The Advantages of Being Deaf
by Tina Blue
January 5, 2004
I have always admitted that deafness is a handicap, even though it's not supposed to be politically correct to say so. Given a choice, I would gladly exchange my severe hearing impairment for normal hearing. I run into a lot of problems because of my hearing impairment, and I am prevented from doing a lot of things I would like to still be able to do--like going to plays and lectures.
I can no longer watch TV without closed captioning, and I miss much of the dialogue in movies if I go to see them at the theater.
I miss a lot of other stuff, too.
Just this week, as my son Michael was visiting me for a few days while on break from graduate school in Florida, he asked me if I liked "that song."
"What song?" I wanted to know. I hadn't even realized that the reason he had his laptop computer open in front of us was that he was playing music on it from his MP3 files.
But that doesn't mean that there are no advantages to being as deaf as I am.
Sure, I can't hear the music on Michael's laptop--but I also can't hear the Muzak in department stores. Surely that counts as a major advantage.
Furthermore, it is a known fact that excess noise is rough on living organisms. Even plants deteriorate and eventually die if subjected to excess noise, and animals also show symptoms of severe stress in noisy environments.
In fact, when my son Michael was a teenager, I had to have a friend take my three milk snakes into his custody because the noise from my son's stereo was stressing them out so much they wouldn't eat. Oh, by the way, snakes don't hear at all. But that didn't save them from stress, because they were responding to the intense vibrations from drum and bass guitar.
Everybody's a critic these days.
I also believe that the snappishness of most people is at least partly caused by the stress created by their noisy environment. I am notoriously mild-tempered, and I have always felt that the relative peacefulness of my sound environment should get some credit for that.
I ran a home daycare for 18 years. You've got to know that the reason I never lost my temper with 6 to 10 young children in my home was that I couldn't hear a lot of the more obnoxious sounds that accompany crowds of kids, and what I could hear was fairly well muted.
For 16 years I lived at the corner of one of the busiest intersections in town. I never heard the sound of traffic, even though other people often commented on it when they visited me.
The apartment I live in now is on a well-traveled through street where people often speed by in loud vehicles. I don't know about their loudness at first hand, but only because the neighbor who lives in the other unit of our duplex--the unit farther away from the street--frequently complains that the noise of traffic keeps him awake.
So there is no doubt about it. Being deaf has real advantages.
And some of those advantages accrue to other people as well.
When my kids were young, I had shared custody with their father. But at age 14, my son moved into my apartment full-time, though my daughter continued to move back and forth between my place and her dad's.
As a teenager, Michael spent a huge amount of time schmoozing with his friends on the phone. Of course. That was to be expected.
But we had a very small apartment and only one phone--in the living room. Whenever he would get a phone call, he would have to take it right there, in front of his mom. There wasn't even a convenient closet to duck into for the conversational privacy that means so much to a teenager.
But guess what? It didn't matter. He could stand right next to me while talking on the phone if he liked, and I would never hear a word he said. Heck, I have trouble understanding him when he is trying to talk to me. There's no way I could possibly understand him when he is mumbling indistinctly to someone else on the other end of a phone line.
He could always count on perfect privacy with his phone calls or whenever a friend came over to visit with him, without having to take any steps to ensure that I couldn't overhear his conversations. Even if I were the eavesdropping type (I'm not), I don't have the ears for it.
And then there was the matter of that loud, loud music. Okay, I had to find another home for my snakes, but otherwise his loud music never bothered me--even if he played it late at night when I was asleep. I couldn't hear it at all from the other room.
Yep, deafness is a handicap.
Sometimes it is also a blessing.