Cotton Balls in Ears

Cotton BallsA Desire to be Deaf: Here is an interesting case of a hearing woman with such a compelling desire to be Deaf that she resorted to putting cotton balls soaked in oil into her ears. See the article. In this case, the woman experienced negative reactions to sounds and reported feeling so much more “at home” in the Deaf community, that she was ready to do whatever it would take to get rid of her hearing.

A Curious Calling: Unconscious Motivations. Although an extreme case, the article raises the question of what benefits other hearing people might hope to gain by immersing themselves in the Deaf community, not by making themselves Deaf, but by working with Deaf people and/or making the Deaf community the center of their lives. Some hearing people have obvious missionary attitudes and act like Deaf people need to be saved or helped, but other hearing people may not be as obvious about the reasons behind their motivation to be with Deaf people.

CODAs or other relatives of Deaf people may be involved in the Deaf community because ASL and Deaf culture have always been part of their lives. Some hearing people may be encouraged by their Deaf family, friends, or partners to work with Deaf people. What motivates other hearing people to work with Deaf people, does it have something to do with their psychological make-up or is it something else? Could it have anything to do with gaining an identity? Or compensating for feelings of inferiority or inadequacy in the hearing community? Are there other unconscious motivations that compel hearing people to work with Deaf people?

  1. Jenn June 16, 2006

    There are many motivations to work with Deaf people, most come under the category:
    1) have deaf family/friends growing up, so have an emotional connection.

    2) People who need to, well I wouldn’t say missionarize but more control and feel important/superior. Often worst exploiters.

    3) People who do tend to feel superifical empathy with deaf because of their own problems with feeling completely part of society (shy, gay, etc.), they can be good friends but their reactions to some issues can be very colored by their personal experience.

    4) People who have deaf children and have to learn all this overnight.

    And there’s a fourth, but growing category– people who learned sign due to working with Deaf people (as adults) and keep up with a few Deaf friends, but don’t go gung-ho about being in Deaf culture any more than their friends might.

    I worry that many hearing people who work with deaf people tend to fall into categories 2 and 3–
    3 is not necessarily dangerous, but they may not be the best role models for how to act around hearing people, because they themselves are alienated.

    I also have learned recently about auditory processing disorder, it’s surprisingly common, even a minor disturbance in hearing and language learning during the first year (lots of ear infections) can cause permanent deficits in understanding the subtle sounds of language (consonants, etc.) and difficulty processing sounds.

    One of my “hearing” friends has this and she just feels much more comfortable working in a visual mode.

    I do not think the woman above is having a “mental illness.” What she has is a very real neurological problem. I had recruitment hearing growing up and sounds were painful for me.

    Recruitment hearing was only recognized in the late 1980’s– it used to be thought deaf people were being dramatic complainers or something. Recruitment is a funny word, but it means in this case “manyfold”. Sounds become unbearably loud at fewer decibels than for hearing people.

    I had 90 dB hearing loss and my ears hurt at 110 dB. Hearing peoples’ ears hurt at 120 dB, which means my ears were hurting at sounds 10x less loud than hearing peoples’ ears.

    I had only 15-20 dB window, which meant basically voices would go from quiet to unbearably loud and quiet again. I also suffered from ringing from any significant sound.

    I can remember many many times I had to suppress a fanasty of breaking the nearest loudspeaker at school because it was blaring human voice/music and making my ears hurt. I also always complained to my siblings to turn their music down, and they were hearing.

    So, I can COMPLETELY sympathize with her desire to go deaf– I was only able to enjoy parties with loud music when I finally had my hearing tank from very bad to stone deaf in the upper and middle frequencies. It really helped me relax in social events a lot, even if I had to endure ringing until I went deaf in that frequency.

    I can’t imagine anybody would want to have a hearing aid if they had that kind of hearing problem, though– because hearing aids are instruments of torture when you have recruitment hearing, unless you can get very very fancy digital aids that are programmed to filter out loud sounds.

    A hearing dog for me is far, far better than any hearing aid, cuz there’s just NOTHING that could work.

    I don’t even know if CI would work at all even if I was young enough to learn how to hear, because the deafness affects the cochlear membrane itself and the cochlea’s ability to “clear” the emissions from excited hair cells.

    Anyway for definition of hyperacusis:


    I definitely do think people with hyperacusis NEED help of some sort. I don’t think it’s appropriate to consider them as having some kind of identity dysmorpha, though.

    Anybody who decides to try and become deaf will find out that it’s not the magical silence they thought it would be, IMO.

  2. Jules -oo- June 17, 2006

    LOL! Well said Jenn!

    I, too, have met an individual who was keen on a soundless existence and asked me to describe how quiet it must be. Because of my hearing background (I was born deaf in my right ear. My left “closed” when I was a pre-teenager) I had to tell her that there isn’t no such thing as “quiet.” At least, not for me.

    The disappointed woman had the gall to tell me that I obviously wasn’t deaf “enough” to know the difference??!! What a hoot that was! The poor woman has absolutely NO IDEA how silly she “sounds” as a hearing woman telling a deaf person that she’s not deaf enough to know the difference!!?? Lordy lordy. People sure are weird! Moi? I know my own identity. I know both deaf and hearing experiences are uniquely mine. I don’t need someone to validate my own personal knowledge of my identity! Do I speak for and compare with others? No. I’m not alive just so i can speak for and compare my own experiences with others. I’m here to testify to my own experiences exclusively. Y’know?

    Might it be that those who have not confirmed their own identity feel the need to take on a different identity they WANT because that identity is “easier” to accomplish than facing what they really are? This is warped thinking, I know, and yet I see a lot of it around me.

    And THANK YOU! I think you just solved a problem I’ve had since around the time I attended Middle School. When I was in 8th grade I became very sensitive to the sounds of my classmates slamming their locker doors in between classes. I developed a habit of running to the locker room to get my things as quick as I can and then I’d hightail it out of the lockerroom as most of the students were getting their lockers opened. I’d be safely at my next class and far from the maddening sounds of slamming doors. And Jenn, the audiologist’s can’t even graph me when I take a hearing test. Yes I’m THAT deaf! Smiles, So, hmmmm…”recruitment hearing” is something for me to look into.


  3. Jenn June 19, 2006

    Yes, I think being in a small community and naturally “fitting” appeals to some people. I’ve heard a friend comment on how close-knit the gay community is, and she’s not going THAT far (lol) to fit in, but just as an outsider she sees people being a LOT more frank with each other and having an “understanding” she doesn’t see in mainstream interactions.

    I think for people who have problems developing their own network, having an “identity” appeals to them, rather than being a random face in the crowd. I don’t get it, but I never got sororities either.

    I heard a girl back in college saying she was deciding whether she wanted to be smart, serious, or a party girl, etc. and I was thinking “WTF?” in my head.

    I mean, if you’re playing an online game, sure you pick your “characters” and stay with that for the entire game, but in real life you change roles all the time. That’s called growth.

    —- Yah, I understand you.

    Even being THAT deaf, I continually hear/feel rush of blood in ears, and I can hallucinate sounds from flashing lights and other things, although I notice the auditory hallucinations are diminishing the longer I have definite hearing loss in that range.

    I’d say it’s like closing your eyes, it’s not exactly DARK, phantom images float past– sensory deprivation and all.

    They once did a test to separate out hearing people faking deafness to evade the draft from real deaf people. They just dropped a heavy book behind everybody, and the deaf people were looking around frantically, while the hearing fakers pretended not to have noticed the book fall and so were busted.

    True? I don’t remember where I read it, but it’s one of those stories that you just know should be true. ;).

  4. DeafWatcher July 12, 2006

    Some Deaf wannabes will put superglue in their ears so they can become Deaf. Reports show that superglue does work!
    Superglue = profoundly Deaf


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