Alicia de Barry: Would I be the same person if I wasn’t deaf?

Posted on June 27, 2016

Just like every hearing person is unique, every deaf person is unique. We each have our own idiosyncrasies that may, or may not be related to our deafness, and that help define who we are as an individual.

I have often wondered what I would be like if I was not deaf. Would I be married to the same person? Would I have the same friends? Would I like to read as much as I do? Would I be more extroverted? The most significant question is would I be a better person?

According to the hearing world, yes, I would be a better version of myself. I have thought long and hard about this and I can honestly say I don’t know if this is true.

Obviously, this is all theoretical so it cannot be proven either way, but nevertheless I would like to present my case. This is a list of my habits that I relate to be being deaf and whether they hinder or help me.

Ignoring people:

Now I am the first to admit that ignoring someone is extremely rude, and as a rule it is not something that I tend to engage in.

But, sometimes you have no choice but to ignore the person because if they are anything like my husband and family they know exactly how to wind you up.

Or, in a more serious scenario you may find yourself the brunt of insults from a stranger.

In both these cases you have to ignore them because if you don’t you will push them into a blender and turn them into pulp.

However, I have found that when I do ignore someone I have to explain to them that yes I heard them, I am just ignoring them, thereby making ignoring them a moot exercise!

Verdict: hinder

Walking in front of people:

This title is a bit vague. It makes it sound like I can never walk in front of a person, or persons, and this would make life very difficult if I went to a busy place.

I would look like a lemming constantly turning about and following people. What I mean is that if I am with my family or friends, and we go out and about, I have to walk at the back.

Always. I feel safer here, I don’t feel the need to constantly look behind me and check that everyone is still there, or that I am going the right way.

Verdict: help


Now, it is something of a joke between my family, friends, and me that I can often mishear things.

Occasionally it can be more annoying than anything, for example “Alicia! Quick call the police, I am in danger of dying horribly at the hands of a burglar that you did not hear breaking into the house, you deaf person, you!” might be heard as “Alicia! Quick now please! I am an endangered dryer who fears death, ah death, you!”

But more often than not it can provide a lot of laughs. Not hearing lyrics for one is always rather funny in my house.

Verdict: undecided

Walter Mitty:

For those of you who do not know, Walter Mitty is a character created by James Thurber in the eponymous short story The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It was made into a rather excellent film starring Ben Stiller in 2013.

Walter Mitty is a perpetual daydreamer. The adjective Mittyesque is a term used to describe a person who is prone to day dreaming all the time.

This describes me perfectly. Like many deaf people I have to concentrate on lip reading when someone is talking to me, and this can be hard work.

Because I cannot rely on my ears I have to be on constant alert to make sure that I do not miss anything. This means that when I do get the chance to daydream I tend to take it, for example when going for a walk, or a jog.

When I am at home I can sip my tea and let my mind wander, or, and this is my favourite, long car journeys (when someone else is driving) as this means that my imagination is free to run, jump, and skip without the fear of walking into a pole, or falling down a manhole.

However, with great dreaming comes great responsibility. Sometimes I must be more alert. I went shopping the other day and because I was wandering around daydreaming I forgot where I parked my car, so I wandered around the car park for a full 45 minutes before I found it.

Another problem with daydreaming is that sometimes I find myself talking out loud. Or, and this is the worse, if someone starts talking to me I don’t always zone back in on time and I will simply say the first thing that comes to my mind. For example,

Colleague: “Hey! Did you manage to finish cataloguing the books I gave you?”

Me: “My weekend was really good, actually! How was yours?”

Colleague: “…yep”.

I think they are beginning to get used to me now though.

(Side note: Once at work I am focused on the job and I only daydream when I get there as I get there half an hour early and when I have lunch).

Verdict: what? I wasn’t listening

Extrovert vs introvert:

I am firmly in the introvert camp. Whilst some friends love to go out socialising and spending time in big groups, especially when were younger, I like to sit in a quiet place, either at my friends’ house, or a nice cosy pub/café, drinking tea and gossiping.

I struggle with the bizarre trend that hearing people have of going out to loud pubs, clubs, and restaurants and trying to have a conversation. Why do they it?

Although in my younger days when, on rare occasion, I did venture out to a club I used to play a game.

Hearing people automatically go for your ear when they want to talk to you in loud places, so I used to let them do that and then turn and loudly say into their ear things like “penguins are divine beings sent to earth to demonstrate how to dance with passion”.

It worked particularly well if the person was getting jolly on alcohol. I don’t drink so it meant that I was able to continue delivering gems such as “if you open a cupboard then don’t expect tigers to be able to knit”. Cue weird looks but as the music is so loud it is hard for the hearing person to discern if I said something sensible, or completely inane. This led to hours of fun.

Verdict: Can I go home now?

I think the moral is that whilst there are many advantages to being hearing, there is also much fun to have as a deaf person. It all depends on how you feel about your own deafness. I for one do not think I would be as determined as I am because I feel that I have got something to prove to myself and others.

I do not think that my family and friends would look after me as much as they do if I was not deaf, this in turn has led to us creating bonds that I feel are stronger thanks to my lack of hearing.

So when asking the question, to be deaf or not to be deaf? I have only one thing to say.

Can you repeat yourself please?

Alicia is 70% deaf and wears hearing aids. She comes from Milton Keynes and lives with her husband who is hearing, and her cat, Mickey. She works in a study centre with Six Formers and loves it. She has an MA in English Literature which she says “is great because I I love books, books, books, and Earl Grey tea.”

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