A Hearing Loss & Late Deafened Blog

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Why Not Caption?

In Accommodations for Deaf, advocating, captions, Closed Captioning, Deafness, Disability Rights, Hearing Loss, late deafened, Partially Deaf on April 25, 2014 at 5:18 am


by Michele Linder

Here in the United States, we enjoy a high rate of captioning on television (though we still have our frustrations when we come across an exempt program or one where the rules have not been enforced), but New Zealand’s rate of public broadcasting captioning is less than 25%, a level well below some third world countries.  Unfortunately, you’ll find those who argue vehemently as to why a higher rate of captioning cannot be achieved.  You’ll even find people who make excuses as to why captioning shouldn’t be provided.


I was recently asked to write an article for Caption It New Zealand.  Below is the article which first appeared on their website:


Why wouldn’t you caption? “…when you look at the adverse effects of exclusion, and consider the very weighty costs to our society, clearly, the benefits of providing captioning far outweigh any monetary cost incurred to provide it. Captioning truly is a bargain”

April 18, 2014

by Michele Thomas Linder.

In my personal advocacy efforts for captioning, in all forms needed, the one excuse that is offered most frequently is: Captioning is cost prohibitive — “It costs too much.” and/or “We don’t have the funds.” Those failing to provide captions are most concerned with who is going to pay for them. When I hear those excuses, my response is always to point out that the focus should be on the investment and benefit of inclusion and accessibility. Because, when you look at the adverse effects of exclusion, and consider the very weighty costs to our society, clearly, the benefits of providing captioning far outweigh any monetary cost incurred to provide it. Captioning truly is a bargain.

Keeping people with barriers dependent on others — some negative people think those with disabilities should rely on their family and friends for assistance, but that’s not even possible for some as they may be isolated without family or much connection to the outside world in their social life. It’s simply not a realistic solution — robs them of their self-worth, first and foremost.

In a broader realm, it’s not in the best interest of society, as a whole, to force people with barriers to depend on others. One way or the other, dependence comes with a cost and we all pay for those dependencies whether we think we do, or not. It makes so much more sense to pay, monetarily, for providing what someone needs to remain independent than to have them draw on public assistance or government, which is what excluding them often forces.

The World Heath Organization cites the number of people with “Disabling hearing loss refers to hearing loss greater than 40dB in the better hearing ear in adults and a hearing loss greater than 30dB in the better hearing ear in children.” to be 360,000,000 worldwide. That’s a huge slice of the world population to limit by not providing access to communication.

Too many in our society focus on not wanting their taxpayer dollars to pay for things that don’t directly affect them, and they might even think those asking for accommodation feel as if they are owed something by society. Also, unless you are deaf yourself, you might not understand how limiting that particular barrier is, however, it is worth noting that disability is something that can happen to anyone, in an instant. But if you woke up tomorrow not able to hear you would want accommodations in place so that you could remain as independent and informed as you were the day before disaster struck. That is guaranteed. Not because the world owes you anything, but because it makes sense in the broader picture, and because it’s the right thing to do.

Accessibility is an investment which works to remove the barriers of an increasingly complex and competitive world, allowing those who cannot communicate in traditional ways to participate, contribute and compete on the same level as everyone else. Quality and uniform captioning enables millions to remain independent and vital in a world that too easily justifies excluding them by placing more value on the monetary aspect of what a thing costs, rather than on what providing it accomplishes.

When looking at captioning in this light, why wouldn’t you want people with barriers to be a part of a productive society by including them?

Michele Thomas Linder is an active Advocate of Captioning in the USA. She is profoundly deaf and is currently living in Munich Germany.


What Am I Anyway? By Brenda Cordery

In audiogram, Deafness, Hard of hearing culture, Hearing aids, Hearing Loss, late deafened, Life, Lip Reading, Partially Deaf on September 26, 2013 at 2:56 pm

I’ve been a member of SayWhatClub for several years and during this time the issue of how to collectively label us has been discussed repeatedly. Do we, as a group, call ourselves Hearing Impaired? Hard-of-Hearing? Or something else entirely different? What exactly fits our unique situation, one where each person’s hearing needs hit across a wide spectrum? I’ve had a progressive hearing loss for about twenty years now. When I first had my hearing tested, I had a moderate loss in one ear and mild in the other. I could get by without ever having to say a word about it since my hair covered my ears and I had great speech discrimination. Some of my coworkers and close friends often forgot I wore hearing aids and I admit, sometimes I did too.

But as I got older my hearing changed.

When I started my hearing loss journey, my audiogram looked like a relatively straight line, see the audiogram below:

My first audiogram from October 11, 1994

Audiogram 2

I was fitted for a BTE (behind the ear) Resound hearing aid for only my right ear. Since most of my hearing fell inside the speech banana (seen below), my word discrimination was 100% for both ears.

Audiogram showing the “Speech Banana”

audiogram 1

All of the sounds from the world’s various languages fall on the audiogram in an area referred to as the speech banana. 

Now it looks like a kid’s drawing of a big smile – commonly referred to as a cookie bite loss.  Unfortunately, my hearing now falls outside of the area where speech sounds occur, making it difficult to hide the fact that I have a hearing problem.

My cookie bite audiogram from September 20, 2010

Audiogram 3

Note:  The dots are used as a point of reference and show the results of my hearing test from 2009. 

My hearing has declined to the point where most of my hearing falls outside of the speech banana. Currently my word discrimination is 66% for my right ear and 28% for my left.

I’ve had plenty of years to come to terms with my hearing loss since it’s been a slow process yet I find myself still struggling with the best way to label myself when it comes to public situations.

So here’s a good scenario.  I was recently shopping for back-to-school clothes for my son.  This particular store I was in had background music and the acoustics were such it was as if I were in a gym.  When a lady flagged me to come to her register I wheeled my cart up to the counter and started unpacking my things.  As I set the last of my items down, I glanced up to see the clerk giving me a funny look.  You know, that all-too-familiar one that anyone with a hearing loss knows.  The “waiting for a response“ look, which is usually followed by the “what is this person’s problem” look.

In that flash of a moment, my mind sifted through several options for a response.  Do I go into a lengthy spiel that I now refer to as my “deafologue” —  that introduction of why I didn’t hear to begin with followed by what I need in order to hear?  The store was packed and there was no time for a long discussion.  Instead, I quickly blurted out, “Oh, I’m sorry.  Did you say something?  My hearing aids have a hard time working with all this background noise.”

Several years ago, in this type of situation I would have repeatedly said, “What was that?” over and over ad nauseam.  During this phase of my hearing loss I got tired of hearing myself say that as I am sure all of my family and friends did as well.   Over time, saying “what?” no longer was an option for me.  You can’t ask “what” to something you don’t hear.

I graduated from the “what” stage to the next phase where I acknowledged my loss.  In this stage I said some variation of, “I’m sorry, I have a hearing loss and didn’t catch what you were saying.”  As soon as the words passed my lips I held my breath, hoping for a patient and understanding response.   What I discovered over time was people don’t know how to deal with this gray area.  Hearing they can understand.  Deaf they can understand.  People can grasp absolutes.  But what about those of us that can hear something, even if that something can change on a day-to-day basis?  Hearing is a complicated process, one that can’t easily be explained to a stranger during a brief exchange.  When someone says they are hard of hearing, what does that really mean anyway?

Many times when I’ve told someone, like a store clerk, that I have a hearing loss, they ask me if I read lips. The response I give depends on my mood, but usually I tell them I’m not very good at it.  But if I’m feeling talkative, I might even tell them that in order to read their lips I have to stare at their mouth instead of look them in the eyes, and how I need them to not look down, turn away, or cover their mouth when they talk.  And did I mention I’m still not very good at it?  This will no doubt lead to more questions – ones I don’t – and neither do the people in line behind me – want to take the time to answer.  But you can see where I’m going with this… The term hearing-loss stirs up lots of questions – ones I’d prefer to not take the time to explain when all I’m really trying to do is buy my stuff so I can get out of the store and on my merry way, thank you very much.

Do I sound crabby?  I don’t mean to.  I’m simply trying to demonstrate how difficult it can be to accurately convey your hearing ability, or lack thereof.

What I’ve finally come to realize is that people like to deal in absolutes – black or white.  I can’t understand you.  I’m functionally deaf.  People know that word – deaf.  If you want to get your clerk to shut up, just tell them you are deaf.  They stop talking cause then they realize you aren’t going to hear them anyway.

As much as our society loves to compartmentalize people, the bottom line is there is no one-size-fits-all way to address us.  Each one of us comes into a situation with our own levels of hearing loss and experience in dealing with it.  How we address our needs one day may not be the same the very next.  So while our needs may be constantly changing and might not be the same from person to person, one thing we can do is cut ourselves some slack.  After all, we shouldn’t live by other’s definition of us.  We are so much more than that.