Disabilities are an uncomfortable subject. As humans, it bothers us to see another of our species struggle with day-to-day activities that we often take for granted. On the contrary, watching someone overcome a disability can be a testament to the gloriousness of what humans can overcome.
In order for me to “hear”, I must be looking at the person who is speaking. I need to concentrate on their face, and recognize the detail of emotion, eye movement, body language and facial expression far more than average, because I miss about 50% of the words that are actually said. It is an effort to have a basic conversation.
In addition to one-on-one discussions, being in a room and listening to more than one sound at a time often becomes extremely overwhelming.
Recently, I went for dinner in Sao Paulo. It was a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant with a modern feel; Graffiti-decorated walls, barrels that stand in for chairs, chandeliers made out of gardening hose, an open-air dining room, and music playing over the loudspeaker, that sort of thing. (Despite my struggles later, the vegan Burger de Chef was fantastic; a perfect blend of onion, tofu, garlic and spices, although I would recommend foregoing the Gluten-free bun.)
Though the décor was intriguing, trying to order was not.
While trying to speak to the woman behind the counter, (already a difficult task as her language was Portuguese, mine: English.) I found myself completely swarmed by the level of background noise. For me, it was the auditory equivalent of being in a room with a disco ball, a strobe light, and LED lasers, while simultaneously trying to find Waldo.
I couldn’t understand what she was asking me, and after only a few minutes of struggling with linguistics, I found myself in a swirling mess of anxiety, confusion and emotion.
Not being able to hear causes this reaction in me. It’s a helplessness that is difficult to define. Hearing, and communicating are fundamental human interactions and it is beyond frustrating to have that taken away.
There are accommodations that I have made to counteract the hearing loss. For example, I try to avoid noise pollution whenever possible. I have refreshed and continued my development of American Sign Language, I wear a smart watch that uses vibration instead of sound, I use captions when watching TV, and I have the support of some very incredible people in my life.
Obstacles, adversity and disabilities are present in our lives to make us stronger. I jump over hurdles every day, and this is just one more hurdle to leap.
As William Ellerly Channing once said:
“Difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage. The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict.”
If you are ever in Sao Paulo, Brazil, you should stop and try the Burguer de Chef at Prime Dog!
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