Monday 14 May 2018

Deaf Girly's Deaf Awareness Week

This week I am celebrating Deaf Awareness Week 4,500 miles away from London in a country so hot that I had to take out my hearing aids yesterday as I could feel the heat of the casing behind my ears. It's 44 degrees centigrade, people!

Anyway, Deaf Awareness Week is a brilliant time to find out new things about hearing loss and deafness, and I truly believe that there's something new for even people who having a hearing loss to learn.

That's the thing about deafness. No one size fits all. It's not like being short sighted, where you can put on a pair of glasses - prescription permitting - and it's all perfect again. It's not like a sickness we can all relate too, or a hip that aches in winter. All those things are easy to imagine or at least explain.

Deafness for me is so different to that. In my experience of meeting people with hearing loss, it seems that we are all unique. I can hear next door's Nutribullet, but I cannot hear someone in the same room as me unless I am about to read their lips. Fab Friend makes phone calls like a boss, but when she takes out her hearing aids, all hell could break loose and she would most likely sleep through it all.

My ma can hear birds singing, but ask her to watch a comedy show with canned laughter and she goes nuts as the laughter is all she can hear.

It's like we all get our own unique ways of hearing things, which is kinda cool if you think about it. But the only way we can get hearing people to understand is if we tell them.

However, it's not always easy to find the right words.

I remember my eureka moment in finding the words to explain my deafness. I was on a school trip to Lourdes in the south of France and we were attending a mass said in about five different languages. I was stood there in a sea of other students holding my candle when I realised that I couldn't tell my own language apart from the French, Spanish, German and Italian words. I genuinely had no idea which was my language. And that's how I started to explain my deafness.

'Without lipreading, I have no clarity of speech.'

Indeed, you could be speaking Guarani and I would have no clue unless I could see your face.

And then I did my post graduate course, which was four times more intensive that my degree in terms of lectures and listening. Around that same time, First Ever Friend came to visit and she came out with me and my friends from uni. Her first language was English but then she moved to Switzerland at eight and forgot her English. By the end of our evening, she was absolutely exhausted.
'It's so tiring listening in English' she told me.

And there was my second sentence:

'Listening is exhausting.'

As a deaf person I would rather do a 20km bike ride that listen for 20 minutes. It's the kind of exhaustion that makes you want to lie down on the floor and cry. And there have been real occasions when I have done just that.

Having these sentences are incredibly valuable to me. But I'm willing to bet that Fab Friend or my Ma wouldn't put these sentences at the top of their 'explaining their deafness' lists.

And that brings to me what I would like to celebrate on the first day of Deaf Awareness Week 2018. Our differences. Our differences not to hearing people but among each other. We are all brilliantly different and each have our own way of 'hearing' the world around us.

I don't hear sirens but I know one is coming because FJM usually starts shouting. That to me is still hearing. Just in a different way.

Yes, there are lots of things you can do that are beneficial to ALL many deaf people and yes, it's important that everyone is aware of that. But if you know a deaf person, take the time to find out a bit more about their own unique deafness. Find out the things you can do that can make their life easier. And learn something new this Deaf Awareness Week.

Happy Monday peeps.


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