Sign Language Restaurant in Toronto

My step-mother sent me this video in an email last night.  Apparently, there is a brand new restaurant in Toronto, Canada in which the staff uses American Sign Language and the guests are encouraged to order using sign language.  The restaurant is aptly named “Signs”.

Who else wants to go to Toronto with me?

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Marvel Creates a Hard-of-Hearing Superhero!

My best friend sent me this link in a Facebook message.   Essentially, Marvel Comics is creating a hard of hearing (they used “hearing disabled”) superhero called The Blue Ear. This is incredibly cool and so inspiring. I wish someone had thought of this when I was a kid.

Here is one of the covers for the comic book:

hard of hearing superhero

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10 Things You Should Know About Dating Some Who is Hard of Hearing

1. Be Patient with Us

patience

We may need you to repeat yourself a few times before we fully understand what you’re trying to tell us.  We aren’t doing this to annoy you. We just really want to know what you’re saying.

2. We Aren’t Ignoring You. 

CatIgnoringMe

Remember that we can’t hear as well as you can.  If we don’t respond or react to something you said, it’s probably because we didn’t hear you. Try getting our attention by touching us, waving at us, or stomping lightly on the floor.

3. If We Need Help, We’ll Ask You for It.  

HELPER-CAT-IS-HELPING

Most of us are pretty independent and can do things on our own.  Please don’t assume that you have to help us with everything because we’re hard of hearing. If we need your help, we’ll ask you for it.

4. It May Take Us a Little Longer to Get Ready. 

Ok_Ready_4_Walk

We have one or two extra things to put on every morning and take out every night. It doesn’t take too long to put hearing aids on, but please remember that hearing aids are an essential part of our ensemble. Please give us time.

5. Sometimes We May Not Say Something Correctly.  

Confused_Cat

Being hard of hearing often messes with our speech because we can’t hear words correctly. While most of us go through years of speech therapy, there will be times when we muddle up a word.  Some of us may even have a slight accent. Please be understanding and supportive. Laughing at us doesn’t help.

6. Loud Noises Can Be Painful. 

loud-noise-leave-immediatly

Yes, we cannot hear as well as you can, but that doesn’t mean that loud noises don’t hurt our ears.  Some hearing loss is caused by damaged hair follicles that would normally protect us from loud noises.  Because our hair follicles are damaged, loud noises can be pretty painful.

7. Don’t Assume We Can’t Do Something.

determined cat

While some things may be challenging for us, there are a lot of things that we can do.  Please don’t assume we can’t do something because we’re hard of hearing. We may need assistance or accommodations, but we can do things just as well as everyone else, and we may even do it better if given the chance.

8. Not All of Us Know Sign Language. 

signing cat

Not all hard of hearing or deaf people know sign language. This is a pretty common misconception. A lot of us learn to talk and never learn sign language. 

9. We Can Be Self-Conscious. 

shy cat

Having a disability is hard, especially one that makes you obviously different from everyone else. We can be rather self-conscious due to teasing and bullying we endured as children. Please don’t stare at our hearing devices or whisper about the way we talk. 

10. We Want to Be Loved. 

I love you too

We may be different, but we want to be loved just as much as everyone else.

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A Possible Cure for Deafness? Maybe!

inner ear

All my life, I have been told that my hearing loss is something that cannot be truly cured.  Hearing aids certainly help, but they don’t fix the problem.  However, recent studies have shown that we might be getting close to an actual cure for hearing loss.  

Researchers at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Harvard Medical School have demonstrated that hair cells can be regrown “using a drug to stimulate resident cells to become new hair cells, resulting in partial recovery of hearing in mouse ears damaged by noise trauma. This finding holds great potential for future therapeutic application that may someday reverse deafness in humans.”

This kind of research is extremely exciting for me.  I have damaged hair cells in my cochlea that prevent me from hearing normally. Given the location of these hair cells, I have always believed that I would be hard of hearing for the rest of my life. I mean, how could anyone fix damaged hair cells? Well, it seems they have figured it out.

The drug applied to the cochlea inhibited a signal generated by a protein called Notch on the surface of cells that surround hair cells. These supporting cells turned into new hair cells upon treatment with the drug. Replacing hair cells improved hearing in the mice, and the improved hearing could be traced to the areas in which supporting cells had become new hair cells.

I’m not sure what this drug is exactly, but it sounds amazing.  It regrows damaged hair cells and thus allows for improved hearing.  This is the first time in history that hair cell regeneration has worked in mammals (mice).  Hopefully one day we will be able to see successful hair cell regeneration in humans, which could lead to an actual cure for deafness. Though, I would like to know how they insert the drug into the cochlea. Would it be an invasive, painful procedure for humans?  It will be interesting to see how this research progresses.

I cannot imagine what it would be like to hear normally, but I find this kind of research fascinating and really exciting. Yes, I would probably be very uncomfortable with the level of noise, but I think I would get used to it.  Who knows? It might be nice to be able to hear the lyrics of songs and to not constantly have to ask people to repeat themselves.   

Here are some more articles on this topic:

http://www.boston.com/news/science/blogs/science-in-mind/2014/02/20/scientists-regenerate-the-ear-hair-cells-treat-hearing-loss-mice/9mYM9OkHugOWuP7UZ47YJN/blog.html

http://scopeblog.stanford.edu/2013/01/10/regenerating-sensory-hair-cells-to-restore-hearing-to-noise-damaged-ears/

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Speech Therapy Regression

speech therapy

As a child, I spent many years in speech therapy. Because of my hearing loss, I had a very hard time with consonants (C, CH, SH, T, TH, etc.). I also spoke very fast and very softly. Understanding me was very frustrating, but it was also frustrating for me because it was such a struggle to be understood. Other kids made fun of me. Adults yelled at me.

It took many years of therapy and hard work to stop getting “Why do you talk funny?” or for people to more or less stop asking me where my accent is from. I also stopped getting “What?” over and over in conversations. While most of it was due to the speech therapy, I think a lot of it had to do with hanging out with people who knew me well enough to know about my hearing loss and had gotten used to how I speak.

Recently, I moved back to my home state of Colorado and started making new friends at the church my fiance and I go to. These people are very nice, but they don’t know me very well, so they aren’t that familiar with how I talk. Over time, I started noticing that I’ve been getting “What?” in response to things I said, and it was happening at an annoying regularity.

My mom is also hard of hearing, but she has mentioned that she has a hard time hearing me. At one point, she suggested that maybe I was regressing back to my pre-speech therapy days. I shrugged it off at first, but the more people said “What?” and the more I had to repeat myself in conversations, the more I began to wonder if maybe my mom was right.

In a discussion about it last night, my mom told me that perhaps I have gotten lazy. Not on purpose, really. I just have gotten so used to no one saying anything to correct me, I guess I assumed I was doing just fine and stopped trying as hard to make sure I was speaking correctly. This laziness (for the lack of a better term) means that I forget everything I was taught when I speak too fast, so my speech becomes garbled and (as my mother put it) mushy.

I was trying to ask my mom about moving the dresser in the garage the other day, and she looked at me funny, having no idea what I was talking about. “What’s a resser?” I had to repeat myself several times before she realized I was talking about a “Dresser”. Though I was saying, “Dresser”, I wasn’t putting enough emphasis on the D, thus the D was nearly lost entirely.

The realization that I am regressing is depressing and frustrating. I hate being misunderstood or having to repeat myself to others all the time, especially when I worked so hard to be understood as a child.

I tried looking up information about speech therapy regression in adults, but I couldn’t find anything that didn’t reference autism or adults who become hard of hearing as adults, not as children. I tried a few different search terms, but came up with nothing.

I don’t want to have to go back to speech therapy and deal with the annoyance and embarrassment of it all. I’m hoping that reminding myself to slow down and focus on what I am saying will help.

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Having Children Who Aren’t “Normal”

disability differences

Our society is obsessed with being normal. Everywhere we look we see examples of how we are “supposed” to look, behave, dress, talk, eat, sleep, etc. etc.  We are bombarded by ideals and expectations for every part of our lives.

Though we may be relatively unaware of it, society also tells us what our children should be like, too.

A normal child can hear, see, speak well, walk, and be well . . .perfect.  When we start thinking about children, we dream about what they will be like, fantasizing that they will be a great football player or an engineer or a ballerina or a lawyer.  We imagine how they will look and act, never once considering that they won’t fit the image we created for them before they were born.

So, what happens when we have a child who isn’t normal? What do we do when the child is far from the perfect image we had in our heads? No one will want to admit it, but I’m sure most parents feel a moment of dread and fear. Something is wrong with their child! Their child isn’t normal! What does this mean? A million questions must go through their heads, and I’m sure almost all of them want to know why. Why did the child end up with (insert issue here)? The questions of why may eventually turn into self doubting and shame. Is this my fault? Did I do something do cause this problem in my child?

Eventually, parents may want to find a way to fix whatever it is that is wrong with their child, if it is even medically possible to fix.  If the issue isn’t completely fixable, there may be devices that can help (hearing aids, canes, medication, etc).  Whatever it may be, society offers a dizzying amount of devices, medications, etc. to make differences appear more normal. And what parent doesn’t want their child to be normal? Sure, they may never come out and say this directly, but I think every parent on some level wants a normal child. A child who won’t be teased and bullied at school.  Given our paternal, protective natures, this is a natural thing to want for our children. We want to protect them. We want the best for them. Yet . . .we assume that fitting into society’s definition of normal will protect them.

Unfortunately, being different is not just a physical thing.  Being different defines who we are as people. It changes us.  We can fix our physical appearances as much as we want with surgery and helpful devices, but we cannot change the internal effects of being different. We cannot erase the ways it impacts our lives, leaving permanent imprints on our hearts and minds.  We know we are different. We know we don’t fit the “norm”, and that knowledge never, ever goes away.

So, if you have children or are thinking of having children, please remember that being normal isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Don’t have your heart set on having a “normal” child because no one is truly “normal”. We all have kinks and quirks that make us unique. Yes, there are some pretty heartbreaking diseases and ailments that can make raising a child extremely hard.  I understand that. Just . . .don’t ever, EVER let your kid think you are disappointed in them for being different. Don’t ever let them think you wish they were different.  If your child feels you are somehow mad at them for being different, for having an issue that they have no control over, it will be a major blow to their self-esteem, and the feeling of shame and disappointment in themselves will stick with them for the rest of their lives.

No matter what difference your child has, be it hearing impairment, blindness, MS, paralysis, muteness, Downs Syndrome, or whatever it may be, remember that your child is unique and beautiful just they way they are.  They love you, and they need you to show them that being different in a world obsessed with normality is not a bad thing.  They need to know that being loved doesn’t come with conditions.

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I Like Who I Am

Image

Campbell: If somebody could give you back your hearing, wouldn’t you do it?
Daphne: No. It’s part of who I am. Hearing people don’t understand it, but I like being deaf.
Campbell: Do you remember what it was like to hear?
Daphne: No.
-Switched a Birth Season 3: Episode 2

 

Switched at Birth is one of my favorite TV shows.  If you haven’t heard of the show, it is about two girls who were switched at birth, but didn’t discover this until they were sixteen.  One girl (Daphne) ended up with a working class mom while the other (Bay) ended up with a VERY rich family.  The girl who ended up with the working class mom is deaf.  When the two girls and families meet, it creates a snowball effect of life changes.  What I really love about the show is how well they show how challenging it can be to be deaf/hard of hearing.  They have several deaf deaf characters in the show, and they even had an episode that was done entirely in sign language with subtitles.

The quote above really struck me because it speaks to something that we hard of hearing/deaf people struggle to get hearing people to understand.  Having a disability in many cases is seen as having a sort of flaw.  Something is wrong with us, something not “normal”.  With all of the technological advances in medicine, doctors can do a lot to “fix” people’s bodies.  In many cases, this is a great thing.  I’m not saying it’s not.

But there are a great many of us, like Daphne, who don’t want to get our hearing back, even if we were given that chance to do so.  It may seem bizarre to hearing people, but being deaf/hard of hearing isn’t always a bad thing.  It allows us to be part of a unique community of similar people who understand what life is like being deaf/hard of hearing, which is something hearing of people will never truly understand. Not fully.  In addition, many deaf/hard of hearing people have either never been able to hear, or don’t remember what it was like to hear.  Thus, being deaf/hard of hearing is part of who they are as an individual.  Why would they ever want to change that?

Life is certainly challenging, and there are times I really wish I could fix my hearing, but I wonder what it would be like.  As I’ve mentioned before, the world is REALLY noisy.  I don’t think I would be able to handle the amount of noise without having the ability to turn it down.  I worry that having perfect hearing would cause sensory overload, and I would stress myself out trying to deal with it all.  I also worry that it would change me too much.  I have been hard of hearing for so long, I don’t know how else to be.  I wonder if people would still treat me the same as they always have, which they probably would since they have all known me as being hard of hearing.

It may be hard for hearing people to understand, but I don’t want to change part of who I am.

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