I am usually greeted with the sound of birdsong first thing in the morning in the spring. This year I couldn’t hear the birds. Charles had to repeat himself often to me, and I couldn’t hear him open the door when he came home from work when I was sitting in the living room just a small distance away.
For the past few months, my ears have been full of wax and it has affected my hearing. I avoided going to the doctor as long as I could, but I went in and had my ears syringed yesterday.
A hearing-centric culture creates barriers for the D/deaf and the Hard of Hearing. I have had a chance over these last few months of hearing loss to experience just a small sample of these barriers.
According to the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association, one out of ten Canadians, four million people, have hearing loss.
I have had a difficult time hearing people when they are wearing masks. I had to mail a few packages and when I went to the post office, the clerk had to repeat his question a few times because the mask he was wearing muffled his voice. I felt self-conscious about needing him to repeat his words and at one point, I just went along with whatever he said because I was too shy to ask him to repeat again.
There have been some initiatives to create clear masks but these are not easily available or promoted by public health authorities.
I have been using close captioning for films I watch alone on our Microsoft Surface tablet. Sometimes the captions are great, but other times, they are quite far out. I have been fascinated with the myriad ways sounds are described. According to the Canadian Association for the Deaf, video programming — whether it is television programming, movies, videotapes/DVDs, webcasts, or other technology — is not fully accessible to Deaf people.
We took bus and train and bus to the medical clinic where our family doctor practices. The OC Transpo announcements are duplicated on the platform and on the train, but they are not in sync and are garbled. I didn’t even bother to try to listen to these announcements.
Other than mentioning that deaf people can have service animals on OC Transpo transit, I saw no indication any where in OC Transpo’s accessibility policies that addresses D/deaf and Hard of Hearing riders. When I took transit regularly, I found that the system on buses announcing stops was working intermittently, and wasn’t always reliable. During the lockdown, I have used transit only twice and in both cases, the system was working.
There’s still some wax build up but I’m hearing much better now after the syringe treatment. I will have to use warm olive oil in my ears to soften the wax, and will return every two weeks to the doctor’s for more syringing if the wax is not eliminated.
In the meantime I will continue to learn more about both the barriers to the D/deaf and the Hard of Hearing and how they navigate and understand the world. I will read works by D/deaf and Hard of Hearing writers.
Ilya Kaminski, from Deaf Republic
I am mindful of my privilege as someone who hasn’t had to deal with the barriers facing the D/deaf and hard of hearing community on a regular basis.
Here is a list of Covid-19 resources for D/deaf, Deafblind and Hard of Hearing Canadians created by the Canadian Association for the Deaf.