Today, while walking home from work, I went deaf.
That's not unusual. It happens sometime between 3:50 pm and 5:30 pm every day, when the battery I load into my CI Processor at ~8:00 a.m. dies. And I do mean "dies" - there is no warning, no fading of the sound. One second I am hearing everything around me, and the very next second, I am utterly and completely deaf.
The people I work with are used to this. We can be in the middle of a meeting or a conversation and I will tap my processor and say something like, "Oh, sorry, my battery just died" or - if it's someone I'm quite familiar with - "Oh, oopsie, I'm deaf." It only takes a few seconds to load my spare battery from its cunningly-designed carrying-case in my purse, onto the processor and then I hear the usual "6 chimes" - "ding-ding-di-ding-ding-ding" and I am back among the hearing.
I suppose you might ask why I don't get into the habit of putting on the spare before the daily battery dies. Well, the individual batteries seem to age at different rates, so there's no telling if battery 1 will die at 3:57 or 4:39 or 5:03; there's also the fact that on nights when I stay up late - only until around 1a.m, mind - I can go through not one, not two, but three batteries - and I only have 4.
You would also have to understand that a significant part of my person revolves around the fear that this thing could fail and that I could be back... there. It has already occurred to me that if there is a multi-day power outage, due to a storm, for example, I will literally "run out" of hearing.
That tends, I think, to make one miserly about the resources associated with it. Use the battery to the end of its life. You only have 4. You only have 4. Do you understand that you only have 4?
Anyway, long story short, I went deaf today while walking home from work. This is not
unusual. What was unusual, was the circumstances. I was walking home through a downtown mall; I had several shopping bags in both hands. Normally, I would immediately switch to my backup battery, but it was inconvenient today. My hands were full, I was in a hurry. So I walked home as a deaf person.
It started me thinking about how I am different when I am deaf than when I am hearing via the CI. I mean, I feel like a different person
when I am deaf and when I am wearing the processor. Why?
I started thinking about what I was doing - literally, right then. How I was acting and moving and thinking. And I realized there were some really significant differences to how I move through the world as a hearing person and as a deaf person.
- When I am deaf, I minimize interaction. I am almost completely disassociated from my environment. I actively avoid making eye contact with people because I am afraid they may make small talk or some comment I can't hear and won't be able to respond to, which will make me look horrible.
- When am deaf, I slouch. The better to appear invisible and reinforce the above.
- When I am deaf, I don't speak. In the morning, before I put on the CI processor and battery, I can verbalize with Husband - obviously - who communicates with me via ASL. But I don't. It's like I have... forgotten speech. It's ridiculous, really. He signs to me and I sign back. Why? I don't know why.
- When I am deaf, I am much more cautious and aware of my surroundings. I don't jaywalk; I crosswalk. When the light says I may. And not before.
- When I am deaf, my choices are limited. I may eat here - where they seem to be able to deal with me - but not there- where everything is a confusing blur of unanticipated questions and I still can't figure out how I ended up with the Big Meal Deal and coffee (which I don't drink) when all I wanted was a McMuffin. WTF? And do I press my point and say "I didn't ask for a coffee and a hashbrown, m'am!" or am I setting myself up for some serious - serious - embarrassment by complaining when I won't understand what she - or the Manager - have to say?
In short, I experience the world in a completely different way
than I did before - even as a now-hearing person - and as a deaf person.