Showing posts from 2006


My daughter has been spending several afternoons a week with my mother. What do I do with the free time? Listen to music at really high volumes. Not the Curious George soundtrack, which I actually adore. And not even Madonna's Immaculate Collection, which my daughter adores. I've been listening to Hole. To Pink Floyd's The Wall. I've been listening to REM. The music I listened to before I went deaf. I test myself to see how much of it I notice missing at a regular listening volume, and then I just blast it into my living room so I can see at what decibel level I can hear all those fabulous nuances I'd forgotten at some point were there. This is how the deaf girl entertains herself when she's all alone. The real truth of the matter is that other than what I've lost in music, I am really quite comfortable with the whole deafness thing now. I think the shift occured this summer when I stopped saying, "I'm going deaf." I just, instead, started say


LIPREADER Maybe he likes to be listened to by the deaf girl, the way she watches each word begin deep beneath his facial muscles before it even becomes a thought. He likes to see her turn her entire body toward him, square her shoulders as though she’s about to listen with her heart. When she’s ready, she lets him know he has her full attention. She’s focused. She takes a breath. She lets him know she’s ready to have this conversation, just as an astronaut is ready to step onto the moon or a cloud is ready to burst open with attentive rain and he’s forgotten what he wants to say but wants so badly to move his lips.

My Daughter, My Deafness

"You can't be deaf," my 3 year old daughter says into the rearview mirror at a stoplight. "You have to be my mama." The light turns green and I readjust the mirror so to see the traffic behind me. My daughter's face disappears, as does her voice. What I want to do is pull over, get out, crawl into the seat next to her carseat and insist that my deafness has nothing to do with whether or not I can "be" her "mama." I don't want the drama though. I don't want to frighten her. At the very least I don't want her to think she can drop bombs like that and get me to pull over every time. "I am your mama. Nothing changes that." The conversation began because I was practicing my signing at the stoplight. She asked, "Are you signing?" Then she started waving her arms in the air, "I'm signing, too." As we pull onto the Interstate I tell her that once we both can sign it won't matter if I can't he

Why I'm Wearing My Hearing Aids

This morning I will act in an independent film called Neutral. I, like all the other actors in this, have a small part. It is a pastiche of some 100 lives. I play a mother who waxes surreal freely with her son then suddenly blocks his flow. I am wearing a black dress and heels because I'm supposed to look like I've come from a teacher conference to discuss my son's behavior. I'm also wearing my Phonak hearing aids. I gave birth without wearing my hearing aids. I went through my pregnancy without them. When I was actually in labor, though, I realized I couldn't hear what the doctor was telling me to do. I was strapped to a table, or it felt I was, by these electrodes guaging my and my baby's heartbeat and I couldn't hear what people were saying to me (except my mother, who always talks carefully to me). It was a feeling of being out of control because I was so controlled--by the machinery (the electrode belts), by the absence of the machinery (the hearing a

The Speech Banana

There are things I don't hear anymore. Some of these are bird songs, the wind in the trees on a balmy day, and rain. Also on this list are weedwackers more than a hundred meters away and the sound of my name spoken by someone who isn't looking directly at me. I don't hear music in my yoga class. I don't hear my teacher's voice. If I put in my hearing aids I can hear these things louder than you can. Especially the weedwacker, and the music in yoga class is often louder than my teacher's voice. I cannot communicate without my hearing aids in. But I can still hear the sound of the human voice. I can hear a few of the words, but this is not enough to follow the flow of what someone is saying. On my audiogram, there are three frequencies in which I dip into "severe" hearing loss. There are three in which I am mildly or moderately deafened. The marks on my audiogram fall just below or far below something called the speech banana. This is a gray area betw

The Sound of a Particular Music

I am thinking of my favorite listening experiences. I have not thought of this before, of breaking down my life experiences into the sense they pleased. In terms of gustatory experience, a particular bowl of potato leek soup served me in a restaurant on a rainy day in Montreal comes to mind. Visual experiences: Lauterbrunnen valley in the Bernese Oberland in Switzerland in June. Tactile? a particular rain I felt in Florence one night I was locked out of the Ostello Camerata for coming back too late, having spent the evening romping with Jorn and Russell (from South Africa) and Maritza (from Chicago). The rain was thick and almost warm. Jorn kissed me in it; that might have helped drive it into my "best of" memories. Olfactory and Auditory are a bit more specific, more difficult for me to name. Olfactory? Best smell ever? Something about when the Spring temperature hits a particular feel and mixes with a perfect kind of blue in the sky, more specifically, that one morning afte

The Dawn of Deafness

I found out I was losing my hearing when I was 31 years old. Later that year, I broke off with one boyfriend, met another, traveled to China, came back, got pregnant, got married and the next year I gave birth, got divorced, and started to accept the fact that I was going deaf because now I was a parent and I was terrified I couldn't hear my daughter cry. It can turn your life around, this losing a sense. And although I know the teachings of Buddha and Christ and so many other great teachers tend very much in favor of overcoming our attachment to the senses, I never realized how attached to hearing I was. There are dimensions I hadn't thought about. The first, the second--what are they? and the third? I know the fourth is time. Is one of the others sound? It ought to be. Sound ought to be one of our dimensions because as I lose it I feel the world has grown thinner. A layer has come off.