Last week, my stitches were removed. I can’t say that was an incredibly pleasant experience, but having them out meant I could shower! That had to be the best part – showering and washing my hair. I think I shampooed my hair 4 times to make up for the 2 weeks of grossness. Since then, things have been pretty good, although I had part of my incision split open and start bleeding again. Once more, turned out to be nothing to worry about. Things are healing as they should.
Being deaf, I miss a lot. I’m not just talking about sounds here, either. Sure, I don’t hear things like music, alarms, horns, water running, laughter, the doorbell, and every other sound that most people take for granted. I miss other things too. Because I focus so much on lip reading, I often miss body language or inflections in speech. Just like reading a text message, the tone can be misinterpreted and the meaning skewed. Watching TV or movies can only be done with captions on. When all your focus is on the words at the bottom of the screen, you can miss the entire gist of a show. I watched almost a whole season of a TV show once on Netflix only to realize I hardly knew what the characters looked like.
Often, I get left behind in a conversation. It is simply impossible to keep up with the many twists and turns in context and topics. I try to piece together the flow of conversation, but I’m always one step behind. Just when I’ve fit all the pieces together and am ready to interject my witty comment, I realize that the tide has turned and I have no idea what everyone is talking about. If I’m lucky, I held my tongue and didn’t make a fool out of myself for making a comment completely out of context, if not I endure the puzzled, sometime ridiculing looks from those around me. I have come to learn to either stay silent and hope no one addresses me, or try to take charge and risk looking self centered so I can steer the conversations. But sometimes it’s easier to simply withdraw from social situations altogether, loneliness being more bearable than humiliation. Thankfully, being hard of hearing all my life, I learned to lipread at an early age. I rely heavily on that skill now. Unfortunately, it’s not perfect. If someone mumbles, talks too fast, has facial hair or lip/tongue piercing, or speaks with an accent, it’s far more difficult. I have gotten pretty good at bluffing my way through conversations. To be honest, I’m lucky if I understand half of what is being said. I feel bad; because, in a way, I feel like I’m lying to those around me. But truthfully, it is so much work to keep up with conversation when you can’t hear what is being said, that it’s actually easier and less embarrassing to just pretend to know what’s going on. Yeah, it gets me in trouble sometimes and that’s when I fess up and tell people I’m deaf, or that I have no idea what they’re saying.
When you are deaf living in a hearing world, very few people understand. Some are obviously uncomfortable and walk away instead of trying to engage. Others overcompensate, shouting so I can “hear” them better. Almost every person though, immediately apologizes. I have often wondered why this is. It’s not their fault I’m deaf. They didn’t do it to me. Perhaps they’re apologizing because they spoke too quickly or without looking at me making it impossible for me to understand them. Regardless, if I tell you I am deaf, you don’t need to apologize. Yeah, it does suck to live in a hearing world, without sound, but I am managing. Just ask, “whats the best way to communicate?” I can lipread fairly well, but sometimes writing down or texting what you want to say is easier.