Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Having no money and three months of summer to spend in the house with three adolescent kids can equal quite a bit of frustration and boredom. Oh, I’ve done my share of  drolling out chores or taking them to the park, but the park gets old after a while and chores, well, let’s just say that doesn’t exactly make the complaining stop.  Luckily, we were blessed with a little spending money the other day, so Kenny and I decided to take the family on an outing to the local roller skating rink.

I used to roller skate all the time as a kid. I was hell on wheels. Skating around my neighborhood, up and down the parking lots (we lived across the street from an elementary school) and around the playgrounds, I could really get my groove thing on. I was hot. Then I grew up. Or rather, I grew old. I tried roller skating again a year ago and fell flat on my face—which is unusual since most people actually fall on their butt. So, this time around, I brought my Nook to read while the others got their groove thing on and I decided I’d just observe.

That place was loud! How do I know? Well, when you can feel pounding in your chest from outside in the lobby, you know you’re in for a treat to your eardrums. I needn’t worry about that though, right? I just found myself a seat and preceded to enjoy feeling my entire body vibrate to rap songs for the bulk of the evening.

After getting everyone situated, they all took off to have some fun. Two of my kids made their way to the beginner’s circle and sat there. They were too intimidated by all the people—scared it would turn into some sort of roller derby on wood. They saw that I was looking at them, so they started talking to me.

”There’s too many people here,” my daughter, Natalie, signed to me.

“Just stay close to the outside and you’ll be fine,” I signed back.

Next, my son chimed in: “Look at me! I can skate on one foot! AHHH!” He fell with a smack onto the floor. But he was still proud.

After making sure he wasn’t dying or didn’t have a concussion, I turned my attention to Kenny and the oldest, Mollie. They were getting down, going around the rink at lightning speed. I tried to talk with them. They tried to watch me…until they ran into the person on their side and knocked them down. Then it DID become a roller derby of sorts. But still—we had our “secret language!” I could communicate with any one of them from where I sat (safely)—something other moms and onlookers couldn’t do.

Sure, it caused accidents and broken limbs and lots of dirty looks. But don’t all good things? The point is, I like my language. I can use it anywhere. And, most of the time, the results are very promising and good. OK. Maybe once in a while its use results in a trip to the ER. Geez. Judge much? It’s a good thing (Not the ER—the signing). I like it. And at the roller rink I got to witness it in full motion.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Being invited to a party isn’t something that regularly occurs for me. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m kind of reclusive and keep most of my socializing at home. People don’t know my face as well as they know my name from Deaf Expressions and such. But I was invited to a party with Kenny and I was a little reluctant. I mean, I would be the only deaf person there. Sure, Kenny would be there and he always happily interprets for me, but this party was to have a bunch of his friends and I didn’t want to make him interpret the entire time. Hence, I knew that there would be times when I would be on my own.

Prepared with a pen and notebook to write to people when necessary, I bundled up the nerve to get out of the car and approach the house with Kenny that night. It was a beautiful house. Small, but very nice and I knew the people who lived there, the people having the party, were nice, too. Kathy and Jack had socialized with Kenny and me a few times. Well, not Jack. He always seemed to have somewhere else to be. But Kathy tried to have conversations when she dropped off her kid to play with my kid or I saw her at school. Mostly it was just a wave of the hand though.

Being at the party was pretty cool. I like dancing. No, there wasn’t actual dancing, but I got to see a move that I think teenagers would get a kick out of and maybe make into the new fad thing to do on the dance floor.

Just like any other party, Kenny and I would approach people and they would smile and we would smile and they would speak and Kenny would interpret to me what they said and they would begin bowing. Yes, that’s right: Bowing. But before the bowing, this huge smile would come on their faces. Much like the Joker in Batman. Their eyes would widen like a deer in the headlights, too. Now, put this huge smile and these bug eyes together and you get something not unlike what you would see in a horror film right before this smiling person stabbed you to death. Kind of a Chucky the Doll sort of thing.

But smiling and opening your eyes so wide they almost fall out of their head wasn’t enough. I could tell that, as soon as they realized there was a deafie in their midst, they needed the conversation to be over as soon as possible. This is when the bowing would begin. It happened the same way every single time: They would say something very short. Next, they’d watch Kenny interpret it. Then they’d watch me for my reaction. Finally they’d start nodding and bowing. Ta-da! They’d appear to say! Mission accomplished! I communicated with the Deaf chick! I am a saint! IT IS FINISHED! Then they’d start to slowly back away (bowing as they backed up, of course) until they bumped into someone else. Having to apologize (but of course—that’s the right thing to do), they’d turn to that other person, start a conversation, and that would be the end of it. Goodbye.

After a few of these encounters, I assured Kenny it was fine for him to go chat with some old friends and I found myself a comfy chair and huge alcoholic beverage and proceeded to sit there, doodling in my notebook. Every now and then someone would come up to me and start to talk. I would give them my biggest smile, letting them know I was Deaf, but had pen and paper to write on if we needed it, and watch them slowly bow away. It got to be so much that I felt like royalty. All I needed was a purple sash and one of those Princess rings you can get on QVC for only $29.95.

The party wasn’t a complete waste of time. Not at all. I’m glad we went. Kenny got to chat up some old friends and it looked like he had a blast. And I got to practice my doodling skills while imagining I was married to Prince Kenny and living in the Royal Shack. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012


How Smoking and Nutrition Affect Your Hearing

Hearing is one of the five basic senses that perceive and interpret the world around us. When there is something physically or neurologically wrong with the way the brain receives sensory information, it can affect your behavior, reactions and quality of life. The choices you make can affect your hearing. When you choose to stay in an environment that hurts your ears or when you pick unhealthy habits such as smoking, you can make your current hearing issues worse.

Role that Smoking Plays in Hearing Loss

Many people believe that hearing loss is a normal part of the aging process, but recent research that was performed on teenagers exposed to secondhand smoke at home showed they were more likely to have sensorineural hearing loss than those who hadn’t. . Sensorineural hearing loss is a problem with the inner ear that occurs if the hair follicle receives an injury or dies. This type of hearing loss is common in seniors and cannot be reversed.

These teenagers had problems with every sound frequency tested but particularly the mid-to-high frequency ranges that are essential for understanding what you hear. Those with the greatest exposure to cigarette smoke had low frequency losses as well. Smoke restricts the blood vessels and results in less blood flow to the ears, but additional research performed on animals also showed there are nicotine receptors in the hair follicles. If smoke binds to those receptors, it creates a toxic situation that can destroy the hair follicle and cause hearing loss and other problems.

Role of Nutrition

While smoking or being exposed to second hand smoke can contribute to your need for a  hearing aid, , research has also looked at the role that nutrition plays. Hearing loss coincides with low levels of calcium and low bone density. Other studies have looked into B-12 deficiency and inadequate levels of folate. B-12 affects the neurological and vascular systems connected to hearing. When B-12 and folate are low, homocysteine is high. That can interfere with circulation and damage the nerves in the inner ear.

What You Can Do

Aging and loud noises certainly play into hearing loss, but you are not helpless to make a difference. Incorporating healthy living into your life can reverse middle ear tendencies to retain fluid and stop further deterioration of your inner ear. If you currently smoke, consider entering a program that can help you to stop. If you’ve living a sedentary lifestyle, search out ways to become more active. Daily exercise will help to increase bone density and help the body hang onto more calcium.

Studying nutritional principles and changing your dietary habits can also help. B-12 is found in dairy products, and folate comes in dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach. As research into hearing loss continues to unfold, it’s becoming more obvious that many of the problems associated with aging are not actually connected to aging at all. When you take the steps to avoid toxins and boost nutrition and
exercise today, you can avoid further hearing problems tomorrow.

John O'Connor is a father, husband, lover of sports and the outdoors and new found blogger.  He is passionate about healthy aging and living a healthy lifestyle especially in terms of hearing loss.  He feels hearing loss is a major problem and that it is important to spread awareness due to the lack of understand around the issue.