Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Eldest Daughter's Viewpoint of My Deafness

Kimberly, with her daughter, Audrey

Growing up with a hearing-impaired parent sometimes was not easy. There were miscommunications, misunderstandings, frustrations, and sometimes it was downright hard.

I grew up going from my mom hearing a little to hardly understanding what I was saying unless I was enunciating my words in front of her, so that she could see my lips. Even that could get frustrating, because we often had to repeat ourselves over and over, until she fully understood what we were talking about. It was definitely a challenge; but, we all overcame our frustrations and accepted that this was just the way it was going to be.

I always felt sorry for my mother for being hearing impaired; she missed out on a lot. For example, she would hate listening to Fleetwood Mac, because the noise she heard was more than she could handle. But, we all know what a wonderful band they really are, and she was missing out on the inspiring voice of Stevie Nicks, the awesome talent of Lindsey Buckingham, as well as the musical talents of the rest of the group.

We would go places and people would be talking to her, and when I was around, I would have to let them know that she was hearing impaired, and needed to see their lips. If she had trouble with that, I would do what I could to either answer for her, or tell her myself what the person was saying. I hate to think what people thought of her when no one was around, and didn't know she was hearing impaired.

As kids, we also had fun with mom's hearing impairment. I remember, my brother Chris would stand behind our refrigerator door, hiding his mouth, and start talking to my mom. It was funny because all we could see were Chris' eyes above the door squinting, and we knew he was laughing while talking to my mom, because we knew she couldn't understand anything he was saying. We would also make plans without her knowing, even though she was close by, when it came to planning something for her.

I am sure life was very difficult and frustrating for my mom as well, even more so, since she was the one with the impairment. That is why I was excited for her when she was able to get the implant. I knew things would be different. I can talk to her over the phone again, she can hear my children's voices, and she does not need to look at me all of the time in order to hear what I'm saying. I think that is one of the big shockers for me - I still feel like I need to be face-to-face with her while talking, or even repeat myself to see if she heard me, and she will reply with, "I heard you."

It was a blessing for my mom, as well as our family, that she was able to get her surgery. I know that she is grateful, even if it is still a little frustrating.  But, I am proud of her for pushing through all of the tough times, and wanting to challenge herself in order to overcome her hearing impairment. I thank God for all of the blessings He has bestowed upon our family.

Kimberly Denise Van Deusen (Sprenkel)    

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hearing Well Enough to Decipher 'Meaningful' Phone Calls

I've come to realize there are close friends/family who only call when they want something. *Aghast!*

They mix it up with just a bit of news, and then it comes ... the real reason for the call ... "Gina? Can you _____________ for me?"  "Gina? I don't know how to _________________. Will you do it?"

And, I always say, "Yes".

I'm a nice person; an over-flowy, full of love, sickening type --> so, helping people is as natural as, well, eating!, in my book; but, I don't want it to be the only reason one calls ... especially if you're someone important in my life. Don't take advantage of the overly-nice me.

Therefore, I'm analyzing this here and now...in printed form. The reason I must do this is because I usually talk to myself--out loud--in order to get through particular processes; but, those who catch or overhear me talk to myself most likely resolve that I'm crazy --> and we can't be having that. Also, if I'm left to myself with such thoughts to ponder, it may take longer than necessary, since the process may snowball from one episode to others from the past until I become one big blob of ridiculousness.

Since I've never been to a therapist or counselor (not that I need it, of course), I assume we would discuss the matter, and then somehow it would fall in my lap of how I'm going to change, since the other person certainly isn't going to....hmmmm.

Then, I'd imagine a really liberal, smartalec therapist who would derive that I'm the entire problem since I allowed the other person to use me in such a way; and, therefore, I'm the one at fault, not the selfish perpetrator person who called.

Do I continue to give in? Do I say, "No"? Do I address the problem and make it known to the person? --> No, I've already answered that question...don't want to make them think that I've got this hangup; so, I'm gonna deal with it and move on.

Self-Help Analytical Summation: 
A.  Sometimes, still give in. 
B.  I'll try really hard to say, "No" when I feel I should - no matter who the person is to me.
C.  Pray about this - give everything to the Lord in prayer - ask the Holy Spirit to lead and guide.

Session is over

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

CI Hearing -- Via Computer Program

My son, Chris, and I

People think cochlear implant patients have surgery to hear, and voila, we hear like the rest of the world.


We now hear sounds...and most of those sounds have to become deciphered and learned. That takes time. For most of us, it's the beginning of a new life --> we begin to learn to hear.

Learning is identifying the sounds we hear, and making sense of it all...which, in turn, causes us to say, "So THAT'S what the wheels on the bus sound like." "Crickets make THAT much noise? Impossible!"

It never entered my imagination that the cries of a precious newborn baby could be so disturbingly annoying.

If we never had hearing before -- or, if we were profoundly deaf most of our lives -- then sound was imagined by us. 

I was born severely deaf --> I imagined most sounds.

Whenever I'd see a bird, I imagined it having a sweet, high-toned, "Tweet, tweet, tweet," thanks to storybooks, and watching Snow White sing. But when I received hearing, walked out my front door, and heard a black crow, I just about died  was flabbergasted. "God in heaven above...what were you thinking?"

Cochlear Implant hearing is a computer program, through a processor that sits on my ear like an hearing aid. It sends sounds from the outside world --> to the implant inside my head --> to my brain = my brain now thinks I can hear.

My particular implant has the capability of accepting updated and improved programs = updated/improved hearing. But, when my implant's processor is uploaded with new information, my brain has to learn to make sense of those new sounds. 
In short, I have to learn to hear again. 
The good part is it doesn't take as long as it did when first implanted.

Implant hearing may not be the real thing; but, it's better than not hearing at all.

Friday, November 5, 2010

My Youngest Daughter's Point of View


I can't honestly say that having a mother who was deaf had any lasting effects on my life. I was born with my mother being deaf, and didn't know my life to be any other way.

I learned to speak slower and more clear to her so she could read my lips. I never had to learn sign-language, because my mom could speak clearly, and was a seasoned lip-reader. It was second nature to me to adjust my speed in speech with whomever I was conversing with.

I remember having to repeat myself a lot, and sometimes that could be frustrating; but, it was never an issue.

The biggest effect on me, in terms of my mom, was when she first got the cochlear implant, and was suddenly, amazingly, able to hear me on the phone. This changed everything. I think if her mechanical hearing were to fail her now, the adjustment back to having a deaf mother would be a difficult one.

This is from me, her mom ;-)...Ashley was in college when I received my implant...and she lived hundreds of miles away to attend the university; so, being able to communicate on the phone, for the first time in our lives, was a really big deal. All of my children were grown before I truly heard their voices -- for me, that was the biggest deal of all. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

My Husband -- Before I Could Hear & After

I'll never forget when Randy asked my dad if he could marry me. Dad took him in the backyard and said, "You know, Gina has a little bit of garbled hearing; but, she really can't hear - it's important that you understand. Your children could be born that way." Randy said, "She's not deaf as far as I'm concerned. I love her, and want to marry her. Do I have your blessing?" My dad told him he would be honored to have him as a son.

As long as I've known Randy, he has spoken to me as if I was normal--or so I thought.

Randy would always talk to me throughout the house, no matter if he was upstairs, and I was downstairs, KNOWING there was no way I could hear him. He'd talk to me while taking a shower with the glass steamed up, and there'd be no reply. He'd talk from another room, and enter to where I was, awaiting a reply...and I'd just say, "Did you say something?", and he'd repeat (without any attitude). Always as calm as can be. Day after day, year after year.

I would ask him, "Randy, why do you talk to me when you know I can't hear you?" He'd just smile, shrug his shoulders, and say, "I don't know", and give me a kiss.

That's Randy.

He never waved his arms around to get my attention. Never threw Nerf balls at me. Never flipped light switches on and off unless he knew I was the only one home, and didn't want to scare me if he had just come home from work.

But, when I had cochlear implant (CI) surgery, and could then hear, I noticed something that he would do that I never noticed before. It was weird to me. We would be driving somewhere, and he would start a sentence, and stop in mid-air. It would sound like this...

"Do you want?"...

And I would wait to hear the rest of the question; but, he'd say nothing for a few seconds. Then...

"Do you want?"...

I'd look straight ahead and answer, "Do I want what?"

He'd be in shock, then I'd be surprised by his gestures, and wonder what in the world was going on with this good-looking man I married. 

He'd be kind of hurt by my response, and say, "Well, I just wanted to know if you'd like to see a movie or something." And I'd say, "Well, Randy, why aren't you saying that?" And he'd say, "I don't know."

I didn't understand why he was asking me half of a question, and he didn't realize he was doing it...until a couple of months later. It took me that long to realize what was going on. All these years, before I could hear, it took two or three bits of conversation until I realized he was saying something to me, then I'd look at him, which gave him the 'go ahead' to utter an entire sentence, and we'd finally have a conversation.

I couldn't believe he formed this charade into a life-long habit, and never--I mean NEVER--became irritated with me. He patiently waited until he caught my attention, and would then finish a sentence. Once I started hearing, it caught him by surprise that I heard the first time. This became a new dilemma -- our new little hurdle to overcome as a married couple ;-).

It took an entire year to break the habit, and we found that I have far less patience than he has. I would say, "Randy! Say the entire sentence the first time," and he'd reply, "I can't help it that you can hear so well."

~Married since February 1979.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Dependency on Ears is A Decision

I remember noticing a shift from dependency on my eyes to hear (lip- and people-reading) to dependency on my ears...it was frightening for me. It took several days of mind-boggling depression to really think it through -- I had cochlear implant surgery in order to hear; but, I suppose it's impossible to know exactly how it's going to affect you in every way, shape and form--one day came, though, and I knew I was going to have to make a personal decision --> "Are you willing to take the plunge into becoming dependent on what you hear, and leave what you've survived upon all your life: dependency on your eyes to hear?"

A Few Fears: 
What if there's no electricity to charge my batteries?  
I'll have to revert to lip-reading; will I remember how?
Will I lose my internal sensitivity to things?
Will I continue to notice vibrations? 
Will I hear God's clear voice?
Or will I become entangled in the noisy world? 
Will I continue to be me?

I decided to become dependent on what I heard...to rely on my 'new ears'.

It was scary. I didn't like it. I was glad and thankful for hearing; but, I knew it was going to change my life, and be different. I knew I would still be deaf. I knew I would still need to read lips from time to time; but, dependency is how we take things in, how we learn --> it's us. We're all dependent upon something, whether deaf or hearing - we learn with our eyes, ears, smell, or touch - we process information that way. Some ways are more dominant than others -- when you have to make a switch, it's not always comfy.

Dependency = the state of relying on something; being controlled by.

THE RESULT -- Dependency on hearing hasn't been so bad, especially since I have electricity that's paid for, and external implant parts that work, with spares to boot. In fact, it's made my life so much easier, because I hear sound, and things people say. I hear sirens and pull to the right before everyone else (stupid drivers). On the rare occasion that I've forgotten a spare battery, used up both batteries (I have two 11-hour, rechargeable batteries), or a part has gone bad with no spare on hand -- I am suddenly in the depths of despair shock, and forced to read lips like the days of yore.

Just like I thought, I'm not as keen at lip-reading as I was when I depended on it 24/7. I have trouble when around people that I do not know well - their speech movements and gestures. Some people, very few, enunciate clearly and perfectly, and try to meet my need in a very kind way. Oftentimes, I'm the problem by taking the 'blackout' so dramatically disappointedly that I don't give my lip-reading skills enough of a chance, and just kind of bail out. Fear does that to us in many ways, I suppose.

Perhaps one day I'll learn to become good at both. Hmmm, maybe that's the key...to relax, and believe that I am already good at both...then decide to plunge into that.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Brownies swirled with cream cheese taste like barf...that is all
Baseball on Friday nights while hubby happily snores like the 3 stooges beside me (he gets up @ 2:30am everyday) - fastballs & sliders, stolen bases, line drives, diving catches....♥

Spiritual Perspective

Here's what I think... A day is coming where we won't have the conservative voice - not on tv, not in print, nothing - it will be completely struck down -- will you then be able to not be influenced? Will you then be confused and not know your right hand from your left? It is important to know what you believe and why -- hold fast to it...if it's Truth, of course.

Friday, May 21, 2010

What was that?

I don't like hearing things without knowing where the sound is coming from, nor being able to recognize said sound...especially when I feel it needs be to looked into. For example: I was home alone, windows open and bright, going my merry way through the house until I heard something fall then crackle. I don't know the direction in which sound comes; so, I have no idea where to look to check on things. I looked through each room of the house, all-the-while thinking perhaps there's a strange burglar in my house, and I should be toting a baseball bat, then telling myself how ridiculous that is, all while I'm trying to locate the problem. After finding absolutely nothing that backs up what I heard, I begin to wonder if I heard it correctly. "What else could sound like something fell, and then crackled like breaking glass?" And I begin to consider a picture falling down, or a dish, or perhaps it was outside...maybe I was wrong, and it wasn't glass, maybe it was a tree splitting in two, and fell on the patio furniture..." and this goes on until you realize you cannot continue to guess; it's too exhausting. And such was about 10 minutes of my life this otherwise beautiful morning.