By Niamh McGrath
There is a common phrase that says “Silence is Deafening”. I never really understood what it truly meant until I lost my hearing on July 31st 2020. I lost my hearing due my neurological disorder, Functional Neurological Disorder (FND). My world went from hearing to silence over the course of four weeks. I thought I was going to go crazy.
They say sensory deprivation is a common form of torture and I can understand why. To have something so vital to your being snatched away from you, is more painful than you can ever know.
I lost everything I knew. Voices of people, music, basic sounds like footsteps or a doorbell or your phone ringing all gone in an instant. I had to find a new way of life.
The simplest things like going to the shop and buying food changed. When prices on tills weren’t facing me as the total was being added up, the panic would set in on how I would know how much I was to pay because I wouldn’t understand what the cashier would say behind their mask.
As time has gone on, the hardest thing is forgetting how people sound. Forgetting how my parents sound, my brother, my friends. That has been the most devastating part.
In these types of situations, you can either sit and wonder why me? Or you can try adapt to these new circumstances you’ve been given. So that is exactly what I did.
I started a sign language course to learn how to speak a language that I was now going to rely on for people talking to me when I wasn’t able to lip read.
I got in contact with Chime, a charity for deafness, where I received equipment that would let me know when someone is at the door, a new alarm clock to vibrate to wake me and a fire alarm that would alert me if the situation arose.
The hardest part of my journey so far has been other people. The inaccessibility for Deaf people is shameful. If hearing people were denied being spoken to because it was easier to talk to the person next to them or for services to be taken away because you weren’t able to make a phone call, there would be uproar.
I can’t count how many times I have been asked something and I explain that I am deaf and if they could write it down, but no. They turn to the person I am with and expect them to answer for me, because it is easier for them. I haven’t suddenly turned invisible just because I no longer have hearing.
I can’t explain how frustrating it is when people call me and I explain that I am deaf and that I need an email address or text line because I can’t hear over the phone. They just hang up or explain that they don’t have services like that.
The fact that I am expected to bring someone with me at all times to everywhere I go to speed things up to your side because you won’t write it down is wrong!
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Inaccessibility should never be a reason people with disabilities should not do things. But the fact of the matter is that they do. They don’t leave their homes. They don’t talk to a wide range of people or try new things because of the fear of how they might “inconvenience” someone else.
This fear should not exist in 2021. For any disability of any kind. Inclusivity needs to start, and it needs to start today.