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, 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!