Kathryn Wilkins: Feeling like I’m in limbo, between the deaf and hearing worlds

Posted on April 19, 2013



When I found out I had got the funding to go to Mary Hare Sixth Form it was Christmas Day.

I jumped around the room with excitement, smiling from ear to ear as if there was a hanger in my mouth – I just couldn’t believe I had finally achieved my dream! So that was it, after school I’m going to start Mary Hare…

In March I got some of my GCSE results, I did quite well! But that got me thinking, if I can achieve the grades that I yearn for here in a mainstream environment, do I really need to go to a deaf school?

I started to assess myself in everyday situations such as lessons, conversations, and group situations, and often I’d end up thinking “I can cope here, I can hear.” Now I’ve started to question my identity, and the decision I have made, I feel more unsure and confused than ever.

In the day I can hear everyday sounds, I can hear the world around me – granted I may not hear as a “normal” person might, but I feel myself be immersed into the hearing world, embracing the world around me. I can hold a conversation with my family and friends; I can hear everyday sounds and talk on the phone… Things that some people take for granted but to me, I consider it a gift.

However night time is a completely different story, I am immersed in silence and feel more deaf than ever, having to rely on my parents if ever a fire was to occur, as they would need to alarm me. It’s the same when I go swimming, I find myself plunged into silence, having to depend on lip reading and sign language to communicate with my friends.

I can still remember when I went swimming with a friend of mine a few years ago; when I intended to do a dive I accidentally flipped and the lifeguard wasn’t happy and he started shouting at me – of course I was blissfully unaware of this. My friend had to tell him I was deaf, leaving him apologising. I felt a bit embarrassed!

Recently, I found myself in a predicament, I was on holiday and went to visit some friends. We were happily chatting away until my Cochlear Implant batteries died. The world around me suddenly became silent and once again I had to depend on lip-reading and sign language to communicate – not the easiest of tasks when you’ve got to follow the conversation of about 8 people!

These are the times when I feel as deaf as ever, and my profound deafness really hits home.

So I guess I feel like I’m in limbo, because I am neither in the deaf nor the hearing world. I don’t have a sense of belonging. I am simply on the fence, on the edge of both worlds, not quite clear which one I should enter – the hearing world or the deaf world.

Or can you really get the “best of both worlds?”

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