Monday 15 May 2017

Deaf Girly: 10 things I love about my deafness

Ok, so this week is Deaf Awareness Week and my Twitter is filled with fabulous infosnacks about deafness and advice and wotnot. It's brilliant.

If there's one thing being deaf and the experiences that come with that have taught me, it's that no one size fits all with deafness. It's personal. And no one can tell you how you should be feeling or hearing.

So with that in mind, here's 10 things I personally love about my own deafness, so you can see the world from my deaf perspective…

1. The quiet 
This has not always been the case for me, but these days I really do like the quiet that my deafness gives me. I used to be terrified of it and had panicky moments when taking out my hearing aids and realising everything had gone, but now I am used to it and sometimes, when I am on deadline in the busy office I work in, there's nothing better than taking out my hearing aids and relishing in the nothingness.

2. The mishearing/pronunciation comedy
This is a tricky one as there's a fine line between the hilarity of mishearing something and the crushing embarrassment. If I'm honest, more often than not it's the latter, such as the time I was at Tintagel and went somewhere I wasn't meant to as it had just been closed but didn't hear the yells of the person working there. I was quite tempted to ask the cliffs to throw me out to sea that day. 
But just sometimes, a wonderful nugget of humour is created from the uniqueness of my deafness and we fall about laughing – the other day this was when I ordered a Chicken Ceylon curry and Biryani at my local Indian restaurant and got the pronunciation so wrong that FJM snorted beer out of his nose. As punishment I made him phonetically go through the whole menu with me over our main course. I am now expert at Indian restaurant pronunciation.

3. The deliberate ignore
As a kid, this was one of my favourites. Being asked to empty the dishwasher would suddenly see me disappear, if a teacher called my name at school and I knew it wasn't going to be to give me a merit mark, I'd hot foot it in the other direction, and all with the back-up excuse that I hadn't heard. Nowadays this is particularly useful with chuggers, random nutters in the street and political canvassers.

4. The privileges
Again a bit of a tricky one but I do feel genuinely lucky about some of the things I get as a result of my deafness and I don't just mean my amazing Phonak Nathos NHS hearing aids. From travel perks to concessionary entry to lots of places, such as museums and theatres – with plays and musicals captioned by the brilliant Stagetext. However, the flip side of this is that I only get this concession because the services aren't always accessible. And while stalls tickets – at non-stalls prices – at the theatre for things with captions are amazing, you are fixed to the one date that the captions are happening. The best perk? Pre-boarding on aeroplanes... especially when there's a fight for overhead bin space.

5. The people
Without my deafness, I never would have set up my blog and become @DeafGirly. I kind of met myself through having a hearing loss and blogging about it. It's been an amazing journey. What's more, without my blog, I wouldn't have met all the wonderful people on Twitter, via Hearing Dogs and in person randomly while out and about. It's amazing to be part of this wider community of charities, Hearing Dog owners, other deaf and HOH people not just in the UK but from all over the world. And a special mention also goes to Hearing Loss Hour – a monthly Twitter event that I would highly recommend you getting involved in. My blog also inspired the book I wrote, which is currently still a work in progress as I'm quite busy at the moment, but hopefully one day might be on a bookshelf near you.

6. The technology
I am a massive tech geek and I LOVE discovering new tech that can help make life easier for me as a deaf person. From the FitBit Blaze with its vibrating alarms and notifications to just discovering which streaming services now offer live subtitles, I love trying things out, asking for more and providing feedback to companies. When I think back to the early days of iPlayer and the even earlier days of page888 and Caption Readers, it's hard to believe how much more accessible it is now. If only SkyGo could follow the BBC's lead in this…

7. The dogs
OK, so I know hearing people can get involved with the charity Hearing Dogs for Deaf People and see all the amazing work that it does, but as a deaf person, I have felt the excitement of seeing how a dog could change my life and that excitement is up there with how you used to feel the night before your birthday when you were 5 and knew that you were going to get the Lego you'd asked for. Seeing first-hand the recipients of Hearing Dogs and listening to what life is like now has been such an incredible thing for me, so incredible that I well up just thinking about it... and the dogs – the dogs are just so gorgeous. Want to meet them yourself? Head out to one of the Hearing Dogs Great British Dog Walks and you'll find many to say hello to.

8. The determination
This is a weird, very personal, one but I honestly think that I am more determined than I would have been if I wasn't deaf. When I look back at what I was like before I knew I was deaf, and further back to what I was like when my deafness wasn't as bad as it is now, I took so much more for granted than I do now. Being deaf for me is like an extra rocket booster of determination to succeed in as much as possible and do fun and brilliant things and I love that.

9. The memory
One of the things I have, which I wonder if its because of my deafness, is an excellent general memory and also a photographic memory. I commit situations, places, rooms and people to memory in the strangest way – perhaps to help me with recall of conversations as I rarely take them in and remember them... lipreading and concentrating on what's being said often stops retention of information – for me anyway. The other thing I have is an audio memory. I remember things I used to be able to hear and I can transpose music up an octave in my head so I know what it's meant to sound like even if my ears can't tell me that. It's brilliant. I like it.

10. Being Deaf Girly
I mentioned her earlier and I'm going to mention her again. Becoming Deaf Girly quite possibly saved me. She helped me find my feet in the scary world of work, she helped me find the words to explain my deafness to others, and to process the challenges and exhaustion I encounter as a deaf person. But most importantly she helped me look on the bright side about my deafness, and see the good things about it. And if, 20 years ago, you'd told my 16-year-old self that this would be the case, I would have denied it, got stroppy and put my hearing aids back in my pencil case.

Happy #DeafAwarenessWeek peeps


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