Saturday, November 5, 2011

Do You Hear What I Hear?

I’m taking a chance here, dear readers, but for you, it’s worth it.  I’m pretty sure that after reading this post, my mother will call me to remind me “you know what you need to do.”  And I will grudgingly sigh, roll my eyes, and say “I know,” and then ignore her advice.  Of course, I know what I should do.  Doing it is an altogether different matter, however.  Oh well, here goes.
You guys know I’m hearing impaired – by the way, I just found out this is politically incorrect!  But it’s okay if I say it.  Just don’t you say it.  Anyway, I’ve never considered it to be a disability although according to this Q&A paper about hearing impairments and the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), I’m pretty sure I’m Example 2:
If an individual uses mitigating measures, such as hearing aids, cochlear implants, or other devices that actually improve hearing, these measures must be considered in determining whether the individual has a disability under the ADA. Even someone who uses a mitigating measure may have a disability if the measure does not correct the condition completely and substantial limitations remain, or if the mitigating measure itself imposes substantial limitations.
Example 2: An individual with a hearing impairment uses a hearing aid to amplify sounds. With the hearing aid, he can detect sounds such as traffic, sirens, and loud conversations at a very low level. For this reason, he must be in close proximity to the origin of sound in order to hear in a meaningful way. This individual is substantially limited in hearing even with the mitigating measure (i.e., the hearing aid).
Granted, this paper was written in 2006 so maybe things have changed.  I’m too lazy to find out if there’s anything more recent on the subject. 
While I’ve never considered myself to be an American with a disability, I am grateful for the ADA and its impact on my life.  And not just because of all those ramps that businesses had to put in.  No, my ADA victory came in the form of volume controls on public pay phones.  (My mom’s Norma Rae moment – making my high school install volume controlled pay phones!)  Of course, when’s the last time anyone used a pay phone?  But it’s nice to know that I could if I needed – or wanted – to.
So, I don’t consider myself as having a disability.  More like an inability.  I’m unable to hear – without mitigating measures, of course – just like I’m unable to smell or unable to use chopsticks.  Generally, I do pretty well.  Or at least I think I do pretty well.  Maybe I just hang out with loud people.  Or they’re all speaking loudly because I’m there.  Oh gosh, that would be embarrassing!
Sometimes I don’t hear everything and I’ll try to make sense of it in my head – like when I might not hear all the parts of the story about how hard it is to get your kid to nap and in my head I’m wondering who got kidnapped and why you're even at work if your kid was kidnapped.  It just gets all scrambled up and I realize the conversation quickly veered off track somewhere along the line, well, along my line at least.  Usually I think, gosh, they must think I’m a total space cadet. 
Overall, I compensate well.  At least that’s what my mom always used to say.  I work a little harder.  I focus a little more.  And while I only fall back on it in dire circumstances – like when my hearing aid battery dies mid-conversation – I’m a fairly good lip reader.   
I’m also a strategic positioner.  I know where to sit in meetings or at lunch to make sure I’ll be able to hear.  I know who has to be on my right, who can be on my left, and who really should be directly in front of me so I can read their lips.  It’s a pretty good strategy except when I forget who the lefties are.  Walking down the hallway, it’s best if people are on my right side.  I’ll usually maneuver myself so that I’m on the left and my good friends usually drift to the right – without any comment or awkwardness or shouts of "get on the deaf girl's right!".  It’s not something codified in the ADA…it’s just something they do because they’re kind, caring people.  Or they don't want to have to repeat themselves.  
Is it embarrassing when I don’t hear something?  Occasionally.  Is it frustrating being hearing impaired?  At times.  Is it frustrating for my friends and family?  I imagine - and worry - that it is. 
Do I wish I could hear like everyone else?  Yes. 
But then I wouldn’t get to turn everyone off.  And that's not such a bad ability.        
The story of my life.
(I'm not sure how to give credit - I found this on Pintrest.
I'm assuming it's from


  1. Wait. Can you really read lips? I mean, seriously? That's so cool! If we ever meet in person, I'll drift to the right -- and if we're ever spying on someone, we'll use your lip reading powers. Deal?

  2. Indeed, I can! When I was little my mom used to have to remind me to stop staring at the other people in restaurants. But I couldn't help myself, reading their lips was so interesting! I can't really hear whispering but if you mouth something to me, I do pretty well.

    If we're ever in a hallway together, the right's all yours!