Those Deaf Moments (Before Hearing Technology Goes On)

When someone describes their hearing level using standard phrases, the rest of us can only get an idea of how well (or not) they actually hear.

“I use a hearing aid.” OK, I’m guessing you hear really well?

“I’m hard of hearing.” Not so good, hey?

“I have hearing loss.” Really, what does that mean?

“I’m deaf.” OK. Wait, what? How are you even hearing me?

It’s excruciatingly difficult to explain exactly how we hear, because it goes on inside, invisibly, and most people don’t really want to know the details. Maybe our nearest and dearest have a clue, and other people with hearing loss have a better understanding. Anyone else simply needs to know whether we can hear them enough to say what needs to be said and then move on.

I could say (and I do) that I have hearing loss, but that’s not quite right. I should be a little clearer. I’ve lost it all. I’m deaf. I’m relatively new to using the term but not so new to the experience.

Without technology, I simply don’t hear. Big booms, maybe, like door slams. And thunder. Loud airplanes. Or – nothing.

But to be even clearer, there’s enough life in my left-side cochlear hair cells to respond to a hearing aid. On the other side, I’ve had a do-over, a renovation, with my natural hair cells being replaced by a cochlear implant.

Still, in those times when I don’t have my technology in, such as when I first get up in the morning, I can be shocked with the realization of just how deaf I am. It’s a silent jolt because, most of the day, you are used to hearing sound, however imperfectly you perceive it.

In these deaf moments, I see or feel sounds happening when the usual audio input is missing.

  • You must put your hand on the clothes dryer to make sure it’s running.
  • You see your cat’s ears prick and you follow its eyes with your own to see what’s there.
  • Your Hearing Husband starts to talk and you point to your ears. He switches to simple mouthed phrases or just stops talking until your ears are ‘in’.
  • Your walking feet make no sound – it’s as if you are walking on air.
  • The vacuum cleaner is just a silent type of exercise machine.
  • You realize the water is still running in the sink – hopefully in time before it overflows and knocks out an electrical system. (Yup.)
  • Your tinnitus is louder because there’s no other sound to compete with its whistles, shrieks and roars.
  • Trees sway in the wind, birds open their beaks and sing – all in silent movement.
  • You feel your pet’s purrs, but her meows have no voice.

These deaf moments can be beautiful – pure and visual. Other times, they can hurt your heart with the loss of what you once easily heard. But it’s your reality – it is what it is. And then you put your technology on and the world roars into sound. Not all of which is welcomed, but you’re grateful.


Did you miss last week’s blog, Asking People to Repeat Themselves (Is OK)? Click here. 

About Gael Hannan

Gael Hannan is a writer, speaker and advocate on hearing loss issues. In addition to her weekly blog for, 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.


  1. Thank you for this.I have a 53 year old deaf son who is now completely deaf because he opted to get a cochlear implant in 1990 and because of pressure from.the deaf community refuses to wear it.Help!!!!

  2. You have expressed my feelings in a way I couldn’t. Thanks. My running water experience did no damage, just drained my hot water heater. I went to take a bath and couldn’t understand why there was no hot water. I was imagining expensive repairs and having to wait until my husband came home to make phone calls to fix the problem. Then I went to check if there was hot water in the sink, I found it running full blast. I don’t know when I had turned it on.

  3. this is really well put Gael. I have tried to describe the feeling -the experience of “sensing sounds” before I actually hear them. I like the water visual you have used. It is a good symbolic representation of “waves” of sound.

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