Learning to be deaf.
Hi nice to meet you. My name is Marven. I am told I am going deaf.
In Some ways I feel this is a good thing. Many may not feel that going deaf is a good thing and in some ways I agree. But for the most part it is opening a new chapter in my life that I may have never experienced.
Last year April 2016 I lost most of my hearing over night. Idiopathic bilateral SSNHL with Tinnitus and vestibular dysfunction. In layman’s terms I went to bed hearing and woke up legally deaf with buzzing ringing ticking in my ears and about a week later very dizzy. I still have a little hearing in my right ear but according to my ENT that should be nonverbal soon. I was 47 years old and in decent health. It is amazing how little is known about how this happens. Once my ENT ruled out other possible causes like conductive, pressure on nerves etc. by using a MRI and other balance testing. Doctors I see now say “it might have been a virus”. My ENT said we can’t tell for sure until an autopsy. I am not in a that much of a rush for that report ha ha ha.
The first 3 months were the hardest. Not for the deafness but the awful dizziness, vertigo, ocular migraines and tinnitus. As for my hearing I could still communicate with most people by directing them to my “good side”. It sounded like I was in a tub with my head under water trying to hear what was being said. Also the other reality was that I could not determine where sound was coming from. The hearing is getting worse and I am noticing more and more that is going away.
As my good ear started to get worse I realized that I should learn a new way to communicate. I started to shop around for ways to learn ASL. I tried to reach out to the deaf community but when I did I felt shunned for not already knowing ASL. I have always wanted to learn it and now I have a vested interest. The first thing I found was that the public school division in my area had night courses. The only problem was that they were very expensive. I could not afford the classes. Next I found some good teachers on the internet such as Dr Vicars from www.lifeprint.com.
I spent months learning from the internet and wanted to try it out. I know I only had a very small vocabulary but thought I was ready to try an awkward conversation with someone. I got the courage to attend a deaf social. To be honest it was an absolute failure. I was lost. No matter what they signed I could not understand it. I was amazed at how quickly everyone could sign and how little gestures could be understood by others. I have since come to the understanding this is referred to as Deaf speed and slur. I also got to watch contact signing…..WOW very cool. I know I am not ready yet but I will be back.
Months went by and I wasn’t any closer to signing with anyone. My biggest fear was to loose my hearing before my wife and I could learn to communicate with ASL. My other fear was not being able to do my job.
Over the next few months my vestibular issues were not as invasive. I was able to work more and more. I found an ASL course I could afford. It was an 8 week conversational ASL course put on by the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association. When I took the course I would put an ear plug in my good ear for the full emersion experience. Between the night course and what I was learning online I learned enough to have awkward conversations with my teacher and other classmates.
The first Friday after the last lesson I mustered up enough courage to try another Deaf social. I feared I would be shunned again for not knowing ASL. I arrived early and sat in my truck around the corner. I practiced what I had learned for hours before I went in. When I got to the social there was a whole 3 people there. The bartender, owner, and one patron. There was a big volleyball game on that night at another location. It was good though because the three of them were very patient with me. Later more people showed up. I was finally able to strike up a conversation with someone using ASL. I stayed for a few hours and had some more conversations with others that were willing to help a novice. Most of the time I felt like a foreign exchange student with a language dictionary. There were still a few that I felt were rude and snubbed me but I could understand that. Most of the new people I met were quite accommodating.
To all the Deaf community that are willing to help amateurs like myself……Thank you…..Your awesome.