Feeling the Sound

So for the past couple of months, we have been using a new dishwasher in our new home. Husband says that this dishwasher makes some sounds throughout the cycles. Like rattling or clicking or the swishing of water being sprayed around inside the tub or the knocking noise by the spray arm if it is hitting something inside the dishwasher when rotating. It also beeps when it has finished running the cycle and the dishes are done. I do not hear any of the sounds, so when I need to know whether the running cycle is finished or not, I just put my hands on the dishwasher’s door handle and feel it. If I feel the vibration, it’s still doing the wash. If I feel nothing, the dishes are ready. I can’t hear the sound.. but I can feel it!

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Behind Closed Doors

The other day, I had an appointment at hospital with the medical board. They were doing some interviews of people with disability, so there were many other people who had this appointment. I spoke to the receptionist to confirm my arrival, and I was told to sit and wait with the others. After a while, a man came to the waiting room and started calling out something. About 10 persons stood up and walked behind him. Watching all this, I assumed that the man had just called out their names.

I panicked. Did the man call my name too? I am Deaf, how will I know if he calls out my name? Feeling all flustered, I went back to the receptionist and explained to her that I will not hear when my name is called. She made some calls and told me that she put me on the next list. She said that when the man comes back to the waiting room to call out the next group, he should call my name. So I went back to the waiting room keeping an eye out for the man. When he came, he seemed to call out names again, as people were standing up to follow him. I went to ask him if my name was called – and it was. Hurray – challenge overcome – problem defeated! A simple task of making it to my appointment, by knowing when my name was called, felt like a small achievement actually.

We were taken to a corridor which had about 6 doors and a few chairs for people to sit on while waiting. Again, I was not sure what would happen next. An uneasy, panicky feeling started to creep up inside me, as I suspected that another challenge was about to come up. As one of the doors opened, a person walked out and left. Another door opened, another person came out and left. After a while, I heard someone calling out something loudly from one of the rooms. I had no idea what was called and from which room it was called. But one of the persons who was waiting next to me stood up and went in one of the rooms. So I assumed that names were being called, because every time I heard a person calling out something loud from a room, a person waiting next to me stood up and went to the room. Again, I obviously had no idea what the name being called was, and from which room it was being called. Crap – how will I know when my name is called? And how will I know from which room a name is being called? I have unbalanced hearing, meaning that the hearing loss in one ear is more severe than the other ear. For this reason, I cannot identify the direction and position of a sound. If I am looking at two closed doors next to each other, with a voice calling from behind one of the doors, I would not be able to identify from which side the sound is coming. So there I was, waiting in the corridor, hearing someone calling out names, not knowing what the names being called were, and not knowing from which room the names were being called.

Is the sound of a person calling out a name coming from the door on the left, or from the door on the right? You can only imagine my frustration and confusion! I looked around for a friendly face, but did not recognize anyone. So I went back to the reception to explain again that I am Deaf and that I would not hear my name being called. The receptionist made some calls again, and told me that when it was my turn, they would come up to me to let me know face to face. Phew! Another challenge overcome. Another achievement.

But why do I have to go through all these stressful and uncomfortable experiences each and every time? Why do such basic tasks such as that of knowing when it’s my turn for an appointment feel like a mission? Like something that I have to achieve? Do I really have to tag someone along with me each and every time? No thank you. I like my independence. A simple token/ticket system that would provide a token with a number for each client, and a screen showing and calling out the number of the next client would be so easy to do, don’t you think? It would surely put my mind at rest and keep my sanity at bay..

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Hearing Aids

Hearing aids don’t work like glasses. Glasses can transform an image that is blurry and distorted into something crisp and clear. So if you wear glasses, in most cases, you can see as clearly as someone who does not wear glasses. With hearing aids, this is not the case. Hearing aids just help to increase the volume of sound. They help to make sounds louder, but not necessarily crisper or clearer. Most ‪#‎deaf‬ people can hear when someone is talking to them; they just can’t understand what words are being said. The clarity is not there. That’s why deaf people read lips. Hearing aids also do not exactly differentiate among sounds – a hearing aid wearer hears not only the important sounds like conversations, but also the background noises (like the hum of the fridge or air conditioner, background music, clanging dishes and cutlery, the wind, etc). And it is difficult for deaf people to ”switch off” these background noises, which interfere with their ability to hear, understand, and/or pay attention to important sounds like conversations. When dining out, I do prefer quiet (and well-lighted) restaurants over loud sports bars, as otherwise it’s next to impossible for me to have a conversation. It’s also so much better if the restaurant is carpeted, as this prevents the annoying scraping sound when chairs are moved!hearing aids

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Startled by Sound

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It is normal for people with hearing loss to hear a sound but not knowing what it is or where it is coming from. These are sounds which people who can hear ignore, like background chatter, or cars passing by, or utensils clanging, etc. Not knowing where it is coming from, a Deaf person can get startled very easily by a sound. I was once in a kitchen and put a plate with food in the microwave. I started to wash the dishes and the drain started making gurgling noises several moments after using the water. I did not realize that the sound was coming from the drain – the sound scared me out of my wits. I rushed to the microwave to switch it off, thinking that the sound was coming from there. I thought that the microwave was damaged, or that the plate was not ”microwave-safe”.. Or maybe the food was burning inside? I was even expecting to see a cloud of smoke coming out of the microwave! But the microwave, the food, and the plate seemed fine. I was confused, wondering what the noise was. The next day, I was in the kitchen and my friend was using the same sink, when I heard the noise again. The microwave was switched off.. THAT was when I realized where the noise was coming from!

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Getting the Attention of Deaf Persons

ImageLet’s say I – as a person with hearing loss – am in a quiet room with another person, and I am concentrated doing something else (reading or working). I hear the other person’s voice, who either called my name to talk to me or picked up the phone to talk to someone else. I hear the voice but I do not know what the person said, as I was working and did not read the lips. Since no one else is in the room, I will assume that the person is talking to me (unless he is talking to himself ). So I stop what I am doing to look at the person and see what he is saying by reading his lips. 

If, on the other hand, I am in a room with 2 other persons, and they are talking to each other while I am concentrated doing something else, I will not look up if one of them calls my name. Even though I hear the voices, I will assume that they are talking to each other and would not realize that my name is being called. In this case, I continue to ignore them until they get my attention!

DO:
– Tap the Deaf person gently on the shoulder to get attention.
– If beyond the reach to tap, wave in the air until eye contact is established.
– Switch lights on and off to get attention.
– Ask other people to pass on your wave or tap until you get the Deaf person’s attention.
– Knock lightly on the table as this releases vibrations that the Deaf person can feel.

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Hearing Loss and Confessional

Religious confession is most widely practiced in the Catholic Church. Usually, the penitent goes into one compartment, the priest goes into the other, and they communicate via a screen that connects the two. The confessional’s division between penitent and priest provides a sense of security — the penitent doesn’t have to look at the priest directly while confessing. This is not easy for people with hearing loss. Penitents with hearing loss have to feel comfortable confessing out in the open, in front of the priest. Moreover, some Deaf penitents would require a priest who can sign.

Read further here about “St. Damien’s Confession Box”, a solution that a priest figured out which could help the hearing loss individuals as well as the speech-impaired individuals to confess more comfortably. By confessing via “St. Damien’s Confession Box”, the penitent and the priest would both have a laptop each, where both laptops are connected to each other via a cable. A special software application ensures that signals are passed only between these two laptops, which secures the messages. Additionally, they don’t connect to the Internet and the priest’s laptop has a password to limit any possibility of unauthorized use. The penitent and priest could type to each other via laptop, and once the penance has been announced, the messages on the laptops aren’t stored.

The priest from Arizona, Father Romuald P. Zantua, is awaiting approval from the Holy See, which is the Catholic Church’s jurisdictional body.

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Deaf and Smart

Deaf and Dumb. The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, pronounced deaf people as “deaf and dumb,” because he felt that deaf people were incapable of being taught, of learning, and of reasoned thinking. To his way of thinking, if a person could not use his/her voice in the same way as hearing people, then there was no way that this person could develop cognitive abilities. (Source: Deaf Heritage, by Jack Gannon, 1980)

This definition unfortunately is still widely used by many hearing people, and the term is offensive to all deaf and hard of hearing people. People with hearing loss have repeatedly proved that they have alot to contribute to the society and that they too can be successful.

Deaf people are NOT less intelligent than hearing people. However, some Deaf people are not given enough opportunities to use their intelligence and progress further, and therefore are seen as unintelligent or dumb.

For example, Deaf children who attend mainstream schools and are not given the right resources (like interpreters, extra help, etc.) may not have the same chance to excel as a hearing student with the same potential.

Another reason that gives many people the impression that the Deaf people are unintelligent is the fact that some Deaf persons do not speak/write properly. They mispronounce words because they never heard them. Moreover, there is a difference between the sign language and the English/Maltese grammar. For this reason, people who are not aware of this might see a Deaf person as unintelligent.

Deaf people in general have just as much potential as hearing people, but they need to be given more opportunities to tap into that potential.

To close this, one should keep in mind that being Deaf does not make a person dumb, just as being Hearing does not make a person smart!

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