Many of my “regular” readers may remember that I am “Hard of hearing”. Hearing people usually use the term “hearing impaired”. We prefer to be called “Hard of hearing”. Mostly because we don’t feel that we are broken or “impaired”. Technically it means that Im not totally deaf. I can hear various pitches, frequencies and sounds. With my hearing aids in, I can hear a bit more of the letters and words in normal conversation. But add in background noise and people who mumble or talk very fast. Next, add the situation of trying to “listen” to several people at once, in a crowded room or restaurant? Lastly, there are those with facial hair all around their mouth and lips. They are the group for me, who have the most frustrating lips to read! Then again, it’s not really like “reading”. Because it’s more like piecing together bits and pieces then trying to “fill in the missing pieces”.
In case you’re not familiar with my hearing loss journey; I’ll recap just a little bit for you. When I was a child, I had recurring ear infections. During those times, I could often be found literally rocking my body back & forth, while curled up in the fetal position. My memories start as young as age 4 or 5. It was always pure hell while I was living with horrible ear infections. When I complained to my parents about the excruciating 😖 throbbing Pain in my ear (or ears), my mother would always say same thing. She’d tell me “Once your eardrum ruptures, the pressure will go away and you will feel better!” Well, I did feel better, but each time that happened it caused scar tissue to form in my ear drums. It also caused mild hearing loss as I was growing up. I remember asking the teachers if I could sit closer to the board to try and hear them better. Therefore my audiologist (in 2002) & ENT Dr. felt that I’ve had mild hearing loss since I was a child. I had tubes put in my ears when I was about 9 years old. They were surgically placed multiple times and for several years.
Later in 2002, I was a passenger in a car driven by my husband. We were just driving along through a green light when we were hit by a car running through a red light. It was considered a “catastrophic accident”. I acquired a TBI (traumatic brain injury) and had multiple injuries and 9 surgeries. I went to brain injury rehab for 3 years & had 9 years of PT/OT, balance therapy and speech therapy. I acquired a pacemaker, glasses with prisms (for lowered vision), 2 screws in my left shoulder and 2 hearing aids. I also got a wheelchair, a seated wheeled walker, a motorized scooter, loft strand crutches, a cane and several other helping aides for activities of daily living.
I won’t bore you with all of the chronic pain illnesses that came out of that accident. That’s not what this post is all about. But I also acquired a bi-lateral sensory neural moderate/severe hearing loss in both of my ears L>R. Along with the many medical issues, I also acquired lower vision. I saw a Neuro-Othamoligist, who put prisms in my glasses to try and correct some of it. The prisms really bothered me. Today I just have a very strong prescription for eye glasses. Everything has a bit of a halo effect.
It’s ironic and very awesome that prior to that MVA (motor vehicle accident), I had been an ASL Interpreter. I worked at a Deaf preschool and then I interpreted for a school district. In the end, I was a medical Interpreter at a University hospital. I even did volunteer work doing medical interpreting for Deaf/Blind at free medical screening events. I had gone through a 4 year SLS/Interpreting program and finished with a 3.8 gpa.
Back in the 1980’s when I went to college, I practically lived at the dorms with my 16 Deaf friends. We watched CC “General Hospital” daily at 3:00 pm. We even tried to schedule our classes around it! It was a social hour. I’d been learning ASL since age 11 & even “tested out” of the first fingerspelling class.
The Deaf community accepted me and they were kind to me. At that time I went to Deaf bowling every Thursday with DAD club. I had a Deaf boyfriend whose sister was a cheerleader at MSD & we went to all of the football games and even the homecoming dance! Me and my group of college friends, who happened to be Deaf, used to go out dancing on Friday nights. One time my friends & I were on our way to a dance club and we got pulled over for a slight bit of speeding. We were all packed in the back of a mini van signing with each other. One of my friends told me to “talk to the officer”. I was terrified and I told him “No way! I’m afraid! Since I’m with you guys, I don’t want to talk to him either!” We all laughed as the officer just let us go with a handwritten warning on a piece of paper. That was a fun and I felt included.
Just to back track a little, I started learning ASL at age 11. My best friend & I babysat for a Deaf family who lived next door to her. The parents and 6 children were Deaf. The children went to the Lutheran School for Deaf at that time! They included me in many Deaf social activities and I learned the language & received my sign name from them. First we played games and I learned colors, numbers, family signs, days of week and more!
I’ve always felt accepted by the Deaf community. I always respected the language, ASL. How ironic then, that I lost a moderate-severe percentage of my hearing & was already prepared with the tools I needed!
I’ve lost touch with some of my old friends from DAD (Deaf Association of Detroit). But I still have a some close friends from the past, who are Deaf. I still feel a part of the community. I’d like to become even more involved again! But living with several high pain chronic illnesses makes it difficult to get out due to persistent pain.
I’ve found my own ways to reconnect and to feel not so “in-between” two worlds. I get to teach ASL vocabulary with the Deaf Socials on their Instagram and Facebook pages. I love & look forward to each new vocabulary list they give to me for teaching! I truly enjoy doing that and doing song covers to ASL on my Youtube channel: My YouTube channel at: ASLSuzyQ . I also post to my Instagram A link to my ASL Instagram and Twitter A link to my ASL Twitter with the same name. I do this for fun and as a volunteer and advocate for Deaf Awareness.
Lastly, I used to love being a part of two ASL performance groups during the 80’s, when I lived in Arizona & worked at a Deaf preschool. One group was called “Silent Impressions productions”. We performed in choreography and ASL to broadway show tunes and in costumes! We put in shows at ASU and it was so much fun! The other group to which I belonged, was called “Silent Praise”. We performed Christian songs while others did lyrical dances. We did that at the ASU Neumann center. It was such a fun time in my life. My friends and I also interpreted for our church community at St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Scottsdale, AZ.
After reminiscing in this post, I feel so grateful that I had already been involved with the Deaf community & had many years of experience with ASL, before I became Hard of Hearing. As ironic as it seems, it’s not all that crazy. I had a mild hearing loss and then it worsened due to the TBI.
I mostly seem to write about chronic pain illnesses. I’ve been writing about the rights of chronic pain patients to have access to much needed opioid pain medications. We need these medications because without them, people like me wouldn’t even be able to do the small amount of activities that we try to do. I was forcibly tapered from my long acting pain meds after doing pretty well on them for almost 14 years! Now I sit in my recliner for approximately16 hours daily. I try to get up, put I make up and do some online activities every few days. But my life is not the same with so much less help for the pain.
Although I still want to continue advocating in that area, I’m doing more & more advocating for Deaf awareness, inclusion and preservation of ASL. I thought I’d put my hearing loss story and ASL history here in my blog too. I’ve written a few posts about Deafness and trying to live in “two worlds”. But I’ve never explained the details of how I became who I am today. I’m a survivor of long time childhood abuse, domestic violence and then a catastrophic car accident. I’m not a “victim” but I am a “fighter and a survivor”! Don’t ever give up!!