The Poetry of Hearing Loss

This week, I’m doing something a little different.

Hearing loss packs a powerful emotional punch, and many people use poetry to express its impact – rhyming verses, blank verse (which has rhythm but no rhyme), or a free-flowing collection of thoughts that don’t adhere to (or care about) any of the usual poetic rules.

A few months ago, I received a poem from Fran Seslow, a member of the Adult loss of Hearing Association (ALOHA) in Tucson. As a person with hearing loss, she focuses on how to minimize the challenges of hearing loss instead of letting it stop her from living with joy. Fran says her life has been enhanced by connecting with other people with hearing loss – and because “a change of attitude has occurred called acceptance, accompanied by a friend called hope.”

Fran asked if I would care to use her poem as an example of what life can be with hearing loss. I am proud to share her piece today along with poems from Wendy Kast and Shanna Groves, both writers who have hearing loss, as well as a fluffy piece of my own.

 

Hear With Your Heart

Please don’t laugh if I miss your name; God didn’t create us all the same.
 I ask for your patience, as I miss a thing or two; wishing only to communicate with you.
Can you open your heart to listen? Helping others is my mission.
 May we all recognize our individual differences as a way to share enlightenment, and help promote courage in self and others.
 And gather together in groups to rebuild hope, as we share knowledge and affirm new visions for our future.

– Fran Seslow

 

Haiku

lips move in silence
my eyes fill in for my ears
visual hearing

  – Wendy Kast, a bilateral cochlear implant user and writer on life and hearing loss.

 

A Different Kind of Beauty

I am not so sure I like what I see today.
Sags under the eyes, a mass of hair twisted into a low ponytail,
my ears completely exposed.

It took me two years before I’d let this much of myself show.
My bottle blonde hair
and palette of cosmetics
usually help me blend in with the other moms
who drive their children to sporting events
on a warm summer afternoon.
I turn the wheel,
hoping to avoid the stark reflection
that stares back in the rearview mirror.

A profile of me with the low ponytail says it all:
There is something different about me.
I am wearing hearing aids.

The chatty crowd becomes a little more subdued
(at least I imagine that it does)
as I walk past them with my behind-the-ear hearing aids
in full view.
This is the first time these moms
with their casual T-ball attire
have seen me with my hair pulled back.

As a child, I walked up to complete strangers
and introduced myself just to make them smile.
How can I face these moms now
who usually see me as I want them to,
an extrovert who likes jumping into their conversations
with a gracious nod
as if I’ve heard every word they said?

“By his stripes we are healed,”
writes ancient prophet Isaiah.
“Only when we accept the truth of our brokenness can we be healed,”
reads my latest journal entry.

How could God allow this to happen
to a young body;
progressive hearing loss
on a seemingly healthy body?

I force myself to
face the mirror,
face the moms and their polite stares,
face the cruel reality that has a surprising hint of beauty behind it.

This is who I am.
I am slowly going deaf.
This was meant to happen,
to help me hear beyond what comes through
flawed ears.
This has made me different.

My heart has cracked open
and now it can hear
everything
that it didn’t hear before.

                            – Shanna Groves, writer, hearing loss activist, and a Lipreading Mom

 

Those Things on the Side of Our Head

They’re funny looking, those things on the side of our head.
Whether standing at attention, right-angled to skulls
Or lying flat on their backs, like a terrified cat
These cartilaginous slabs are strangely designed
As if created, in an afterthought, from leftover body bits.

“Hmm, the side of the head is a boring stretch of nothing,” thought the god in charge of making human beings.

“It needs a hole.”

“And then we’ll take that eleventh toe, the second chin and some of that extra elbow skin
         And shape and mold it around the hole
              So the sound can go in there, rather than through the nose, like we planned.”

And so it was that the PINNA – or a pair of PINNAE (pin-ee) – were formed!

As gatekeepers – 

To collect and transform sound waves in their magician’s hat, 

To be pulled out the other end, as meaningful words and sounds.

As a blank canvas –

For decorative jewels and piercing bits of metal

And a holder for the hooks of eyeglasses

 

But what about those of us who have hearing loss?

Our hard-working pinnae remain the sound collectors,
Not at fault if the waves become warped, somewhere along the hearing path.

But they must now accept the help of hearing aids or cochlear implants – 
New jewelry that gives those things on the side of our head a new beauty – 

Something you don’t quite expect from surplus toe-and-elbow bits.

 

 

     – Gael Hannan

About Gael Hannan

Gael Hannan is a writer, speaker and advocate on hearing loss issues. In addition to her weekly blog for HearingHealthMatters.org, which has an international following, Gael wrote the acclaimed book "The Way I Hear It: A Life with Hearing Loss". She is regularly invited to present her uniquely humorous and insightful work to appreciative audiences around the world. Gael has received many awards for her work, which includes advocacy for a more inclusive society for people with hearing loss. She lives with her husband on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

5 Comments

  1. Awesome poems, Gael & friends!! May I add my own?? :)

    Haikus for Hearing Instruments

    1)
    Stuffed into my ears,
    Robot bananas disperse
    Life, blast through earmoulds.

    2)
    Volume wheels utmost,
    Crescendo upon eardrums,
    Listen to the squeals.

    3)
    Three beeps for slow death,
    Evade sounds’ patient demise:
    New batteries in.

    4)
    Soft dawn is startled –
    Gurgle, rattle, hisses, clang;
    Brute electric ears!

    ©2011 j. krampert

  2. I was 28 when I lost all my hearing in a three hour period and to this day I was able to have a Cochlear Implant in 2011 which brought back a little hearing in my right ear , That hearing loss was in 1951 so time marches on and thankful for what I can pick up with this implant!
    So spent years Lipreading which I taught myself to do!

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