The Silent Life

Mari Brown, Staff Writer & Featured Columnist

Silence. Something I deal with everyday. But this type of silence is one where the outer world is muted and I can only hear my thoughts. I am deaf. No, I didn’t listen to music too loud when I was little or have an illness that caused me to lose my hearing. I was simply born deaf.

Everyday is like a blur of sounds whose sources I can’t pinpoint. I usually start off my morning with the world muted. I feel like I have to ask people to repeat themselves all the time, especially in loud environments. Sometimes I just nod my head and pretend to agree. I mishear people often, which can be either really funny to others or just plain embarrassing for myself.

For the longest time I had no idea that I talked funny, and if I did, no one said anything about it. In seventh grade, my friend’s brother asked me why I talked funny – this question took me by surprise. I’d never realized it before.

I began to feel somewhat self-conscious about how I sounded when I talked to others. But my grandpa made me feel better. When I was talking about it one night, he told me that my speech was very impressive and that I shouldn’t worry about what people think of it. Now I’m not so wary of how I speak.

The stereotypes say that I must be in American Sign Language, I can read lips very well and I talk kind of funny. Now while most of that is true, that shouldn’t define who a deaf person is. We’re more than that.

When I tell others that I don’t take sign language, they are always surprised. Since my parents encouraged me to communicate with others orally when I was young, I barely know any signs. It’s frustrating when others assume that I should be able to sign fluently, but it’s funny when people come up to me and start signing and I verbally reply. They just stand there with a shocked expression on their face.

Another surprise – I can actually hear, but not in the same way most human beings hear. I wear a cochlear implant, which changes sounds into digital signals then transmits them to the auditory nerve. I underwent surgery to implant a magnet inside my head – just call me Bionic Woman.

Being deaf also means living in a world according to your own volume. My implant has a volume control where I can increase or decrease the sounds so I’m never hearing exactly how the world sounds to y’all. On the surface, this may seem cool, but it causes my friends to tell me to quiet down a bit because I’m talking so loud.

The most frustrating aspect of my disability is the way it can cause my peers and even adults to act differently around me. I understand the stares – it’s hard for us not to gawk at something we have never seen before. But just as I embrace my deafness, there are moments when I wish I could change it. I usually wear my hair down so people won’t stare at me. I always get nervous when I pull it back – it feels as if eyes follow me wherever I go.

One day I’ll feel great about myself, the next I’ll I remember that I’m not normal like everyone else. Normalcy for me is not having to wear this piece of equipment on my ear everyday. Thankfully, as I’ve matured – as much as a 16 year old can mature – these moments don’t come as often. I’ve realized that it’s okay to be different. Where’s the fun in being friends with someone who’s normal?

This silence that I experience is a part of who I am but it’s for sure not all that I am. I’m me, Mari Brown.