What Does It Feel Like: Part Two

Shawn Jackson Deaf And Deaf Culture, Getting Personal 0 Comments

In part one of this 3 part series, I described how Tourette Syndrome felt to me; from the physical sensation to not being in control of my body. Now you’ll learn what it felt like to lose my hearing and being deaf.


Being deaf wasn’t something I wanted, though I was always fascinated by it. I started wearing hearing aids when I was in 5th grade after some hearing tests determined that my hearing was less than optimal. Though I could still hear without them, the hearing aids helped in certain cases like in class. The next twelve years would prove challenging in some ways but devastating in others.


When my hearing began to wane, it was a strong buzzing sound and static that I would hear in place of the sounds that my hearing aids were supposed to amplify. I later discovered it was tinnitus that was causing the buzzing or ringing in my ears. It was as if I had constant static interference between me and the rest of the world, like there a jamming device blocking the signal of sound. The sound around me sometimes came back if only shortly.


As the months wore on, I could hear less and less sound and more and more of that ethereal ringing. It was maddening. Imagine having a pair of earphones on listening to a droning electric drill. That’s what it was like for me every day, even as I went to sleep.

Photos by Jarek James

Fast forward to the period of time after I was diagnosed as Profoundly Deaf. I wasn’t exactly completely without sound. I had memorized every note and word of certain songs and the sounds around me like footfalls and floorboards creaking and the clacking of keys on a keyboard. The running of water and various other sounds were imprinted in my conscious so that whenever I was walking around and interacting with things and people, my memory matched the action with the corresponding sound. It was like I had my very own Foley artist studio inside my head.


And the sound of various voices sounding out my thoughts kept me from feeling too isolated from the outside world. Though my mind would sometimes warp a voice into something unlike any I remembered, it was a calming thought to feel like I could hear again. Imagine being in a large room that had echoes of voices other than yours but was otherwise devoid of anyone else inside. And these voices were things you were saying or have said but they come a mile a minute. You don’t feel alone even as you feel alone. No other person could you hear except the words that you knew by heart: song lyrics, thoughts, memories and imagination. You couldn’t even hear yourself.


And so it goes, learning to live with losing my hearing wasn’t the greatest nor easiest thing to allow myself to feel. But I felt it and I became stronger and better for it. I am who I am, partly because of what my hearing loss and Tourette Syndrome have meant to me. That I’m not broken. That I’m stronger than I thought. That I matter.


Stay tuned for part 3!

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