My ambulance and hospital experience really pointed out to me that when I say, “I’m deaf” it seems to mean close to nothing to the hearing world. If I can voice it then I’m exaggerating.
So what do I mean when I say I’m deaf? I could say Hard of Hearing, but that is even less clear – less descriptive.
Without my hearing aid on (and its been off a LOT recently because I could not get it in my ear) means that I can’t understand 90% of the conversations in my daughter’s home. Sometimes I don’t even know if someone is talking. At other times I know they are talking but I can understand nothing of it.
It means that I can’t hear wet shoes squeak on linoleum or the sound of a whistle being tooted on outside. It means I can’t hear the school bus come, but I can watch the dog and know that the bus is here. And it means if I am wearing my hearing aid I want to scream at the sound of the squeak of wet shoes and the shrill whistle being blown. God save me if I have a HA on when you turn a car stereo on and it is full blast.
Without HAs I’m in a world of my own. I read a lot. My daughter’s therapy dog is my best clue as to when something is happening. She makes me long for a hearing ear dog even more.
Being functionally deaf means I don’t understand the words to songs. I generally don’t recognize voices. I may not hear cars coming and if I don’t pay attention I could be road kill. It means not hearing rain on a fan in a window so if I know it is going to storm I have to check so the fan doesn’t get wet and short out.
It means that quite often I hear two-thirds of what you just said and my brain is madly plugging the bits and pieces into a framework and filling the gaps to make sense of it all. Its hard work. Please don’t make it harder by looking away when you speak. If I really don’t get what you are saying I may make you spell a word out for me. I don’t accept, “Never mind.”
Just when you least expect it there will be a lull in the background noise and something said sotto voice will ring true in my ear and I’ll hear it. How? I don’t know how. It just happens. Its a rarity, but clearly you think I can hear it all the time.
If someone says to you, “I’m deaf” the best thing you can do is inquire:
Do you need an interpreter?
Do you need a pen and paper?
How can I best speak to be understood by you?
Thoughts for the day on life in my quiet life.