New England

Under the best of circumstances

I belong to a wee little Druid Grove. The old timers there know my hearing is bad, but I’m a known quantity so they don’t think about it a lot. In fact, a few of them forget it most of the time and start making so much noise I can’t hear what I need to hear. Hidden issues remain hidden even over many years, even after many statements. We all have our own abilities and disabilities anyway from wheelchairs to canes to wretched puns to creaky bones.

Every year at Yule the ceremony begins with lights out and windows open to replicate the creation myth of the Norse – cold and dark.  It is probably my favorite part of the entire liturgical year despite the joys of being unable to lip read.  Even an Interpreter would be useless in the dark since I’ve got a frozen Franklin cup full of ice in one hand and sometimes a candle in the other.

This year the Dean and the Secretary pointed out early that I’m functionally deaf and how people need to talk directly to me and be sure I know they’re talking to me, not just talking in general.  This was because there were  new individuals present. Two of our visitors were quite talkative – Chatty Kathy and Chatty Karl. And we also changed the format – all meeting around the feasting table, rather than sitting in a circle in the living room of the Dean. In general, circular situations are more HoH/Deaf friendly.  Fortunately, I tend to know the meditation and a good deal of the material being presented after all these years. So even if I don’t hear it I get it – hard to miss a candle being lighted or a frozen cup of ice. 🙂

This year the extra people resulted in a very long ritual – since it is in blót format there’s more participation with the Toast, Boast, and Oath. We didn’t have a Sumbal this year (asperging) and for those of you interested in this, there’s a lot of mutually contradictory information on the web. 🙂 In general I don’t like anything that would get my HA wet.

One thing I did note is that the most talkative one (who didn’t interact much with me) knew how to come up behind a deaf or HoH person and gently direct with her hands on my shoulders so that I automatically moved to one side or the other. I don’t think most folks know how to maneuver around the Deaf of seriously HoH and that may be worth an observation here.

If you want to get attention, stamp hard on the floor a few times (assuming there are not a zillion people around) or pound on the table (again, assuming dishes won’t fly off) so that we can literally “feel you.” Another method is to flash the lights, which our Dean used to great effect with hearies and the deafies alike. That’ll get our attention immediately.

But in a crowd, if you come up behind a Deaf or HoH person a gentle touch to one shoulder or the other either gets a subtle move on my part away from that touch or lets me know you’re there. Please don’t ever grab one or both shoulders and attempt to move someone or swing them around to face you. That’s rude.  If you end up moving between two signers, just move quickly, don’t scrunch down. You might want to sign Excuse Me if you know how –  just keep on trucking, through.

Since this isn’t a high stakes situation (medical care) and since I’m familiar with the ritual and most of the folks there, this is an under the best of circumstances for me. I can relax and let life flow. Besides, the cooking is always fantastic for the feast. 🙂

When things are handled right

I had the misfortune to go to a small, local hospital on Christmas Day.  I had a persistent ear infection that simply refused to give up the ghost. When the itching, burning, swelling and pain became simply too much to bear I decamped to the tiny ER in Ayer, MA.

By this time I could not get my hearing aid in my ear due to pain and swelling.  For all intents and purposes, I am functionally deaf when the HA is out and the ear canal is swollen.

To tell the truth, I can say “I’m functionally deaf” all day long to people in my regular world and have it serve no particular purpose, but this once it made a difference.

Everyone from the registration clerk to the nurse to the doctor were educated to ask (repeatedly) if I wanted an interpreter. They all knew how to get my attention. They all understood my need for a quiet location if I were to understand anything at all. They all got my attention before speaking to me and spoke directly to me without looking away.  I’m so totally impressed with all of them.

Because they accommodated me with a private room and quiet environment I was able to cope with a combination of what sound I could hear and lip reading. Also, to be honest, I didn’t want to wait for the staff terp to be called and arrive.  Had the conditions not been so ideal, however, I’d have requested a terp in a heartbeat.

I knew what I needed and I got the prescription ear drops promptly (ahhh, blessed relief!). However,  I’m still not wearing my hearing aid until the infection is resolved because I have to carefully sterilize the earbud before putting it back in so as not to cause another infection. Which means I’m still functionally deaf.

Now, to be fair, this is the same facility I’ve raised holy heck with a couple of times over what I considered inadequate treatment of a relative of mine. Different issues, though. Different doctors. Maybe more enlightened times are coming. We can hope so. I’m tickled pink.

What’s the point?

At a new doctor today. When I am at a new place I wear a large lime green button (see below). If staff does not read it what is the point of wearing it?

BTW, once they understood everything has been great.



As most of my gentlereaders know I was seriously injured in an accident about a month ago – resulting in a badly broken shoulder and surgery – as well as other consequences we won’t go into now.  From the first time I saw the surgeon – three weeks after surgery – I was trying to get permission to drive (didn’t get it) and work out (didn’t get that either).

I recently had the good fortune to get permission to drive on any day I am not wearing a sling or taking anything stronger than Tylenol.  Need I say that the sling is gone as are the stronger painkillers?  I am still not allowed to “work out.”

This morning, on a lonely road in New Hampshire, I was riding along (alone) in my automobile when I started feeling rhythmic bumps and thumps that seemed to be emanating from the front of the car. Not really being able to hear what the noise was associated with it I pulled off the road and spent some time examining the tires to make sure I had not picked up a bolt or other large object.  Nope.  Back in the car, the bumps and thumps continued.  By this time I’m feeling unnerved.  Is it a wheel bearing? Master cylinder? Loose strut? Shock? I’m driving very slowly in case the car breaks down.  Finally, I turned the car onto a different road and suddenly it is fine.  Clearly, I was experiencing pavement problems.  I’ve never had that happen for miles on end.

It got me to wondering. If I could hear the sounds associated with different problems, would I have recognized it was not a tire, not a bearing, not a strut?  I mean, mechanics ask me what sound the car is making if I bring it in for service and mostly all I can describe is the feeling I get when I’m driving it. How do I know what it sounds like? The first time I ever really heard the motor I thought it was going to fall out of the car or something.

Later today my daughter, her husband, and son decided to go for a hike.  I said, “Me too!” and my daughter inquired as to whether I was permitted to walk.  “Yes!”  I had permission to walk – the right half of my upper half may be broken, but the other bits and bobs are working as well as they did before.

I put on my cross-trainers (good for anything from aerobics to weight training – certainly good for hiking, right?), got out my walking poles with the nice pointy tips on them and we piled into the car to head to the hiking trails.  The kids learned something new – there is a calorie free/carb free version of Powerade Zero to be had at the store.  And I got to walk. (Big cheesy grin)

We went to Willard Brook State Forest and started out on the Friends Trail, then veered off on a Yellow trail.  I’d guess we walked about a mile or more before we headed back.  The trail was sometimes broad and flat, sometimes rather steep and narrow, filled with standing water, rocks, and even a couple of fallen trees.  I never slipped, tripped or stumbled even once and never needed to depend on the walking poles. I’m very sure footed except on extremely slick surfaces – where almost anyone will have a problem – or if I am tangled up by wires or ropes.

I had a blast. My grandson and I often outpaced the grownups (I guess this means I am not a grownup).  I could have gone twice as far, but I suppose it is good to start slowly. My only gripe is that it costs $5 to park and who can pay THAT every day?  I’d like to go back, but I need to find a way to get in without paying that amount of money.

I saw movement by the trail and pointed out a tiny brown toad – probably not the size of a quarter – to my grandson and daughter.  I’m good at seeing things. Hearing? Meh.

All the time we were there I kept hearing rushing water, like a waterfall.  Finally I asked my son-in-law where the rushing water was.  He told me it was the wind in the leaves of the trees.  There was wind overhead but not much near the ground – more is the pity, as there were lots of gnats. Again I wondered what the difference is between the rushing of wind through the leaves of the trees and a distant waterfall.  I guess I will never know.

Often I hear a sound and guess at what it could be. Sometimes I’m right.  Sometimes I’m wrong.  Environmental noises are sometimes really tough.  I visited my friend, Domi, yesterday and I kept hearing little noises that sounded like the bubbling mud pots of Yellowstone as I remember them. It was her dishwasher.

On the days when…

On the days when I am not totally bombed out of my mind on painkillers (it happens more than I’d like since there is some interdimentional inquisitor with a big knife pick who regularly attacks my right shoulder – if you see it, please ask it to stop now) I sometimes contemplate a meaningful post.

On the day I was transported to the hospital in an ambulance there was a mantra I voiced over and over.  “I’m deaf.  I can’t hear you.  I’m deaf.  Please look at me when you talk to me.  I’m deaf and I can’t hear you when you stand on my left side.”  One woman walked in and knew how to sign and I was enormously relieved, but I never saw her again.

When, like me, you can voice adequately, “they” assume you hear.  It seemed ever time I saw someone I’d say, “I’m not hearing you.  I’m deaf.  Really.”  One woman said, “Okay, I’ll speak more quietly.”  

I am right-handed dominant signer and my left hand wasn’t up to the task.  

The day I left the hospital I was yet again saying something about being deaf and said, “My daughter is acting as my interpreter.”

“Why do you need an interpreter?”

“Because I can’t hear you!  I’m still deaf.  I got here deaf.  I stayed here deaf.  I’m leaving here deaf.  My daughter has told you over and over again I can’t hear you.”

In a small voice she said, “We have a sign language interpreter on staff.”  

I need a button to wear that says, “I am very hard of hearing.  Please call your ASL interpreter.”  (sigh)

Hiking HoH

Today was so nice out the dog got walked twice.  In fact, I awoke early and did the first tour of the neighborhood while the sky was still brightening – and also took some photos for the photoblog.  Later the roomie took the dog on another peregrination of the local streets.  About 10 a.m. I decided to take him for a longer walk so we drove to Weir Hill.  I should have just walked, but then I’d have had to lug his carcass home because he’d poop out by the time we got there – as in he’d be unconscious with his body wrapped around my neck whimpering “Take me home!”  I have to get his stamina up. Anyway, I figured it was early enough not to run into many dog folks.  So I decided – what do I need a hearing aid for?  You’d have thought I’d have learned from the store experience.

So, we’re walking up the hill and Duke the dog is doing his “Oh, my, other dogs have been here – let me smell!” thing and I’m trying to be accommodating while still going UP the hill.  Then, in the splendid silence that is my world I realized the dog is freaking out.  As in – there is something in the leaves and pine needles.

Wiki media – brown common garter snake

It was a nice size tan garter snake, minding it’s own business.  Probably Duke scared the poor thing out of a year’s growth.  I wondered if I’d have heard rustling of leaves or something rather than just realizing the dog was about ready to levitate off the ground.  I’m not really worried about rattle snakes here, but then I got to wondering if they actually have them in New England.

Back to working our way up the hill, which is basically on paths that appear to have been developed by spring runoff and other walkers/hikers – pretty much the kind of path you need to pay attention to unless one wants a broken ankle.  And since my daughter broke her leg/ankle in four places (and dislocated it in about as many places) this time last year I was looking where I was going.  SURPRISE!  Fortunately the big wet dog was nice and happy to see us.  Big overgrown waterdog pup.  So was the second one.

I wonder how much noise these dogs and their owners make when you can hear?  Do hearing people know other people are coming? I suppose so.  

The last dog was a lovely Alaskan Malemute – one of my favorite dogs of all time.  Lovely bitch with impeccable manners.  I was trying to talk with her owner when suddenly he didn’t have any voice and I realized he was totally out of range (which is a few steps or just turning away).  Oh, well…

Got back to the car, fished the hearing aid out of the case, put it on and wondered what I missed by hiking half-deaf.  Tomorrow is another (better hearing) day.

Restaurants with blaring music

Someone please explain to me the trend in restaurants that play music so loud that I am swamped by the sound. I have no hearing on one side and significant hearing loss on the other side.  I complained and took my hearing aid out.  Even when it is “turned down” I feel as if I need closed captioning to understand waitstaff.  I can only imagine that in a few years the servers are going to be going, “Eh? What was that you said?  Could you repeat that please?”  Or maybe we’ll all be using American Sign Language by then.  Because we’ll all be DEAF!

What happened to soft music?  Even a juke box is less annoying than piping in satellite radio stations at full blast.  Do you have any idea how annoying FUN’s “Some Nights” is at 100db?  And I like that song, just not screaming through overhead speakers like bombers taking straffing runs.  Or Heart’s “What About Love crashing through the air like a bomb exploding rather than a song. The only one there who wasn’t bothered was the totally deaf/blind person.  I’m surprised she didn’t feel the throbbing of the speakers.

I wish there were a jamming device I could use on the incredible sound.  I really do.  I am going to load a DB meter on the iPhone and start becoming the Sound Harpy!

Shopping HoH Style

My plan was simple.  Since it was cool out, the dog would “guard the car” and I would jet into the local Stop and Shop, grab a hand scanner, throw the stuff in my re-usable bags, scan out, and dash back home in time for a quick dog walk.

I’m assuming that in most major metro areas there is one store (or more) with the little hand scanner that technically allows you check out in nothing flat so you know what they are. These gadgets make a beeping noise when an item is logged in.  Or at least they do when I am wearing my hearing aid.  When I am not wearing my hearing aid I have to eagle-eye it to make sure the item rang in.

Tonight was a non-hearing aid night since the battery beeped out on me.  Everything went great – right up until checkout.  It was my opportunity to get randomly audited.  The clerk had to re-scan five items. He’s having problems scanning one of them.  And because I can’t hear the beep and I can’t see the machine I’m trying to figure out if it didn’t scan to begin with.  Because he’s having problems of his own he’s not answering me – or if he is I’m not hearing him because he’s mumbling (probably speaking normally) while looking down at the hand scanner.

And because time was of the essence (for me), his supervisor had to be called over to help him.  Since deleting the 5-item checksum didn’t work, then another supervisor was needed.  My eyes were sort of bugging out, trying to look around corners so I could figure out what was going on with the darned hand scanner.  Then, thankfully, some bit was twiddled and the order went through –  in silence.  They were elated.  I realized it would have taken less time to get all my stuff scanned and bagged at a register.

Next time, I swear, I am going to take the time to pop a new battery in the hearing aid and wear it into the store!  Not that it would have saved time, but at least I’d have understood what all the hoopla was about.

No, the dog never got his walk, but he did a treat of mashed sweet potatoes when we got home.  BTW, apparently sweet potatoes = noxious gas.  OMG…

And if you haven’t read the book, Walter the Farting Dog, please consider doing so.  It’s a riot.  🙂

ASL Meetup

Tonight David of  came to his very first ASL meetup.  (Deaf clapping!)  He’s a pretty darn good finger speller and we learned that his mother signed and that’s how she kept secrets from him when was a boy.  Elaine said that her parents spoke Italian to keep secrets from her.  Isn’t that how parents are?  🙂

Anyway, part of the night I was his voice terp (which is pretty cool for a HoH chick with a hearing aid in a noisy place) and part of the night he did a very good job understanding Heidi, a Deaf woman who attends Meetup.  I know he was exposed to a lot of words in ASL, which was a good thing.  And I’m sure some he will forget by next Wednesday, but some he will remember. It is how we all learn – a little at a time.

David told me that hearing people often talk with one hand full (of coffee, food, whatever) and when he is signing he’s found out that he needs to put things down to communicate.  And he’s right, at first you need both hands.  One handed signing comes later.

He also learned more about old and new signs as well as dialects in sign.  We talked about how in English I’d say, “Are you finished eating?” whereas in sign I’d say, “Finished eat you?” and he immediately compared it to a language he knew.  And he shared with me that ASL, as a non-spoken language, makes you smarter.  Hey, didn’t all us signers already know that?  😉

We had a nice group tonight. Maybe 15 people. Some were baby (new) signers and some were old timers.  I think we all had a great time.  Maybe we will see some of you locals at the North Shore Mall in Peabody on Wednesday night at 6 p.m.  (waves)

The Boston Marathon Bombing

This has nothing to do with being deaf and hard of hearing unless it is the fact that some people may have been permanently deafened by ruptured eardrums today.

No, this commentary today has far more to do with the issue of righteous self-justification for those who commit acts of terrorism.  This is a world-wide phenomenon.  Bombs go off every day somewhere in the world. We in America don’t often hear about them, or if they do we barely notice them.  Iraq, Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan are not even on our radar screen.  It hasn’t been that long since Northern Ireland was a war zone.

I do not know who did this.  Only time will tell. Clearly, whomever did this intended to maximize harm both through placement (low) to maximize lower-limb amputation and through the inclusion of shrapnel (ball bearings). It has the feel of home-grown terrorism because of the small, home-made packages intended to hurt bystanders.  It has the feel of an Eric Rudolph, Centennial Olympic Park type of terror.  We’ll see.  No one has claimed and named it so far.

At some point, we – as humans – have got to start telling all of our brethren that nothing absolutely nothing – justifies this sort of attack on an innocent populace.  There are two dead – one of them a child.  There are reportedly 20 individuals in danger of death.  Ten amputations.  Really, when will we ever learn?