here’s kind of a funny story.
they knew i had hearing loss when i was eight. what followed was doctors and operations and more doctors and the funny thing is that they still don’t know why i can’t hear out of my right ear. what’s not quite as funny is how i treated it. how i thought that this was something to be ashamed of and hidden, how i thought that it was weak, somehow, to not be able to hear.
it’s hard in class, sometimes. if we’ve got some kind of discussion going and people all over the room are talking and i’ve got to turn my head, whipping around from person to person, trying to get my left ear pointed in their direction. i never make it every time so it’s always a cut, disjointed thing, the tail end of a sentence that i don’t have the context for. sometimes there’s background noise and that makes it worse. loud air conditioning or people whispering and i can’t focus, can’t hear, even when it’s just the teacher talking and i’ve gotten my left ear set up in their direction. i’d love to tell them to shut up but i’m pretty sure they think i’m aloof because sometimes when they talk to me i don’t hear them.
asking teachers for closed captions is hard. going up to them and pretty much telling them hey, i can’t hear, change your class for me, is something i don’t think i’ll ever be good at. and sometimes they don’t know what i’m talking about. sometimes they ask the class to fix it and oh god that’s embarrassing because i know it’s nothing to be ashamed of but i still am. ashamed, that is.
there are these old movies from the eighties that we watch in history class. they don’t have captions. the ones about china are my favorite because it’s like, that’s me. that’s who i could’ve been. and the movies, they’ve got these interview segments. people speaking in Chinese, their first language, and us listening. they turn down the volume on the Chinese and lay over it English translations of whatever it is they’re saying and maybe for other people that’s a good thing but for me it’s not. for me it means that the Chinese that i don’t really know but can guess at fades into this muddle of sound, English and Chinese and cheesy background music all mushed together in something that i can’t hear.
i still don’t know what they say on the school announcements and i’m done caring.
sometimes i’m sitting in the audience of the auditorium and i don’t really know what’s going on. school assemblies are the worst. rapping and fuzzy mikes and so much background noise that even if i wanted to hear the stage i wouldn’t be able to. all i can do is cover my left ear and try to ignore the faded feedback from the right. because it’s not rude if you’re not covering both ears, right?
(i can’t stand not knowing so it’s better to cut that off at the beginning. to make sure i know that i won’t be able to hear them with three-fourths of my hearing gone. it’s less disappointing, that way.)
i can hear the people i need to. it takes a while but if i know someone’s voice well enough, if i care enough to learn it, it’s easier to understand, even if i only catch an intonation of a syllable instead of a word. and they know. they know i can’t hear so they walk on my left side and i love them for it. if someone won’t walk on my left side when i ask them to i know that i won’t learn their voice.
someone tell me why it’s the twenty-first century and people still think “deaf and dumb” is a definition instead of an outdated relic. someone tell me why it’s the twenty-first century and audism runs rampant through people who would rather label us than know us. someone tell me why it’s the twenty-first century and there are still people who think deafness is an illness. that my hearing is something that should be cured. that it’s stupid, ridiculous, to be proud of a “defect.”
someone tell me why my ASL teacher didn’t stop to ask the class if someone had trouble hearing. wait, no, you don’t need to tell me. i know why. it’s because you assume hearing until you’re wrong and that’s so strange to me, because i haven’t been hearing in years and it’s not like i’m trying that hard to hide it. you’d think that someone who knows ASL would realize if one of her students had no idea what was going on.
the first thing someone asks me when they learn i’ve got hearing loss is whether i read lips. i don’t read lips. take away the sound and have me stare at a silent video and i’m helpless. but i can supplement. i can take what i’ve heard and match it up with the movement of the lips, the throat. is that an R? yeah, it is. did they say elephant? yeah, they did.
it took me a long time to tell myself that this was okay. that not all communication is verbal and how, exactly, is this an exception? maybe people think i’m strange for staring at their mouths when they speak but if they don’t know why it’s not really their business to know.
someone tell me why it took my whole life to realize that i don’t care whether i can hear or not as long as i understand the world around me.
that’s why math is my favorite class, i think. no lectures or explanations necessary. just me and the numbers and mathematical notation.
math is a class that i don’t need to hear in. and i’m most comfortable with the silence.
this is long and pretty much nonsensical but poetic more than anything else.
i'm not d/Deaf/HoH, fyi. just hearing impaired. but i know a bit about Deaf culture and pride and it's awesome.
...hopefully i didn't offend anyone? this is personal. i'm not trying to force my emotions and misconceptions on anyone.