I have a partial hearing loss.  In my case, I can hear environmental sounds and many sounds of speech.  But the loss of high pitches leads to muffled sounding language as these high pitches contain intricate information that provides specificity and differentiation to sounds so similarly sounding language doesn’t get confused.  It certainly gets lost with my hearing loss, and my hearing aid as well as cochlear implant help to bring back as much sound as possible to make things easier to understand.

When people whisper, it’s difficult to understand them.  I wish more people would take initiative to go into another space if the current space doesn’t allow for normal volume (such is the case at times in an office or library where one must be quiet in certain common areas).  Yes, it can be argued that I should always remind people of this difference, but to be honest I get tired.  I get tired of asking for accommodations.  I get tired of trying to explain my specific hearing loss to people.

During the first day of school, I would always make it a point to attempt to describe how I heard, which was an impossible task, because one cannot understand this unless one has the loss.  I get thrown into the completely non-auditory category instead of valued for utilizing both visual and auditory cues.  I think there’s something special about the way people express language that makes visual and auditory information so interesting and intriguing during a conversation.

One of the main questions I get asked is whether I know ASL (American Sign Language).  I did not happen to grow up in Deaf culture and do not know anything more about the culture than another person who also didn’t immerse themselves in it.  I have not been exposed to ASL and I don’t see this as deprivation but rather as a result of the environment I grew up in.  I have nothing against ASL or the people who use it.  I just wish people would respect my upbringing and not tell me to learn another language when I really don’t have time to spend to do that.

I have so many obligations, as do us all, that it’s not worth learning.  Especially since I do not have friends who sign, I would lose the language and the training would have been for naught.

The automatic categorization is frustrating, and I understand why people do it.  We all are trying to make sense out of things that don’t make sense – myself included.  We were not brought up in a world where disabilities were normal.  We were not brought up in a world where people who identify as LGBT were part of the mainstream.  Thus, all we have are our assumptions as well as the experiences of other people that have perhaps a certain hearing loss – and so we have only that to compare others like me to.  I can tell you that each person with a hearing loss is in a unique situation.

I am oral and I speak English as my first and only language (for the time being!).  I relate the most to people who lost their hearing as an adult, either over time or suddenly.  These people knew a world of full hearing that I did not know, but both them and I know deeply the unforgiving world that exists for people like us who have partial losses and who are living lives that rely on understanding people.

I have continued to utilize tools so I would not be lost in such a world.  But I have an advantage of time and therapy to learn how to navigate the world.  I also have learned that it’s okay to be viewed as an outlier – it’s not you, it’s the people who choose to do that to you.  It’s okay to be vulnerable, and it’s okay to grieve over and over again.  Having therapy as well as developing internal resilience are keys to success.  We can be successful in this world and yes, we will have to work harder than someone who doesn’t have a hearing loss.  But I’ve always known it to be worth it.

Being both gay and hard-of-hearing can be turned into comedy.  I used this in my one-person show.  I have included a clip from years ago.  I hope you enjoy.  The character and script were loosely based on real life and had a lot of imagined scenarios.  I mention my acting career, which is true, I have had that.  But there was plenty added to that that was comedic effect that did not occur in real life.  I wanted to place this disclaimer here so people wouldn’t get worried.  The show was quite an adventure as it was the first time I had done one.  Afterwards, I considered expanding it and touring, but then my practical mindset chose to do what I was passionate about, and that required going back to school.

Anyway, here’s the link to the show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrPY2utejn0

I have to always thank my mentor, Debra De Liso, who directed this show and really helped me both craft the material and also just go for it.  This was a wonderful combination, and we have a mutual trust that makes for the best material.  She started out as my teacher and then we became close friends.  Her website is: http://www.debradeliso.com

Please enjoy!

~Patrick Tully