Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.
Have you ever thought about your own hearing? The way it works and how much we take it for granted?
And the fact that a silent world actually does exist for many people?
My “relationship” with my hearing is a complicated one and it has been since I was a child. But I have gotten to understand it, even though it took me a long time to do so.
So this is where I lie down on a chair, get deep and share my story.
From a Young Age
When I was born, it was not immediately obvious that there is an issue with my hearing.
Even though I was born prematurely, got sick and had to have blood transfusion due to jaundice, my hearing was not the first thing you think of when it comes to checking your health, especially in the 80s.
Unlike back then, nowadays babies apparently get their hearing tested (also known as “newborn hearing screening”) within the first few weeks after birth if born under the NHS.
But science, medicine and technology were a lot different back in the 80s.
(“Oh, you don’t look deaf”)
After a year or so after I was born, my speaking was slurred as a toddler and I was behind everyone else at the same age in terms of my speech and communication skills. But there wasn’t a specific reason why. A few more years have passed and it still wasn’t obvious whether there was anything wrong with my hearing.
But by then, my parents became concerned and a visit to the doctor then officially diagnosed me as mildly deaf/hard of hearing. I was 6 by the time I was diagnosed.
This was despite some continuing persistance from my parents to the doctors about checking my hearing.
At that time, I was not living in the UK and I was speaking Arabic.
(“Ohhh, I thought you said someting else”)
And then a whole new challenge arose when my family and I (with 2 younger siblings) moved to the Northern Ireland, UK and I was 8 years old.
Learning a new language is hard enough, but when you get dropped in the middle of primary school, you need to learn fast…regardless of your hearing ability.
So of course, that meant having lots of extra lessons on the side, going to speech therapists, having special exemptions in classes when low-quality audio equipment was used and working with a dedicated TEFL (Teaching English as Foreign Language) teacher.
(“Can you send me a message? I can’t work out what you’re saying”)
It’s fair to say that it was challenging, but as with any challenges, you learn and you grow from it.
As a Teenager
By deafness, one gains in one respect more than one loses; one misses more nonsense than sense.
As a teenager, you are not the best patient in the world, nor are you the best student either.
When you try to fit in as the only black guy in the school who is learning English, being deaf was not an option for me, so I refused to wear hearing aids (yep, those big clunky ones, which were quite heavy and very uncomfortable to wear).
(“I don’t want to wear this!”)
My main concern was to blend in with the hearing world. I used to think that it was a beautiful world, like magical world of Narnia.
I wanted to be in that world and join that club. I had one foot in the door, but I knew I was never be going to be a fully-fledged member.
But I was stubborn so I still kept trying…for years and years to come.
Even throughout my university years and during the beginning of my working career, that determination still persisted and I still wanted to be accepted.
(“Can I join your club and be part of the group?”)
And some people reading might understand how it works in university. It’s the same thing; you want to fit in and create the best experience.
It was certainly an experience, but looking back, it was challenging and support was limited.
But there lies the challenge when you look at the bigger picture; moving across the UK, picking up different accents, going to 2 different universities, working in multiple jobs, living abroad in a non-English speaking country, playing for different football teams…being mainstreamed in a hearing world.
As an Adult…and beyond
Can you remember the time where you wanted to be part of a cool group? At school, uni, social events?
There are many unwritten rules of how to approach each situation. But it’s not clear for those who are deaf, and that’s where you get lost.
Which is the price that you pay for having an “invisible disability”. But it also means that I should help others to help me by being a bit more vocal about it and making my situation a bit more obvious.
(“I’m like you…honest!”)
A very popular piece of advice for those who are looking to blend in with the crowd is to get a hobby and join a club. For me, it meant playing football, rocking out the guitar and learning new languages.
Unfortunately, it meant that I would miss out on what was being said on the training grounds, not knowing how to tune the guitar properly and constantly trying to work out what that person said in Spanish or German.
(“I don’t know what you said, but I’m not going to say anything”)
But that doesn’t mean you should stop trying though. You keep going…right?
The handicap of deafness is not in the ear; it is in the mind.
The challenge for me is that I know what both the hearing and non-hearing worlds look (or sound) like. When you are in between and being pulled from both sides, it’s difficult to know where do you stand.
This means that the sense of belonging is very complicated.
And it became even more complicated when a recent audiology appointment showed that things are getting worse.
(“Nah, I’ll be fine. I can hear fine”)
I was told the same thing when I was a teenager, but come on…I was a teenager.
But shit got real when you are told the same thing in your 30s…and it will get worse.
Oh yes, it’s becoming very real.
There was only one thing to do about it at that time, and that was to cry.
But it also meant that it was time to move on.
From Today and Onwards
Own your identity. Love who you are in the world. Love your deafness.
One day, I decided that I had enough and decided that the best thing to do was to let go of the idea that it will stop me from achieving what I want in life and finally reach to the level where you accept it and do something that others can’t do.
However, it had taken me 30 years to reach that stage.
It’s easy to wonder what could have happened if had accepted it years ago. But looking back will prevent you from looking to the future.
Even though it’s mild to moderate, and I’ve been told it will get worse and today and onwards I call myself deaf (albeit at a mild-moderate level).
It’s a weird thing to say, but it feels different saying that now compared to saying it when I was in high school or as a university student.
But as the quote says above, I knew it was time to own your identity.
And that’s where this website comes in.
There are several reasons why I have decided to create ‘Hear Me Out! [CC]’ (and by the way, “CC” stands for “close-captions”):
- it’s a place for me and others in the same or similar situations to feel accepted, have a sense of belonging and to know that I understand you
- it’s my duty to help you so that you can help me and those around you
- even though I have a site under my own name for my business, this site is dedicated to the topic of d/Deaf to avoid any confusion
- to help each other to own our identities, regardless of who you are
But this website is also useful for anyone who is going through some kind of challenge in their life. Because you are not alone in this.