Wednesday 19 October 2016

10 things my deafness makes me better at

The other day I was thinking about what I might be like if I wasn't deaf. Firstly, I wouldn't be here as Deafinitely Girly. I'd probably be blogging about other things though... but this wouldn't include defending myself against a coat stand with a hot water bottle and many of the other scrapes I've found myself in as a result of not hearing much.

But what about the other things that I think my deafness enhances. The things I've become better at, quicker at, more efficient at. Here's my round-up of the 10 things I think I do better than I would if I was hearing:

1. Form filling

Who doesn't love a form eh? Especially those ones with the boxes where you have to get your letters just inside and hope your email address isn't too long to fit. In my life I have filled in countless forms to do with my deafness – from Freedom passes and my recent application for a Hearing Dog (YAY!) to complaints online about subtitles, service and applications for various things to help. You name it, I've filled it in. I love forms! 

2. Planning ahead

I wonder if I'd be quite so organised if I wasn't deaf. If I'd be more laissez-faire, leave things to the last minute, and fret less? Maybe not, but I do know that being deaf means I consider all options, all scenarios and all possible outcomes when planning, organising and booking things. This means I can request pre-boarding on planes, seats at the front of talks, or tweet the relevant people my questions and worries and ensure that at no point is my deafness going to trip me up. Of course it invariably does, but I'm still on a quest to plan ahead to the point that it doesn't.

3. Finding out names

I am terrible with names. I never hear them and then am too embarrassed to ask someone to repeat their name. But this means I have a stealth-like skill at finding out people's name and NEVER forgetting them ever again. When starting in a new office, I always draw a floor plan in the back of my notebook and then find a friendly face to help me fill it in. I will hit up linked in and match faces to names, whatever it takes. 
Of course, I could simply admit that I hadn't heard their name three weeks ago when I first met them, which is why for the first two weeks at one of my recent jobs I called a guy Tom and not Adam, before LinkedIn told me otherwise… but that would be too simple wouldn't it?

4. Understanding ignorance

Do you know I once pointed an empty seat on the tube out to a blind person by saying 'There's a seat over there'? It was one of the most embarrassing disability unaware things I have ever done. But it made me realise that when people ask you odd things about your deafness – 'Can you drive?' being one of the most asked and ridiculous ones – I don't get so riled anymore. After all, if I can forget that pointing to an empty seat is really not helpful to a blind person, then hearing people with little knowledge of deafness deserve a break.

5. Sleeping with the light on

I can sleep pretty much anywhere – planes, trains and automobiles and even trendy nightclubs... actually especially trendy nightclubs. One of the reasons for this is that I've spent much of my life sleeping with lights on – I hate darkness you see, it feels like I have no senses left and it's very isolating. As a child, my parents used to leave the hall cupboard light on, when I lived alone I left my hall light on, and in my current flat, if FJM is away, lights galore provide me with the visual reassurance that all is OK. My light resilience is very useful when it comes to needing naps in non-nap friendly places.

6. Making up stories

Before I knew I was deaf, I spent much of my life guessing what was going on. After I knew I was deaf, I continued to do this as well. Things like Chinese whispers at sleepovers – I always made my own ones up as never heard the whisper. Or Dictation at school, which I treated like a creative writing exercise. Or basically any conversation I ever had was pieced together with lipreading and a good amount of guessing what was going on. I've now written a book. A whole book. And I love making up stories.

7. Having a specific morning and evening routine

Every morning and every night I have the same routine. It's meticulous. It works. I could do it with my eyes closed. I could do it drunk. Why? Well it's all about my hearing aids and making sure I don't get halfway to work and wonder why I can feel cold air in my ears and then realise in a panic my hearing aids are somewhere they shouldn't be, not right beside my glasses on my dressing table ready to go in straight after I've finished putting on my make up. OK, so it's vaguely OCD, but it works. In the five years I've had hearing aids, I've forgotten them three times.

8. Bagging benefits

I don't mean the DLA variety. But in life, there are many benefits available to deaf people and I make sure I boldly ask for them all. Things like friends going in free as carers to museums, country houses, zoos and art galleries. Getting pre-board on planes so that you can be the first on, not miss your row being called and let the crew know that you can't hear announcements. Or asking for discounted tickets at the theatre if a subtitled show isn't available – I've done this and taken a script for things I really want to see. The Barbican has an access card, which gets me all kinds of benefits and I could write a whole blog about what else is available. My deafness means I am never afraid to ask – nicely, in a non-demanding but totally, hard-to-say-no-to way.

9. Laughing at myself

Deafness can be embarrassing sometimes – like the time I leant my head out a changing room to lipread my mum, tripped, pulled the whole curtain rail down and found myself flat on my back and naked in the middle of a shop. In those times, you've just got to laugh… and drink gin.

10. Being determined

This is perhaps my favourite thing. I wonder if I'd give up more easily if I had hearing. If I'd take things for granted, be less bothered about things. When I look back at what I've achieved and what I want. At the forecasts from teachers or even my own worst fears, I can see that I somehow found a bloody-minded determination to go after what I want. Of course it wavers in the same way it does for everyone else, but for me, there's always the nagging in the back of my mind that I need to do this, and my deafness isn't going to stop me.

Happy Wednesday peeps! Hurrah – it's Bake Off Semi Final night!

DG x

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