18 Terrible misconceptions and mistakes you should never make when dealing with the deaf and hard of hearing

Fact: I used to be almost completely deaf in one ear. I am now hard of hearing. In other words, I don’t hear well. That makes it very, very hard to communicate with people. And makes you really self-conscious. Especially when you have to wear a box on your hip and a loop around your neck so your hearing aid can pick up what your teacher is saying, and your teacher has to go around wearing a microphone everywhere. Over the years, I’ve come across several things that really, really irk me, and for the longest time, I thought they were just me things, but I’ve come to realize that in almost every single case, these things are largely byproducts of being almost completely deaf from a young age (read: before I even learned to talk).

  1. Don’t raise your voice to talk. It doesn’t make you any easier to understand, and if the person you’re talking to reads lips, actually makes it harder.
  2. Lip reading isn’t perfect. At best it’s maybe 30% accurate. No, I can’t magically understand everything you’re saying from the other side of the room with absolutely no context. It doesn’t make you a super-spy. It just helps you understand what’s already going on in a conversation.
  3. Communication is a two-way road. Whether or not you realize it, I’m trying really hard to understand what you’re saying. Please try to make some effort in return. It’s appreciated.
  4. Many deaf people (myself included in this list from time to time) will simply make assumptions about what the conversation was about, or what was said, and try to react appropriately, which can sometimes lead to very awkward situations, such as the oh-so-common “What’s up?” “Good, you?” Which gets odd looks, at the very least.
  5. If a deaf person has gone out of their way to ask you to repeat something, don’t say it doesn’t matter or is unimportant. If you took the time to say it, and they took the time to ask you to repeat it, it is important. Often this can be inferred to mean “You’re not important enough for me to waste my time repeating myself”, or simply choosing to exclude that person from your conversation.
  6. If after a few attempts repeating yourself results unsuccessful, rephrase what you said. maybe it’s just the way you were saying it that I was unable to understand.
  7. Deaf people are very self-conscious, and are just like anyone else. Don’t treat a deaf person as mentally handicapped just because they don’t hear well, and, as a consequence, may not speak well. It’s extremely rude. Hearing loss is not intelligence loss.
  8. Don’t cover your mouth when talking to a deaf person. If I can’t see your mouth it’s much harder to know what you’re saying.
  9. For those with one-sided deafness, it can be nearly impossible to tell where a sound is coming from in large, open spaces. Rather than just yell, “I’m over here!”, tell the person where you are. (This is a big one for me.)
  10. Deaf people aren’t always shy! We just don’t always know how to communicate with other people. I, for one, have a very hard time communicating in English, because of the way American culture is. However, speaking Spanish is fairly easy for me, as the culture is similar to deaf culture – being blunt is acceptable, for one, and they aren’t so big on the personal bubble thing.
  11. If I lean over awkwardly and ask you to repeat something, it’s because I’m putting my right (good) ear closer to you so that I can understand what you’re saying. This goes with the personal bubble thing. Don’t get offended. I’m just trying to understand you.
  12. If you notice me staring at your mouth instead of looking you in the eye, again, it’s not to be awkward. I’m just trying to understand.
  13. Don’t try to figure out how well I can hear by pretending to whisper and just mouthing words. For example, mouthing “watermelon” over and over again doesn’t look like anything but you saying watermelon. I know how well I can hear, and what I can and can’t hear. Frankly, it’s rude and annoying.
  14. Deaf people are also prone to be distrusting, which comes with being manipulated by the hearing world. Let me give a personal example: I am very choosy as to who I let be my friends and actually know me, as I’m fairly used to being ridiculed, insulted, and mocked. As a kid I had my hearing aid stolen from me several times by school bullies.
  15. Get a deaf person’s attention before you start talking to them. Rule of thumb for me: if I’m not looking at you, I won’t catch anything you say up until four or five words after I start looking at you, especially if I’m lost in thought or absorbed in work. It has nothing to do with “being a space job” or not paying attention. Tap them on the shoulder lightly or wave your hand in their line of sight. Stomping may work if the floor conducts well, but don’t just shout.
  16. Being in loud environments is taxing. Deaf people have to work a lot harder to understand what people are saying in these environments. For example, I get nasty headaches if I’m standing next to a set of PA speakers at a dance and trying to hold a conversation with someone.
  17. For people with one-sided hearing, it’s extremely hard to sort out different sounds. For example, I can usually only understand and focus on the loudest sound I’m currently hearing. To do anything else is extremely tedious. (Compare it to trying to find a very dim star by staring right at it. Your eyes are better at seeing dim things when they’re not looking directly at it, so if you try to look right at a dim star, it may seem to disappear, and as soon as you look away, it reappears. Try it! It gives a good idea of how I feel trying to hear you, and is a pretty cool little biology factoid.)
  18. If I have headphones in, your only hope of getting my attention is tapping me or waving in my line of sight. I turn on music and turn the volume up high enough to block out external noises so I can have a quiet and predictable space to focus on. Like I said before, I focus on the loudest thing.
That’s more or less it. I’ll write more as I think of it.

A Lot to Catch Up On, Part 1: Android Apps and Music Production

So I’ll be the first to admit I’ve been incredibly lazy in writing. I have a lot of ideas to write about, and frankly, I don’t have them all organized super well.

First and foremost, I’d like to give a review of some totally awesome Android apps I’ve found in the market. I’m big on productivity and such, so you can bet how incredibly thrilled I was to discover when I got home that my phone was literally my new best friend, not because I would be talking to lots of people (I used to be really phone-phobic, but not so much after two years of calling people and talking to them in another language!), but because it would help me keep track of everything I wanted to!

Since I haven’t talked about music in forever and a day, I’m going to spend some time to introduce you to my favorite music apps in the market. There is an AWESOME potential here that is definitely untapped as of yet.

  • http://chordbot.com/ is the developer of the chordbot app. This thing is super handy, even in the free version! It basically is an automatic accompaniment that you can set to perform various chord progressions (and it’s got lots of options, mind you), and then pick a comping style to play them in, and then hear how they sound! This is great for songwriting, especially if you’re on the go and don’t have an instrument with you.
  • FingerPlayMIDI is another great app that can be found at <http://thesundancekid.net/blog/fingerplay-midi/>. This thing literally lets you turn your phone into a MIDI controller for use with various audio production workstations (DAWs) like ProTools, Ableton, Reaper, and a whole slew of others. I haven’t gotten much into using it, but the capability is there, and frankly, I’m excited to get it working well.
  • A similar app is called TouchDAW, can be found at  http://www.humatic.de/htools/touchdaw/. I know, I know, I’m throwing in tons of links and info, but this stuff is really cool! Honestly, who ever dreamed of the capabilities a phone would have ten years ago? I was stuck fascinated with my totally hardcore Gameboy Color and Pokemon. TouchDAW is similar to FingerPlay, but has a much more developed interface – which unfortunately, to get the best of it, you do have to pay. But it’s definitely worth it. In fact, it’s made me want to save up to get a tablet…just to use it as a dedicated MIDI controller and mixing board for my computer.
  • Also available is Wireless Mixer, which is exactly what it says it is: a handy app that lets you work on mixing projects wirelessly (apparently that isn’t a word…yet).
  • Heck, there’s even a free four track recorder you can download. You can literally write your music wherever you are! I haven’t got the pro version yet, but to be completely honest, the free version is all I’ve needed so far.
So there you have it: the results of my personal crusade for the best apps in the Android market for music production. Granted there are some bugs to work out in a few of them, and maybe advertisements and cripples in the software can be a pain, but stop and think about what this all implies: this is literally a revolution in the music production industry. Especially more so since the Android market is open for anyone to use, and most of the programming is done in Java, one of the easiest languages to learn.

Proper Spanish Pronunciation: Boys Speak in Rhythm

So you know the special section at the end of foreign language dictionaries with the pronunciation guide? One huge lesson that I learned in Chile is that those parts of dictionaries lie. Horribly. So I wrote up my own personal Spanish pronunciation guide that helped me get the pronunciation down.

Spanish Pronunciation: why do I care?

It’s easy to get along doing the bare minimum, speaking Spanish, but doing so with English pronunciation. Unfortunately, if you’re hoping to be taken seriously by anyone who is a native Spanish speaker – which is a large part of the American continent – that’s not going to fly. The following guide, snark, random references, and all, is taken almost directly from my personal study of Spanish pronunciation.

How to pronounce the vowels (and not sound like the gringo you are)

  • a – spoken as in father and ah
  • e – eh? and aim (without the i sound)
  • i – eat, evil! (like Mermaidman says it!)
  • o – oh, zero
  • u – ooh, rude
  • y – see ‘i’
Some important notes: all vowels are pronounced, except for when ‘u’ is in gue, gui, and qui – then the u is silent.

The consonants: make yourself understood

  • b – normally pronounced just as in English. However, when it’s between vowels, it’s like the English ‘v’ except that instead of using of using one lip, both are used. The pronunciation rules for b and v are the same.
  • c – before a,o, and u, it’s a hard sound like English ‘k’, and before ‘e’ and ‘i’ it’s soft, like in cent.
  • d – in English, you normally place your tongue on the ridge behind your your upper teeth to make this sound, without touching the teeth. For Spanish, place the tip of your tongue to the back of your teeth to make the first sound d makes in Spanish. When d is between vowels or at the end of a word, pronounce it like the th in thy.
  • f – Same as in English
  • g – normal pronunciation before a, o, and u, a hard pronunciation as in God. Before e and i, soft, just like the Spanish j.
  • h – makes no sound in Spanish.
  • j – You know how your Spanish teacher told you it’s pronounced like h in English? Well that’s a lie. It’s not. Put your tongue in the position to make a g or k sound in English. Now breathe out and let air escape between your tongue and the roof of your mouth. That rasping sound you hear is the Spanish j.
  • k – almost never used in Spanish unless borrowed from another word like kilogramo or kilometro.
  • l – Similar to English. Instead of touching the front part of the tongue to the roof of your mouth, touch just the tip of your tongue.
  • ll – unless you’re in Argentina, this is just like the English y.
  • m – as in English
  • n – as in English
  • p – as in English, but less forced. Put your hand a few inches from your mouth and feel how the air hits it. Spanish has a softer p sound.
  • q – almost always paired with a u, the qu pair is pronounced as an English k.
  • r – NOT LIKE ENGLISH! The tongue taps the place where an English speaker makes the t or d sound.
  • rr – This sound doesn’t exist in English, which is probably why it’s so hard to pronounce. I honestly thought I would never be able to pronounce it, but with patience and time I now can. Trill the regular r, imitating a car engine or machine gun.
  • s – same as in English.
  • t – not like English. See first pronunciation of d for tongue placement.
  • v – see rules for b.
  • w – this really doesn’t exist in English, except in slang. Used just as in English.
  • x – just like in English, but pay attention. Some words spelled with s pronounce it as an s. In Mexico, it’s often pronounced as a j. I haven’t found a hard-cut rule on pronunciation.
  • y – typically, just like i in Spanish. In some placements it’s like the English j – conyuge, Yarenya
  • z – pronounced as a soft c.
So that’s about it! I’ll try to post updates on here from time to time with other tricks and tidbits on languages and such. In the meantime, this site is an incredible resource from a fellow native English-speaker who’s developed fluency in several different languages. I love his blog.