Sometimes people ask me what it’s like to be deaf. It’s a difficult question for me to answer since I don’t know what it’s like to be hearing. I have to somehow understand what it’s like to be able to hear to fully answer this question. I do ask people what it’s like to be hearing which oftentimes lead to fascinating discussions.
I have thought about this question many times over the year. There are many different ways I can answer this question. What is it like to be a deaf person in a hearing world? How has being deaf shaped who I am? How can I really understand what it’s like to be deaf if it’s the only thing I have ever known?
How can I truly explain what it’s like to be deaf in a hearing world without launching in a 5 hour-long discussion? There are so many things to take into consideration. I do think that being deaf has allowed me to notice the small pleasures that are sometimes overlooked by hearing people because the world is a loud place. Colors are brighter. Body language conveys so much more than spoken words can.
Oftentimes people just want to know what it’s like to live in a hearing world when I miss out on so much of what is being said around me. That’s the main point of their question even though I have came to interpret their question in so many different ways.
One of the many answers that I try to offer when I am asked this question is for people to imagine what it would like to live in a foreign country if they didn’t know the local language. You might be able to get the general concept based upon figuring out a few words here and there. I think it’s the closest way a hearing person can come to experiencing what it’s like to be left out of conversations and learning that you can’t count on others to tell you what’s going on. You will feel more self-conscious and not as confident when you’re not sure what’s going on. You will quickly learn that only you and you are responsible for yourself. You also learn how to use the smallest clues to figure out what’s going on. Sometimes, I feel like I’m always trying to put together a puzzle using clues that many people overlook. As a deaf person I have learned how to be independent, take care of myself, and that sometimes the only person I can trust is myself. I know I can’t rely on being able to communicate with people around me to figure out where to go, what to do, etc. I’m also used to having to go with the flow, not knowing what’s going on, and expecting the unexpected.
Being deaf in a hearing world can be very frustrating yet very rewarding.
How do you explain what it’s like to have a hearing loss to those who ask you?