Thursday 18 October 2012

Deaf Girly's quilt of memories

This week I have a very important to-do list and it goes like this:

  • Watch Grand Designs while drinking a beer
  • Dance around the flat to Flashdance
  • Iron badly
  • Cook inedible boiled potatoes and eat them with lashings of Ketchup and pie
  • Peer through all the windows at dusk of the houses of people who leave their curtains open
  • Cook perfect basmati rice
  • Fall asleep when I should be doing chores
  • Seek out Gilbert & George
  • Play a Fender guitar
  • Cycle through London
  • Speak Spanish
  • Get someone to buy me a weekly travelcard
  • Wander through Soho in the early hours
  • Go drinking in a roof-top bar in Covent Garden
  • Build a houseful of flatpack furniture

You see, when someone leaves your life, they don't just leave behind a gaping hole – although that is the thing that seems to dominate the horizon for a long time afterwards – they leave behind this amazing patchwork of experiences and memories and each person that knew them has their own quilt of them.

This is my quilt. It's well worn and loved. It's treasured and cared for. I feel lucky to have it and be able to share it.

I feel lucky it was ever made at all…

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Deafinitely Girly's available for dates*

This month I am 32.

It seems like yesterday that I turned 30, surrounded by a wonderful selection of my family and friends at my favourite local pub, drinking rum – which makes me fun – and diet coke.

What's odd, is that that night, I thought that perhaps I may be one step closer to growing up a teensy bit. 'This is it,' I thought, as I dressed in shoes so high I couldn't walk and piled on the black eye liner. 'I am now a grown-up.'

And that night, I clearly started as I meant to go on. I was a social whirlwind, chatting to as many people as I possibly could. Introducing people by their blog names, which made a whole lot more sense that their real name. 'Oh, you're Blanco,' SuperCathyFragileMystic declared, while GBman and the Singing Swede met Gym Buddy and her husband.

I had a guy there at my 30th birthday party. A person I had been on one to two dates with, who after MUCH wine one evening I had invited to my 30th. I never expected him to come, but amazingly, he turned up, late, and ignored me for much of the evening.

But in all honesty, I barely noticed as I was accidentally kissing the hot bar manager at the pub who I had fancied since moving to the area one year earlier.

Disgraceful? Heck no, I was just being 30 after all.

The evening moved back to my flat, where I had seven friends staying. I'd like to say my memories are crystal clear, but they're not. And it's not the age that caused that, unless you count how old the rum was that I was knocking back.

Bad DG? Er no, I don't think so. I was just being 30 after all.

At around 2am, the cute bar manager texted me. I shoved my phone in my back pocket and went to my bathroom and sat on the loo.

The next thing that all seven of my guests heard me wailing was, 'My iPhonnnnnnnne!!!!! My iPhoneeeeeeeeeee' as the realisation that it had fallen out of my back pocket and into my toilet dawned on me.

I fished it out in a panic and looked at the waterlogged blank screen. My friends came to the rescue with helpful suggestions that would see me locating my sad and sorry phone on the radiator, which was off, hidden in a boil-in-the-bag rice sachet the next morning.

It never worked again… taking with it the number of the sexy bar manager – who turned out to be 22 incidentally – and a host of treasured 30th birthday text messages. Plus the number of the guy I had been dating, but lets face it wouldn't be seeing again, after my accidental snogging of the bar manager.

In one clear manoeuvre I wiped two men out of my life. And I wasn't really bothered.

But really two years on has anything changed?

I think so. 

The guy I was dating was an utter prat – I don't date prats anymore. I'd rather be single.

The guy I kissed was a complete player – I am DONE with players now. I'd rather be single.

And my iPhone? Well, there's no way on earth I'm peeing on it again this year.

However, if a non-player, non-pratty bloke, who doesn't send me photos of himself with the trifle he made that weekend (DO. NOT. ASK) or talk about his special relationship with his dog before we've even had our first date (EVEN. I. DIDN'T. ASK. ABOUT. THAT. ONE) happens to come into my life, I finally think that I might actually be a little bit happy about this.

So I guess what I'm saying is that Deafinitely Girly is available for dates* (*not with people I've never met, scary stalkers or complete nutters I might add). This year I'm older, wiser and with a clean and shiny – if a little bit retro – iPhone 3GS.

Monday 15 October 2012

Deaf Girly's hearing aid update

So, I have been a hearing aid wearer for almost two whole weeks.

After the euphoria of being able to hear iPhone ringtones died down, it was time to get down to the bare-boned reality of life with my new ears and of course, with the smooth, there has been some rough.

Not least, because I managed to catch the worst cold I've had in quite some time. The kind of cold where your voice drops two octaves and takes on that husky tone that sounds like you've had a 40-a-day fag habit since birth. 

My sinuses were filled to the brim, my eyeballs felt like they were popping out and I had a cough that sounded as though Stomp the musical was being premiered in my lungs.

I wanted a new head. And instead, I had hearing aids that amplified my every single sound. Last Tuesday I could take it no more and yanked those darn things out of ears and onto the desk. Yes, it was quieter, but I no longer sounded like Darth Vader's wife or felt as though I was claustrophobic inside my own head.

You see, the problem with being claustrophobic inside your own head is that there's no escape. You can't step into a bigger head with more space. You're stuck. But taking the hearing aids off did give me some much-needed breathing space.

But don't think I gave up there. No, no, no – I persevered through the headcold hell. Every morning last week, I got up and put my hearing aids on. I travelled to work – sucking on sweets and sipping water to keep my dreadful hacking at bay – and kept them in for as long as I could possibly bear. 

I did well.

By Friday, when I flew to Amsterdam to see Big Bro, I was more snot filled than ever. I got on the plane and informed the cabin staff of my deafness, asking them to let me know about any announcements – even the 'WE'RE GOING TO CRASH' ones and sat down. 

The engines fired up and I ducked as though we were under attack. The lady next to me jumped in panic and so to avoid a mid-air riot of jumpy passengers, I took my hearing aids out. 

It. Was. Bliss.

And what I've realised over the last few weeks is that these aids aren't like my old aids. They don't give me so much amplification that everything sounds horribly quiet when I take them out. They just amplify the right bits. So when those bits get too overwhelming or noisy, I can whip out my aids in record time.

The only downside to this is I am getting through rather a lot of batteries. You see I haven't quite coordinated the turning off thing alongside the taking out thing yet, which is done by opening the battery case.

I should probably do this once they're out and safely in my hand, but by the time I get the urge to take them out, I'm usually in such a flap that I turn them off first, at speed, opening the battery casing and sending the small silver battery flying in whatever direction I propel it in.

Heathrow Terminal 4 has two such batteries in its check-in area now, and the London-Amsterdam flight has one, too – I think that latter actually travelled the length of the cabin all the way to first class.

But on the whole, the hearing aid adventure is going well. They helped me understand my little nephews better and follow Big Bro and his family's conversation – well the English bits anyway – as they chatted around the kitchen table.

And as I'm only a quarter of the way through the getting-used-to-my-new-hearing-aids period, hopefully there'll be better things to come.

Will keep you posted peeps.


Friday 5 October 2012

A very thankful Friday

Today is thankful Friday and whoa, where to start, eh?

Its been a bit of a roller-coaster week if I'm honest with a lot of thinking, a lot of hoping and some crazy dreams thrown into the mix as well.

Perhaps what I am most thankful for is that the way that my new hearing aids have seemlessly blended into my life.

There's none of the panic that I've had in the past of missing my old way of hearing. When I've taken them off at night so far, I haven't freaked out. I've kind of gone 'aaaaahhhhhhh' and settled down for a nice sleep.

I also wake up and find myself grinning at them, sat there on my bedside table and I've got a routine, too – they go in just before I switch off BBC Breakfast news and so far, I have been completely amazed by the difference in sound.

It's quite bonkers!

So I'm thankful for the techy peeps at Phonak. I mean, they've succeeded where no hearing aid maker has ever succeeded before. They've bridged a gap for me I never thought would be bridged. It's not just any old bridge either. It's a melodic, harmonious, bells, pips and whistles bridge.

My mind is blown.

I'm insanely thankful for you lot, too. You know who you are, you marvellous people and there'll be cupcakes for you all...

at my Accidental Wedding… in April. 

Have a great weekend peeps.


Thursday 4 October 2012

Deaf girly gets HEARING AIDS!

I'm writing this blog today wearing hearing aids...

Hearing aids!!!!


I'm pretty surprised if I'm honest that I'm wearing hearing aids, because the whole of my deaf adult life has been about coming to terms with the hearing I don't have, learning to use what I do have and enjoying every little thing as my ears choose to hear it.

And regular readers of Twitter and my blog will know that actually, I've done that very successfully.

However, recently I became frustrated with myself, wondering if I could be doing more when it came to my day job.

I think the reason I got to this point is the same reason I don't blog so much any more – I have an incredibly supportive company.

They do everything possible when it comes to my deafness, while at the same time not making a big deal about it, and I guess they inspired me.

So recently, I went for my first hearing test in more than five years. It showed a death slide shape of an audiogram. One good cross in the lower frequency at about 30 and then a plummet into the land of severe and profound.

My audiologist was amazing. He confidently told me about these new Phonak Nathos hearing aids that move the sounds you don't hear into a frequency you do (called Sound Recover). He confidently told me that he thought it wouldn't affect my recruitment too much -– that sound wouldn't be too unpleasantly loud and make me fall over, which I have always had in the past when trying hearing aids.

He also told me it could be three months' wait, but he would see what he could do.

Gold star to him! I am now in hearing aids in what seems like no time at all.

'Well, you are very deaf and I thought these would help,' he replied graciously when I thanked him yesterday for fast tracking me, and so we set to work.

Now they're not miniature these hearing aids, but they are light. There's no dragging on the ear and they also are barely visible in my blonde hair. Not that I really cared about that yesterday – I was just eager to know about the sound.

When my audiologist switched them on, in the tiny silent room of the audiology clinic, everything became sharper. The shhh, chh, fffff sounds were there in a way they weren't before. I was aware of women chatting outside the closed door, and I could hear the rustle of my jeans when I moved.

'Nothing new here,' I thought, remembering my last foray into the world of hearing aids but I kept schtum and kept smiling, knowing that this was only the beginning, and we continued.

We tuned and tweaked my fancy hearing aids until claps not longer made me wince and my audiologist's voice sounded less tinny. I watched the computer screen as he clicked away and the graph showed the high frequencies migrating into the middle ones and it was hard not to feel excited and intrigued.

And then I left and bought a LOT of sugar from the hospital shop.

On the way to work, I tweeted about how everything sounded so erm... so soundy. The tube rattled and rolled with more clarity than before, I could make out other people chatting across the aisle from me and there was the constant white noise buzz, which will apparently fade over time but is there right now because my brain doesn't know what to do with some of the sound.

I began to feel overwhelmed.

On arrival at work I was greeted by such excitement, joy and enthusiasm from my colleagues that it bolstered me to keep going and remain positive while I marvelled at just how lucky I was to work with such fabulous people.

I was holding it together, and then my boss's phone rang.



I froze, fingers suspended above the keyboard, eyes fixed straight ahead, before catching the eye of my colleague opposite.

'I just heard that phone ring' I whispered to her, as my eyes filled with tears, and we sat there and grinned at each other like loons for a good few minutes.

After work I went climbing with Art Man. As we left the office and went out into the noisy world, I started to feel a bit claustrophobic in my own head and while waiting for the tube, I cracked and took my hearing aids out. But they went back in for climbing and I had so much fun, I forgot I was wearing them. Better still, their light, neat fitting design meant I didn't catch them once with the rope or when reaching for a hold... Something i had don't with my previous aids years ago.

'I can totally do this,' I thought to myself.

On arrival home, I took them out. I waited for the freak out at the difference in sound, but it didn't come. My genius audiologist appeared to have succeeded in giving me clarity without too much extra volume so the world didn't sound that much quieter.

I ate Ryvita for tea (I don't think I will ever get used to doing this with hearing aids in) and then popped them back in and decided to experiment a bit.

I went through the ringtones of my iPhone – without hearing aids I can only hear the 'Strum' ringtone. I played each one, my phone not on full volume or pressed up against my ear, and I could hear them.

It was so strange. It was like the sound was right there. In my ear. And yet my phone was in my hand, which was resting on my lap.

I wanted to dance, shout, scream or hug someone. 

There was sound I'd never heard before... in my ears!!!!!

I didn't stop there, I went through my iTunes library. I tried classical, which sounded more full bodied than before, I tried pop, which sounded good and then I went back to my favourite thing – listening to the iPhone ringtones and I finally allowed myself to get excited.

Maybe, for the first time ever, I'd found some hearing aids that helped me. And if I was noticing stuff after one day, what was it going to be like in 12 weeks when my brain had got used to picking up stuff it hadn't heard in years and the white noise had faded?

Would I be able to hear my flute again? My violin? Would this give me clarity of speech?

In all honesty, it's the last one that I think I'll have to wait for. I think that's the one that is going take the practice... and the 12 weeks.

But for the first time ever in my deaf life, I feel like actually there is something out there that can enhance what I hear. That can help. And because this has made me quite happy – like a child at Christmas listening to iPhone ringtones – I don't seem to be having so much of a crisis about leaving the old deaf me behind.

Because really, she's not being left behind, she's being given a new lease of life. A new, absolutely free, chance to hear the things she's pretended that she doesn't mind not hearing for the last 30 years. Better still, I know that she's still there underneath and at any time, I can go back. Take off the aids. Get used to my old world again, which I do really really not mind at all.

In some ways, I now have two liveable worlds to choose from.

Most importantly however, Deafinitely Girly's not going anywhere. I'm just on a bit of a new journey. In hearing aids. With all my amazing Twitter followers cheering me on, cheering me up, making me laugh and just being generally wonderful. And for that I thank them and my friends in the real world who Facebook-liked every single little thing about my journey yesterday.

But now for the most deal-breaking question of all...

Do my new hearing aids come in pink?!

DeafGirly: How I feel about being deaf at work

It's been a whole year since I posted a blog on here. Life's been happening. And I guess I am no longer 'deaf in the city and ha...