I’m deaf. Just plain deaf. The I-can’t-hear-anything deaf. Get it? I wasn’t born deaf but was diagnosed deaf at 14 months old. My parents were sure that I could hear when I was a baby until they discovered I couldn’t. We are not sure how or why perhaps an accident or illness? However, that doesn’t change the fact that I’m deaf. Yep, frustratingly deaf. Someone needs to create another word for that - I don’t know whether I should love or hate that word, but I grew up with it, live by it, breathe with it. Someone also needs to create a sarcastic poem along with that sentence. I’m not kidding. Just because I wrote a poem about it doesn’t mean someone else shouldn’t. Anyway, the biggest challenge in being deaf is that I cannot understand everything that is being said, word for word. I could understand a gist of what was being said but focusing on lip-reading and matching it to what I hear through my hearing aid is very tiring. Plus, I have to ask someone to repeat themselves or write things down each time I don’t understand something. Doesn’t mean everyone would oblige, though.
The first lecture I went to at university was my worst memory, my worst impression of the university. The accessibility team did not let my note-taker know that I was to have the welcome lecture on that first day. I had a mixture of negative emotions because I could not understand a single thing the tutors were saying, even though I tried. It was so frustrating, I cried. Can you blame me? You try being deaf for a day and see how I feel. Go on, try stuffing a big piece of thick cotton or something in your ears, muffle your hearing, and go about your life for a full 24 hours. How I hear sounds, or even the world, is a hundred times worse than how you might hear. I think what my deafness affects most is my social life. Due to this, I am a little bit antisocial and distant, although I know that no one notices this unless I tell them or hint, which I don’t often. So, unless someone is reading this story, if you care or are curious enough to read this, no one else knows. I think this also affects how I interact with strangers. Due to my course, I have to interact with other people outside of my comfort zone. This also largely affected my multimedia work which required audio. I had trouble with it because I didn’t know how hearing people hear. I sometimes have my volume high, at max, because of how I adjust my hearing aid to being higher or lower.
My experience of being deaf hasn’t changed since coming to university. If anything, I interact more with students at university than at school and college, which I was happy with. But I wished it could be more, which is disappointing to me. If you ask me whether I like being deaf, I would not answer because, on the one hand, I have been deaf my whole life. But on the other hand, it negatively affects how I interact with other people.
Hey, can I ask you something? Can you read how other people feel? Like the saying, ‘the eyes are the window to the soul’? I did not realise this until recently, well, I had the thought from time to time, but I didn’t comprehend this until recently, but maybe because every time I look at other people, my eyes automatically focus on their lips, not their eyes. You look at people in the eyes when you interact with them, yes? But I don’t. It’s like second nature to me, reading people on the lips, otherwise it would be so out of sync I wouldn’t understand what they said. Maybe this is why sometimes I don’t understand how other people feel. Often, I have to ask them how they feel, but I know that sometimes I cross over the line. Even when I try to make jokes, I don’t know if that affects them or anything. That is why I don’t know what other people think whenever I interact with them, I don’t know whether they enjoy talking with me or whether they are forcing themselves to. Perhaps this is why I am a little antisocial, which, as I said, is not very noticeable. It doesn’t mean I like to force it on them though. I can’t control people’s thoughts, but I don’t want them to interact with me just because they feel obligated to. I want them to interact with me simply because they want to talk to me, to me, just for who I am. Not because I’m deaf. Just for this, I hate that word.
If you ask me whether I am happy being at university, I would hesitate because the happiness I feel is very limited to parties or other occasions. I do not have many friends here which I could hang out with apart from after lectures or group discussions. I really do want to have a friend which I could hang out with whenever we like and not because I have to ask them if they would like to hang out with me. When I want to hang out with other people, often I have to be the one to ask. Nobody asks me. I deal with the isolation mostly by reading a book because they make me feel something. Whether that be sadness, joy, anger, anything. They make me cry and laugh so hard. Not because they are that good, but because I can feel something just by reading stories. Sometimes I watch movies whenever I have the time, whenever I’m not feeling pressured by deadlines - which I hate, by the way! If I’m not reading, then sometimes I like going out on walks. Yep, alone, even in the dark sometimes. No, I haven’t been ambushed, if that’s what you’re worried about. I think my favourite author is Michael Morpurgo, I like the book about a boy on a ship. I learned the ‘London Bridge is Falling Down’ song from that book. That is the only song I can sing. I can’t sing other songs at all. I’m also tone-deaf, oh the irony! That was the first book I read everywhere I went, on walks and on the bus on the way home! Sometimes I bumped into walls because of that. My poor brain.
Plus, whenever I’m somewhere with my course mates or friends, like at parties or the awards last year, I’m often deep in my thoughts, about everything like ‘what could have been if I weren’t deaf’, ‘if only I wasn’t deaf’, ‘if only I could speak’, and little depressing thoughts like that. I get the urge to cry whenever I’ve thought about wanting to talk with them but couldn’t without making it any more awkward. I’m not sure whether I should be happy that they don’t look at me because I get a little teary-eyed, or angry that they don’t notice this at all. Get what I mean? I’m not good at this sh*t. Sorry for the language! I am polite. I think I’m a great actress because I can be good at making myself look so easy to read that they are misguided by how I truly feel deep inside. I’m so good at donning a poker-face mask. Since they, or you, don’t see me, I could very well be dead.