Yesterday, I was walking Turkey (our Basset, Layla) while Stu pushed the stroller with Forrest in it. It was a really pleasant walk during a beautiful morning. We were chatting. All of the sudden, I tripped over my foot, and quickly regained my balance before I plastered my face on the sidewalk. Stu looked at me with an exasperated look, and shook his head. One of these days, you'll break your ankle. I smiled, rather chagrined, and shrugged then said, Well, it's the Deaf thing.
All of my life, I have a horrid sense of balance. I did not learn how to walk until I was over a year old. It took me longest time to learn how to ride a bicycle. Roller blades, and ice skating was a bane of my existence. I could not stand up and have a sturdy sense of balance while treading on thin lines of wheels or blades. Throughout the years of my life, I often tripped, bumped into the stationary objects, and had my ankles turn over. Most of the time, I regained my balance, looked around to make sure nobody was looking, and popped my collar trying to be all cool about it. Face it, people knew. My friend even bestowed a nickname for me: Fender Bender. I finally resigned to assuming a role of a major klutz, and left it at there.
For the longest time, I did not make the connection between having a lousy balance to my Deafness. Then I learned that balance, and hearing loss had a connection during my graduate school years.
Here's a bit of anatomy lesson. In our ears, we have complex labyrinth of an organ to enable our hearing, and they all play a critical role with balance.
Inside the canals, there holds million of little hair follicles that waves around in the fluid as you move around your head, and it basically alerts your brain to say Hey, the head is turning right, and it alerts the brain to send that message to your optical region (in the back of your brain). Once the optical region receives that message, it goes straight to our eyes, and it helps to coordinate what we are seeing with the movement with our head.
If there's lack of hair cells, or structural problem with your inner ear, or an issue with optical region receiving communication from the ears then a balance problem occurs. Your whole equilibrium is thrown off.
It is not always a structural problem that can cause balance issue. Sometimes, as a hearing person, you are struck with a sinus infection or ear infection, and you find yourself slightly off.
In my case, I'm always slightly off. I suspect it is because there is a lack of hair cells or fluid inside my inner ears, and that can cause miscommunication between the synapses between my ears and my optical region of the brain. Something during that communication process is disrupted, and wham, I lose my balance.
I find that if I walk off the curb onto the grass then I will find myself losing my balance for nanosecond before regaining my equilibrium. If I take my focus off something, especially while signing and looking at other person, and that cause me to become unsteady. This is why I hate IMAX theaters or 3D picture shows or Planterium. When I sit still and focus on one moving item, but knowing that my body isn't moving, and after the show is over, it takes me awhile to regain my sense of balance, and it's not a fun feeling to put myself through that. Hence, my nickname: Fender Bender.
Now, not all Deaf/HOH people have balance problem because not everybody's source of Deafness is from structural problem inside their ears. For instance, one of my good friends who is also Deaf, Sharon, is an expert skiier, and you know how that requires a great balance. It just happens that some of us Deaf people, or those with hearing loss, can end up with a balance issue.
I have accepted this as a part of who I am. When I find myself tripping, instead of feeling embarrassed about it; I just smile, and say It's the Deaf thing.......
Or you can just call me a Fender Bender. *grins*