Guest Post from Mary Elford on the experience of deafness

Mary Elford wrote these piece from her own experience in October, 1989 and is sharing it with us. It was originally included in “Not all violins” Spiritual Resources by women with disabilities and chronic illnesses, by a group of women who she believes each spoke from a different situation different ‘condition’ and published by the United Church Publishing House, Toronto, Canada, 1997.

Mary wrote …

“Sometimes I focus on what is wrong with me, rather than on all that is right. I am learning, slowly, that I have worth because I am a child/creation of God, as I am and as I may become. I do not have worth because I earn it, but rather because God created me. There is nothing ‘wrong’ with me. I have limits like everyone else. I am human…”

She also wrote:

What is deafness?

It is not hearing, not understanding the spoken word, not fully comprehending.

It is misunderstanding. It is jumping into a conversation with what you think is a contribution, only to realize from the confused looks that you have misunderstood yet again.

It is pain. It is frustration when someone refuses to repeat something for you. It is withdrawing into silence, pretending it doesn’t matter that conversation is flowing over you.

It is gratitude, when someone cares enough to include you, even when you are feeling most sorry for yourself, and don’t want to be included.

It is being socially inept, unable to make small talk, because everything you can hear must be important. You can hear so little, that anything that reaches your brain by way of your ears must be treasured.

It is coping, with people who mumble, and keep their hands in front of their faces, and talk the other way.

In church, it is missing what are probably beautiful prayers, because custom dictates that you must bow your head and shut your eyes.

It is thankfulness for the hearing you do have. In some ways it might be easier to be totally deaf, but you can’t imagine that.

It is thankfulness, for technology that can help.

It is thankfulness, for people who care.

It is not trusting your ears. When crossing the street, it is checking both ways with your eyes, to confirm that no traffic is approaching.

It is not listening to the radio for the words of the songs, but for the beat of the music.

It is not understanding television or movies. It is kind people who don’t mind repeating salient portions of dialogue.

Deafness is not stupidity. Just because you cannot hear, does not mean you are mentally defective.

It is being sensitive to the facial expressions of people who don’t know you, and matching them, to imply that you’re interested noises are conversation. This is so much easier on both of you than continually asking them to repeat themselves.

It is embarrassment, when the person catches on, and chews you out.

It is sometimes getting a headache, from concentrating so hard on those precious sounds.

It is a part of me.

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4 Responses to Guest Post from Mary Elford on the experience of deafness

  1. Jessica McArdle says:

    Poignant and powerful words. What a writer and teacher you are. Thank you!

  2. Maren says:

    Mary will be so happy to hear that and true it is!

  3. Deane says:

    I am not deaf but I definitely am hearing challenged; I read lips, miss a lot in conversations, use closed captioning, take the ribbing from my family with good spirits, don’t mind spending time by myself even though I rejoice in my friends. I have worked with the blind, but not the deaf, and hope to do that again.

    These words resonated with me!

    • Maren says:

      I am so glad. My husband has severe hearing loss as well. It is a significant issue and for those who lip read the wearing of masks causes more isolation.

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