There is an old saying, ‘you don’t know what you truly have until you lose it.’ Often, this is employed in discussions about broken hearts and busted relationships, but what about hearing loss? We live in a world defined by how we sense it. The five senses are utilised to process the information all around us. What we see, smell, hear, touch and taste is registered within our brains, if we are lucky enough to have all those senses working for us. What about when one or more of these senses fail us or never worked in the first place?
The Silence Is Deafening: Disabled Hearing
It has been said that whole worlds close when something like our sight or hearing shuts down for good. If we have known the universe of colour, shape and form and darkness descends in finality, it must be wholly devastating. Likewise, if we have known the joys of sound, song, voice and melody and silence seals us up, it must be incredibly alienating. Hearing loss disables those afflicted with it like a physical injury. The known world becomes unknown and the familiar suddenly becomes strange and unfamiliar. In many ways we identify more with our senses than anything else, as all our thoughts have been as a result of processed sensory information.
Spatial relationships are as defined by sound as they are by sight. What is in the distance tells us just that by the distant sounds and what is nearby is much louder and more immediate. If all those audible signals are removed, then the universe is flattened out and everything becomes equally outside of us. Hearing loss affects all our relationships. If it is gradual, then those around us can often become annoyed at our failure to acknowledge what is communicated. Our nearest and dearest want to be heard and it is painful for them when they become cut off from their loved one who no longer can hear them.
More general relationships are equally disturbed and the inability to hear renders that person a non-person, in many ways. Disability, as we know, in all its forms cuts adrift the individual with the disability from the rest of his or her community. They are different, they do not share the same kind of humanity as their able bodied neighbours. This is rubbish, of course, but the general community behave in this manner toward their disabled brethren. Hearing loss is a profound disability and the silence is deafening.