musings

Hearing Fatigue


I used to assume the reason I am totally wiped out after being around a group of hearing people for hours is that I’m an introvert. (Note, not signers, just hearing people.) More likely it has to do with what I like to call Sensory Input Overload.

One of the symptoms of PTSD is hyper-vigilance. That’s also one of the characteristics of a hard of hearing (HoH) person in a noisy environment where there are large numbers of people talking at the same time. We switch into alert mode, scanning faces and voices and paying so much attention that if someone drops a coffee cup we over-react to the unexpected, loud, sharp noise because our brains have been recruiting sound.

For a long time I’ve had an app on my iPhone to measure the decibel level of places I go. 85 db is where hearing damage starts. Lots of restaurants, especially those with loud music, exceed that and run in the 90-100 db range.  Large coffee klatches after church can hit the 85-90 db levels. Know those annoying gas engine two-stroke leaf blowers? They put out 90-100 db on average and operators are supposed to wear hearing protection. When a gathering produces as much or more noise than a gas-fired leaf blower there’s a reason I can’t cope.

I’m told by hearies “no one understands” everything going on. That may be true. But I’d love for them to wear noise canceling ear plugs and give it a try talking to someone in a noisy venue. Repeatedly. Because if you walk into the bathroom, turn on the shower, shut the door, put your fingers in your ears, and have a person on the other side of the door face away from the door and speak to you in a normal tone of voice THAT’s what I hear. Good luck with that.

Because people with hearing loss work so very hard to understand their auditory environment it is a full time job for the brain and body when hearing is engaged. Imagine working out at the gym for hours. When I leave after several hours of weight training and cardio I’m like a limp rag. I can get that way after even the most anticipated meeting of a writer’s or photographer’s group because I have to be “on” all the time, just like you have to be “on” while you’re running on the treadmill. Try being “off”on a  treadmill and that’s where you’ll be: off – on the floor.

Things that contribute to hearing fatigue as a result of hyper-vigilance include:

Anxiety – did I not hear something? mishear something? give a non sequitur response? why is he looking at me like that? what did I miss?

Heightened continual scanning of the environment – is that noise meant for me? if I answer am I answering someone else’s communication? If I don’t answer am I being rude?

Then there’s the lip-reading component. The number of people who assume I’m attracted to them even after I’ve told them I lip read to assist the sound I hear is incredible. Really. Don’t go there. I have enough problems without you thinking I’m flirting .

I can lip read one person, two is iffy, three is a nightmare. Four and I’m looking for a corner to insert myself into to control access. I’m not being introverted, I’m overwhelmed. There’s a difference.

So, if you have a friend or relative who avoids large gatherings it is probably because there’s no accommodation for him/her to participate one person at a time. And if you are that deafie (like I am) who staggers off, takes two aspirin, and collapses in bed for two hours to recover: that’s a normal response to being hyper-vigilant.

Take two catnaps and call me in the morning.

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Lip reading – or not


Attended services in a laity led fellowship today. One of the two presenters had a full beard. Since I’m learning how to decipher the Texan version of English I need to be able to lip read to have a chance of getting what’s being said. Later we had a spritely older woman who gave her impression of attempting to swallow the microphone while speaking so lip reading was out of the question there as well.

I was doing a mental Oṃ maṇi padme hūṃ chant to pass the time as I stared out the window at falling leaves. My monkey mind suggested I could break out my own FM equipment and try that next week, so maybe that’s an option. After all, it would bluetooth the sound to my hearing aid.

And so it goes, adaptation to life back in the states with Texas style English. Loud venues. Lousy acoustics. The plethora of personality types we run into in life that make communication easier or more difficult.

Hearing doesn’t get better over time


I have not been nearly as much of a gadabout as I used to be in the states. Partly it is lack of familiarity with the area, including the fact GPS is just not as useful here. Partly It has been a lack of things to do that are of interest to me. But as time goes out and I get around more my hearing loss is driven home to me time and time again.

I went to a meeting yesterday dealing with ex-pat issues from private health insurance to resident visas to wills. It was held at a small restaurant/bar. Lots of noise from ocean out the back door to music being played over the huge TV, to general sounds in a restaurant/bar.

Often I feel like being an English speaker in a Spanish-speaking country is like being deaf for a different reason. However, when you’re with 6-8 people and basically you can’t understand much of anything that’s going on and they’re speaking English all of a sudden I find myself trying to sign with people who don’t sign.

I’m told to go out and make lots of contacts and build a community locally and yet getting out and communicating is nightmarish.

Recent attempts to find a deaf community have been fruitless.

A Day at the Beach in Winter


Winter winds blowing in off the Pacific Ocean in Baja El Norte chill to the bone. Doesn’t matter if the weather app says feels like 54˚because the wind cuts right through a layered t-shirt, sweatshirt, and fleece jacket like a sharp bladed knife chilled in the fridge. Sunlight helps, but in the morning hours it isn’t strong enough to make a difference. Humid and cool is still humid and cool and backed by air velocity it is downright chilly.

Knowing friends in Massachusetts are shivering in 12˚ temperatures while buried IMG_3864under three or more feet of snow is of absolutely no use because nothing feels warmer here based on that knowledge alone.  Walking the wee little doggie in the lee of buildings to try to keep the wee little doggie and the wee little doggie’s person warm(er) is becoming a daily occurence when it comes to the morning constitutional.

Remembering a 1989 trip moving from -33˚ Fairbanks to 33˚Anchorage in a day. That was a 60˚temperature variation in just 8 hours. Leaving in a Mouton lamb parka and ending up pumping gas in Anchorage wearing a sweatshirt and a light cloth windbreaker and thinking how warm it was! Cool, cold, warm, and hot are all relative. Still no help when it comes to shivering against the wind coming off of the ocean.

It’s supposed to get into the low 70’s tomorrow. That will be nice, as long as the freaking wind isn’t coming like a fan over cold water.

I do not need a HA to know when I’m shivery.

 

Wee Little Voices


Ahhh, the voices of small children. Barely audible in the best of cases. The upper part of my “speech banana” is pretty much gone.

While walking the wee little doggie today a young boy was with the horse concession near the beach. (Are they on vacation today?) He asked me something. I might have walked by and pretended not to hear, but I had heard something and I’m not rude by nature.

He might have asked about the dog, many people do comment on the wee little doggie as she’s quite the looker. He might have asked if I wanted to rent a horse. He might have said many things. I had one thing I could say: No hablo español. We will chalk it up to not speaking the language rather than not being able to lip read a little boy speaking Spanish.

The horses, sadly, were undernourished and not well-groomed at all. I feel sorry for the horses I see at the riding concessions. I used to have horses as a child and teen and spent many hours grooming them and making sure they had sufficient food and water. Different cultures, different values.

Down South of the Border


Getting into Mexico has never been a problem. Not for me at least. I don’t bring in much stuff and don’t have to stop and declare things. They’ve looked in the trunk once, shrugged, and waved me on because I don’t keep a lot in the car.

Getting back into the US is always more fraught with difficulty. And depending on the Border Patrol Officer (BPO) one can meet the Incredible Hulk (in terms of the anger quotient) or Officer Friendly.

I find it odd that the more Caucasian the officer the more friendly the officer, at least to date. I’ve actually started keeping a tally on the matter I’ve been so intrigued by this finding.

This makes no real sense to me. The BPOs that I’ve come close to calling for a supervisor over are all either Black or Hispanic. And I’m wondering if they feel, in some way, that they have to be raving maniacs to prove their loyalty. If that is the case then I feel sorry for them because no one should have to feel that way. On the other hand, no one on the receiving end should have to deal with that uncalled for nasty behavior.

I always lead off with my passport, a cheery hello, and the fact that I am hard of hearing and need to be able to read their lips. The same ratio holds true regarding response to that issue which leads me to wonder what creates the nasty attitude since not all of them have it.

Yesterday was a terrible day at the border (hours and hours of wait time) and yet the nice young Officer Friendly with “hero hair” was very responsive to my hearing needs. We didn’t talk more than a minute or two because with several hours of backed up traffic behind me no one wants to contribute to more backup. After two minutes I wanted to name him and claim him as family. Very polite. Very responsive. I’m sure he can be tough if necessary, but it wasn’t necessary.

Then there is the issue of Garita Center, which is a website that gives cross times to get into the US. My mind boggles at its metrics. I now interpret 20 minutes to mean: at least one hour. One hour means: at least three hours, minimum. Probably not worth checking the website any more.

 

Kindle


I got myself a PaperWhite Kindle awhile ago in order to free up space on my other digital devices, and to make it possible for me to read in sunshine. I’m not sure I’m a particular fan of the size/shape. Maybe it is the severe deep tendonitis going on with my left arm/wrist/hand due to a pincer grip problem a few months ago.

It isn’t easy to fit in the hand like an iPhone, but I make do. It does have room for a ton of books.  I think I’m set for the next 20 years or so the last time I checked. I’m a prodigious reader.  Sadly, many of my reference books are not in epub formats of any kind, so I’m still lugging around some out of print books.

If I misplace my iPhone or iPad mini or even if one of my computers were stolen, I can find any of them. Yes, I have GPS on and am delighted with it.  The alarm is loud enough that if I’m in the general vicinity even *I* can hear it.

Kindle? Nope. To make it worse, it is black and, therefore, easy to overlook in shadowed areas. I’m forever and a day looking for the bloody thing.  An actual book is easier to see. This slim, black thing can become invisible. It slips under pillows on the couch, between couch cushions, under the pillow on the bed, under the bed – anywhere I might be found reading. This last time it took almost four days to locate. Long enough that I re-activated Kindle on my iPhone. 😛

I’m going to have to get one of those electronic “tags” for it.

To wear or not to wear – that is the question.


I’ve been battling ear infections for a good six months – mostly otitis externa, but some otitis media. I never had an ear infection before I got hearing aids (HAs). I’m tired of oral and external antibiotics, drops for dermatitis in the ear canal, and oral pain meds.

For the past week I’ve been unamplified. On purpose. At first my HA fitted ear was sore to the touch. Then, over time, with no medication applied to it, it started to clear. It is starting to heal from the inside out. The itchy, flaky skin is turning supple. I no longer have oozing lymphatic fluids leaking from the ruptured skin.

I don’t hear worth a hill of beans, but I’m not in constant pain.  I plan on cleaning the ear mold exquisitely well before using it again. I may go back to only using it when I need it rather than wearing it all the time. My body doesn’t like plastic, particularly in the confined space of an ear canal.  I’m not sure I am a candidate for a CI nor that I want one. Maybe. Someday. Or not. I’m not sure.

I wish I knew more deafies locally.  But I don’t. And there won’t be any where I’m going – to the best of my knowledge.

I often wonder how many other people are also allergic to their “non-allergenic” ear molds.

The Dreaded Adverb


I stand in the gazebo in the middle of the Townsend Common and peer into the shadows of massive deciduous trees. The towering oaks and maples create a deep well of shadow. Hidden in the shadow are dark green picnic tables, freshly painted for the summer season.IMG_1880

Feathering out from each side of the shadows are graceful dark wood park benches with black wrought iron trim. The benches are cast in artful design around the gazebo. They surround it in a seemingly haphazard manner. Perhaps they are at the best places for hearing. Perhaps a whimsical designer arranged them. They’ve been in the same places for the last year.

The church to the east begins a muffled peal. Well, to me it is muffled, but the dog startles a bit. Loud. It must be loud. I don’t have my hearing aid in to walk the dog. I look at the clock faces on the front and side of the bell-tower and realize they display different times. How many peals will there be? Nine. Ten.  I check the time on my smart phone. Noon. Exactly. Neither of the clock faces reads twelve o’clock.

Brass colored folding chairs for the Thursday night concert lean against the wall or slump on the floor, tossed hither and yon by recent stormy weather. I envision how, tomorrow, they’ll be arranged in ordered fashion for the band, unlike the graceful litter of  wooden benches.

IMG_1886Here and there, black light poles erupt from the ground. They match the bold black metal fencing that marches around the edges of the Common. Half-barrels full of flowers line Main Street – ten of them – filled with a riot of brilliant magenta petunias. Several more of the half-barrels are next to the sidewalks in the Common itself, filled with a softer pink flower reminiscent of roses.

Concrete walkways crisscross the Common with a long St. Andrews Cross from corner to corner and a short path east to west across the middle. Today it is me, the dog, and ten thousand starving mosquitos. The dog and I descend the stairs of the gazebo, walk back to the car, and breathe a sigh of relief when the mosquitos are outside and we are inside.

Death to Adverbs – stripping adverbs from writing.

Give and Take


Due to an Internet outage I’m posting more than one blog for a couple of days to get caught up on writing assignments.

This assignment is about learning to create dialog through creation of opposing views.

“You owe me,” she said, her arms crossed firmly across her chest.

“I owe you?” I echoed her sentiment from across the lawn. “I owe you what? And why do I owe you?”

“The refrigerator leaked and ruined the antique dressers in the basement.”

I blinked before answering. Okay, I’m hard of hearing. Was that what she really said? “You think I’m responsible that your refrigerator leaked?” I asked.

“Yes. It never did before you moved in.”

“The refrigerator is on its last legs. It’s yours. I was the roommate.”

“The leak ruined the furniture.”

“Hold on,” I said. “You moved it into a wet basement.  A basement you warned me never to put anything valuable in.” I watched her spine stiffen in outrage, but I continued, “Besides, your insurance paid for the damage.”

“It wasn’t enough,” she said.

“That’s a problem between you and your insurance,” I replied, confounded.

I paused, thought, and then slowly said. “I painted your deck, I painted your kitchen, I helped select the new counter for the kitchen, and I helped you figure out what dryer to get when yours died – because you couldn’t make a decision. I loaned you my new clothes to attend a fancy party. For three months I took care of you after a major surgery so you didn’t have to go to rehab. I visited you in the hospital. I helped you figure out how to respond to performance evaluations. I gave you two of my old iPhones – which I could have sold, and I did it because you couldn’t afford to get one. I gave you an Oreck vacuum to use on the stairs because of all the cat litter all over the floor there. I  took care of your dog and cat whenever you went on vacation, not to mention hostessing a birthday party for you. I did that out of the goodness of my heart. Tell me again what I owe you.”

I never heard the answer…I’m hard of hearing.