It’s a frightening prospect, losing your hearing. It invites a sense of unease and
uncertainty into your life where you’re not sure how you would fare in such a situation where a part of you is now unavailable. Say it actually happens and you become deaf… your “youness” is now thrown out of wack with who you knew yourself to be and you can’t go back.
This is the feeling many of us have experienced in life as we’ve lost our hearing as teens and adults. For some of us, we reject this new status quo and endeavor to live as if we aren’t deaf. Learning to read lips and being more aware of your surroundings to make it seem to others, and yourself, as if you are a hearing individual like them is the goal. While others retreat from the world and into themselves in a prolonged depression where they become shells of their former selves. Still, others make the best of what they have been given and open themselves up to a world they’ve never experienced before.
Settling into this new reality can be very difficult, especially if you don’t have a support system in place to help you navigate these uncharted waters.
Perhaps that’s laying it on a bit thick but in all reality, the journey, if you choose to accept it, is a beautiful one to behold. But before you go on that journey, you must first accept what’s happened: you lost your hearing.
As I said, it’s tough if you have no support system in place (family and friends) where you have encouragement, advice, learning partners and more. If you don’t have one, then you have to make peace with that and make every effort to immerse yourself in this new world.
Whether you have that support system or not, immersion (as best is possible where you live) is of paramount importance to the journey. Taking classes or lessons in American Sign Language (ASL) and finding a study partner is a great first step. Many colleges or local schools that teach ASL have monthly mixers where students can mingle with the deaf and Sign Language interpreters. This is so that they get to apply what they’ve learned in practical application. And if they pick up new signs, then, hey, that’s great!
Part of your journey is to learn more about deaf culture and history. You can learn this, partly by taking the ASL classes. But in order to really get into it, start hanging out with and befriending someone adept at ASL (a Deafie, Sign Language interpreter or Hard of Hearing individual who signs) and your learning accelerates!
But this largely depends on where you live and the size of the deaf community in your area, if there are even any Deafies there.
Taking a look at my own life, growing up in a small town in Mississippi, I knew a total of two deaf people in the whole county. I only knew them because as I was learning ASL, it was brought to my attention that I had deaf coworkers at my job. They helped me learn signs faster and signs I had yet to learn from a Sign Language interpreter that drove in from Jackson twice a week just to teach me. I didn’t have the ability to hang out with them but lunch time at that job was spent with them a lot. I learned so much in such a short amount of time.
No matter where you live, what support system you have and any of a myriad of other things, the first and most important thing you must do is accept that your life is changed and that it doesn’t end there. Without doing that, you can’t live as a fully productive person and you won’t see the beauty of speaking with your hands.
“In life, risk is part of the equation…”