How Did You Become deaf?


(Yes, the ‘d’ in deaf was purposely put in lower case).  I am asked frequently how I became deaf.  Almost every time I meet a new Deaf person I’m asked this.  It feels like rights of passage at times.  I don’t mind, though.  We heal when we get it out and with all that has beset me there’s definitely been a lot that has built up inside of me over the years.  I’m given a chance to share that which has brought me here and we all know how good it feels to share our stories.

Most of the time I respond with, “Honestly, I don’t know how I became deaf.”  Sometimes the conversation will pursue more complete answers like, “Well, what sorts of things do you know you don’t have that caused your deafness?”  Well, I don’t have Meniere’s Disease, I don’t have any tumor growths, I have not have meningitis, my mother did not come down with Rubella while pregnant with me, I have not sustained a TBI (traumatic brain injury), I have not directly taken an ototoxic medicine (although, this one really could be the reason because of the quantity of meds we are administered in our lifetime yet do not have the potential threats to our health fully explained to us), I have never been a music with too much loud sound as the cause for my deafness, and I’ve never been around an explosive loud enough to cause the type of damage my ears have.  The things I next explain if the questioner is interested are those that could serve as possibilities to the reason I became deaf:  I had some significant falls as an infant and small boy, the doctors improperly removed tubes from my ears following one particular ear infection, I had many ear infections as a child, I was given and have into adulthood taken many different antibiotic medicines, and there was a stretch of time where I was sick with a high fever almost every time.  And I also grew up and played my whole life the game of soccer, which relies heavily on the use of the skull as a bony body part of moving and controlling the ball.

I also have theories on things of a more metaphysical nature, such as:  Reiki (the movement of blocked chi, or energy) practitioners have shared with me the concept of ways that humans can “block out” things they are afraid of or that heavily bother them and in doing so we can develop blockages of critical life energy, or chi, which runs within the blood (when you look at it from a Western point of view blood is the life force for all the cells sustenance so if cells within the ear do not receive blood, or in this case chi, their crucial metabolic needs are not met and can lead to cell death); using the belief of “soul travel” (which has a more formal name but I can’t recall this), a person’s soul has lived before and will continue to as they seek satisfaction in the way their life is lead, and in my case it could be that my soul was in a Deaf individual’s body in a previous life but did not reach a state of satisfaction and, therefore, my body was deafened in effort of affecting a different path to seek once again; and lastly, the idea that a heavenly, celetial deity reached the conclusion during my design phase that I should become deaf later in my life for any number of purposes, and so this was scripted into my fate.

I know the previous paragraph seems “out there” and it is.  But it is also a necessary process of grieving to make sense of what has happened and to do so in a way that satisfies you.  I attempted to grieve in ways that were not so healthy in the past and that too was part of the process; a part of a process that has got me to where I am now and where I am now is in a place that has me finding acceptance gradually each day.

In short, my reply to a questioner asking, “How did you become deaf?”, can sometimes take on a very stoic, realistic attitude of, “Life allowed it to happen.”  I am here now and that is what matters.  The past is the past and it serves me in special ways, but one of those ways is not as a carrot leading the mule.  This I have learned, just as I am learning the ways to someday capitalize that ‘d’.


One Response to “How Did You Become deaf?”

  1. meredith Says:

    You know, Garrett, I actually feel the same way. Although I know what caused my hearing loss (scuba diving accident), a lot of people tell me they feel it is so ironic that I had been a full-time interpreter for four years before it happened. I have gotten to the point where I don’t really think it is ironic anymore. Maybe it was fate. Maybe it was meant to happen. Maybe things just happen for no reason.

    It was definitely lucky that I already knew ASL, but luck isn’t the same as irony. Losing my hearing just sort of happened, like you said. It’s changed my life in many ways, but I am accepting those changes, and life continues.

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