My World

On Facebook, a friend shared this link: I’m Deaf and I’m Totally Cool With It, Thanks.

What I meant to be a short comment turned into the lengthy article below.

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I’m hard-of-hearing, quite far from being deaf as I can hear pretty much everything, a floorboard squeaking, the hum of the furnace, birds outside my window, though I don’t think I hear it all as clearly as a person with good hearing would. If someone speaks to me, I will hear their voice, but I can’t make out what they said about eighty percent of the time, unless they’re willing to repeat themselves, often three or four times before I understand them.

I don’t wear hearing aids. I’ve never been able to adjust to hearing aids. All hearing aids have ever done for me is amplify sounds to the point that they are annoying, and any speech I heard was vastly distorted and even harder to understand. A few years ago, I decided to give hearing aids another try. I had hoped that the newer technology would make a difference. But it didn’t. People told me I just needed to get used to them, but I gave them a chance. I wore the hearing aids every day for a couple of months, and then I was putting them in less and less. I don’t want to be trying to get used to hearing aids for months. I had to keep taking them out just so I could understand what people were saying.

It wasn’t so long ago when I thought I would go for cochlear implants. But then I changed my mind. First, because (as I understand it) the process of having cochlear implants put in would involve cutting the nerves that go from my brain to my ears.  My ears would become useless things sticking out from the sides of my head. I would never again receive sounds through my ears. All hearing would completely depend on a mechanical device that would be inserted in my head. I also began to suspect that cochlear implants really aren’t that much different from hearing aids, that like hearing aids they amplify sounds and distort speech. Some people might be able to get used to that, but I never could.  I’d go crazy if I had to be stuck in that world for the rest of my life. If I decide to turn the cochlear implants off, I would be stone deaf.

Because I’m hard-of-hearing, I’m used to the world of sound. I’m comfortable here. I don’t want to lose the hearing I have. This is why I wear ear protection when shooting guns or running chainsaws. I don’t ever want to be where I can no longer hear the sounds I enjoy, but I understand why people who are deaf to the degree that they can hear almost nothing or nothing at all would prefer to stay that way. Most of those who are deaf that I know personally do have a degree of hearing, but I imagine that what they hear is very densely muffled, to the point that they barely acknowledge it. Sounds don’t matter to the deaf the way sounds matter to the hearing . That’s their world, they’re comfortable there. If the deaf were somehow made hearing, the world of sound would likely be strange to them and they might be unable to adjust to all the noise.

Sometimes I feel like I’m stuck in the middle, between the hearing world and the deaf world, and can’t really fit into either world.  I wish I could understand the hearing people in my life better. I think it’s just as frustrating for them as it is for me when we communicate in person. Some people think I can read lips, but no, I cannot. If I made out anything you said, it’s because I heard you.

I would also like to be able to hang out with my friends who are deaf without feeling like a burden for them. I’m way out of practice with ASL. I don’t know anyone in Lapeer who uses ASL, so I haven’t had anyone to sign with since my last year at MSD.  I got a video phone last year so a friend and I could sign with each other and get my skills up to where I can at least hold a conversation in ASL with another person. But we haven’t been able to use the VP that much and I still have a lot of work to do.

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