Don’t give up

Copyright: garagestock / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: garagestock / 123RF Stock Photo

This post is an antidote to one posted in May – the one called I Give UpI Give Up was about deciding that some activity or other had passed beyond the realms of the possible.  For the sake of your sanity it was best to give up on it and look for new things that you COULD do.  The examples I gave were going to the theatre (I find captioned performances pointless because my hearing is now so poor that I have to watch the captions the whole time, completely missing the visual experience of the play) and attending events at a particular local venue.  The post was re-posted by the Limping Chicken (thank you Limping Chicken) and elicited lots of responses on captioned performances.  Some people had had the same experience as me and some urged me to try again.  One comment mentioned a theatre group called Graeae, who produce theatre specifically for the deaf (both lip readers and British Sign Language users).  Their performances somehow integrate captions into the performance itself (I don’t know how) as well as BSL.  I looked them up and they are performing a play by Lorca at Manchester’s Royal Exchange in February, so a friend and I have booked.  It sounds like an interesting experience, at the very least.

Then there was the certain local venue.  I wrote in the previous post of the impossibility of understanding speakers in this vast hall, especially when (in the words of one friend) they are bearded archaeology chaps mumbling into the microphone.  I love archaeology, but my experience of the annual events held at this venue had become too dispiriting for words.  I was happy to give them up.

But then a few months ago another event was organised, at the same venue, about the impact of the Romans on this part of Britain.  I wanted to go.  I REALLY wanted to go – but I argued with myself about whether I should book.  I remembered the time I had to leave at lunchtime, fed up and exhausted by struggling to hear and not being able to.  However, cutting a long story short, I booked.  I couldn’t resist it.

This time I knew the organiser – and he wears hearing aids.  So I contacted him, saying that I needed the loop to be switched on (oh…..the venues where they think loops work by magic…..) but more importantly than that, I had to be able to see the face of the speaker even if/when the lights went out.  A loop without lip reading is no good for me.  I would bag a seat at the front and hope that a combination of everything would work.  I also volunteered to make the tea/coffee, of which more in a minute.

On the day I turned up early to reserve my front row seat only to find that my friend Jill had got there even earlier and bagged three or four seats for us hearing-challenged people, virtually within touching distance of where the speakers would be.  Then the organiser saw me, confirmed that he had personally tested the loop, and showed me a contraption he had rigged up whereby a light on the speakers’ podium lit their faces.  Aren’t people wonderful?  Thank you thank you.

I had a fantastic day, being able to follow almost all of the speakers really well, even when the lights went out.  I’d taken the Roger pen as a back-up, but didn’t need it.  I even heard well enough to remember afterwards what people had said.  This may sound odd but it’s a well-known phenomenon that we deafies expend so much energy deciphering speech we retain much less of what we hear.  Or as some would say – in one ear and out the other.

There WAS a problem, which was that the speakers said they were blinded by the light in their faces and couldn’t see the audience, which became an issue at question time.  So if there is a next time the position of the light needs to be thought about – I don’t want to make life harder for others and I’m sure there’s a solution that would keep everyone happy.

Back to the tea and coffee making.  I find the tea breaks at these events a trial.  The incredible hubbub of a hundred or more people chatting away, greeting friends and making new ones, renders speech incomprehensible to me.  And there’s a limit to the number of times you can drag someone away to a quieter spot where you can hear them.  After all, they are ENJOYING themselves in that noise.  So it can be miserable.  Having something practical to do made all the difference, and “tea” or “coffee” are quite easy to tell apart on the lips.  (“May I have a glass of cold water” was a bit more challenging).  Seriously, it felt good to have a role and to be in the middle of things, rather than slinking off on my own.

Altogether the day was a big success.  I still feel that it’s important to accept that there are things I can’t do any more, and to find new things that I CAN do, but I am also grateful for the feedback I received to the first post.  People said, essentially, be careful not to give up too easily.  So I stand by both posts and plough on, trying to find ways to make things possible.

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9 thoughts on “Don’t give up

  1. Ah Vera – I don’t think I have ever read one of your blogs without relating to it totally.

    Last week was the annual panto in our village hall which I like to support because so many put so much effort in – the cast start in May, the backstage team (including my hubby) put in 12 hour days for the week before preparing the sets, not to mention all those who get the word out and sell tickets. So off I went early, knowing it would be challenging but determined nonetheless.

    First off – where to sit? Even though early the front seats had already been bagged. So I decided to sacrifice my hearing in favour of a spot where my handsome hearing dog would not trip up the unwary, as he is big, black and a labrador. I picked a suitable spot at the back & lay out his blanket, only to be told by one of the front of house team – the cast walk through there. OK we’ll sit over there, said I. The cast walk through there too, said she. Alright, how about there? They walk there too. Deep breath, bite tongue, pin on best smile – where do you suggest we sit? Pause before she asks – I kid you not – will he fit under your seat? I’m sure everyone knows what a labrador looks like and can work out this was not the most sensible question. Fortunately another helper spared me having to come up with a polite reply by suggesting a much better solution.

    Once settled the panto started – along with my increasing sense of isolation. The overwhelming sadness experienced when sitting in an audience who burst out laughing when you haven’t a clue what the joke was is, I’m certain, a feeling shared by many.

    I battled on but felt more and more hopeless and decided to leave at the interval knowing I wouldn’t be able to talk to or hear anyone above the general hubbub and clattering cups and saucers. So it was a sad and lonely trudge home for me – but at least I had my fantastic companion hearing dog. All the while I tried to keep in mind your upbeat words and attitude so on a positive note I did have a discussion afterwards with one of the village hall helpers and we have agreed to investigate funding a loop for the hall. I’ll keep you posted. Oh and one final word of thanks to the two small boys in the front row who had a whale of a time shouting at the cast (Oh yes they did!) whose every word they clearly enunciated so I heard them very perfectly – bravo! ☺

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  2. Just read your article Vera, in action on hearing loss mag. I suffer from the same severe deafness as you and have all the same difficulties you mention. Even my best friends don’t realise just how deaf I am as they never see me without my aids. I too don’t go to the cinema anymore and there are not many cinemas with subtitles where I live in Scotland.

    It was good to read of your experiences and makes me realise there are people out there with the same problems that I have.

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  3. Thanks once again Vera for shedding light on the complexities of severe hearing loss and how with the right technology, good will and perseverance a lot is still do-able. So glad you were able to enjoy and follow the Roman event. Do many of these events or lectures film their speaker(s) and then make video-casts? If they would then you should be able to (at least) add auto-generated captions/subtitles – to help retention of info. after all the effort of listening. Many others distracted by social media, text messages, etc. on their smart phones would also benefit.

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    1. What a brilliant idea but I’ve not come across anyone filming any event I’ve been to. I’ve seen such things on line but never in real life. I’ll suggest it, though, so many thanks for the thought. Let’s push archaeology into the 21st century!

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  4. Hi Vera, I do admire your tenacity to find things to do but it is so easy to just not bother. I no longer go to the theatre and it is a longtime since I went to the cinema. I have been keeping an eye on the local cinemas to see if they will show the film I Daniel but no luck so far. I also have problems hearing what is being said through the loop system, so again cinemas with infra red systems don’t help. I can hear the voices but not understand the words. I have mentioned this a few times to my audiologist but so far despite various tweaks to my hearing aid nothing helps. As you say we must plough on, but life is difficult and it is much easier to just curl up with a good book.

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    1. Nothing wrong with curling up with a good book, I say. With films I think it’s actually better to buy the DVD and watch it in your own living room – last Christmas Nigel and I ventured out to see a film with subtitles (Star Wars) and both decided afterwards that we weren’t missing anything by not going to the cinema. Cheaper and more comfortable to watch at home.

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