My name is Frieda and I am hearing impaired. Here, you will find stories of my life growing up and what it is like for me to be a wife, a mom of two boys, and hearing impaired.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Elementary School ~ and Bullies

Elementary school was hard for me.  Not in the academic sense, but in the social, friend-making sense.  Kindergarten was a blur of crafts, snacks and story time.  I believe I kept mostly to myself.  First grade came around and I struggled initially with reading.  Once I caught on, I never stopped.  My mom affectionally called me, "Frieda-nose-in-the-book."

I recall having reading contests in second grade  to see who could read the most books.  I won, and was gifted with a mystery book, inscribed with a message from my teacher.  I still have that book to this day.

Second grade was when the teasing started.  Or at least, when I noticed that the teasing started.  Being hearing impaired, it is a blessing not to be able to hear the hurtful things that are being said.  When I don't respond, it either goes away or someone decides to up the ante.

One day, I couldn't find my coat where it should be hanging outside the classroom.  Someone told me that a particular girl put it in the lost and found.  She was upset when I "found" my coat and we got into a verbal, fighting match.  I don't think it lasted long, as it was after school and we had to run to catch the bus.

Third grade wasn't much better.  We had to individually stand in the front of the classroom and orally recite our times tables.  In the middle of the year, a new girl was introduced to the class.  A girl that wore a different kind of hearing aid.  One that you could see. After meeting and talking with her, I discovered that her hearing loss was more profound than mine.  That explained her ultra-powerful hearing aids that had wires connected to a box that was in her pocket.  She, too, did not like getting up in front of the class to recite her times tables.  Her voice was different, and she struggled with pronouncing certain words.  I finally felt like I could connect with someone and we became friends.

On the bus ride to school, I noticed a pen that was stuck beneath the heater.  While I was trying to pry it out, one of the school bullies pushed me aside, also trying to get the pen.  When he couldn't get it out, he started yelling at me, telling me it was my fault that 'his' pen got stuck in the heater.  I ignored him and shrugged it off.

Later, during recess, that same bully climbed on top of a playground gym and jumped onto my back, knocking me down to the ground.  I rolled over, and pinned his arms and legs down, a trick I learned from wrestling with my brothers.

He began screaming and spitting into my face.  After a couple of minutes, I let him go and gave him a swift kick in the behind.  I went to class, thinking it was over.  During the next recess, my teacher called me over and disciplined me, saying that "girls should not fight" and kept me in for recess.

Fourth and fifth grades came and went and I had some fabulous teachers.  My fifth grade teacher had a brace on her leg and understood kids who didn't fit in.  She loved putting her arms around the kids.  She said what she meant and meant what she said.

She said a swear word in class and immediately asked me to go to the teacher's lounge and get her a diet Tab drink.  Looking at her and watching her chewing on a bite of soap spurred me to action.  When I came back, she had swallowed the bite of soap.  And drank the Tab.

In the middle of sixth grade, our new school two blocks down the road was finished.  We carried chairs down the street and marveled at the new building.  It was different.  The first thing I noticed was the classrooms did not have walls.  They were called, "open" classrooms.  Very quickly, I noticed how echo-y everything sounded and it was very difficult to understand everything that was said.

I noticed that the school bully had a friend.  He was also a bully.  They would get into trouble a lot.  One teacher even locked up one of the bullies in a closet.  We could hear him screaming, and then crying.

During recess, one of those bullies had an aluminum bat.  He swung it at me and I turned my head.  The bat landed on my hearing aid, cracking the shell.  I remember my mom meeting with the principal and then sending in the aid to be fixed.

I was so looking forward to seventh grade.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010



Many years ago, I met a neighbor who turned out to become a very good close friend.  It was so easy and natural to talk to her; we had so much in common.  She is a teacher and so am I.  Her husband is a computer programmer and so is mine.  We have sons, not daughters.  We love to cook and bake.

What also drew me to her was her sense of humor.  This allowed me to relax and tell her more about myself.  I explained my hearing loss to her and how it affected me on a daily basis.  In fact, she is the very same friend who was with me during my "Timpanogos Cave" moment.

Several years later, she paid me one of the most interesting compliments.  Looking right at me, she said, "Frieda, you are the best listener I have ever met."  Huh?  Me?  She continued, "Just because you don't have the best hearing, doesn't mean that you don't know how to listen.  I feel that I have your full, undivided attention and that you really care about me."

We can all be that kind of person to someone.  Someone who knows how to listen.  How do I listen?  I stop whatever I'm doing  and make sure that I am facing that person.  Even though I am lip-reading most of the time, I make sure that I look into their eyes from time to time.  A person's eyes will give you valuable information about their true inner emotions.

Interrupting is not the hallmark of a good listener, but sometimes I do it.  I wait for a pause, thinking it is the end of their sentence, and start speaking.  That's an accidental interruption.  Sometimes, I purposely interrupt.  Why?  To check for understanding.  I will often say, "So you are saying....." and repeat what I think I heard.  This confirms to the person talking that I am really trying to listen and understand what they are saying.    Sometimes, I will stop the person mid-sentence and ask them to slow down, look at me, or ahem...finish eating before talking to me, which is usually my kids.  Did you know that we speak at the rate of about 125 words per minute?  I'm sorry, but my brain can't keep up...I'm not only trying to listen, but I'm trying to figure out that one word in the sentence that I missed.  You know, that one word that can change the entire meaning of the sentence?

I ask questions or state back what I think I hear.  Asking questions gives me control of the topic, which I often miss in a group setting, but also shows interest in the speaker.  If someone asks me to meet them at the park at 4:30, I will say, "I'll see you at the Lone Peak Park tomorrow at 4:30."  Then the speaker has an opportunity to correct me if I am wrong.

I am a literal listener.  I have difficulty picking up the little nuances and subtleties in conversation.  Sarcasm is a good example.  My hearing does not allow me to pick up the tone of voice that one uses in sarcasm.  Often, I will ask if they are being serious or not.  "Are you really.....?"

I'm still working on my listening skills.  Sometimes, it's not that simple.  It's easy with friends, but a little more challenging with a spouse, children or parents.  Try it.  It may work a small miracle.

Monday, September 13, 2010


In my last post, I mentioned that I play the piano for the Primary children in my church.  A hearing impaired person playing the piano?  Yes, it's true.

Many years ago, my sister, two years older than me, was taking piano lessons.  I would sit next to her and listen to her practice every day.  I began begging my mom to let me take piano lessons.

"But you're not old enough," my mom would tell me.
"How old do I need to be?"
"Old enough to read."  This was the piano teacher's requirement.

I was only five years old and in kindergarten.  I knew my A, B, C's, but did not know how to read.  I begged and persuaded my mom further, just knowing that I could play the piano...I wanted to learn to play so desperately.

Why was I so desperate?  It was because I had never heard nor paid much attention to music.  My earliest recollection of music was cranking up the volume of a small, battery operated radio and holding it smack dab against my right ear.  I didn't get to listen to it very long, as it was quickly snatched away.  In the middle of my Kindergarten year, I was fitted with hearing aids and music got my attention.

So, when I heard those beautiful notes coming from our black upright piano, I just knew I had to learn to play.  Grudgingly, my sister's piano teacher agreed to give me a try.

I learned to play on this black upright piano

I flew through Schaum's beginner's set of piano books and worked my way through the colors.  Green, red,  then blue.  I started practicing 15 minutes per day and gradually worked my way to 1 hour daily.  I learned to play the classics from Brahms, Beethoven and Chopin.  Recitals were held once per year in which we memorized a piece chosen by our teacher and performed it for all the parents and students.  Scales and chords were required and I dreaded learning them, as I did not see a practical purpose for them.

In the middle of my 7th grade year, I wanted to quit lessons and I did.  In reality, I probably should have switched teachers.  Seven years with one teacher felt like a lifetime.  She did, however, let me choose which Hymns and Primary songs to play, which I am grateful.

For a very short period, I had the goal to become a concert pianist.  I dreamed of playing difficult pieces, with my fingers flying across the keyboard.  I pushed myself, and slowly came to the realization that I had reached my limit potential.  If I played a wrong note, I didn't know.  The only way to know for sure was to look at my hands.

I now play the piano for my own enjoyment.  I can pick and choose any song I want to play.  Playing music that fits my mood.  Playing music to change my mood, uplift me, or for an escape.  I'm grateful that I can hear most of the notes from the piano and for my parents, who recognized a desire to play.

I love playing on my white baby grand!

Can you be deaf and enjoy music?  I'm sure you can.  I recently read an article about Sean Forbes, a deaf musician who helped form D-PAN (Deaf Professional Arts Network), and holds music concerts.  When I was in college and taking ASL (American Sign Language), a Sign/Song competition was regularly held every spring.

Do you enjoy music?  If so, what type of music do you listen to?  Do you play an instrument?  If so, I would love to know!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Reminders and a Pity Party for One

Tonight, I am reminded of my hearing loss.  Sure, I am reminded every morning when I put on my hearing aids, but once they're on, I don't feel any different.  My hearing loss is not a constant, daily reminder; just an occasional one.  I am not an actively social person, especially in large groups, but I force myself to attend such functions.  Why?  To remind myself that I am an adult, human, and a woman who needs such contact from time to time.

In church, I play the piano for the Primary aged children (ages 4-12) every Sunday, so there is no opportunity to "rub shoulders" with the ladies in church and have a social visit. So when our church hosts a social function, such as a dinner, I force myself  to get out and get to know these people that I see every Sunday. The dinner is located under a pavilion outside the church building.  I see neighbors that I haven't seen in ages..  After eating my meal, I notice several ladies sitting at a separate table and decide to join them, an assertive move on my part.

There are five ladies in all, each chatting animately about what was going on in their lives.  Mostly it is about their children.  They are talking about their daughters and even though I have two boys, I try to find something in common to share with them.  One lady comments on how cute my sandals are and I tell her where I got them.  Another gal tells me that a group of ladies  are getting together later, going to the dollar theater to see a movie and invite me to go.  "What time?" I ask.  "8:15"    "I would love to come."  I then overhear the ladies chatting about carpooling together.  I ask who is going to drive and a few of the ladies begin chatting over each other, asking each other how many seats their car will hold.  One gal mentions,  "Oh, we'll come around and pick everybody up." 

I go home, excited about going on a GNO (Girl's Night Out) and getting to know these ladies better.  8:15 came and went.  I go to my neighbor's house two doors down to see if I could get a ride with her.  Her husband answers the door.  I ask if she has left for the movie.  He said that she had left.  Then it dawns on me..."Did the movie start at 8:15?"  "Yes...I'm so sorry," he says.  "Oh, it's no problem."

Really?  No problem?  I rarely go to movies, let alone with a group of people.  It's hard to lip read many of the actors and the background music always interferes with understanding the dialogue.  However, it was nice to be invited and I was looking forward to going.  My face becomes hot and my eyes begin to sting.  I try to fight back the tears as I am walking home.  I walk into my house and throw my purse onto the floor.  My husband asks what was wrong.  I simply tell him that the movie started at 8:15.  

I'm angry.  I'm not angry with the ladies who invited me.  They don't understand my hearing loss.  I'm not angry with myself for not making sure about the details.  I'm not angry with my husband, who is trying quietly to console me.  I'm angry that I cannot hear as well as everybody else.  Sometimes, I wish I didn't have to work so hard to fit in.  I wish I could hear better, enjoy conversations more and be able to relax and enjoy a movie without captions.  Occasionally, like tonight, I am reminded that I am unable to do some things and though I try to fight it, the tears will come.  "It is what it is," I tell myself, "and no one is to blame."  I can't change what happened.  It is a pity party of one, and no one is invited.  I allow myself to have this party and let the emotions come.  I know the party will be short and will come to an eventual end.  

That's the interesting part.  I have this ability to push through my emotions fairly quickly and begin the next day as if nothing had ever happened.  I don't hold grudges or worry about the "could'ves, would'ves, or should'ves."  Talking about my feelings helps, but no one, not my husband or kids, understands how it feels to be hearing impaired.  So, here I am writing about these feelings so I can look at tomorrow as a clean slate; another chance to start over.   

Friday, June 25, 2010


"Give me a head with hair, long beautiful flaxen hair.
Shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen.
Give me down to there hair, shoulder length or longer hair
Here baby, there momma, ev'rywhere daddy, daddy..."

from the muscial, Hair

I have always had long hair.  Shoulder length or longer.    My aunt was a beautician/hair stylist.  My mom explained to my aunt that I was going to have a swimming class as a seventh grader that fall, and suggested that I get my hair cut short.  "It would be so much easier to take care of her hair; and she wouldn't be late for her next class."  I really don't remember being a part of this conversation, but I do remember crying when she was done cutting my hair.

"I look like a boy!" I cried.  She had even used a shaver for the back of my hair.  I have never worried about my hair until this incident.  I have always been able to cover my ears with my long hair.  I remember a boy in my sixth grade elementary school that wore hearing aids.  "He doesn't have a choice to cover his ears," I remember thinking.  "Everyone knows that he is hard of hearing."

A few years ago, I asked my husband if I should cut my hair short.

"No, I like it long," he told me.
"I have to wash it, blow it dry, curl it, and you end up sleeping on it!"
"Well, I have to look at it."


I like having my hair out of my face, so I will usually pull it up into a ponytail.

But I never wear a ponytail in public.

Until now.  I went to Costco, looking like this:

I tell you, it's total freedom!

Monday, May 17, 2010

*Ring* *Ring*

"Mom, the phone's ringing."

(I can't hear the phone ringing or see it anywhere)

Why are you telling me that?  Can't you answer it?

The phone rarely rings at my house, and when it does, it is usually for someone else, not me.  Recently, I am wishing that phones had cords on them.  Remember those?

Those phones would NEVER get lost.
Cordless phones would NEVER run out of battery charge.

My cordless phones have a button that will page the 'lost' phone.  It doesn't do me any good...I can hear the ringing, but wouldn't be able to tell you which direction it's coming from.

I have thought many times about 'ditching' my land line and using my cell phone exclusively.

Think about it...

No telemarketers calling me to take advantage of the energy rebates for attic insulation...

I already did that two summers ago AND got my rebate.

No non-profit groups calling me to ask for donations...

I already have a favorite charity that I regularly donate to.

Nobody calling for one of my kids...

I'm not sure where they are.  Have you tried their cell phone?

No strangers that are trying to pronounce my last name...

If you don't know me, don't call me.

Why do I still have a land line?  For one reason only.  In an emergency.
Two years ago, I was near the LA airport when there was a 6.0 earthquake in a nearby city.  I saw dozens of people looking up at the sky and trying to use their cell phones.   Many of these people were unable to use their cell phones.  When you have hundreds and thousands of people trying to use their cell phones in one location at the same time, the cell phone tower overloads and becomes 'locked up.'

In an emergency, the 911 operators would know my exact location on a land phone line.  Land lines are most likely to be repaired first in the event of a natural disaster.

For now, I have Comcast VOIP basic phone service with a battery backup for $25 per month.  I have thought about using other services, but it is very important that I have a CLEAR connection.

I am still new to Skype, and texting.  What is your favorite way to communicate?

Thursday, May 13, 2010


My husband and I were wandering the aisles of Costco last night.  Did I say wandering?  Ooops.  I meant to say "purposefully walking" down the aisles.  You can't wander in Costco.  It's too dangerous.  You will almost always end up spending more than you wanted.  Have a list.  Be prepared.

Our list was a mental one.





We were passing through the toiletries section (I still don't understand where the word "toiletries" come from), you know, the section with the shampoo, soap, and bathroom stuff are...

 My husband said, "What about toothpaste?"

"I know we have some."


"Under the sink in the bathroom." (this is where I store the extra boxes of toothpaste)

"Under the sink?  That's a strange place to put toothpaste."

"That's where I always put the toothpaste."

Then it dawned on him that I said Toothpaste.  He smiled.  Chuckled.

"I'm talking about toothPICKS..."


He smiled.  He is beginning to understand a little bit of what I am going through.  What I go through on a daily basis.

He doesn't have a hearing loss, but he has tinnitus.  For him, it is a series of clicks and buzzing in his ears that are so loud and bothersome, that it is affecting his ability to hear.  His ability to go to sleep.  He has had his ears and hearing checked, (no hearing loss) has tried a number of over the counter meds that have not worked.  Combine that with the ultra-noisy, echo-y environment of Costco and you've got a winning recipe for a communication mix-up.

I have tinnitus.  It is a high pitch, continual sound that only I can hear.  Late at night, when I take the hearing aids out, I hear it.  It's the most ominous, annoying, distracting sound.  You can plug your ears and still hear it.  When I have complete silence, I think that my brain makes up the ringing sound to make up for the absence of sound.   When I get a hearing test, I will always hear that particular pitch.....if it goes on for more than a few seconds, I know it's the tinnitus, not the test.  When I wear my hearing aids, I usually don't hear it, so wearing hearing aids is a good thing for me.

Do you have tinnitus?  What works for you?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I Am Not Alone

I just met my new neighbor across the street.  They are a couple with two grown children.  I found out that he is an audiologist.  A hard of hearing audiologist.  An audiologist that wears hearing aids.

That got my attention.

I have never heard of a hard of hearing audiologist.  But what better person than one who is hard of hearing to be able to understand what their clients are going through?

He told me that roughly 34 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss.  That doesn't even count those that have NOT been diagnosed.

I decided to search the Internet and see what I could find.  It is difficult to find accurate numbers, as these are self reported.

Nearly 10 million people are hard of hearing and close to 1million are functionally deaf. (Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 2005)

Gallaudet Research Institute estimates that as many as 42 million people have some type of "trouble" with their hearing.

Approximately 1 million people are "functionally deaf."
More than half of this number are over 65 years of age.

About 8 million people are hard of hearing.
More than half of these people are over 65 years of age.

Where does that put me?  In a group of around 4-5 million people that live in the U.S.A.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

What Do I Hear? Timpanogos Cave

One summer, I was outside talking to a neighbor of mine at the corner by her house.  My husband pulled up in the car and rolled down the window.  Quickly, he said,

"I am going to the store for milk and eggs."

"Okaaaay....." I say, scrambling through the "file cabinet" of familiar, similar words in my brain. I quickly re-count the number of syllables I heard, tapping my fingers to each syllable.  By this time, my husband has already driven away.  

This is what I came up with: 

I'm going to Timpanogos Cave.    (a popular place to visit in Utah.)

"He's going to Timpanogos Cave?" I said out loud.

My friend started laughing.  Uncontrollably.

"Huh?"  "What's so funny?" 

After several moments of laughing and trying to catch her breath, she finally said,

"He's... going... to the store... for milk... and eggs......"

Milk and eggs?  How in the world did I get Timpanogos Cave out of that?

I'm glad I can provide some comic relief!

How do I describe my hearing loss?

Have you ever tried to describe a color to someone who is blind?

My hearing loss is in BOTH ears.  My left ear is significantly worse than my right ear.  I have developed the habit of sitting by other people's left sides.  I have "trained" my husband and a few close friends to sit/stand by my right side.

My hearing is better in the higher pitches and louder sounds.  Brakes squealing, whistling, banging of pots and pans, sirens, hurt my ears.  Hard to believe?  It's true.  With hearing aids, I can understand female voices better than male voices.

Hearing aids simply amplify ALL sounds.  I hear the sound of a refrigerator or hum of a fan at the same volume as your voice. I do not have the ability to "tune out" sound.  For example, if you are tapping a pencil or drumming your fingers on a table, I hear it at the same level as I hear your voice.

However, newer digital aids have the ability to reduce background noise.  I have three directional microphones in my digital hearing aids that allow me to hear sounds in front of me, to the side, and behind my kids in the car!  I still have difficulty telling which direction a sound is coming from...If you call my name from across the street, I will SPIN around a full 360ยบ, looking for someone LOOKING at me.

I can only hear/understand certain speech sounds.  /SH/ and some other consonants are non-existent.

What is said          What I hear
Wash                      Watch
Shin                        Chin
Spent                      Pen
Dive                       Die

I can lip read.  When I was young, my older sister and I would silently "mouth" conversations to each other.  It was so much quicker and easier than writing notes.  Plus,  it was PRIVATE.  Lip reading is NOT 100% accurate.  Many words LOOK the same.  Combining hearing aids with lip reading, I can pretty much understand 80%-90% of what is being said.

I think.

Check here at Phonak to listen to demos of what sound is like for people with two different levels of hearing loss. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

My First Pair of Hearing Aids

Before Kindergarten started, I was introduced to my teacher.  I was able to walk around the empty classroom and find my own desk.  Then the teacher showed me a box attached to a set of headphones.  I remembered the headphones from the hearing test and put them on.

The teacher held a microphone to her lips and began talking to me.  I could understand her!  The only time I would use the headphones was during story time.  I don't ever remember her using the microphone during any other time.

During my next visit to the audiologist, it was time to be fitted for ear molds.  A piece of cotton attached to a string was stuck in my right ear.  To this day, I cannot handle the feel of cotton balls....the mere thought of touching them brings prickly goosebumps to my skin.

I sat, with cotton strings from both ears, watching the audiologist mixing something.  I wish I knew what was going on!  He was stirring a goopy pink mix with a wooden popsicle stick.  Very quickly, the pungent smell of new plastic stung my nose.

He took this pink goop and scooped it into a plastic syringe.  I looked closely....I didn't see a needle.  I still had no idea what was going on and my imagination started to run wild.  I looked around the room and found my mom, silently watching.  I didn't see any concern or worry on her face, so I sat still and waited for what was to come next.

He tugged on my ear and began to squeeze the syringe....the soft, cold plastic quickly oozed into my ear, completely shutting out ALL sound.  He gently tapped and pushed on the plastic, making sure it had completely filled my inner and outer ear.

After filling my other ear, I entered into COMPLETE silence.  Wide eyed, I looked at my audiologist.  He held up his hand and gestured for me to "wait."  Wait?  How long?  There was no way to communicate.  It wasn't long before he tugged on the string and pulled the molds out of each ear.  My ears felt like they could finally breathe.  I felt like I could finally breathe.

A few weeks later, my ear molds arrived.  I was ready to be fitted with Behind the Ear (BTE) hearing aids.

It was winter time when I received my new hearing aids.  "I can hear the snow crunch!"  I excitedly told my mom while walking out to the car.  I was introduced to SO many sounds that day.  I asked a lot of questions: "Why is the cat roaring?" (He was purring) "What is that sound?"  "Where is it coming from?"

And so my journey into a new world of sound began....

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Introduction & Diagnosis

My name is Frieda.  I am the third child in a family of four adoptive children.  I was born with a moderate to severe hearing impairment.  I am a wife and a mother of two boys in their teens.

Here is the beginning of my story.

One of my earliest recollections was of listening to a radio.  I was probably about three years old.  I remember holding the small, white pocket radio really close....right up to my ear, listening to music.

 My parents knew that something was different about me.  I  was a curious child, poking in drawers,  and keenly observant about my surroundings.  When I began to talk, my language skills were..... different.  I would say, "fida ator" for refrigerator.  It was a language all my own, a language only my parents could understand.  I am sure my mother patiently repeated the words, enunciating them clearly to me.  But the progress wasn't there.  Basically, I was speaking the words I was hearing.  As a toddler, I was taken to an audiologist for a hearing test, but my mom said I was so uncooperative, the test was never done.

It wasn't until I was about five years of age, getting ready for Kindergarten, that I was taken for another attempt to test my hearing.  The first thing I remember was seeing what looked like a large safe.  As the audiologist slowly opened the door, I remember screaming and crying.  I truly believed that I was going to be "locked" in the safe.....forever.

What was different this time was that my mother was allowed to come with me into the "safe."  The audiologist showed me the pictures on the walls and pointed to the toys on the floor.  He sat down, picked up a pair of headphones, and placed them on his head.  He looked into my eyes and gently placed the headphones on my head and left the room.

But he did not close the door.  I felt better.

I heard a voice through the headphones.  He called me by name and asked if I could hear him.  He then asked me to pick up a particular toy.  Asked me to point to one of the pictures on the wall.  Asked me to pick up another toy.  What a fun game!  This interaction continued until he had enough information for a diagnosis.

 I don't know what term they used in the 70's...perhaps it was "hearing impaired."  At this time, I understand my diagnosis to be "congenital moderate to severe bi-lateral sensory neural hearing loss."  This simply means that my hearing loss is in both ears and I have had this loss since I was born.  Being an adoptive child, there are no medical records or prenatal history that indicate why I have this particular loss.

What is your story?