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Explaining partial hearing loss

I have a partial hearing loss.  In my case, I can hear environmental sounds and many sounds of speech.  But the loss of high pitches leads to muffled sounding language as these high pitches contain intricate information that provides specificity and differentiation to sounds so similarly sounding language doesn’t get confused.  It certainly gets lost with my hearing loss, and my hearing aid as well as cochlear implant help to bring back as much sound as possible to make things easier to understand.

When people whisper, it’s difficult to understand them.  I wish more people would take initiative to go into another space if the current space doesn’t allow for normal volume (such is the case at times in an office or library where one must be quiet in certain common areas).  Yes, it can be argued that I should always remind people of this difference, but to be honest I get tired.  I get tired of asking for accommodations.  I get tired of trying to explain my specific hearing loss to people.

During the first day of school, I would always make it a point to attempt to describe how I heard, which was an impossible task, because one cannot understand this unless one has the loss.  I get thrown into the completely non-auditory category instead of valued for utilizing both visual and auditory cues.  I think there’s something special about the way people express language that makes visual and auditory information so interesting and intriguing during a conversation.

One of the main questions I get asked is whether I know ASL (American Sign Language).  I did not happen to grow up in Deaf culture and do not know anything more about the culture than another person who also didn’t immerse themselves in it.  I have not been exposed to ASL and I don’t see this as deprivation but rather as a result of the environment I grew up in.  I have nothing against ASL or the people who use it.  I just wish people would respect my upbringing and not tell me to learn another language when I really don’t have time to spend to do that.

I have so many obligations, as do us all, that it’s not worth learning.  Especially since I do not have friends who sign, I would lose the language and the training would have been for naught.

The automatic categorization is frustrating, and I understand why people do it.  We all are trying to make sense out of things that don’t make sense – myself included.  We were not brought up in a world where disabilities were normal.  We were not brought up in a world where people who identify as LGBT were part of the mainstream.  Thus, all we have are our assumptions as well as the experiences of other people that have perhaps a certain hearing loss – and so we have only that to compare others like me to.  I can tell you that each person with a hearing loss is in a unique situation.

I am oral and I speak English as my first and only language (for the time being!).  I relate the most to people who lost their hearing as an adult, either over time or suddenly.  These people knew a world of full hearing that I did not know, but both them and I know deeply the unforgiving world that exists for people like us who have partial losses and who are living lives that rely on understanding people.

I have continued to utilize tools so I would not be lost in such a world.  But I have an advantage of time and therapy to learn how to navigate the world.  I also have learned that it’s okay to be viewed as an outlier – it’s not you, it’s the people who choose to do that to you.  It’s okay to be vulnerable, and it’s okay to grieve over and over again.  Having therapy as well as developing internal resilience are keys to success.  We can be successful in this world and yes, we will have to work harder than someone who doesn’t have a hearing loss.  But I’ve always known it to be worth it.

Being both gay and hard-of-hearing can be turned into comedy.  I used this in my one-person show.  I have included a clip from years ago.  I hope you enjoy.  The character and script were loosely based on real life and had a lot of imagined scenarios.  I mention my acting career, which is true, I have had that.  But there was plenty added to that that was comedic effect that did not occur in real life.  I wanted to place this disclaimer here so people wouldn’t get worried.  The show was quite an adventure as it was the first time I had done one.  Afterwards, I considered expanding it and touring, but then my practical mindset chose to do what I was passionate about, and that required going back to school.

Anyway, here’s the link to the show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrPY2utejn0

I have to always thank my mentor, Debra De Liso, who directed this show and really helped me both craft the material and also just go for it.  This was a wonderful combination, and we have a mutual trust that makes for the best material.  She started out as my teacher and then we became close friends.  Her website is: http://www.debradelisoartist.com

Please enjoy!

~Patrick Tully

I’m gay and also have a hearing loss?

When I was little, I knew there was something different about me that separated me from the rest of the people I knew.  I wondered what it was.  It was incredibly easy to categorize all these feelings of feeling different into being hard-of-hearing, but my instinct told me otherwise.  There was something else that made me different from mainstream society.

I never dated in school and would see others who did and wonder about how they dated.  There were people who were interested in me, females, but I never was interested back, in a romantic way.  If I was interested, it was as a friend.  I remember thinking about marriage in school and wondering how it worked.  I figured marriage was just like on TV where the husband and wife have a clever banter and sometimes didn’t get along, but usually they did.

I wondered about who I would marry.  It felt as if I needed to make a right decision, even though I was very young.  Now, I can see that the societal pressures to make these sorts of decisions was involved as was my desire to make the right choice and figure out what the choice was without waiting.

At multiple school dances, I would dance with girls I liked as friends or acquaintances.  Even as young as I may be, it was very clear that I was different than the other people in the room who were dancing with their crushes.

There was no guidance given as to how to navigate this strange land.  Fortunately, as I grew up, I began to understand more about heteronormative culture and how gay experiences are often marginalized.  The dominant discourses regarding what is normal in terms of experience frequently don’t include anyone besides straight people.

I am fortunate to have friends from school despite the non-affirming experiences.  There were still people who accepted me regardless of my hearing loss and sexual orientation.  I will forever remain grateful for their pure acceptance.  I think back and am curious as to whether they had questions that they didn’t address with me.  We never really talked about it.  But maybe they just were so accepting that it seemed trivial to question my differences and how that would impact our friendship.  Sure, we might have difficulties now and then with communication, but these friends make the effort to ensure I’m able to hear them.

People who don’t make accommodations seem like a chore are so welcome in my life.  These people know how to adjust without suggesting any inconvenience as they see it as simple and not problematic.  I’m thankful to have a group of people in my life who do this for me.  If you’re reading this, I thank you.

Close-Caption / subtitle LGBT films for hard-of-hearing

This is a plea to please close-caption/English subtitle LGBT films and series (as well as all films and series) for the hard-of-hearing like me.  The problem that filmmakers face is that subtitles can be expensive to implement.  But I have come into contact with several people who have added their own subtitles (with their own software, thus saving money compared to paying a third-party to do this timed-transcription for them and creating the SRT file to be imported into the software – SRT is the most common subtitle format).

When I talked to these filmmakers, the subtitles were often added because these people had people who they knew needed these subtitles in order to understand the content of a movie.  Sometimes it had to do with hearing loss, and other times it was more to do with helping those who know English as a second language to understand the film.

 

Please, if you know of someone who is creating a movie, consider informing them that a lot of the major movie editing platforms now have options to add closed-captions/subtitles to the content.  Sometimes having a transcript will save time.  If there’s a script for the movie, then copy/paste could be utilized, at least for many scenes that have dialogue close enough to the final cut of the movie.  I have worked on films before, both in front of the screen and behind, and I know that the final result is often changed in editing.  But I also know that spending extra time on certain things makes for increased satisfaction and gratification as there is a knowing that a necessary feature was added.  I personally had most of my acting content subtitled so it could be accessible to everyone.  At first, I just had YouTube captioned, and then Vimeo started supporting captioning, so I uploaded the SRT files created for the YouTube videos on my Vimeo videos.

One thing that could save time is adding your movie, perhaps temporarily to YouTube.  YouTube will accept transcriptions you upload and automatically time them for you using their fascinating technology, so you don’t have to spend time adding sync information to the SRT files.  You can also download the automatic captions SRT (most common file for subtitles) file that is created for a movie.  Then, you can edit the automatic captions for accuracy.  This sort of service can definitely save time and money.  Yes, hiring an outside company can potentially be cost-prohibitive, but consider the number of people you would be helping.

And maybe there might be some way to not view the cost as prohibitive, but rather as just another piece of the budget to consider.  Perhaps when fundraising for the film, you could even mention that you would like to add subtitles but that it would cost a certain amount and that the fundraising goal would help get the funding required for the subtitles.  I bet there would be people who would be very happy to donate based on the fact that the film will have subtitles/captions.

There’s even a feature that can be enabled through YouTube that allows the community to add captions to your videos for you.  YouTube doesn’t advertise it very much, and the link to enable it is tiny – but it is located on the captioning page: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/6052538?hl=en

There has been a proliferation of affordable captioning services in recent years.  If your film or series will be online-only, you could consider the YouTube suggestion I placed above, or you could explore the different services that provide subtitles by Googling.  Sometimes, as aforementioned a transcript will make it easier.  Some companies charge less if a transcript is included.

Consider trying to add subtitles yourself.  Be sure to add the option to turn them on on the DVD or Blu-Ray menu!  Yes, the person watching the film or series can turn the subtitles on using the remote, but having the option available through the menu makes it clear the film has subtitles and this also allows for easy activation of such subtitles.

Of course, there really isn’t any menu for online streaming services such as YouTube.  In these cases, the channel video will often display “CC” in the description (separate from the CC button in the YouTube video player).  This means the video will show up in results as having subtitles manually added.  “CC” stands for closed-captions.  Subtitles is just another name for the same type of technology, in this case.  There were older style captions that are still prevalent on many DVDs and cannot be viewed with modern hardware, quite an annoyance, but I won’t get into that here. 🙂

~Patrick Tully

Coming to LA years ago… Partial Hearing Loss

Hello!  Thanks for joining me again for another blog entry.  I hope you find these to be interesting.  I wanted to share my experience when I first came to Los Angeles.

I remember when I first came to Los Angeles.  I went to an acting academy.  I was alone for the first time and had never been on my own in an apartment, with roommates at that time.  There were no dorms and it was recommended to drive a car.  I remember learning about the buses in LA and how even though my apartment was five minutes away, it would take more than an hour to get there if I didn’t drive.  So I drove my car to Los Angeles and started a journey of self-discovery.  I was 19 and hard-of-hearing.  I questioned if people would accept me or not.  I was nervous and anxious.  In my head, I had convinced myself that as time went by at this acting conservatory, my hearing loss would disappear and I would be normal.  There would be no difference.

With my hearing loss, I always felt out of place in society.  I grew up with a partial hearing loss that affects my speech, and there was no rulebook as to how to navigate life with differences.  What’s interesting is even though this hearing loss has been life-long, I have had moments where I appeared to remember easier times before the hearing loss.  This is baffling to me as I have had hearing loss, either ever since birth or shortly after birth.  I have considered why I have such memories, and I think it might have to do with a combination of wishful thinking and also perhaps growing up presented different challenges and perspectives that were new to me compared to when I was younger.

It’s quite interesting how the human mind works.  The grieving process with any sort of difference is similar as we must mourn not being like other people who don’t share the same struggle, and then we learn to accept.  However, as I’ve grown up, I’ve seen how similar we are in sharing life experiences that are not all rosy or black-and-white.  Our perspectives shift with these experiences.  One thing I will say is that when I have talked to my friends as they share their vulnerabilities, I feel an organic connection.  I’m able to relate with my difference.  Even though our experiences are different, we can support each other.

Gay Affirmative Therapy

I have continually been in personal psychotherapy because I find it to be useful as I navigate the world with a hearing loss as well as being gay.  I am so curious and interested in making new discoveries that will create new insight.

I had an excellent LGBT-Affirmative psychotherapist who worked primarily from the lens of narrative therapy.  She was very accepting and in line with narrative, allowed for me to share my experience in my way that was not limited by anxiety about having differences.  I was able to reclaim my power and be myself.

The therapist held a secure space and we worked collaboratively.  I was so happy to be able to openly share things without being boxed in by psychotherapeutic lingo.  That being said, interpretations and lingo are also incredibly helpful.  But this experience was what I needed at that particular time as I felt there were a lot of “shoulds” that I needed to follow, and I wasn’t sure which path to take.

Every week, I would come in and be greeted by this affirming presence.  My being gay wasn’t merely tolerated, rather it was affirmed as my own experience and it wasn’t viewed as a negative difference.  Therapists need to be aware that when they merely tolerate differences, it can have the paradox effect of making the person feel ashamed or shamed.  The reason is that when sexual orientation and the struggles that come with not being straight aren’t acknowledged, then the person is left wondering what the therapist thinks.  Validation can be so important and it took time but I found a therapist that validated the unique experiences of being gay.

All theoretical orientations have been useful to me.  They each have pros and cons.  It was so clear how in our work together the space and safety made for a match that improved my understanding of myself and led me to greater acceptance as a gay man.

~Patrick Tully