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My Thoughts on Christianity and Other Things

Archive for the tag “hard of hearing”

Mercy for the Hearing

Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”
“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!” Matthew 18:21-22

Hearing Loss Symbol

A few years ago I was in a coffee shop when I noticed a Deaf woman signing to a friend on a tablet. After she finished, I was able to start up a conversation with her. This was before I learned American Sign Language (ASL). We communicated by way of a few signs and a lot of typing on the laptop I had with me.

I learned that she was born deaf and her sister was born hard of hearing. Both have been mistreated by the hearing community. However, she has been accepted into the Deaf community because of her deafness and because she was able to learn ASL. And there she made friends. (There is a difference between Deaf and deaf; Deaf is for those in the Deaf culture and Deaf community, whereas deaf is anyone who can’t hear.)

Her sister, however, was determined (by hearing people) not to be deaf enough for deaf school or for learning sign language, and therefore was neither deaf nor hearing and had very few friends.

The problem is that hearing people can talk and understand each other. Deaf people can sign and understand each other. However, the hard of hearing can speak but not hear well. This isolates us from many hearing functions. But most hard of hearing people do not know any sign language. This isolates us from the Deaf.

A real hatred for the hearing had grown between the two sisters. So why did this woman seem so pleasant? Jesus! The Lord had shown her mercy and now she can show mercy to the hearing people. She no longer hates them. Last year, when I was studying ASL, I was amazed at how well our Deaf teacher put up with some of the stunts the hearing students pulled. But then, I do believe she is a Christian. And I hate to say this, but even though I am also a Christian, I don’t believe I could have kept my cool like she did.

I have been going occasionally to a Deaf church in a near by town, not a translated service but a Deaf pastor signing for his Deaf and deaf congregation. This church service is in an upstairs room inside of a large hearing church, but all are welcomed, and often there is someone who will speak for those who do not know ASL. How does this Deaf pastor explain to hearing people the needs of the Deaf?

Since I am trying to start a ministry to bring the hard of hearing back into church, I thought I’d ask. However, my ASL wasn’t too good, and when I did ask, I realized that I may have insulted the man. He thought I wanted to help him, when instead I was asking him for help.

I remembered all the times over the years that I was misunderstood. Being thought of as lazy or stupid because I didn’t hear properly. Being looked down upon. Many people have the misconception that the deaf and hard of hearing are helpless, that we don’t know what we need, or that only hearing people understand our needs. Of course, this is not true. To make it worse, sometimes hearing people don’t believe us when we tell them our needs. A few people have even looked down on the deaf and hard of hearing with pity or contempt.

Thinking about all this, I knew I had to make it right with the pastor in Everett. So I wrote a long letter asking for forgiveness.

I am a hard of hearing man, between both hearing and Deaf worlds. When I get this hard of hearing ministry going (God willing), I will be working across culture and sub-culture lines. I will need to give and receive a lot of grace, mercy and prayer. It is my hope that through the ministry, and through showing mercy, I will also be able to make church more accessible to the hard of hearing.

Rare Hearing

Leviticus 19:14 Do not insult the deaf or cause the blind to stumble. You must fear your God; I am the Lord.

I have been asked to write about my hearing for Hearing Loss Association of Washington State because, well, I hear differently than most. But where do I start? Also how technical should I get?



My hearing loss is called Audio Processing Disorder. And for many years my hearing has been a bit of a mystery. It’s like having hearing ears but a deaf brain. Yet I have never thought of myself as disabled by it.

When I was beginning to talk, my parents noticed I was talking as if I was hard of hearing. However I was found to have perfect hearing. So I was given an IQ test and that too was very good. So I was given lots of speech therapy.

Grade school was difficult. Sometimes I did the wrong homework. Or no homework. Spelling was very difficult. How can I sound out the words if so many letters sound the same. “You mean b d e p really do have different sounds? And if all the letters have different sounds then why is ‘laugh’ spelled l-a-u-g-h and ‘calf’ is c-a-l-f? Let’s not forget ‘elephant’! Why does ‘spelled’ sound like ‘spelt’?” I do hear, but what am I hearing?

When the music teacher brought in the record player and played some music, she would ask, “Hear the ‘something’ instrument?” I never could. “Is it ‘this’ instrument, or ‘that’ instrument?” they both sounded the same for me. My wife says I often can’t hear harmony.

Here is another problem I had, but with arithmetic. On paper it was easy. I had little to no problems. But on the blackboard I had problems. (Yes kids, once a long, long time ago the white board was black and we wrote on it with white chalk.)

I would hear the teacher say “Add 50” so I would write 50. “4 plus…” What?? Now I have to erase the zero and replace it with a four? I would look at the other kids, but they would always write the correct number the first time. How?

After a while I decided that she would always pause in the middle of the number. So when I went to the blackboard next time with 5 other kids, I heard something like “40” OK I write down four waiting for the next digit. “Plus 27” What?? Again?? How would the other kids know she would only say 40? For many years I couldn’t understand how. But I believe I have an understanding now.

A few years ago I had a bad reaction to some medicine. I wrote a little about this in my post Bad Medicine. Anyway when I was recovering from the effects of the drug, my doctor sent me to a specialist to test my cognitive thinking. Even though I was still recovering, I was already testing just in the high average. The specialist also told me that I definitely had characteristics of someone with an audio processing disorder.

I was told that when my brain senses a gap in communication, it takes it as a lack of information. My brain would then try to fill in that gap with something that would make sense whether it was said or not.

This may explain why I had difficultly doing math problems on the blackboard with the teacher saying the numbers. It also explains why I had trouble learning Morse Code. If someone sent ..-. would that really be an ‘F’ or did I hear a slight pause making it .. ‘I’ -. ‘N’ for ‘IN’. What if someone sends the word ‘FOX’ which is ..-. — .–. I may hear ..-..—-.–.. In other words I would just hear noise.

Music is another problem. I don’t hear the beat. I can’t clap to the beat. Yet I wonder if I hear things others don’t. For an example, there is an old TV show called Airwolf. When the helicopter on television went into ‘high-performance-mode’ I would hear this horrible sound. I know it’s supposed to sound ‘cool’ to most people, but I hated it. To me it was a loud screeching noise and it sounded like all the bearings were locking up.

By the way, I never liked loud. I was the weird kid in high school who never played the music loud. And even though my hearing loss was only about 3-5 db, it’s now about 30-35 db loss and I still don’t like loud noise. I wear hearing protectors a lot when I work.

And this brings us to the use of assisted listening devices. I do use them. A lot. Without captioning on TV, I miss a lot. Same with movies. In church I use the FM system not for amplification (although I may a little) but to block unwanted sound. If I use a single ear-bud, my understanding is poor. However if I use a headphone or dual ear-buds, they help to block out unwanted sounds then I can adjust the volume to the ‘center of my head’. As far worship music goes, I avoid it. It’s loud. That’s when I have coffee.

Oh yes, I also speech read a lot which is different from lip reading. Lip reading is difficult. Speech reading is much easier as it involves the whole face as well as body language. I wrote a little about this in my post named, Lip Reading?.

So this is a little insight of my rare hearing. I realize many ‘hearing people’ will still have no understanding of this. I’m different, I know. I’m even different from most hard of hearing people.

Since rare often equals exotic, I like to look at it as having exotic hearing. And since hearing aids are worthless for me, and cochlear implants would have devastating effects on me, think of all the money I save!

Are Power Outages Damaging Your Hearing?

Recently Washington State had a bad storm. A lot of people lost electrical power, including my wife and me. Usually loosing power is not a big deal for my wife and me. We have battery powered lanterns, a wood burning stove, blankets, camp stove for cooking, everything we need. And even though we may not always like it, we have lived many times through week long power outages. The only thing we lacked were hot showers.

One day many years ago I got myself a small generator for work. Just to run power tools. I always wore hearing protectors and never ran the thing for very long. Also because of the size of the generator, I never used it during power outages. It was a little too small to run a refrigerator.

This year however I needed to use it. The first day of the power outage I was using the generator when I thought, ‘I’ll be nice and plug in the coffee maker for my wife.’ So I did. Then the television was plugged in. Then a lamp. And after a while, the noise was just over whelming for me. I know I’m different from most, but I do not like all that noise. I don’t understand why noise doesn’t usually bother my wife.

Many people don’t understand that even though I am hard of hearing, I don’t like a lot of loud noise. And I don’t even wear hearing aids.

Soon the power came back on. We were without electricity for only two nights and a day. So we only had the generator running for a day and some of the second evening. I loved the quiet.

The next day as I was putting things away, I found a sound level meter. I turned it on in the quiet of my garage and found the meter was reading 30-35 decibels. I was a little surprised as I didn’t know there was any sound. But then an audiogram shows I wouldn’t hear that anyway.

I started my generator again, while wearing hearing protectors, stood about 10 feet (3 meters) away and tested the sound level. 114 decibels!!! That seemed high. I then tested my large line trimmer, the kind that has the large wheels and lawn mower engine. While running the trimmer at full speed and standing next to it holding the trimmer engaging lever down, I found it was only 103 db. Interesting. I then tested my lawn mower. It too was quieter than the generator.

I find it interesting that we’re told to protect our hearing from power tools, lawn mowers, chain saws, and loud music, and we should. All of these however only lasts a short time. Why is it that nobody says anything about generators? Many people will run a generator for hours if not days.

My 25 year old generator

My 25 year old generator

So what should I do? Well the first thing I should do is to get rid of that old generator. After all, not only is it super loud, it is honestly about 25 years old. After checking the Internet I found many generators are fairly quiet, but not all. Do your homework.

How many people are using or have used excessively loud generators after a storm or earthquake? How many are damaging their hearing from them? I don’t about you, but for me, even though I am hard of hearing, I don’t want to became deaf. Keep in mind that there are studies that show hearing loss has been linked to dementia.

So if you have an older or even not so old generator that you keep for emergency use, check to see if it’s excessively loud. If so replace it. If you can, run it inside a dog house to cut down on noise exposure. (Please don’t tell your dog I said so.) Many years ago, the US Army would dug a hole to place the generator in. Bottom line, do what you can to protect you hearing.

What About The Rest Of Us?

Hearing Loss Symbol

Hearing Loss Symbol

Who are we? We look like you. We act like you. We have jobs, hobbies, friends and families. We are so much like you that we are invisible. Well we’re not really invisible, but our needs are.

We can do almost anything but hear what you hear. Sometime ago I wrote that my wife used to drag me off to hear Handel’s Messiah. I found it to be very boring. It was about two hours of “Ah” and all I got nothing out of it was a nap.

Then one day as I was writing the post Revelation 19 I found the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah. I was absolutely amazed of what I saw. I had no idea of what I wasn’t hearing.

For years I have had the belief that this country is on a decline. What if things get so bad that the US could no longer afford its own air force? I not saying this will happen, I’m just saying what if?

When a country falls or if only the economy falls, people suffer. People with debt will suffer the most.

So what can we do about this? I believe the best thing to do is to reduce the debt. If the debt is reduced people will suffer less. Some may not suffer at all. Because of this, I decided to see about starting a class to help teach people to reduce their debt. I picked out a class and asked if their DVDs were captioned. They say they were. I hope they’re right.

Soon after I started doing the research for the class, I found that someone else in my own church also started doing research on doing the class. We are now working together.

But there is a problem. A big problem. Captioned DVDs are only a start of what’s needed. What about group discussions? Those of us who don’t hear, or who don’t hear well, will still miss a lot. We need more. I need more. Being a member of Hearing Loss Association of America I know there are a lot of people like me. These are the people I want to reach.

Some of you may ask, ‘What about sign language?’ Very few HOH (Hard Of Hearing) know ASL. (American Sign Language) My wife and I did decide to take a class together though at a local college. What we’ll do with this new language, we’re not sure. But we believe the Lord wants us to learn it.

Interesting side note: The first day of school we had a translator. (teacher’s deaf) This was a great help. However I still missed a few things. I think I got most of it, but I was really happy when there was no translator after that first day. Now I have the same communication abilities as everyone else in class.

The people who are hard of hearing are neither hearing nor deaf. We don’t fit in either group, as you can see in my post “Family Of God.” Unless it’s quiet we don’t always hear everything. What’s more our hearing is all over the place. We range from some having a mild hearing loss to others being deaf, living in a hearing community. (There is a difference between deaf in a hearing community and deaf in a Deaf community.)

There are several different origins to hearing loss. The problem could be in the ear drum, the tiny bones in the middle ear, the cochlea (the snail like part) the nerve going to the brain, or any combination of them.

In different places in the Bible: Leviticus 23:22, Deuteronomy 24:14, Matthew 25:43-45, and Luke 3:11; just to name a few; talks about caring for the poor. My thinking is having a class to teach others how to budget their money and getting out of debt; you’re not only helping the poor, you’re also helping others from becoming poor. And since most classes are geared for the hearing, I choose to tailor the the class for the hard of hearing and then possibly the deaf.

Family Of God

Sign For Family in ASL

Sign For Family in ASL

A few weeks ago my wife and I went to a memorial. The man was deaf. What was interesting was I was a minority, but not because of skin color. At least 2/3 of the people were deaf. The others were hearing. I was neither. I’m hard of hearing.

During the service the deaf pastor preached in ASL, (American Sign Language) the deaf family members talked in ASL, and the interpreter spoke in English.

The problem was I didn’t know enough ASL to follow along, and I couldn’t hear enough to follow along that way either.

Afterwards during the reception I said in broken ASL I said to a man, that I felt I didn’t belong because I didn’t fit in either group. Hearing or deaf.

He said I was wrong. He said because of Jesus, we all belong in the same family of God. We belong together in that group. We’re family.

Lip Reading?

Hearing Loss Symbol

Hearing Loss Symbol

Last Saturday at a men’s group at church, I was sitting at a table with a few guys eating breakfast. They were talking about football and then started talking about the deaf player on the Seattle’s Seahawks team. Then the guy across the table from me said “Steve here” (meaning me) “is really good at reading lips.” The men at the table knew I have a hearing loss, and that I do not wear hearing aids, (although I used to) and yet I can communicate very well with others. I told them I really don’t read lips that well. I got a lot of weird looks from them about that.

So… If I don’t hear well, and I don’t wear hearing aids, and I don’t read lips very well, how do I know what people are saying? I speech read.

First let me tell you about lip reading. Most people, whether they are hearing, deaf, or hard ‘of’ hearing, can not truly lip read. (I found out one day that there is the word ‘of’ between ‘hard’ and ‘hearing’) Lip reading is very difficult. Let’s say we’re on a farm and you’re deaf or very hard of hearing and someone says “We should butcher the ____.” You say “What?” Again you hear :Go butcher the ____!” now you’re wondering, were you told to butcher the cow, or the sow??? Look in the mirror. Both words look the same.

With football or any other sport, you already know the subject matter. That helps a lot. Another thing is you only need to see a few words to guess what the other team will do. Front, forward, back, right, left, all look very different from each other. In a restaurant I have seen and understood a waitress asking someone on the far side of the room if they want sugar or something else. But this is rare. One interesting thing I must add is women will move their lips more than men. Look around, you’ll see what I mean.

My outdoor power equipment repair (lawn mower repair) business has over 800 customers. Only a very few know I don’t really hear them fully. Even on the telephone. How do I get away with it? Sometimes I don’t and then things ends badly. Once a customer was upset with me because I didn’t fix the noise. I didn’t know there was a noise.

Speech reading is taking in everything. Lips, facial expression, body language, and what’s going on at the time. For an example; you know when eating in a restaurant and your mouth is full and the waitress comes up is says, “Blah-blah”. You’ll know she’s asking if everything is OK. Speech reading is much like that. Do I make mistakes? Yes.

When I see a customer and if I don’t understand them, I watch. (Some people I have no problems understanding. Others are impossible.) People always point to the problem and they talk with their hands. Soon I understand the problem with their equipment whether it is electrical, engine, transmission, or something else. I fix the problem and most of the people have no clue I didn’t understand them verbally.

The telephone presents another problem. Too many letters sounds the same. Numbers however all sound different. If they are a repeat customer I will ask for their phone number and look up on my Excel spreadsheet the information I have on them such as name, phone number, address, and the type of equipment they had last time I saw them. Also, fortunately many of the streets in this area are numbers, like 2nd, 3rd, even up to 320th. So I get by. Barely. I have great trouble with voice-mail. I have to listen to them 5 or 6 times and often I still won’t understand.

So if you are hard of hearing or even deaf, please take my customer’s advice, and tell people you don’t hear them. I finally started doing this a couple of years ago and life is so much easier now.

If you know someone who is hard of hearing or deaf, always look at them, let them see your face. And please don’t yell at us. We don’t like that. It’s often insulting. Also please don’t pull this stunt of turning up the car radio to hear your favorite song and then start mumbling before turning the radio down again.

If you would like to learn more about hearing loss, here are three places to check out. There are lots more of them out there.
Hearing Loss Association of America
Association of Late Deafened Adults
Hearing, Speech, & Deafness Center (servicing Western Washington)

Also if you’re interested, read the post I wrote: Not Hearing, Not Deaf

Leviticus 19:14
“Do not insult the deaf or cause the blind to stumble. You must fear your God; I am the Lord.
New Living Translation

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