Being Deaf for one day
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If I had to give up one sense I would give up my hearing. Although hearing is a very important sense that we all need and have embraced as essential throughout the years, I believe this is the least needed for survival out of the other five. I expect if I had given up this sense that life would be devastatingly harder and that life as we know it would become dramatically blander.
Today is October 14, 2005. With the aid of ear plugs and hearing protectors, I take the plunge into the deaf world. As with the vast majority of the deaf, I will not speak. A notebook and pencil will have to suffice for communication. Unlike the deaf, I have the luxury of choosing the day I cannot hear and this becomes my first revelation. In preparation for being deaf for a day, I also realize there will be no music or television. I will not hear a bird sing, my dog bark, play guitar or listen to the wind blow through the trees. The list goes on and on.
After a few moments of silence with my ears sealed, I begin to notice the absence of small sounds that otherwise I take for granted. Footsteps, doors opening, the rustle of paper and the water flowing from the tap are all eerily silent. On the practical level, I cannot hear the microwave bell announcing that my hot chocolate is done or hear members of my family. My family has agreed to respect my temporary inability to speak or hear, so written notes pass between us.Written communication, however, requires physical contact to get a person’s attention. You can’t just call out through the house.
After an interesting hour of adjusting to silence, I find I am bored. Very bored. So much of what I find pleasurable in life revolves around hearing. Without any interaction other than written notes, I am already feeling isolated. Written notes are terse with no inflection, sound or emphasis. Spoken language, I realize, conveys far more than information.
My first inclination is to spend the day at home surfing the Internet and reading. It feels incredibly complicated to go out into the world. The isolation is deepening.
The experiment ends in the evening and the sound of my family’s voices are delightful. I jabber on and on about my day, just thankful to be able to speak and hear.
The sense of isolation I felt while deaf was palpable. Without hearing or speech, the world becomes distant and unapproachable. There is little emotional texture in written notes.