Writing as a Deafie

I used to blog a great deal about hearing loss. Haven’t done so in a couple of years. At times it feels as if I’m simply saying the same thing over and over, so why bother?

I can’t remember a time I didn’t experience hearing loss. In fact, I don’t understand how the hearies of the world deal with all the noise. As a life-long deafie I don’t have a basic understanding of what it is like to have “normal” hearing, although I’ve seen the “speech banana” charts (reproduced below) and intellectually understand it. I get it about  as well as banfamilysomeone legally blind from an early age gets depth perception regarding large objects – like a skyscraper or the Queen Mary.

I don’t hear leaves falling, snow falling (not on the graphic, I know), water dripping or clocks ticking (unless they are big clocks with a low sound). My wee little dog tells me when someone rings the doorbell or knocks at the door. She goes nuts over text messages on my iPhone to the point I turn the sound off. If I don’t return a text right way, that may be the reason as I don’t alway see the phone flash or feel it buzz.

My newest hearing aid lets me hear birds and they sound like Cher. I always loved Cher’s singing, but I’m pretty sure birds don’t sing in a contralto range. My prior hearing aid made the car chime (when you open the door with the keys in it)  play three part harmony in the chord of G. 🙂

Kids not next to me are missing in action. It is one of the reasons I don’t do kid-centric social work anymore. A hearing aid in my one somewhat functional ear makes it better, but not good enough.

I’ve lost my fricatives. What are those? Glad you asked. /f/ as in fine. /v/ as in vine. /th/as in thistle. /th/ as in this. /s/ as in sue. /z/ as in zoo. /s<as in shore. /h/ as in hot. This means when we’re talking I am often staring raptly at your face and mouth. I’m not flirting. I’m trying to understand you. If we’re on the phone there’s all sorts of fun with strange voices and I may have to call back using a closed captioning service.

If you happen to see me at a book signing or at a conference there is not going to be a sign at my spot saying: Warning! Deaf Writer! I have, in the past, threatened to get a custom t-shirt that says: Deaf on the front and Still Deaf on the back. I may be sitting off from other people and watching the room as if I’m expecting a movie action scene to erupt. That’s me using my eyes for ears.

If you want to talk with me you have to speak directly to me. If I’m signing a book (looking down) chances are I won’t hear what you’re saying unless you have a booming voice in my hearing range. So wait for me to look up at you. I may, at times, ask you to spell words, especially if you want me to autograph the book to your satisfaction. Sometimes you may get a total non-sequitur, meaning I didn’t understand what you just said, but I thought I did.

I’m probably the only woman in the room with short, curly hair in blue, aqua, pink, and purple – so that’s how you find me. 😉 If you see me from a distance, try using the American Sign Language (ASL) for “Hey!” to get my attention. It’s really easy. Hold your hand out in front of you, palm down, not far below your chin and wave it up and down. If you are in my field of vision that works well. If you have basic ASL you’re my new best friend.

How do I write about sound in my works? Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I ask the people who work with me (alpha readers, beta readers, and critiquers). It is the same thing when a blind from birth person writes about color. We wing it. Or we discuss “the water dripped” (visual) and the reader fills in the sound they associate with dripping water.

You may know others with hearing loss. In fact, you do. Most people hide it or are ashamed of hearing loss. We’d all be better off if we were up front about it because it facilitates communication to be honest.





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