Food for thought...

Posted by jennifer gibson on Wednesday, January 11, 2012
As someone who is severely hard of hearing, I have found that the best form of communication is via email or texting.  It's easy and accessible a part of today's society, everyone does this which is very cool.  Who would've thought that someone like me would be mainstream, become a part of the hip crowd?

Growing up was an isolating experience, particularly since I was the only kid in school with a disability.  At that time, my hearing loss was glaringly obvious.  I wore a body aid which meant I had on a harness to house the large hearing aid on my chest.  It was about the size of an iPod classic that fit in the palm of an adult hand.  I find that ironic since everyone uses one today, an iPod that is...

Hearing aids back in the 1970's and 80's were analog and poorly designed, all they did was amplify the surrounding environment which did not always help.  It made noises in the classroom or gym echo, thereby reducing the voices of my teachers, coaches and teammates.  I had a horrible time understanding speech and being able to engage in conversations.  Many people, including teachers, made the mistaken impression that I was not that bright.  I was often ostracized, punished frequently, and deliberately left out of many activities which severely diminished my ability to learn the ability to socialize.  It also prevented me from understanding boundaries that still affects me today. 

Recently I had someone tell me that it wasn't until they lost their hearing, that they had realized what I went through on a daily basis.  They had the gall to stand there and apologize, after years of ignoring me and virtually not bothering to even remotely understand my difficulties.  Was I angry? Oh yes. I really wanted to shoot my mouth off and say "Told ya so".  Instead I just shrugged my shoulders.  I did appreciate the fact that they acknowledged my issues and was trying to reach out to me.  But for someone like me, it was too little, too late.  Why? Because this was not the first time it happened.  After years of trying to explain to others about the need to be more aware and considerate of my disability and telling them to be more patient, more concise and open minded - they failed to do so to the degree that was necessary for me to understand them comfortably and be a part of their life. 

Hearing loss is one of the worst disabilities to have - it can be a virtual road block.  It's like walking around with a stop sign tattooed on your forehead, telling people to take the time to slow down, make their speech clearer, and be patient.  That unfortunately spells disaster for the average person since time is precious, everyone seems to be in a hurry these days.  They don't want to take the time to find a quiet spot to talk to me or find other means of communicating with me.  They just rush along, chatting with me at breakneck speed in a noisy cafe, outside beside the roar of the traffic or at a crowded event filled with loud music and tons of people.  It's enough to drive me mad or to the point of wanting to cry.  I usually don't hear a word spoken in these situations.  The loud noise surrounding me in those situations actually drowns out their voices.  Many times, I have asked them to go find a quieter location or simply send me an email to follow up - they rarely do, they don't want to find the time to do so.  To me, it's like a slap in the face to be so downright rude and inconsiderate. 

Now, back to the person who just lost their hearing, asking me "How?  How do you do it?"  Well the truth is, I do struggle on a daily basis and yes, it is an isolating lifestyle for the most part. However, I do my best in my best in educating others like doctors, dentists, nurses, people at an office, store, on finding better ways of communicating with people like me and include me in their life.  I tell them that it's unfair to call someone on the phone with a severe hearing loss to tell them to come into their office on a certain day at a specific time.  The biggest problem is that I can't hear them clearly, especially when they speak too softly, mumble or call from a noisy environment.  That information is lost, thereby making me feel like an idiot.  And when they do call back, full of anger, demanding money for a lost appointment, it's even more hurtful.  It wasn't my fault that they didn't even try to contact me by email, even after I gave them the information, repeatedly.  And when they wonder why I don't use their services anymore, they keep calling me, on the phone.  I mean, really?  How hard is it to send an email?

Now, to go slightly off track...  What I find fascinating is how far we come in terms of communicating to each other, particularly in the written word.  It can date all the way back to the cave men era when they painted their stories and achievements onto rock walls.  Depending on where they were in the world, some did it to signify their presence like painting an outline of their hand.  Others did it to pass on knowledge to future generations.  Over time that evolved into Egyptian hieroglyphics, a pictorial representation of their language, where they wanted to get their message across by using familiar symbols such as an image of a bird to represent "bird" or wavy lines for "water".  Even the Mayans followed a similar path by using complex symbols, glyphs, to form scripts mainly for historical purposes, an archive of their society.

Eventually the Greeks
followed a similar path as the Egyptians and adapted it to their own language thereby devising a new alphabet.  However, this was not only for writing but also for speech As it became more widely used, it evolved again, this time through the Latins (Romans) through trail and error to include more appropriate letters that reflected speech patterns in regards to how they were being pronounced.  As the written language became more widespread throughout the world from travelers, reaching continents that were formerly undiscovered, it became a part of our daily life virtually everywhere.

Now, it's changed again, particularly through shorthand, especially via texting and twitter (Internet slang).  Now days we talk using appreviated forms such as LOL, OMG, GR8, WTF, BRB, or emoticons featuring a sunny smile, red face representing anger or blush, blue face signifying sadness and so on.  Oh my, how we have changed.  I find it hugely ironic that we initially started off, thousands of years ago, doing pictographs or glyphs to communicate our thoughts, stories and history to today where we display visual icons (emoticons) to convey our meanings.  Not only that, I wonder what it would be like for future explorers when they peruse our archives, how much will have changed decades from now?  What would the Greeks or Romans say if they could travel to our time now and tried to read our Tweets or texts?

Tags: ipod  "hearing aids"  1970  1980  2012  mainstream  hip  sports  school  teachers  coaches   
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