Transitioning to College; Dorm Life
With my transition to college, the thing I was most focused on was the adjustment of having two roommates. And not the worry of whether or not we'd get along, but the worry of having all my dorm room accommodations and how they would respond to it all.
In the summer leading up to my Freshman year, I found out who my roommates were and we connected and started talking right away. During this time I told them that I am deaf and explained that I use a cochlear implant and what it means when it is off and on. With this, I also explained to them that there would likely be times in which I would take my ears off and be in a world of silence. Prior to living in a dorm, quiet time at home was absolutely something I would partake in without hesitation. Even if my ears off time was while watching a show, it was a guarantee that at least one point in the day I would have my ears off. I assumed this would be the hardest challenge for my roommates adjusting to me. And I very well knew that there would be an adjustment period for us all, because not only am I getting used to teaching new people about my deafness and my ways, but they are also learning about a whole new lifestyle, and not only learning about it but living with it too.
But first thing first, going into my freshman year of college I am practically using entirely new accommodations. This is my first semester using CART, quite the adjustment, and not to mention the whole other realm of accommodations you have to consider while living in a dorm. So now I'm also using a flashing doorbell alert system in addition to flashing alerts for other alarms such as fire and smoke. Even with these accommodations installed that allowed me to stay alert even with my ears off, I didn't take my implant off the first 3 days I was in the dorm.
I felt like I couldn't take my ears off. It was as if I was afraid of missing environmental sounds, sounds that I wasn't sure if were important. One unfamiliar sound for me here is the bells - the first time I heard them, I didn't know that the bells went off telling the time each hour on the hour. It was small things like this the first several days I felt like I couldn't miss. So that day I learned that those bells weren't important, that they are to be expected, and that they tell time. I had to get used to my surrounding, my environment, and had to learn to trust my alarm systems before I could feel comfortable taking off my ears. Needless to say, those were the most exhausting days. I basically sat in my dorm listening to the bells, lawn-mowers, people yelling outside, cars, firetrucks, ambulances, and my music and TV shows. While these are all typical environmental sounds, they are also constant from the moment I wake up to the second I go to bed. And I need my ears off time, and I'm certainly not used to listening 15 hours a day. Not only was I listening, but I was actively listening thinking every sound was important. I later learned what I can filter out, but until I did, I was exhausted.
An unexpected bonus which I was not anticipating with my dorm accommodations was the universities ease and willingness to help me find the right accommodations for my dorm! When I first walked into my dorm room, they had installed a single system that would alert to me for the alarms and the door. However, because my dorm has a bedroom, living area, and a bathroom, I would only be alerted if I was in a certain room. We talked to some people at the university about this and they said to tell them whatever system it was I needed and that they would order it, that the cost did not matter. Not only that, but the next morning they came to my dorm to tell me that they found a system I could use for when I'm at my desk with my ears off -- they were going out of their way to think of every corner of my dorm finding ways to accommodate my needs! Not only that, but they told me that all these alert systems they bought were for me - I could take them home over breaks, over summers, and even after school was over, these were my systems! It's a foreign concept to me (and my mom) to not have to fight with every ounce of me for every little accommodation! It' a nice change, I must say!
As we progressed through the year, my roommates slowly got used to what it was like being my roommate; being a roommate to someone who is deaf. They learned what times and in what situations I usually don't have my ears on. They learned that when I'm at my desk, if my ears are off I would put my ear on my desk next to my computer. They learned that when I didn't have my ears on, that they could get my attention then wait a couple seconds for me to put my ears on, at which point they could then start talking to me. It took some time on both our parts. I learned that having a little more structure to when and where I had my ears off made it easier for everyone, or at least making a way for everyone to be aware when my ears were off. We figured it out with some time and communication!! In the end, I really didn't have anything to worry about!