Thursday, August 12, 2010

Deaf for a Day...Sorta

If you are a regular reader of my blog then you know that I'm not completely deaf.  I have a progressive loss that stems from moderate to borderline profound.  My speech discrepancy levels are pretty bad but I get by fairly well with my hearing aids and only have a hard time in noisy places (ummm, pretty much anywhere in public) or with certain soft voices or accents.  I am also an excellent speech reader even though I've had no formal training.

You probably also learned that I hate hate hate hate hate hate hate being without my hearing aids.  In fact, I hate it so much that I would risk loosing them before I'd go into a swimming pool full of 3-year-olds without them, that I would run through my house tripping over fake wooden food, light up Dora shoes, and yesterday's newspaper just to change a battery before the cognitive dissonance of the unbalanced brain sets in, that my hearing aids are the first order of business and the last order of business of every day and every night of my life!

And you might also recall that I promised at some point in the not so distant future (probably while I was drinking), that I would go a day without my aids (I mean, I promised it while I was drinking, probably, not that I'd deaf and drink in public, well you know what I mean...I hope).  A day that included the public...and so that day has finally come and gone.

Why now? Well, I needed to get my ICom repaired before the warranty expired and I only had a week left.  I didn't know that they would send if off, then get it back, then tell me I had to leave my aids with them for half a day while they found some free time to reprogram everything.  Have I mentioned that it's a 45 minute drive to see my audiologist?

Well, I wasn't exactly backed up against a wall here; I have two back up pairs of Oticon ITCs; both are in excellent condition; although, neither pair is sufficient for my everyday needs.  I currently wear behind the ear aids which are quite a bit stronger than the ITCs (in the canal).  Nevertheless,  I reluctantly remembered the promise that I made my readers and decided that this was just as good a day as any to lay it all out there.  I say reluctantly because taking out my hearing aids can be disorienting, it almost feels like I've been drinking at first and it takes a few uncomfortable minutes to adjust to the world of silence.  I suppose it's also a cognitive struggle; my brain is screaming "Hey, this ain't right! Fix this now!"  But you do get used to it and the feeling of inebriation subsides after awhile.

My morning routine was not really affected by my deafness.  I told my daughter goodbye and sent her off to school with her dad.  But when I got in the car to drive to the audiologist's office, I started to put my hearing aids in.  It wasn't so much that I felt I needed them to drive as that I didn't want to drive 45 minutes without the radio on.  God, what would I do without music...I might have to think about stuff and that's not always a good thing.   I usually get to thinking and that means I'm thinking of which sale is where and what I need to buy and how I don't have any money but if the sale is good enough...well, you probably know what I'm talking about.  Or I start thinking about how bad food is these days and how processed food is going to kill us all and how there really isn't much on the grocery store shelves that's not full of poison and how I should start reading the labels a little closer; then I get paranoid.  So you see, music is a good thing.

I solved the problem by leaving the aids out and turning the music on anyway.  I realized that I could hear it just a little so I cranked it up.  I had to turn it up about three quarters of the way but I found that it sounded even better because I could not hear the background noise of the road and the big trucks whizzing by me.  It was actually a nice drive.  Of course, after about 10 miles into the drive, I remembered that I should probably make a little better use of my peripherals and I checked the mirrors every few seconds just to make sure there were no emergency vehicles ridding my tail.

When I rolled up to the office, I was once again tempted to put my aids in, but I stopped myself.  These people specialize in the hard of hearing right?  They should expect that I can't hear them when I'm standing there holding my hearing aids in my hand.  And I was right, it was pretty uneventful.  The lady at the desk spoke to me and I read her lips.  She said she would call when they were ready.  I didn't say what I was thinking, but you know I was thinking, "and how do you expect to have a conversation on the phone with me if you have my hearing aids?"

I spent the next hour in Marshall's shopping for new sheets and trying to waste time.  And for once, it didn't bother me that I got the broken cart, you know, the one that goes "click, click, click, click" when you push it.  I could feel that it was clicking, but I couldn't hear it.  The store was unusually quiet.  Somebody may have spoken to me when I came in; I didn't hear them if they did.  I knew I wouldn't, so I just put on my happy face, the one with the exaggerated grin that makes me look like a  horse sniffing a carrot and I did the dip and nod at anybody who looked my way--classic deaf, the dip and nod, I'm a Master Dipper!

After a few minutes, I felt the soft buzz a distant bass line humming through the air; I couldn't tell you if it was pop, country, gangsta rap, or Irish folk music. I loaded my buggy up with pillows and was on my way to the register, free and in the clear; nobody had tried to speak to me (I think), no "Can I help you?" I had avoided it all, sweet success...until that last ten feet when I barely heard and mostly saw her turn and say something that sounded suspiciously similar to Charlie Brown's teacher.  It was too late for the dip and nod, the murmur was too long for an "uh huh" response; I had to think of something, so I just blurted out, "I'm sorry; I'm deaf and I have no idea what you just said."

I always love to watch the reactions when you tell somebody you're deaf.  Most of the time, they drop their jaw and then they shut up, give you a polite smile and go on about their business.  But this lady was different.  She immediately moved around to the front of me, looked me in the face, apologized, and repeated slowly and loudly what she had said.  It was a nice reaction; although, I never expect people to apologize for my deafness.  How are they supposed to know unless I tell them?

My next stop was Half Price Books (see a pattern here? Yep, I'm cheap!).  I didn't hear any background noise in the store, not even a murmur.  Books stores are like libraries, I guess it's habit.  People see rows of books and they automatically assume silence.  When I checked out, the girl at the register tried to speak to me, and again, I had to tell her I was deaf and needed to see her face.  She had the regular, shut down and get this over with, kind of reaction.  I wasn't surprised; that's what most people do when they don't know you.

I checked my phone when I got in my car.  There was a missed call from the audiologist office.  I didn't bother listening to the voice mail, even on speaker phone and crammed up to my head,  I couldn't have heard it.  I picked up my aids and again used speech reading to get through the conversation with the lady at the desk.  I had planned to put them back in as soon as I got them back, but I remembered the sweet sound of the country music without the interference of road noise and I left them out for the drive home.

So truth be told, it wasn't that bad and next time I will challenge myself with new and more complicated situations; we'll see where it goes.

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