I asked him to be hard of hearing for a day. To wear earplugs for the whole day and to report back, warts and all. I was apprehensive about how successful it would be as ear plugs generally reduce hearing only by around 30dB, which is a mild hearing loss. Selfishly I wanted him to experience the full 110dB gig.
I warned Rob to be careful out in traffic, crossing roads, and to take the earplugs out if he didn’t feel safe at all. Which he did, and I am pleased that he did do so, after all we wouldn’t want a squashed Rob.
I’m very grateful that Rob took on this challenge, and embraced it with insight and thoughtfulness. Some of his comments surprised me, mainly because my hearing loss has been gradual and so there are some things that I hadn’t even thought of. I will post my response to Rob’s post tomorrow.
Here is Rob’s account of his hard of hearing experience.
Well, in the interests of being accurate, it was more like being hard of hearing for a day.
My friend Mog, of “You hear some funny things when you are deaf”, challenged me to live a whole day in this silent world.
So with purple squishy earplugs, well, squished and installed they began to expand and as they did, so my hearing began to diminish. Here’s the thing. I hadn’t expected all the noise in my head! Wow! I can hear myself breath, my tongue moving produces so much sound! Likewise my teeth! Yes, my teeth crashing together as I close my mouth, oh the noise and then there’s the stream of water thundering on my head as I soak under the shower. Hey, excuse me, this was meant to be a day without sound! This I had not expected. After a slightly traumatic 2 minutes of teeth shining with the electric toothbrush I’m ready to begin my day. I flick on the laptop as I pass the dining table/office heading for the kitchen to put on the kettle. The day has got to start with a piping hot cup of tea. I don’t make it to the kitchen. I have to go back to the laptop. I was sure I had pushed the button that fires up the machine. I see lights flickering, but I had to turn back because I didn’t hear the sound of internal bits as the machine whirred and clicked to life. Hmm.
Back to the kitchen and the kettle. Push the little lever, see the red light glow, but no sound to tell me it’s on. I was watching this time to make sure. Next step is to switch on the TV. I can see the news anchor delivering her autocue lines, I can read the ticker at the foot of the screen, but I have no idea why I’m looking at snowy mountains on the screen. I know it’s possible to have closed captioning (subtitles as I know them) running on the screen, but I can’t for the life of me remember how to turn them on. I’ll look at the pictures while I make tea and toast. I’ll get my news off of the web.
I’m getting the hang of this. I’m watching for the kettle light go off when the water has boiled and likewise for the toast to pop. There are many similar situations where one might miss a sound that conveys information. Now in my purple squishy earplug state I would hear the fire alarm, so loud is it’s insistent beeping, but for someone who is completely deaf I dare say another plan must be made. In a less life and death kind of way, I realise that I will not be able to hear anyone knocking at the door! We don’t have a doorbell which, if it was really loud, I might just hear, if I’m not crunching on some toast. Toast is noisy food! I guess flashing lights and vibrating things are the order of the day, every day, for those who live with hearing loss.
My day continued. No phone calls, only email and SMS text messages. There were many similar examples of things where sound is part of the experience and without it I had to think about what I was doing. No familiar clunk as I turn the key to let me know the door is locked, my home safe. The solid thunk of a car door firmly shut, missing. There’s so much to think about in a sound deprived world.
I’m afraid to report it lasted until lunch time only. I was fine at home, in my environment, but I didn’t like that I was feeling so insecure as I moved about the city. I was okay in the car. It’s still my space, but I was on edge, constantly looking around to be sure I wasn’t missing something important, keeping an eye on lights and gauges lest I be indicating a turn I didn’t intend to take or red lights flashing in warning of an imminent engine explosion. Stress.
So, I didn’t get to interact with another person in my altered state, which is probably not a bad thing. Remember those purple squishy things in my ears? Yes, might have looked somewhat odd claiming to be hard of hearing while wearing earplugs. I did consider putting on a toque, or wearing earmuffs, but my nerve failed before I had to make the choice. It also struck me that while dealing with members of the public might be a bit uncomfortable, what about with my friends, my family. No more wonderful hour long phone calls to my Mother in far away Johannesburg. She does email, but that’s not enough. Today I had to call a very close friend who’s father has just died. I was able to express my grief and sympathy for her loss in more than just words and that just wouldn’t have been the same if it had to be put into an email, or worse still an SMS text message!
So did I learn something from this exercise? Sure. My hearing is precious and what would be the most awful thing about being deaf or hard of hearing? Isolation. That’s what really struck me.