Monday, March 2, 2009

Purple squishies and a guinea pig named Rob

(Rob not entirely as shown.)

I am hard of hearing and so is my good friend, Mog. And so are a lot of people. In fact, one in eight to ten people are hard of hearing or deaf (depending on the survey). We are everywhere... mwhahaha! But, in our increasingly noisey and aging world, the ratio of people who are hard of hearing or deaf will only increase. So, look out! ;-)

With so many people in our communities who are hard of hearing or deaf, our communities are very unaware of what hard of hearing or deafness is, what are the issues faced by people experiencing these conditions, what solutions are available, what solutions could be available, etc. Hearing loss is invisible and quite often the issues that people with hearing loss* face are also invisible.

This invisibility allows discrimination, social stigmas and negative stereotypes to flourish, to go unchallenged and to go unaddressed, often placing people who are hard of hearing or deaf feeling as though they are second-class citizens.

I'm very much a believer in 'walking in someone else's shoes' in trying to understand various experiences of the world. I like it so much, I went and got myself a degree in it. The hook, for me, is that understanding a person, a group's or a culture's point of view from their point of view, is an effective way to understanding, not just knowing. I believe that understanding links 'how it is' to 'how it could be.' I believe a 'Black Like Me' experience is an effective practise in understanding.

A while ago, Mog and I were discussing our frustrations about some ignorant a-holes and their seeming inability to comprehend why people can take offense to insults, jokes and put-downs about their disabilities. I shouldn't really call them a-holes; it's not like me to want to offend anyone's anus.

Anyways, Mog and I went on to talk more seriously about the frustration of not being understood, of not having our experience understood. And not just understood by a-holes but by just 'regular folk'; our hearing friends, acquaintances, family and society, in general.

Enter Rob and his purple squishies. Somewhere along the line Mog asked Rob to try being hard of hearing or deaf for a day. He was insane enough to agree! ;-)

Here's Rob's report and here's Mog's report. Kudos to you both!

If anyone reading this wants to try being hard of hearing or deaf for a day, let me or Mog know!

* I am aware that I can seem an audist here to anyone reading this who identifies themselves as Deaf, ie, culturally Deaf and I apologize for this. I walk on the edge of a sword here, being hard of hearing and experiencing that very much as a personal loss and having an awareness of Deaf culture, please understand my position.


  1. Oh you got me on a good hair day I see!
    You know that's something that struck me, was the fact that hearing loss is invisible and this adds to the isolation. Years ago I hurt my knee and used crutches for a week. I was otherwise a fit young man, yet people were very kind and helpful, opening doors etc. They could see my injury. I didn't need the help, but they were happy to interact with me - they understood and could identify with my situation.

    Another friend who uses a wheelchair complains of being ignored because she is not at eye level and so is talked over to the person pushing the chair or if she's alone people address her in loud slow voices - it's her legs that don't work for goodness sake.

    Hearing loss is invisible - people who have hearing loss can walk and talk, go up stairs and open doors, so what is there to be done to help them? I now know, it's about being aware that there is such a thing and that one needs to make the effort to find a way to communicate.

    This is what I've learned from my little day out with my lovely purple squishies. Awareness seems to be the key. Would I be right in my thinking?

  2. I think you are right thinking.

    Hearing loss IS invisible, there's no constant reminder of it. Also when you help someone with hearing loss you have to do it constantly, not just open the door then carry on as usual. Helping me draws attention to you, speaking more loudly, more slowly, repeating things. Some people are embarrased by this, and sadly there are some who like the idea of helping in ways such as opening doors, helping someone cross the road, so that they can be seen to do good, and to feel good about themselves because of that. They might think opening a door is a good deed, but taking the time to write something down instead of speaking, or having to repeat yourself, then that somehow doesn't seem to have that feel good factor for them

  3. Yes Rob, I too think that you are right about awareness.

    You also mentioned people able to identify with whatever issue another is facing. I think this is very important and insightful. It's a deeper form of knowing; imo, it's knowledge, plus compassion. It's understanding, 'getting it' and fully.

    One could use it in the sentence, "I would really like to understand what it feels like to have Bill Gates' bank account."