30, PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER/MUSICIAN
MODERATE TO SEVERE HEARING LOSS
"When I’m playing guitar I take my hearing aids out and just sit in front of the amp. All you’re getting is just pure vibration. I think that’s one of the reasons why I always loved guitar and bass. Its so visceral. You can feel it. Its just pure energy."
If I say Hard of Hearing (HoH) people tend to just think of their uncle who turns the TV up too loud and says ‘Eh?’ a lot, so I tend to say that I’m ‘deaf’ to non-deaf people as it’s easier for the uninitiated to understand. Technically I think I fall into the HoH category.
I wear hearing aids, and have had high powered BTE units since I was diagnosed at the age of four but that time is now only a faint memory. I had a pushbike accident and a few months later Mum noticed something was wrong with my hearing. I have really vague recollections of not being able to hear Mum talking but the period between my accident and being fitted with hearing aids is all a bit of a daze. When I got older, I began to feel I was different. I think I thought of myself as ‘broken’ or a bit of a dud. I hated the whole concept of having to wear hearing aids and having to think about it, and always having to be aware of batteries etc. I think the usual childhood/teenager thing of wanting to blend in was a big part of it. It wasn’t until I hit adulthood and didn’t have to deal with the shittiness of the schoolyard that I realised that it really didn’t matter, and I could be whoever I wanted.
I still remember the first time I saw a “hot person” with hearing aids. Somehow I’d built up this idea in my head that people who wore hearing aids looked ‘disabled’ and uncool, which of course is so stupid and superficial. Once there was this super cute girl at an airport , and she had hearing aids. It was such a minor thing, but it was a really important moment when I thought ‘Wow, it really doesn’t matter at all…of course deaf people can be cool. I can just own this!’ Before that I suppose I tried to think about my deafness as little as possible and pretend it wasn’t a thing. These days of course it can be annoying and expensive getting hearing aids, but it’s just a part of me and I kind of like it; another random piece in the bizzarro mixtape that’s my persona.
I do wish I’d known more HoH people when I was younger though; I think it would have really helped me be ok with things earlier on. I still only know one or two other people with hearing aids and until about 2010 the only public figure I was aware of with hearing aids was John Howard. How’s that for alienation?I always like it a bit when people don’t notice I’m HoH, and they find out later on. They haven’t had a chance to discriminate and when they do know they’re often shocked. I’m a total smart ass, so I tend to turn that kind of stuff around on people. The old ‘Eh? Sorry what’s that?’ The joke never gets old. I’d love to be a comedian if I didn’t already have two all encompassing hobbies that have become my career.
Of course there’s lots to be grateful about. There’s always the flying on aeroplanes with crying babies and being able to sleep easier; but that’s all convenience stuff right? I see myself as someone who’s pretty in touch with their creative senses, and I often wonder whether my hearing loss has influenced that. I am obsessed with sound and playing the guitar. I’ll sit for hours letting the sound feed back into an amplifier, moving it around a room and exploring timbre and intensity. I’m also obsessed with light and shape; I’ll take photos of shadows and colour, making pictures of stuff that no one else sees, often to the amusement of other people who don’t necessarily get it. But is it because I’m pushing myself to reach some kind of heightened awareness of my surroundings? Or is it a result of being a kid who was different and deaf? I dunno. Who knows. Maybe.