I have often considered having a T-shirt made that says DEAF on the front and STILL DEAF on the back with the letters finger spelled letters ASL beneath STILL DEAF. Someday, maybe, although the Deaf Community probably wouldn’t like a partial “hearie” wearing it.
Today I began physical therapy. I’m fresh meat for the physical therapist. They do have PTs who use ASL which I have kept in the back of my mind – just in case.
We began the “I can’t hear you” dance this morning. We did it a little during the evaluation, but that was in a small room where it is easier to hear so she didn’t really learn the steps. The actual pain and torture (hence, PT) takes place in a very large room with hard surfaces and windows to reflect sound, as well as a number of machines humming, beeping and making other noises – especially if people are clomping away on the treadmill. THERE I am functionally deaf.
My PT is really trying. She does speak loudly, but not TO me. She speaks AT me. There is a difference. Sometimes I ask, “Are you talking to me?” I don’t know – they always have two people going at any one time – getting warmed up, doing the exercises, getting cooled down or massaged or something. Often she has to repeat everything – sometimes twice if I still don’t get it. I don’t recognize her voice – I rarely recognize the voice of someone I know well.
Early on today I reminded her, “You know, I’m still deaf.” She smiled and responded, “What? It hasn’t changed since the last time I saw you?” Next time I’ll wait until we’re doing the deafie dance of “I can’t hear you!” and say “I’m still deaf … and that hasn’t changed in the last few minutes.”
I know it is hard for hearies to understand the limitations of a deafie who can talk. If I can talk then I can hear, right? Um, sometimes yes, sometimes no. The more background noise the less I can distinguish what is meant for me. I think I’m going to give her a quick instructional on getting the attention of a deafie.
I’m not sure I can find a video, but essentially you put a hand out, palm down, and flap it up and down in the field of vision of the deafie until they see you. Oh, here’s a link to a video. Hey! I say, Hey!
Aha! It IS me you’re talking to! – pointing to my self and giving an inquiring look back. Oh, great, let me give you my undivided attention so I can understand you!
It is important that the deafie SEE it the motion, hence the “field of vision” instruction. Flapping a hand at my back only makes a breeze, at best – or maybe you’re brushing lint off my shirt?
When someone is talking behind me I may be able to hear if they are on my right side and are talking right into my hearing aid. If it is on my left side I usually hear “Wah, wah,wah,wah” like the adults talk in the old Charlie Brown cartoons or I may hear nothing more than environmental noise. I often don’t respond. Why? Is ME you’re talking to?
Below is a a Deafies version (of the somewhat creepy music video) “Is it Me You’re Looking For?”
Hello, hello, is it me you’re talking to?
I’ve been alone with you
inside my silence
And in my dreams
I’ve heard your words
A thousand times
I sometimes see you pass
just out of lip-reading range
Hello! Hello! Is it me you’re talking to?
I can’t see your flapping hand,
I can’t see your inquiring face,
Just a sign is all I’ve wanted
My attention is open wide
Hoping I’ll see your lips move
And you’ll know what to do…
Okay, so it doesn’t rhyme exactly. You get the point, right? 🙂 Keep me in mind when you run into deafies or half-deafies like me. Make sure we know you’re talking to us so we can pay attention and not miss anything.