how does a deaf old bat learn?


This is a long one, you might want to get a snack and beverage of choice.

Marnie asked me to ramble on about learning supports. I started to write something and after 12 chapters it seemed a little too detailed so here are the edited highlights.

….Loved acquiring knowledge, hated school, formal classes, blah blah, circumstances meant back to school, learning support services, struggle, success, yada yada.

How does a deaf old bat learn?

My then hearing aids had a FM gadget on them so I could get the teachers to wear a microphone, which transmitted to my hearing aids. This meant that I could hear the teacher’s voice without having to sit right under their noses. I’m not really a front row, teacher’s pet sort of person. I did need to be close enough to see their faces to supplement the sound with face reading, so usually I sat in the front row. If I were 19 though I would have sat with my friends in the back row checking out Facebook, messenger, and gossiping.

One of the problems with having to lipread is that you can’t listen and make notes at the same time, once you look down to write you can’t hear what is being said. So you miss bits. I did have notetakers for some classes to start with,and later on for all classes. Initially the notetaker was another student. That worked to a degree because the student understood that I needed more than just the lecture content, such as the dates of assignments, comments on future classes, what to bring, when to bring it. It also worked well because she was a very, very, good student indeed. Her notes were excellent and I am eternally grateful for that. However it didn’t allow me to participate in class and I often had to read the notes to find out what happened.

The college also employed notetakers who would provide you with typed notes. The problem here was they were abridged notes of the contents, and would miss out the additional stuff. The notetakers usually were there to support students with learning difficulties such as dyslexia and ADHD, and had no experience of what a hard of hearing person needed.

The notes worked for lectures, but for lab work, group work then I needed to know what was happening at the time, and not later when I read the notes. It was so, so, frustrating not to know what was going on around me.

Computer lessons were a nightmare, an absolute horror. You are supposed to be looking at your screen while following the teachers words, now is that going to happen when you lipread? Heck as like. The evenings following those classes needed medicinal doses of gin and ice cream cake.

I had to fight the college to get the support I needed, which was real time captioning. If I was Deaf and needed a sign language interpreter they would have provided that, but a real time captionist? They said they hadn’t done it before, so they wouldn’t do it now??? Duh??

Real time captioning, what’s that? The idea here is that the notetaker types every word, including what seems to be trivia. I would sit next to them and read the words. When it works it’s wonderful. You are suddenly included, really part of the class. You know what is being said, why people are laughing, or moaning. You know that the reason everyone looked up suddenly is because a book was dropped. The captionist will type something like “ book dropped on floor” . The questions that students ask, and the answers, they were typed too. Once I had this type of support it was wonderful. I had some energy left in the evenings to study and do the assignments, I just about skipped home the first day it happened. I could join in, comment, ask questions, contribute. A wonderful feeling, a novel feeling.

The problem was that only 2 of the notetakers could cope with this. Some hated having me read while they typed. Some refused to type things that they thought weren’t relevant.

Very fast typing speeds are needed to be a captionist, plus you need the lecturers to speak more slowly. One wouldn’t slow down, and the notetaker expected me to know when to ask the teacher to slow down. Funny thing though, there were some lecturers who would ask the notetaker if they were getting it all down, but they had never asked me if I was managing to follow. (edited, not all the lecturers were like this, some were excellent and supportive)

Thank you for getting to the end of this spiel, hope it was worth the effort.


6 responses »

  1. I’m curious , how did the fm transmitter thing work for you? I ask because , in the UK i was often given one just before a classs , with the helpful advice ” so and so needs you to wear this”

    This was about the extent of my special needs training throughout my career, despite teaching profoundly deaf, physically disabled and blind students.

    I recall being very careful to switch it off whern having a quick bitch in the prep room !

    I was never sure though how much of an irritation it was if I switched it off and on , does it make a noise ? Should i switch it off or leave it on if I’m helping another student? does it help you to hear me , or distract you?

    Unfortuantely due to conveyor belt teaching , one class out , next one in ; and group rotations , I never really got the chance to ask.

    Sometimes I got feedback from the TAs saying that my diction was very clear and that I always remembered not to talk to the board whilst writing notes on it.

    I like to think I did Ok , but I needed A LOT more training than I ever managed to get


  2. Hi Z
    The FM link that I had was my own,I could switch it off from my hearing aids by changing the program on my aids. I could also control the volume to a certain extent. When you hand over the microphone and transmitter part to someone you are handing over control of what you hear. Which is terrible and places a huge amount of trust in that person. So I am pleased that you gave some thought to this. I presume the gadget that you had was owned by the school and not the student?? With mine, I handed it over with a description of how to use it, and I asked them not to alter the settings. We had a 10 minute break between double classes and I would change the program then. Otherwise it would be distracting to me to have the noise from one conversation in my ears when I was trying to have a different conversation. Some teachers would hand it back, or take it off then. One dropped it and broke it, things happen like that, it wasn’t her fault and the manufacturers repaired it for free!

    So yes, it is annoying to have to listen to sounds from somewhere else, and it is annoying for someone else to control what you hear,but you do have to switch it off when you are talking to others, especially if its confidential. I wish my teachers had switched it on and off more inland work. When I first got the fm thing I could make out more speech without lipreading and so could understand the other conversations. Sneaky and unethical to listen in though.

    Another drawback with the fm thing is that its generally hanging round someones neck, so you hear rattles and such when its bashing against ID chains and buttons, and papers and pens on rostrums.

    Clear diction is one of the most useful aids to me. I love people with clear diction!

    Thanks for the comment Z, does this answer your questions?

  3. It sure does , thank you. I agree that it places a huge amountof trust in the person wearing it. I never dropped the ransmitter but I think it had some close calls bunsen burner wise 🙂

    as for my diction , I did have a time when I couldn’t understand why a student was so adamant on avoiding a certain chemical. The poor thing had misheard its name as LETHAL ( as opposed to methyl) orange

    I made sure that she had an up to date vocab list for every lesson after that. I must have scared her half to death 😦

    Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions


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