It suddenly occurred to me the other day, that if a new parent who had just found out that their baby had a hearing loss, stumbled across this blog one day, they perhaps might be rather upset that what I have to say about being a Deaf person isn’t hugely positive at times. This really bothered me, so I’ve decided to write a positive post about being Deaf.

Yes, having a hearing loss of any kind is hard. That goes without saying. The human being was built to get by in life with five senses, so to lose any one of them provides a disadvantage straight away.

I want a cochlear implant, because I believe that things have just got that bit too hard for me now. But I strongly believe that I will still be a Deaf person if I get it done and I am proud to be. As soon as the processor is switched off, either for swimming, or when I go to bed, I will revert back to the silence that being deaf provides. I really don’t mind being Deaf, it’s a way of life rather than a problem. But some ways of life are harder than others and some roads are roads that you can’t choose to take. But it’s still the road you’re on, and it’s still the road of life that is all you know and you can find positives in any situation.

Sleep is a good place to start with the positives. There have been times when I’ve woken up in the morning after a good night’s sleep to look at my husband to say “good morning” only to be faced with a rather weary looking man.

“Didn’t sleep well dear?” I might ask.

“No, it was too windy” He might reply.

This amuses me, how can something like the wind keep you awake? It’s just air moving quite fast! But apparently the wind can make loud whooshing sounds down the side of the house which echoes and is very noisy. Also, it can knock things over which crash and bang in the night and this can be heard up in the bedroom. This, as well as thunderstorms, heavy rain or even something like a silly driver vrooming up and down the street can keep a hearing person awake whereas I sleep soundly through it. How good is that? Unless there’s something on my mind, or I’m unwell – then I am pretty much guaranteed a good night’s sleep :-D

Sometimes, the baby wakes in the night. If it’s my turn to get up, my husband will give me a nudge as he’ll wake and then let me know. But if it’s not my turn, he’ll just get up but I’m not disturbed! That’s quite a bonus.

Hearing Aid users (as not every Deaf person chooses to, or can use a hearing aid) have the option of silence if we wish. Often, if I am travelling on a long car journey and the other half is driving, I can settle back in my seat and switch the hearing aid off for some peace and quiet. The vibrations of the car engine are often quite soothing and I can nod off with ease if I’m comfortable enough. There are also times when the X Box game that is playing on the telly, or the big one is playing with a noisy toy and the silence is welcomed. I have to say, it’s also a huge soother for a headache if you’ve got a hearing loss and sounds of any kind are just annoying you, it’s often a big relief to just switch off.

Whenever I had exams at school, I would always take my hearing aid out. The quietness of the school hall was always disturbed by the odd door banging, teacher’s footsteps or the swishing of my peers turning over their pages. The hearing aid can often pick up some pretty quiet sounds if the ambience is right – and concentration during examinations is paramount of course! Pure silence (albeit the odd bout of tinnitus) was a godsend during this time.

A great skill that most Deaf people acquire by default is Lip Reading. As a hearing person, have you ever tried to work out what the footballers are saying to the referee during a premiership game? Or perhaps someone was trying to tell you something from the other side of a crowded room? Most people can lip read to some extent, but if you can lip read fluently it’s a great skill to have. Sign Language obviously helps in many situations – you don’t have to trek across to the person you’re trying to talk to if it’s not necessary and a conversation can be held at distance, but if you’re with someone who doesn’t sign, you don’t sign yourself or you’re trying to be discreet – lip reading can get you far!

We are also more expressive by nature and also extremely visual. I find that I notice things so much more and spot things easily. For example, I might spot that my Mum’s car is driving down the street in the opposite direction to us far quicker than my husband will – because my head has spotted the make, colour, registration plate AND then looked at the driver in the space of seconds. My eyes see things and record things in nanoseconds. I like to think, that my photography is aided by this extended visual skill. I also have a very good sense of smell. I think that even though a Deaf person is lacking in one sense, the others are very much heightened and this can come in very useful.

As I mentioned before, there are often times when silence is a godsend, switching off the hearing aid can help concentration, headaches and provide peace and quiet at times where a hearing person simply cannot avoid it. There are also however, many sounds that we can’t hear that can irritate a hearing person on a daily basis. My husband once got incredibly frustrated by a broken toy in the girl’s room that kept meowing, although very quiet and intermitted, he couldn’t ignore it as it was irritating him! I also remember a time when my sister used to get cross by the noisy tick tock of the clock that hung up in the wall in my bedroom. Said clock got hidden in my underwear drawer when my Mum had guests to stay! When someone is tired, grumpy or stressed, the simplest of repeated sounds can aggravate the situation. Drumming of fingers, tapping of a keyboard and also, so I’m told, the squeaking of a chair. Many of these things are sounds that a Deaf person would simply not hear. It amazes me often, the ability of a hearing ear – the extent to which a normal ear can hear (change in someone’s pocket half way down the field anyone? Really? Seriously? Wow!) but in actual fact, I totally get that there are times when it’s a blessing not to hear absolutely everything in your surroundings.

Playing the “Deaf Card” is not something I look at doing fondly, but it’s often something that can work out to your advantage in the right situations. When I was at university in London, I used to travel home by train frequently and the train always left Euston Station. Anyone who has travelled by train at any point in their lives, I imagine has encountered Euston station at some point. If you’re travelling outwards, at peak times you’re lucky to get a seat on the train due to the streams of people that run to the carriages as soon as the platform has been announced. A huge disadvantage to being having a hearing impairment however, is that Euston station announce platform numbers by tannoy and there is a delay before it appears on the overhead screens. Not good for moi, standing waiting patiently for it to come up on the screen while everyone else bolts to the train and grabs the best seats leaving me trailing behind and standing by the smelly toilet for the 2 hour (as it was then) journey home. One day, sick of this unfair disadvantage I decided to do something about it. I spoke to one of the staff at a desk in the station, explained the situation and asked him if he’d tell me when the tannoy was announced what platform it was so I could run along like the rest of them. He went the extra mile – he took me himself to the platform ahead of everyone else, so I could find the very best seat in peace before the hubbub of business men in suits and ties swarmed on. How lovely! I even had time to get my magazine and water bottle out, find somewhere for my bag on the luggage rack and settle into my seat comfortably before the mob had even heard where we were departing from. This only happened twice in my three years of commuting but ever looking for the positive in any situation, this was definitely high on the charts for “Deaf Card” usage :-)

There’s also, last but definitely NOT least, is the Deaf community. I’ve spoken about the deaf community before. We have a language that is commonly spoken, and I’m not talking about sign language (which is a fantastic shared expression of communication on it’s own), I’m talking about the acknowledgement and automatic acceptance that we are the same. We all understand, we can share our experiences, frustrations, we are on common ground. The Deaf community is huge, but it’s also incredibly small too – you will always know somebody in the room when a group of Deaf people get together. I could go on for hours about the brilliance of Deaf people but I’ll just settle for one example for now.

I appeared on See Hear once, a magazine programme on the telly which explores all things Deaf and Hearing impaired. I didn’t know the person I was communicating by email with, arranging my journey and what I needed for my interview but once I was there I couldn’t believe it when I saw the office. I went to school with one of the researchers, I knew of the presenter as his brother was someone several years below me at school and I had met another of the staff at a party I had attended many moons before. I’ve already told you about a wedding I attended a few months ago, fearing i wouldn’t know many of the other guests, I was astounded when I bumped into several people who I knew from many walks of my life. It’s not that I get about as such, it’s just that you really are part of a special community in the Deaf world. You are remembered, you remember faces, friends of friends always know of someone you know completely unrelated. It’s a privilege to be part of it.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever help put anyone’s mind at ease with this post. But I have enjoyed writing it nonetheless. Do comment if you’d like to ask questions no matter what time or age it is when you read this. I can certainly name more positives to being having a hearing loss – but I’d better go to bed for now.

More soon folks, the BIG appointment is on the 9th. Eeeek!

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