Sometimes people praise deaf people for what they’ve achieved. It’s related to how they amazingly seem to cope in a world without sound. Something most hearing people can’t imagine. You close your eyes, you can imagine not seeing. You block your ears, yet you still hear something, albeit muffled maybe. It’s not possible to imagine being deaf until you’re deaf yourself.
While we’re all on a level playing field on something like social media, in real life, it’s a different story altogether. Deafness and it’s related communication issues is frustratingly isolating.
Hearing people have stereotypes they adhere to and they go “oh wow, you can speak!” for starters, not realising that of course, most deaf people CAN speak. But speaking doesn’t neccessarily mean deaf people will sound like a hearing person, their voices may sound a little stange to the average person in the street. That’s because they can’t hear what they’re saying or because their deafness is such they can’t hear the differences in tone (pitch)…. and perhaps it might come out as a whisper (due to not wanting to shout as we don’t get the auditory feedback) or it might have words mispronounced or their voice may sound totally alien (because they’ve never heard the spoken words, so pronounce it as it’s written) They may even shout, as I’ve been known to do when it’s deadly quiet but when you look around it seems visually noisy.
So off I go to the local pub to join in the fun. Of course, I’m welcomed, I’m known as a local (most deaf people are). I sit down in a group and look to see who’s talking. Very quickly somone else starts speaking, I turn my head to find out who it is and just about catch them in mid-sentence… then another chips in I move my eyes to see who it is yet again…. Obviously, while I’m trying to work out what the first person has said and glean the topic of conversation, I hit on a key word.. “ah yes… ” says I “and everyone stops to look at me “I went to Debenhams in Teddington last week too, there’s a sale on” and I smile.
Quizzical looks from the others tell me that I’ve said the wrong thing, I didn’t quite get the topic right.. I shut up. I feel a little silly to be honest.
How this scenario pans out very much depends on the awareness of the group as a whole. It could go either way. My friend could say to me “ha ha Suzie, no we’re talking now about what’s happening in Heddingham, there’s a dale pony there for sale” and gently lead me into the group dynamics.
Or… I could just spend the rest of the night being quiet, getting frustrated, sipping my drink, perhaps a bit faster than the others because I need a “displacement activity”… and this will, I know result in me not being able to lipread any more, anyway, because the drink will have impaired my sight. Who cares, I’m with “company”.
This is just a made up story in the words said – but it has happened. Many times. In different ways. It happens to many deaf people. And it is an example of how, when someone loses their hearing, they are so likely to withdraw from their old haunts and social circles. It’s just too much hard work.