What identity have I chosen as my own? This question came after reading Kim’s blog “On Developing A ‘deaf, not Deaf’ Identity…” posted May 1, 2008. For me, the answer to that question is still up in the air and a big part of the reason I joined the SayWhatClub is so that I can better define myself in relation to being HOH. The only thing I know for sure is that no two identities can ever be the same. We are snowflakes in the world of”Abnormal Hearing.” We each lose our hearing under different circumstances, at different ages, and at different rates. How we deal with that loss and how we learn to cope, also varies greatly from individual to individual. However, I think we all face some of the same issues that confront anyone who cannot hear normally.
I have always been a writer and a reader. It is how I dealt with troubling occurrences in my childhood and teenage years. Several years ago I began writing again, and in doing so, I placed my life under the microscope to be examined. I learned many interesting things about myself that I had never realized, both hearing related and not, and also recalled wonderful memories long forgotten. Wonderful, but because they were knit together with other memories that were traumatic, I locked them away. It was the beginning of defining myself and also the beginning of my appreciation for how my hearing loss had contributed to making me, “Me.” It was through writing that
A telling title .. One particular literary friend and I became reacquainted after a thirty-three year absence in each other’s lives. We wrote to one another furiously at first, but after the first year and a half my friend become so taxed at reading and replying to my emails, as he had developed vision problems that made typing and seeing the keyboard difficult, he rarely replied at all anymore. Being the accommodating soul I am (because I give what I want in return), I tried several versions of voice chat, but was very limited in what I heard during our voice conversations. Frustrated with our lack of communication, I was left to wonder, “Where is the literary soul I have reconnected with disappearing to?” I missed talking with my friend, which prompted me to write a detailed explanation, an attempt for him to understand how challenged I was at voice communicating. This was also a time of a marked dip in my hearing and I was giving into those feelings of self-pity and grieving for the hearing I had recently lost. I have found self-pity and grief are normal to the process of losing one’s hearing, and also that they can come quite unexpectedly. Just as unexpectedly as a hearing dip can show itself.
I recently re-read that detailed explanation of how I hear, written all those years ago to my friend, and I realized something. My identity, how I define myself, is more evident in the title I chose for the piece, “This Is How I Hear”, than in any of the labels I have tried on over the years. Of all the things I might have focused on in choosing a title — not hearing, being hard of hearing, being hearing impaired, being disabled, being handicapped — I instead focused on explaining exactly how I hear in the world, and on describing what that world is like. If I thought one label would uniformly convey “me” to the world I would use it, but how do you put the many aspects of hearing abnormally into one label? Like a snowflake, no two of us are alike.
And so … This is how I hear.
Imagine standing beside a railroad track in a quiet, secluded, and peaceful setting. You are taking in all that is wonderful in the world. Not only the sounds, but also the smells and the views — every aspect of it. You are savoring every sensation, looking at the world with your senses wide opened, marveling at how truly great it is to be alive!
Then … you hear it! It begins as a soft rumble in the distance, a faint vibration on the tracks. Slowly your senses shift their focus and you are excited slightly, for who doesn’t love a “passing” train? Who doesn’t love the cadence of the wheels on the tracks, a wave from the conductor, or the colorful graffiti on the cars? Your excitement escalates as the train gets closer. Nearer and nearer it comes. You see it in the distance, and the closer it gets, the louder it sounds, and as it is upon you, it drowns out all else. You may even need to cover your ears as it passes, it is so deafening, but the sensation is more than sound. You feel the vibration of it. It is almost as if the train is passing through you. It takes over your every sense, dominates with its presence. Finally, the end comes into view and the train leaves much in the same way it came — gradually, steadily. You listen as it fades into silence once more, leaving you free to focus on
your surroundings as before.
The train passed, but while it was there it grabbed your attention. Your mind and senses were no longer taking in the sights, sounds, smells, and sensations of that peaceful, tranquil setting. Your mind and senses were taken up with the train’s presence. It commanded your attention!
In my world, the train rarely passes, and who can ignore a passing train, let alone one that is ever present? Mostly, life, for me, is like a train that never passes. Life is noisy and I am constantly trying to hear past that train, which virtually is impossible. The concentration it takes is exhausting, so much so, that sometimes I just wish I would lose all of my hearing and get it over with. That is terrible, and I am always sorry for the thought, but the frustration of not hearing pushes me to that point. If you are watching television and the station goes off the air, and you wake up to just the fuzz and static, isn’t it annoying after a bit? Don’t you get up and turn it off? That is what I want sometimes, just to get up and turn it off!
When it is quiet I can hear most anything…