Tag Archives: Listening

Saturday 20th June – Mixed Salad Malfunctions

I’m back from college, tired and a bit mentally bedraggled. It was an intense year! Soon I can post a backlog of blog entries here. In the meantime here’s an entry from last Saturday. Since my previous post I have got myself a Saturday job in a restaurant. It’s a policy of my workplace that I cannot name it online. So I will refer to it with many different names, starting with The Home of the Giant Scone. 

Restaurants are full of background noise. As well as scores of chatting customers and clinking cutlery, a playlist of popular music is played on a loop all day long. Once I have heard “We are Young” by Fun or “Here Come The Girls” for the seventh time that day I know  it’s nearly hometime.

Restaurants are not ideal places to hear clearly if you have Auditory Processing Disorder like I used to. Thanks to Johansen IAS therapy, Auditory Processing is now only a weak area for me, and I can hear almost every single word that customers and colleagues say to me. My job as a Table-clearer is mostly a physical task of cleaning tables and carrying trays back to behind the scenes to be cleared of food and washed. My job also involves chatting to customers and making sure that they are happy with their eating experience. Hearing clearly and being able to tune out table sounds and Top 40 canned music is very helpful to my job. Something that I lacked before Johansen IAS therapy, and something which after today I’m sure I will have to use all the time are PEOPLE SKILLS. Dealing with the public is part of my job, so good communication is essential. I have a feeling that my new job will teach me a lot about people.

I cycled to the Home of the Giant Scone, changed into my uniform, secured my Beard Net onto my head, put my little hat on and got to work.

Today was business as usual, apart from a few stroppy customers.

The first was a woman who called me over to look at her plate. “Would you say that this is a mixed salad?” she asked me. I wanted to say “Is this a trick question?” There was a varied mix of chopped vegetables and leaves on her plate beside a baguette, so I instead I said “Yes”. She insisted that there was too much lettuce and not enough tomatoes and cucumber. “Not like the plates on display” she insisted, trying to educate me as to what the qualities of good salad should be.

I guessed that she was one of these people who considered that the grass was always greener on the other side, mainly because the other side belonged to someone else. I supposed that in proportion to the fresh lettuce leaves, other vegetables were a minority group. As far as I was concerned that’s what a healthy Salad should look like.

She looked at me, pointing to her salad, again explaining that it wasn’t the mixed salad it claimed to be. Obviously it was only a pretender to the title of Mixed Salad. Perhaps not even a Salad at all. Mixed Salad was a pedigree beyond the qualities of the leafy mongrel creature skulking on her industrial chinaware.

Even although you sometimes can’t reason with these people, it is unfortunately in my job description to put on a smile and at least try.

“I’m sorry that your salad is not mixed enough. How can I make this right for you?”

Still glaring at the Leafy Green Impostor on her plate, the woman asked me to go and get her more tomatoes and cucumber. I took the plated baguette back to the food prep area and explained the situation.

“There’s a woman upset about the diversity of her salad and complaining bitterly about it. Can I have some more tomatoes and cucumber please?”

He spooned on more chopped vegetables and I headed back to appease her. Being as polite as I could without taking the piss, I kept smiling and asked her if everything was better now. Instead of dealing with her Salad malfunction I could have been clearing more tables which were filling up quickly.

She eyed her plate suspiciously. “It is somewhat better”.

There’s just no pleasing some people. I dismissed myself from her table to go deal with some real problems.

Behind the scenes again I bumped into the plated baguette preparer. He asked if the customer was happy now.

“She said her salad is somewhat better”.

He gave a whatever kind of shrug, clearly a veteran of kitchen complaints. “It’s not a salad anyway. It’s a garnish”.



Little Green Frogs

A week into term 3 and I don’t have time to type up a backlog of diary entries. So I’ll leave you with this story. I hope you find it uplifting and encouraging on a Monday morning. I heard this tale from a visitor at a school assembly. Because of my serious Auditory Processing Disorder, listening was still not one of my stronger abilities during my school years. I always tried hard to focus despite this, and in this case was really happy that I did. I may have missed bits of it, but I caught the gist of a story which still feels important to me years later.

Little Green Frogs

One day in a rainforest hundreds of tiny green frogs decided to climb to the top of the tallest tree. Wondering what was going on, many people gathered around the tree trunk to watch the spectacle.  It seemed an impossible climb for creatures so small. As they climbed, the people below started shouting at them. “Stupid frogs, you’re too small, you’re never going to make it! You’ll never reach the top!” The frogs began to get tired as they climbed higher and higher. One by one they became exhausted and fell, or collapsed to rest on the branches. Still the people at the bottom of the tree kept shouting. More and more frogs gave up until there was only one left. It kept climbing until it finally reached the top of the forest’s tallest tree, clearing the leafy canopy and emerging in the sun. All the other frogs had fallen or given up, but one made it.

The little green frog at the top of the tree was deaf.


Monday 8th January 2014 – My First Lecture with a Personal Listening Device

Meh. That is how I felt today.

After a very busy few weeks, I was feeling mentally bedraggled and less than enthusiastic about my first Plant Physiology class today. It was going to be a long afternoon- a double assault of two-hour long lectures, detailed to the molecular level.

It was the ideal day for my first experience of a lecture aided by a Personal Listening Device.Thanks to my college’s brilliant Student Support system, the SAAS Student Disability Awards, and Ron from iHear Ltd, I have a Personal Listening Device on loan for a trial.

A great thing about my college is that they always have powerpoint presentations to go with the lectures. However, there is only so much I can absorb from the screen. Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) has its name because the Disorder is all to do with Processing, not hearing ability. I have no hearing loss, but had been dreading this new topic. I worried that I would sit in the lecture theatre and hear everything, but not process, understand or remember it. Thanks to Johansen IAS therapy, my Auditory Processing abilities are 100 times better than they used to be, but I still struggle in some areas (I had pretty serious problems with Auditory Processing to start with!) . The testament to the improvements in my life because of Johansen IAS therapy is that I have managed to go to college in the first place.

Auditory Processing Disorder can be roughly summed up with the phrase,

“In one ear, Out the other”.

Someone with Auditory Processing Disorder can be listening with every ounce of concentration, but lose track of almost all meaning of a conversation because of background noise, or simply a bad Processing Day because of tiredness or stress. Camilla the Johansen IAS therapist once likened APD to listening to a conversation in a foreign language you can get by in, but are not fluent with. Except that for people with APD, what can seem like a vague, jumbled string of words is actually their own first language. Even if you manage to hear everything clearly and understand it, Auditory Processing Disorder can seem to wipe your memory clean, and by the next day the information is new again, still to be learned.

Personal Listening Devices like the one I had for a trial period (The Comfort Audio Digisystem iHear) are designed to cut out background noise by transmitting the speaker’s voice directly to the device-wearer via earphones or hearing aids.  

And it works!

After switching on the small black transmitter to my lecturer, and explaining what it was for, (he was very helpful and supportive) I turned on my receiver and put in my earphones. The difference from my other lectures before I got the Listening Device was stark. My lecturer’s voice was in my ears, clear and sharp. The background noise of rustling and chatting in the lecture theatre was very quiet, as if the sounds were coming from underwater, and no longer distracting.

The lectures were intense. I felt like we covered more plant biology in those four hours than I had learned over  year for Higher Biology. Thanks to the Personal Listening Device, I  was able to mentally keep up with the lecture. Cutting out the background noise took most of the effort out of listening and all my brain’s energy could be devoted to Processing.

I’m not saying that having a Personal Listening Device transforms me into an academic whiz. It doesn’t. I know that I will struggle with this Module. However, I expected to walk into that class, pay attention and learn nothing. Being able to take in spoken information from the lecture feels encouraging. Thanks to the Digisystem iHear, I have a chance to pass a difficult module which would otherwise be hopeless and impossible.

For more great personal listening equipment, please check out iHear’s website using the link below.

iHear Website

Sunday 5th October- Why phonecalls are special

05/10/14   Sunday   Why phonecalls are special.

As someone who finds listening more difficult than most, I don’t phone unless I have to. I almost always text or email. For most people, perhaps that might seem unusual. I can do phone conversations much more easily than before, it’s just something I tend to not even consider because part of me still remembers it as being difficult. Why would you phone when you could text? Today I realised that it could be because sometimes it’s just to hear someone’s voice. I forget that phoning is the next best thing to seeing someone in person. Just another social understanding that’s suddenly dropped on me like a brick from a great height.  I’ve had a lot of these moments recently.

It’s a bit chilly in my parents’ house. I haven’t really bothered with the central heating. Back at the flat, it’s a nice little student-friendly bubble. Always heated, fast-heating ovens and showers, everything carefully designed to minimise our chances of freezing, poisoning, burning and electrocuting ourselves. The TV is high up on the wall out of reach, and our sofa is waterproofed. There are no water or heating bills to organise, since that’s included in the rent price. So although I feel like I’m living a very independent life sometimes, I am still very sheltered.

Tuesday 3rd September 2014- My real journey starts here.

I’ve been keeping this diary for more than 3 years now. I started it when I was 17 and soon I’ll be 20. Over the past 3 years I didn’t just gain a physical and emotional balance thanks to MLC Scotland’s therapy for Retained Reflexes, and become able to hear clearly after Johansen IAS therapy. Because Retained Reflexes and serious Auditory Processing Disorder were no longer delaying my development and holding me back, I learned a lot of things which are important in daily life, which I previously had no idea about. Here are some things I’ve learned since 2011. I’ve come a long way. I feel like I’ve had almost 20 years of experience crammed into just 3.

  • I’m not stupid after all. It’s amazing how much confidence the diagnosis of a learning difference gave me.
  • Songs have words!
  • Talking to other people and making friends isn’t as scary as I thought. I enjoy chatting and making friends.
  • Sarcasm. It’s important.
  • I won’t scare people away if I tell them that I have APD. In fact, it makes, and brings us closer because they understand why I might sometimes seem distant or confused.
  • Music. Clear hearing gave music an entirely new dimension. I loved music before Johansen therapy, but now it is INCREDIBLE.
  • I have synaesthesia. That explains a lot.
  • I have some dairy allergies. Also explains a lot.
  • Being yourself is important. I used to be happy just when everyone else was happy. Before Johansen and MLC I felt so confused and overwhelmed that most of the time I had no idea about what I thought or how I felt. I used to think that people would like me to be if I was more like them. I tried to please them too much. People can’t decide whether to like you or not if withhold everything that you think and feel. They want to be friends with someone different from them. Otherwise it would be like being friends with themselves, which would be kind of pointless.
  • It’s okay to argue. Following on from the last point.
  • Figures of speech. Before Johansen IAS, when friends said “I had a bad day, don’t ask”, I used to cheerfully say “Okay”, and leave them hanging.
  • Orange Marches are not a community celebration in honour of the colour Orange. (I used to take things very literally).
  • Being polite is important, but pointless if it puts you in danger.
  • You can’t help other people if you don’t look after yourself as well.
  • Toothpaste burns if you get it in your eyes.
  • FCUK stands for French Connection UK. It is not people wearing a swearword on their clothes, but misspelled so that they can get away with it.
  • Beanie hats. Where had they been all my life?
  • Touch typing. Type up a diary entry every day for three years, and I guarantee you will have that keyboard clicking away at a rate of knots.
  • The School Years are not the best years of your life. Trust me on this.
  • I am a drummer! Johansen IAS therapy toned down my hypersensitive and sometimes painfully-loud hearing. This dispelled my fear of loud noises. Without Johansen IAS therapy I would never have discovered one my favourite things in the world. Soon after this musical epiphany I also learned that most families hate listening to creative and prolonged tapping on their furniture.
  • Everyone has something they struggle with. Whether that’s Auditory Processing disorder or another learning/processing difference, a job they hate, a fear of spiders, or any one of an infinite list of problems. Compared to many people in the world I have had a very easy, sheltered and wonderful life. So I should shut my mouth and count my blessings when my ears-to-brain connection malfunctions and I feel like whining about it.
  • I don’t have to do everything people tell me to.
  • I can think outside of the box. And not just when people tell me to.
  • No matter how much I love someone, I am not responsible for them or how they feel.
  • I can lie if I want/need to. I used to almost literally not be able to lie, or even bend the truth when asked a question. I still hate lying. It feels uncomfortable. However, lying is an important skill to be able to have, even if you don’t use it.
  • People are complicated, but that’s okay.
  •  “Normal” is just an average created by measuring how everyone is different.

Without Retained Reflexes and serious Auditory Processing Disorder, I can deal with the world.

The world is complicated. Before I could hear clearly, it was kind of like living inside my own little bubble. Now that my bubble has burst, the world seems huge and that can be a little intimidating. But I think that life sometimes being complicated is part of the challenge. I think (and I hope I don’t regret saying this) that if life was really simple, it might be boring. Anyway, living in a bubble, I was not going to grow. Or learn. Or experience anything. At all. Sometimes things might feel a bit scary and uncertain, like leaving home, which is the thing weighing on my mind right now. I might feel like burying my head in the sand so deep it sticks out in Australia, and watching Chuck box sets while I should be packing, but I’m not going to back out of my decision to move away to study. I want this. I want to leave home, start my own life and grow. Lots of self-help books claim to be able to tell you the meaning of your life (it’s never on the blurb, you always have to buy it first), but I think that it’s different for everyone, and more about the journey than the destination anyway. It’s okay to feel unsure about life and sometimes not know what to do, as long as you keep trying to head in the right direction. If I get through my life with as much integrity as possible, have fun, make gardens beautiful for people to enjoy, play a lot of music, and of course, raise awareness for Retained Reflexes and Auditory Processing Disorder, I will feel like I have achieved something worthwhile.

My real journey starts here.

Tuesday 26th August 2014- My last Lip Reading class.

26/08/14   Tuesday

Today I had my last lip reading class at Deaf Connections before I move away to study. I would like to Thank Carol, my amazing lip reading teacher for all the help that two years of classes have given me with my Auditory Processing Difficulties.

Even although I’m not great at lip reading, I pick up much more of what people say to me when there is background noise, or I’m tired. Not just because I pick up some lip shapes of parts of words which I miss, also because of extra confidence when talking to people. Auditory Processing Disorder can be worse if you’re nervous when talking to people. Something else which lip reading has given me is Focus. I look at people more when they talk to me, and pay more attention to their face, which helps no end socially.

There is also my class. They are almost all within the age range of 40-85. I bring the average age down considerably. Despite this, they have been welcoming from day one.

My wonderful lip reading friends have been like extra grandparents to me. Internet-savvy Grandparents who text. We will keep in touch! They have really restored some of my faith in people and made me feel so welcome in the hard-of-hearing community. As well as feeling like their grandchild, I also got to be an honorary elderly lady for a while. We had tea and cakes and talked about knitting projects. Some of my friends are incredible knitters and can create almost anything you can imagine out of wool at a formidable speed. Spending so much time with older people, I realised that they’re just like me. Old people are just young people with tons and tons of life experience. If it weren’t for arthritis, old joints and bad hips, they would still be partying with the best of them! It’s a relief to discover that when I’m older I don’t have to know everything. I’ll probably still make mistakes, struggle with everyday decisions and feel like a teenager. And knowing this, I don’t worry that one day I will be “grown up” and therefore not myself anymore. As an older person, I would like to be like my lip reading friends. Caring and wise, determined, cheerful and not without a great sense of humour.

Monday 17th July 2014- People are complicated, but that’s okay.

Volunteering at the botanics today, I helped the outdoor gardener with pulling out brambles in the cafe garden. This is satisfying, but can also be a bit prickly. A man sitting at a patio table talked to us about the Scottish Independance referendum for a long time. Although I agree with some of what he said, I had a feeling that he had an agenda. He congratulated me on points I made, which I hadn’t really made and had an air of educating someone who knows less than him, treating me like someone who has been duped and misinformed. I may be a gardener, not a rocket scientist, but I’m also not stupid.

Over the past few years as my hearing has improved (after Johansen IAS therapy made my Auditory Processing Disorder manageable), I have been able to listen to and understand conversations. Because of this I have learned so much more about people. Mainly that people are complicated. There are tiny little nuances and inflections in every sentence, relating to their mood of that moment or perhaps memories which the conversation is bringing up for them. Sometimes they are trying to lead the conversation a certain way, and they want you to say a certain thing. As in the case with this man, they may be trying to persuade you of something. He was confident, assertive, and a little flattering of us when the conversation went in the direction he hoped. He was a very intelligent speaker.

In the past, before Movement and Learning Centre (MLC Scotland) and Johansen Individualised Auditory Stimulation (Johansen IAS)therapies, I would not have recognized this. I used to be permanently strung out from lack of sleep (anxiety issues relating to a fully-retained Moro Reflex), my brain processing at half-speed. Before I went to MLC Scotland, I was too unbalanced and shy to talk to strangers. Without Johansen IAS, I would still have serious Auditory Processing Disorder. and I would not have heard clearly enough to have a conversation with him if we were sitting side-by-side at the table, let alone while I was a few feet away inside of a shrub, fighting with brambles.

I like talking to other people, even although they seem more complicated than they used to. I always learn something new. Nowadays I understand that it is up to me to decide what I take away from conversations. I don’t have to believe that everything people say is true, just because I like them. That was a big learning curve. Before MLC and Johansen therapies, it was extremely difficult for me to interact with other people and make friends. I had a sort of two-dimensional, children’s picture book idea of people. I assumed that most people were uncomplicated and didn’t have much of a personal agenda. Without Retained Reflexes and serious Auditory Processing Disorder, life has got easier for me. I’ve learned more about myself and my own feelings and I think that this has helped me to understand other people more too. Without Retained Reflexes and serious Auditory Processing Disorder holding me back, I’ve had the opportunity to become more emotionally and mentally more complicated than I used to be. I suppose that this might be what growing up is all about.

Friday 26th April

At an RSPB conference today with my friend who is creating a community garden, I was (somewhat ironically) the ears of the operation.
I was there to listen, as much as anything. Some of it was very interesting, some of it wasn’t so interesting. I sifted through the information and noted down details which may be useful for the community garden project I’m helping with. The presentations lasted for several hours, but my Auditory Processing abilities were up to the task. I met some new people, saw some tanks of pond life and learned more about what we can do to encourage wildlife to thrive in urban areas. There was also the best free buffet lunch I have ever eaten.

On my way home from the local train station I was on my bike waiting for the lights to change at a Crossroads junction. The motorcyclist behind me kept revving his engine despite the red light, raring to go. That was worrying me a bit. When the light turned green I had to cycle uphill from a standing start, and it takes a few seconds to get momentum going. I heard the motorbike engine start and a voice behind me shout,
“You’ve got gears, you know!”
In the past, I would have never heard clearly enough to pick up all the words from a voice:
• Behind me
• Muffled by a motorcycle helmet
• Surrounded by traffic sounds
And I wouldn’t have had the quick processing and presence of mind to yell back, while cycling,
“You’ve got an engine! It’s alright for you!”