Thursday, August 21, 2008

Weapons of Mass Confusion

Let’s Talk.

Glitter Graphics

My ears are weapons of mass confusion.

A little history:

I never spoke a word until I was about 18 months old. I was fitted with lame-o hearing aids, the kind that was like a portable pager with two wires extending out of it to the earmolds. I had to wear a special elastic harness or a vest with a pocket to hold the boxy deck of card-sized processor. I recall pulling them out by accident as I combed my hair because the teeth of the comb would catch the wire. I pretty much watched for that, but it must have taken awhile for me as a toddler to keep my hearing aids on. LOL. I wonder if I drove my mom nuts if I pulled them out or just wanted to brush my hair off my face with my fingers and oops…pop goes the hearing aid.

I think I had about a good five years of auditory training (I believe it was called “speech” in those days. Imagine my confusion when speech class was offered as a class in high school only to find it was for making presentations in front of an audience.) I remember my teacher teaching us how to say words with the vowel sounds, such as “oo” and “ah.” (A lot of oohing and ahhing was done in class.)

I even remember my mother propping me on top of the bathroom counter and making me talk to myself. Okay, not really talking to myself, but just saying words and watching my own lips move as I talked. I don’t think of myself as a good lipreader, but I get by. Say the words “green” and “red” in the mirror and it’ll look the same. I am not good with monosyllabic conversations, either. I’d think, was that a “Yep” or a “Nope”? I can get a lot more out of a sentence by putting pieces of words into a puzzle or just by observing the situation. “We have to get 800 of these packed by lunch.” If a person is pointing at the product and I hear 800 by lunch, I’ll know that that means “work your butt off to get all the products out to shipping by lunch.” Sometimes I just don’t “get it.” When that happens, I’d like the speaker to use a different word or just rephrase the whole thing. Some people just don’t understand how I can be so “off the mark” because I am grasping at straws. I can see how that can be amusing, but it’s frustrating, too. I think I am so much more patient with the elderly if they have trouble hearing, because I’ve been there. I know how it feels not to “get it.” and I know when it’s okay to laugh and when it’s not. It depends on the situation.

My husband has "straight" lips. He's not exactly the easiest person to lipread. His lips barely move as he talks. It is a challenge. I have to rely on what hearing I have to figure it out in context or "get by."

Ever since I could remember, I pronounce certain words wrong. It could be out of habit because that’s how I “hear” it (I have a lot of distortion) or how I mentally read it. We all know how some words aren’t phonetically pronounced as it is written. I don’t even know how I mentally read it. I just read it really fast, I guess.

By the time I was a teenager, if I got corrected because I mispronounced a word, I got defensive. Either I’d refuse to re-pronounce it, say “yeah, that word” to avoid trying to say it the right way, or just try pronouncing it and getting amused looks because of my poor attempts to get it right.

Recent words I mispronounced:

Cataracts (Kate-ar-acts) cat-ar-acts. I don’t hear the word in every day conversation so I still get it mixed up. Doing the cataract post with the cat graphics really helped to keep it in my long-term memory bank.

Blanket (blank-let) I don’t know why I seem to add the second “l” in it. Acck.

Coliseum-I still can’t pronounce it right. (käl′ə sē′əm) Col-lis-see-um? “Col” as in collar or cole-lis-see-um? I know this much: it rhymes with museum. (Again, not a word used in every day converstation.)

Amazon-It’s not a-MAZE-on, but am-mas-ON. Got it.

Sometimes it’s a context thing, such as the word “level” with a “lever.” I look at how the lever is being used and always used to think that it was called a “level.” One day I said something about that “level” and a friend of my sister’s (the one who also has Usher syndrome) said that she does that, too. Score one for me. I wasn’t the only one who thought or misheard the word “level” with “lever.” I never forgot that.

Here's a new one: I was asked if I wanted my daughter to have a pine car for her Girl Pioneer thing. (Girl Pioneer is a lot like Girl Scouts. They learn about nature and do crafts.) They have a Pine Car Derby every year in May. I thought the woman asked me if I wanted a "plain card." A what? Huh? Oh, pine car. LOL.

I can laugh at myself for most of these mistakes, though. Key word here: Most of the time.


At Thu Aug 21, 08:09:00 AM , OpenID suddensilence said...

Shari, I know what you mean! Oh, straight lips are definitely hard to read. That, and people who talk really fast (i.e., my teenage daughter!)

I have the most trouble mispronouncing words that I've seen in print but never heard someone say. It's always embarrassing to get corrected! One that comes to mind is "segue". Dave pronounced it the same way I did: seeg. Then we heard someone on TV say something like "Segg-way". We even rewound the TiVo to connect the captioning with the word, and we realized we had been pronouncing it WAY wrong for all our lives. Ack!!

It's hard to have a sense of humor about it but you're right, it does help! :)

~ Wendi

At Thu Aug 21, 08:57:00 AM , Blogger Beth said...

You are such a trooper - and being able to laugh at yourself "most of the time" is quite an achievement.
Your post reminded me of all the words I have mispronounced when I've finally used them in conversation after having only read them in books.

At Thu Aug 21, 12:26:00 PM , Blogger Laura said...

I appreciate your candid sharing and also am just amazed by you.

At Thu Aug 21, 04:41:00 PM , Blogger Shari/"Whiger" said...

Wendi-My mom used to talk on the phone and suddenly force her upper lip to stay flat so I couldn't figure out what she was saying.

Yeah, fast talkers drive me nuts, too.

I thought it was "seg" for segue. LOL How about aluminum? Tongue twister for me.

Beth-In the Harry Potter series, I read Herimone's name as "Her moan" until a later book had Ron Weasley stretching her name out "Errr Mon Knee!!" Or was it Her mon knee? I never heard of the name before.

Thank you, Laura, but I'm human and I just "do" what I have to do. We all do. :)

At Thu Aug 21, 07:12:00 PM , Blogger She said...

I'm sure this must be frustrating, but you have such a great attitude about it all. I appreciate your strength!

And I agree with Beth, "most of the time" is a very significant accomplishment!

At Thu Aug 21, 10:22:00 PM , Anonymous Kila said...

I'm proud of you! Keep trying!

At Fri Aug 22, 12:38:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

More look-alike-words "England and Italy." Read this one "Island View."

My late boyfriend had very thin and small lips too. Ohhhh but I puckered them up by kissing him a lot!!!!!!!

Sense of humor, ummm sometimes we have it and other times we do not.....

Molly CC

At Fri Aug 22, 05:02:00 PM , Blogger Shari/"Whiger" said...

She-Sometimes we just have to laugh. Sure, sometimes I don't laugh till I look back on it. I think I deal with it with humor because it's easier.


Molly-I thought of another word that trips me. Length. I keep saying lenth and Hubby says it's lang-th. I never hear the "g" or the "a" sound. Hmmm. That one is a tough one.

At Fri Aug 22, 06:15:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Shari,
I've had somewhat the same problem--More now than when I was younger. In fact, just this past week I've started to put my hearing aid on as soon as I crawl out of bed to make life easier for me and hubby. In the morning he isn't very patient and misheard communications make him angry. Easier for me to stick the darn aid in than get in a fight. Sigh.

At Sat Aug 23, 12:24:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ohhhhh my......."length." I leave the "G" out too. I am sure that must be a Southern thing. Tell hubby thanks!!!!

Off to my VISIONWALK Kick Off luncheon tomorrow!!!!!

(((HUGS)))) Molly CC

At Sat Aug 23, 01:25:00 AM , Blogger Eileen said...

I love your attitude Shari, you are so positive and always look at things in such a brigh way.

I am sure it can be frustrating for you at times, but I like your motto about laughing...most of the time. It sure helps to reframe situations and not let them get to you. Thanks for this reminder.



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