The Cochlea- My Canada Writes Creative Non-Fiction Submission for 2014

After a long six months wait, I learned that my submission didn’t make the longlist. It was my first submission, so I am hardly surprised, but a tad disappointed. Only a handful of people have seen this during the writing process, thanks to them, I put together a story I felt comfortable submitting.

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Seriously Stoked

Yesterday I went to my two year activation follow up. I was feeling some trepidation on the way because I left my six months follow up devastated at the results. My emotions and expectations had been very high, and unrealistic that day. Even though I knew that it might not be what I had hoped, my heart wanted more. I scored low that day. While I understood that it was early yet, and I had much work to do, that we were still tweaking my programming it was still devastating.

So this time I kept my expectations in check, and came home quite pleased, and stoked about one particular test. After my AVT session where we verified how much I’d progressed in my speech discrimination. Despite sporadic use of the processor due to chronic headaches, and an infected tooth (caused me to grind my teeth), I still responded almost perfectly.

I cannot hear f, th and s, sh, ch, c, k only moderately well; but can hear the rest of the speech sounds. These sounds are in the high frequency range, which we are still working on gaining access to, and my brain still needs training on recognizing them. We are still working on gaining better distinction between similar sounds like c and k.

Then it was time to see my audiologist and do the sound test and speech discrimination test. With just the CI, and no hearing aid, I comprehended about 32% of the sentences. This was understandable due to the amount of high frequency speech sounds. When I put my hearing aid in, my speech discrimination jumped drastically, by 36% to 68% accuracy. That’s huge in my book. The same occurred with the word speech discrimination test. I even felt more confident than I had at my six month follow up.

Then she showed me the audiogram of the sound test we had started with. It was not what I had thought I would see. I had expected a mild-moderate range of improvement. Instead: it was normal to mild range, which had me stunned. I never expected, or dreamed that the cochlear implant would yield such a big gain in my hearing. I would have been satisfied with a mild to moderate level.

Below are four images. The first one is the audiogram of my left ear from January of this year. I don’t have one of the right ear before it was implanted, however it was virtually the same, but a tad worse, so we implanted that ear.

The second audiogram is the implanted right ear, and the current level of hearing I have with the cochlear implant. You can see that it is ALMOST an across the board level of hearing, around the 20db range. At 2000 MHz and higher, it drops to about 30db range.

The other two show the speech banana, showing where speech sounds and environment sounds fall on the spectrum, and where the different levels of hearing loss fall on the chart.

Although my hearing with the cochlear implant is almost normal, it does not however mean that I comprehend speech like a hearing person. All it means is that while I may hear those speech sounds, my brain still needs to be trained to recognize them. As previously mentioned, the higher frequency speech sounds are still difficult to hear, and distinguish from each other. However, with lots and lots of practice and training, I might get there.

Having never heard these sounds for forty years, I’d say it’s an amazing result, for only two years since my activation. The future is bright, and full of promise. Future advancements in the processors may one day allow me to achieve better. For now, I will take yesterday’s results, and run with it.

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Diversity Within

Diversity to many of us usually calls up different cultures, skin colour, languages and so on. There is diversity within each community, even a small community of 500 is diverse. So too is there diversity within a Deaf community. Most people think the Deaf community is composed of people that are completely deaf, and only sign. While that was once true, it has changed greatly, and continues to change rapidly. Unfortunately, many within the Deaf community prefer that it remain only signing, and are vehement about their position towards those who don’t meet their criteria.

The Deaf community as I see it contains a large group of adults and children who:
have a variety of levels of hearing loss,
born with the loss or late deafened
may use hearing aids or have a cochlear implant,
may go without a hearing aid or cochlear implant,
may use ASL, SEE or don’t sign
may be oral as I am, or speak when needed

The choices of a deaf or HOH person shouldn’t subject them to audism and bigotry from others in the Deaf community. Yet it does, and the Deaf community is extremely negative towards those that don’t sign, that have cochlear implants, or choose to be oral only.

Over the past couple of weeks there has been much debate over these topics. The majority of the people debating these topics are people who are open minded, educated on the topics, and are respectful towards others. However there are a group of individuals who choose to be negative towards others; they claim they are not judging and yet they are.

These people criticize the use of the cochlear implant, and spread misinformation, myths, and don’t cite reliable sources for their reasoning. They complain about not being accepted by the hearing, by the HOH, by those like me who is oral, and chose to get the cochlear implant. Yet they don’t accept the great diversity that is in their community. Too much focus is put on our choices and the choices made by hearing parents rather than embracing the diversity that comes from those choices.

Those naysayers, and critical, judgemental people have lost sight of the fact that the world has changed. That we have greater access to technology than we once have, that we benefit from. That those of us who are oral and living in the hearing community are representatives of the Deaf community, and are our advocates for bringing change. Change in captioning in movie theatres, on apps like Netflix and Hulu Plus, and in entertainment. They are advocates for educating the hearing on the lives and challenges of the Deaf community. They’ve lost sight of the fact that together as a whole we can bring more changes to accessibility for the Deaf.

There is an oft quoted mantra that applies here:

DIVIDED WE FALL, UNITED WE STAND

By remaining divisive within the Deaf community we will always struggle to gain the accessibility we need. We will continue to struggle to gain the assistance needed in our education, work, and everyday lives. Our children and their parents will continue to be made to choose between signing or speaking by the professionals and the Deaf in the community who should be advocating for both.

Technology is changing, and I see much of it still being optimized for the hearing population and any accessibility for the deaf population will be an afterthought. Captioning has been around for years but it is still lagging in the entertainment and media industries, just looking at YouTube, Hulu Plus, and Cinema Now reveals the lack of thought for the deaf community.

It is law in Canada and the United States that accommodations must be provided in all social services, places of employment, and businesses and yet we are still lagging behind for the deaf, as well as the blind, physically challenged, and mentally challenged individuals in our society.

So why is the Deaf Community allowing themselves to remain divided, and not accept our own diversity?

DIVIDED WE FALL, UNITED WE STAND