Tuesday 19 April 2011

My deafness makes me...

Today I really realised how deaf I am and how much I need subtitles when watching BBC Breakfast local news. Usually I can roughly get what’s going on from the stilted, delayed subtitles, but today, there were none.

Not a single scrap of text for the first few minutes of the news. I missed the travel information and only just got the subtitles back in time for the weather, which let’s face it, even for me is pretty self explanatory!

I hate it when I watch TV and don’t know what’s going on. While in Scotland recently, it turned out Mr and Mrs J are big Newsnight fans. I knew there was a reason I didn’t watch it, but it slipped my mind as I enthusiastically sat down for an interesting debate with Simon Callow thrown in for good measure. But it was pointless. The subtitles were too slow to follow, and according to Mr J, weren’t even right half the time. In the end, I fell asleep and felt very uncultured about the whole thing.

It reminded me of when, as a teenager, we used to go on school trips to see Shakespeare at the theatre and I used to die of boredom the whole way through thinking I was stupid for not enjoying it. Indeed, back then, I used to think that nobody heard the words and just went along to say, ‘Yaaahs, I’ve seen the latest Shakespeare...’ but then Stagetext came along and I realised that, if the words are there, Shakespeare can be riveting.

It’s this sort of example I use when people ask me what I can and can’t hear – as it’s a very difficult thing to explain. I guess I don’t know what I am missing, and therefore assume that it’s missing for everyone. I mean, I didn’t know that birds sang when I was little, and I thought that alarm clocks were meant to be hard to hear so that you were more worried about sleeping through one and more likely to wake in a panic naturally.

I also thought that you were meant to make up your own words to Kylie; that dictation at school was a guessing game of how the story might go, and that French listening exams were designed to be muffled as though they were taking place in a realistically noisy setting!

Basically, before I knew I was deaf, and for quite a good many few years afterwards, I thought that things I couldn’t hear were normal challenges in life for everybody. And thank goodness in a way, because I approached them from that angle.

Can’t hear Kylie – I’ll make up my own words = helped my creativity no end!

Can’t hear French listening – I’ll guess it = gave me an extensive knowledge of French adjectives.

Can’t hear Shakespeare – I’ll take the play and read along = helped me become excellent at speed reading.

Can’t hear my alarm clock – I just kept buying ones with bigger bells until I found out about vibrating ones = it certainly made packing to go on holiday interesting as I squeezed a huge bell-and-hammer alarm clock in my suitcase.

Can’t hear the TV – I developed a penchant for strange foreign subtitled movies = I actually turned out more cultured that I thought I would!!!!

So you see on this cloudless sunny day, there is actually a silver lining in the cloud. You just have to look hard enough. Listening doesn’t come into it at all!

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