you wore? I do remember the kids from the Gooding School for the Deaf with HA’s like that – but I talked with those swiftly flying fingers in ASL!

      1. Thank you for sharing your story. Like you, my family thought I was misbehaving. I got lots of spankings back then. There are incidents that I remember and I can’t figure out why people did not realize that I was not hearing. Did you attend a Deaf School. I was mainstreamed in grade school and in high school except for 3 years at an oral deaf school. In the mainstreamed class, I had to sit up front so I could see the teacher’s face. I wish I was exposed to ASL as a child and I would have learned it naturally. I do know simple sign language and fingerspelling. I lipread mostly because I am with hearing people most of the time. I had many years of speech therapy too. Yes, I wore those kinds of body hearing aid in a pocket underneath my dress. When I was in high school, I clipped it in the middle of my bra. When I was growing up, we had no closed captions, tty, emails, and cap-tel phones. Life is much better for us now.

      2. Hi Arlene,

        My Mom seemed to always understand that I was not refusing to respond. I don’t remember spankings. But, I also had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (they just called it “ants in the pants” back then) as well as Attention Deficit Disorder – and once I got to school it was hell on a half-shell as I had both dyslexia and dyscalculia (neither diagnosed).

        No, I wasn’t fortunate enough to go to a Deaf School. I was mainstreamed in a Catholic school. My first year I got the snot beaten out of me more than once over writing upside down and backwards. I could not figure out what the problem was. Mom put a stop to that, but I was always and forever at sea in class – nothing ever made sense and being learning disabled as well made it a million times harder. Mom helped me learn how to read (thank heavens!).

        I got so paranoid about writing that I wrote in letters so small no one (including me) could read them. When I was 16 I asked my brother to teach me to write. He did and I write like he does. Well, I did until I broke my wrist. Now I rarely write as it is painful – when I do write, I callig.

        Like you I had to sit in front of the teacher and read lips and put it together with what sound I had. We were not allowed to do homework and I was flunking out of grade school. They told my parents I was retarded and to put my in the state school and hospital. My Mom had me tested and I was doing college level work in the 8th grade, but I could not function in school. I could not hear. I did not understand. I went to a different high school and did much better. I still could not hear, but classes were very small and the teachers were highly skilled.

        I first found out about ASL in college when I met a Deaf man who became my first boyfriend. I’ve studied on and off the rest of my life. Now it is serious because I’m on the final approach to Deafness. I have taken ASL 1, 2, and 3 at Deaf Inc and go to ASL meetups and Deaf Club meetings.

        I am starting to use CAPTEL, Purple, the new version of TTY and other adaptive devises. I use CC too when I watch TV. Yea! But mostly, I like books.

      3. Hi, Thanks for your interesting reply and story. You look younger than I am. I assume that back in the time when I was a child, people didn’t know better. They thought the deaf children were mentally retarded. I was an active toddler too. When I was age 5, I attended a Catholic School kindergarten. I remember one incident. I was sitting at a table that was facing the wall. I was putting colorful beads on a long string. Then the Nun tapped me and I looked up. Here, I noticed that all the other students were gone. Then the Nun with the pretty face told me that it was snack time. She took my hand and we walked to the other room. Why didn’t she notice that I kept doing what I was doing when she told the class to go to the other room? At the end of the school year, the Nun told my Mother that I was retarded. She told my Mother to send me to the nearby public school, where I could be helped. The next year, I was placed in first grade at the public school. I sat in back of the classroom and I ended up being placed in kindergarten in the middle of the school year. The next school year, I was tested at the Board of Public Education. It was there when it was found out that I wasn’t hearing and I was lipreading. At age 7, I got my first body hearing aid. I had a special ed teacher come in for about 1 to 2 hours one morning a week and she helped me with my school works in another room. I sat up front in the mainstreamed classrooms. I had a speech teacher come in regularly too. The speech lessons were tiring! I was mainstreamed at a Catholic high school and there were no extra help there. I used to have to copy my classmates’ notes. We both have interesting stories on how we made it with our deafness. Did you grow up in Pittsburgh? That is great that you are doing so well in ASL!

      4. I forgot to mention… I was born in ’49, so there wasn’t much around for the Deaf and HoH. And certainly not in a tiny town in ND or later outside of a tiny town in rural ID. I’ve never been in Pittsburgh. I’m not sure they had special ed teachers when I was in school.

        To learn ASL I’ve taken classes in Boston and also I study through a variety of DVDs or online video sources such as Signing Savvy. I know my grammar in ASL is off, but I’m better off to be speaking PSE (Pidgin Signed English) than nothing at all. For instance, to ask if someone is finished eating I “should” say Finished Eat you? Instead, I normally say, Eat Finished? Also, as I talk with elderly Deaf/Blind I sometimes use older signs that are considered old fashioned. I comment that I “stutter” when I sign. 🙂

      5. Thanks, Marsha. I was born in 1946. It is so much better today because babies’ hearing are tested after they are born. If there is a delay in the baby’s speech his/her hearing is tested. My 14 months younger sister was a very cute and talkative toddler. I was just saying words but no sentences at age 5. Back then, no one thought to test my hearing. It sounds like you did very well in spite of your deafness. I had taken ASL classes. However, I never had anyone to practice it with in my daily life. I am with people, who speak, on daily basic. When I do communicate with people, who are Deaf, we mixed signs and lipreading when we communicate. Many Deaf people do lipread. Have a great day.

      6. Ahh, so we are of an age. You’d have been a Senior when I was a Freshman. 🙂 It is better today because babies have their hearing tested, but… I lost mine due to injury so unless my folks would have had to thought to have the testing done again I’d still have drifted through life without diagnosis.

        You, OTOH, would have had so much more to enrich your life! I wish we could go back in time, but then we would not be the strong people we are today, eh?

        My grandson had massive and multiple ear infections from malformed Eustachian tubes – he even got MRSA. There were times we didn’t know if it would get into his brain and kill him. It was a scary time. Now he is a happy and active 7 year old. I did not know that he had hearing loss until his Mom told me recently. One ear has a bad rupture in the ear drum that will have to be surgically repaired when he is older. The other has small holes from repeated tube placement. They may close in time. My shattered and scarred ear drum on the left side did heal over the years. The doctors and audiologists assure my daughter that he does not not need hearing aids, but it scared me silly when she told me. I remember what it was like. Still, he does well in school and has lots of friends so perhaps he’s minimally HoH. I hope so. I don’t want him to have to struggle like I did. His parents test his hearing every six months! Good for them! They also taught him Baby Sign as an infant, but he no longer uses it as his hearing is much better.

        Each of my grandchildren have had their challenges. The eldest survived ADD (a “gift” from her grandmother) and is a gorgeous (no kidding she could be a model), vibrant, and talented reader and writer, and an excellent student and athlete. The middle child is still struggling with her issues (mostly middle child syndrome and a healthy dose of the Cox family temper – a gift from my Dad) and is a stunningly lovely, vibrant, champion gymnast, as well as an excellent student – I sometimes wonder if I will see her at the Olympics. Then we have the our little Prince with his hearing problem. He is a handsome young scamp with a brilliant smile, a good heart, another one with a healthy dose of the Cox family temper, and the energy to run a small nuclear plant – with him as the fuel rods. 🙂

        Do you have grandchildren?

        I barely spoke as a child. But… I had a brother 9 years old and a sister 10 years older so all I had to do was point and grunt. My mother finally told them to stop babying me or I’d never learn to talk. When I did talk I believe I started in short sentences. I COULD talk, I just never needed to! LOL

        I was fortunate that my mother went to Dickinson State Normals (Teacher’s) College – at least for awhile before The Great Depression hit. When she realized all my issues she taught me to read by using crossword puzzles and other teaching aids. She “got it” that I had trouble with letters moving around and being strange. I was so lucky to mostly overcome dyslexia about age 8. After that I dove into reading and she encouraged me to learn many, many words. I still know words I have no idea how to pronounce. I’ve never learned to use pronunciation guides in dictionaries. They are a mystery to me.

        Math is a different issue – my linguistic skills are very high – my math skills are very low. Mom deferred to Dad (who was a math whiz and a man with a terrible temper and no patience at all) to teach me – so I learned nothing about math or arithmetic, for that matter. When I took MSATs for college I was in the 98th and 99th percentiles in reading and linguistics and in the 15th percentiles in math. Had I been able to do that well (the high 90’s) in all areas I’d have probably gotten scholarship offers. It wasn’t until about 4 years later that it was discovered that I had dyscalculia. I was considering a career in Ed Psych and was taking a psychometrics class which resulted in the discovery. To this day, no one knows what my actual IQ is because of the dyscalculia. I am better than I used to be with math – and recently a friend realized that if I can manage just one column of figures at a time (ignoring others) that I can handle that. She, by the way, is an editor, writer and English maven – not a teacher.

        There are now ways to talk with individuals using ASL when there is no one local. Skype, FaceTime (Apple) and other Internet video conferencing options lets us see others signing. I also go to ASL Meetups and other places to meet up with Deaf folks. I’m not sure where you live, but there MUST be a Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in your area where you can find resources to study ASL again and meet people who sign.

        I know that sooner or later all my hearing is going to go kaput and at that point I will rely on CART, captioning resources, and Interpreters. I need some sound to do lip reading – lip reading alone isn’t enough for me. So, lip reading is going to go “bye-bye” for me when the hearing finally goes. I have been told I am not a CI candidate so I do not have that option. OTOH, I have no problem being a proud member of the Deaf Community, so I’m good there. 🙂

        Wishing you a joyous day…
        Marsha

      7. Hi, Marsha: Thanks for you reply about your interesting life. I was never in the middle states except for Chicago and Ohio. Were you ever in Pittsburgh. You mentioned lipreading and that you will lose all your hearing eventually. Without my hearing aid, I cannot hear the sound of the normal voice sound. I don’t always wear my hearing aid when I am at home. I can lipread my son and my other family and close friends without hearing their voices. I did that before I got my first hearing aid at age 7. I do have memories as a little child sleeping next to my Mother and hugging her. I could feel her voice on her chest. As a little child, I followed my sister around and learned from her. She talked for us both. She told Santa Claus what we wanted. I could never understand Santa Claus with his white beard! 🙂 As a child growing up, my speech was badly impaired and only my sister and Mother understood me. I never had any close friends in the public grade school because it was hard for the classmates to understand me. The first time that I had close girlfriends was when I attended an oral deaf school for 3 years in junior high. I was 13 going on 14. My teacher recommended that I attend this oral deaf school because the classes at junior high were twice as big as the classes in my grade school were. The grade school had about 25 students in each class. That was the first time I met other students, who had hearing loss–like me. We looked at each other and lipread one another. People with significant hearing loss usually use more expressions and move their lips when they talk. The school was about an hour and half away from where I live. I had to ride the bus to North Side and then get on the yellow school bus. The yellow bus pick up children along the way and it took almost and hour to arrive at the school and ride back after school. Many of the children lived near the deaf school or they stayed there during the week. Many attended this school since pre school until they were 16 to 18. During the weekends and in the summertime, some played with each other and taught each other sign language. They couldn’t do it at school but they did do it behind the nuns’ backs when they could. 🙂 I didn’t have that opportunity. 😦 However, there were only about 10 students in each classroom. We wore those ear phones and the teacher had a microphone on a wire around her neck. I did learn alot in those 3 years at the oral deaf school because I didn’t miss anything the teachers (both Nuns and lay teachers) said and taught us. I was a serious student and I was shy. I am not shy anymore. 🙂 Before it was found out that I couldn’t hear, I was inside my little world–thinking inside my head. I used to wander off alone. My son had dylexia as a child. He had the same problems that you had as a child. He had special ed help in grade school. School was difficult but he made it. He is not married and I have no grandchildren. He has been working at a computer for a bank for 14 years and he attends evening classes at Com. College. He has a nice girlfriend. It looks like your grandchildren will do well. They must be adorable! We worry about our children and they grow up and do fine. Did you have problem getting a job before the ADA was passed? I graduated with an accounting major from business school. I always got A’s in accounting. The job placement director told me that I couldn’t get a job in accounting because I couldn’t answer the phone. 😦 I applied for work at many places. Heinz interviewer told me that they didn’t hire people, who can’t hear. Another company couldn’t hire me because I couldn’t hear the intercom. I eventually got hired as an IBM File clerk and then when the company moved, I got a job as an inventory record clerk in a dress shop for many years. In the last 20 years or so, I do part time housekeeping at 3 and now 2 rectories. It sounds like you are very smart. You graduated from college! I am one of the Board members for the Hearing Loss Association Chapter. Many of our members are late-deafened. I made many wonderful friends there. I forgot to mention that my best girl friend sometime oral transliterates to me when we are at Church sometime or at a lecture in an auditorium. She moves her lips using without using her voice. She is easy to lipread. Did you ever hear of an oral interpreter? The correct words are oral transliteraters. Some ASL interpreters moves their mouth when they are signing and I can understand them too. I combine it with their signing. We have CART at our Hearing Loss Association meetings. I appreciate that. Have a great day.

      8. Nope, I have never been to Pittsburgh.

        As to lip reading, I do require some sort of feedback – either ASL/lipreading or some sound with the lipreading. A lot of background noise takes the meaning of lipreading away from me. I can do straight ASL as well, although lip motions help.

        My voice developed fairly normally because for a number of years I had one more or less functional ear. It had diminished hearing in the moderate loss range but is now moving down and down the scale. Some areas are still moderate. Some are severe now. The Meniere’s take chunks and then the sensory neural loss takes more.

        I never had speech therapy. My mother enrolled me in singing lessons, which seems to contribute to much the same effect.

        Yes, I graduated from College, worked in a professional field as a social worker and even went back and got a JD (waste of money, if you ask me). I think it is silly not to hire you as an accountant – you worked with numbers, for god’s sake, not people.

        How nice that you are now on the DOB for a Hearing Loss Association Chapter!

        Nice talking with you. I’m totally fagged out – long day. More anon…

      9. P.S. Like you, I have trouble pronouncing the newer words that came out later. My family and friends understand me though my speech sound difference. 🙂

  4. I’m saving these suggestions and am going to pass out a modified version to my students next school year…it’s time to let them know just how deaf I really am. I hate when someone says “never mind.” It really hurts.

    1. Hi Lisa,

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Indeed, let your students know. In fact, involve them in learning acceptance of the Hard of Hearing.

      I went to your blog and noted your belief system (Christian) and would like to share a comment I made on another site where we were discussing God and disability and how to deal with it in those terms.

      I am as my Higher Power made me. I am not defective, nor am I “broken.” There is a greater reason for me being who and what I am at this time and place. Perhaps I am here to teach others some greater lesson in life – maybe lessons like acceptance, inclusion, patience, and expansion of their ideas of “normal.” There is no such thing as a perfect person. We all have issues we deal with and we can all help ourselves and others grow. In my world, the saying, “God don’t make no junk” is a reality. Feel free to modify. Keep teaching. We need good teachers who will help students grow in many ways, including acceptance.

      Best,
      Marsha

  5. And ask for real time captioning (CART) whenever and wherever you need it 🙂 which we read that you do (about you). Thanks for your blog! Many of us who are hoh/deafened/deaf are learning new ways to “just ask.” One of the newest (and easy to use) options is a service of the CCAC online – CaptionMatch – using it offers support in concrete ways to the official non-profit too (Collaborative for Communication Access via Captioning). Whatever your language, we love communications, collaborations, and captioning!
    Lauren for CCACaptioning.org and CaptionMatch.com

    1. Thanks so much for mentioning CART! The only problem with CART (and Interpreters) is that they are both limited (there are not nearly enough to go around) and they are expensive.

      Doctors (although most don’t really understand this entirely) are required to provide interpretation of one type or another, at their own expense, to Deaf or seriously HoH patients. So are lawyers.

      There is a double whammy that happens here since there are limited resources sometimes it is impossible to schedule CART or a terp on short notice, and then there is the issue of what to do if the CART or terp person doesn’t show up. There are video phone based services or phone services such as CAPTEL that are starting to fill in the blanks.

      I’ve been at court hearings where the terp or CART personnel did not show because they could not leave the hearing they were at. And once I had CART where the libraries loaded were not sufficient for the purpose (as you know, CART is stenotype and therefore depends on specialized libraries). OTOH, at the Symposium on the Deaf, Mental Health, and the Criminal Justice System, the CART was fabulous! The right libraries mean the world to great transcription.

      Thanks so much for telling us about Caption Match. I assume this is similar to CAPTEL? I’m so thankful that technology is finally starting to become viable for us HoH who can use captioning effectively and efficiently.

  6. Thanks for this article! I was googling something else entirely about the deaf, but the title of your post caught my eye. =)
    I am not deaf, but have always been interested in ASL. I did some signing at my church when I was a teen, but since then have learned that it was not ASL, but mostly SEE. Or something else. It’s a wonder those poor deaf people were able to anything from my signing! =\
    I am beginning to *slightly* lose my hearing, but nothing like you are talking about, but I do get the “never mind” sometimes. And yes, it is hurtful. Background noise and such really do change how we hear, or don’t hear.
    I’m pinning this post to Pinterest, and hopefully it will spread so many people can become educated about this.

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