by Madeline Laughs
I can’t hear many sounds. Mostly low frequency stuff, like people’s voices. I have a severe hearing loss. Okay, it’s not a loss to me because I’ve always been this way.
The cochlea nerve is damaged in both of my ears. The cochlea is the pretty part of the inner ear that looks like a nautilus seashell.
I was born this way.
When I can’t hear someone and I’m interested in what they’re saying I get closer. Sometimes I come at them with just my face, usually so I can watch their mouth form words. I also touch. If I can put my hand on an arm while they’re speaking I can get a lot of words. Kind of like hearing through my fingertips. I also ask people to touch me if they want my attention and I seem to be far away. Mirroring back is also another method I employ. If I’m not sure what I heard I will mirror the words back to the speaker as a question. If I’m mistaken they will correct me.
I do read lips. So next time you’re standing far away, but close enough for me to see your mouth move and you think I can’t hear you. Think again.
There are some voices that I love to hear. When they speak it sounds like music to me. Even if I lose the meaning of the words I still get the joy of hearing the sounds.
The people I hear best are sometimes the people I form the strongest bonds with.
Do I think I have a disability? No, I do not. Do I want to be treated differently? Absolutely not! Do I have a vocabulary I use on a daily basis? Yes, I do.
Can my hearing loss be annoying to other people? Oh yes! Do I care? Sometimes…but I’m not prepared to give up the parts of me they would need in order to give me bionic hearing. I don’t want holes poked in my head and wires attached to my nerve endings. I like my ears, just the way they are. I have learned that now hearing aids can help people like me, but I am still not prepared to make such a huge change in my life.
I tried to cheat my hearing loss once. I was struggling to pay for college and decided to join the National Guard to pay tuition. During the hearing test they put a dozen of us in a soundproof booth separated by curtains. Knowing I would fail, I moved the curtain just enough to be able to see my neighbor’s hand holding the call button. When they played tones I could not hear, I watched to see if my neighbor pushed her button and would follow suit. When the hearing test ended I was called aside. My delay in pushing the button was enough to call attention to my results. I was put in the booth alone then and I failed. I was not accepted into the National Guard. In fact, they stressed to me that I should seek medical attention right away because my hearing loss, in their opinion, was alarming.
There is a new wave of deaf community. They do not view themselves as handicapped or disabled. They believe their difference is more of a way of living for them. It’s a new way of looking at life and the world around them. They have their own language and their own way of dealing with everyday existence. I’m not a member, but I can relate to their doctrine.
As for me, I can do many activities at once and not be distracted. My concentration and attention to detail is more focused, more intense. I can sleep like a baby on an airplane, transatlantic, that’s filled with crying babies. In fact, I can sleep just about anywhere. When I’m awake I am more aware of my surroundings out of necessity and out of habit. I pay attention. And I can hear every note of a song! Perhaps not all of the words, but that never stops me from making up my own lyrics.
My other senses are a bit more fine tuned. My eyesight is incredible, though lately I use my reading glasses more and have noticed that I hear worse when I have them on. Not sure why that’s happening. My sense of taste is very keen, as is my sense of smell. I can smell a soup cooking and tell if it’s too salty. I sure hope my reading glasses don’t screw that up for me.
Auditory stimulation in circumstances of mayhem tends to send most people to the brink. My panic button is on delay so I get a moment to make good decisions. Or at least *try* to be pragmatic before the shit hits the fan.
I can also tune the world out. I can stop listening. I can go inside where the only sounds are the ones I make. You simply pick the sounds you want to hear and you go there.
The sounds and pitch I do not hear are sounds and pitch I have never heard.
Therefore I do not miss them.
If you’ve never seen a moon rise over the ocean, you can still imagine what it would look like and how it would feel to you. You wouldn’t miss it if you never saw it happen. Your life would be the same. There are many other memories in your heart that fill that space up. That’s how I feel when someone asks me “did you hear that?” Well no, but I can imagine what it might sound like and how it would feel to me if I heard it. I can be there in that moment with you and it will be the same for me as it is for you.
My friend Pat tells me I paint a nice word picture when I write. I hope I have painted a masterpiece for you tonight.
The main point of my story is this…if I can’t hear you, it’s not because I don’t want to.
- Replay – Hello I am Deaf (insanityofmotherhood.com)
- High Frequency Hearing Loss – Hearing Impairment (womadelaidelive.com)
- Cheating Hearing Loss (uw20sciencemediaandculture.wordpress.com)
- Do you hear what I am saying… (trishborgdorff.wordpress.com)
- Research on sound, neural processing could help deaf people hear amidst the noise – Healthcanal.com (healthcanal.com)
- New hearing loss project launched in Manchester (instylenews.com)