This question, ushered forward like a nervous teenager asking a girl out for the first time, was posed by a friend during a gig. We’d known each other from shows around the East Midlands punk scene but this was the first time we’d purposefully chosen to buddy-up. From the moment I took off my beanie hat, I could tell he was trying to think of a way to bring up the subject of my hearing aids without sounding stupid or offensive or ignorant. Those brief glances I’m used to seeing, where a persons’ eyes dart back as soon as you catch their gaze, tipped me off to his curiosity.
We were at a dirt-cheap DIY punk gig in Nottingham, held in a tiny warehouse room that probably wouldn’t pass a health and safety inspection. For £8, you enjoyed four loud bands in the company of 40 sweaty people, all vying for the title of wearing the most obscure music t-shirt. His question came after the second band had finished their set and the crowd talked amongst themselves to kill time. In truth; I admired his effort and the obvious care he took when choosing his words. There have been far less subtle attempts over the years.
I don’t remember my exact response but I think it was a general riff on a short speech I have prepared for those situations. It covers these points:
- I’m not deaf
- They help me hear
- People who wear glasses also read books. Similar situation, dumbass
I appreciated the courage it took to ask because I’ve found there’s a fear about confronting disability. The Paralympics and excellent work done by various people (not least Channel 4 and The Last Leg) have triumphed our differences in society but there is still some squeamishness around asking questions because somebody might be offended.
However, my friend also highlighted a general lack of awareness that is associated with hearing loss. As far as I’m aware, there are no celebrities or famous personalities who have hearing aids / hearing loss and are involved with music (People might point out Beethoven but that’s cheating because he went deaf later in life and was past making good music anyway, so it was probably just his excuse for bad reviews). As a result, I’ve met an assumption that hearing aid wearers are either old, talk funny or use sign language. So, nameless-person-who-sings-in-a-hardcore-band, I’ll be using this blog to highlight some of my experiences and, hopefully, dispel some misconceptions. I’ll also be posting up some audio interviews that I’ve done with alternative/rock bands over the years, so you can hear that I actually do “talk like a normal”.
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