While working I always like to have music on in the background, every day being different depending on my mood for the day. This simple act of listening to music brought a thought to me of people’s reaction to this, mainly with the misconception that being deaf means I cannot enjoy music (or any deaf people can).
I think one of the worse things I’ve been asked on a night out with friends is “why are you bothering to come clubbing if you’re not going to hear the music?”. This was pretty hurtful at the time I have to admit, but then I thought why be annoyed? It wasn’t their fault, they just automatically assumed that my deafness would mean I wouldn’t be able to hear the music and therefore I wouldn’t enjoy it.
So what can I hear? Well with my hearing aids doing their upmost to bring my levels as near as possible to “normal” levels I can hear a lot! However, please never ask me or any deaf person to ask what we can hear in comparison to you. The simple fact is, everyone, deaf or hearing has their own unique levels of hearing, so no one person hears things or interprets the sound the same way. However, for my levels personally, my tone range is very weak at the higher frequency levels, so the ‘S’ is completely silent for me, I’m constantly having to say word’s with ‘s’ in them to myself in my head before I vocalise the word in the hope that I’m saying it correctly. And this is the same for music which may utilise instruments or songs with high frequency tones, I just don’t hear them. I’m very good at hearing bass sounds. Or should I perhaps say, I’m very good at feeling bass music. One of my superpowers to make up for being disabled through my hearing, is the ability to sense vibrations. In reality, everyone has this superpower, it’s just because hearing people are using their ears to detect sounds, your brains are utilising this medium more, whereas for me, because my ears obviously don’t work as they are meant to, my brain has learnt to utilise other methods to help me decipher my world around me, so for the heavier sounds, I actually detect it through the ground. Obviously different surfaces have different abilities to transmit sound, wooden floors are better than concrete ones for example. Another issue with me personally is that I rely a lot on the ability to lip read, a tough skill which most deaf people rely on. This skill augments what I am hearing through my hearing aids. It is something which is very tiring though! When people are talking to me face to face, I’m hearing the sound come in and then lipreading to decide what is being said. This is harder than you think, because many words sound and look the same when spoken, so I am having to quickly decide the most likely word that was used in the sentance, but in the meantime that person has more than likely finished the sentance and/or started another. This is why I’m always behind on conversations by a few seconds or more! I’m very lucky in life, I’m surrounded by great hearing friends who always look out for me, indeed one of them (see her great blogs on running here! http://fellrunlikeagirl.wordpress.com) knows me so well now, she knows when I’ve heard her properly or not!
Back to music though, because of my hearing levels and the need to lip-read, when it comes to music, there are very few songs I actually know the words to. Instead I rely on the band/singer to get the emotion of the song through how the music is played and the power of the vocals. If there is a song I really like, I can rely on good old google to search out the lyrics. But to me, this doesn’t detract from my enjoyment of music, I still have my favourite bands, and with everyone, I still flick from genre to genre depending on my mood at the time. For work, I tend to listen to easy listening pop music or indie, if I’m feeling really tired, I’ll have my rock music on to keep me awake while working! For long drives I like to listen to hard house or trance (mainly from my uni days!) but for driving late at night, I prefer classical, mainly because I can be known to be a manic driver, therefore it is probably best to have calming music to keep me safe on the roads at night! I have to say, being deaf has obviously deprived me of the full enjoyment of music, how much different would it be for me to understand the lyrics, but please don’t feel sorry for me! Music has played a huge part of my life and still does so, I’ve just learnt to adapt and enjoy it in my own way.
So next time you are talking about a band or particular type of music around a deaf person, don’t stop awkwardly, join them in the conversation! For all you know they probably know the words to your favourite song off by heart!
On that note, my CD collection needs adding to (yes, I have an iPhone, I’ve just never been good at downloading music onto it so I’m sticking to the old fashioned CD’s for a while longer) so I better get shopping, any recommendations??