Three Cheers for the Kindle Fire HD!

The Kindle Fire Experiment

Last Saturday I was bemoaning the fact that I can’t really listen to radio. I mean, I can listen to it, but I can’t really follow the conversation. My word comprehension with lip reading is perhaps 60% with the CI but it drops to around 40% without lipreading. So when you can only hear 4 out of 10 words, listening to the radio is like an aggravating game of Wheel of Fortune.

Noelle suggested that I try plugging in my CI to her Kindle Fire HD. I sighed mentally (and perhaps audibly) because I had already tried connecting a double-sided headphone jack from the CI to my computer, and the sound quality had been terrible. I assumed it would be more of the same. But, on the other hand, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to try connecting the CI to the Kindle, and I reasoned that I might be pleasantly surprised.

Well, I was pleasantly surprised. VERY pleasantly surprised.

First, Noelle had me read and listen to an ebook/audiobook combination via something called WhisperSync. This program syncs the exact text to the exact words on an audiobook read by a human. In other words it wasn’t text-to-speech software, but text-to-audiobook sync. She was able to magnify the text on the Kindle Fire HD so that I was reading four lines per page at the “wide” angle (landscape mode), in reverse video (white text on a back background). The cursor jumped from word to word in sync with the accompanying audiobook.

It was fantastic. I then decided to close my eyes to see if I could understand the audio without cheating, and to my surprise I could understand it very clearly. I’d estimate I understood maybe 75-80% of the text just from the audio alone. I hadn’t experienced anything this good with my CI since I had it turned on in 2003.

I had tried connecting my CI to other devices, but apparently none of them were very good audio quality. The Kindle Fire HD, on the other hand, worked extremely well.

I even tried listening to an ambient music station on Pandora. At some point after I got the CI in 2002 I decided that I liked ambient and synthesizer music (Vangelis, Brian Eno, Kitaro, Tangerine Dream, Peter Gabriel, etc.)

That’s probably because the CI already has a certain degree of synthesized sound, so ambient and synthesizer more naturally (or unnaturally) fits with the synthesized sound of the CI. I often joke that I listen to Borg music (a la ST:NG).

I could tell that I needed to get my mappings upgraded to be able to appreciate the music, but I am certain that once I do get a new mapping that the music clarity will improve substantially. It is quite good as it is.

So Saturday’s experiment was a fantastic success. And now I actually want a Kindle Fire. Everybody else in our house loves it, but I didn’t particularly care about it because I didn’t think it would be all that accessible. But it turned out to be a big accessibility WIN.

So it turns out that I can listen to radio after all, if you count Pandora (and I do). And in case you were wondering, the ebook/audiobook I experimented with via WhisperSync is called “Tolkien’s Ordinary Virtues” by Mark Eddy Smith. As you might have guessed, Tolkien has a rather large influence in the Realm of Calinor.

+Sam (aka The Hobbit)

Spanglish

When I married my half-deaf/half-blind/half-crazy husband I knew exactly one word and one phrase in ASL. The word? Sorry. The phrase? I love you. We started to go to a deaf branch of the LDS church the week after we were married. It was the people in the branch that taught me ASL, the interpreters and the members. Because most of the members were Hispanic, and I am half Hispanic, more comfortable with Spanish than I was with ASL, I hung around the Hispanic deaf members because I felt a little more comfortable in their culture than Deaf Culture. The words they verbalized were often in Spanish, the food was Mexican and even if it was quiet, it was familiar. But from those friends I picked up a lot of words in MSL not knowing they were MSL.

Now that I am more comfortable with my skills in sign language, I sometimes find that I’ve learned a word in MSL that translates as a completely different word in ASL. Strawberry in MSL, for instance, looks a lot like Flower in ASL and it is easy to confuse my ASL only friends with the sign.

The strangest side effect of this, however, has nothing to do with the deaf. Because I am (1/2) Hispanic, I have friends that speak very little English and I find myself signing at them when I am trying to stammer out my broken, ill-used, Spanish. Maybe it’s because ASL and Spanish are in the same part of my brain, I don’t know, but it must look awfully strange to my hearing friends and relatives to see me waving my hands in the air while I am speaking to them.

It’s kinda funny because my hearing friends do the opposite to me, knowing I speak ASL at home. They try NOT to wave their hands about, because they’ve seen me zero in on their hands once they start moving, like I’m trying to figure out what signs they are signing.

Being multilingual in a multilingual world would be a fascinating study in anthropology or linguistics, don’t you think?

When You Can Turn Your Ears Off

I came across this vlog on http://www.theblaze.com and I think it has some really great information for people trying to decide if they should get a CI or not.  (Along with a friend of mine’s blog at: http://deafadventures.wordpress.com/).

Sammie Hicks Cries After Hearing Herself For the First Time

Day 1:

Day 1 of the CI

Three Weeks:

Three Weeks after the CI turned on

 

It is a controversial subject in the Deaf Community, due more to political correctness than anything else.  Keeping in mind practical reasons, and not political ones (just think how quick politics changes, like fads).  The question you need to ask is: will your deaf child function better in a hearing world a CI?  Or look at it from another perspective:  If your child were born without a limb, wouldn’t you get them a prosthetic if you could?  If they were blind and there were an operation to get them vision, wouldn’t you try to do that?  Yes.  But it’s still a weighty decision, expensive and a very long process with results that vary from person to person.  Get as much information as you can.  And remember, deaf people with CI’s are REALLY LOUD without them :D.

Only For the Hearing Impaired

Time for something serious again.  My dad is a travelin’ man.  Sometimes he lives with me, sometimes my brother, other times alone, sometimes with my mother.  He gets shipped off to help this person or that person as often as the Marines.  He was a politician once, and he still doles out advice as if he were still in office.  Don’t get me wrong–He’s been right about a lot of things–I shouldn’t have married my ex husband among them, but he’s not right about everything.

Usually I will just agree he is wiser, take his advice, my own counsel and do the best I can to make a good decision with my husbands.  When I can’t decide, I take it to the only parent I defer to completely: Heavenly Father.  He has proven smarter than me on everything I have brought to him, even when it looked to me like he was sending me into disaster.  He was the one who outsmarted me and moved me like a chess piece until I was at checkmate when I said HE could pick my next husband.  He did.

It didn’t seem like a smart decision at all–a single mother raising two small children on a tight budget marrying an unemployed deaf-blind, slightly crazy, bachelor from Floriduh that she had never met in person before, only knew him from online conversations.  But God was smarter, and he put me in such a position that I had to accept what he offered.  It was really amazing how supportive my friends were, when it seemed very clear to me that marrying my now husband was perfectly illogical.  I didn’t even know ASL!

I defer to my Heavenly Father because his decision was so much better than I thought it was, or could be, or mine would have been.  It was, it seems, perfect for me, and I have deferred to him completely ever since insomuch that even the proclamations the church comes out with, I will not argue with at all, even if I feel a little uncomfortable with them.  God has proven he is smarter than me and though I ask all the time ‘Why is this so hard?’  I never doubt that if HE has sent me to this place, which I believe he has, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  I believe that because there always has been.

Which brings me to my Dad’s advice.  He suggested I go to a ‘hearing’ ward. (Wards are congregations of the LDS Church).  He suggested that I might get more support than I do at the Deaf Branch. (Branches are smaller congregations of the LDS church, typically smaller than a ward).  He says this because he knows the trouble I have in my positions at church, being an interpreter of sorts for the deaf parents of hearing scouts and the leader of the primary age children.  He knows I have problems because I am hearing and some of the things I suggest or comment on to leadership aren’t taken seriously because I’m not deaf, I don’t really understand.  Sometimes the leadership suffers from the tyranny of compassion and can find themselves being more hypocrites than Hippocratic.

My father knows I have problems asking for help from the members because as poor as I am, most of them are even poorer.  The deaf don’t usually end up well off.  BUT, the deaf don’t see my family as dysfunctional.  They don’t feel pity for me or my husband Compassion, yes.  Pity? No. They see our family as relatively well off.  And almost all of them can communicate with my husband to a greater degree than hearing people can.  If I can’t show up for something, they are far more understanding and I don’t need a one page explanation.  If I am late, I’m actually on time.  If someone else hasn’t shown up, I can fill in.

With the Deaf I feel normal and I feel needed.  I don’t feel as if I am more of a burden than the people around me.  I feel I do more help than harm.  My family learns more, and indeed, I think they are loved more in the Deaf Community.

I have, in the past, had people I call ‘the Deaf Elite’ (professors and ‘professionals’ who serve the deaf — sometimes CODAs) tell me that I don’t belong in the community.  That I will never ‘fit in.’  I think they speak out of fear that they will lose their position as ‘elites’ if too many people they cannot control join the group.

Where I am, I believe, is where He wants me to be.  Even though I miss music, I miss things functioning as they should, and I miss very large social groups full of people who complain more about Facebook than they praise it, I feel I am in a place where I have more joy.  It is a place I receive more enlightenment–not education, though I miss that sometimes too.  It is a place where you need to have common sense and adaptability.  All of those make it ideal for a person like me.  I think God knew that I would be more inspired, enlightened, and have more joy in this place, because logic would have sent me to the Hearing World too.

I think I’ll stay here a little longer, besides–where would I get such good fodder for blogging than the world I am in now?

Pronunciation of your name is not really important in ASL – unless your name is Jesus

I have several very good friends that are deaf.  They are always there for me, they are an awesome support system.  They taught me most of what I know of ASL, and continue to correct and teach me what I need to know to be the half-ass interpreter I am.  The only problem we have is communicating when we aren’t face to face.

I don’t have VRS.  My husband is legally blind,  so VRS isn’t really going to help him.  But when I call my deaf friends, I usually get their Sorenson Service.  When I give my name: “Noelle – N.O.E.L.L.E.”  What I get from my friends on the other side of the VRS is “WHO?”  Sometimes I will tell the operator that my sign name is “writing” but with the “n sign.”  I hope they know what I’m talking about because trying to explain a sign, especially a name sign, verbally is like trying to verbally paint a Monet.  Most of the time, I end up telling them “It’s me, remember? You helped me set up for my party on Saint Patricks Day,” or some other uniquely personal event they were at me with (shopping for shoes last weekend, going to get ice cream at Baskin Robins, etc).  That’s when they say “OOOOOOOHHHHH!”  And hit me with the: “Oh!  I’m sorry!  Hugs!  Love you!” BTW, Deaf people “love you” a LOT–It’s probably the best, and most genuine things about the Deaf that makes them easy to be around.

Anyway… once we get over the awkwardness of them not knowing who “Noelle” –the woman they see every week, and just how many Noelle’s do they know?–is over, the conversation can progress.  The only problem is… they never remember my name: Noelle.  They only remember my namesign.  It makes sense, of course, like trying to remember that Chuy’s name is actually Jesus, which, if said without the Spanish pronunciation: “Jesus is calling you,” is probably pretty disorienting.  Right?

It’s understandable, though a little awkward, and just one of the many little quirks of being hearing in a Deaf Community.

Deaf Man Talking!

There are many awkward moments when a deaf man (or woman) can talk, mostly because when they do talk, they talk so loud that it’s very jarring.  Even if it’s not as loud as a normal voice, it’s still very surprising.

It’s completely understandable if a deaf person does speak in a voice with abnormal volume, especially when they have once been hearing, or have had more hearing than they do at present, because they can’t hear themselves as well as they used to.   I’ve pointed out in previous posts that the deaf can be inadvertently loud. My hubby is stone deaf without his technology and the volume of his voice is almost always on high without it.  Then he puts his CI on.  I love his voice when he has his CI on.   It absolutely melts me.  It’s like switching from Death Metal to Barry White… kinda.

I know he doesn’t really know how loud his non CI voice is, but it’s sometimes a little embarrassing when the house is all nice and quiet, my dad is in the room just down the hall, the kids reading quietly in their rooms (doors wide open) and hubby decides to say something a little naughty at full volume.  Full non CI volume.  It’s okay though, right?  No one is paying attention, and even if they heard it, they wouldn’t admit it… right? I mean… it’s not like they are going to blog about it or anything… right?

How to talk to a deaf person (if you must)

After my last blog post, which all my deaf friends thought was hilarious, a lot of my hearing friends came to me and asked: “Well… how DO you talk to a deaf person if you don’t know ASL?”

So… I’m not going to be as funny this time and I’m going to take this question seriously: How do you talk to a deaf person?

The answer is: You don’t talk to a deaf person if you don’t know ASL.  You talk AT a deaf person in that case.

Everyone talks to themselves.  Even the deaf (though they do it with their hands).  If you are talking to someone who can’t understand you–you are talking (having a conversation) with yourself.  Sometimes it just feels good to hear (or in the case of the deaf: visualize) yourself thinking.

Talking (using your voice) with the deaf is not, necessarily, a faux pas if you are talking just to give yourself some sort of comfort.  It does nothing for the deaf person but make them feel as if they are missing something important, which, in all honesty, they feel quite often in the hearing world.  But if you are interested in actual communication, and in making the deaf person as comfortable as you are (even if that’s not very much), pick up a pen and pad.

When my husband ventures out on his own, without his seeing eye wife, he brings a pen and pad so that he can communicate with the hearing when necessary (and obviously when there isn’t an interpreter handy).  Because he is nearly blind, nice big letters with a thick black sharpie on a white pad works best, but for other deaf people, just a regular pen and any sort of paper will do.  They almost always have a pad with them for such occasions.

For the younger generation, texting is the best solution.  My young deaf friends communicate with their hearing peers that are ASL illiterate with their cell phones.  Typing out a phrase on the screen, showing it to the hearing person, then clearing the message and letting them reply on the same screen–or alternately exchanging cell phone #’s and just texting back and forth.

I remember growing up and having everyone around me at family reunions speaking Spanish.  I was lost and I didn’t feel completely part of the family I was with.  You have been in situations like that–someone you know starts to speak a foreign language in front of you.  You felt completely disconnected, didn’t you?  You may have even wondered if they were talking about you.

It makes everyone feel less awkward if we all understand what is being discussed.  If you want to have a conversation, especially if you are going to ask a deaf person a question–short of learning some basic ASL (there are some great videos on youtube and try aslpro.com)–please do it by spelling it out, either on a paper or on a digital device that can be read.  It’s your best bet at actual conversation and not being laughed at and mocked by CODA’s.

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Here is a great video from youtube that talks a little about this issue.

Please Stop Talking To My Husband – I just told you he is deaf

My husband can speak very well.  He has a great voice and only the most sophisticated of ears can tell he’s been deaf since he was a young child. (Mostly it’s in the way he says Latin based or non phonic words like Kolache.)  And that is part of the problem.  When people hear him speak, even if they see him signing, they assume he can hear.  Sometimes, since I don’t speak back to him, but sign in reply, people assume *I* am the deaf person and they will start talking to him.  Then I have to explain to them: “He can’t hear you, he is deaf.”  This results in one of two reactions.  The first is for them to recoil in horror that the person they thought was deaf is now talking and the one they thought was hearing is unresponsive, or they continue to talk to my husband.

I can’t tell you how many times people will keep talking to my husband after I tell them he is deaf.  They don’t raise their voice, or mouth their words more carefully, they just keep on talking.  I’m pretty sure they believe me, since most of them see me signing to him just a moment earlier.

When Metrolift comes to pick him up, they already know he is legally blind.  Being used to transporting the disabled, the driver almost always accepts my description of his deafness with a nod and an “Oh.”  And then, they keep on talking to him.

I do understand people talking to the deaf, the same way I understand the deaf signing to the uneducated (in ASL) hearing.  But at least when the deaf try to communicate with a hearing person, they use facial cues and, lets be honest, they have way more experience trying to communicate with people who don’t understand them than hearing people have with people who don’t understand them.  Why you would try to talk to a deaf person when you have someone right next to you that can do it for you is beyond me.

At first it was mildly annoying when someone would keep talking to my husband when I just told them he was deaf, but now I hardly notice it.  I’m not an interpreter and my husband seems to function quite well in a world that understands him but can’t communicate with him.  It’s a strange sort of mixed blessing, but when you are both deaf and blind, you can use all the blessings you can get, I would imagine.  It’s much easier letting him go off on his own knowing that people understand him even if they will keep talking to him after it is made clear he is deaf.

I guess I should just let them talk to him if it comforts them.  The only time I do it is when I’m grumbling at him and he wouldn’t want to understand what I was saying anyway…

Deaf People Are Loud or Please shut up I am trying to sleep

There is a myth that any CODA or spouse of a deaf person can dismiss:  Deaf people are quiet.

There are different degrees of deafness, as you might already know.  Some people can hear high tones or low tones.  I have a lot of deaf friends that can hear me when I cough.  Many deaf people wear hearing aids to pick up loud noises (like horns or alarms), but there are deaf people, like my husband, who are (without technology) deaf as a stone.

You might still be wondering how that makes them loud, since most deaf people don’t speak/voice.  But that is only because you are so used to ‘noise’ in your world that you forget how much of it is made.  Most of it is situational.  You are used to hearing the noises of people cooking and shifting glasses at a restaurant.  You don’t even notice the noise of splashing if you are at a pool. But imagine that you hear someone in the middle of the night in the kitchen opening and closing cupboards, tossing stuff into the sink, and generally making the racket that you ignore at dinnertime, because it’s noise you’re used to while you’re cooking.

It’s the loud noise in a situation that normally wouldn’t happen.  It might be perfectly quiet in the room, maybe a library, everyone reading silently and suddenly ACHOOOOO!  A deaf person has little idea how loud they sneeze even if they do have a hearing aid on.  They slam doors.  They set off car alarms and walk away, oblivious.  And lets not even talk about snoring…

All of us who live with the deaf know it’s not just the noises they unwittingly make at high volume that make living with them an adventure, it’s also the sounds they make on purpose that are unusual and sometimes unexpected like the strange pitch sounds they make toward their children to get their attention “ba-ba-ba” or “deet deet deet!”  Sometimes something akin to Frankensteins Monster “uuuuh!” All of which are reasons CODA‘s (especially as teenagers) are very reluctant to hang around their deaf parents.  Those that do voice often have strange accents and the inability to roll their r’s or hear the subtle difference between Cola and Kolache.  Meaning you might get an odd request for a cheese cola.

Of course, their world is still just as quiet as always.  But for all the hearing people around them, the myth they are quiet is a powerful illusion that still lives in their head because they are quiet a good deal of the time.  But when they aren’t, they are REALLY loud.