Thursday, October 05, 2006

Average deaf person.

If there's one thing I've come to understand, it is that there is absolutely no "average deaf person". There are the congenitally deaf, the culturally Deaf, the adult-deafened, the elderly deaf, the absolute spectrum of the "hard-of-hearing", the resentful deaf, the disabled deaf, the proudly deaf, the proudly Deaf, the employed deaf, the under-employed deaf, the unemployed deaf, the CI-implanted child deaf, the CI-implanted adult deaf, the...

Well, you get the picture.

But every now and then I meet a deaf person who still surprises me, so unique is their experience of deafness or deafening.

Take D. for example. D. is a woman who went deaf as an adult, after a terrible accident, while in a coma. All D.'s friends and family agree that prior to the accident, D. was a perfectly ordinary hearing person in her 30s. But she fell into the coma a hearing person, and she woke up a deaf person.

Now, here's the thing. D. recovered from her coma and regained much of her prior physical and mental ability - she can walk, she can talk, her motor skills are quite good - although she is still on that long road all us damaged individuals are. But she has absolutely no recollection of ever being able to hear. She doesn't remember sound, and she doesn't remember hearing. She says she can't imagine "sound" in her head.

She reckons it is pretty much what it would have been like if she had been born deaf and had had the accident and the resulting coma, only without the benefit of growing up deaf, learning sign language, learning to lipread, and so on.

She can still read and write, thank god, which is what has kept her sane. In fact, she seems remarkably sane, given the circumstances. But I get the impression that she is downplaying the incredible oddity of her situation. She seems almost too sanguine about it. My memory of sound was a very important tool to me when I went deaf at 39. The experience of growing up deaf is very important tool to those people I know who did so.

D. is somewhere in between.

She's working her way through the world remarkably well and I admire her. But hers is a type of "average deaf person" I simply can't compute.




Blogger Carl said...

Ronnie, I know I recommended Oliver Sacks' books to you a while back. This is a well-known phenomenon that he has written about several times.

We use the hearing part of our brain to remember hearing, just as we use the visual centers to remember seeing. If the part of the brain that interprets sound goes, we can't even remember hearing. I'd bet that D's ears are fine, but she suffered brain damage that lost her not just present-time hearing but all memory of it.

1:07 a.m.  
Anonymous Cousin S said...

D's story is fascinating, but so sad, too. I was thinking about you last night and wondering how you are doing with music these days. Have you adjusted to the implants enough to be able to enjoy music again? Forgive me for not having done enough research on them to know exactly how it all works. I was just remembering how before you got your implants you went through a Christmas and mentioned how strange it was not hearing Christmas carols.

Oh, and I'll try to go easy on you with the PTC. But I WAS glad to see my other cuz had a similar reaction. ;)

11:51 a.m.  

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