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Posts Tagged ‘deaf’

Gerbils of a Lesser God.

Gerbils are notoriously bad at lip-reading, which might be in part related to the fact that they do not actually use language.
The inability of gerbils to operate in modern society was a risk scientists were willing to take when they purposely deafened the little rodents in the name of the progression of science.

The animals were deafened using a drug to destroy their auditory nerves…   Fox News – Health

Some big-brained guys stuck needles into their little gerbil ears and deafened them with chemicals.  Now, if that isn’t modern science, I don’t know what is.  It’s what makes us #1 over all the animals, this ability to deafen lower life-forms at will.

… before receiving an injection of around 50,000 human embryonic stem cells, which had previously been treated with growth factors to coax them into becoming ear cells.

Ewww.  They gave stem cells the equivalent of Fuzzy Navels fortified with vodka in order to biologically peel their panties and get them to behave all different-like.

Deafness is caused primarily by loss of sensory hair cells in the ear and auditory nerves.

And, I might add, by injecting chemicals directly into the ear.

The authors of the article are keen to point out:

Cochlear implants offer a partial solution to loss of hair cells but there is no treatment for nerve loss, or auditory neuropathy, which accounts for 10-15 percent of cases of profound deafness.

But here again, gerbils are basically screwed.  Compare them to see just how screwed.  An implant could probably take a gerbil.
So is it useful research?
After treating 18 gerbils with complete deafness in one ear, his team reported in the journal Nature that stem cells produced an average 46 percent recovery in hearing function, as measured by electrical signals in the animals’ brains.
You tell me.
I’m inclined to say yes, if this kind of research can improve the life of just one gerbil, it is worth it.
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While this is news, it isn’t by even a tiny stretch surprising.  Especially considering the beating she took.

A 73-year-old woman who told police she was raped in New York City’s storied Central Park said she’d like for someone to torture and “kill” her attacker.

The unidentified victim spoke in an exclusive interview with the New York Post following the 11 a.m. Wednesday attack… [snip]

“Kill him,” the Upper West Side resident told the newspaper. “Cut off his penis. That’s fine. Cut off his feet, then hit him over the head. Then give him life in prison.”

The avid birdwatcher said she feels jittery following the attack, but is mostly enraged. She suffered a broken eye socket, a black eye and several bruises and scrapes in the attack.

So is it news-worthy?  Yeah, maybe.  I like that the reporter and editor kept the part of her comment where she adds:  “Then give him life in prison.”  (emphasis mine)

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Maybe more later…?

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Note:  Be patient with this, please… it goes somewhere, and all I’m doing with this is setting the stage.  It’s for a good cause.

Ever see the movie?  Children of a Lesser God?  The one that brought Marlee Maitlin to the forefront as being (1) deaf, (2) a darned good actress, and (3) pretty damn cute.  I was having fun with #3 there.  She’s pretty/cute and smart, and who I consider to be a very inspirational person.

It’s an interesting world, the deaf experience.  I only have a foot in it and lightly so at that.  I’m lucky.  I read lips.  I have enough hearing that I’ll always be considered an outsider to deaf culture but enough of a loss that the audiologist was surprised that I functioned as I do in society w/o hearing aids.  I also am a fervent supporter of the deaf.

“Hey,” I told her, “it’s a quiet existence, and most times I like it.  90% of what people have to say is BS anyway.”  That really pissed the audiologist off.

But then, she has all her hearing. There’s a great documentary of sorts out there called Sound and Fury.  It documents several families on both sides of the deaf/hearing chasm – for there is a chasm, and it is hard if not impossible to see all the way across from either side.  Here’s the description of the docu:

SOUND AND FURY documents one family’s struggle over whether or not to provide two deaf children with cochlear implants, devices that can stimulate hearing. As the Artinians of Long Island, New York debate what is the right choice for the two deaf cousins, Heather, 6, and Peter, 1 1/2, viewers are introduced to one of the most controversial issues affecting the deaf community today. Cochlear implants may provide easier access to the hearing world, but what do the devices mean for a person’s sense of identity with deaf culture? Can durable bridges be built between the deaf and hearing worlds?

What most folks never realize is how hard it is to follow a conversation with more than 2 or 3 people in a group if you are reading lips.  You get tired.   Imagine thinking hard for four or five hours straight and no breaks.  You get fuzzy and tired of thinking, and there is a part of you that wants to turn it off.  That happens in under an hour for a lip-reader.  There are facial nuances (eyes, mouth, head tilt, nose), there’s the lips (putting movements together and processing), body language, visual aids (powerpoint, drawings, whatever), following who is talking, and then, on top of all that, processing the discussion and formulating your response or input.  This all has to be done real-time with constant re-evaluation of what the context of the conversation is, so the proper interpretation and assumptions can be made.

Lord help you if you stumble.  It is best visualized as a train wreck of the thought processes.  But you gotta keep up, regardless.

And the really maddening part is you are considered stupid because it is hard to keep up.  I remember being called retarded many times in school or weird for responding with something that was out-of-context.  I score quite high on an IQ profile and I’m anything but slow.  Is it any wonder so many deaf people are angry or bitter?  Lose your hearing and try to get a good job.  A good friend of mine could tell you stories…

Life is harder. Hearing your alarm clock?  Hearing a phone?  Will the phone be loud enough to hear the conversation even if you have some hearing?  Does the facility have TTY/TDD?  Does the movie theater have CC at the bottom of the screen?  Some do, most do not.  Forget going to see a play unless you get excited about 3 hours of utter boredom.  Got a baby?  How are you going to hear it if you can’t hear?  Did you hear a sound or not?  What is that smell?  Smoke?  Did the timer just go off on the stove?  Driving is an experience.  It means that a conversation that someone else takes for granted is now a very dangerous distraction for you, the driver.  You can’t hear the nurse call your name at the doctor’s office.  And even if you know the nurse has called you, did you get the name right?  Lipreading isn’t perfect – try to plug your ears and have somebody say “buy my pie” (in any word order) and see if you can tell what was what.  Good luck.  People are not always helpful to the deaf.  Some are outright mean to them.   Some employers will turn you away w/o an apology regardless of how illegal it is.  I don’t have it as bad as all of that.  As I said, I’m lucky, but there are obstacles.

There are times though, when I recognize and learn something new about the coolness of some of what I’m missing in the world of sound.  I’ll put in hearing aids, and while they don’t allow me to catch everything, I can hear frogs, some birds, water dripping in the sink… and I realize how cool some of the sounds are that the hearing world takes for granted.  I got home with my new hearing aids and sat by the sink, listening to water drip into the stainless steel sink <drip> <drip> <drip>.  And it’s funny, but those sounds I cannot hear normally take on a 3-dimensional quality and can be visualized as such.

I’m saying all this not to whine or bitch.  I’m saying it because it makes the real point of this post (coming right up) take on a much higher level of appreciation for those who could use it – several orders of magnitude for some.

At the UofM (Michigan) there is a contest, Feel the Music where students are being asked to come up with a way for the deaf to experience music, on-the-go, in an unobtrusive fashion.  Normally, you experience music if you are deaf – by turning it way way up.  I hear stuff best below 1KHz, so a good bass beat is great even if I don’t have to turn it up to 11.  (The Matrix is good for that).

I wish Professor Zurbuchen and the students a huge success.   They are doing a good thing here.  A thing that is good to hear.

Update:  Here is a link that Prof. Zurbuchen sent me if you want to learn more about the contest.

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For being patient, you deserve this.

Ok, one more…

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