My Hearing Aids History. Cochlear Implant-Why Now?

Ok, so why am I considering a Cochlear Implant (CI) at this point of my life?

CIs were not FDA approved for children when my parents found out I was deaf. Back then, the operation procedure was more intensive than they are today. Today, most patients go home the same day they had surgery and the incisions are smaller. Also, CIs were a new thing and people weren’t sure what the long-term effects would be. Taking into my consideration my personal situation and my personality, I am glad that I didn’t get a CI at a young age back in the 1980s. Knowing my track record with speech therapy and audio training with DASL II (Developmental Approach to Successful Listening) as a kid, lol. I don’t think I would have been one of those success CI kid stories.

Anyways, I did wear several hearing aids on and off growing up.
Hearing aid #1: Ages 2-5 (body aid)
Hearing aid #2: Ages 5-7 (plus FM system at school).

I couldn’t really hear much with these 2 aids. Since then I have only had frequency compression hearing aids. They’re totally different from hearing aids that just amplify sounds. Instead of amplifying sounds, the hearing aids actually moves sounds in the high frequency range into the low frequency range. Since I have a very small window of residual hearing in the low frequency range it really compresses all the sounds into low frequencies at the dB level that I can hear them at.

Hearing aid #3: Ages 8-11 (I was one of the first ones in America to have a frequency compression hearing aid). It was more of a body aid where it was a big box that I had to wear around my hip (similar to the old versions of CIs back then) and it used to make horrible feedback noises if I didn’t have it on my hips just right. Besides it just wasn’t cool to wear in middle and junior high school, so I took a break from hearing aids!

Hearing aid #4: Ages 15-20 (They finally came out with a behind the ear version, about the same time that CIs did too).
Hearing aid #5: Ages 21-current (digital version)

Basically, I was getting the same benefits from these type of hearing aids as I would have from a CI back then. I was more than satisfied with them. CIs have improved so much in the last few years though and might be able to provide me with more clarity than my current hearing aids do.

I’ve been exploring all different possible options besides CIs and was able to try 2 different types of hearing aids recently to see if they helped me any more than my current hearing aids do. There wasn’t that much difference to make me consider getting different hearing aids.

I started seriously considering a CI my junior year in college. It’s been 5 years now and I am still considering a CI. Why haven’t I gone through with a CI yet? It is a surgical process for something that is non-life threatening. I think also I felt like I had to be comfortable with being deaf before I even considered going through with a CI.

I grew up in 4 different towns and the attitude towards my deafness varied in each town. For the longest time I did view my deafness the same way that the hearing world viewed deafness in general. I had limited exposure to Deaf culture until high school. It was a negative experience at first. I didn’t want anything to with Deaf culture at all, but over time I have came to embrace and appreciate it. In college, I was still unsure as to what my roles were in both the hearing and deaf worlds. I felt like I had to choose one over the other and didn’t want to do that. Then in graduate school, I had to reevaluate my roles and I finally realized that I’ll always be stuck between the 2 worlds and to embrace it.

I used to ask myself this question growing up:

“If you could take a pill and become a hearing person overnight, would you?”

Elementary school, middle school, junior high school:
I would always answer this question along the lines of, “Oh, of course! Who wouldn’t?! Where are those pills?!”
High school: “Oh, I don’t know. I might.”
College: “I don’t know. Depends on my mood when you ask me.”
Graduate school: That first year “Yes, please!” Second/Third year: “Nope. I would take them only if they wore off after 6 hours, I don’t think I could tolerate being able to hear and understand everything 24/7. I prefer to be deaf, because that is who I am.”

That’s the point I wanted to be at before further considering a CI. I feel like I needed to accept who I am as a deaf person and embrace that person. I don’t view getting a CI as something that will make me “hearing.” I view it as a tool that may help improve my communication abilities within the hearing world.

I know it’s a bit ironic that I waited until I was more accepting of my deafness before I considered getting something that will help me “hear” a bit. There has been some discussions about older deaf kids and adults undergoing psychology evaluations before getting implanted. Getting implanted will affect how a person is viewed by the Deaf community (they’re far more accepting than they were back in the 1980s/1990s) and how that person views himself/herself. Your perspectives of yourself as a deaf person and as a deaf person with a CI can affect how willing you are to work with a CI.

Plus, there’s always the chance (very small) that I may not like a CI and that I might be unable to wear a hearing aid in the implanted ear. So, I need to be comfortable with the idea of not benefiting from a hearing aid or a CI in one ear.

Next Genetic Related Post

I have had several topics in mind for the last week about what I want my next entry related to genetics to be about. I will probably address all of these topics at some point but can’t decide which one to focus on first (hence the reason why the last few entries have been a bit pointless). So, let’s vote!

1) How do I interact with hearing patients? How do they react to me? Does it affect their decision making process? If so, how and is it in a positive or a negative way?

2) Hearing patients vs Institutions (how their perspective on a deaf genetic counselor student has differed)

3) What is the sign language interpreter’s role? How do I invent signs for genetic terms (there are almost no established signs for genetic terms)?

4) How might I counsel a hearing patient differently from a deaf patient. Even more, how might I counsel a hard-of-hearing patient differently from a culturally Deaf patient? Should I even counsel them differently?

5) As a deaf person do I have an unspoken responsibility to the deaf community?

6) How can I show people that there is a need for a deaf genetic counselor. Why do they always focus on the negative things? How can I turn those assumed negative things into positive things?

7) I’ve struggled with this question since the day I started applying for undergraduate colleges. When I apply for something, do I tell people from the very first second that I’m deaf or not? It’s not something that I’m trying to “hide” or anything but I don’t want to be rejected before they even check to see if I’m qualified.

8) If I do become involved with the deaf community through genetic counseling how will that affect my ability to socialize within the deaf community during my post-GCing hours? The deaf community is small and everyone knows everyone.

9) Suggestions?

VOTE!!!

Deaf and Sports

Oftentimes sports is one way for deaf people to interact with hearing people on the same level. It’s easy to gesture and spoken communication isn’t always necessary.

You would think that it would be no problem trying to play sports as a deaf kiddo.

Wrong-o!

People often don’t know what to do when they meet a deaf person for the first time so they usually just ignore that deaf person or make a big deal out of nothing.

I participated on several sport teams growing up (although I never really stayed with one sport long enough at a time to get good at it). Track, gymnastics, indoor soccer, volleyball, and basketball. I wanted to join karate but had to choose between gymnastics and karate…gymnastics won. I also wanted to do dance but for some reason I thought that regardless of what kind of dance class I took (I wanted to take something like hip-hop) I would have to take ballet in addition to it and there was no way I would be caught in a pink tutu during my tomboy stage.

I was lucky to be able to participate on a lot of sports teams growing up through the Y.M.C.A. (cheaper) or free after-school programs. Anyways, I never really improved as much as I could have after being on a team because coaches would never coach me. I don’t think my track coach even looked at me once or even knew my name. They were too uncomfortable around a deaf kid to bother coaching me. I actually got cut from one team literally because the coach didn’t think a deaf kid could be a good teammate player also how would I hear the buzzer/whistle (like that really makes a big difference in how good a player is?)

Now, you would think that the one sport that I would have had the least issues with would be gymnastics. After all it is more of an individual sport and there are no buzzers. Nope, I always had problems at gymnastic meets. It was ridiculous and is a classic example of how people make a big deal out of nothing. The floor routine is performed to music (see how that could be a problem). I could learn how to keep up with the music through practice and learning the beat in my head (although I always got nervous during meets and would speed up through it). The only thing was that I needed someone to tell me when the music started. Hearing aids + gymnastics = flying hearing aids. So yep, I never wore my hearing aids during gymnastics.

Now, the general rule in gymnastics is that if your coach assist you in any way whatsoever you get points deducted. My coach would always try to explain to the floor judge that she would just signal when for me to start and for me to slow down if I got way off from the music. Simple enough right? Judges oftentimes wouldn’t even let her. So, she would either risk getting into trouble and try to give me a secret signal for me to start or if the judge was watching her my teammates would try to give me a little motion to signal that the music was starting. I never knew who would be giving me that signal or what that signal was, so I was always unsure as to if I was actually starting with the music or if someone was just scratching their nose because they had a itch.

Sometimes I feel like people just like to create situations out of nothing just for the heck of it.

Flying, Gravity, Gymnastics, Flying Rings, and Skydiving

Prepare yourself for a very random post.

For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to fly through the air. As a kid I thought for sure that I would be able to figure out how to fly (never happened). I was also always trying to figure out how I could get high enough to touch the clouds. I can remember being about 3 and thinking that if I climbed to the top of the jungle gym and stood on my toes I would be able to touch the clouds. I also tried climbing up swing set poles (the good old tall swings back when playground equipments were all metal, not plastic)….didn’t work either… I also tried the old idea of if I ran fast enough towards a hill or a ledge and then jumped off that I would be able to fly….nope…just ended up with grass stained clothes from crashing.

When I was bit older (grades 1-2) I tried to apply some of the basic physics/biology theories. I had seen a cartoon in a book of a kid spinning a pail of water around really fast and the book explained that if you spun it fast enough the water wouldn’t spill. Aka Centrifugal Force! I thought this was the answer to the problem of not being able to fly through the air. By this point I had realized humans weren’t designed to fly, but thought that I could find a way to feel like I was flying through the air. So, I started applying this new knowledge to everything I could on the playground. I tried pushing the merry-go-around as fast as I could (and scared some kids in the process), I would then jump on and hold onto the bar tightly while I tried to stick my whole body out hoping that the force would be great enough for my whole body to fly out while holding on.

You know those good old giant metal swing sets they used to have back in the 80s/90s, not the little plastic short swings they have now? Oh, those were my favorite things. I would swing on them as high as I could while trying to touch the clouds then I would jump off from the highest point possible. When I learned about centrifugal force….I was sure that if I pumped my little legs hard enough and fast enough I would be able to get the swing to make a complete 360 degree circle around the bar with me remaining in the seat. Sadly, I never achieved that goal but did scare a few adults in the process.

Gravity was another force I learned about quickly as a child. A force that I’ve always disliked and a force that I still do not get along with to this day. I’ve slowly learned that one must respect and not challenge gravity. I’ve learned this the hard way and it’s involved me cracking both knees after an 1-2 story fall, landing on my head on the ground after attempting a double front flip on a friend’s backyard trampoline, and more recently falling off a ladder onto the driveway.

This brings me to the subject of Gymnastics! One of my favorite sports ever (I was really bad at it, but loved it). My mom wanted to sign me up at the age of 2 because I had too much energy. The local place had my mom wait until I turned 3. I was then involved with gymnastics on and off between the ages of 3 and 15. Now I’m miserably out of shape and can barely do back walkovers. Anyways, gymnasts can defy gravity even if it’s just for a few seconds!! I went to the 2008 Tour of Superstar Gymnastics. A.M.A.Z.I.N.G! I could watch gymnasts on the floor and bars for hours. See the end of this post for some photos (and btw the men gymnasts were shirtless for most of the show :-D). I can’t help but include a random youtube montage of gymnasts flying through the air http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNXW8PwqbDU&feature=related

The other day I ran across this youtube video of the Santa Monica flying rings in the 1980s (a must watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9ju9wZ3fMw&feature=channel) . My first thought was, “omg…I must get those rings in my backyard and convince someone to teach me how to do all those flips.” Then a friend bought me back to reality by leaving a message on facebook saying “I’ve got a black dress reserved for your funeral if you get those rings!” She’s got a point there…..I think it’s time to finally accept the fact that gravity is not a force to be tampered with.

Although I won’t completely accept that fact until I complete a goal that I set for myself in the 3rd grade (a realistic goal) and that is to go skydiving one day.

Anyone want to be my skydiving buddy? 😀

Deaf Adventures #2: Can You Read?

“Can You Read?”

For some reason when people find out that you can’t hear, they seem to think you can’t do anything.

Setting: Senior year, high school, physics class.

I was taking a physics final and we had a substitute teacher. I had this substitute teacher before in other classes and thought he was okay with a deaf student in the classroom. So, after taking the final I went up to hand it in. He then asked “can you read?”

I was speechless. It’s one thing to have someone who has never met a deaf person ask me this, but it’s a whole another thing when I just handed in a completed exam. I had to resist the urge to ask him how he thought I completed the final without reading.

I just nodded my head “yes.” I then tried to escape back to my seat to avoid any further uncomfortable questions. His eyes lit up and he asked me to hold on. He then gave me a bookmark with the “Footprint in Sand” poem on it. I took it and just looked at it then looked up at him. At this point the whole class had stopped taking the exam to listen to our conversation, they all had laughed when he asked if I could read.

He then asked me to read the poem out loud because he wanted to inspire me and for me to prove that I could read. I just told him that I had read this poem before and it was a good one. I then just went back and sat down at my table trying to figure out how he thought I had completed the exam without reading the questions.

Deaf Adventures #1: Strangers in my Apartment

I’m copying some of my blog entries from xanga and livejournal over to blogger. A few of you may have already read some of these before but for those of you who haven’t….read on.

Sarah and I were getting ready to move out of apartment #1 into apartment #2 in NY. Our 3rd roommate had already moved out for the summer. I had been gone for a few days but apparently Sarah had a couple of situations with people wanting to look at the apartment. I guess at one point someone had called up from outside asking to see the apartment one night. Since it was nighttime and Sarah had no idea who this person was she said not unless our landlord called her. We then asked our landlord to let us know in advance when he was going to be showing the apartment.

One day after running some errands I pulled up to our apartment and a woman tried to get my attention as I was walking inside (we had an outside door entry and our apartment was on the 3rd floor of a house). She asked if she could come up and see the apartment. I was by myself and I told her that she could come up only if our landlord texted or e-mailed me letting me know that someone wanted to look at the apartment. She seemed to accept that so I went inside and went up to my apartment, locked the door, put away groceries, and then went into my bedroom. I had my hearing aids on and I heard some noises (keep in mind I can hear a lot of noises but identifying them is a whole another thing). I got a bit scared, just one of those gut feelings. First thing I thought was, “where’s my baseball bat?! *groans* oh right, it’s in my car….big help that is going to be” My bedroom was near the kitchen so I was trying to figure out how to dash out of my room into the kitchen and grab a pan in time.

I walked out and what do I see? The woman who I saw outside along with a bunch of other people (maybe 5-7 people) standing in the living room. I almost went off yelling like a crazy lady at them all. Turns out, the woman called the landlord and he gave her permission (not sure how she had the keys) to unlock our apartment door and let herself in because I was deaf. She didn’t even bother to knock or anything. I have to say that she was one lucky woman that I had my hearing aids on at that time and had heard something. If I had seen all of those strangers randomly walk past my room I would’ve freaked out.

A few months after living in apartment #2 I noticed that the top part of my bedroom window kept sliding down and e-mailed our landlord (who lived on the same street) about it. She had my text number and e-mail address. I never heard from her as to if she was going to take a look at the window or not. A couple of days later I was getting ready for class (the roommates were gone) and I had just taken a shower so I didn’t have my hearing aids on (water + hearing aids = bad idea). I had just gone into my bedroom and a split second after I got all dressed my bedroom door swung open and I froze. Who do I see standing there? My landlord. She was just like, “oh, I didn’t know you were here…you didn’t answer the door.” Keep in mind I had asked her for a visual doorbell and fire alarm (got the fire alarm, not the doorbell) to prevent things like this from happening. She had my text number, my e-mail address, knew I was deaf, and saw that my car was parked outside.

Just because I’m deaf doesn’t give people the right to let themselves into my apartment. Not only is it disrespectful, but they’re also putting their safety at risk. What if I happened to grab a baseball bat, a pot, or had something in my hand and went into defensive mode.

Do deaf people dream sound?

I’ve seen this question posted on the Internet and I’ve had a couple of people ask me this question. It is similar to people asking if people who are blind see color in their dreams (which I have wondered myself).

I never even thought of if I dream sound or not until someone asked me. My answer is, I don’t know.

I really don’t know. Ever since someone asked me I’ve always wondered, but could never quite figure it out myself. I can only think of one or two dreams where I remember seeing someone signing in my dream. I would say that 98% of the time I’m not signing (nor are others signing) in my dreams. I don’t think I’m hearing it either, I just somehow can understand people in my dreams. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’m dreaming sounds, I just somehow know.

I also have people ask me if I sign in my sleep. I’ve only caught myself signing once. I’m a pretty active sleeper and I’m much more likely to talk than sign in my sleep. I’ve never had anyone tell me they’ve seen me signing in my sleep but I’ve had numerous people say I talk in my sleep.

This leads me to a question I’ve always wondered myself.
Do hearing people really “hear” sounds when they’re having a conversation with someone in their dreams or do they just somehow know what’s going on? This question is a lot more difficult to word than I thought it would be, hopefully someone will know what I’m trying to ask.