Sight, Sound and Beyond

Archive for July, 2011

Blind or Deaf?

Helen Keller (1881-1968)

I have been asked the following question many times: If you were forced to choose, would you rather be completely blind or completely deaf?  This recently came up in a conversation and has been on my mind ever since.  One of my mother’s friends commented that she could never cope with being blind and would prefer to be deaf.  Last night I googled: “Would you rather be blind or deaf?” and was amazed to learn that most people would prefer to be completely deaf rather than being completely blind.

Of course, I would not want to be either.  Since I have both a hearing and visual impairment I know firsthand how the loss of these senses can affect a person.  Of course for me, having both these senses impaired creates a whole new experience.  What do I mean by that?  Well, when a person is blind, they often depend on their hearing.  This helps them gather a sense of what is happening in the world around them.  Likewise, a person who is deaf will often depend on their vision to collect information.  As someone who has both a vision and hearing loss, what do I depend on more: my hearing or my vision?  I don’t depend much on either.  I often depend on touch and memory, especially when it comes to music making.  I guess you could also say I have a sixth sense at times and often go with my intuition.  I pay close attention, too, which is why it has been said that I am a very intense person.  I can really get focused on what I am doing.

If I were completely blind, I would not be able to see the beautiful colors of my two parrots, the beauty of nature and all the other things that people love to look at.  Without hearing, I would not be able to communicate through spoken language.  Although many learn to read lips, this is not the case for everyone.  I would not be able to hear my friends voices on the telephone or the calls of my parrots when they tell me they want to eat.  I would not be able to hear the sounds that are supposed to alert me of danger such as the sound of a fire alarm

While being blind would rob me of seeing many things, being deaf would rob me of staying in close connection with the people I love.  To me, there is something beautiful when it comes to the sound of laughter.  I love to hear laughter and I love when I say something that can send a person laughing out loud.

Of course, there are ways to overcome both blindness and deafness, but knowing what I know now and remembering what I have experienced, I will tell you that I have had more frustration when I could not hear something rather than when I could not see something.  Yes, I was frustrated to learn that I would never be able to drive, and I would feel left out in school when I was the only student in class who could not see what was written on the chalkboard.  However, I would become more frustrated and emotional when I could not hear what was said to me.  Also, when I was in college, I lived in a campus dormitory where there would be frequent fire drills at any hour of the day or night.  Whenever I took a shower, I would have to take my hearing aids out, and I would always worry that I would not be able to hear the alarm go off.  Also when I was a child, our fire alarm went off during the night.  There was not a fire.  The alarm was not working properly or something like that.  Anyway, it went off at 5am and everyone in the house woke up because they had heard it go off except me.  It didn’t wake me up.  What if there had been a real fire?

In my opinion, hearing and vision are both important senses and to choose one over the other is extremely difficult but if I were forced to chose, I would say I would rather be blind than deaf.  The great Helen Keller once said: “I am just as deaf as I am blind. The problems of deafness are deeper and more complex, If not more important, than those of blindness.  Deafness is a much worse misfortune. For it means the loss of the most vital stimulus – the sound of the voice that brings language, sets thoughts astir, and keeps us in the intellectual company of man.”

Of course, the 21st century is an exciting time for anyone to be living because of the advances in medicine and technology.  There are more treatments to help deafness and blindness today than there were ever before.  I feel very fortunate to live in a time when I was able to receive corneal transplants in both my eyes to help improve my vision.  Yes, my vision is not 20/20, but it is better than before and I am happy with that.  I am also happy to be living in a time that has wonderful technology, which help me to be successful on a daily basis.  For vision, this includes my Closed Circuit Television (CCTV), my magnifiers, and telescopes.  For hearing this includes my digital hearing aids, my FM system and my sonic boom alarm clock which wakes me up through vibrations rather than sound.

I couldn’t be born in a better time period and so I end by saying “viva 21st century!”

What is an FM System?

Sound Waves by Ofelia Uz

I thought that I would write this article to raise some awareness.about FM Systems. Many people do not know what an FM system is and wouldn’t even recognize one. In fact, I have been asked if it is some type of recording device. This is pretty normal because you don’t really hear the topic of FM systems com up on everyday conversation.  Although, it did happen to come up in a conversation this past week while I was at work.

Before I get into the specifics, let me start with a story that happened several months ago wnile I was at handbell choir rehearsal (I am in my church’s handbell choir).  Some of the members were wondering what our music director, Nadia, was wearing around her neck and what it does. Nadia directed the question to me to answer since it was my listening device that she was wearing. “Nadia is wearing a microphone around her neck so that I can hear her when she talks. You see, when she speaks, the sound of her voice goes directly to my hearing aids.” I said while pointing to one of my hearing aids. One of the members was very impressed with this type of technology.

The is what an FM system is on a very basic level. An FM system consists of two components: a transmitter and a receiver. The transmitter is what Nadia wears around her neck. It has a microphone which picks up her voice as she speaks. The sounds of her voice travel wirelessly to two receivers which are attached to each of my hearing aids. Some receivers easily snap on a hearing aid for easy application and removal. However, my receivers are permanently attached to my hearing aids and are located where the battery door is. When I am not using my FM system the receivers are powered off and I am just listening to sounds through the hearing aid mics alone. I am literally like a human radio because an FM system operates the same way as a radio, using frequency modulation (FM) waves.

This is my FM transmitter. The built-in microphone is located on the upper-left side.

Here is what my receiver looks like. It is attached to my hearing aid.

FM transmitters come in many varieties. There are some that work with a person’s hearing aids. This is how mine works. Both my hearing aids and FM system are made by Phonak and are compatible with one another. There are some FM systems that work independently. That is, you don’t need to wear a hearing aid to use it. The person receiving the sounds would wear a headset.

 Why is an FM system so beneficial? For starters, it allows a person to hear at far distances and in noisy situations. Let’s use handbell choir as an example. Rehearsals are held inside a church, so there is the added echo when hearing someone speak. Plus, the music director stands at least two feet away from me. For some that may seem like not much, but when you are in a church and have a hearing loss, that can be quite a distance.

 As Nadia talks, I can hear her as if she were standing a few inches away from me. My receivers pick up her speech and the microphones on my hearing aids pick up the other sounds around me like the sounds of our music making. If someone next to me says something to me, I can hear that, too, but no matter how noisy it gets around me, I can always hear Nadia’s instructions.

Another benefit of having an FM system is that It can plug the transmitter into audio devices via an aux cable. You simply plug one end of the cable into the FM transmitter and the other end into a headphone jack of your audio source. I often have a hard time hearing the television so I sometimes hook my FM transmitter up to it for easier listening. If I am watching television with other people in the room, I just turn the transmitter on, and place it near the speaker of the television so that the microphone pics up and amplifies all the sounds. Now I can enjoy watching television with other people.

An FM system is very helpful in situations where I feel that I need a “third ear”. I have used it in noisy settings, music rehearsals, listening to far away sounds and more.

Don’t Know What to Write About

This is a picture of a Blank Canvas to represent my current lack of ideas.

When I was in high school, we were given an English assignment to write a poem that told a story.  I remember agonizing over what my poem was going to be about until I decided to write a poem about how I didn’t know what to write about.  The opening stanza went like this:

I cannot do this assignment today
I must write a poem that tells a tale
But I have no thoughts of what to say
This assignment is making me pail!

Likewise, I have been wracking my brain on what my next post should be about and have been come up empty.  I guess that’s what I get for telling my friend to say the abbreviation for Mount while pointing to his head.  Now, the jokes on me.

I really don’t have much to talk about lately.  Here are the most exciting things that have happened in my life since the last time I posted.

1.  Nikki laid another egg.  That makes a total of two so far.  I am hoping that this will be the last egg, but Nikki is always full of surprises.

2.  I finally finished mastering my CD and am now in the very early stages of manufacture and production.

3.  I started writing a string trio for a friend to play with her two daughters.

4.  I am getting new hearing aid molds next week.  Yeah, you heard right.  My audiologist recommended me getting new molds since the others are starting to wear down.  I pick them up on Tuesday.

Hopefully, my next post will be more informative but for now, that’s the latest.  I was hoping to have something interesting to talk about that relates to color and sound.  Perhaps an idea will hit me in the next couple days.  Maybe I will be elaborating on one of theses highlights.  Although, I hope I won’t be elaborating on Nikki’s egg thing as I want that to be over.  No more eggs.  My cousin suggested hooking her up with a male and I am like: “No, no babies.”  I have my hands full with two birds already and they are big girls now (7 years old).

So in the famous words of Porky Pig: “A-ba-dee, a-ba-dee, a-ba-dee that’s all folks!”,  Hopefully, I will write again soon!

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