Wake me up when September ends?

Would you look at that . . .  One whole fall semester has (basically) gone by. Just like that. I have somehow managed to remain radio silent for almost three months.

I suppose I could blame my cyberslumber on my continual procrastination — repeatedly pressing the snooze button on my good intentions to post another blog. I could also blame my absence on every student’s go-to excuse: “school is just soooo crazy right now.”

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But let’s be honest, here folks. I kind of . . . forgot? In my every day routine of close-t0-normalcy, it sort of slipped my mind that I had a blog about what made me farther-from-normalcy. I also maaaayyyy have forgotten my username and password. The result? My first blog post in an embarrassingly long time.

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As if I wasn’t already shamefully logging in for the first time in months like a student showing up to classes for the first time in the final weeks of the semester, wordpress has decided to add insult to injury. With new formats and fonts and a slightly updated layout, I can almost hear wordpress taunting me: “oh, thereeee you are.”

Okay, rant aside, let’s talk about what brought me back here.

Recently, I had a sibling of a friend reach out to me to ask if I could be in her student documentary project on the Deaf/deaf debate. I got to spend a whole hour babbling in front of a camera about the same stuff I talked about in A Word. The whole time, there was a little voice in the back of mind saying “wow, this is really fun — I should talk about this more often in a public forum for all to read as they please!”

Oh wait.

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So yeah, that’s kind of embarrassing. Another reason that brings me back is a recent conversation I had with a fellow USC friend. We were talking about what it takes to stay positive in what feels like a constant whirlwind of negativity. At school, it gets easy to stress out and enter this cycle of negativity that won’t relent. We were remarking that while it seems that positive, happy people just seem to have it made, remaining positive is a constant battle. It is a choice we must make on a daily basis even if we don’t feeeeeel like being positive on that day. Positivity and success require hard work and diligence, but the pay-offs are immense. Unfortunately, the pay-offs are often what people see, not the battle.

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We were exchanging stories and reasons behind our continual decisions to choose positivity, and I kept thinking that positivity was a decision I made long ago. When faced with the prospect of deafness, it can be extremely easy to choose negativity. But I didn’t really like that option, so I didn’t choose it. Compared to that decision, choosing to remain positive about things like school, extracurricular activities, and friends (while important), are much simpler decisions. I probably sound like a broken record at this point, but my journey with deafness has been a blessing in disguise. It allowed me to have perspective and clarity about what is important and what is perhaps more fleeting. That worked out well!

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Okay, second rant over.

Thanks for listening! Hope you all have a wonderful, positive, perspective-filled Thanksgiving with your loved ones, I know I will!

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(This is me at the dinner table on Thursday)

 

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When to Say When

When to say when . . . I think it is safe to say that we all, as human beings, have faced this issue at one point or another. Whether it it’s struggling to figure out when to tell someone you like them or when to tell the waiter to stop pouring cheese on your pasta, trying to nail down the art of timing is Rubik’s Cube of life. Or maybe that is just me. Either way, I have a constant, on-going when-to-say-when issue in my life.

As a deaf individual, trying to figure out when to tell someone you’re deaf is the most confusing thing on the planet. It has gotten to the point where I roll my eyes and laugh at the absurdity of the situation. But before I explain what I mean by that statement, let me fill you in on the situation itself.

Close your eyes and imagine you’re me. And if you don’t want to be me, just close your eyes and imagine you’re deaf. Got it? Good. Let’s say you are a mainstreamed deaf individual. That means a slight accent or lisp because you can’t say your “s” sound very well, or a slight nasal overtone to your speech. It also may mean you say “what?” occasionally. And in noisy places, people of both sexes may think you are thinking about kissing them when, really, you’re just trying to read their lips. Primarily, it means that despite all these traits or quirks, your deafness exists on that gray boundary between detectable and undetectable to your average human.

Now imagine that you are meeting someone for the first time. You shake their hand, you introduce yourself, you chat with them. The conversation goes pretty well. You hear about 97% of the conversation, but thank goodness, in today’s zoned out, sleep deprived age, saying “what” at some point in the conversation doesn’t result in your new acquaintance realizing that you are, in fact, deaf. Let’s say you guys exchange phone numbers and promises to meet up later.

This moment can either blossom into a friendship, or not. But if it does, and you guys start getting closer and hanging out more often, you might start wondering: does (s)he know that I am deaf? Should I say something? Does it matter? You play out two scenarios: you suppose that you could have introduced yourself and said “hi, I’m (insert name). Sorry if I seem like I can’t hear you very well, I am deaf.” That isn’t really a bad option, but it is kind of straightforward, and it can lead to the new acquaintance being confused or a bit taken aback. Or not. It depends on the person. But it is a toss up.

Conversely, you could become friends with said person, texting and hanging out regularly. And maybe, just maybe, five years down the line, you can slip in the fact that you have been deaf the whole time.

Okay fine, maybe five years is dramatic, but you get the point. Whether it is a week later, or whenever an appropriate time arises, you somehow feel that your timing is a bit too late. Once you have established a friendship with someone, the common reaction to revelations of this degree is incredulity. Sometimes, and I have experienced this, the friend gets offended that you didn’t share with them sooner. Sometimes it is completely fine. Another toss-up.

I, myself, have not yet mastered the fine art of when to say when. I always do my best to find the right moment. If that is a couple seconds after introduction, then so be it. If that is two weeks later, during a 2 a.m. chat, that’s cool, too. If it is five years later — well, fine, that never really happens. I have come to realize that there are situations where it is important to be upfront, like in classrooms (always let your teacher know you are deaf. Always), or at meetings, or in loud places, like football games. There are other situations where it might not be so important.

When it comes to making friends, I am absolutely watching to see how people react to the news. What I have found is that most people are not fazed. They shrug and say they are happy to help me with anything I need, and sorry, they still want to be friends. Nope, being deaf doesn’t change anything at all. I’ve come to realize that the timing is a matter of personal preference for me. Just like a random person wouldn’t come up to me and start spilling their guts, I don’t need to go around trumpeting my deafness. No one says, “hey, red flag, you may not want to be friends because I can get really anxious about things” so I don’t need to say “hey, I’m deaf so I’m sorry if that complicates things.” When you meet someone, you embark on a path of getting to know them. For those who met, are meeting, and will meet me, part of this journey will involve me telling you, if you didn’t already know already, that I am deaf. I am sure that my journey meeting other people will include me learning things about them, too. Same difference.

The irony of my general over-thinking of this whole dilemma is that I am not a closed person, nor am I ashamed of my deafness. Ask anyone who is close to me — when I share this trait with you (and if you’re still interested in hearing more), I will share with you my story. I will explain the biology and science of deafness. I will show you youtube clips of people getting their hearing aids or cochlear implants for the first time. I will answer all of your questions. For me, the only trouble is that one tiny little bump in the road — WHEN.

Revenge of the Battery Snatchers

I think I speak for all people, not just hearing impaired people, when I say batteries are the bane of my existence.

But wait, hold on Shayna. Aren’t batteries a blessing? Aren’t they the reason you can use your phone, your laptop, your hearing aids?

Fine, yes, that is true.

But they are the reason I can use my phone, my laptop, and my hearing aids.

Imagine this: it is the first week of July and you are in Maui with your family on vacation. You are totally unplugged. Kind of. You have your personal audio cable hooked up to  your cochlear to you can listen to music, and yeah, your Dry Store hearing aid cleaner and your cochlear charger are all plugged in, blinking lights galore. But other than all that, you are totally unplugged. Yes, listening to your strange, confused playlist in which Trevor Hall songs follow Kanye songs follow Taylor Swift songs.

Then.

Horror of all horrors. Your phone’s battery symbol turns red. “Less than 20% remaining.” You feel annoyed (first world problems, to be sure) but you decide to keep your Zen. You are in Maui. You don’t need Apple.

You unhook your audio cable and remove your coverup, grab your sister, and hightail it to the warm Pacific Ocean.

Enter tropical wind. It brings AWESOME waves. You are kind of nervous, because you decided to keep your implant and hearing aid in. They are both supposedly water resistant. But still. You flow along happily with the current, timing the waves perfectly as you gently float over each one. But uh oh, this one looks kind of big. You stay calm. You resume your pattern of timing. Ready, one two three UP and over.

Oof. You are placed exactly where the wave decided to break. Luckily, you did not get pounded in the tumbling white froth zone. But you took a bit of a licking from the tip of the wave. So did half of your hearing aid. It sounds a little echo-y all the sudden, and you realize that water has seeped through the filters. You will have to change them tonight.

Your hearing aid gives a meek warning beep, signaling the battery is about to die. What? You changed it this morning. It should at least last all day. You are annoyed again. Except this time it isn’t first world problems. It is every world problems. It is your hearing, for goodness sakes.

At least you didn’t wear your disposable cochlear implant battery. The case for the disposable implant battery is perforated with holes so that the removable batteries can breathe. The rechargeable ones that you are wearing today have no holes, because there are no removeable batteries. You simply charge them up each night.

Your hearing aid is slowly dimming. And then it goes dead. You trudge out of the ocean and find your beach bag, where you have packed extra hearing aid batteries and extra cochlear implant batteries. You remove your hearing aid and see that water has seeped through the filter into the battery compartment, effectively damaging the battery. You dry it out, replace the battery and resume your beach fun, with more caution this time.

It is later in the evening. You and your family are ready to go to dinner. Your hearing aid and implant have had some much needed R&R time in your Dry Store while you showered and got dressed. You are ready for a beautiful Maui evening. You get to the restaurant and order the Catch of the Day and sip on some Hawaiian fruit punch (non-alcoholic, calm down), but then your worst fear happens. The cochlear implant battery — your trusty rechargeable one — has started to die. The hearing aid dying is one thing. The hearing aid is more of a supporting actress. The implant, however, is the Clint Eastwood, the Leonardo DiCaprio, the Chris Pratt of the production that is your life — the lead actor. You dig into your purse and pull out the disposable cochlear implant batteries and accompanying battery case. Looks like second string batteries were going to save the day after all. You deftly perform the switch in your chair, because discreetly changing batteries in public is kind of your thing. Or you don’t really care, hard to tell. The implant comes back to life, and sounds more vibrant than ever before.

You love batteries. But you also hate them.

Aaaand end scene. Thanks for joining me on that ride folks. Allow me to explain some of these phenomenons I experienced on my vacation.

For the hearing aid, it is pretty simple. It is only water resistant around the case, not the filter. Water can seep through the filter and, if there is a filter on the battery door like there is on mine, it will enter the battery compartment and cause the hearing aid to die. No need to panic — you haven’t broken your hearing aid! You just need a small battery switch.

For the rechargeable battery dying, that is a matter of upkeep. You want to buy new rechargeable batteries at the very least every five years. I have heard the recommended life span is 1-2 years. Mine made it to around five. I don’t really know the science behind this mechanism but what I can do is give you this analogy: the rechargeable are kind of like a cell phone. When you first buy it, it really holds its charge. After a couple years, you have to recharge more frequently. That is the extent of my knowledge. I recommend checking out the cochlear website for more details.

The removable/disposable batteries are not really second string like I described here. The sound quality is actually the same. I refer to it as second string in my life because I use the rechargeable ones, mainly to lower costs of buying a thousand 675-sized batteries for the disposable ones. Those for me usually last a day, and the implant requires two 675s at any given time, so I could go through 14 of them in one week, which isn’t my idea of fun. There is also a delay time before I can put the implant in if I use the removable batteries. I tend to let the batteries sit out a little bit (before I put them in) to adjust to the air. Technically, you don’t have to do this because the battery case is perforated, but I always feel like it sounds a little better if I do. Also, because the disposable ones are perforated to let air in (these 675s need contact with air to perform maximally) this makes the battery less waterproof. Since I like to have the most simple, fuss free battery, I use the rechargeable ones. They usually last all day (up to 16 hours for me) and can handle water or any other situation. But that is just my opinion. What works for you is what you should do.

I want to reiterate that my life usually isn’t this inconvenient. As always, trips involving a lot of water are always tough on hearing devices, so this was actually an extenuating circumstance. For instance, now that I am back home in less drier situations with newer rechargeable batteries, life is fantastic.

I also want to say that not every moment of my Maui vacation was like this either. In fact, most of the time, it wasn’t. I made sure to put newer rechargeable batteries in and I got better at going with the flow of the ocean, so all my other aquatic experiences were much better.

It is all about staying positive, even if a situation is a little more difficult than what you are accustomed to. Anyone can have fun with and without hearing devices, so even when a battery dies, it is only a marginal setback.

And, you guys. It’s Maui. How upset can you really be?!