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Why Blow $4,000 On A Digital Hearing Aid ?
Hearing horns and tubes work very well, cost peanuts, and are STILL being made.
This 9-inch black anodized aluminum beauty does it all for $49. If you take it to the opera, be sure to have your assisted ear out on the aisle. If it's too macho, get the curvy brass one below, $16.
The red one is a poor man's version, $10. The other two are available from Amazon, $39 for the tubed one and $26 for the metal-looking one (actually plastic). The ad for that one reassuringly says you don't need a prescription (prescription for a hearing horn?).
Why blow $6,000 on binaural digital aids?
These sound-gathering "Earglasses" cost only about $10, look smart, and (for women) go well with any outfit or hairdo. No wires, no batteries, no ear-molds, no feedback, no audiologists, no muss, no fuss !!.
They are still being made (one shape is available from Amazon)......and yes, they work!
The One-Buck Hearing Aid !!
AT LEFT. This cardboard hearing aid from around 1925 was $1 (about $12 in today's money). It slid over an ear (or binaurally over both ears ----which got you a
50 cents discount).
It contained a tympanic film that vibrates and amplifies the sound. If you're a hearing person, you'll get the idea by listening to something with a thin blown- up paper bag held over your ear.
The ad's headline describes the reaction you'd get when you slide it onto an ear and BINGO !! ....... your lost hearing returns.
Charles Bronson's first role was as "Igor", a sinister Deaf servant n the silliest major film ever made:
House of Wax (1953), with Vincent Price. (Wax museum figures were made by dipping beautiful drugged women into tubs of wax). Hollywood usually gave this type of role to a scary Asian (e.g., Oddjob in Goldfinger), and occasionally to a weird-looking faux Deaf actor for his frightening (and often fake) sign language.
Here's Bronson (then Charles Buchinsky) as the evil Deaf Igor. He got sharp orders in sign, but didn't sign back.
After becoming a big name star, he expressed remorse for that role. He had a deaf sister, Anita. He died in 2003.
The Classic Sign Language Lampoon
Stan Laurel was the thin half of Laurel and Hardy, the famous old-time comedy team. Below right, around 1910, Laurel as an inmate of the "Deaf & Dumb Institute", reacts to a question from a hearing passerby.
In another one he's a hearing salesman, giving a fast sales pitch. But noticing a "Deaf & Dumb Institute" sign, he realizes that his prospective customer is Deaf. So he switches into a furious slapstick sign-language. It ends with the "sign" of putting two fingers in his mouth and blowing his hat off high into the air. We saw it years ago, and are trying to locate it in the hundreds of film sketches they made. It's a classic, and we want to show it here.
Surprisingly, Laurel's draft registration for World War I exempted him as "deaf", according to his daughter. We can't locate anything further on that.
"One of the worst movies of all time" (A published critic)
In the Company of Men (1997) is an odious black drama, in which a woman is intentionally violated, physically and emotionally. The plot requires her to be in some way "unfortunate". Whoever put this thing together (thanks, jackass), thought making her deaf would fill the bill ---oh, the poor deaf thing: innocent, lonesome, and naive. Lots of audiences agreed (thanks again, jackass), as this cheapo $25,000 film raked in three million. (They were so cheap that in some scenes on different days, they wore the same clothes).
This trash got "two thumbs way up" from the near-sighted film critics Siskel and Ebert. Three people----- Stacey Edwards plus one of the film's male clods, and the jackass director, received many awards for this work.
Whoever cast Stacey Edwards in the deaf role doesn't know how to portray the real world. If she was actually deaf (she's not), this intelligent, statuesque beauty would have plenty of honorable boyfriends (deaf and hearing). She wouldn't give the time of day to those two boorish clods who victimize her.
Here are four notable excerpts from Netflix customer reviews:
"They want to [victimize] a lonely deaf woman who doesn't get much attention from men. [Did anyone] notice that the woman they picked is drop-dead gorgeous? While I agree that lots of men would turn away from [deaf mutism] ....... we can debate that point......."
"They made her into someone who [ as a deaf person] has already faced a life of innumerable hurdles, hindrances, discrimination, and abuse".
"One part of the acting that wasn't realistic was that she didn't laugh out loud. Deaf people do normally laugh aloud."
Our site shares the following Netflix reviewer's comment:
"....one of the worst movies of all time".
BTW............. Many viewers were surprised to learn that Stacey Edwards is fully hearing. She acted
her deaf role with true professionalism--- her body language, gestures, and voice were superb. She was well-prepared, spending lots of time observing Deaf students.
And those two male clods also acted very well. It's too bad all three now have this trash in their career histories.
Children of a Lesser God ...................
.............. had some unintended amusements. One was William Hurt's signing. It looked like he learned it all at breakfast on the first day of shooting. Another was his suspending himself under water to experience the "silence of deafness". We were laughing so hard in the theater that an usher (or was that sharp-mouth the manager?) told us to shut up or leave.
And those comments by film critic Rex Reed---- He said William Hurt interpreting Marlee Matlin's lines "sounds like one hand clapping" and that the film in general "falls on deaf ears".
Another published comment paraphrased a Hebrew proverb: "A bird and a fish can fall in love, but where do they make love?". It added, "In this absurd film, in a swimming pool".
A posting on The Straight Dope website said this:
Children of a Lesser God was made by hearing people, for hearing people. The protagonist was a Deaf person who was lonely because she couldn't talk. If you think about it, it's kind of silly, since she signs, and everyone around her at the school signs, so either she's lonely because (a) she's a genuinely bitter and socially-removed person who has no love in her life, or (b) she wants to have hearing and reject her deafness. I think that most people who watched the movie figured it was really (a). A lot of Deaf people think the message was (b) and hated the film and everyone associated with it.
There were over 80 Netflix reviews, mostly positive (what would you expect?). The negative ones with 1 or 2 stars, are interesting, particularly these:
"There was so much dead air in this movie that I thought I was going deaf".....and...."[Hurt] was an egotistical, self-absorbed
jerk"......and......"He immediately fell for the lure--- better sex than with
hearing females" ........and......"He wanted to make her as hearing as possible"...and..."contrived, contrived, contrived."
"I wish the movie made it clear that Sarah can survive in the
world without having to conform to the ableist standards of the majority
culture, and that she didn't need a man (much less a hearing man) to make her worthwhile."
"Throughout, I kept feeling for Sarah, in a relationship with a man never happy with the way she was, but wanting to make her as hearing as possible. ASL and the deaf community are not shown. Deafness is portrayed as a disibility to be overcome by voicing and lipreading. Sarah resisted voicing, but it was viewed as necessary, and life options using ASL didn't seem to exist. This movie can be viewed positively only as a sad portrayal of what life used to be for the deaf. I couldn't bring myself to like even the romance in this movie, because it was so unequal. James always viewed her as an inferior and that bothered me the whole movie."
From The New York Times by Nancy Mairs (poet and author):
"Films like Children of a Lesser God, in taking disability as the major premise, exclude the complexities that round out a character and make her whole. The film was not about a woman who happened to be disabled; it was a physical disability as a determining factor of a woman's existence."
Whatever.......... it remains a classic.
Johnny Belinda, The All-time Classic
Johnny Belinda was adapted from a stage drama. It is a well-made and well-acted all-time classic, very novel for the 1940’s. It portrayed deaf-ness, sign language, illegitimate birth, and rape. The young and beautiful Jane Wyman created something of a sensation with her portrayal of the deaf and mute Belinda.
Some Deaf people consider the movie to be oldie corn. It doesn’t deserve that shallow observation. It accomplished more than many realize.
The movie basically introduced a favorable bit of sign language to a wide public which had only a vague, negative idea of it. It also showed that a deaf person can be attractive, pleasant, humane, and intelligent.
Remember, this was in 1948, when Deaf people were to most (“most”, not just many), an invisible underclass--- variously dependent, pathetic, and strange, and to some even frightening. (Ask your grandfather). This was fortified by the very primitive setting and the introduction of Belinda as a pathetic “dummy”.
The original version can be purchased or rented from most video sources. It’s in the original dramatic black-&-white and available closed captioned. We pray that no one will screw this one up by colorizing it.
Color versions with different actors were made for TV in 1967 and 1985.
There was a video on line of a short "Deaf and Dumb" play in New York City around 1930. We liked the way it opened, with the announcer sticking his hand right through the microphone ring to sign.
Unfortunately, some clod took it down.
Find plenty at the Gallaudet video Library:
The Seasoning House
A girl acting as Deaf and mute, has the heroic role in this 2012 British blood-and-gore film. Of course, the sweet young thing has to be Deaf to be innocent and untouchable within this house of horrors. Since no one else is deaf, there's almost no sign language in it.
(Please be forewarned: it is frighteningly realistic !! Absolutely not for children).
The Deaf "Angel" is kidnapped and forced to be a housekeeper in a brothel during the 1990s Balkan wars. Its occupants, all kidnapped women, are drugged and rented out to soldiers. Open-captioned, from Netflix and elsewhere.
After the Silence
After the Silence (also named Breaking Through), a 1996 TV film, is available from Netflix and Amazon. It's about an abused teen-aged deaf girl and her salvation.
A fine drama, but the deaf lead-actress is hearing (with all those capable deaf actresses available).
It would certainly be of interest to deaf people, but the thoughtless fog-brain who signed off on this, forgot the captions. Some day it will be captioned and that's why we post it here.
Inspired by a Deaf Prizefighter?
Flesh and Fury (a 1952 film) was inspired by the internationally-noticed black Deaf prizefighter Eugene "Silent" Hairston
At one point he was the #2 middle-weight boxer in the world (after Sugar Ray Robinson). He fought some very big names like Jake LaMotta, Kid Gavilan, and Paddy Young in over 60 bouts, 1948-1952, until an eye injury ended his career ---at the young age of 22.
He left the spotlight and became a big hit at United Parcel Service, where he worked for most of his adult life.
Those red lights atop the four ring posts to indicate the end of a round, were installed for Hairston, who of course couldn't hear the end-of-round gong. They became standard because the hearing of boxers can go bad for the bell during a fight.
Here he delivered a near knockout punch to the famous "Raging Bull"
Jake LaMotta, in front of 10,000 spectators in 1952.
They fought twice. A draw and a decision against Hairston. Both results are disputed by boxing historians, in Hairston's favor. You can watch the YouTube video of this fight. (Turn on the captions).
Read more here:
BTW, there were at least three dozen other notable deaf prizefighters:
Movies Back Then
Deaf people went to movies quite often in the old days, before captioning, television, and the spread of subtitled foreign films. With only sound, It could still be entertaining just watching actors cavorting in interesting locales ----- hoping to acquire some idea of the plot. Of course, much was missed. Some elderly deaf people recall the monthly movie reviews in an NAD periodical, The Silent Worker, over 60+ years ago.
In those reviews, the film's plot got a brief abstract. The deaf reviewer watched the film, then rated it ------ based on how evident the plot would be to a deaf person via guessing, logic, lipreading, etc. Reading the book first was always suggested (though there often wasn't any book easily available).
High-action films were the choice because the plots were more evident. _____________________________________________________________
More on Movies Related to Deafness
An interesting site for many movies with drama themes related to deafness or Deaf Culture, is the International Movie Database (IMDb) at:
Go to top of next column, please
She Says, He Says -- 39 Years Apart
a) "The deaf man's waking life, amputated from hearing, is like the hearing man's dream life. The deaf man sees, as he walks the city streets, the faces, bodies, motions, emotions gestures, grimaces, antics, signs ---feels a severance between himself and all he sees, as in a dream. Much as we take for granted, to him is unintelligible. Much that we feel to be rational, he feels to be irrational as a Chinaman climbing the garden wall in the erratic world of night".
Marguerite Young, Flair Annual, 1953
b) "In the hearing sterotype, deafness is the lack of something, not the presence of anything. [It] represents the dark side of deaf people. ....they cannot appreciate music.... nor can they engage in conversation, hear announcements, use the telephone.... The deaf person moves about, it seems [to hearing people] encapsulated".
Harlan Lane, The Mask of Benevolence (Knopf, 1992)
The Scary "World of Silence" - Flair Annual, 1953
The 1953 Flair Annual was one of those gaudy, oversized books --with cutting-edge graphics, die-cut pages, and avant garde articles--- the type you plant on your coffee table, to impress visitors with your sophistication. It contained a lengthly, major article on deafness, World of Silence, by
The article begins with a good scare, describing the ears of Deaf people as "waxen caskets", and saying they "live in the marble silence of the tomb". Deaf people as "those we share this planet with", a description more fitting for, say, a genus of monkeys. It goes on and on in morbidly operatic prose through a mass of pseudo-intellectual nonsense ---what do Cocteau, Condillac, Descartes and "speculative philosophers" have to do with this subject?
There's more at the very top of this page, the paragraph with the twaddle about the Chinaman climbing a wall. And here's another---- "We who hear must think of the silence [of deafness] as exile like the coldness of Siberian polar winters or another planet turning silently in a silent sky".
Of course, a writer 60 years ago could take such liberties with a subject few hearing people knew anything about. Back then, Deaf people and their language were not considered fascinating as they are today ---- but rather strange, or worse, frightening and freakish. (Someone we know heard it referred to back then as "monkey language"). A group of Deaf people (say three couples) signing in public, sometimes found themselves surrounded by a ring of gaping passerby, who they would totally ignore. Police officers would order the signers (not the gapers) to move on..
In 1884, A.G.Bell wrote:
"[Deaf] people are sometimes looked upon as a sort of monstrosity, to be stared at and avoided. [Hearing people] do not understand the mental condition of a person who cannot speak and thinks in gestures".
He could have as well written that in 1953.
The article is loaded with further absurdities; eree's another: "For the deaf, there is no time in our sense. .....the signs are all in the present tense..... A deaf man knows....no time except by sensual image of change. [His] hands may imitate the arms of a clock, by which it would [not] be possible to catch a train".
And one more, the most absurd in the whole works: "....there are many expert lip readers among the deaf...... Some are experts [in lipreading of] ancient Greek".
Wait please, don't go away.
All that is from the article's wierdo half, which won our Golden Ear of Corn award. Surprisingly, the rest contains an impressive amount of research on the subject, factual and with many insights, remarkable for its time. The whole thing seems written by two people, a purple prose comedian and a serious reporter.
The Brainy Deaf Site believes the article originated as a serious report. But it didn't match Flair's artsy image, so the author was compelled to "sophisticate" it to get it published ----which she did, gloriously, selling herself down the river and tumbling completely overboard.
Marguerite Vivian Young (died, 1995) was a highly regarded writer (seven books and several major literary awards). Interestingly, she's directly descended from Brigham Young. We can't imagine her having freely composed this thing as written, attaching that load of pseudo-intellectual trash to her name. The poor girl must have been starving.
The entire article is a valuable resource. You might find the book at the library, or buy it on eBay or Amazon ( $30 to $60) ---worth it too for some of its good reads ----and as an impressive thing on your coffee table to wow your guests.
Before we let you go..........
............... we'd like you to read Ms. Young's opera on what late-deafened dreamers hear when asleep:
"Even when [those] who remember sound have adjusted to silence, in their night dreams the oral world returns, teasingly delusive..... Theirs is the myth of Tantalus ! .........once again, cocks crow, bells ring, water flows, voices call...... Feet shuffle among the leaves ....hammerings.....
[They] hear, when asleep.... conversations between invisible beings, jokes of comedians behind false faces, birdsong without bird...... Old sounds float forever in the unconscious like unmelted icebergs, shimmering and vast. ......whispers, music, echo of music. They carry on long conversations with the dead. ....the stars singing, the voice of the moth......"
Singing stars and shimmering icebergs? The voice of the moth? Conversations with the dead? (Huh? You have to be deaf to dream of talking to grandma?).
More on Dreaming
If you are a hearing person with no knowledge of ASL, how can you instantly become an expert signer?
Answer: Easy. Just appear in the dream of a signing Deaf person and say something. Your ASL will be perfect.
And if you, a hearing person, dream you are deaf, the Dream Moods website says:
"If you are not deaf in real life and dream that you are....... it suggests that you are feeling secluded from the world. You may be closing yourself off from new experiences or shutting yourself out. Alternatively, the dream could indicate that your defenses are up. There is something that you are refusing to hear, [such as] criticism. [Or it could just indicate a need for] some peace and quiet".
..............and the Dreamer's Dictionary (Warner Books) says:
"To dream of losing your own hearing is the forerunner of a great financial success. To dream of others becoming deaf signifies a happy solution to your present problems. If you dream of trying [and failing] to communicate with a deaf mute, [it predicts you will have] a period of frustration before getting what you want."
Washoe, Nim, Koko, and All Those Other Poor Apes
We watched the documentary DVD, Project Nim, about the effort to teach ASL to a chimpanzee. It was overlong, boring, and depressing. We read about similar programs with apes, such as Washoe, shown here.
These projects were time-heavy (years!) and expensive. An ape's hand and facial expressions are inadequate for sign communication. An ape's brain cannot handle this kind of language development. They naturally communicate with each other via visual and auditory signs, up to two dozen or so, but not in any syntax.
The animal just isn't wired up for this (something well-known from way back). Whatever these primate language research projects were aiming at, investigating the biological basis of language or whatever, they appeared to have accomplished little. Everything cognitive about apes was already known.
They were successful in teaching a bunch of signs, and brought up a crude syntax with no relation to ASL. But what did they expect the apes to say even if they acquired some ASL syntax, other than what is obvious; e.g. "Give me another banana".
Nim's experience ends sadly. You can read that part here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nim_Chimpsky
And we recommend you read the chapter "Apeing Sign Language" in the book The Other Side of Silence, p.202ff ------see our Page 18.
If you want something more extensive, try this:
INVENTIONS DEPARTMENT (Some Things We Can Do Without)
Engineering students at various schools here and in other countries have created different glove designs yielding spoken words from signed letters. The media (including Forbes) sees them as a great white hope for communication between Deaf and the hearing.
Give us a break, please. All this can provide are alphabet letters.. You can do the same with pencil and paper. And what self-respecting Deaf person would stick a hand into such contraptions?
Oh No, Not Again !
Another great hope for the Deaf, this one from Mexico. The video below for a similar glove, says these gloves will be of benefit to "70 million people world-wide who sign". Huh? Oh come on---that exceeds
the population of France.
Why Sign Language Gloves Don't Help Deaf Peoplehttps://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/11/why-sign-language-gloves-dont-help-deaf-people/545441/
More We Can Do Without
Here we go again !!. This thing produces digitally spoken words from a deaf person's finger and hand movements. The deaf person wears a bracelet that talks the message (and conveniently stores the finger rings).
We found it on the website below. It offers very little information, which we believe is because it does not work in any practical manner. (Moreover, we find it ridiculous).
What? More Nonsense? The Google Gesture---
The Google Gesture supposedly converts sign language into words to be spoken electronically by the hearing person's handheld. The mute deaf person wears arm bands to sense muscle movement during signing. It's the embryo of an idea, developed by students at the Berghs Communication School in Sweden. A very limited working model detects only basic hand movements.
The third picture is similar nonsense from a Texas A&M engineering professor. The fourth from elsewhere does the same thing.
A fully effective working model is a pipe-dream because muscles that move the fingers are in the hand too. Who would want to wear this stuff, anyway?
This marvel will abolish sign language interpreters.
1997 Patent US-6240392 shows a hearing man talking to a deaf person or audience ---wirelessly (note the antenna on his head). Speech recognition software changes his spoken words into text on each deaf person's cell phone. (We don't know why he's banging on his own cell phone ---read the description in the link below).
So far, no company is manufacturing it. Awwww, we wanted to buy several of these marvels.
We await some student project to produce a serious working model of the gizmo in this cartoon (source unknown). That will surely raise a comment from Forbes or Business Week about its great practical and commercial potential.
Facebook in their Skunkworks Building 8 department, presently has 60 people developing this proto-typical mind-reading helmet. The wearer just thinks of what to type and it gets typed automatically into a computer or smartphone.
Several sites describe it, and at least one mentions an advantage to the deaf. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/apr/19/facebook-mind-reading-technology-f8
This sign-to-speech gizmo is under development by MotionSavvy to (as claimed) "empower the deaf". It converts sign to speech (but can't yet do the reverse). That photo-image (invisible to the user) is a digital construction of the sign for "three", which the software uses to speak the word.
It might be successful for simple SEE** sentences, but in no way is that going to "empower the deaf", as they claim. Read about it here:
**SEE = signing exact English, word for word.
"Transcense" is an app being developed. It not only converts speech to text for the deaf observer, but also identifies which hearing person is speaking in a group discussion. The text lines for each speaker, are displayed in different colors, thus indicating who is talking. As you might expect, a wireless microphone needs to be placed on or near each hearing speaker. It uses common speech recognition software, which you know is presently nothing to write home about. (If you don't know, watch robo-captions on any YouTube).
What all this rings-&-things mish-mash is.......
............... trying to do, will eventually be done by optical imaging. A camera watching the signer, speaks the context (a robot interpreter). Knowing the complexity of ASL, we don't think such imaging will attain truly practical form before around 2035. But it's a sure thing. Here is the real beginning. Microsoft has patented an electronic camera that can recognize the location and movement of a person's body parts -----torso, arms, and head ----- and even fingers, face parts, and toes (providing it can see them). It can translate slow, mechanical, and simple ASL into speech, and verse-versa (using a computer-image person). It can recognize a smile, but is unable to read the subtle and very important facial expressions used in signing. It needs at least fifteen more years of development.
We predict that in 20 years, a hearing person points his phone's camera lens at a signing person; the unit will interpret the context through the phone in text and voice with reasonable accuracy.
You can see a captioned demo of this at:
Something We Did Do Without
(Interesting, though over two decades ago.)
The Detroit News of 3/23/1992 announced a new device, a student project out of Western Michigan University, called the "Liperator". It was to allow a profoundly deaf, fully verbal person to converse on the phone directly with a hearing person.
At the deaf end, a digital image of a pair of disembodied lips jabbered away the incoming words on a small pixi-screen beside the phone. The article of course spoke of glowing commercial possibilities. Did it work? Who knows? ---it was never heard of again.
WAIT !! IT'S BACK !!
Twenty-four years after the Liperator (above)
disappeared, an Israeli company, SpeedVoice,
just introduced something similar, the LipCell.
Its software converts the voice of a hearing speaker (in person, or on the phone) into lip movements on a digital face (not the speaker's), on your computer or smartphone screen. Does it work? Well, they say it does of course, but the jury is out until we try it ourselves. Standby. _____________________________________________
More? The newest great white hope for the deaf is "Ontenna" introduced in 2016 by the big Japanese electronics firm, Fujitsu. (Is that all they can think of?). It clips to the hair and turns sound into non-discriminating vibrations. A car horn or a sneeze will make your hair buzz. So?
Hmmmm: Something That Makes Sense
This glove is to be worn by the deaf-blind, for two-way communication, including over a distance. It is being developed in Germany.
It uses the hundred years old Lorm Language, where every spot on a deaf-blind person's hand, fingers, and wrist represents a letter, number, or punctuation mark. Those white bumps are vibrating receiver buttons located at critical spots. It is described in the link below or at others (there are many under "Lorm Glove"). The photo shows a rough (non-cosmetic) prototype.
Something More That Makes Sense
This is the FingerReader (in prototypical form), dreamed up at MIT. A blind person runs a finger over a line of type and hears the words through an earpiece. It also cues for beginning and end of the line, and for the location of the next line.
Each sound, such as a word, yields an exclusive pattern of vibrators on the torso. With very prolonged use, the brain would be able to identify sounds and to some extent discriminate words in speech and sense music (or so it is hoped).
Go to these links.
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