A Hearing Loss & Late Deafened Blog

Life as a Hard of Hearing Substitute Teacher

In Employment, Hearing Loss on April 23, 2014 at 1:44 pm

By: Sara Lundquist

Life as a substitute teacher is a life of the unknown. Do I work today or not? Always a question of where to work, what grade, and what kids.  I have been hard of hearing for about 6 months or so. I am very new to this chapter of my life. A few people have told me, that I was proactive and didn’t stay in the land of denial and disbelief for any amount of time. I think the main reason I was proactive and ordered that first hearing aid was because I was sure I wouldn’t be able to work at the school, I wouldn’t be able to hear the kids all talking to me at once. I FEARED the loss of my job. I still have a problem with many kids talking at once, hearing aids are aids not miracles. I felt in my heart of hearts if I didn’t tackle this head on and immediately I would no longer have a job.

So what changes if any did I need to make as a substitute teacher and hard of hearing. One major thing I had to do was make sure I got those calls at 6:30 in the morning. We live in a small house and only have one phone jack so one phone in the house that is not in a bedroom, living room, or the basement. I have the school call my cell phone. I can usually remember to have that with me.   I also had to make sure my ringtone is nice and loud, but I also don’t want to annoy anyone else around me. The one thing I was given which I really like is this little device.

2014-04-23 11.57.44

This nice little battery operated stand will start brightly flashing when the phone has vibrated. This has been a great thing when I happen to be sleeping, and no hearing aids in.  I don’t hear the phone call but open my eyes to a light flashing. I can call the school back and not miss those jobs. Before I had this I was missing a lot of calls and I had to do something I was dreading. I had to let our secretary know that I am hard of hearing and I am missing your phone calls not just ignoring you. I got the kindest response, just a big thank you for all the subbing I do. I am not sure why I was so scared to let someone know.

I work in our local school district, which is small town and maybe 60-70 kids per grade level. A lot smaller then I was raised with. With having such a small amount of kids I know them. I have worked with them for 7 years; I have seen these kids grow. One thing I really like to use in the classroom is an FM system. I have seen these used before. Some teachers use them and some don’t. My son has an IEP and it states use of the FM system for his mild hearing loss. I try to use the FM system in every class I am in. For myself, and for students the use of the microphone is a nice way to make an effort that everyone can hear what is going on in the classroom.  I try to have no one including myself left behind.

There are classes that are much easier for me to teach in than others. Kindergarten through about 2nd grade really scares me. Why…they all talk to me at once in their little voices. I miss a huge amount of the content of what they are saying. I really try to implement one child at a time when I am in the class. An English class is usually an easy one, quiet and usually just reading. Now coming up I will be the agriculture teacher for three days. I know already this will be very stressful. It is a huge room with industrial fans, shop noise with industrial tech next door. I will sit facing the students and the door ( I don’t hear someone coming in the room), kids now to come up to me and face me to ask to leave class.

I guess my job is the same as all subs. I just have to make sure I am aware of what is going on. Make sure my eyes are on the kids and the kid’s eyes are on me. I would like to hear about what if any changes you have had to make in your career.

CART Request Accepted and Scheduled

In advocating, CART on April 21, 2014 at 2:28 pm
This is truly what the path to success looks like.

This is truly what the path to success looks like.

My last email requesting CART for the writing workshop certainly grabbed attention. I addressed it to both the manager of the writing center and the student disability center. I went to bed wondering how it all might turn out, wondering if I’d not be able to attend the workshop and if that happened I couldn’t quit. That would mean getting more serious like contacting a lawyer and that is NOT something I want to do.

The first thing in the morning before getting out of bed, I grabbed my phone off the dresser and checked my email. At about a quarter to midnight, the manager replied to email…twice. The first email she states she replied to my email and I never wrote back. Hmmm, I had this thread flagged in my in box since the beginning. I don’t see how I could have missed something like that. Then she asks me to choose other options because she doesn’t think they have CART.  I reply….

To be honest, I exhausted all efforts I know of in the last workshop I attended. I tried an FM system, I tried outlines and I talked to both presenters before hand letting them know I read lips. However, they can’t face me all the time because they are writing on the board or looking at another part of the room while listening to an attendee. I felt like I got maybe 20%, 30% at best, of what was said in there. Most of the time I sat there feeling lost, not understanding why were breaking up into groups and what our task was. Comments from the others were an important part of the workshop and I couldn’t follow them either because I couldn’t locate the speaker in time to use my lip reading ability and they weren’t a part of the FM system. Even more honesty, I came home in tears that third, final night because I couldn’t do it even with all my know how.

I work well one on one and even sometimes with 3 people if the conversation moves slow enough. I can read lips while using what little sound I have left and I can identify who is speaking fast enough to catch what’s said. When more people are introduced, I can’t keep up.

CART is the only accommodation I can think of and the only way I can participate. Other suggestions I have are to fix the acoustics in the room with sound absorbing panels, rugs, covered ventilation system, the wall to meet the ceiling. Incredibly, I get by well enough with a hearing loop system. Here’s some information on that, http://www.hearingloop.org, but I don’t think that will something that can be done in a timely manner. I’m not fluent in sign language. I can’t think of anything else at the moment.”

I get a reply back shortly after stating they cannot remodel their classroom and she will see about getting CART. She went on to say no one was denying me accommodations and she had it all set up for me before but I never replied to her messages. Or to her phone calls.

I know full well no messages came through to me. I was watching my mail and my spam folder carefully. There were no phone messages either because if someone leaves a message, I have my boyfriend help me hear it. Besides, call me? Every time I leave my phone number somewhere I say, “text only.” I don’t know if she’s lying about the emails, covering her tracks or really did try. There’s no way to prove it except to ask her if she send me the copies so I know how I might have missed it which is what I do. Could she forward the missed emails to me but of course she cleared out her sent folder months ago and she can’t show them to me. She then wants to know what workshop I’m attending and the time so she put the request in. I’m getting CART and that should make me feel good but I’m bothered by her attitude.

About half an hour later I got an email from the student disability center with three contacts from there. They told me to come into the center and they would get me CART scheduled with the workshop. Thank you! At least someone is willing to support me and I feel better. Instead of complaining about the managers attitude, I take the high road and write a nice note back telling them the writing center is working me and CART should be scheduled soon.

A few hours later I go downtown to pay for the workshop. I walk into the center and the lady at the front desk recognizes me right away. She was one of the presenters at the last (and my first) workshop I attended. She asked, “Chelle George, right?” I haven’t been to the writing center in a year and a half, does she remember me? Did I make some sort of impression on her? Or is my name flying around in their office right now? All of the above? I tell her hi and yes, that’s me.

Well, I’m sorry to say we weren’t able to get your audio equipment.”

Disbelief leaves me stunned for a few seconds. A choice curse word runs through my head, not directed at her but the whole situation.

You weren’t able to get…my audio equipment?” Audio!? Haven’t they learned I can’t hear? This is as bad telling a blind person to go ahead read the menu as best they can.

She shakes her head and her eyes dart around. I’m not going to make a big scene.

Okay. I’m going to contact the disability center.”

She makes to get up, perhaps to get the manager but I’m already walking out. What kind of game is this? Why is this such a problem? I go to the library next door because I wanted to get a book anyway but first I sit down to email the disability center. I wander around the fiction area looking for my books and before I leave I sit down to check my email again. (I LOVE my smartphone.) The center wrote back saying they didn’t understand what was wrong as the CART was booked. They also said if I planned on attending a lot of workshops there I need to come in and file with them for budget purposes. I write back saying maybe there was a misunderstanding and I will stop back in on my way out. Then I let them know a few years ago I filed with their center thinking I might attend classes but wound up not registering for classes. They might still have me in their system.

I wasn’t looking forward to going back into the writing center. One, there is always my own self doubt about my hearing. Did I hear the lady at the front desk wrong? I don’t see how I could have because I was squatting at her desk as she sat in her chair to make sure we were eye level and she knew to face me. She wasn’t hard to understand that way. Number two, I don’t have my hearing aids right now with one out of order which makes me doubt myself a little more than usual (which makes CART all the more important for this workshop). Three, the situation is getting ridiculous. I take a few deep breaths and walk in.

The same lady is sitting at the desk. I calmly tell her CART is scheduled according the disability center so I’d like to pay for the class. The manager appears from around the corner and I at long last meet her face to face. She’s nervous too, we’re all nervous. She’s smiling and making nice so I will too. She asks for me to wait 5 minutes while she finishes up her meeting and she will talk to me. I write my check out and wait a few more minutes. The manager is all smiles. “We have the…” she makes typing motions with her fingers so I supply, “the stenographer?”

stenography machine

Yes. That’s all scheduled so you can attend now.” She goes on to say she found out last night there was problems with their email and that’s why I never saw anything. I smile and nod. I let her know I was in touch with disability center and I may end up going in though I’m not sure how many workshops I’ll attend but there might be a few here and there I’m interested in. She makes careful notes taking my email again. She will confirm everything with me later she says as she writes. I squat down again to be sure to see her face. I want no misunderstandings. She wants my phone number.

I don’t hear well on the phone. It takes away all lip reading ability. That’s why I always say email or texting is the best way to get a hold of me.”

She nods her head. Maybe it all sunk in finally. I think sometimes it’s a curse that I do so well one on one or in small groups. It makes me look like a liar.

At last, I have CART after a little push and shove. I’m glad I pursued it and I hope some misconceptions are cleared up. It will never be this hard for someone to request CART there again. I feel the flush of victory. I wasn’t looking for a scuffle and I’m not going to shove it in anyone’s face. I will be pleasant and thankful for the CART and that it’s done. In the end that’s all that matters, I can attend the workshop with full participation now.  

 

How I joined the Hard of Hearing club

In Hearing aids, Hearing Loss, Life on April 18, 2014 at 5:56 pm

By: Sara Lundquist

 I thought I would share the weekend/week that I lost hearing.  I haven’t talked about this to very many people but I have met some great people in real life and on the computer, SWC, that I see that it isn’t something to hide or pretend it isn’t there it is who I am and that means it is ok.

I was at a TaeKwonDo tournament in Southern MN with my family.  I felt fine that day and had a great time.  That night we went to my in-laws house and we watched a movie on TV.  No big deal just hanging out in the living room.  Well I couldn’t hear the words on the TV.  I could hear an occasional song or loud noises but not dialog from the movie.  I grabbed the remote and turned it up and everyone complained how loud it was and turned it back down.  I just couldn’t understand what was happening so I went to bed thinking I was getting an ear infection and my ears were probably filled with fluid.  Next day was church and again I noticed I really couldn’t hear well at all.  But I didn’t want to say anything to anyone.  I smiled and tried to answer questions but I was more then ready to go home when the service was done.  That night my husband asked me to sit down at the table.  He looked right at me and asked if I could hear ok.  I played dumb and asked why.  He said I answered questions wrong at church like I hadn’t heard what the person had said to me.  I just said that maybe and I was probably getting sick.  Well the next day Monday is what freaked me out.  This is not typical behavior for me, I am not one to freak out.  I was to substitute teach for just a quick 30 minute job at the school.  I just had to read to some young kids.  I love to read so thought this will be fun and will be quick.  I went in and started reading and it was going good till all the kids wanted to ask questions at once.  I couldn’t make out what they were saying and I think I started having a panic attack.  I was able to leave right about that time.  I went out to the vehicle and just sat and couldn’t do anything.  I was in shock.  I grabbed my phone and made a call for the doctor to get my hearing checked.

Next day I got in and had my hearing checked.  It showed a mild/moderate mixed loss. It was a pretty basic test, think elementary school hearing and vision tests.   Mixed meaning I have so much scar tissue in my ear from countless surgeries, infections, burst ear drums that I have a conductive loss.  I also have a sensorineural loss which is what I am guessing came on very sudden. I go home with really no answers but get a call to go to an audiologist a couple days later in a neighboring town.  I went and had more tests then the first time in fact over an hour I was in the booth having test after test.  I was found to have a mixed loss that was down into moderate hearing loss in the frequencies where speech is most important.  I wasn’t getting sick, or crazy I had entered a club of Hard of Hearing.

The audiologist was very nice and explained how hearing aids can’t bring that hearing back to perfect but it would make a big difference.  So I ordered my Phonak hearing aid (only 1 needed to save up for number 2). I laid pretty low the next week or so.  I didn’t work at the school or really see anyone.  I got the hearing aid and the first thing I noticed was I heard the clock on the wall.  I hadn’t heard that when I went into the office.  I have had to have the hearing tweaked a few times and the levels upped a few times also.  My biggest difficulty is in a large group understanding someone talking to me or someone talking soft to me.  I need to work on lip reading for those situations. I have just received the second hearing aid for my left ear.  I hopefully can feel a little more balanced now.  I didn’t notice as much as a big WOW moment with this second aid.  It will need to be upped I have an appt in a couple weeks.  My left ear isn’t as bad as my right so maybe that factored into it also.  Just glad to have both.

Everyday I feel a little bit better about the situation.  It was another thing in life you don’t plan for and don’t anticipate.  I have learned so much from the Say What Club.  I am glad to be able to share my start of a new chapter in my life.

Everyone has a story we just have to let go of our fear of the unknown and let it be known.  You will be surprised how many people have the same one.

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