Friday, July 06, 2007

Blind joy

I just listened to Blind Melons' album "Blind Melon" . Why?

Because the song (and the delightful video for) "No Rain" has been running through my head recently.

But also... just because I could.

Enjoying music a lot lately, and nothing is being taken for granted.



Blogger Sherwood Harrington said...

… and, being who you are, I’d bet that you’re even grateful for the ability to hear annoying sounds, like fingernails on slate or the drone of a boring lecturer.

Speaking of which, there is something I was going to bring up with you on e-mail, but your response might be valuable for those who stumble on this blog in search of hearing issues information: I’d like some advice from you (and from XE, if she wants to chime in).

Background: The summer session has just started at the college where I teach. One of my sections, a general-education class with about 120 students, includes a young lady with a CI. I have not spoken with her directly yet (we’ve only met in two lecture sessions so far, so I really haven’t talked to any of my new students informally at this point), but I’ve had a couple of discussions with her captioner. (My school provides a “closed captioner” with a laptop for lectures for hearing-impaired students who are not proficient in ASL.)

The student, who appears to be in her early 30’s, had her CI about two years ago, so I presume (possibly unwarrantedly?) that she has had sufficient time to get as used to her new hearing as she is going to get. I do not know what the circumstances of her pre-implant deafness were, whether she was deaf from birth or, like you, became deaf later on. More important than that, I have no idea at all what she is like as an individual; the only clue I have is that she wants to take college courses badly enough to put up with all of the hassles that accrue for anyone who needs to lug around enabling equipment, be it a wheelchair or a personal typist.

The advice I need is this, if you can give it: what can I do as a lecturer to make it easier for her to understand me without the intermediary of a captioner? (It’s not that I dislike the captioner – quite the contrary – but I’d like her, or any student, to be able to concentrate on the material without too many potentially distracting steps between my mouth and her brain.)

Here is what I’ve come up with so far; correct me when I’m wrong:

Speaking louder won’t be any help. (And, besides, if it would be helpful, we have “assistive listening devices” available, which have not been requested for this student.)

Being careful with my enunciation probably will be helpful, but I pretty much do that as a matter of course, anyway, since well more than half of my students in any given term have English as their second or third language.

Facing the student (as often as I can without drawing even more attention to her than the presence of her captioner already does) so she can watch my mouth may be helpful, too, but I don’t know yet what her face/lip reading ability is.

Not singling her out in any noticeable way is hugely important to me: not only might that embarrass her, but it would send a completely wrong message to the rest of my students in all kinds of ways, not the least of which is that such singling-out could cause other students to think that I consider them to be less important. I want her to be a normal component of my class, not a freak. But I also want to do anything reasonable that I can to accommodate her.

So, ronnie, what would you suggest? What little things might I be able to do during lectures that would facilitate getting the information past her ears? Or is the state of hearing after a CI so individually-variable that no general advice is useful?

(Postscript: She herself, of course, is the best person to ask for this advice, and I will talk to her personally when the opportunity presents itself in such a way that I’m not drawing more attention to her, but that hasn’t happened yet. Besides, she is almost certainly not the last student with a CI that will be in one of my classes.)

1:49 a.m.  
Blogger Dave said...

One other thing you can do - and something that I as a hard-of-hearing person wishes every lecturer would do - is to paraphrase every question that is asked of you by others in the class before answering the question.

Generally, the assistive listening devices and the captioners can hear the lecturer, but they can rarely hear other speakers in the room. So the questions go unheard and hearing only the answers is never as useful.

I suspect that many of your hearing students will appreciate it as well.

2:34 a.m.  
Blogger ronnie said...

Sherwood, first, thanks for asking. Having people in our lives who ask what they can do to help makes life unimaginably better for us. (Our new co-worker, who is an older woman and perhaps therefore more understanding of hearing loss, frequently asks me if it's better if she sits here or there, whether the acoustics in a certain room are working for me, etc. It is so appreciated.)

First, I second what Dave said about a thousand times. This is at its worst at large events where speakers are mic'd and questioners are not, but even in a classroom, questioners are often quieter and farther away and re-phrasing or re-stating the question before you respond would be incredibly helpful to her if my (and apparently Dave's) experience is any indication. It's also something that nobody will associate as singling her out - I bet a lot of your students will appreciate it.

Secondly, you're right about enunciation and about facing her. The single biggest problem I have on a daily basis is co-workers or service people who mumble, mutter and/or turn away from me or wander off mid-sentence. (It seems to me that mumbling happens more with young people; and may have something to do with unsureness or less self-confidence; so see: students asking questions above yet again.)

When you speak to her directly ask her if she is able to sit where she can best hear you. Position is hugely important with a CI, as all your hearing is gleaned through one little mic on one side of the head. If she arrived late on the first day of class and yours is a class where students take the same seats habitually, she may not be sitting somewhere where she's optimized to hear you, and may feel shy about changing the order of things. I'd also ask her if the acoustics in the room are working for her and if not if there's anything you can do to help (lecture from a particular side of the classroom, make sure windows are closed, etc.) I find some rooms are practically unworkable for me - it's the luck of the draw.

If she's in a large lecture hall, again there may be places where she, and you, can be in relation to each other that'll help.

You are right that she's about maximized her level of understanding - just. 2 years is about when maximum comprehension kicks in finally. So she's in a good place, hopefully. However, that is going to be a different place for someone like me - deaf just a year before implantation - and deaf for life before implant. I'm guessing you'll figure out pretty quickly how much she is comprehending when you speak with her directly (also, a 'deaf accent' will be a clue that she was deaf at least through early childhood).

I expect she'll be very pleased that you ask how you can help. I've yet to know a recipient (or a hard-of-hearing person for that matter) who wouldn't be.

8:33 p.m.  
Blogger Xtreme English said...

Hi, Sherwood...I agree with everything Dave and Ronniecat are saying here. And I agree with you, too, that the best thing to do is just talk to the woman herself. As Ronnie says, ask her what will help or work for her. Where YOU stand/sit during the lecture is important. Ask her what works best for her. Pre-CI, I went to a session of the Forum (a descendant of EST) in Chicago one time. They would not provide a sign interpreter, or an audio loop, or nothin...the session leader was very nice for the first day...she stood in front of me to talk so I could read her lips, but then she took to wandering around the room, and I had no idea wot she was saying.

That video and song just cracked me up. Thanks!!

3:56 p.m.  
Blogger ronnie said...

Xtreme English said:

That video and song just cracked me up. Thanks!!

I love that video. My theory is that we are all Bee Girl, all trying to find the place where people understand us, and we fit in. I love the fact that the "Bees" in the "Bee Meadow" she finally finds are tall and short, white, black and brown, male and female, skinny and stout - but they all understand and share and celebrate her fundamental Bee-ness.

Definitly one of my top-10 videos ever.


9:31 p.m.  

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