Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Papa Can You Hear Me?

I believe my hearing problem began when I was in my Teens, although it was probably progressive long before then. Part of it was due to my insatiable love for live shows but most of it was due to genetics. My teens were filled with “she only hears what she wants to hear” or “she has selective hearing” My mom thought that it was teenage rebellion when in fact my hearing was deteriorating. I have what is referred to as “reverse slope” hearing loss. In a nutshell I can hear high frequency sounds such as birds chirping, sirens, insects but I cannot hear low frequency sounds, such as appliances, and most importantly baseline levels of human speech. What’s so odd about it is that I might completely understand someone who is 8 ft away and for the life of me not understand a word your saying when your standing in front of me. Hence why it comes off as “selective”. Imagine this… there are people with reverse slope hearing loss that can’t hear thunder but yet they can hear a bird chirp a block away. That will be me in a few years my friends. Crazy isn’t it?

I used to say that my hearing loss is the one dependable thing that my biological dad (Russell) gave me. Thanks Genetics! After becoming a parent, I’ve realized that Russell isn’t really a BAD guy, He never beat me or my mom. And he was never verbally mean to me.He just made bad choices, he didn’t know how to be a dad, he didn’t know how to be present, he didn’t know how to live in the real world.

I saw Russell very rarely a few days in the summer and on the holidays. He never called me when I was a kid, when we would make plans something would always come up, work or car trouble. When I would visit we would watch movies or I would watch him work on his car. Talking was always awkward. One thing that was always certain was that he could not hear well at all. Even now he has aids in both ears and he has on a good day maybe 25% of his hearing.

Recently I picked up this book on hearing loss, ‘Hearing Loss & Hearing Aids A Bridge To Healing’. It’s made me realize that a lot of what’s been funky with me lately is due to me not being realistic and proactive about my increasingly severe hearing loss. This book points out that social phobias and emotional problems commonly develop as a result of untreated hearing loss.Things like increased anger (check), frustration(check), paranoia(check), insecurity(check), instability, nervousness(check), tension(check), anxiety(check), irritability(check), discontentment(check), depression(check), fearful(check), and lack of focus(check). You get the idea.

But Then I read the following:
“It’s been said that uncorrected hearing loss is more noticeable than hearing aids because the act of concealing a hearing loss is doomed to fail.It can make a person appear foolish, inattentive, disinterested, confused, senile, or mentally challenged.”

I felt my world all at once come undone then back together again.

See, a few years ago after Russell’s dad passed away,I found myself connecting with my uncle Steve, he is a great man that reminds me so much of my grandmother, who I was incredibly close with. He told me that when he was a kid my grandparents had quite the time with Russell.That it got so bad that they sent him to a mental institution for a year (for what exactly only Russell knows).“He was lost in his own world, and had no interest in being with us, he never paid attention.”His inability to socialize his anxiety problems led me to believe that perhaps it was that Russell was a functioning autistic. But this passage made me see it all so clearly.

Imagine growing up in the 60’s, a time when most deaf and hearing-impaired kids were sent to institutions and considered mentally retarded because they couldn’t speak properly. I’m sure that my grandparents never considered the fact that Russell had a severe hearing impairment, as he spoke perfectly normal. (The tricky thing with reverse slope hearing loss is that it can go untreated in children because they have perfectly normal speech thanks to the fact that they can hear high-frequency consonants such as “s,” “f,” “sh,” “ch,” “t,” and “th.”) This meant that children like Russell were diagnosed with other problems as apposed to having a hearing impairment. Of course Russell had emotional problems but they were due to his severe hearing loss. For years he was told he was stupid or retarded when really the root of his problem was his hearing. I don’t think that Russell wore hearing aids until he was in his 40’s. Imagine how messed up a person can become with 30 years of the incredible isolation unchecked deafness can bring. Most of my anger and frustration came from never understanding Russell and why he did the things he did. Why he made the choices he did. This revelation has made me look at him in a whole new light.

But perhaps now for the first time in my life I’ve found some kind of footing of understanding. Does it mean that I can erase the past and we can be father and daughter again? No. Does it mean that I can quite possibly have a healthy relationship with him? Maybe. Can I trust him enough to make him a constant part of my life? That I don’t think can ever happen. But I do know for the first time since I was a kid.I want to talk to him. And for the first time since I was a kid,I’m not angry or apprehensive about it.

There is so much just spinning in my head about this.So much just going click, click, click. I’ve gained a new understanding of my current situation and myself. And for the first time ever I finally have an insight into my father. It’s taken me years to get here and the speed to which everything is happening is making my head spin. I’m as close to peace, with regards to this aspect of my life, than I have ever been. I only hope that I can get it all out before it explodes.


survivingbaby said...

It's so interesting to me that your father's family would not have associated his hearing loss with his withdrawn state as a teenager. I guess it was a different time. I'm glad that you are talking about this. You are such an amazing and accomplished person that I think it's important for people who also have hearing loss to know all that you have done.

Frances said...

It goes back to the fact that he could speak perfectly and that it seemed that his hearing was selective. That he chose not to listen to my grandparents. And based on the fact that it wasn't until the 70's that hearing impaired and deaf young adults had proper studies done on their conditions, it would make sense that doctors would diagnose him with a social disorder.

Melissa said...

As you are well aware, I've always thought you should be more proactive with your hearing loss, and was very pleased when you were learning sign language. I hope this new-found realization leads you back to getting help. Also, I've always wanted to learn ASL, so maybe we can both do it and next time we're together, we can practice! :)

SpeakUp Librarian said...

I am going to have to read that book. I'm glad it's given you new insight into your father. Thanks for explaining what a reverse slope hearing loss is like. It's the exact opposite of mine - no birds chirping or high pitched consonants for me.

Ruth said...

Hey. Wow. I am a 46 yr old adoptee. I have reverse slope loss too.

I've been carted off to audi's since I was 4, nobody explained this. It is profoundly helpful to know what the heck has been going on. This year I discovered frmm my own research, that my loss was reverse, and that explained so much. I have always been accused of "faking it". i hate that. i wasn't faking. It makes a lot more sense of how anxious I become when I have to use the phone, or be in a room with a group. and on and on. sigh. its so much better to understand. why didn't any audi, for the last 42 years, ever say anything? i don't think they knew what I went though.

i did a lot of education with my current audi about how many of "us" find bluetooth technology very helpful for using phone, cell, mp3, etc.I don't hear well until above 3500 hz, and phones only transmit below 3400. she was defensive and difficult. i felt bad and gave up trying to get her to advocate for me for funding for what i needed.

funny thing happened...i got hyperthyroid a bit...accidentally on too high a dose of meds for a few months, and so i got hypo-manic, and a bit aggressive. i gave her shit. i told her in no uncertaine terms what the facts were, for reverse slope (i'm in ontario, but only have american stats: maybe 36 million hearing aid users in us, 3000 have reverse slope. that = rare. what works for them does not work for us. etc etc. ) she finally picked up the phone and spoke to the funder. I won my appeal and I should get the bluetooth tek (bluetooth adapter for my siemens pures) next week. in the meantime, I got my thyroid meds adjusted, and I'm back to "normal" ie nice, wasp girl. lol

For you to write so poignantly about how you can get some compassion going for your birth dad, was another layer for me, of healing. i have no idea what happened with my birth dad. could explain a lot of things about why he didn't help my birth mom when she got knocked up. maybe he had this, and had low self esteem and all that. i have no idea, but reading your blog opened my mind and my heart to the possibiloity that he did "love" me, maybe. I haven't met him yet. decided today to do so thanks to you!

I am just starting to comprehend how severe my hearing loss is, and what the losses have been in my life as a result. It matters. It hurt me. It also made me stronger.

It is never too late to get value from making sense of things. And you doing so in public helped me. If that makes any of your pain worthwhile, a little, i'm glad. I am not alone. I am not alone. Thankyou.


email: westcott.ruth@gmail.com

thunder bay, ontario