Friday, October 17, 2008

Understanding deafness

I'd be the first to admit that I take my health for granted. And I guess the things I pay least attention to are my five senses. I don't even have to wear glasses for reading, which is weird because my two children have terrible eye sight and wear glasses/contact lens all the time.

Taking my hearing for granted
But I have become very aware of my hearing over the last few days. I have an ear infection that shows no signs of abating despite two different types of antibiotics. This has left me with severe tinnitus and deafness. It has also left me with a much greater awareness of the problems that deaf or partially-hearing people must suffer.

Feeling sorry for myself
I am finding it difficult to use the telephone and cannot use headphones to communicate on Skype, Elluminate and Second Life. I cannot hear unless people talk loudly and face me when they talk. I cannot bear noise from more than one source, and I cannot cope with noisy crowds. But the thing that perturbs me most is the impatience people show me when they have to repeat what they say, and the way people make fun of me. It's as if they think I have suddenly become stupid or mentally-deficient, and treat me accordingly.

Lucky one
Of course, I'm lucky. My hearing will eventually return once I get better. But deaf and partially-hearing people have to live with this all the time. This illness has certainly made me think very carefully how I communicate with deaf people. And it's made me really appreciate a gift that I cannot see, but I rely on so much.

Has there ever been a situation that has happened to you which has changed your attitude to your health? What do you really take for granted?

Image: 'Transmission' CarbonNYC


Sarah said...

Hello Sarah.
I understand the difficulty life must bring you without being able to hear day after day.
I had a disadvantage in life as well as you. I had great difficulty with reading in the first grade which caused me to get set back a year. Having this problem caused other problems like not being a good speller and taking more time to comprehend the story and to this day I still have a bit of trouble, but I luckily over came it.
So in a way i can relate to your pain.

Get well soon!

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Sarah!

(A touching Blog Action Day post BTW)

I hope the antibots soon sort your infection. I have only once (that I recall) had an ear infection that caused pain and dullness of hearing for a while. You're right about how it raises your awareness of potential disabilities we can end up with.

In the very early 80s, I had recurring nausea and sometimes accompanying anxiety. The condition became more frequent. I had long bouts of feeling tired, dull and depressed.

I'd noticed that these bouts often lasted more than a day and seemed to come on within an hour or so of eating certain meals.

A visit to the doctor got me a series of appointments with a specialist. At that time I'd put myself on an elimination diet and discovered that eating foods such as mushrooms (that I loved) wine, cured meat and bread, caused me to feel unwell.

The specialist was less than helpful and told me to go back on a 'normal' diet. He suggested that if I didn't want to be put on drugs for my condition (and I didn't) the only thing left was to see a psychiatrist. I thanked him and left his office.

Less than a month later I ended up in hospital with a bowel abscess that was (apparently) the size of a golf-ball. The surgeon said that it was not clear how long I'd had the abscess but that it had developed its own blood supply! At least, that's how he explained it and that told me enough.

When I recovered, I found that I could eat most of the food that had previously caused me suffering, except for wheat. I have never been able to tollerate wheat food in any quantity, so I simply stayed off all bread, cakes, cookies, scones, biscuits and wheat cereals (all of which I loved eating!)

By 1984 I was able to live a normal life on a wheat-free diet. No headaches, depression, feelings of bloatedness and above all, no nausea. My marriage broke up that year, largely due to the illness and dietary problems I'd had for years before.

But life was not easy being wheat-free either. people thought I was a bit odd if I politely turned down a delicious slice of cake at a party, or a piece of pizza or sausage roll at a barbeque.

Restaurants in New Zealand at that time were not geared to serve wheat-free fare. This made choosing from the menu a tad difficult. I was often made to feel that I was a bit strange, an alien who had this food faddy thing for just about everything in the supermarket. Not so. At home I ate wonderful wheat-free meals.

I met my wife, Linda, in 1989. Her mother was a coeliac, which meant that Linda was well versed in cooking wheat and gluten free tucker. Christmas Dinner at our place is always entirely wheat-free. Granny comes too, and she can eat everything on the table, despite her being a coeliac.

So what do I really take for granted? I used to think I could eat anything that I enjoyed munching. Now I'm more choosy.

Ka kite

Sarah Stewart said...

Hi Sarah

Thank you for your good wishes. I am touched to hear how you have overcome your disadvantages - makes me appreciate how lucky I am. I know it would have taken you a lot of time, effort and persistence to get to where you are now. Thank you - you are an inspiration!

Hi Middle Earth

Crikey - an abscess with its own blood supply!!?? You were lucky you didn't end up a lot sicker than you did.

The thing that I take from your story is that it is poor practice for health professionals (myself included), not to take people's 'complaints' seriously and honor people's self-knowledge in regards to their own bodies and health. I know I have been guilty of that at times. A salutary reminder for me. I have had two doctors see me in the last couple of wees. It's the doctor who has listened to me and respected my concerns who I shall return to.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Tēnā koe Sarah!

That I was lucky was what several doctors have told me since, including the surgeon who operated all these years ago. He figured I may have been suffering the effects of toxemia due to the pathogenic content of the thing pouring its waste into my blood-stream. It certainly felt like that.

I guess you had a bladder infection? I trust your subsequent "wees" were more comfortable :-)

Ka kite

Sarah Stewart said...


Wasn't sure how you got to a urine infection when I was talking about an ear infection.

But now I see what you're talking about!

I meant 'weeks' - missed off the 'k'. How funny! :)

David McQuillan said...

Thanks all for the interesting discussion.

Sarah Stewart said...

I have been thinking how I can make my blog more accessible for people who have physical challenges. I have a 'translate' button for people who do not speak English. But I am wondering if I should incorporate more audio for blind readers? And what about deaf readers? What do you think?

Blogger In Middle-earth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Sarah!

How does your 'translate' button work? That sounds fascinating.

I've been researching the difficulties that people with sight impairment have. The topic is not an easy one, especially for someone who is sighted, for it actually makes it very difficult for me to understand how to help.

My feeling about your suggestion is - great, but perhaps you should narrow it down to one field, at least for the time being - the range is huge otherwise.

But whatever you choose to do, I'd be fascinated to follow how you do it.

One (out-of-the-blue) idea I had for giving access to the blind was to first sort out how posts should be best written, specifically for sight impaired - font & font size for those with partial vision; layout; links; images etc. Then to publish parallel posts on two separate blogs, one for us yins and the other for the disadvantaged sight impaired.

Thing is, my topics don't have a wide range of readers. Are there many sight impaired people who are interested in reading and commenting on posts about the stuff I write about? Presumably with over 5 billion people in the world there must be at least a few dozen.

Ngā mihi nui

Sarah Stewart said...

The translate widget can be downloaded from Google. It allows people to turn your post into which ever language they want to read it in. I think a French reader used it once. I have used it a couple of time to read a Spanish blog and respond.

Clare Dudman said...

Hi Sarah, I came across you on Wonders and Marvels blog and just wondering if you happen to know Kay Cook, another blogger in Dunedin. Maybe this is a ridiculous question because I don't know how big Dunedin is...

Anyway, very sorry to hear about your temporary deafness, and can sympathise a lot. My mother is losing her hearing a bit, and I have noticed how impatient people are at repeating things too. Including me, I have to admit, to my shame...

Sarah Stewart said...

Hi Claire

No, I don't know Kay, but I appreciate you drawing my attention to her blog. I don't know many bloggers in Dunedin, and the ones I do know are all in education, so it's great to read a blog with a different perspective on Dunedin. thanks.

Helen said...

Hi Sarah
I hope your ear is feeling better. It can be really nasty to have an infection and I often wonder about the impact that being sick has on people and taking all those pills. It somehow makes my head goes all fuzzy. My husband is a diabetic and he has used insulin injections since he was a boy and he has a fantastic attitude to his diabetes. Instead of complaining about the blood tests, injections, doctor appointments, sores that won't heal, hypos etc he tells people how lucky he is that he has diabetes because at least it is something that is readily treatable, without interfering too much with his lifestyle. I also noticed the word lucky in your post.

I agree that we are lucky to have good hearing and I too take this for granted. I've enjoyed this post and pondering what I take for granted. Thanks for raising this topic.



Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Ka pai Sarah!

I've found the Google widget and spliced it in. It's a bit wizzy! I found it really funny to read my posts in another lingo! Ha ha ha!

I didn't understand a word of it!

Kia ora!
from Middle-earth