Making a point: Communicating with the hearing impaired requires patience and understanding.
With lots of support from family and friends, the hearing impaired need not
be lost in a silent, scary world.
I learned, as early as primary school, that people are supposed to be endowed with five senses – sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing. As I grew older, I became aware of the importance of all these senses and that without any one of them, we would be handicapped.
I came from a poor family. My parents worked hard to feed their five children. As kids, we helped around the kampung to earn a few extra ringgit. But we were a happy lot.
My mother was an amazingly hardworking woman. She tapped rubber in the wee hours of the morning, toiled in the paddy field after that, and went fishing to put food on the table. My father was often away from home doing odd jobs to support the family.
My mother had a mishap while tapping rubber one day and injured her eye. My father rushed her to the hospital where she underwent an operation to save her vision.
As years went by, I worried about her eyesight, but there was another problem that crept up unsuspectingly. It happened so slowly and so gradually that the family didn't realise they had to raise their voices when talking to my mother. It never occurred to us that our mother was going deaf. Eventually she suffered massive hearing loss in both ears, and it became a frustrating experience trying to talk with her.
My brother bought her a pair of hearing aids which she refused to wear. She has rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease which causes chronic inflammation of the joints, and it hurt her fingers to insert the device in her ears. She eventually gave up.
It saddens me to see my mother so lost in her own silent world. She's unable to join in the conversation at family gatherings. She enjoys watching TV even though she's unable to read the subtitles as she's illiterate.
I wish I could share my happiness or the ups and downs of my life with her, but the communication barrier makes this almost impossible. When we try to help her to put on the hearing aid, she gets irritated as she's not accustomed to it.
With her advancing age, other ailments have crept in and she walks with difficulty due to a knee problem. Her body is bent with age and she's noticeably shorter. Whenever I visit her, I always check her fingernails and toenails and trim them, as she's unable to use the nail clipper because of her arthritic fingers.
But my mother is stoic in the face of pain. Life’s many hardships have moulded her into a woman of steel. Even the doctors are amazed at her relatively good health at the age of 88. She doesn't have high blood pressure or other problems commonly associated with old age. Her memory is still sharp, and for that we're thankful.
My sister took her to Singapore for a holiday recently. Although my mother was in a wheelchair, she had a great time. Her excitement was palpable as she had plenty to say when she went through the holiday photo album with the family. How I wish she could hear us; our joy would have been complete.
My mother is a fiercely independent woman. Despite her age, she refuses to live with any of her children. It helps that my eldest sister lives next door and can keep an eye on her. My mother simply dotes on her grandchildren. She enjoys their company tremendously and showers them with love and attention.
Living with a mother who is hearing impaired, I’ve learned to be patient, just as she was patient with us when we were kids. I'm thankful that she's still with us, and I pray that we can look forward to many happy years ahead. Life is always colourful with my mother around.
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