Friday, 21 September 2018

I pretended I was still hearing...

hearing loss memoir author Bella Bathurst sits by a window wearing a black sweater and peach scarf
Along with millions of other UK Hard of Hearing people.  For those who still insist being deaf is great and even a right, a touch of realism.

I Pretended I Could Still Hear I tried my best to ignore the problem and pretend I could still understand what others were saying.  But navigating the world without sound was incredibly stressful, sad and alienating.

By summer, it had become clear that there was something wrong with my hearing. It didn’t happen suddenly — it wasn’t like one week it was 20/20 and the next week it was down to 15/20 or 10/20 — but softly, so softly I almost wasn’t aware of it happening; sound seemed to have stolen away. There was no pain, no sound of sound retreating, just the gradual understanding that something was less. In January, I’d been able to hear the traffic outside in the street. 

By March, I could hear a few auditory exclamation marks — the bang of a door slamming, the blare of a horn — but not the noises that linked them. Noises that had been vivid seemed muffled; sentences that were once bordered by clear lines were now smoothed to a blur. Without the definition to speech — the sibilants, the corners and turns, the verbal signposts — I couldn’t seem to find my way. Meetings became no more than a low seaside roar, and I kept connecting with the wrong end of a sentence. Things that had once been so easy to navigate were now full of blunders.

For a while I did what any other sensible, evolved adult would do — I ignored the problem. When that was no longer an option, I made an appointment with my GP, who referred me to the audiology department at the local hospital. Guessing games It did not take me long to adjust to being deaf. Or rather, it did not take me long to realize that I really didn’t want to be deaf, and that — faced with a choice over whether to go gracefully or to yank the building down around my fading ears — I was going to give it everything I’d got. 

Metaphorically speaking. On the outside, I did my best to sound as if everything was fine. But inside, I was hurling myself around the bars of my self-made cell from dawn until dusk, trying to claw my way toward the invisible adversary who I believed had somehow made me deaf in the first place. If this was a kind of bereavement and bereavement was supposed to have four stages, then forget all that stuff about submission and acceptance. I planned to stick right here on fear and denial with maybe a bit of cosmic plea-bargaining. 

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