Emily Howlett : Being deaf doesn’t automatically make you good at blocking out noisy situations

Posted on September 19, 2014



Today is a new experience for you and I, dear Reader. Today, I’m writing from the heaving metropolis – London.

I had anticipated this being a wonderful, calming and fruitful experience.

I envisioned myself rocking up to a lovely, unique café somewhere along Southbank, or Soho, or Somewhere Cool, hacking shamelessly into their free WiFi and ordering a suitably journalistic drink; hot chocolate. With extra sprinkles.

I had even boasted to my friends of my special talent for writing in busy environments.

My superpower that allows me to remain totally focused on my work, despite the hustle and bustle of people around me doing… Whatever they do.

Of course, the superpower of which I speak is simply this; being deaf.

I shall find my small, untouched, secret café. I shall sit there, drinking my journalistic hot chocolate and throwing out words of wisdom at a speed unmatched by all the puny humans around me.

They will be constantly distracted by noise and fuss, while I sit and work happily, untroubled by such earthly matters.

Well. Yes. This plan is perfect, except…

Except; my explorer brain. I cannot walk around London and ask people where I can find these small, secret cafes. They are too small and secret.

I don’t dare ask anyone, because they might start talking at me and then I have to lip-read them, or tell them I’m deaf and, y’know, *snore*.

So, I just wander around looking into Costa and Starbucks and trying to decide if the WiFi and powerpoints are worth selling my soul for.

Except; my social brain. I cannot sit in a café and ignore everyone around me, just because I can’t hear them.

It’s harder to ignore them because I can’t hear them.

People stand really close to me, and I have to check they aren’t saying anything to me.

People at the next table are having a really animated debate and I really want to eavesdrop on their lips.

And those people over there have really rubbish social skills; amazing how hard it can be for hearings to communicate with each other sometimes…

Except; my paranoid brain. I keep feeling a draught, and I can’t hear that it’s the doors opening and closing, so it makes me look up every time.

I think that the staff are saying things to me, but I’m not sure. They might just be smiling randomly, rather than waiting for an answer to an unheard question. Five people just walked out at once; was there some warning of incoming doom that I didn’t hear?

Except; my deaf brain. I am just sitting here thinking how amazing it is not to be distracted by relentless, meaningless noise.

I am sitting here distracted by my own brain. I am ridiculous.

So, to all my friends who had to put up with my bragging; Um. Yeah. It didn’t work out the way I thought it would.

Being deaf, it turns out,doesn’t automatically make you good at concentrating in noisy situations. It doesn’t mean you are naturally more focused.

But, if you feel like it, being deaf and taking the opportunity to be a quiet observer of life might just give you a whole host of insightful experiences.

A unique view of the noisy, hurried world around you. And hot chocolate.

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