Hearing management

20 August 2004

Marissa - the fifth month

I am now a qualified beauty therapist working at a salon. I am very grateful that I can embark on my career as a speaking and hearing person.

I have just turned 22. I have now finished studying and now I can call myself a qualified beauty therapist. I have started working at a beauty salon. I am at the beginning of my career and I feel very excited about it. I am extremely grateful that I can experience this as a speaking and hearing person. And this is thanks to Widex.

Together with the freezing winter also came winter illnesses. Unfortunately these did not pass me by. Twice in a row I had serious middle ear infection. But this now seems to be something of the past and I can wear my hearing aids again.

The hearing and speech therapy is progressing very well. The speech therapy concentrates on my general speech, and the formation of sounds, whereas the hearing therapy concentrates on what I hear and how I hear it.

Marjan, my speech therapist and I both enjoy the sessions, because I am so keen to learn. We both feel very positive about this process. Sometimes we cannot help but laugh, because my tongue and throat are still struggling to produce certain sounds. But the only thing for it is to keep trying over and over, until I get it right. In the beginning I could not pronounce the letter 'k', but now I sometimes manage it. I find that in amongst all the trying, every now and then the right sound emerges, just when I want to get really despondent. That's when Marjan jumps for joy. The different methods she uses to get me to form the right sounds are amazing.

One of the sounds I've been struggling with is the 'a' sound. She makes me cough and then somehow I produce the right sound. What makes things easier is that she shows me exactly how and where my tongue should be in my mouth in order to produce the right sounds. But heavens, the 'r' sound is something else. I am really having difficulty with it, but we're getting there.

Recently we've been practising different words. There are many words I can now pronounce correctly, like cho-co-late, but I now just need to learn to use them correctly in everyday life. We're practicing very hard on vowel sounds at the moment. I really am feeling very positive and excited. But there is quite a way to go. My brain does not yet recognise sounds as words, but I can recognise them by counting the syllables. I have no difficulty counting the syllables, so progress is being made.

During the last session, Marjan let me put on a plastic glove and let me feel inside her mouth where her tongue was when she formed certain sounds. It was a bit strange at first. But I realised the worth of the exercise and it helped me to get my tongue in the right place. This plays such a big role in the formation of sounds.

I am also doing throat exercises. Marjan makes me take a sip of water and hold it in the back of my throat. Right after swallowing the water, I must try and say the 'e' sound, because it is a sound originating in the throat.

The hearing therapy is also going well. My brain can now distinguish between short and long sounds. Marjan reads me a few sentences. Then I have to listen carefully and say which sentence she read. I manage to tell the difference by listening to the long or short sounds at the ends of the sentences. She says it won't be long before my brain will begin to recognise the sounds – it's astonishing how the brain can learn these new functions.

As a deaf person, my body and skin used to be oversensitive to the sensation of touch. Now that I can hear, this sensitivity seems to be diminishing. I do find that things I could feel before, seem to be fading, now that I can hear.

The most amazing thing for me, is still that I can hear the soundtrack in a movie. I really like going to the movies, but it was always such a closed experience – sitting in the dark, surrounded by all these people looking at all these moving pictures on the screen. Now I don't feel so isolated anymore, because I can hear people laughing and making a noise around me and I can hear the sounds of the movie soundtrack. It just makes it so much more of a memorable experience.


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Hearing Expert

Francis Slabber is a Speech & Language Therapist and Audiologist who has owned and run The Hearing Clinic in Wynberg, Cape Town for the last 17 years. Francis and her team have extensive experience in fitting and supplying hearing aids as well as assistive living devices. Francis has served as the Western Cape Chairperson for the South African Association of Audiologists for three years and has given many talks on the topic of hearing loss and amplification. The Hearing Clinic has a special interest in adult and geriatric hearing impairment, hearing aid fittings and hearing rehabilitation.

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