The Benefits of Deafness

The Benefits of Deafness

By Cheryl Heppner

Editor: Deafness has benefits, you say? It may be a tough concept for some, but the thoughts of the folks in the ALDAcon panel may change your mind. This has been a bad year for us, conference-wise. Thanks to Cheryl for her usual great job of sharing what goes on at these wonderful gatherings.

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September 2004

Shawn Lovley put together a panel of late-deafened people for ALDAcon today to talk about the benefits of acquired deafness as opposed to the frustrations. I was one of the panelists and enjoyed the experience of hearing from the others. I thought you might enjoy it too.

Shawn Lovley enjoys not having to listen to telemarketers and rap music. He also is grateful for all the great people he’s met through the Association of Late-Deafened Adults

Carolyn Piper said that the experience of being deaf helps her to reinvent and become a different person — “Pain is God’s reset button.” She cited Helen Hayes, who after the death of her husband, commented that for a long time she was “crazy as a loon” and should have been locked up in a straitjacket in a padded room. Hayes realized she had a choice, craziness and grief or a happy life, and the choice of which path she took was up to her.

Mark Dessert always saw himself as an average good guy but found himself on a new journey and developing a new identity because of deafness. It pushed him into a new field, forced him to confront his fears, and he now has really good friends who care about him.

Lori Heir has learned to be confident in her deafness and to advocate for herself. She is now involved in life, and likes that deafness makes her more unique. Once a very, very shy person, she learned to appreciate and value communication because of her hearing loss and now loves to challenge her limitations. She also loves helping others with hearing loss, learning sign language, and teaching other people about deafness to clear up their misconceptions. The absurd things that happen because of her hearing loss give her more occasions to laugh.

Dr. Roy Miller had a long list of benefits, which he broke into categories: – He gets a peaceful night’s sleep each and every night because noises don’t bother him — loud parties, dogs barking, thunder and lightning, the patter of rain, sirens, snoring, etc. – He is less afraid or anxious because he can’t hear sounds like music in horror movies, footsteps behind him on a dark street, creaking floors, cars backfiring. – In cities he is less stressed because he doesn’t have to contend with annoyances like horns honking, the roar of traffic, babies crying in a restaurant, the clatter of subway trains, and loud rock music in night clubs. – When traveling his experiences are more easy and worry-free because he doesn’t hear jet engines, and he gets to board planes first. He also pointed out that people in France sound just like people in Russia so he knows no linguistic boundaries. – His driving is more relaxing because he doesn’t hear car horns honking at him, noisy mufflers, motorcycles roaring past, the wind gushing past an open window, and passengers’ comments about his driving. – He feels he is more focused and productive at work because he doesn’t hear copy machine operations, phones ringing, air conditioners blasting, fluorescent lights humming, gossip, and noises from other offices. – There are perks like sitting closer to the front at large gatherings because you need to see the interpreter, and the free Golden Eagle Passport for lifetime admission to all national parks.

I said “ditto” to all the comments of the previous panelists and added to their lists three things I appreciate about deafness: – The ability to concentrate and maintain intense focus – Enjoying small things I would not have appreciated, especially the ability to see music in movement — the way a gifted interpreter can create it with signs, the rhythm of waves crashing, the rise and fall of a bird’s chest as it sings. – After years of needing to observe people intently, often knowing when what they say does not match what they are thinking and feeling.

(c) 2004 by Northern Virginia Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons (NVRC), www.nvrc.org.