Wherefore art thou?

Posted by jennifer gibson on Monday, September 16, 2013

I recently saw a great post written by a friend of mine who just happens to be hearing impaired like me.  She hit the nail on the head describing what it's like to have a hearing loss. One sentence in particular was quite profound, this is what she said: It’s like standing outside, looking through a window, rapping on the glass and trying to talk to our family on the inside.

That's exactly what it's like for me, every single day. It's no one's fault, that's just the way it is being hard of hearing.  It essentially cuts us off from people, no matter how hard we try.  Sometimes, it feels like being in a solitary prison.  It's an incredibly isolating disability that affects our lives in every aspect. Sorry but I will not sugarcoat it by saying ridiculous things like "I'm more abled than disabled." I'm sure you're asking the question why? Two reasons: 1) It doesn't change anything and 2) I'm not a walking billboard utilizing tacky slogans.  Sure, it may change some attitudes for other people, but it doesn't fix my hearing or the circumstances associated with it.

If you've never experienced being hard of hearing and I mean really, truly lived it, it's actually a hard concept to wrap your head around.  Have you ever walked into an airport terminal that's filled with hundreds of people or gone to a large outdoors Farmer's Market? It's overwhelmingly loud with the echo of people walking around, incessant chatter in every direction, the speakers blaring either music or updates in the background, plus noisy traffic nearby.  Not only do you have to speak loudly to the person next to you, you have to lean in closer to them to hear what they're saying.  That's kind of what it's like for me; when I wear my hearing aids everything is amplified, it doesn't separate the speech from the environmental sounds like normal hearing does.  It's all mixed up when I receive it and tends to sound muddy or blurred together. 

Because I was born with a severe hearing loss, my brain never had the opportunity like most people to develop the ability to receive sound, separate the individual noises and decipher it. I simply don't have that capability of being able to hear and recognize what is being said. I have to work really hard just to be able to hear people talk.  Imagine being inside a clear glass cubicle like the ones those mimes love being in and trying to listen to a conversation on the other side.  It would be muffled and distorted.  Or here's another great example from one of my favourite movies, Get Smart (featuring Steve Carrell & Dwayne Johnson): remember that hilarious scene where they activate the "Cone of Silence" but it malfunctions and no one can hear each other? That's pretty much what it's like for me.

FYI, here's the link for that Get Smart scene:

I'll admit there are days when I think I'm doing okay, thrilled to be able to participate at social events and sounding somewhat intelligent with my witty responses.  Until someone tells me afterwards that everything I said was the wrong answer and they thought I was really weird or stupid. My pride would rapidly deflate like a helium balloon and disappear into the clouds.  Sigh.  Yeah, thanks for that acute reminder.  I feel totally useless now. 

Ever since I lost the rest of my residual hearing in my right ear, rendering it deaf, I've found that playing sports has become a huge challenge.  I've discovered that it has become even harder to follow the instructor, especially in a large group. When they shout out the instructions, I can't hear them and I have to watch everyone else go first so that I can follow them.  Standing there by myself while everyone else executes a perfect lunge or riposte makes me feel really idiotic and incredibly small like a child.  Not only do I have to work extremely hard to hear what they're saying, I also have to figure out what I'm supposed to do in the specific drills. That's a lot for me to do all at once while I'm still coping with the new changes in my hearing.  I'm failing, miserably, and it is taking a toll on me.  I'm always toeing that line of wanting to quit since I feel incredibly incompetent.  The more I fail on the piste, the more that line gets closer for me to cross over.  There's nothing worse than that horrible realization that I may not be able to play sports anymore. 

Hearing loss is a part of me, it will always be there. Even though you can't see it, it affects me and the people in my life.  It's like being chained to an invisible demon, it will always hold me back and I"m fighting that ugly bugger every day.  It's takes a lot of work not to succumb to the dark side and go spiraling out of control in self pity.  It would be extremely easy to fall into that hole of despair.  It takes an enormous of effort and strength to stay strong and rise above it.  Perhaps that's why I like to write, it keeps me sane. Well, mostly.  As Argus Filch would say from Harry Potter:
You've got to keep your wits about you.  

Ironically, one thing I've noticed about my hearing loss is the side effect of it - my life seems to resemble a very melodramatic Shakespearen play. "Oh wherefore art thou is my hearing?" cried Jennifer as her knees hit the floor with a thud. She held her hands together in a prayer-like fashion near her chest and looked upwards for an angelic reply. *silence*

By the way, you can read more of Gael's superb blog here, you'll like her, she's a funny gal >

Tags: "get smart" "dwayne johnson" "steve carrell" "cone of silence" demons  invisible  fencing  shakespeare  riposte  "gael hannan" 
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