I have talked some in past posts about my disabilities; but I don’t recall ever going into detail about them. This post will do just that.
September 21st will be the 5th Annual Usher Syndrome Awareness Day. (Click here for more information) To celebrate, if you will, I wanted to share with you some of what it is like being an Usher.
In a nutshell, an Usher is both deaf and blind.
What gets most people confused is that they assume that being deaf/blind is that you see/hear absolutely nothing.
For most of us with Usher Syndrome, this is not the case.
Usher Syndrome has basically three types:
I: born with profound deafness; vision loss begins before age 10
II: born with moderate to severe hearing loss; vision loss noticeable by late teens
III: born seemingly normal but progressive hearing loss by early childhood; vision loss begins in early teens or earlier
For a small percentage, Ushers will lose all sight (complete loss of light perception) and hearing. For the remainder, we will maintain some usable vision (all peripheral would be lost but many will retain some degree of central vision) with varying degrees of hearing.
I have Type II.
I was born with moderate to severe hearing loss though this was not diagnosed until I was in Kindergarten. At that time it was determined that I only had about 35 percent hearing in each ear. Because of this, I was quite behind in speech development which speech therapy for two years helped remedy.
When I was a freshman in college, I began to notice increasing problems getting around campus at night. Two years later, I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (which explained the progressive vision loss). Shortly after I visited the Ear and Eye Infirmary in Boston where I underwent two days of various intense testing which determined that I had Type II Usher Syndrome (RP with hearing loss).
These all occurred between 1977 and 1992. Medical experts in these two fields (hearing/vision) were great for trying to pin point exactly what was wrong with me; but, they did little to nothing in helping me find ways to cope with these progressive losses which for many of us tend to lead to severe anxiety and depression. This, I’ve noticed, still continue today for many however I am seeing a gradual change in the right direction.
So, along with roughly (now) 30 to 32 percent of hearing, I have very little peripheral vision left. I have no night vision whatsoever. Sun light and various indoor lighting hurt my eyes so I need to wear sunglasses nearly all the time. Colors are challenging to tell apart (if you put navy, brown and black beside one another, I cannot tell the difference. The same for green-blue, orange-yellow, etc.). My depth perception is gradually declining (instead of seeing layers and edges, everything is meshed together. Simply put is that I no longer see things in 3-D instead everything is in 1-D). I can still read, but that is growing more difficult. I have tried to use audio books but with hearing loss, that at times has been frustrating.
I am now using a walking cane to help keep me mobile and out and about but at times this is also quite challenging as I really cannot rely on my hearing to pick up hidden dangers.
Over time, I have become more of a recluse and this does not help my depression; however, whenever I do have plans to head out of the house, I am besieged with anxiety that have oftentimes kept me house bound more times than not.
I “retired” from the workforce over four years ago. At first, it was nice. Now, I’m so tired of staring at the walls and of being so isolated and uninvolved. The internet has helped but I need to actually get out more. The challenge is finding things and ways to go about it.