Monday, November 1, 2010


Writing a blog is harder than I thought it would be--maybe because I am trying to think about something that is pretty personal--my deafness and how it impacts me and my relationships with people around me.

Here's an example: Often I avoid being with groups of people. I am good lipreader, but I find it hard to follow along with group conversation, especially if people get on a roll and talk quickly among themselves. Then I cannot figure out who is speaking fast enough to read their lips and pretty soon I am totally lost.

It might seem that the best solution to that problem would be asking questions of the closest hearing person. Believe me, I have done that many times and it works out very rarely. Sometimes the hearing person says it is not important or never mind. Well, if it is not important, why is everyone else laughing or seem to have a good time? I want to be included in that.

Or sometimes the other person gets frustrated because it is hard to explain the conversation. Or they just get tired of me asking so many questions. I do not interrupting the flow of the conversation, and I certainly do not want to ruin the fun. Sometimes I stick it out for a while. If nothing changes, I start to feel "invisible." I really hate that feeling, so then I remove myself from the group situation. It is not that I want to be by myself, but it is less miserable than being unable to participate in what is obviously making everybody else happy.

This weekend, I had this experience with teammates. We played a tournament so we were staying at a hotel. The team was bonding with a lot of talking, joking, and goofing around in groups. People were talking fast, and I could not follow what they were saying. So I left.

One of my teammates came looking for me and asked why I did not want to hang out with the team anymore. I tried to explain to her. We have talked about deafness before, so I thought she would understand. But this time, she started telling me that I gave up too easily. She gave me bunch of ideas what I should do. I think she was trying to be nice, but I have been doing those things since high school. They do not work. The only time I can understand what is happening in a group is when everybody uses sign language.

Having my teammate lecture me made me feel worse because I realize that, despite our conversations, she does not truly understand. When a hearing person is quiet in a conversation, they are still able to follow what is being said. It may make sense to them stay and listen even if they do not participate.

For me, sitting in a roomful of talking, laughing people feels terrible. I want to know what they are saying, but the only way to do that is break in and ask questions. The first few questions, no problem. They probably would answer. But after a while, I can see that all of my questions make it hard for my hearing friends. They begin to feel frustrated because I am ruining the flow of the fun. I do not like the feeling that I am ruining good times for other people, especially my friends.

Being "invisible" is not a great feeling. Trust me, I would rather be feeling something else. That is why I remove myself from group situations. It is hard to be alone when I know everyone else is having a good time, but it is better than being invisible in a group.