Feb. 16th, 2009

sajego: (Default)

Until I was 14 I had perfectly normal hearing. That October, it was 1993, I had a minor cold (really more like “sick of school”) and that led to a stuffy feeling and a very loud ringing in my ears. I went back to school after the weekend and things sounded very odd… a stuffy, underwater, echoy, type sound. And quiet sounds weren’t audible at all.

I’ll skip describing the doctor visits and hospital time and steroids and stuff for now and say that I ended up with a moderate to severe bilateral sensorineural hearing loss. The ENT didn’t want me to have amplification because he was afraid it might damage my hearing more, so we held off until late December to get hearing aids. I had tutors teach me at home for those weeks before I got hearing aids. I loved that

My audiologist was wonderful, we would talk for a long time after finishing testing since I usually saw her at the end of the day. My speech discrimination was very high for my hearing loss. My hearing aids worked well until the next August when my loss dropped suddenly to a moderate to profound level. I figured something was wrong with my hearing aids, but nope. I think that happening now would affect me more than it did then. I just got stronger hearing aids.

In high school I had my class mates take notes for me, and apart from a few troublesome teachers things weren’t much different. I sat in the front of the class. I got good grades and graduated 4th out of 140 or so.

In 10th grade (or was it 11th?) I decided I wanted to study mechanical engineering so I could be a rollercoaster designer. I went to visit an open house at NTID at RIT in Rochester, NY. All day long I had to tell people they needed to speak to me as I didn’t know sign language. They were all happy to do that and made it effortless to communicate. It was such an amazing trip! I was ready to enroll that day but had years of high school left to finish. I did a week-long summer program at NTID in 1996 going into my senior year. That was my first immersion in deaf culture. It was interesting to say the least.

To sum up, I’ve had experiences with deaf culture, especially in college, but for the most part my friends are hearing and I depend on lipreading. I work as an engineer, but not designing rollercoasters. Most people who know me say that they forget that I’m deaf, or they don’t believe that I am really. Or you know, their great aunt wears a hearing aid, so they’re used to it. And that’s fine.

On the other side, I’ve found that when people are told ahead of time that I’m deaf they will overcompensate, either by trying to sign, or by raising their voices way too loud. What should they do? Well, mostly just make sure they’re facing me when they talk, and if my answer doesn’t make sense I probably guessed wrong at what you said, just repeat it for me. And don’t expect me to be able to follow a group conversation with ease unless I’m leading it. :)

Originally published at Sarasera. Please leave any comments there.

Musicals

Feb. 16th, 2009 07:34 pm
sajego: (Default)

Lately I keep finding myself with songs in my head from Sunset Boulevard. It’s a musical that won Tony awards in the early to mid 1990s. The sound track is from 1994 and features Glenn Close.

I listened to many, many broadway musical soundtracks when I was in high school. I generally liked the stories and and the music. They usually included lyrics in the liner notes and I could follow along and it was engaging, like with books on tape. I still love the subtle humor found in most shows (or not so subtle sometimes).

Seeing a show on stage was something I didn’t experience very often. But for me seeing a musical was amazing because I’d know the words by heart from reading along for months or years at home. It’s hard to describe as each show had different aspects that amazed me. When I first saw Phantom it was the pyrotechnics that I remember. I could feel the heat on my face from my seat in the balcony. With RENT the first time we had second row seats and I experienced the energy and emotions of the cast. We all cried for almost the entire second act. With Les Mis it was the amazing staging and set scenery and Colm Wilkinson as Jean Val Jean and being one row back from the orchestra pit. And for Lion King the amazing puppets, costumes and acrobatics stand out.

There’s a lot to a musical beyond the music, but listening to the soundtrack at home and reading along and learning to love the characters and their stories makes it all come together. It makes it very enjoyable even if you normally would not be able to understand the lyrics or follow the story at a show.

Sunset sounds great tonight even if I sometimes lose the thread of lyrics when I don’t focus on listening.

Originally published at Sarasera. Please leave any comments there.

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