Tribulations of a Bionic Librarian

Before I get into this entry, I must ask you to go away…and read this article: http://www.xojane.com/issues/how-not-to-be-a-dick-to-your-deaf-friend

Go on. I’ll wait.

(Man baseball is slow compared to playoff hockey. The game is slow enough and this joker throws a pitch and then meanders around the mound? What’s up with that? I mean…)Oh, you’re back. Good.

Quite the article isn’t it? The lass is a wee bit further down the deafness curve than your friendly neighborhood bionic librarian. But I still found myself shouting YES! as I read it. I can relate to just about everything she said. Her words struck a cord so strongly that I felt the need to pay her homage and throw down some experiences of my own.

So without further ado:

I Don’t Look the Part But Don’t Think I’m Lying

I’m 6’2″ and exercise regularly. While I don’t claim to be an Adonis, I’m in fairly good shape. So when I meet someone new, they are often taken aback by my inability to catch everything they say. I tend to get an interesting mix of people being apologetic and people being affronted. I don’t want either response, I just want you to be aware of my limitation and face me when you speak. When I got these bionic ears, I purposefully bought the grey casings and not the brown. I did so in hopes that folks would notice them and so wouldn’t be surprised when I asked them to repeat something. Now if my hair would stop turning grey…

Don’t Get Angry When I Hear the Wrong Thing

This happens in meetings more then anything else. Everyone is busy and no one wants to be in meetings, I get it. I do. But just because I’m answering a question you didn’t ask doesn’t mean I’m making fun of you. So there’s no need to get offended. The first time I encountered this, I was stunned. I’m a shy guy and don’t like to speak up unless I have to. So pissing someone off is not on the top of my list of things to do. What I haven’t decided, tough, is if I like making someone mad or making someone laugh better. Getting laughed at because I said the wrong thing isn’t too pleasant either. Well, I guess amusement beats scorn. Y’know like rock beats scissors (or Spock beats rock).

Don’t Whistle to Get My Attention

This only happened to me a couple of times. I felt like a dog. The first time, I joined in the laughter. I think it was because it was so unexpected. However, the times after that it got insulting. Luckily, it hasn’t happened in a good long while. When people want my attention, they usually wave. My peripheral vision is pretty good so it tends to work quite nicely.

Movies/TV Shows Need Closed Captions

This is my plea to all the TV and movie companies out there: step up the closed captioning will ya? Back when the Dark Knight Rises came out, I had my first run in with the lack of CC. I’d been watching TV with CC for years and my ears got either lazy or worse because those threatening whispers Batman and his villains like to use fell on deaf ears (sorry). Then the explosions were so loud I had to turn down my bionic ears. Then the whispers began and I had to turn them up. It was exhausting. Since then I’ve always thought twice before going to a movie.

Even staying home isn’t a sure bet. I bought a collection of Mythbusters shows on DVD and wouldn’t you know it, no closed captions. Even though when I watched the episodes on TV they were there. For shame Discovery Channel, for shame! And I won’t even get started on the debacle that is closed captions for live sporting events. When they do manage to keep the pace, they’re often wrong or covering up some interesting stats. I understand that it’s not easy to put captions on a live event, but couldn’t that 7-second delay be used for something? I mean just because something’s hard doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done. Hmph. Ok, I guess I did get started. Moving on.

The Double-edged Sword of Technology

For the last part of the entry, I’d like to get into describing the nuances of wearing bionic ears.

The hearing aids have helped me hear folks speaking to me, but they also introduced me to the background noises that I hadn’t heard for years, if ever. While that may seem obvious, what is a little more irksome is the fact that my brain isn’t used to having to filter out background noise. So while it’s nice to hear the waves lapping the shore, it’s not so nice to hear the traffic outside my front door. But fear not, those technological magicians were on top of that. My wondrous bionic ears are constantly filtering out that background noise. I think it has something to do with narrowing the band so that only things closer to me are picked up. But I could be wrong. It’s a pretty nifty development, most of the time. An unavoidable consequence is the wind. When I’m outside talking with someone, if the wind picks up my bionic ears start a-filtering and I can’t hear a damned thing. Wind is meddlesome but rain, rain has become the bane of my existence. I already wrote all about one that. (See here)

Whether I’m outside or inside, I’m battery powered! And batteries are most definitely not included. The batteries last me a little over a week and more than once, I’ve been caught without a spare one. Oh, they are kind enough to give me a warning beep (usually) but that doesn’t mean that I can always do anything about it. When I’m left with a dead ear everything seems to be coming from one side of the world. It’s quite disorienting. That’s to say nothing of those times when they practice synchronized dying. At times like those, it’s like a blanket has been tossed over everything. When they’re off, they act as gratuitous earplugs. So I usually take them out. At times this is a blessing because having things stuck in your ears all time time can make them quite sore. Of course, without them on my tinnitus gets louder. But that’s a while different story.

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