Synthetic Sound Distortions, The Audiologist, Reflections and Ongoing Assessments

I’m a fan of all of the audiologists that I have had in my lifetime thus far. I have had several, more than 7 different individuals and a few small group practices. They have all been wonderful people, and still are. Always kind, supportive and there for me at any and every time I needed them. They regularly tested me and informed me about my severe nerve deteriorating hearing loss. They discussed the inevitable future of my specific spectrum and hearing aid technology. Along with the regular check-up visits and regular break-down of the devices (which with-out fail is several times per year) I was integrated into the “hearing aid industry” early on in life. Like many other people with a similar degree of sever degenerative hearing loss I became completely co-dependent on hearing aids. Both emotionally and psychologically. I know that this is not the intention of audiologists. I believe that they want to help and do what they can for each individual case. I do have to say, and I have been deeply working on this for many years now. It took many years of committed self-reflection to understand my experiences and how this all works for me. Everyone’s journey is unique. I’m Deaf, and without hearing aids I do not hear at all. With hearing aids, for the time being, I can still hear about 50% of what is being said or communicated to me with synthetic sound, but only depending on the circumstances of where I am. The physical space and location will always play a huge role. Lip reading works to a very small degree when I am not one on one with someone, especially placed into a busy environment. This is my reality. I’m quite at home and also very used to it. I’m writing this to help clarify things for myself, as well as educate and bring awareness to my existing relationships both long term and new. This of course includes family, friends, colleagues, students and the world at large.

In my previous posts and passages on this topic I mentioned my rebellious behavior towards hearing aids and having to wear them at first. Aside from the many years it took to adjust to integrating them into my life, I always felt most myself when I was not wearing them, regardless of what I was not hearing. I understand why now, as that is my natural organic state of being physical. Of course, I overcompensated and struggled, and created my own visual languages by reading the rapport and behavioral patterns of people and how things “worked” in my world. I’m was obviously never alone as many others have similar degrees of sever degenerative hearing loss. As I write this, I can easily reactivate all of those physical and emotional memories. They are like index cards that can be pulled out of an old fashion card catalog from the library. These feelings are my greatest teachers. Without them, I couldn’t be writing this and making these changes in my life.

My journey is not an uncommon one. I was somehow able to fly under the radar and attend mainstream schools for my whole education. By the time I could no longer function without hearing aids they became the hardcore solution to the long-term issue of struggling and missing so much in all forms of communication at the time. As difficult as it was to integrate them into my world, and the years of wearing them and not wearing them, and wearing them again and not wearing them again… It didn’t make sense to me at the time, but as I dig into the psychology of my development, I find it very strange that not one of my audiologists ever suggested learning sign language and getting involved in Deaf culture. Why? Here lies the sad scam of the hearing aid industry itself. Aside from the terribly inflated prices, lack of health insurance coverage, constant breaking down of the devices, and lack of on-site technicians (except the amazing Dr. Bob at L.I Hearing in NY.)

PSA – if your hearing aids stops working it has to be shipped back to the company, assessed, repaired, and shipped back to the audiologist, equaling 5-10 business days…

Of course, I can’t change my past, but it’s hard not to wonder, what if sign language was introduced and promoted at the same time when my hearing aids were administered? This would have been a better solution and integration into the assimilation of the devices. This would not install the emotional co-dependence and immobilization one feels when the devices so systematically and surely break down. Are audiologists more proactive in teaching and advocating for ASL today? Are you learning ASL and sign language while adjusting to wearing hearing aids or cochlear implants? Why aren’t audiologists fluent in ASL, and how to advise their patients? Like I said, all of the audiologists in my life have been and are wonderful human beings. I know that timing has a bit to do with this. My diagnosis was back in the early 1980’s. Pre-Internet, pre-access to instant information, blah blah blah..

The question is, what does one do about it now? What do the adults in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s do as their degenerative hearing loss continues to degenerate? In my case, there is almost nothing left to amplify and wearing the devices in most places and spaces cause increased sensitivity and cognitive fatigue. It’s too hard to be perpetually trying to make sense of amplified cross firing sounds and distortion. It’s so much easier to not wear them as the nerves diminish. The solution to this is taking responsibility for one’s self. This is not a platform to blame everyone from my past for not knowing better or for acting out of some kind of ulterior motive. I believe that people are inherently good, and that there is a deeper meaning to why we have the past that we all have. It is the contrast and metric that propels us into action. Either way, we always get to be right. And we get to stay right where we are if we don’t take responsibility to change our reality. I’m learning ASL through private one on one instruction and have been studying it consistently and with commitment. I’m meeting more and more Deaf and Hard of Hearing people (both online and offline). I’m integrating my experiences into my work as an artist and into my classroom as an educator in public institutions of higher learning.

I’m becoming an activist and advocate because I always have been, I just didn’t know it until,

I took a deeper look at myself.


(This post is an extension of my current exhibition)