Sunday, August 31, 2008

Three Year CI Anniversary

Three years ago today, the remnants of Hurricane Katrina blew through Knoxville, knocking out the power in our area. Three years ago Steve was trying to get home from a business trip to take me to the hospital for a life-changing surgery (he didn't make it - Marissa had to miss school that day and took me instead. Steve did make it in time to be there when I woke up in recovery.) Three years ago today I received my first cochlear implant in my left ear. These last three years have been an incredible discovery of new sounds and new joys. I know I've said this before but will say it again. . . I am forever grateful for those who made this technology possible to give the gift of sound to the deaf and hard of hearing.

Below is my most recent hearing test (click on test to view it bigger), which I had done a month ago at my last mapping appointment at the UT Audiology and Speech Pathology department. I tested NORMAL across the board with both cochlear implants, which is even better than the last hearing test I had done a year ago. (That is the C1 you see across the top of the test.) My audiologist also tested my residual hearing to see if I had any left because I told her that I can "hear" certain sounds at a certain range. (Those are the X's and O's you see near the side and bottom of the test.) Cochlear implants usually destroy what residual hearing is left but my doctor used the latest technology, which tries to preserve it. And sure enough, I do have a little bit left. But it is not really usable. It is nice to know that it is there and not just my imagination!

Julie also surprised me and wanted to test my word recognition (HINT=hearing in noise test) score. She used her own voice instead of using a recording and repeated sentences to me. She asked me to write them down and told me to write whatever I heard, even if it didn't make sense. My score was 63%, which is just a slight improvement from my score of 60% last September. But, she tested me BEFORE she remapped my processors. I think I would have done better AFTER the mapping session and with a man's voice. But that is okay. 63% is better than 0%, which was my score three years ago. My score is higher (100%) when there is no noise around me, which is why I prefer to talk on the phone in a quiet place with no distractions.

Tonight is the annual fireworks display in Knoxville for the Boomsday festival. I'm hoping to go see and HEAR them with TWO ears! Have a great Labor Day!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sounds of Mystic, Connecticut

The waters are alive with the sounds of Mystic,
With stories they have told for a thousand years.
The river fills my heart with the stillness of Mystic,
My heart wants to tell every story it hears. . .My heart wants to soar like the mist on the water rising like a breath of heaven to the clouds. . .
My soul wants to sail like a ship that glides
from the pier in the wind. . .
To move gracefully through the ripples of the water like a peaceful swan. . .
To flow like the tide when the waves trip and fall over
rocks on their way. . .I go to the sea when my heart is quiet. . .
I know I will hear sounds I haven't heard before. . .

My heart is truly blessed with the sounds of Mystic. . .
And I'll return some day soon!
(by Laurie Pullins 08/27/08)
Steve and I have been traveling for business and pleasure for the last ten days. We spent five wonderful and glorious days in Mystic, Connecticut with the newlyweds, Brad & Caitlyn, and had a great time. I heard the ocean with TWO ears for the first time! It sounds so much better and more complete than just hearing it with one CI or even with hearing aids. I took so many pictures but thought I would post a few here.
The Ocean beneath my feet!Mystic is an old seaport town and has so much history. Brad & Caitlyn have a cute little apartment in an old house in the historical district of Mystic. They are within walking distance to downtown Mystic where one can browse around in the unique shops, eat out in the various restaurants, have coffee or tea in one of the shops, walk along the pier and see the fishermen and boats, and see all the old buildings and bridges. I got up early in the mornings and just walked down to the pier and the water when it was peaceful and quiet without the hustle and bustle of the tourists. One of the highlights for me was seeing and hearing the Mystic drawbridge go up to let the boats pass. It sounds a horn when it is ready to go up and sounds a bell when it is going down. And I can hear it from a distance (about a mile) from Brad & Caitlyn's house!
The Mystic Drawbridge Steve and I used to live in the New London/Groton area, which is just over the main bridge from Mystic so we did some sightseeing and traveled down "memory lane." We went to our old house and neighborhood that we used to live in, visited Ocean Beach, and just drove around. We left CT in 1982. A lot of it has changed but much of it is still the same. And we also had dinner and breakfast with some friends of ours that live in the area. It was a wonderful "mini" vacation for us. Steve and I are so thankful that we can share these memories together after all these years. Where does the time go? I wish I could go back and live in Connecticut again!
Our first house on Lincoln Avenue (the only cobblestone street in New London)The NEWLYWEDS Caitlyn & Brad!Steve & Laurie at S&P Oyster Company

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Letter From My Father - Part 3

My father's letter continues. . .

Laurie's mother should be given the majority of the credit for ensuring Laurie's speech training and for spending hours and hours listening to her and her problems and for encouraging her to "never give up" on being able to "get along" in a hearing world.

She taught Laurie how to be organized and to get tasks done in a timely manner. For example, all through middle school & high school, Laurie would do her homework as soon as she got home from school. It was always done before supper so she could watch television afterwards. She got herself up each morning with a light timer, got dressed for school and was always ready when it was time to catch the bus. (Mom usually stood by the window listening for the bus for me and made sure I got out the door in time.)

The best thing that happened to Laurie was meeting her husband, Steve, when she started her freshman year at Wright State University (Dayton, Ohio) in 1975. They hit it off together! And he understood Laurie's hearing loss and was patient in dealing with it. They became engaged by March 1976 and were married in November 1976.

Dad's Recollections of Laurie:
1. She was always good with her two brothers and sister. (Most of the time. :) Kathy and I had some nasty fights! But we are best friends now!)
2. She listened to my wife & I about doing things.
3. She was always loving & kind.
4. Others liked to be around her. She had lots of friends & cousins who enjoyed being in her company.
5. She was always neat in dress and appearance.
6. She was a good babysitter.
7. She enjoyed watching TV and listening to music with earphones or a headset. (I also listened to LP albums with the volume turned all the way up in my room.)
8. She surprised her mother and I in many ways in being able to hear and communicate with people. (I found other ways to compensate in order to "get the message" or faked it when I didn't really understand.)
9. Her teachers were always impressed on how well she could learn, even with a hearing disability.
10. She promised her mother that she would get her college degree when she became engaged and wanted to be married. (She did!) (After transferring from four different colleges, I finally graduated from the University of Tennessee with my Finance degree in December 2003.)

"The End" by Dad, Edwin J. Royer

Thanks, Dad. I love you. Laurie

Thursday, August 21, 2008

We're Not Done Yet. . .

The following is a press release by Larry Silverstein, who has been working very hard to save the UT Department of Audiology & Speech Pathology. His father, Bernie Silverstein, is the one that started the program in the 1950's when he saw a need for services for the deaf and hard of hearing in Tennessee.
PRESS RELEASE - August 19, 2008

Supporters of the UT Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology have learned some progress is being made to find an alternative to the University Administration’s original proposal to eliminate the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology and all clinical services.

We currently do not have answers to very important questions and therefore, cannot fully evaluate today’s announcement by the University Administration.

It is unclear from the University Administration’s ambiguously worded press release whether it intends to keep all clinical programs intact and operational. The word “clinic,” in the singular, is used in the press release. We need to know if this means all clinical programs currently part of the Hearing & Speech Center and all academic degree programs will continue to be offered to students.

We must have immediate and complete answers to these and other questions even as additional details are being worked out, in order to determine if this apparent progress is a true resolution.

The University Administration has been under great pressure from the concerned community of the UT Faculty, professionals, clients, students, and governmental officials to find a solution to the situation it created. The announcement in early June proposed to eliminate the academic program and the entire clinical program that was established in l953. We are cautiously optimistic that a satisfactory solution can be achieved. We will continue to insist that the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology and its entire clinical program be maintained and adequately funded.

The public meeting of Supporters of the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology, scheduled for Thursday, August 21, at 5:30 pm at the Scottish Rite Temple, l6th St. and White Ave. will be held as scheduled to discuss the latest developments.

Larry Silverstein

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Letter From My Father - Part 2

Dad went on and talked about my early "school" years. . . my notes/comments are in red. . . just reading my father's letter brought back many memories for me.

(Dad's letter continues. . . )
At age 3, Laurie was enrolled in Pre-school for 3-5 days a week at our church, North Broadway Methodist Church in Columbus, Ohio.

At age 5, she started kindergarten at a "special school" where she had a earphone headset with a specially trained teacher for 1/2 day in the morning. A taxi picked her up from our house and took her to the school and returned her home after 12:00 noon each day. (I remember the taxi picking me up every day and thought everyone went to school that way! There was a black boy named Donald who rode in the taxi with me. I thought he was black because he was burned in a fire. I found out later that he really was in a fire but that wasn't the reason he was black! And he was my friend, until he hit me on the head with his metal lunchbox!)

Laurie thrived in kindergarten (there were only nine in the class, all with hearing problems) with a wonderful teacher. (The name of the school was Kingswood. I don't know if it was an elementary school or special school. My teacher's name was Mrs. Card. I can remember sitting on her lap every day in front of a mirror with headphones, using my hands on her throat & lips to mimic the words and sounds she was teaching me. Kindergarten was a fun time for me and I still recall many details. I've tried to find Mrs. Card to thank her but don't even know where to start or if she is still around today. I'm guessing she would be in her 70's or 80's now. . .)

By January, her teacher told us that Laurie was ready for 1st grade and she was sure she could "mainstream" through elementary school. (I was reading at 3rd or 4th grade level by the time I entered first grade because I had to learn to read in order to learn to talk.)

Her prognosis was correct and Laurie became as "normal" as a 6, 7, 8, & 9 year old could be as she went through 4th grade and part of 5th grade at Oakland Park Elementary School in North Columbus, Ohio. (My 2nd & 3rd grade teacher's name was Mrs. Gump. I called her Mrs. Grump because she was so strict and firm with me. She even paddled me in 3rd grade in the hallway because I talked too much! No one walked home from school with me that day and that hurt worse than the paddling.)

We lived on a street with other young families with children and only 1/2 block from a city park. she and her friends played together all the time. The park had summer programs for crafts, games, and other activities for kids. (I loved going to the park. I loved playing on the playground, swimming in the pool, and learned to play softball. There was also a craft time and I tried everything. That is where I developed my love for knitting and needlework. One time I came home late after dark because I lost track of time. Mom turned me over her knee and spanked my bare bottom. I didn't do that again because I knew I disappointed her.)

In 1967, we moved to Dayton, Ohio in the middle of Laurie's 5th grade year. She attended an "open classroom" school environment for middle school. She did well in school wherever she went. After middle school she attended Centerville High School and graduated in 1975 near the top of her class with over 550 students. (I have mixed feelings about my high school years. . . there were over 2000 students in the high school and I felt "lost" because the school was so large. It was a "college-like" atmosphere where classes were held in four different buildings and we had to change rooms between each class. My high school years were difficult for me because I "didn't fit in" and never felt like I "belonged." I always sat in front of the class so that I wouldn't miss a thing. When I wasn't in school, I was either working or studying. I did have some very good friends and still keep in touch with them to this day. The same people who made fun of me and/or ignored me in high school "grew up" and later became my friends in college and adult life. To this day I still cringe when I hear the words "peer pressure" because it deeply affects many persons in negative ways.)

She worked as a babysitter, a coat-check girl at a restaurant and was able to do all the normal things a teenager could do. Some people wondered when she worked as a coat checker if she was from the "South" because her way of saying words wasn't as distinctive as most local Ohioans. (I got so tired of telling people that I was "hearing impaired" when they asked me where I was from when they heard my "accent." One time I decided to tell a customer that I was Spanish and was from Spain. He immediately started talking to me in Spanish and I couldn't understand a thing he said! I never did that again!)

The reason Laurie was so successful in school was due to her ability to "lip-read" people who would look directly at her and speak slowly so she could see the "word form." (To this day, I still like to lip read and prefer to look at people when they talk to me, even though I can hear and comprehend pretty good with with my cochlear implants. I think it is polite and courteous to look at someone when you are conversing with them.)

She got her Driver's permit at age 16 and learned to drive soon afterwards through Driver's Education training, etc. (Daddy was very nervous in the car while I was learning to drive! I think it was hard for him to teach me because I couldn't drive and look at him at the same time when he tried to tell me something. Mom just let me drive.)

The reason Laurie was able to do so well in getting along with people was due to her ability to observe her surroundings. When at age 2, she would point up into the sky at an airplane so high that neither my wife or I could hear or see. But, Laurie was highly observant, which helped her recognize if someone was nearby and were trying to get her attention. (This comment by my father was interesting because to this day I depend on my "eyes" to be my "ears" for me. I can "see" things before normal hearing people can hear them. But I didn't realize that was something I did when I was two years old.)

To be continued (and completed) in Part 3. . .

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

NEWS FLASH! UT Audiology & Speech Program Update

I just received word that the University of Tennessee Department of Audiology & Speech Pathology program has been saved! This is WONDERFUL and GREAT news! So many people have responded and worked very hard to save this department that makes a difference in so many lives. I don't know all of the details yet but it was announced this afternoon.

This news comes just before a public rally was planned on Thursday afternoon for the supporters and persons who were opposed to the UT proposal to eliminate the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology. I think there should be a BIG party instead to celebrate! (I cannot attend this rally because I am currently out of town traveling for business.)

Never underestimate the power of the written and spoken word. The people who spoke out on this issue made a difference, one person at a time. . . one letter, email, article, speech, etc. at a time. The voice of the "silent people" has been heard!

The following is an excerpt of the announcement: (I'm leaving names out for privacy reasons)

"Today UT Knoxville and our partners in the UT system announced significant progress toward a solution that will allow the UT Knoxville Audiology and Speech Pathology department to continue operations through UT and remain in Knoxville.

The university is committed to keeping the clinic open, and in Knoxville. Details are still being worked out, but UT will continue to operate the clinic and the academic program.

A group representing myself (UT Interim Chancellor), the president, the College of Arts and Sciences, the audiology and speech pathology department, the UT Health Science Center and others has sought alternatives that will allow the program to continue to meet the educational and clinical needs of Tennesseans.

Our discussion remains focused on the economic realities facing all of our campuses and institutes. We think a new approach will provide shared efficiencies and new opportunities for strategic partnerships. Under the plan, the department will no longer be affiliated with the College of Arts and Sciences, allowing for the needed reductions in the campus budget.

We expect to be able to announce the plan in early September, and we will work closely with the Faculty Senate, the department and other university leaders to ensure that alternatives consider the program's mission and service, current faculty and staff as well as patients and their families."

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Letter From My Father

A few weeks ago my father sent me a letter answering some questions about my early years when my hearing loss was discovered. I would not be where I am today if it wasn't for this early intervention in my hearing journey by my parents. Through their determination, strength, & perseverance they made sure I had every option available to me. I still had some questions about my early "deaf" history and since Mom isn't here to answer them for me (she lost her battle to pancreatic cancer in 1992) I sent my father an email with six questions for him to answer. I had planned to call him on the phone that evening to get his answers but by that afternoon he had written six pages and faxed them to me! (Dad doesn't use the computer but his wife does.) Mom was the biggest cheerleader for me and my brother (he has a severe hearing loss, too, but still wears hearing aids) and spent much time and research looking for the best options for us. She was also a teacher so it was only natural for her to "teach" us to talk and communicate and show us the world.

I spent many years in denial about my hearing loss and didn't want people to know about it. So, I did not want to talk about it and did not ask many questions. Now that I can hear with my cochlear implants and have so many connections with the deaf world, I realized that I had some "blanks" regarding my early years. I wanted to know what Mom and Dad felt and experienced when my hearing loss was discovered. I wanted to know what made them realize I couldn't hear. What clues did they have? How many times a week did I go to therapy before I started kindergarten? Etc, etc, etc. I will share some excerpts from Dad's letter. . .

My Recollections of Our Daughter's Early Hearing Problems
by Edwin Royer

We thought Laurie was normal until she was about 2 years old in April 1959. Our friends had a child who was also 2 years old and had started talking and saying words. Laurie didn't verbalize at all. So, her mother took her to the family doctor and asked him "why Laurie wasn't talking."

He didn't know, but advised us to take her to the Children's Hospital in Buffalo, New York and have her tested for hearing loss.

The result by the hearing specialist was that Laurie had a severe hearing loss up to 85%. But, she could hear loud sounds, and had 10%-15% residual hearing. We were advised to have her begin hearing therapy immediately in May 1959 at age 25 months.

My wife took her to Buffalo Children's Hospital three times a week (M-W-F) for 30 minute sessions. It was determined that she could vocalize with instruction.

In June 1959 the State of New York purchased a chest type (body worn) bilateral hearing aid for Laurie and she made excellent progress through September 1959 when we moved to Columbus, Ohio for her Dad's new job and graduate school at Ohio State University. (My note: this was news to me. . . I did not know that the State of New York provided me with my first hearing aid. Mom & Dad were newlyweds in their mid-20's living on a small budget while my father was working on his master's and doctorate degrees. I'm sure they appreciated this service. My parents made many sacrifices over the years to afford the hearing needs for me and my brother and never once complained.)

In October 1959 we enrolled her in speech therapy at the Ohio State University Speech & Hearing Center on campus. My wife took her there three times a week for individual sessions.

(Re: How her mother and I felt when we found out in April-May 1959 that Laurie was "deaf.")

We were devastated and wondered how it could be that our daughter couldn't hear. There was no hereditary deafness on either side of the family that we knew of.

We were told that Laurie could go to a "deaf school" similar to Gallaudet where she could learn "sign language" and learn to communciate that way. But, given this choice usually meant that children sent there NEVER learned to talk and communicate normally. Given that Laurie had some residual hearing and responded to training and voice stimuli and was learning to "lip read" and speak words in a somewhat normal manner, we were told that with extensive effort and training that she could "possibly" learn to "hear" and "listen" and "speak" like normal children who weren't "deaf."

We decided to give the latter choice a try and that we would encourage her to "mainstream" in pre-school, kindergarten, & and regular school. (*It was the correct decision as we would later find out.*)

To be continued. . .

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Audiology Clinic Allows Locals to Live & Work

I am still working hard and advocating for the UT Audiology & Speech Department and recently had another article published in the Knoxville News Sentinel on Monday. You can access it HERE. It was originally supposed to be published a few weeks ago but the gentleman who wrote it had to deal with the loss of his mother to cancer right after he interviewed me. I had hoped that the article would be longer but we felt that it was important to publish something to increase deaf awareness in the community, especially for the UT Board members that live in the Knoxville area.

I'm not finished with this issue yet! I hope to write another article later this month and also have a state government meeting this week with the TN Council for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing. The UT Audiology and Speech department is on the agenda and will be in my report as well.

My father wrote a six page letter to me a few weeks ago and filled in the "blanks" that I had regarding my early hearing loss history since my mother isn't here to answer those questions for me. I hope to post some excerpts from it in the very near future. It was so sweet and tender and made me miss my mother all over again, bringing tears to my eyes.

My dear readers, if you are connected in any way to the UT Audiology & Speech Pathology program, they would really appreciate it if you would write one letter or email to Lisa Hertz, the UT secretary at Your letter or email will be passed on to the UT Board of Trustees. Even a short letter or email that states where you live and how your audiology department helps you or your family would be wonderful. Just tell the Trustees who you are, where you live, why the UT ASP programs are important, and ask the Trustees to continue the programs. Just one or two points would be perfect. Also, please pass on information regarding this important issue to your friends and family members.

Also, check the most recent additions to the SAVE UTASP website, including the Editiorial in the Sunday Knoxville News Sentinel and Letter to the Editor. Stay tuned for future updates!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Testing. . .

Testing to see if my blog is unlocked by Blogger.......

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