If you had asked me how I envisioned my life on August 24th, 2004, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you. Heck, I wouldn’t have been able to say anything because of the intubation scrapes on my throat and the tight bandaging around my head. On that date, I had undergone my first tympanoplasty to repair my left eardrum and restore my hearing. With the optimistic outcome my surgeon had promised, I knew my life would drastically improve once I had “perfect hearing” in at least one ear. 10 years later, I looked in a mirror and realized the greatest changes, though made possible by my surgery, were more important than restored hearing.
When I had the surgery, I was twelve years old, trying to find new direction and scared out of my mind of the future. After getting rid of my punk rock spikes and (most of) my clothes from Hot Topic, my wardrobe was in recovery from being my rage outlet at my hearing loss. Underneath my bandages, my hair was short from chopping it off after a decade of ear infections. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to be a singer or veterinarian—two careers that demanded normal hearing for very different reasons. My “only hope” of romance was writing obsessively to Tom Felton because middle school boys brutally teased me for having hearing aids. Worst of all, I was plunged into a sea of agony, packing gel, and tinnitus with no guarantee of restoring my eardrum.
This is one of the great things about music. Not only can we make it “our own”, but we can use it to convey a magnitude of information. How many times have you heard only a couple seconds of your favorite song and you immediately thought of a time or place – or how you felt – and instantly it takes you out of your current environment and transports you to another world? So what happens when you lose your hearing? How does music sound then?
On the day I chose to have my first tympanoplasty, May 20th, 2004, I believed restoring my hearing would provide a “perfect life” and solve all of my problems. At the time, I was full of rage about isolation from hearing loss and ear infections occurring at least every six weeks. My ability to trust human beings was in the toilet after being bullied by my classmates and placed into special education by the school district. The only thing I trusted was money because it came consistently, regardless of my health, every time I did a favor for someone else.
Closing my eardrum, obtaining hearing, and “becoming normal” seemed to be the be-all and end-all to those problems. I believed I would be able to trust people, escape special education, and overcome the infections the moment I had a “healthy” ear. Once all of those things happened, I would “live happily ever after” and skip off into the sunset, where I would suddenly become a popular girl with straight-A’s in the blink of an eye.
In my work, I keep track of technology developments across a variety of fields to try to better anticipate what the future might be like (especially for media and news). Since getting hearing aids about a year and a half ago, and becoming a contributor to this blog, I’ve (of course) included advancements in hearing technology as well as hearing medicine and research to my scanning routine.
Lately, there’s been a lot of activity in the “hearing” space, both positive and worrying. (Since I am, for the most part, a technology optimist, I believe — and hope — that a positive hearing future is more likely.)
Something that I also had to learn was that most of the susurrus that take place during lovemaking do not lend themselves to be said repeatedly and articulated clearly. One of my first dates proved especially talkative in this respect.
I was just stroking her belly and thighs, distributing small kisses to her navel, when I heard it:
When my hearing loss was diagnosed, after the initial shock, I adopted my hearing aids pretty fast. You must have gone through the same kind of mental process: “Wow I’m deaf —Oh no, I’m not, not just because someone tells me my hearing is not up to par, I didn’t turn deaf between yesterday and today, did I? —I can hear what they’re saying, I’m not hard of hearing. —Hearing aids? Wow, they were right, that feels so much better!”
There is a clear legal foundation for providing access to healthcare services for people with hearing loss. The Equality Act 2010 requires service providers to make reasonable adjustments to make their service accessible for people who are disabled, and states that they must anticipate and promote these adjustments rather than make them on a responsive basis.
So, why is it that the Health Service is so behind in terms of making reasonable adjustments so that patients can understand what is being said to them during examinations and consultations? And, where are the legal challenges to the shoddy status quo?
Like anybody, I had to learn how approach the objects of my budding desire. An awkward process, as most of you will recall. There was no manual on how to do it, when to do it, what to do at all! What did it mean if a girl reacted in a certain way?
“Do you think that we could find a place that we can meet, not in silence and not in sound?”
James Leeds (William Hurt), a speech teacher, presents this question to Sarah Norman (Marlee Matlin), a deaf custodian, as they try to reconcile the differences between their worlds. While James demands Sarah to speak in the mainstream world, Sarah wants to represent herself with ASL– “her language”, as she says. After spending an entire relationship trying to force Sarah into English and “change [her] into a hearing person”, James finally accepts several important concepts.