A hard of hearing life would be isolating without today’s technology. I can only imagine it as
lonely. I remember what life was like before computers. I lived in a small, desert town of about 15,000 people and there were no hard of hearing resources available locally. It was an hour and a half in any direction from a big city. I traveled out of town to get hearing aids and I went out of town again to get them adjusted. In my late twenties, I was the only person I knew with hearing aids except for the snowbirds who came to town in the winter.
by Chelle George
Coping with hearing loss meant faking it, that was my only strategy back then.
I tried being hearing because I didn’t know what else to do. There were so many conversations lost during those years and missed connections too. It was a poor strategy.
Along came the internet and America Online. For months, I had to call long distance to dial up so I was limited being online but oh how I loved it. It opened up a new world for me. This was the first place I could socialize without struggling to hear. With the internet, I no longer felt like a social idiot. All the words were right in front of me to see. It was beautiful.
It took some months before our small town had local internet service and right away I signed
up. I had unlimited internet time at long last. I was overjoyed and spent every spare moment online, chatting, emailing and surfing the web.
After a year of playing around online, where I never had to admit I was hard of hearing, I
looked into hearing loss. The first sites I remember finding was SHHH (Self Help for the Hard of Hearing) and ALDA. There wasn’t much on their web sites except some basic information and a list of chapters. The nearest one was an hour and a half away which wasn’t feasible for me.
Keeping up the search, I found the Say What Club. I joined and learned so much from those good people. Faking it was bad they said so I worked on being honest about my hearing loss. There was a whole world of assistive listening devices (ALD’s) out there. The phone company
provided voice carry over phones and I signed up for one. I learned about resources such as vocational rehabilitation and the disability center at my local community college. I was not alone
when I had the Say What Club with daily emails of strategies, support or even the chance to rant or cry about our predicaments. I had friends from all over the country who understand what it was like to be hard of hearing.
Without the Say What Club being available to me online, I would have been years behind in
technology and awareness. Most likely, I wouldn’t have the courage to be upfront about my hearing loss.
The next big miracle was texting. It started out a teenager activity and my kids were among those who texted. One night I had my daughter sit down and show me how to do it. She was patient and I learned.
The problem was, I seemed to be one of the few adults who texted. How I wished my friends and family members texted back then. It was so much easier and quicker to communicate, in my opinion.
A few years down the road, other adults began texting. My mom was among the first and it elevated our communication to a daily thing. A couple times a day we would text one another back and forth. If a whole day went by without one of us texting, we text, “Everything ok?” It was great having my mom at my finger tips and our relationship grew.
Now texting is common. Many friends and most of my family texts. Better yet, I had bosses
and co-workers text me. Airlines, my tax person and my own phone company have started using texting. Most people say yes to texting when I ask them.
My phone doesn’t ring much. Instead it buzzes with text alerts. I discourage phone calls with most people. A type of anxiety builds up me in every time I think about phone calls. Even my voice mail tells people to text me instead. (That has gotten rid of unwanted sales calls!) I loathe phone calls. On the flip side, my phone is near me most of the day and I don’t go anywhere without it. The buttons are worn and friendly from making words on the little screen. I can’t go without texting anymore than I could go without email now.
I upped and moved to Salt Lake City almost three years ago, away from those small desert
towns. Surely the big city would hold a SHHH or ALDA meeting some where. A quick internet search showed me SHHH had changed to HLAA (Hearing Loss Association of America). There was HLAA chapter meeting once a month at the local deaf and hard of hearing center.
Not only was I lucky enough to find a meeting with others like me, I landed at the Sanderson Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
HLAA meetings were advertised on their local web site with CART (Communication
Access Real Time). I heard about CART many years before with the Say What Club but never experienced it. The thought of it was exciting. It was pure joy to walk into my first meeting
for HLA at the Sanderson Center and see the whole meeting captioned. I was elated.
Every meeting I go to at the Center has CART available if I or others request it. It was another miracle as my hearing continues to plunge. I can go to three hours of meetings there (or a presentation) with CART and walk away energized. Two hours in a social situation without CART or any other accommodation and I leave exhausted. I go the Center every chance I get. Every time I walk in the doors I feel the burden of the hearing world lift off my shoulders and I relax.
I’m glad I live when I do. Technology has been keeping up with me. I can’t imagine how separated from the world I would be without it. I try imagining what life would have been like for the hard of hearing and deaf 100 years ago with no technological help… the only words that come to my mind are isolated and lonely. Technology has been keeping up with me. I can’t imagine how separated from the world I would be without it. I try imagining what life would have been like for the hard of hearing and deaf 100 years ago with no technological help… the only words that come to my mind are isolated and lonely. Technology continues to improve and
expand. I’m eager to see what comes.