If you’re been reading and following me for some time, you have probably noticed that I mentioned something about a “Sound-Dependent Lifestyle,” and you may be wondering whatever that means. So here’s my answer.
I always get a distinct impression from a lot of people who know nothing about Hearing Loss, Deafness, the Deaf Community and the Hard-of-Hearing community that they don’t believe individuals who are any of the above can live in a sound-based environment, and that it must be very unfortunate for all of us who are part of these communities to live in a world without sound. Likewise, there’s this belief that we don’t hear sound, and spend all our lives being mute, using sign language, and pointing at things, with lights flashing in the apartment.
And I’m here to tell you that this not true in all cases.
I live a very sound dependent lifestyle because my life literally depends on hearing sound, even though I don’t hear some of it. It sounds like a conundrum, but really, it’s not. Take for example, when you get sick, and your sinuses flare up and suddenly it sounds like everything is underwater. You still hear things, don’t you? But you hear them differently, right?
So that is what it’s like when you’re hard-of-hearing. I still hear things, but they just sound differently, and also as I grew up with the hearing loss, I found other ways to hear the same things.
I use verbal speech to communicate with others over the phone, or in daily life. I still have a doorbell that rings, and a cellphone ring tone. I listen to TV and my shows with volume on (the only exception is that I add Closed Captioning to verify what I am hearing). I listen to the sound of cars passing by, and the sound of jets flying over. I hear the sound the car makes when someone hasn’t put on their seatbelt, or when I’ve forgotten the keys in the ignition.
I react to and take my cues from sounds around me–in conjunction with visual cues. If a car is going down the street, I don’t just use my eyes but also my ears to judge if it’s going too fast, listening to the thrum of the engine.
On the flip side, because I have bilateral sensoineural hearing loss especially on the moderate-severe-profound spectrum for high pitches and tones, I have found a way to cope with them that is so different than those of normal people. For example, I used to play piano at one point in my life (yeah, reference to Beethoven here), and there are certain points of the piano where I no longer hear the actual notes that the string makes. Problem is that many piano songs require those sounds, so my brain has trained itself over time to the sound of the key hitting the string rather than the note. That’s how I know that I’ve hit the right note–every string has a different wavelength at which it vibrates, and it’s those vibrations that I hear. I hear those vibrations, like that of a phone vibrating in someone’s bag or pocket, when they’re not even aware of the sound themselves. There are times, when I won’t be able to tell the location of the sound, so I’ll put my ear against the floor or the wall to hear the vibrations.
Does this mean that everyone works this way? Absolutely not. Some people prefer to use a combination of sound and visual cues all the time. Others only use visual cues. And everyone is different in how they choose to perceive the world. But that doesn’t mean that every hard-of-hearing and deaf person only uses visual cues and Sign Language. We come in different shapes and sizes, too, so don’t assume that it’s one size fits all for solutions.