Monday, September 9, 2019

An Object I Wish I could Lose - Hearing Aids Of Course!

A little over a year ago, I took an English story writing class and everyday we had a 5-minute writing prompt where we tried to write as much as we could without overthinking it. One day, my teacher asked us to write about either something we lost that we wish we could find or something we wish we could lose but cannot. There were so many good stories that came out of this, some were completely fictional and some were based on my peers’ lives. 
The first time through this prompt, I wrote about a sentimental pin I had lost in high school around Christmastime. Then the second time through this prompt, I thought a little bit more about the second half of the prompt. What is an object I wish I could lose?
The answer hit me like a lightning bolt. It might have come even faster if I had scratched my head and upset my hearing aids’ delicate sensibilities.
Without further ado, enjoy.
An object you wish you could lose - Hearing aids
Once the little girl called them party ears because they had glitter and were colorful. Then, she grew up and loathed them. She did not remember calling them party ears anymore. Instead, she called them the worst thing on Earth - hearing aids.
Hearing aids. When they were on, they screeched and screamed. They tattled on and on, re-echoing sounds the little girl could hear, and inserting new sounds - sounds that the little girl supposedly could not hear. The hearing aids were like gossipers. They heard things, whispered them — more like screamed — to the little girl, added their own little embellishments, a wind here, a screech there, a howl here. The little girl hated these embellishment. She hated the little gossipers behind her ears.
Every once in a while, the vile hearing aids beeped loudly to say the battery needed to be replaced. As the battery ran closer to being dead, the hearing aids beeped more frequently. The little girl hated how the hearing aids complained about low battery. Why should she care if the hearing aids are dead or not? At least when they were dead, they were quiet. 
If the battery did not die of its own will, the little girl would turn it off. When the hearing aids were off, blessed silence would reign, but it would be too quiet. The bulky ear molds that went into her ears acted as earplugs when the hearing aids were off. And the ear molds never fit quite right. It felt like the shirt that was just a bit too snug in the armpits, or the tights with the knotty ends tickling the toes in all the wrong places. 
The little girl cannot take off the dead hearing aids. If she takes off the hearing aids, the teacher will tell her parents and her parents would tell her to wear them. Her parents will say things like “You’ll hear your teachers better. You’ll hear your friends better.” But the teachers just taught from the book. And her ‘friends’ were too loud and never made sense to her anyway. Why should she listen? Why did she need the hearing aids to listen? The little girl listened to her parents. She wore her hearing aids, suffering and counting the minutes, the second for the school bell to ring so she could take them off without reprimand. She still hated the hearing aids.
Everyday, the little girl wore the hearing aids. Some days, the hearing aids were heavy. It felt like the tube connecting her ear molds to the small chip behind her ears would cut through her ears. It hurt. She wanted to take them off and throw them in a ditch somewhere, never to see them again. The gully behind her house would be the perfect place to dispose of them. If she waited until monsoon season, then the rain will flood the gully and destroy the hearing aids beyond all repairs! She would never see nor wear the hearing aids ever again!
But that would not make her parents happy.
Her parents tried to tell her that the hearing aids do not make her different from the other children, they are supposed to help her fit in. The little girl knew she was different. She knew that the hearing aids mark that difference somehow, but why should she try to fit in? Why should the hearing aids help her fit in? She thought she spoke normally. She thought she heard all she needed. She thought the other kids were weird for being so loud and talkative. Being deaf did not matter to the little girl. Only the hearing aids mattered and they were the bane of her existence.
It would seem that nothing would convince the girl to wear the hearing aids happily. The sounds that came through them were ugly to the girl no matter how much it helped her understand the world and the language around her. Perhaps it was just not meant to be. Perhaps the little girl preferred a life of familiar sounds unfiltered by the hearing aids, not caring about the sounds she did not hear. Except …
Once, the little girl was walking to the bus stop and it was one of the rare times she wore her hearing aids outside. The bus came early in the morning and the little girl was barely awake. She walked with her eyes closed, knowing the path to the bus by heart. She heard a whistle, a song. It confused her. The little girl had never heard anything like it before. She opened her eyes and looked around. She was alone next to a copse of aspens and pines. She never heard that sound before, even though she spends a lot of time outside. Then, realization struck. The little girl had read about birds chirping and singing. She had read stories that romanticized birdsongs — Atticus, from To Kill a Mockingbird, said it was a sin to kill a mockingbird because it songs were so beautiful — but never before had the little girl heard it before. Never before had she believed it was so beautiful.
The birdsong redeemed the hearing aids. So while her parents talk, her teachers drone, and her friends yap, the little girl listened to the birdsongs. The hearing aids are still heavy, whiny, clunky inventions of the devil, but they added something beautiful to the girl’s worldview. They opened the gate to the sounds the hearing took for granted, the sounds that people dismiss in a normal setting, but are no less beautiful.

Monday, August 12, 2019

New Look!

Time to give HearChloe a fresh look. Like the new orange?

Blogs coming up: a short story on why I wear hearing aids, and motivational avocado. They'll make sense when I publish it! :)

Friday, May 31, 2019

A Hearing Impaired Dude Walks into a Bar by Edan Armas

I have been writing this blog for 6 years now! I’m amazed it’s been that long!

And now it’s my first time having a guest writer on my blog! Edan Armas is a fellow Stanford Senior, majoring in Human Biology with a Concentration in Neurophenomenology of Emotion. He’s also an amazing writer and has a powerful voice. He grew up in Roselle, IL with hearing aids and part of a big family.

Recently, Edan introduced the Stanford Spoken Word Collective and recited his own poem at the Stanford’s Family Weekend Entertainment Extravaganza! The Entertainment Extravaganza represents a small sample of Stanford’s amazing art groups and artists. Edan literally had the audience eating out of his hands. His poem and voice just blew us all away. It was awesome!

I’m so glad Edan agreed to share his poem with my blog readers, because it really resonated with me. I don't go out to bars often but Edan's experience translates well to most noisy situations. His voice in the poem is an amazing and fresh way of looking at things.

Without further adieu, here is his amazing poem.

A Hearing Impaired Dude Walks into A Bar
so a hearing impaired dude walks into a bar and
is the joke
as I make my way through the mass of bodies
I know I have a limited number of opportunities
to ask people to repeat themselves before I become other
so I hold my hearing loss in my hands like a drink,
careful not to spill
and grimacing every time I have to take a sip

it is new year’s eve
the air is soaked with music
either Cardi B’s “I Like It” or maybe that one Havana song
but I am too embarrassed to ask which
content instead with bending my body to the muffled bass
as I silently pray for the countdown
because it will be the only set of lyrics I will
be able to shout along with everyone else

the day I turned 21
the bar was supposed to be this quintessential coming of age experience
but instead it was like rediscovering the dentist
1) it sucked
2) every conversation I had was like pulling teeth
people having to put their mouths so close to my ears
my hearing aids would come away wet with the
condensation of their tequila breath

it is here i realize that all those stories about
meeting the love of your life in a bar
probably never included someone like me
which doesn’t bother me all that much
considering these types of environments
are practically grad schools for able-bodied
frat boys who can’t seem to hear the word “no” anyway

my friends say
“alright so the bar is not your scene”
but here’s the thing
i am hearing impaired like i am latino
mixed, not quite one or the other
where identifying with either is always work
so i want to work on this
crawl into a beer garden and
plant a new story for deafness

i want to walk into the cologne fumes
of The Patio, dap a tech bro and say
tonight, both of us are going to have difficulty enunciating

i want to ask and ask people to repeat themselves
and ask again when i don’t hear it
because i cannot relearn damaged hair cells
but maybe i can rediscover what it’s like to be
unashamed of asking for what i need

and maybe
in the far and distant future
i will work as a bartender in a club
just so i can create a drink called
and confuse everybody

but until then i will dance alone
in my corner of the bar
my body owed to nothing
except the sound i create for myself

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Pizza == P-Sets?

Here’s what happens when you misread lips! 

Wednesday night and people are gathering in the lobby for the weekly house social. The house social is a low-stress get-together with food and lots of people coming and going. It’s not too noisy because there’s rarely more than 20 people in the lobby at a time. The crowd does get bigger after the organizer sent out a dorm wide blast announcing, “Pizza in the lobby!”

I went downstairs to socialize, even though I was stressing out about all my p-sets — several papers to read and write; two classes were kicking my butt; and it had been a long day and it was not over yet!

Bernie was the first person I ran into. He waved at me, gestured at the pizza, and said, “Hey look! There’s so much pizza!” And indeed there was. There were like 15 boxes!

But that wasn’t what I heard. What I heard was, “Hey, I have too much p-sets!”

Enthusiastically, I responded, “I know! I have so many p-sets too! Two papers due Friday!”

Bernie tilted his head, but went along with it, “Same here. Do you want pizza to help you study?” 

Then my brain clicked. I laughed and explained to him what I thought I heard. Life moved on. It could have been worse. He could have been talking about p-sets and I hear pizza, yet there would be no pizza around! That would have been uber disappointing! I love pizza 🍕😃!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Hearing aids are like underwear!

Hearing aids are like underwear — highly encouraged but not required. They’re good to have, useful, and should be cleaned, but sometimes you want to go commando! Much like bras — though nice to feel supported — going without a bra feels very freeing! To wear or not to wear? 

The most common question I get asked is “Do you wear your hearing aids all the time?” My unfiltered answer is “H - E - double toothpick NO!”

Wearing hearing aids is a personal choice. Some people try hearing aids and decide “Nope, I don’t like hearing aids at all.” Or they might not want to miss a single moment of their day without hearing aids and so they slap on their hearing aids first thing in the morning and it is the last thing to come off at night. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of “What do I feel like today?” My feelings on hearing aids are somewhere in the middle.

I don’t wear my hearing aids when I fall asleep. Hearing aids and water never go well together and that means no hearing aids in or near the shower, the pool, or the ocean.  If I’m reading something, I’ll probably not wear my hearing aids so I can concentrate more. One person I know calls the ability to take his hearing aids out to focus his “super power.”

If I’m taking my dog out for a walk, well I might wear hearing aids … like if I want to hear birds singing or am worried about excessive traffic, I’ll wear hearing aids. Or let’s say there’s been an unprecedented amount of rattlesnakes on a trail, then yeah, I’ll definitely wearing hearing aids! Of course, even with my hearing aids on, I can’t tell a difference between a rattlesnake’s rattle and crickets chirping, but at least I get some advance notice!  But most of the time I don’t really want to wear hearing aids when I walk, because it’s freeing for me.

Hearing aids do help a lot. They amplify some of the missing sounds. They can be very useful, especially in communicating with hearing peers. If I’m talking to someone, I’ll probably wear my hearing aids, but if I’m running and apt to get really, really sweaty, probably not. I wore my hearing aids running one time in TX, and the battery cases got rusty from the excessive humidity.  Remember when I said hearing aids and water do not mix!

I’ll always wear my hearing aids to classes or in situations where I know I will encounter trouble understanding what’s going on. If I’m meeting with friends in the dining hall, I’ll wear hearing aids. If I’m going to the dining hall by myself, wearing hearing aids depends on how I wake up that morning. Will the background noises and clattering trays make me cranky? If yes, then I will not put them in. Especially if it’s a Monday.

Throughout my childhood, my mom was told I should have the hearing aids on during all my waking hours. That might work for some people, but not for me. True, wearing hearing aids during all waking hours probably helped me get use to wearing hearing aids. Background noises, whistling winds, hair brushing against the microphone, can all be annoying sounds. Listening isn’t just about hearing the sounds, but also about focusing on lip movements, facial expressions, filling in the blanks for those sounds my hearing aids can’t amplify enough for me, and mentally converting all these inputs to something intelligible that I can work with. It is exhausting and noise is the biggest energy sucker. Sometimes I like quietude.

As hearing aid technology improves over time, I find myself wearing them more often. I do believe everyone should give hearing aids a chance, but I believe hearing aids are just that, an aid. They are not the be all, end all of listening methods. I use them when I need them. I try to keep them with me so when I do need them, I can put them on. Sometimes I forget to take them with me though and that has caused issues. Other senses help with communication, especially vision.  If I’m not wearing my hearing aids, I be sure to turn up the “volume” on visual cues, such as speech reading and using ASL. To paraphrase Hamlet, “To wear?  Or not to wear?  That is the question.”

Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Talk, Part II

Many of you might have read my high school essay assignment written in second person called The Talk, which was one of my very first blog posts (May of 2013). 

A short summary of The Talk: in third grade, my dog, Oreo, chewed up my hearing aids. My parents were disappointed and told me to take better care of the hearing aids. I loathed the hearing aids and did not care that the dog chewed them up, but was still upset that my parents were disappointed in me anyway.

There were a couple of lessons I learned that summer evening - 1) just because you absolutely loathed something does not mean you can let the dog eat it, 2) hearing aids are very expensive equipments and needed to be treated as such, 3) under no circumstances, put the hearing aids where the dog can get it!

We pick up the story ten years later:

The Talk, Part II

You took lessons learned from “The Talk” to heart. You never left the hearing aids unattended where they could get lost and whenever you did lose your hearing aids, they were usually in someplace that was really obvious and secure, but would be the last place you would ever look for them!

Sadly, Oreo died a little over a year ago. He was a good dog who never lost his taste for earwax as evidenced by how he loved to lick Dad’s ears.

You welcomed a new member to your family last summer. His name is Orion and he’s smaller and blacker than Oreo, but still just as sweet.  And mischievous. He likes earwax but not nearly as much as he likes feet. Honestly, socks and shoes are in more danger than any hearing aids. He’s ten months old and you have not have a single incidence where he even sniffed at the hearing aids.

Until last night…

You took your hearing aids off for the day and placed them on your bedside table, in your official hearing aid plate, also known as a spoon holder.  This is supposed to be a relatively safe place as Orion had shown no interest in sniffing around there though he does join you each night on the bed. You joined your family in the living room for a Sherlock marathon. Everyone's relaxed. Dad drifted off to sleep in his chair, Mom knitted a belated Christmas present, Orion napped on the little comfy chair Mom made for Oreo.

Orion got up from his comfy seat and wandered off for a bit. When he returned after a few minutes, you thought he had a bone. Good for him you thought. Wait … that tiny little bone is a little too shiny to be a rawhide … noooooo!

You dove for Orion as if he had chocolate in his mouth. He stopped chewing, but it took some force to get his jaw to release the hearing aid. You freed the lone hearing aid and hastily turned it on. You waited — one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, do do do doooo do do do doooo, wah. The hearing aid squealed a bit and started broadcasting the air as they always do before your ears get use to it.

You let out a sigh of relief … until Mom asked where was the other hearing aids. Your heart jumped back up to pounding level. You ran for your bedroom while praying the dog did not have enough time or interest to swallow the other hearing aids.

You reach the bedside table and looked where the hearing aids were supposed to be … and you see the other hearing aid resting innocently there. You let out another sigh of relief and sagged on the bed as the rest of the heart pounding tension left your body.

Both hearing aids were safe. You put them on a shelf that was four feet high, well above the reach of Orion. When you finally went to bed that night, Orion joined you and snuggled into your side as if he never tasted a hearing aid in his life. You mentally repeated the last lesson you learned from The Talk while an Elvis Presley song went on in your head:

You look like an angel
Walk like an angel
Talk like an angel
But I got wiiiiiise
You’re the devil in disguise!

(You’re the) Devil in Disguise by Elvis Presley


Friday, November 30, 2018

Isn't it obvious?

Every quarter, my dorm invites residents to speak at an event called the Real Roble as the dorm’s name is Roble. It is like a mini-TED talk where each speaker gets 5 minutes to talk about their passion.  There were so many good speakers in our dorm: someone who went above and beyond to reduce their carbon footprint, another who re-introduced Vines and how they share stories and comedy, and another who trained for half-marathons.

People are cool and Real Roble only shows a small fraction of my dorm alone. During Real Roble, people here tell stories that you would only find if you reach out to that person and listen to their story. Before I tell you my Real Roble story, I challenge you to find someone you don’t know very well and learn their story.

Real Roble!

Hi! I’m Chloe. Some of you already know me because I’m the RCC [Resident Computer Consultant, aka dorm IT person] that helped set up your wifi. Some of you know me because I’m the orange girl running through the hall so that I won’t be late for class. Oh and I’m also deaf. Is it not obvious? I thought it was!

I grew in a town that only had one high school and one middle school. We all grew up together and everyone knew each other more or less. So everyone knows I’m deaf, right?

So because I’m deaf, I brought a microphone to school everyday and gave it to each of my teachers. I needed that microphone to hear my teacher, otherwise everything goes over my head. I just can’t understand the teacher without it!

I hated the microphone. I still do! The microphone had horrible sound quality and headache inducing feedback. It is extremely sensitive and sometimes it amplified the teachers’ clothes more than their voice! But the thing I hated most about the microphone was that no one else needed it. I was the only one in my 1000+ person high school who needed a microphone. I was the only deaf person in my school.

Anyway, there was this boy in class a year younger than me, I’ll call him Pi. For three years, Pi and I had been in the same orchestra class. He was a violinist and I was a cellist. I gave the microphone to my orchestra teacher everyday. My senior year, I did not take orchestra, but I took AP Calculus. Pi was also in AP Calculus. Of course, I gave the microphone to my Calc teacher.

Then one day in AP Calc, we had a group project. I was with Pi and one other girl. I took the microphone from my teacher and put it in the center so that it could pick up all three of our voice. Pi looked at me and asked, “What do we need this for?”


I couldn’t believe it! We knew each other for three years! And every day, I went up to the front of the class to give the teacher my microphone in front of him. And every day, he had no idea what it was for!

I thought that it was obvious! That the microphone means deaf, that deafness was something obvious, that you could take one look at me or listen to my voice and know I was deaf.

Then I thought, maybe deafness is not obvious, not even to people who had known me a long time. So what should I tell him? How do I tell him something that I thought he knew for three years?

I could make something up - maybe say I’m an obsessive overachiever who records every single moment of lecture to go over later. It would be an interesting story and then I didn’t have to say that I’m deaf.

I could say that, but no I told him the truth. Why? I complained about the microphone, but I don’t really complain about being deaf. I’d even go so far as to say I like being deaf. Sure it has drawbacks - I can’t hear birds whistling without my hearing aids, I ask people to repeat things a LOT - but it also my normal. I never had “good” hearing. 

There are also some benefits too. If I ever get stuck in a boring conversation or lecture, I can turn off my hearing aids and pretend I’m listening. And there’s a really cool culture that’s both silent and noisy called the Deaf world! It has its own language and culture that is completely different from hearing culture and it is just so cool.

So, I told Pi the truth -- that I am deaf and I need the microphone to hear better. Now Pi knows I’m deaf and I know that deafness is not obvious. I have to tell people I’m deaf. Maybe you can guess why I’m doing the Real Roble talk!