I had a fascinating conversation yesterday with a deaf friend – talking about our strategies for working, how we tell people, who we tell and such. We are both ‘partials’ – defined as much by our coping as by our audiograms, living in the hinterland between ‘deaf’ and ‘hearing’ depending on the situation and quite frankly, if we’ve remembered to put our spare batteries in our handbags.
Although we began with some moaning, the conversation quickly turned to the positive aspects to our collective deaf experience, so I thought I’d post a quick top ten best bits – what being deaf (or hearing impaired or hard of hearing or deafened or whatever else you fancy calling it) gives me:
- The ability to ‘read’ a room – I’m good at scanning spaces and places and working out what is going on where, putting together body language and other non-verbal signals to work out dynamics and dynamite.
- Good summarizing skills – with different communication methods (lip-reading, sign, using loops etc) I’m constantly checking with myself about what I am taking in. Does what I think I have heard fit with the context, the previous information? I’m both taking it in and processing it simultaneously and therefore find it easy to summarize and feedback to people, and also to write-up meeting and so on afterwards.
- A damn good excuse – best get out of a terribly dull meeting, party, space and place (and yes, I realize I’ll never be able to use it again…) “Ohh, my battery has just died… I very sorry, I better go now…”
- A lived understanding of being on the outside – once you have felt excluded – really, really felt it in your bones – you never want anyone to experience it. It’s like you aren’t part of the human race, you are unimportant, worthless, irrelevant. No one is irrelevant. Knowing this feeling intimately gives me fire in my belly. My work has inclusion as an implicit underpinning because of this experience.
- Cheap train travel – yes, simply having an NHS battery book qualifies you oddly for a disability railcard and cheaper train travel. Thank you very much.
- Brilliant mates – deaf people are great and exceptional to socialize with. On the whole, my deaf mates have a wicked sense of humour, and we can all talk to each other in a crowded pub without a problem. Deaf people concentrate on you when you talk – part of a communication need – but it’s a surprise how good it makes you feel to be really focused in on. Hearing people take note – stop looking around as though you are waiting for someone better to come in! Focus on who you are with.
- Lots of communication choices – I can lip read, use my loop system, book an interpreter, a palantypist, a note taker… I can choose a communication system that fits the environment in which I am going to be and the needs I have in that space – how amazing is that! Hearing people only have one option. Shame…
- An instant monitor of how I am– now this one might be unique to me. I also have tinnitus, and I tend to know how I am in relation to how loud it is. When I have been doing too much, been too frantic, too busy, my tinnitus gets louder and louder… And when I stop and calm myself for a day or so, I notice that it reduces, subsides, gets quieter. It’s a great barometer for me, annoying though it is. Anyway, you are never alone with tinnitus, might as well find a use for it.
- A ticket to the wider disability world – which is amazing too, as long as you remember it’s not a ghetto. Just because you are deaf, disabled, whatever doesn’t mean you can only be in D-world – you can be anywhere and do anything, but it does mean you have a pass into D-world when you want or need the direct support of your peers, the people who know what you know from the inside out.
- Ability to sleep anywhere – once my hearing aid is switched off my body quickly moves to sleep mode, usually within 5 minutes. Excellent. And I don’t hear my husband snore.