This week I’m very excited to have my first ever guest blogger! Maureen Chapman has been commenting on my posts for some time and this week I challenged her to contribute from her own perspective as a deaf person.
The challenges faced by the deaf and hard of hearing in both church situations and the wider society!
Believe me, they are many and frustrating too. So where to begin?
Deaf people are human beings, with just one part of their bodies not working properly.
Deaf people are not all the same. I will use mainly my own experiences here. You are face to face with me.
So who am I? In my seventies, ex mission nurse/midwife working in Nepal in the 1960‘s, married and with my husband, ex-hotelier and mini -market owner.
I was born into a deaf family, my father, his brothers, my own brother and his two daughters have all been deaf from birth. We have varying degrees of deafness, mine was slight as a child, and then nosedived when I reached my forties, partly due to Meniere‘s disease which destroys hearing.
Deafness is not just absence of sound, though some are born without any ability to hear and some completely lose any hearing they have for various reasons.
Most deaf folk do hear some sound, but what exactly do they hear? The times people have repeated something to me and then triumphantly said, well you heard that, so you are not deaf!
Think of a piano, the black and white keys each responsible for giving a particular sound. When all is in tune and played by a pianist, the music is great, moving engaging our emotions with joy and delight.
But now imagine a scenario of a piano where some keys don’t work at all, other keys give reduced sounds and more keys make distorted, out of tune, noises. The result when a pianist tries to play would definitely not be sweet music.
Or perhaps you are familiar with people getting agitated while using a mobile phone and the signal fails. ‘Its breaking up, I can’t hear you are you still there?’
Or perhaps you are familiar with the kind of quiz where you have to identify words, which have no vowels eg c–c- -t- f-s- what does that phrase mean? (catch the fish)
That’s how I hear. People become impatient with me because I am slow to respond, but my brain is working overtime trying to fill in the gaps, make sense of a gobbly-de-gook mish-mash of noises and come up with a sensible answer. When I get it wrong, I am judged as stupid, not suitable, a person the be side-lined. ‘Oh it doesn’t matter,’ they say and move on without me. It hurts.
Deafness is a hidden, invisible disability. Couple that with poor or limited sight and the problems pile up.
Deaf people live with this problem all the time, and the concentration needed to interpret what they are mis-hearing is intense. That’s why many of us have scowly faces! We are concentrating so hard we forget to smile and laugh.
Face to face is essential. We ‘hear’ through lip-reading, watching the body language and the unconscious signals people make as they talk. If I can’t see, I can’t hear.
Phone. The first point of contact with most authorities such as banks, the doctor’s surgery, making appointments etc is by phone. What if you can’t use a phone? I can’t.
A friend of mine, called Joanna, recently gave birth to a baby girl, who needed her first heart operation at the age of 3 weeks. The first four months were spent in hospital. Then the great day, take the baby home! But Joanna is profoundly deaf, and has a cochlear implant. She left hospital with needing to make 9 appointments with hospitals/medical workers in London, Bristol and the West Country where she lives, for the baby. Every appointment needed phone calls. Why could not a ‘helper’ come alongside her and help with such vital phone calls? Why expect her to hear over the phone when she can’t? Would you expect a blind person to read forms and fill them in? Would you expect a paralysed person to walk somewhere?
So face to face is vital for clear communication. Friendship is even better. Understanding is like pure gold.
About Maureen Chapman
I officially became a Christian at a Billy Graham rally at Wembley Stadium in the 1950’s, but with hindsight, I think I came to faith as a small child.
At the age of 5 I told my teacher I wanted to become a missionary, and I did become one, a nurse/midwife serving 4 years in Nepal in the 1960’s despite my mild deafness as it was then.I passed my language exams in Nepalese.
I have always seen God as my father and friend. He has never let me down. Even now, at my age, he is more real to me every day.
The church I attend now in the Swansea Valley, is very much a mission minded church, with lots of young people and contacts world-wide.
I hope you enjoyed this post from Maureen. It is a useful reminder to me to think about my friends and family members who have trouble hearing. Not to be impatient with them and to understand how much being face to face with them will help us both have a great time of communication. Thank you Maureen x