I’m feeling the love. Yes, I am. Not in the biblical sense, sadly, but in the sense that it feels like deaf people have been having a great big group hug over the fuss around “My chicken is ill.” It was a moment that spoke to all of us, in our own way. I love you guys.
And I’m feeling inspired, yes I am. Recently, I wrote a post called “shit hearing people say” and it seems that spoke to a few people as well, it’s amazing (and a little depressing) how common some of them were. Well, I’ve remembered some more. Again, all of the following is shit that has actually been said to me, and again I’ve included my own comments / thoughts that whilst not what I said at the time, was pretty much what I was thinking. And again, a disclaimer, not all hearing people are like this. Many of them are, in fact, lovely.
*Making random hand shapes and looking confused / irritated when I don’t understand*
Do you really think that waving your hands about randomly is somehow going to turn into comprehensible sign language? It makes about as much sense as thinking that if you go “lllllrlrlrlrlrrrrrrlrlllllll” you’re suddenly speaking Welsh. It’s a bloody insult. Now go away and let me enjoy my drink in peace.
“CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?”
I heard you the first time. I just didn’t understand you. Don’t tell me I’m going to have to explain the difference between hearing and understanding to you. If I started speaking Japanese, would you understand me then? But you can hear me can’t you, isn’t that the same thing? No? You don’t say? By the way, distorting your voice and lipshapes like that is really unhelpful.
“Perhaps you could add your father to your bank account and that way we could call him and discuss things without bothering you with a phone call you every time.”
Thank you for that suggestion, HSBC. Or you could just do you’re damn well asked and just text me if there’s a problem. I’m perfectly capable of managing my own financial affairs, thank you.
“You’re SO brave!”
Let me tell you a story. My great-uncle was in the Special Operations Executive during the Second World War. A few days after the D-Day Landings, he was dropped behind enemy lines into occupied France. His mission was to hook up with the local Resistance, sabotage Nazi efforts and generally assist the advancing Allied army. He not only came back in one piece, he came back with medals. I’m proud to be part of his line, and if I’ve inherited any of that sheer ballsiness I’ll be delighted. But calling me brave merely for wishing to be treated equally and for getting on with my life in the face of general ignorance somehow feels like an insult compared to the shit that people have done and do every day. When I parachute into an enemy-occupied country, knowing there’ll be hell to pay if I’m caught, you can call me brave.
Operation Jedburgh. Look them up.
*Covering their mouth with their hand and mumbling* “did you understand that?” *giggling*
You’re lucky I don’t have a gun licence. But I think I’m going to apply for one tomorrow.
*Grabbing my arm and spinning me round to look at them* “Hey! Didn’t you hear what I was saying? We’re shutting IN TEN MINUTES!”
If you want to live you’d better let go of my arm. I know ten different ways to cause you crippling pain, and five of them involve your genitals. Do you feel me? No? *crunch* How about now?
“Where can I learn how to do that?” *After staring, fascinated, at my signing*
If you really want to learn, why don’t you seize some initiative and google sign language courses in your area? Most likely your local college will have a course or two. Or your local Uni. Just please don’t ask me.
“How much can you hear?”
It’s amazing how many times I’ve had this question. I suppose it’s a natural curiosity to wonder what I can hear but the fact is, it’s not a fair question. You’re asking me to judge what I get through my hearing-aids and something I have no memory or knowledge of. I can tell you that tannoys sound like lawnmowers if they ever learned to talk – quiet lawnmowers. I can tell you that if you listen to my hearing-aids through a device that some audiologists have (a sort of stethoscope but with a bit that hooks to your earmould instead of a freezing cold disc of metal) you’ll hear distorted, loud clanging noises. My brain has had to learn to make sense of that. How much can I hear? Do you know, I genuinely don’t know. I hear pianos, cars and birds, but only in isolation. The environment HAS to be quiet, or any noise is just lost in the din. I mean, what do you want me to say? Do you want me to tell you things I can hear if it’s quiet? Why does it matter?
“Do we have to have the subtitles on? It’s so distracting.”
No, not at all. Here, let’s turn the sound off as well.
*Pointing to a car whose alarm is shrieking* “Can you hear that?”
Hear it, are you kidding me? I’ve had to turn my hearing-aids off! And now my tinnitus has a new noise to play with. Oh, great.
“What happens if I do this?” *tap hearing-aid / touch earmould / push earmould*
Hey, pal. Would you screw with someone’s glasses without their permission? Then you don’t touch my hearing-aids without my permission. I want you to consider my aids as very much part of my personal bubble, OK? Also, inside my ear, my earmoulds are literally millimetres away from my eardrum. A direct blow – or an unexpected push on the outside of the mould – can actually be quite painful. Now do that again. Do… it… again.
“What’s it like to live in a world of silence?”
Whoa, ease up on the melodrama there, fella. Besides, I wouldn’t know. I have tinnitus, which is like a constant noise in my ears. When I take my hearing-aids out I hear alarms, ringing, bells, beeping, high-pitched noises usually. Most of the time this is just background; you know when you hear something so often, so constantly, it becomes just background noise and you almost don’t notice? That’s where I am. Ironically, the quietest time for me is when I have my hearing-aids on, and it’s quiet all around me. And you know what, that’s actually quite nice. Sometimes I wish I did live in a world of silence. Didn’t see that coming did you?
“Oh, I’m sorry, I said half-past eight. You must have misheard me.”
No I freaking didn’t! If you made a mistake with the time, be honest and own up to it, you lying son of a… how dare you try to blame my deafness for your mistake? How do you explain repeating ten o’clock three times and your lips making the exact shape of ten o’clock three times? What other times look like ten o’clock on the lips? Certainly not half past eight! Instead, you’re going to lie and cover up, and make me totally paranoid that I did mishear you after all, and that I can’t lip-read to save my life. You know what, FU. Seriously, FU.
“Does she drink tea?” *to my mother, literally while I was standing next to her*
No. She doesn’t.
“Have you heard about God? God’s love is…”
“No I’m deaf, excuse me…”
*Shrieks* “God can cure you! God can cure all things! God’s love is all-powerful! He is all-highest!” *while tapping ears and waving arms in air and rolling eyes and holding up hands in supplication*
Oh God, let’s get out of here! Go, go, go!
“WHAAAAT’S YOOOOOUUUUURRRRRRRR NAAAAAAAAAAMMMMME?”
So help me, if and when I get round to that Phd, I’m going to make you and all the other idiots like you address me as ‘Dr Williams’. In fact, start practising now. My NAME is DR WILLIAMS.
“Why can’t you use a telephone?”
Sigh. Just because you understand what I’m saying, doesn’t mean I understand what you’re saying. Why is this so difficult to grasp? You tell me, how do I lip-read a telephone?
“Can you read?”
“How do your hearing-aids work?”
Do I look like a technician? All I know is; Microphone – delicate electronics – amplifier – earmould. There’s no magic. That really is all a hearing-aid is. And no, you cannot take it apart to find out.
“How can you not know that? Everyone’s been talking about it for DAYS!”
Well, thank you. You’ve just informed me that a) you really think my hearing-aids are so good, they can pick out voices from the environment around me and make sense of them, and b) no-one here gives a shit enough to tell me the obvious because they’ve all assumed I already know, because as you say, everyone’s been talking about it for DAYS. Question – has anyone told me directly what is happening? Or have you all assumed that just because I’m in the room, I’ve somehow telepathically picked up on what everyone is saying? FU all.
“Are you deaf?!”
Yes. Are you blind? Note the hearing-aids, the blue earmoulds, the… oh, why do I bother?
Once again, the italics are just what’s in my head, and I really do believe that honest and patient answers are the best way to get rid of ignorance. It’s just that sometimes, one’s patience is sorely tested.
And most hearing people really are OK. Really.
Happy Valentine’s Day! Spread the love