Life’s curving path affords chance to learn

Day by Day:
Life’s curving path affords chance to learn

June 5, 2017

By Liz Thompson
This Week News

In 1969, I graduated from high school, like so many students did last month.

My granddaughter was one such graduate; she was home-schooled. That decision came about mostly because her father was in the military and moving was inevitable. The admiration I have for my daughter — my granddaughter’s teacher — runs deep.

All my grandchildren are musical and have their own band, with friends included. My granddaughter plans to study music and become a teacher. She already has young piano students.

Academic and music scholarships found her because of her hard work and God-given talent.

Choices were different for young women when I graduated. Typically, but not exclusively, if a girl went to college, she would choose nursing, teaching, social work or secretarial studies — all important professions.

Memories of my graduation day are few, but I recall feeling undeserving of the honor.

I was in a different place, by the time I was a senior, from where my granddaughter is today. My grade-point average was embarrassingly low — in part, I’m certain now, due to the hearing loss that kept me struggling to know what was going on.

Had it not been for music and drama, I likely would have failed.

The love of music was in my heart with every note I sang. Even with my hearing loss, I was active in church and school choirs and musicals. I went to the only state college that accepted me and chose music as my major — because people assumed that’s what I would study.

I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.

My second year, I switched to special education, with music as my minor.

But I never graduated from college. Out of necessity, I worked as a secretary at many levels of responsibility until my hearing loss prevented me from fully doing the job.

I became an unwitting advocate for myself and others. Thanks to a newspaper editor who believed in me, I became a deaf reporter.

A cochlear implant in 2002 made me a hearing person again. Words are clear, though the complexities of music are lost. Along the way, I learned tenacity, sign language, a healthful stubbornness, computer and writing skills and patience — for myself and others.

At 51, the Ohio University Experiential Learning Program allowed me to equate my life experience to more than 50 college credits, making me a college senior.

My last job as a teacher’s assistant for children with disabilities was a favorite because when you teach, you learn.

I learned that children with Down syndrome love to hug, and I had to brace myself and move them off to the side to be appropriate. These children show unconditional love — something they can teach all of us.

One child couldn’t speak, so I was her sign-language teacher. We hugged more than one palm tree (we were in Arizona) using her tactile skills.

Another child had muscular dystrophy. When it came time for a fire drill, I’d say to him, “Let’s hobble out to the field together!” My multiple sclerosis was beginning to slow me down enough to appreciate his struggles.

One boy had hearing loss but wanted to ignore it, or at least not talk about it. I’ve met adults with the same attitude.

My plans to be a music teacher failed, but I will cheer my granddaughter on as she pursues the same goal with a stronger foundation and more talent than I had. My grandchildren will carry on the music that I lost.

The best-laid plans often fail. Looking back, I see unexpected twists and turns in my path through life and obstacles I’ve overcome, with God’s help.

I didn’t finish college, but I never stopped learning. I’m still at it.

Day by day, figuring out how to build a bridge over obstacles to get to our goal and greeting the changes with open arms is worth the effort.

Hugging palm trees is optional.

 

 

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I am only one…

“I am only one, but I am one. I can’t do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” Edward Everett Hale, American Clergyman and writer 1822-1909

This quote was in a memorial service program of a woman I grew up around the corner from in Westerville in the 50s and 60s.

I read about a woman who was employed in her adult life as a housekeeper in the White House. Each day she cleaned the Oval Office, she knelt and prayed for the president.

A small thing? Time wise, yes, but powerful .

One person, one prayer, something each of us can do. Maybe not in school any longer, but silent prayers are heard as well.

We all need kindness. Often the simplest act can make our day and these are typically done by one person. Someone opens the door for us, and smiles. A neighbor leans over the fence with a bag of red tomatoes (and probably zucchini!) from their garden. Somebody walking down the street replaces windblown garbage can lids. A friend calls to say hello. We receive a letter from our grandchild.

It doesn’t take much to make a person’s day a little brighter.

I always believed God let me become deaf for a reason. He allowed my two cochlear implants to restore my ability to hear clearly for that same reason: To enable me to listen and show His love one person at a time.

Reading the quote above, I know I can’t do everything – and don’t really want to – but it’s not all about me. No matter how small, or seemingly insignificant, I believe God is the orchestrator and someday it will all make sense.

Meanwhile, during these turbulent times in our country, each of us can do something. One day we will learn how the dots are connected and see the whole picture.

Music unlocks many emotions

Day by day
Music unlocks many emotions
By LIZ THOMPSON
ThisWeekNews.com
Tuesday October 7, 2014

When I was invited to a hymn sing at an assisted living home, I asked, “What hymns are you singing?” and was thrilled with the answer.

The list included what I call old, familiar songs such as Amazing Grace, When We All Get to Heaven, Love Lifted Me and a childhood favorite, This Little Light of Mine.

I was also glad I would be sitting with the residents and not leading the singing. My singing voice went south in my mid-40s when I was almost deaf, a condition that happened gradually since childhood.

Music and singing was my fervent hobby, and I often led singing at such places while playing my guitar. I had missed it and realized this particular day that, in part, I had been missing the contact with people who love visitors and music.

After two successful cochlear implants, I had hoped for restoration of my ability to grasp music, but it didn’t quite happen as I hoped.

I can understand most vocalists’ words — if they actually enunciate and sing, not what appears to be screaming into a microphone — but new music melodies are like a foreign language and quite flat.

Am I sad about that? At first I was, but my restored ability to understand speech and sounds with clarity superseded any sadness. Going from deaf to understanding about 95 percent is nothing to sniff at and I’m thankful beyond measure.

Back to music.

To my joy, 40-plus years of music are stored in my brain, and heart I believe, as music memory. If I see the words and get the first note of a song, or have the music to read, I get it and can sing.

My voice is no longer one for performing but I don’t mind singing at home or in groups. When my grandchildren were small, nothing stopped me from singing to them as I know I was sung to by my mother and grandmothers.

I can still hear the beat so my foot taps, hands clap and my soul is soothed.

Remember the show Name That Tune? Often I knew the tunes in two to five notes. So you can understand my music memory is full of good songs such as hymns, music from the 1930s (thanks to my parents) through the early 1990s that includes folk songs, show tunes, camp songs, pop, big band, songs I composed and more.
It’s a true blessing and I’m glad my brain has a lot of good information stored for easy access when needed. I don’t even need to select an app to get at it. I only need to think of a song or hear a familiar tune.

After my recent column on memory, a reader, Dana, told me about a movie that was, at the time, showing at the Drexel Theatre called, Alive Inside: The Story of Music and Memory .

To my chagrin, I didn’t move fast enough to attend and it has moved on to another city. Looking on the website, musicandmemory.org, I learned that music has proven to reach people with Alzheimer’s.

Not a surprise. Many memories are locked inside all of us and we need something to turn the key. In the case of music, it often unlocks memories and emotions for me.

When at the hymn sing, a woman in her 90s held up her forefinger and waved it back and forth when we sang This Little Light of Mine. I joined her in the motion and smiled remembering doing that as a child and when I taught my children the song.

Music can bring tears to my eyes from the message or a melancholy memory often marking the passing of time in my life.

After my first implant, my audiologist told me about HOPE Notes. According to the program’s website, http://hope.cochlearamericas.com/listening-tools, it is a “program uniquely developed for cochlear implant and hearing aid users designed to help improve music perception and appreciation using original songs, traditional folk, blues and country styles and some familiar tunes played in unexpected ways.”

Using both visual and auditory cues, it reminded me of how I heard music, and it improved my ability to enjoy it more.

The man who developed the program is a musician with cochlear implants. So often, adversity brings a gift and he shared his gift with others in a similar situation.

Next time you sway to a familiar tune, “count your blessings, name them one by one …”

Seek treatment if you suspect hearing loss

Day by day

Seek treatment if you suspect hearing loss

By LIZ THOMPSON
Wednesday May 14, 2014
ThisWeeksNews

“The incessant bird chirping became bothersome.”

Actually, bird songs make me smile. So why would I write they are bothersome?

That first sentence was part of an Arizona State University research study of new sentences for the Standardized Hearing Test. I was a test subject and got 100 percent because I have two successful cochlear implants that allow me to perceive sounds. My favorite sentence was: “Her smile was as smooth as creamed corn.”

I implore you to read these two sentences to someone you suspect has hearing loss. If they don’t understand, their hearing may need help. Hearing loss isn’t only about not hearing sounds, it’s more about misunderstanding words. Communication becomes stilted, often causing people to withdraw.

The 48 million people who report some degree of hearing loss likely agree.
When visiting 98-year-old Ruth Sawyer Jividen, I was writing everything on a pad of paper because she could not hear well. She tried to get her hearing aid out of her ear canal and, finally, it released. I saw a tiny hearing aid that would be difficult for anyone to remove.

We laughed when we realized there was no battery in the aid. I told her I would have to write about this in May, during Better Speech and Hearing Month.

Sadly, Ruth won’t read this because she died in April. Even though her hearing aids were a nuisance for her at times, she wanted to communicate in any way possible.

I have always been an advocate for effective communication. Over the years, I have incorporated the use of speech, speech reading (or lip reading), sign language and writing. No matter the age or amount of hearing loss, I believe in having choices and using whatever works.

Years before I was totally deaf, sign language became my second language. Writing and reading lips and body language were all ways I connected with others.

Sometimes the best tool was letting others know what I needed. Often it was as simple as moving to a quieter spot. It was important to me to let others know I really wanted to know what they were telling me.
Reena Kothari of Hilliard is a doctor of audiology (Au.D.) who has experience in early hearing screening for newborns and infants. She agrees that using whatever you need to communicate is important.

“Hearing loss affects the life cycle/span and is so vital for communication,” Kothari said. “Humans are pre-wired to communicate.”

She added that one in three babies is born with permanent congenital hearing loss, making it the most common condition existing at birth. She said it is the most common condition in adults after heart disease and arthritis.

Kothari said Ohio has a law that babies must be screened before leaving the hospital. The screening identifies babies at risk for hearing loss. They refer those parents to an audiologist, who can do further testing, diagnose hearing loss and suggest available communication options for the child and family.

Hearing loss can occur at any time in a person’s life. It can be genetic or induced by noise, medication, disease (such as heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure), side effects, illness or allergies. It can be permanent, fluctuating or progressive, Reena said.

If you suspect hearing loss, it’s important to see a licensed audiologist for diagnostic testing; that person can provide options along with counseling and support and refer you to a physician, if needed.

Hearing aids are improving continually, as is cochlear implant technology. I encourage people to seek hearing aids that are easy to handle. If people see them, they will grasp your needs better.

Hearing loss is invisible, which adds to the dilemma. When I wore hearing aids, often people couldn’t understand my lack of comprehension. Understanding is a two-way street. For a person with hearing loss, word discrimination is difficult. The icing on the cake is when the other (hearing) person displays patience and understanding.

The sign for communicate is forming a letter C with both hands and moving them back and forth at chest level. Two-way street.
Whether you have a newborn, are 98 years old or fall somewhere in between, recognizing hearing loss is the first step to improved communication and staying involved with the world around you.

The spring 2014 edition of Hearing Health Magazine, at hearinghealthmag.com, talks about how to buy, choose and use hearing aids and get the most out of them. This publication is free and full of good information.

Check it out, as well as your hearing. Speak up for your needs and listen to the birds sing.

 

Technology lifts quality of life for those with hearing loss

Day by day

Technology lifts quality of life for those with hearing loss
By LIZ THOMPSON
THISWEEKNEWS.COM
Wednesday May 15, 2013 1:53 PM

The short of it: I became deaf.

The long of it: I learned how to cope.

Technology has become what was considered futuristic in the ’50s, when my hearing loss was discovered at age 9. It would be 30 years before my first hearing aid and 41 years before I was totally deaf and received my first cochlear implant. Four years ago, I had my second implant.

My ability to hear and understand speech and sounds went from 0 percent to almost 97 percent in a quiet setting. To be able to sit in a dark room and carry on a conversation was a miracle. I stand amazed and grateful for this technology.

I’m not alone in my hearing-loss struggles. According to Stanford School of Medicine, about 36 million American adults report some degree of hearing loss. Stanford also stated two out of every 1,000 babies in the United States are born deaf or hard of hearing, and close to a million children in America have hearing loss.

Kate Morris, 33, of Upper Arlington, is initiative coordinator for the Stanford Initiative to Cure Hearing Loss. The Stanford Initiative involves hearing-loss research investigations in four areas: stem cell therapy, gene therapy, molecular therapy and targeted neural stimulation.

She says she has “a wonderful 3-year-old who wears pink hearing aids.” Very cool. I’m thrilled her daughter, Lily, has possibilities for a better scenario than I had available as a girl.

“Because of the newborn hearing screening … in the hospital on the day she was born, we were able to catch Lily’s hearing loss very early and to have her fitted with her first pair of pink hearing aids at 7 weeks old,” Kate said. “Lily now speaks at a level above what is considered age appropriate, and currently attends speech therapy at the OSU Speech, Language and Hearing Clinic, but otherwise attends a mainstream preschool.”

Her family also feels “amazingly lucky to be dealing with hearing loss at a time when there is so much realistic hope for a cure, which could be beneficial for Lily or Lily’s children, should they have hearing loss, and that in the meantime, huge strides are being made in assistive technologies.”

Many obvious factors play into causes of hearing loss. Some include noise pollution from military service, industrial activity, illness and any prolonged high-decibel noise.

Hearing loss has side effects not often discussed. The Stanford Initiative, and most specialists, agree with my experience of withdrawing socially, being frustrated communicating with friends, family and coworkers, and facing depression and isolation. It’s easy to think you are the only one and, as the numbers tell, we are not.

Darryl Will, audiologist with Hearing Health Solution from OhioENT, says studies have linked untreated hearing loss to diminished psychological and overall health.

“Most recently, researchers have found that there is a direct relationship between the degree of hearing loss and the risk of later developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease,” he said.

Will adds that “loss of hearing often coexists with other health problems and should not be ignored.”

With Stanford’s research, improvements in hearing aids and cochlear implants, children won’t need to wait years like my peers and I did.

Hermine Willey, 76, of east Columbus, has known of her hearing loss since she was 7. She got her first hearing aids in 1981 and now loves her digital hearing aids that allow her to be active in the hearing world.

Dave Scott of Upper Arlington marks his birth as “after Benny Goodman’s Carnegie Hall concert and before we entered World War II.” His sense of humor intact, he has sported hearing aids since December.

Wendy Brady, 44, of northwest Columbus, wears hearing aids as she waits to become a candidate for a cochlear implant. Her hope is that she will hear her young children with a clarity that is missing now.

Pat Vincent, 64, of Columbus knew of his hearing loss at 14 due to Meniere’s disease. He now has a cochlear implant.

We all encourage being proactive and finding support through organizations such as Hearing Loss Association of America or Association of Late Deafened Adults. Since 1927, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has spotlighted May — Better Hearing and Speech Month — as “a time to encourage Americans to get their hearing tested and determine if they have a hearing loss.”

Anything sound familiar? I encourage you to learn how to get your hearing checked at these websites: hearinghealthsolutions. com; speechhearingclinic. osu.edu; or columbusspeech.org.

Local author Liz Thompson writes the Day by day column for ThisWeek News. Reach her at lizt911@gmail.com.

Worship in Silence

This was originally posted on Jebaire Publishing’s website. Unfortunately, due to hard economic times, they will be closing their doors in 2013. They have served me beautifully as a writer and author. They published my second book God Whispers: Nudges, Fudges and Butterfly Moments in 2012.

Worship in Silence

By

LizThompson

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Going to church was part of growing up for me. The sound of our church bell roused me from sleep on Sundays, sending out a reminder to come worship. I didn’t even think about not going to church—it was an integral part of my life, and I loved everything about it. From walking in the doors, seeing familiar faces, listening to the music and singing in choirs since my youth, to listening to sermons—even when I could not understand everything said—and returning later for youth group meetings or other events at our church.

Music was a huge part of my worship. Singing was as natural as breathing for me. Walking two by two into church in our choir robes and holding our music high, we would sing, “Holy, Holy, Holy” marking the time with each step. The words of the hymns soaked into my heart and soul comforting and teaching me.

Looking back, the ritual of worship and familiarity was something I sought out when I was an adult and on my own. There were times I moved far from God. I’m not proud of those times, but I know I learned from them. Those were lonely times thinking I could do things on my own without seeking God for answers; without looking for a place to worship with others and not listening to God’s direction.

But today I know God never moved. He was right there waiting for me to wake up and listen to His voice.

Listening was a problem for me physically since at least fourth grade when I was told what I already sensed:  I had significant hearing loss. The 50′s were not a time when technology would have helped me very much but acknowledgment from my family would have helped. Yet, I became stronger and learned to read lips and body language as my hearing worsened. By 29 I needed hearing aids but waited 10 years before taking action on this knowledge. The doctor told me my ears were 80 years old. When I asked what they would be like when I was 80, he said, “Learn sign language.”

With my first hearing aid, the world opened up for me, and I was better able to live in the hearing world. Then a few years later, a second hearing aid helped even more. About this same time, God inspired me with lyrics and music, and I performed them with my guitar. After six years of this inspiration, it stopped as suddenly as it started. That’s when I started taking American Sign Language (ASL) classes. If nothing else, I would sign the music.

Soon I realized I could no longer hear my own voice when I sang, especially in choir. So I relented and sat in the pew with my husband. Soon after, I was deaf with only about eight percent of my hearing remaining.

How would I worship without music? Without hearing? All my life, worship involved voice and now mine was silent. My life was silent with only snippets of sound.

God reached me in my silence. He spoke in a silent language of my heart. He taught me to listen in new ways and gave me courage to move on in the hearing world.

In the late 90′s, attending church meant my husband repeated the sermon highlights when we went home and the bulletins were how I obtained church news. People were kind, knowing I couldn’t take part in conversations and hugs were plentiful. I was part of a team that sought FM Listening Systems for the hard of hearing in our church. That helped me for a time but then, no longer. Life was silent and I sat in the pew praying while others sang and spoke.

One Saturday, I drove past a church I’d seen often and my car seemed to steer into the parking lot. I took a deep breath and walked to the door and knocked. No answer. I knocked again, knowing there were people in the church. Nothing. I peeked in the window and saw people and knocked a third time and someone saw me and opened the door. I was so nervous and embarrassed. Why? It was a church for the Deaf and I had been knocking!

Using my rough ASL, I asked a few questions about services and told them my husband was hearing. “How will he know what is happening?” I asked. The pastor spoke and signed back to me, “We speak and sign and have many hearing in services.”

We attended for a year, I grew and learned that worship wasn’t all about talking and music; it was about praising God and letting his love shine into the world.

God continued to reach me in silence, but in 2002, I had my first cochlear implant restoring 95 percent of my hearing. Thank God! Sound was back in my life, but I am still deaf when the batteries die. Music didn’t return with the implant, but I have a new appreciation for sounds of nature which is truly music to my ears.

Our loving God knows all our lives. He knew I would become deaf and need to learn the music of my heart—His heart. Over the years, my love of writing was developed through poetry, music, essays and various writing venues. Now I know why. One doesn’t have to hear in the true sense to write. But since I hear God in my heart, mind and soul, His messages come through loud and clear. And I write.

Interview

Read my interview at this link: http://www.sellingbooks.com/elizabeth-thompson-author-interview 

Be sure and check the other author interviews. One in particular, Donna Schillinger who is a good friend, great writer and editor. Also, a fellow Christian.