Thursday, August 30, 2007

Growing up Deaf - Part 8

Learning and Using Sign

I never quite knew what sign language was, even when one time I was with my family visiting a family friend. We went to church with them and then to their house afterwards. The husband's wife's parents were deaf, didn't speak, and only signed.

I never learned sign up til I was on a school bus with some others who signed, much less understood what it was. That wasn't til about fourth or fifth grade when I was taking two school buses to school. The first one took me to a school that used sign and voice, and the second took me to my school. My own school was oral, and never allowed us to use sign. I've mentioned before that the no signing part was an emotional issue with mom and I. John Egbert-Mindfield's The Speech Therapist Says ASL is Too Hard to Learn article reminds me of what I went through. I'm sure at least some deaf readers here identify with that posting. It's not that it "was going to be hard to learn," rather, they were afraid I was going to lose my voice if I learned sign and just used it.

It was on the first bus that I started to learn from watching the other kids. But even then, they kept giving me trouble when I watched them, and I got in trouble for doing just that. "AHH! *NOSEY!*" Can't I just learn from watching you guys?! I started learning on my own the manual alphabet, which took a week, then picked up some here and there. Up to seventh grade, I was able to learn some here and there due to some others that were in my homeroom.

Then from the middle of seventh til tenth grades, there wasn't much. Nevertheless, after that til I graduated from college, my learning and use of sign took off since I was always around other deaf who used sign. Around eighth and ninth grades, I went to this deaf camp in Louisiana. This was the first real exposure to those who didn't talk and used mostly sign. I did manage to keep in touch with a couple other people, and occasionally saw this deaf pastor who I previously couldn't communicate with since I didn't know sign. I could finally communicate with him as we I bumped into each other in different places over the years.

Then with high school in Illinois, I was picking up on sign all the time as my homeroom was a deaf special ed classroom and we had our own little deaf group that talked and had lunch together at times. Where they are today, I don't know.

With attending NTID in Rochester, NY, my learning sign had taken off just from my constant interactions with other deaf out there. But of course, there was a certain trio of ladies who helped out a little, two of whom didn't talk, the other did.

Next - Speech therapy

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Growing up Deaf - Part 7

Getting hearing aids - Part 2

About ten years later, I finally get behind the ear hearing aids. They were better than the body aids, less showy, and you could hide them with hair. I couldn't always, since I've kept my hair short. I heard from someone who had longer hair who accidentally jumped into a pool with his hearing aids on. The aids were fine. He said all he heard were water sounds.

Even the BTEs had their hazards. I had the problem of the ear hook's threads getting stripped after being unscrewed and screwed back on once too many times. I was going to the bathroom and the thing picked that exact moment to fall in the toilet. Dad heard me exclaim, watched me pull it out of the toilet, and told mom what happened. When I flushed, she thought I'd flushed it away. No such luck, mom, but her reaction was priceless.

I had one pair somehow last me 16 years instead of the usual lifespan of 5 years, despite the abuse they got. This particular pair I got from when I was at NTID. I had one BTE fall into the water in the boarding area of a log flume ride. Despite the dunking, they worked the next day. The park closed the ride for about 5 minutes to retrieve it. In the same park, another time while on a roller coaster, one flew off my ears. It was found and was still working.

I had new ear molds done once or twice a year. You knew it was time to get new ear molds when they would cause feedback or you had to push them in often. It got to the point where I'd just delay getting new ones, and every time I'd laugh, they'd squeal, and I'd hold the ear mold in my ear. That little act was the target of frequent jokes, especially with a high school electronics teacher and a girl who went to the same school with me and lived on the same street I did.

Sometimes if someone wanted to find me, they'd just listen for the noisy hearing aids. If they were in a particularly rude mood, and it happened at times, they'd just put their open hand near my hearing aid just to make it feedback.

I'm still using BTEs today, and replace the ear hook and tube myself. What's your funny/horror story about your BTEs?

Next - Learning and using sign.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Computers in the Trash

One thing that's troubled me in recent years is not how many computers are in the trash. It's what's on them that can get you in trouble. I'm not saying this just because I'm a network security student. I'm saying this because there are too many reports of identity theft out there. I work for a nonprofit as a volunteer computer refurbisher which gives the refurbished computers to their students. Fortunately, the hard drives in the computers are wiped before we reinstall the operating system and other software.

I come across around several computers a year in the trash piles and in every case, they have problems. The operating system isn't updated enough, they're infected with spyware, enough personal information for a case of identity theft, imprisonment if the wrong person finds info on there and reports it to law enforcement, or a combination of the four. The best thing to do is to not just repartition and format, which leaves some info on the drive for recovery, but to do a complete wipe. You can format the hard drive around 3-5 times, which scrambles enough of the data to prevent much recovery. Best thing to use is Darik's Boot and Nuke.

One computer had an immigrant's financial aid info for attending a local college plus his green card info. Another had a few home movies of a man and woman displaying rifles together, had password info to get into his airline reservations account, and the owner's resumes, to name a few.

Look up Department of Defense 5220.22-M. This tells something about it.

Sometimes even the government overdoes things. Someone who worked briefly on a military base said that hard drives were routinely shredded since they had secret info or similar on them. Industrial shredders are great for this. Ever seen one shred a car, boat, or other stuff? Do a search on YouTube.

Identity theft can be harder for deaf people to deal with due to the amount of time on the phone and so on. There's been stories of those who have been through it at least twice as well as from someone who had to be reissued a new SSN. What are your experiences in this?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Growing up Deaf - Part 6

Getting hearing aids - Part 1

My first hearing aids were body aids, which I got shortly after my hearing loss diagnosis. Mine was a single body aid with a splitter cord, held in a pocket or under the shirt via harness. It got annoying after some years of receiving stares from people who were wondering what that thing was. Was it a radio or something else? Mish's hilarious A Peek into My Childhood: 'Portable Radio' blogpost makes me wonder why I didn't think of doing the radio trick.

There were those who didn't know any better, and thankfully were few, who just yanked the things from my ears. "What's this? *YANK* *squealing from earpiece*"

You often had to make sure you weren't dribbling liquids the wrong way when drinking or eating. Did they ever make protective shields for this kind of thing? The alternative was usually to take them off and put them elsewhere, put it upside down in a shirt pocket, clip it upside down on your shirt, or something else. If you did get something in there, you'd be blowing and sucking on the microphone or something else. How would it look and sound if you did just that to a regular microphone out there just to demo on? Then there'd be the times I'd gross out some people by putting the cord in my mouth.

Back in first grade, all the kids had their body aids replaced by FM aids, which were used only in the classroom. For some strange reason, I went nuts, refusing to let the teacher swap them out, crying and acting up. She finally got it on me. About the only song I remember them playing through the system was something called "P. Mooney". It went something like this...

"I'm a whee, I'm a whoo, I'm P. Mooney."

Has anyone out there heard of this song? How did you deal with rude people about your hearing aids including those who threatened to or actually did cut the cords?

Next - part 2 of Hearing Aids.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Growing up Deaf - Part 5

Hearing loss diagnosis

However, the first five parts of this serial don't quite answer the question of how I was found to have a hearing loss. As I said in part 1, I was born hearing, then it started going downhill when I was age 5, learning to talk before then. A doctor's letter mentioned the mumps, and a blood titer test indicated the mumps as well, essentially my proof.

Mom would call for me, and I would be looking around for the source of the voice. The funny part was that I had learned to lipread to an extent before they found out about my hearing loss. This was around the time I was going to kindergarten. Then I find out years later that I went to kindergarten for not one, but two years. Mom told me it was due to their thinking I had missed a lot of stuff due to my declining hearing. The good part about kindergarten was that it was within the apartment complex where we lived, so it was a short 5-10 minute walk by myself.

Today, that same kindergarten is now a community center and the playground is still standing. The only thing that's stayed the same is the high fence, while the play equipment has changed.

I'm not sure when it stabilized around a profound loss, probably around my teens or a bit later before college. It's not changed much over the last 20 years despite getting new BTEs. But I do know that it will happen sometime when my hearing loss will worsen.

But of course, the hearing tests that came two, three, maybe more times in a year could easily drive some kids to not want to have them. I know I'm not the only one who knows most of the spondee words, words that audiologists commonly say and have the tested person repeat after them. All of this in a soundproof booth of some sort, with the audiologist being in the other room behind one-way glass. If you were one of those kids like me, you were able to watch the audiologist carefully, somehow, and fake them out with a well-timed raise of the hand to claim you 'heard' the sound. Depending on the audiologist's skill level, they may be able to tell that you tried to fake them out.

"Say the word hotdog." "Hotdog" Lower volume some. "Say the word cowboy." "Cowboy." Lower the volume some. "Say the word baseball." "Hotdog." "Say the word ice cream." "You scream."

What are your experiences with this kind of thing while growing up?

Next - Getting Hearing Aids.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Article: "Sound and the Fury"

No, it's not something about the classic show "Sound and Fury." It's about a deaf football team.

It's about Coach Hottle and when he started with Gallaudet University. Teams thought they could easily beat Gally. With Hottle as coach, it was the other way around. Gally beat them.

Read Washington Post article

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Growing up Deaf - Part 4

Adoption part 3 - Birth mom and I meet

We met up at her place in Arizona a few months later. The reunion was nice and quiet, one long hug in the baggage claim in the airport. Her husband has said I'm like a son to him. He's taken me on buggy rides through off-road trails in the Arizona desert.

Shortly after our second or third visit, her previous husband, my birth dad, called her and they talked for awhile. I'd still like to get together with him sometime, somehow. Through her current marriage, I have three stepsisters, and a few others that I've not yet met. Unfortunately, due to other circumstances, she and her husband are now divorced.

Through all this, adoptive mom has been very supportive.

A couple interesting things I found since moving to the DC area. When adoptive mom was in DC a few years ago, she mentioned that my first adoptive dad, the California highway patrol officer, has his name listed in the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial. He's buried in another state. I looked around and found a brochure on the Memorial and found it was on top of the Washington Metro's Judicial Square stop. She hasn't been there with me yet. When birth mom was in DC for a conference, we went to where her parents, who would have been my grandparents, are buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

I've been to both places. The first time I visited, I wasn't able to leave either place with dry eyes.

I know many other deaf people have tried finding their birthparents. What were your experiences when you found them or they found you?

Next - Hearing loss diagnosis.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Growing up Deaf - Part 3

Adoption part 2 - Birth mom finds me.

My birth mom beat me to the punch by finding me first, shortly after 9/11. Shortly after that, my Geo Metro was totalled after returning from an event in the late evening. It had 166,500 miles on it. Someone went in front of me at an intersection and I hit their rear passenger door. I wasn't injured, thankfully, despite the 35mph hit and things from the back coming forward. I managed to stop at the intersection's corner, engine fluids leaking a path. As I got out of the car, someone asked me how I was. "I'm fine. The car ain't." Exiting the car, I found my fire extinguisher got stopped by a few things, resting between my headrest and side of car. It could have been painfully worse.

As it turns out, I wasn't at fault, since I had the green light. I had no chance to avoid them. For some strange reason, they were parallel to and just about on the white stop lines in my travel lanes. Going into the median or or down a hill on the intersection's corner probably would have been worse.

The accident was a major factor that got me deciding what I was going to be doing next. Was I going to attend two local training programs, the local community college, or Gallaudet? The local community college won out since my applications to the training programs were lost in the mail when the anthrax attacks hit DC. One could say it was an interesting time for me.

I received something in the mail forwarded to me from adoptive mom in KY, since I had moved to VA a year earlier. It was from an investigative agency in Texas that said my birth mom had been searching for me and had certain pieces of information about me at birth. Responding to it via email, the investigator put me in touch with her.

After a couple emails, I asked her a few questions that only she would know. She answered them accurately. When I told adoptive mom about it, she said she nearly threw away that piece of mail. Had she done so, birth mom and I most likely would never have found each other, or we would have given more time. When I mentioned my hearing loss, it didn't matter to her. All she wanted to do was find her long-lost son and she did.

(Note: Rather than weekly serial posts, I'll be posting twice a week. If I get enough requests, three a week.)

Next - Birthmom and I meet.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Deaf Actors on Star Trek (Part 2)

My Deaf Actors on Star Trek post got good comments, and yes, I'm familiar with how the show is fantasy and sci-fi. Some of the storylines have reflected real life to an extent. Some things have become reality, as their communicators have become today's cell phones and PDAs to name a few things.

However, even though it's set in the future, with the the occasional mention over time of how the common cold was eliminated as well as a few diseases, there's always the subject of disabilities that you almost never see. In the original series, Captain Pike is in a wheelchair-like device after an accident in "The Menagerie, Part I" (first season, episode 15) in November 1966.

We also see Bill Cobb as Emory Erickson in a wheelchair in Star Trek: Enterprise in the fourth season, tenth episode, due to a transporter accident.

Consider for a bit that if certain disabilities were not quite eliminated, but helped to an extent. How would other deaf communicate with the computer and other people? Would they type and read the responses? Would they have duties on the bridge as well as other key areas on the ship? One might also have an interest in the subject of bionics, which could be used on those with hearing losses. They could be used in the Star Trek time frames, and they have.

One interesting thing... A commenter in that previous post mentioned a beautiful empathic woman with incredible healing powers. That would be The Empath on the original series (season 3, episode 8) in December 1968.

Kathryn Hays played the empathic character and is still performing today in her 70s.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Growing up Deaf - Part 2

My Adoption

Up to my birth, birth mom was, in her words, a recluse in her home, going out for her classes and meals. She took vitamins and that kind of thing. All this most likely kept her healthy enough to keep us from having rubella. Unfortunately, she gave me up for adoption right after birth. Even worse, her mother, who would have been my grandmother, never approved of her marriage to my birthdad. Birth mom and dad were students at a local community college.

It was two months later when my adoptive parents took me home. Adoptive dad was a California highway patrol officer who passed away in the line of duty a year later and it made front-page news. Then adoptive mom married my second dad and they were married for nearly 25 years until his passing in 1990 in Kentucky. She attended a grief support group, and met someone there. They were married for nearly two years til he passed away of a recurring illness.

I'm wondering how my life would have been different had birth mom not given me up for adoption. Would my health have been better? Would I have been hearing rather than deaf? What would I be doing now?

Adoptive mom had told me around a younger age about my adoption. Fortunately, she had all the papers and I went through them many times over the years. I didn't start searching til much later. I spent a little time at the library and the bookstore doing some searches including online searches. That plus some via email, but this one person wanted a bit too much money to check some things. Every time I searched, I went a little further than last time since there was more information available.

Fast forward to right after 9/11. Birth mom found me.

Next - How birth mom found me.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Trashing Your Work Computer

The Deaf Sherlock's Safety with your office computer! has some good points in there. It's not too hard to find articles on this subject as well. This will tie in with my next article, Computers in the Trash. Fortunately, most systems can be cleaned up with a little effort and time if you know what to do and use. I've often used these four basic tools to do the major cleanup including Windows' other tools and others as needed;

Spybot -
AdAware -
CWShredder -

Then other tools to finish up can be used as needed. I repaired Sherlock's friend's computer awhile ago. He got so frustrated with it that he actually kicked the thing. When I looked at it, the CPU was out of the socket, meaning he kicked it pretty hard. Amazingly, it still powered up after I put the CPU back in. After a few hours of cleaning using the above four and msconfig, we got it mostly cleaned up with a somewhat faster bootup.

I intentionally infected a second computer I have, and it predictably started having strange behaviors. A registry editor and the malware cleaners above plus another tool got it cleaned. Unfortunately, in some cases I've seen, the OS is so hosed, that it requires a format and reinstall.

I'm continually amazed at all the stories I'm hearing about people who go where and do what they aren't supposed to while at work even while the workplace may use access control systems and maybe surveillance utilities. Too many people say yes to anything presented to them without reading them as well as downloading and running anything out there. That's a sure-fire way to a trashed operating system, zombied computers, and badly-infected computers.

Just be careful where you go while at work. Sherlock's not the only techno geek out there...

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Growing Up Deaf - Part 1

One of the things about growing up deaf is that you learn to come up with little coping mechanisms to deal with various things as you grow up. You still use them even in adulthood up til your passing. In my case, I was born hearing, then it started going downhill when I was age 5. I learned to talk before then.

Over time, I never quite found out the cause of my hearing loss. Mom told me it was nerve deafness, also known as sensori-neural. Over time, I heard my generation in the early 60s had an epidemic of German measles/rubella.

Fast forward to around summer 2006 when I was preparing to attend classes at George Mason University. I had to get together my health records, but for some reason, seems some may have gotten lost and mom couldn't find them, though she sent me what she had. I talked with a couple people at the local health department who mentioned that I could get my blood titers checked for immunity to certain diseases, namely mumps and rubella.

As it turns out, I have immunity to the mumps, which is the reason why I lost my hearing. Interestingly enough, in my files, I have a letter from a doctor who thought the mumps caused my hearing loss. However, what of the rubella part? It seems I never had an MMR (Measles Mumps Rubella) immunization when I was younger. I had to go to the health department for just that. I beat the deadline by a few days to get in all my immunization info GMU's Student Health Services office. GMU said it was mandatory that I go through Orientation, which gave me all the info I needed for post-admissions requirements and class registration.

What of the time of my birth? I had to ask my birthmom about that. Adoptive mom was always supportive of me finding my birthmom. More on that later.

Has anyone had their blood titers drawn and checked for any kind of immunity? Was the information for personal use or something else?