Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Pygmalion, revisited

"There even are places where English completely
disappears. In America, they haven't used it for years!" ~ Rex Harrison

So call me Eliza, and make my CI Henry Higgins. I'm sure this isn't what George Bernard Shaw had in mind when he wrote Pygmalion (My Fair Lady,) but to me, it comes damn close.

I'm speaking of course, about speech. Phonetics. Pronunciation. That which has plagued hearing and deaf alike for millennia, which is the bane of ASL purists, the desire of oralists, and the subject of this blog entry.

When it comes to communication, I like to think I have a pretty full toolbox. I can communicate in pidgin-ASL pretty well for someone who hasn't used it in more than 10 years (I was fluent when I went to RIT, but "use it or lose it.") I am extremely well read, there's always a book within reaching distance, wherever I am, and my favorite internet destinations are all news/tech/blog sites. I read science publications, I enjoy a good debate, and I like to think I have a pretty good linguistic capacity. I strive to speak clearly, and concisely.

So, you can imagine my surprise, my chagrin, and my embarrassment when I discover that all my life I've been pronouncing some words incorrectly, not realizing it, and nobody had bothered to tell me!!! Or it wasn't a case of somebody telling me, but my discovering a word that I THOUGHT all my life was pronounced one way was actually pronounced another way.

Yes I took English in school. Got straight "A's" too. Loved it, as I love to read. I could debate the symbology in Animal Farm, the allegory in Lord of the Flies, and the politics in 1984 until the cows came home, but looking back I realize that almost NO emphasis was ever placed on learning the pronunciation of words, but rather how to spell them. So I learned them, how to use them in a sentence, how to spell them perfectly (antidisestablishmentarianism, anybody?) But apparently I didn't learn to pronounce them properly.

Professor Henry Higgins sings

Henry: "I Hear them down in Soho square,
Dropping "h's" everywhere.
Speaking English anyway they like.
You sir, did you go to school?"

Man: "Waddaya tike me for, a fool?"

Henry: "No one taught him 'take' instead of 'tike!'"

Don't feel bad man, nobody taught me either.

I suppose its because among the hearing, you pick up on the pronunciation easily. We deaf have to constantly keep the rules of English grammar in our heads. You remember it the 'h' in ghost is silent. Ditto for the 'p' in pneumonia. Ea sounds differently depending on the words - meat, bread, great. Ci makes a "sh" sound (facial.) Got the hiccoughs? You hic-cup, not hic-cough, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera....(oops! Wrong musical!)

Like most people, be they hearing or deaf, I enjoy watching movies. Thankfully, most are closed captioned (even with my CI, I don't catch everything, especially when they put the damn "suspenseful" or "action" music in the background - it washes out the dialog!) Yet with my CI, I am finding that I pick up nuances in the movies that I never realized. Case in point - I was watching "The Matrix - Revolutions" the other day. There's a point near the middle when Captain Mifune says to Kid "The minimum age for the Corp's eighteen. Sixteen's too young." The Kid replies, "The machines don't care how old I am. They'll kill me just the same."

Now, prior to getting my CI, I'd simply have read the dialog and followed the movie normally, but with my CI, I noticed that I couldn't hear the "p" in corps, so I backtracked and listened to that scene again, and again. You see, all my life I thought corps was pronounced the same as corpse. But my CI was hearing "corz." Where was the p? Then it dawned on me that I wasn't hearing it wrong, I was hearing it RIGHT, and I had never realized.

I started thinking about other words that I had, since being activated, encountered and discovered my pronunciation had been wrong,

Herbs- the h is silent? I never knew that!

Porshe - okay its pronounced "porsh-eh" I can do that... but forte is pronounced fort!

Oh so you don't pronounce the "c" in Priscilla?

Breathalyzer, Dionysus, Arkansas (well KANSAS is pronounced the way its spelled, so why shouldn't Arkansas? OY!)

Watching TV last week I realized that Edinburgh is "Edinburra" and yet...we don't call it Pittsburra do we?

Is ignorance a good excuse? Maybe they just overlooked my lapses...and didn't think it necessary to correct me.

I am so thankful for my CI...I love the world of sound it brings me, but at the same time, I'm realizing how incredibly STUPID I must have sounded on occasion, with my mispronunciations. I find myself paying much more attention to how words sound when I'm talking to others, or watching TV or even listening to music. It makes me appreciate even more, how difficult it must be for those born deaf to learn to speak. I was lucky that I at least had the first 9 years of my life to learn SOME of the rules...even if I apparently didn't learn them all.

In parting, I leave you with this...

If you can pronounce correctly every word in this poem, you will be speaking English better than 90% of the native English speakers in the world. After trying the verses, a Frenchman said he’d prefer six months of hard labour to reading six lines aloud.

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it’s written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.
Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.
Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation’s OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.
Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.
Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Foeffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.
Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.
Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.
Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.
Pronunciation (think of Psyche!)
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won’t it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It’s a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.
Finally, which rhymes with enough,
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!!!

English Pronunciation by G. Nolst Trenité

Monday, March 03, 2008

Of CI's and Cell Phones - Take Two

Wow I can't believe its been so long since I last updated. This will be a pretty long post!

My implant has been fantastic - nothing to complain about whatsoever with the quality of sound and the performance of my implant and processor, barring a gremlin here or there with regards to the processor coil - which I will address later in this post, or in a following one.

First order of business: I've had several people and a few commenters request that I include the information I found in my search for a cell phone. Getting my first cell phone was definitely an educational experience. I had not realized that cell phones are not universally adaptable to the technology in a hearing aid or cochelar implant. The very first phone I received from my provider (Rogers) was a Samsung. It wasn't until I came home and sat down to try it that I realized that it wasn't compatible with my Freedom. I experienced a horrendous high-pitched throbbing static when I put it up to the microphone/processor. Not to be defeated, I started Googling.

I came across a website www.phonescoop.com and found this information:

When wireless devices are used near hearing devices (such as hearing aids and cochlear implants), users may detect a buzzing, humming, or whining noise. Some hearing devices are more immune than others to this interference, and wireless devices also vary in the amount of interference they generate.

The wireless telephone industry has developed ratings to assist hearing device users in finding wireless devices that may be compatible with their hearing devices. Not all wireless devices have been rated. Wireless devices that are rated will have the rating displayed on their box together with other relevant approval markings.

The ratings are not guarantees. Results will vary depending on the user's hearing device and hearing loss. If your hearing device is vulnerable to interference you may not be able to use a rated wireless device successfully.

M-Ratings: Wireless devices rated M3 or M4 meet FCC requirements and are likely to generate less interference to hearing devices than wireless devices that are not labeled. M4 is the better/higher of the two ratings.

T-Ratings: Wireless devices rated T3 or T4 meet FCC requirements and are likely to be more usable with a hearing device's telecoil ("T Switch" or "Telephone Switch") than unrated wireless devices. T4 is the better/higher of the two ratings. (Note that not all hearing devices have telecoils in them).

Most phones that are rated T3 also have an M3 rating. Similarly, most phones rated T4 also have an M4 rating.

Hearing devices may also be measured for immunity to this type of interference. Your hearing device manufacturer or hearing health professional may help you find results for your hearing device. The more immune your hearing aid is, the less likely you are to experience interference noise from wireless devices.

Interesting. So I clicked their Phone Finder link, and selected "Show All Options" from the bottom. After a refresh, I found the "Hearing Aid Compatible" option and selected "M3/T4 and M4/T4" (Very Telecoil Compatible) and did the search. I'm not sure if the link I am going to provide will work for everyone, but I received this listing:

I took this list with me to my Rogers rep and from the list he was able to give me the Motorola Razr V3, and I have been very satisfied with it. I occasionally experience a little bit of static, but I have found that it usually is so quiet it doesn't interfere with my conversations, and if it does, I use a Motorola earbud headset (which I will show pictures of below) and that eliminates all static!

When it comes to choosing a cell phone, it appears that "one size does NOT fit all." You will have to experiment with different phones, and if possible talk to your reprsentative to see if they will let you "try out" different phones to find the one that works best with your implant. I have yet to use a telecoil neck loop, so I can't offer any advice there, but perhaps others who have the experience will add their two cents in the comments area.

I found some advice regarding cell phones from Cochlear's website,

A number of cell phone features may produce radio frequency (RF) interference with your cochlear implant, which may cause you to hear buzzing when you bring the phone up to your implant. This buzzing can overpower a caller’s voice, making it difficult or impossible to use the phone.

Interference can come from the transmission signal that sends the call, the antenna, battery or screen backlight.

Cell phones that are not telecoil compatible may also produce interference when using a telecoil.

The Nucleus behind-the-ear (BTE) processors and microphones have an RF shielding to provide some protection against interference. Yet there are certain cell phone features you can look for to minimize interference even further.

Buying a flip-top or clamshell design phone, rather than a bar-shaped design, may help reduce interference. The flip-fop design usually has both the battery and antenna in the lower part of the phone, putting some distance between these parts and your implant’s components. The contoured shape of this design makes it easy to position the receiver next to the implant microphone.

Also, to reduce interference from the antenna, look for a phone that lets you point the antenna away from your implant’s components and still comfortably talk on the phone.

You might want to contact your CI representative/audiologist to get the most updated information on compatibility if you have a different CI - I can't speak for anything other than the Freedom, as that is all I have ever used.

Now about my hands-free headset - I have found that since I can't "switch ears" when my arm gets tired, and that sometimes the static sound gets worse depending on the quality of the connection with the caller, using an earbud headset completely eliminates all background static. The challenge I had was to figure out a way to USE the earbud with my CI. Trial and error so far has lead me to using two very soft ponytail holders to hold it in place, and this seems to work very well.

First - my phone (Motorola Razr V3), Freedom, Motorola Earbud Headset, two soft ponytail holders.

Take one ponytail holder, and loop twice behind the earbud, and around the CI

Take the second ponytail holder, and wrap it OPPOSITE so that it wraps from the top of the earbud to the bottom of the processor for stability

I thought it prudent to add this: I do NOT use the telecoil setting on my Freedom, nor do I have the telecoil selection activated on my Razr. I HAVE tried using the telecoil settings and found I experienced the buzzing/whining sound that I reported with the Samsung. It just emphasizes you have to "play around" with the different phones, and different settings until you find one that works best for you - there doesn't seem to be a "One Size Fits All" scenerio when it comes to cell phone technology. I have found this holds true for regular house phones as well. Some phones are crystal clear for me, others either buzz, or produce a weird "echo" whenever I speak into them.

~ edit March 21

I originally made this post on March 3, but wanted to make an addition here. While I love using the headset with my Razr, there is a limitation. The Razr has a single port on it, which serves as a data port, a headset port, and a charging port. This means if I am using it with my headset and my battery gives me a "low battery" warning, I can't simply plug the charger in and continue my conversation. I have to unplug the headset (which automatically disconnects the call) and then plug in the charger, and THEN have the person call me back, and continue the conversation normally without the headset. Its a bit of a hassle, as I am not in the habit of asking a person beforehand how long they plan to talk to me, so I can ensure I have enough battery power to use the headset for the entire conversation. I often talk to my sweetheart for a few hours each night (long distance relationship) and quite often I've had to tell him that he would have call me back in a minute, after I had plugged the charger into my phone. Its a hassle to have only one port - he has a phone which has separate ports for the charger and the headset. I've been trying to find a t-splitter to allow me to both charge and use my headset, but I haven't had much luck.