Hey readers, sorry for the delay since my last post,once again getting home late from work and being away at the weekends has put paid to any potential blog posts. Today was another busy day but I experienced such an annoying moment that I felt I had to share it just to get it off my chest (I’ve already put a rant post on my Facebook page but need to explain further so I feel fully cleansed of my inner annoyance!).
If you’ve read some of my earlier posts you’ll know that I’m deaf (to new readers,hey I’m deaf!) and that I wear two hearing aids. In an earlier post I detailed the workings of a hearing aid, and the fact that I along with most deaf people are pretty competent in making basic repairs to our hearing aids in order to keep the hearing aid working to its best capabilities in order for me to hear as best I can. This knowledge from my own personal experience has come from when I was a child watching the audiologist make repairs in front of me (I’ve always had a keen mechanical mind when it comes to little gadgets!) to being taught as a teenager to look for certain things which may cause faulty hearing.
One of the parts of the hearing aid which gets worn out very quickly is the plastic tubing which connects the mould to the hearing device itself. This is made out of a flexible plastic material which has to bend whilst at the same time be robust enough that it doesn’t split too easily. Any split will allow sound to escape causing a shrill feedback sound,probably more annoying to people around me than anything as I tend not to be able to hear it. However the material does eventually go hard,think of elastic bands you’ve left in a draw for ages and how brittle they turn. The problem is when the tubing gets hard,it also shrinks thus creating gaps between the inner part of the mould and the tube, again creating air gaps for sound to feedback. The other problem is the tube comes out of the mould (I’ve lost count on how many times my hearing aid device has actually fallen off my ear in the last few weeks!). The point of this long description is to impart on you my knowledge of hearing aids and what causes problems with my hearing is pretty much ingrained into me, I know a lot about being deaf it’s suffice to say!
This brings me into my rant of today as a deaf person. It’s dealing with situations where other people try and sort your life out thinking they know better than you,and to make it worse they then won’t listen to you! Today was a perfect example as I visited my hospital to pick up some new tubes. Previously the receptionist on the desk would hand me 6-8 tubes along with some spare batteries but today I had a new receptionist who has obviously only been given rudimentary training by the audiologists in the department. On looking at my little brown book (every deaf patient on the NHS gets a little brown book which has to be signed off every time you get new batteries etc so they know how much you’re getting, in the past it would also hold your details on how deaf you were etc but now patient confidentiality means that is purely stored on the computer just in case we lose the book on our travels) she noted that I had previously been given some tubes only a couple of months ago. As such she said I shouldn’t be having any more as I’m meant to make them last up to 6 months. I listened to this in polite disbelief before stating that’s all very well and good but there is no way my hearing aid will be able to function for another 4 months when it is falling off my ear now! Once again the receptionist reverted back to her training (don’t blame her,with cutbacks they are probably very strict on making sure the front line receptionists are very strict with the patients!) and said well “policy” says they should last up to 6 months. This is when my inner rage started but I did keep it in because ultimately it wasn’t her fault,although she could do with a bit more practise with dealing with patients! The rage was at the “policy” part, in order to save money we can only be given parts after a certain amount of time. This policy obviously hasn’t factored into account that some plastic will naturally harden quicker than others, and this “policy” only takes into account cost saving measures, it has missed the point entirely that sound quality drops significantly when the tube starts going wrong. Being deaf is hard enough in life through trying to get by listening to different sounds and accents etc and trying to interpret the meaning without having faulty equipment! So when the receptionist turned around and warned me that I wouldn’t be allowed any more now until next year I couldn’t help but sarcastically question what I would do in the event of having faulty tubes again,to which she replied I’d have to either wait or get new hearing aids fitted..obviously thinking I’ve got all the time in the world to just go in the hospital whenever I want! I shall be emailing the hospital to let them know of the situation and suggest additional training, her attitude was a little smug thinking she was right when, as I’m the deaf person I think I know a bit more than her,and especially so on my hearing capabilities!
It’s not just situations like this I face this,it’s other social things too. When I tell people I’m deaf they either feel I can’t hear at all, or that it’s simply a process of increasing the volume of sound around me which will help me. The “try to be helpful but making life worse!” I don’t begrudge them as I realise they are only trying to help, but in their kindness they are missing the point. They are trying to put their limited knowledge into practise and then thinking I’m just being awkward for the sake of it,an example being when I went to a cinema viewing expecting subtitles but then the subtitles broke down. On going out to inform them the staff simply said “well if you sit near the back you’ll be closer to the speakers and that will be ok”. The thing is loud sound can actually be worse for deaf people because it has been amplified to an extent where it is no longer possible to make out individual vowels and instead the sound is being registered nothing more than a booming muffle. Or another example I regularly encounter on informing someone I’m deaf is for the person speaking to me suddenly over exaggerate their speech,slowing it down and over pronouncing words! I’m deaf and hard of hearing! I wouldn’t even speak to someone with learning difficulties like that! That one the most actually winds me up the most! I know all this comes down to the simple fact that unless people interact with deaf people on a regular basis or get training then this act of being kind without being helpful will always happen.
But to finish off my post I’d like to put forward my basic suggestion to those who are just wanting to help others for which I massively applaud you. Be it deafness,blindness or mental health problems..don’t make assumptions! Just because we have that “label” defining us doesn’t make us all the same. Each person will have their own personal issues they face and no one solution can be applied equally to everyone. So yes,please do be of support, speaking from my personal experience in having a few best friends who always look out for me,that support in life is invaluable,from being told what conversations are going on around me to taking answer phone messages because I can’t use the phone well! But be sensitive to the person! Yes I’m deaf, but I don’t want it broadcast to everyone thus drawing attention to myself! If it is a visible disability don’t start trying to help us out without asking,you may get it wrong and embarrass both parties. Many people with a physical disability will let you know if they need help with certain things. Some won’t,so if you notice us struggling with something then ask, “is there anything I can do to help?”. I’d much rather you do that then trying to do things for me because you feel you know what help I need. For the receptionist at the hospital,well she’s so new this will hopefully come to her in time in that rather than working to policies on a piece of paper she will instead go “Hi Andy,what’s the problem today? You’re having problems with the tube? Is this a problem? Ok let’s get you some more and let’s get you booked in as this shouldn’t happen”. Well that’s my wishful thinking anyway!
After seeing the news today I’m just grateful that a lot of people do still want to be helpful and not be discriminating 😊 so stay kind peeps,it’s after all through our own individual actions that make the world a better place.