How sudden deafness feels

How sudden deafness feels
Imagine waking up one morning and being deaf. Or perhaps having an accident and suddenly you can’t hear. Going deaf suddenly is a life changing experience. So many doctor and specialist visits. All the questions – with no answer : What’s wrong? Will my hearing come back? Can it be fixed? Will I ever hear again? Where once everything was normal you no longer cope with work, talk to family and friends, hear the radio or television. Using a phone is out of the questions you can’t even tell if you turned on an appliances or the car!

There is anger, fear, frustration – a complete challenge to your identity. The world no longer makes any sense and it takes a whole new learning experience. Family and friends don’t (or won’t) understand and often are little help and comfort. It takes a lot of strength to overcome the disability of sudden deafness.

Recently I read a story about a boy who, on his 13th birthday in the 1970’s, was a victim of the IRA bombings in London(1). In an instant he was scarred for life but the worst thing was the sound of blast destroyed his hearing. One minute he was a normal child looking forward to his birthday lunch, the next to dealing with extreme pain and not even being able to adequately communicate this because he couldn’t hear his own voice and didn’t think anyone was listening.

Because he couldn’t hear he stopped talking and once the horrendous injuries had healed, he had to be taught how to talk again. He needed to learn the sound of language without actually hearing it. The accents, pitch, speed and intonation. School was a challenge. He lost his friends and was moved to a special school for the deaf where he was a stranger. He didn’t know sign language so couldn’t understand but he learned because it was the only thing which rescued him from his silent world.

In the book he describes how he missed out on his teenagehood. He never had a chance to listen to the music of his peers, he didn’t watch television, and didn’t spend time with his friends in pubs enjoying the banter of youth and chatting up the girls. He was isolated and a prisoner in his own body.
Many people go deaf gradually particularly as they age. As they do they make minor adjustments to their lives so that they can cope. There isn’t any one point in which they can say ‘hey I’m deaf’. These people adjust to deafness as they go along and each adjustment is relatively minor so doesn’t have the impact of sudden deafness.

(1) Hardy, Jules: Altered Land 2002 Pocket Books

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