Friday, April 6, 2012

A deaf Easter post

This is not me in the picture.

I have been deaf on and off all of my life. I grew up with gromets inside and fluid behind each eardrum. The biggest issue was that as a child I never realised I was deaf. Grown ups talking was just an ambient noise I was not supposed to hear. Teachers in the classroom were the same. Murmurs the same as a Charlie Brown cartoon.

Yet somehow I coped. Between gromet operations, I lip read, learned to nod at key moment to make it look like I had heard and I even left it to colleagues to run the meetings for me.

Things finally came to a head when, just a few weeks ago, I went to meeting at Ikea's European HQ just 10 minutes from where I live in Belgium. In a meeting with 5 Ikea people, I went through every one of your nightmares once I finished my walk through of our platform. I suddenly realised I was STONE DEAF. All I could see was mouths moving. I could here only low level mumbling. Fortunately, I had my wonderful colleague Katarina Graffman with me from Sweden who took over and answered all of the questions.

The next day, I phoned a friend and head of ENT Surgery at St Luc teaching Hospital who made an appointment to see me. His diagnosis was clear; forget any more operations. I needed a hearing aid. And with that news he sent me to his preferred hearing aid supplier, a lady called Isabelle, who as I write has been testing and optimising some very discreet hearing aids for me.

The interesting this is that between appointments, my hearing aids collect data which Isabelle can bring up on a screen. Apparently, last week, I kept my hearing aids in on average 14 hours a day. I listened to music for 4% of the total time I had them in. I was also in a loud environment for 47% of the time. This made me think. What kind of loud environment? I hadn't been out anywhere. I was perplexed. Until it dawned on me, that I must be shouting at the kids for 46% of the time. How amazing! Almost half of my time is spent yelling. It makes perfect sense too. It also made me think.

One of the last questions we ask respondents during EthOS projects is to look through their entries in Summary view and tell us what surprised them the most about their entries. And the responses all point to how unaware we are about our own behaviours. We distort our own realities to the point where we are absolutely clear about what our behaviours are. Which sets up an interesting experiment. Let's get some respondents and their best friends to comment on each other's behaviours and then compare notes with their own perceptions of how they have behaved. Compare the two and get... for want of a better word, insights!

Come to MRMW in Amsterdam this month to see exactly what we mean... also see if you can notice my hearing aids.



  1. I thought, by the photo, that this would be an interesting post on playing the trumpet, or maybe an antique french horn, by, no, not really. From your tweets and FB posts I knew something was up in the hearing department. I hope I'm not way out on a limb here, but would you say that your adaptive coping skills, the ones that emerged over time in relation to your hearing challenges, helped you tune into the innumerable contextual tapestries that enmesh and enliven speech? Are you not paying homage to your eyeballs and their lifetime of accompanying visualization accomplishments by promoting videographically-oriented ethnographic inquiry? OK, it's got audio too, I know. Do you see what I'm saying? Seriously, Siamack, enjoy the soundtracks, and thanks for teaching autobiographically.

  2. Paul, could well be. But I have always been a spectator at family and other gatherings/happenings. I watch more than I talk. And for the the first time you are making me aware that I am teaching autobiographically.