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Shari Eberts’ article recently about the embarrassments faced when you are deaf in a hearing world hit a chord with me.
Throughout my early life deafness was always something to hide, so the only place I was really relaxed about my hearing loss was at home, and for a short while at a specialist school in Southport.
I agree that deafness can be a challenge in an hearing world, when all you want to do is just fit in and just get on with life as best you can.
In the 1960’s, a young child in a mainstream school wearing hearing aids was, let’s face it, like putting a sign on your forehead saying “Bully me, I’m different!
In those days you either grew a very hard skin and became a fighter, or you withered away and vanished into a corner.
As a youngster, one of the most important things in your life is fitting in with your peers and being one of the gang.
This is why almost as soon as I left school in the 1970s to the despair of my parents, I grew my hair shoulder length and cultivated the scruffy biker boy look even buying the motorbike to go with it! (actually, I loved my bikes.)
It’s with long hair, jeans and leather jacket that I felt at home with myself, even though I still struggled with my hearing and developed my lipreading to such an extent I could read lips at twenty paces… this was me… comfortable in my own skin at last!
When I met my hearing wife Sara, she was unaware of the secret hidden under my long brown curly hair….until a few dates down the line I inserted the subject into the conversation by saying… “Yknow I’m deaf don’t you?”
To her credit she didn’t even flinch… mind you nowadays she throws a mean cushion (mostly I’m lucky it’s not an hard object) to get my attention when I am in deaf mode. (aids out)
I was recently fitted with a cochlear implant, when the part came where I picked out a colour for my new kit I hummed and ayed on the colour choices. Should I pick Pink, Brown, Silver Grey or Black Grey to hide the fact that I was deaf?
Light bulb moment!
Was I bothered?
COULD I be bothered?
Having lost most of my long brown curly hair these days I don’t have a choice.
So I tend to take that guy in the movies attitude and “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn!”
I chose the Black Grey by the way… strong against the silver of my remaining hair!
In today’s world I hope there is a bit more acceptance and understanding of the rich diversity available in the human family, this could again be the fact that at my age “My dears, I still don’t give a damn.”
The older I get, the more I tolerant I am about the way people respond to the sight of a person wearing hearing aids or cochlear implants and my own attitude is that if hearing people struggle when faced with my saying “Pardon! Can you speak up and face me, I have an hearing impairment.” it’s not my problem, it’s OUR problem, and we need to work out how best to communicate.
The problem here though, the speaker has the power to take it forward.
An intelligent reaction could, with a little understanding from both parties, smoothly carry the conversation on to the benefit of both sides.
The wrong reaction however could give them the chance to make fun and mock and if the person looks at me as though I’ve just landed from a distant planet and decides they can’t be bothered, I in turn, certainly can’t be bothered with them.
Because, life is simply far too short to waste time with ignorant people.
The older you get the more you realise, and my tip to anyone worrying about being deaf or hard of hearing is to learn to say what that guy used to say in the movies… Still can’t remember the film or his name, but man he was cool!
Mike is a semi retired Fine artist working from his Home studio in Lancashire. He attended University as a mature student, gaining his BA and a Masters degree in Fine Art. He displays his work in exhibitions around the UK and abroad. As a profoundly deaf lip reader, he is just one of a large family with a genetic history of deafness. Mike is married to Sara (who is hearing) and is father to a son Jonathan (hearing) and a daughter Katherine (deaf on one side) In October 2014 Mike underwent surgery to have a Cochlear implant fitted and is presently enjoying learning to hear again. The implant has been good for him, but, as he is constantly reminding people, he still considers himself a profoundly deaf lip reader… “The CI is really good and certain people think it’s a miracle cure for deafness but no… I still need to focus really hard on lip reading and communication in daily life… and when I take the processor off… its quite a blissful sensation, the quietness.”
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