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Looking Back

It can be confusing to waken up one morning and find that something has profoundly changed. M.A.B. Black writes about a changing experience that allowed them to empathise with those who are hearing impaired.

November 1969 – Deaf For The Day


Pulling up the blind cord one Sunday morning I was surprised and a little puzzled that it did not respond with its usual cheerful rattle. It gave only the faintest of whispers. Had it been silenced by a good dose of oil overnight? All over the house was a muffled stillness like that of the countryside after a heavy fall of snow. But there was no snow! Only an intense and rather eerie Sabbath calm. Later at church I noticed that the large congregation seemed to be singing heartily but only a sound faint and faraway was coming through. Fascinated, I listened to this soft melody, afraid to join in lest my own singing should sound raucous and out of harmony. The minister’s voice came over the amplifier quite clearly though, but when the next hymn was announced “Oh, for a thousand POUNDS to sing my Great Redeemers Praise,” I knew the fault was in me. I must be deaf!

For the time being at any rate I am one of the fortunate. My deafness has been cured by the simple removal of wax with the doctor’s syringe. The experience has, however, given me some idea of the barrier which surrounds deaf people and how terribly wearing and frustrating it must be. Never again shall I be short-tempered or impatient with a deaf person!

It is not just a case of raising the voice and ending up in an unintelligible shout. Deaf people have often asked me NOT to speak so loudly. Hearing-aids are only a partial answer. They have no power of selection and magnify every trivial sound that comes within their range creating a kind of bedlam in the ears.

Many deaf people who have obtained them, prefer to do without them. It is therefore worth while to take trouble to to find out what is the best position in which to sit and how to pitch the voice when speaking to a deaf person. These preliminaries established, you may reach a situation where conversation proceeds easily. You forget that your fellow conversationalist is in any way handicapped.

Some cases of deafness must be very hard to bear. A recent survey has shown that in the sad circumstances of both sight and hearing having been taken, deafness is felt to be the worse deprivation. We do not realise until we are cut off, as I was, just for the day, what pleasant companionship lies about us in the sounds of the world. A cock crowing, the first murmur of early morning traffic, and the cheery rattle of milk bottles on the doorstep. There can be great comfort too in the human voice with its kindly greeting and in the shouts of children at play.

Now, when I go again to Church on Sunday morning and the minister announces the opening of worship with a traditional Scottish psalm, I join in once more, listening to its slow strains with added pleasure and renewed devotion.

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