Monday, May 07, 2007

How Different am I Really?

(Not to be confused with "How unique am I," a possible topic for another time)

It really makes no sense to post this here since to my knowledge only two of my readers know me in real life. So this is more of a muse than a question, for the sole reason that I am too chicken to ask "real" people. Maybe it will even be a bit of an eye-opener for some. Or should I say "ear-opener?"

Some background is in order:
I am hearing impaired.
Perhaps it is one reason why I enjoy blogging better than live socializing.
Thank G-d it's only mild.
I've gotten along OK without hearing aids ( far)

Sometimes I wonder what I'm missing.
Whether things would have been different if...
But that's besides the point.

Sometimes I think that I think of hearing aids as a "quick fix." Another of those things that we lost souls are prone to convincing ourselves that everything will be ok if___. Who says? **(note to the blissfully unaware: hearing aids do not cure hearing loss.)

Today I don't know what got into me, but I asked a pretty awkward question.
We had an event at work. At the end, all the kids were hanging around being noisy while the teachers stood around chatting. These situations are not ideal for me. It's difficult for me to focus on the speaker and read lips in the kind of setting where several people are talking at once and there's a lot of background noise. I kind of assume it's hard for anyone to hear when there are 200 young children partying in the same room.

I was with one of my coworkers, a teacher with the most wide open heart you can imagine, very warm and non-judgemental.
And I asked her... I was really curious...
"When everyone was hanging around together earlier... Could you actually hear what people were telling you?"
I'm not sure what I was expecting -- hoping?-- to hear.
Well, of course, I have to concentrate on the person who's talking... If I look directly at the speaker, I can usually make out what they're saying even with so much going on.

As you with the normally functioning ears have probably assumed already, she didn't even understand my question:
"What do you mean, could I hear them?"

"I mean, when it was so noisy in the room, and the other teachers were all talking together -- you could hear what they were saying? Clearly?"

To make a long story short, just imagine the rest of the very short, uncomfortable conversation and you'd probably be about on target. And this, with the one person in the world that I felt OK asking.

I never realized how different things really are for others.
To be able to hear things more clearly than I, I knew others could do.
But so easily that they don't even realize they're filtering out other sounds?


Sometimes I wonder how different I really am.
Most people don't know about my difficulty.
Is that because I've been so successful at compensating, B"H?
Or maybe they just think I'm spacey, slow, not paying attention to them?
When I give a wrong respose, what do they think, they who don't know that I heard them say something different?
When I talk too loudly, do they think I'm unrefined?

Sometimes I feel like I'm doing all right.
But inside, there's always that nagging anxiety:
Maybe I missed something.
Maybe that's not what he said.
Maybe they're looking at me differently.

How normal am I really?


The Dreamer said...

You know, I never felt comfortable asking you about this, but to hear your feelings, aee them splayed out like this...

Thank you for sharing.

And I mean it when I truly say that no, you are NOT normal. You are way beyond normal. You're unbelievable!
(but yes, you do appear normal to others...)

socialworker/frustrated mom said...

This makes you no different at all thanks for expressing yourself. I think anyones challenges only make them stronger and more unique in a better sense. I have found that with many people.

Lakewood Venter said...

great post. I think you are being hard on yourself! I don't think you are different than the rest of us; you are just as nuts as everyone else! lol. Kidding. You seem like a great person, dont let these things get you down!

Scraps said...

I have a number of hearing-impaired friends, most of whom wear hearing aids for the majority of the time. I certainly don't think of them as being any "less" than the rest of my friends who have normal hearing.

I think that most people have something--big or small--that sets them apart from others and what people think of as "normal". It could be anything--a personal disability, a difficult/unusual family situation, a sick parent or sibling, etc. It may come earlier in life or it may come later. But if you have learned to live with whatever G-d gives you, you're okay.

David_on_the_Lake said...

Of course your different...
I often wonder how life would be different without some of my impairments..But ultmately this is the challenge Hashem gave us.

Do you find that its true..that when one sense is impaired the others are heightened?

Bas~Melech said...

Thanks, all. You're making me feel a lot better -- though you can't take my difficulty away, you make me feel understood which is even better.

Dreamer-- That's the problem. I appear normal, so they think when I do things wrong I'm just being wierd/rude/whatever. I really think people who only know me offline don't see my true personality. And it's not always on the good side of that.

SWFM -- Yeah, that's what they all say. But I think this has done more to make me bitter and lonely :( Only now am I trying to be stronger and more unique through this challenge.

LV -- thanks :) Really. :)

Scraps -- You are so right. I think life would be easier for everyone if more people would realize that everyone has difficulties and we don't usually see the full picture behind their behavior at any time.

David -- I'm not sure. Maybe for some people. I think probably if I were c"v profoundly deaf, that would probably be true. But as it is -- well, physically it ain't so: I wear glasses/lenses, and my other senses aren't exceptionally sharp. But I do think I am much more attuned to what I do hear. And I certainly appreciate it more. (like when I was talking to that teacher, she totally didn't realize all she could hear Just Like That.)

Bas~Melech said...

PS to David: Not sure if this counts as heightened other senses, but I can read lips very well. I think most people can't. As a kid, I was so good at it that I barely needed any sound to hear, but I think I got used to listening for sound and now I'm a little rusty. I still do a lot of speechreading subconsciously as I listen, though.

If people sneak up on me and start talking while I'm reading or something, and I say "One second... what did you say?" They laugh and say, "What, you need your glasses to hear?!" and I don't think they believe me when I say... Yes. :)

Sometimes I feel like taking some silly putty and putting it behind my ear... then people might look me in the face and talk distinctly! Lot's cheaper than hearing aids!

Bas~Melech said...

Oh, and Dreamer-- you can ask me anything, dear.

The Dreamer said...

basmelech - three posts from you al in a row? you trying to raise your comment level?

i know i COULD. i didn't think YOU would mind. it's ME.

socialworker/frustrated mom said...

Sorry I meant it sincerely but different things help different ppl.

David_on_the_Lake said...

admirable...very admirable..
I've always wanted to lip read

anonym00kie said...

being 12th to comment - blah, now i have nothing to add :)
what a brave post.
i think its normal to feel the anxiety the you do, and i agree that everyone probably feels that there is something drastically wrong/different about them that makes them feel that anxiety. but i think part of maturing and developnig is learning to accept those differences and accepting that dealing with them is part of one's lot. resenting it and hiding it and feeling miserable about it is our natural reaction, as we grow up - and grow- we learn to view it differently - which it definteiyl sounds like you are doing.

20 Years of My Life said...

Great Post!!!

Lvnsm27 said...

I also feel different than others and worry about what they might be thinking.
Great post

yingerman said...

"They laugh and say, "What, you need your glasses to hear?!" and I don't think they believe me when I say... Yes. :)"
That might be me.
I have hearing loss in 1 ear.
The doc says not bad enough to affect my life, but the truth is I can't participate in group conversations because I have to look at the person talking.
How can I learn to read lips?

Bas~Melech said...

Hey, it's been a while.
Thanks for the comments, and welcome, new readers!

Dreamer -- Yes, I worried it might look like I was bumping up my comments, but I kept remembering one more thing every time I hit "Publish." :P

SWFM -- I know. You wrote truth. I'm the problem...

DOT -- right.

m00k -- Thanks. You wrote well.

Yinger -- 1. So now we both know we're not unique in that respect :)
2. I know the feeling... You probably mean (I could be wrong, don't know how big your loss is) that you can participate in group conversations, but it's difficult, confusing, and frustrating, besides which you can't contribute much without sounding at least a little off.
3. Your doc? Do you mean your audiologist? Because if you have a hearing loss and you are concerned about the ways it affects your life, that's who you should be seeing. Most health insurance plans, though they don't do much if anything for hearing aids, will cover a couple of visits to a good audiologist to figure out what's going on and what you can do about it.
4. If you need to look at the person talking,(as you mentioned) that means you are already reading lips, albeit unknowingly. Otherwise looking at them wouldn't help nearly as much as turning your better ear towards them. Don't expect to be able to decipher every word just by looking! Concentrating harder may help, but it doesn't do that much for me. Speech therapists work with HI/deaf to help learn speechreading (as the pros call it), but I think they also mainly do it through practice. I don't know of any other specific method that is used. Just pay attention to the lips when you can hear and your eyes will probably start picking up the patterns.

LittleBirdies said...

My older sister told me a story of when she was in seminary in Israel (20 years ago). There was a nice girl who she thought had a speach problem but was smart, etc. It was only mid way through the year that my sister found out she was deaf and the speach problem was due to deafness.
If it bothers you that people don't know you are hearing impaired, then tell them. If it doesn't bother you, don't worry about it. Let people think what they want to think.
Anyone who is frum and works in a goyish workplace is "different". I often wonder what they think of me that I come in long sleaves in the heat of the summer. Let them think--it won't change me.

Something Different said...

As you may have noticed, I view difference as a good thing. Kinda makes the world go round. :-)
I find this really interesting because I suspect I have a hearing impairment, though nothing has ever been diagnosed. I have a really tough time following conversations in any kind of group setting. Maybe if the hearing problems are in my left ear I can sue some doctor and make a fortune. ;)
I never saw it from your perspective. Thanks for sharing. And btw, I like you the way you are- slow or not slow. :-)