Monday, October 03, 2005

Fall, 2005, in Southern Europe

Our travels in southern Europe in the fall of 2005 to visit my brother will forever bring back some wonderful memories and a few CI recollections as well. Gerry and I traveled in a rather non-conventional way, crossing the Atlantic and hopping from country to country in military aircrafts as space permitted. This entailed a considerable amount of sitting in terminals waiting for flight announcements. We came back to the states via a cruise ship that was repositioning from the Meditteranean to a new season of service in North America.

I gave my CI quite a workout with a whole host of hearing environments in the five weeks we were away from home. The final "CI tally" had more on the plus side than the minus column. There were both surprising successes and some not-so-great acoustical encounters.

What I learned:

  • Understanding English when it is spoken with a heavy accent over a PA system is just too tall an order for this CIer. Only a word or two per sentence would come through, not enough to comprehend the total message. A hearing companion is such a blessing since military terminals have no visual message boards, and the personnel we encountered had no apparent training in communicating with the hearing impaired.

  • A cochlear implant can get knocked off accidentally by this same blessed spouse, which does make for a brief and terrifying moment of sheer panic! I could not hear my precious BTE hit that stone floor, but my eyes registered the potential catastrophe. Thank the Lord that glorious sound was restored as soon as my trembling hands re-connected the headpiece to my noggin'.

  • Italian architects know nothing about acoustics. Those beautiful tile floors, grand high ceilings and tall arches, winding marble staircases, and spacious atriums are visually appealing but an auditory nightmare for the hearing challenged. The absence of drapes and other sound-absorbing interior fabrics also contribute to the echo chamber effect. My brother lives in one of these Italian villas.

  • An infrared ALD was delivered to our stateroom on the first day of our cruise. I was so impressed and promptly deposited it in my pocket for use at the first night's entertainment. It never occurred to me to check to see if it had any batteries!

  • Arranging in advance for a stateroom TV with closed captioning does not guaranteed that there will be anything broadcasted that is closed captioned. The movies they televised, although current releases, were stored in the ship's computer bank without captioning. We could get CNN via the ship's satellite system, but no captioning.

  • Cruise directors are like so many other people. (How's that for a profound declaration!) They graciously receive the suggestion to lower the microphone slightly when addressing an assembled group of passengers so that those hearing impaired people in the audience can see their lips. I suppose they intend to do so, but old habits are hard to break.

  • What a thrill to be able to pick up the stateroom phone and understand the caller's words! Most hearing people just take that for granted.