On Tuesday, I did the goofiest thing I’ve done in a long time: I got my hearing tested. I got something I don’t have tested. To help you imagine the level of ridiculous this was:
“Read this eye chart using the eyes at the back of your head.”
“But I don’t have eyes in the back of my head.”
After years of explaining to multiple companies, organizations, and even Revenu Québec why a visit to the audiologist would make no sense for me, I entertained that nonsense. After all, it was cheaper and quicker than visiting a walk-in clinic to get a doctor who’s known me for five minutes to fill out a bunch of forms. How’s it that these people have been bestowed with the power to decide what accommodations I need? I know what I need: I’m me!
It’s so aggravating having a permanent disability and an expiration date on any proof I produce. Every few years, I have to take the time out of my day to satisfy some asshole skeptic’s demand for documentation showing that my disability hasn’t been prayed away by a televangelist.
Before Tuesday, the last time I sat in a soundproof room with earphones was sometime in the late 80s. I’m not sure the audiogram that resulted from that test even showed total hearing loss. For a short time after becoming deaf, I wore hearing aids. I remember getting ear molds made for me and my doll, but I have no memory of actually wearing hearing aids. It couldn’t have been long before my parents realized that they were doing fuck-all for me and pawned them off another deaf child’s parents.
Before this test, I Googled for the audiogram results of a totally deaf person and got nothing.
So, on Tuesday morning I produced my own:
The circle represents the right ear, the X the left ear, and the arrows pointing downwards mean no response. What you see is an overlap of four different symbols, which I’ve just realized would make a cool personal logo.
I had 110dB blasted into my ears at various frequencies. Before the test, the audiologist required the reassurance that I definitely would not hear a thing. I was sure I wouldn’t hear a sound but wasn’t so confident that the test wouldn’t hurt me. My eardrums and other ear stuff except for my cochleas all still work. Would it be possible to rupture my eardrums? I was sure I’d at least feel vibrations, but the foam earbuds were inserted so far inside my ear canals that there was no tactile feedback during the test. Most people would have expected their head to explode: I felt nothing.
Next came the bone conduction audiometry, which I was able to feel but not hear, and this is noted as such on the audiogram. The final result? I continue my 32-year streak of living in complete silence.
When Yann saw the audiogram, he made a face: “110dB? That’s really painful.”
What is painful is how much more passionate people are about catching the fakers than helping deaf people.
I write a lot about my deafness because there’s a lot of unexpected bullshit I have to deal with that aren’t related to perceiving sounds. I’ll keep doing this until hearing people stop saying, “I would miss music so much.” I wish that were the worst thing about being deaf!
Currently, Hearing Twitter is having yet another freak-out over a Twitter thread made by a deaf person:
In his tweet, nobody was being accused of intentionally harming deaf people. The responses that followed only proved why these videos are harmful. I am amazed by how far hearing people will go to protect their inspiration porn consumption.
Inspiration Porn is when disabled people are filmed or photographed–often without their consent–doing things not considered noteworthy if not for their disability. Eg.”Look at the captain of the football team eating his lunch with that autistic weirdo nobody else likes. Aww!” An example of a comment that follows these posts is: “Not all heroes wear capes!” If you genuinely want to understand why these types of posts are harmful, watch this TED Talk by the late Stella Young.
The responses that followed Hayden’s tweets were more or less, “I don’t care if you say it harms deaf people: I like it.”
That’s important, I guess.
The original tweet continued:
The last one elicited a strong response from Hearing Twitter.
“Why would you deny a child the joys of sound!”
How is this a fair counteraction to the original Tweet? Now, deaf people are accused of being Disney villains, casting evil spells on the ears of infants? Doomed to a life without music! Employment! Friends! Love!
Yet again, a number of the comments presented my existence as a completely deaf person as the worst possible outcome. These people are never relieved to learn the good news that I don’t miss my hearing and that I have a fun, interesting life.
These supposed distributors of joy start debating my lived experience. They start tossing around reasons why I should be miserable. The same people who insist that they’re spreading goodness when they share those videos shift their effort towards making me feel terrible about my life. It’s very heartwarming, indeed.
Let’s look at this another way: I’m a cisgender woman which means I don’t have a dick, right? I’m fine with this, but like many women, I’m not fine with the inequality that comes with not having a penis. So, deaf babies aren’t going to be upset about not being able to hear until those around them give them reasons to hate themselves. WHAT KIND OF JOY IS THAT?
Besides, these cochlear implant activation videos last just a few minutes. These joy-filled videos don’t show the implantation surgery being performed. Side effects aren’t captured on tape. Frustrating moments are left out. Hearing people have no desire to watch hours of tedious auditory therapy footage.
For the cochlear implant to continue to be presented as the best, and most obvious choice for a deaf baby is damaging. There’s a range of less-invasive options to support deaf children until they’re old enough to consent to the implantation.
For more information, read this article by Sara Novic, a deaf writer.
Thanks to Hayden for starting this conversation. There will always be people who refuse to listen and learn, but I can see that these tweets of his helped many people see it from another perspective.
Anyway, I’m going to go back to navigating life without… music! Employment! Friends! Love! (Apparently.) I just hope I can do it for a bit longer before I’m asked for proof of deafness again.
3 thoughts on “Pierce earlobes, not eardrums.”
So many people are terrible. What most people really mean is “I don’t like dealing with people who don’t speak my language.” In the US, the same people who yammer on about critical periods for young brains to process sounds really mean “people in the US should speak and understand English.” Their own children grow up as monolingual English-speakers and do not get early exposure to any non-English speeech-sounds. They do not care that a hundred million people in Japan can’t tell the difference between the English sounds “R” and “L” due to not hearing those sounds as children. I would bet money if a kid in the US got a cochlear implant and then only spoke Spanish, that would not go over well with this crowd.
Also, random question to tie this experience into some others that you’ve written about: Could the audiologist communicate with you in sign language?
(Sorry if this comment goes through twice; my computer did something stupid.)
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The audiologist did not sign, but he did sign “good morning” to me which was nice. Audiologists mainly deal with people who merely have some hearing loss that would be corrected with hearing aids, just like most people who wear eyeglasses aren’t anywhere near being blind. I asked through an interpreter whether he had ever done a hearing test on someone completely deaf and his answer was, “Yes, but it’s been years.”
I also asked him whether it was now possible for me to be implanted as advancements have been made since I had my assessment in the late 80s. I didn’t ask because I’m thinking about getting the implant, but because I don’t want to keep giving people false information. He said that it is now *sometimes* possible to bypass completely ossified cochleas. Also, only 30 adults per year receive financial assistance from the government for the procedure, which means even if there is now a slight possibility that I could be implanted, it’s unlikely the costs would be covered by the province.