Going deaf for a week

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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

“Would you rather be deaf or blind?” It’s the sort of question you occasionally ask around a family breakfast table with your kids.  Having initially thought that deafness would be an easier disability to manage, this week I took on the Silent Leadership Challenge where I undertook daily activities with a pair of very effective sound-silencing ear muffs provided by the National Foundation for the Deaf. 

I found this experience both troubling and transformational. You are a part of a community, and yet separate – you can almost comprehend but not quite, despite the concentration, always scrambling to make sense of the quiet burbling.

When I sat down at home in front of the television with my family, once the novelty wore off, I was stabbing-in-the-dark at working out what was happening. It was isolating.

The next day I went to my office and tried to lead a team meeting with my staff. Initially it was quite comical, but now my staff have lost their voices and the office has ironically never been so quiet. My effectiveness is very limited, it has reinforced to me how much I take my hearing for granted and how hard it is for those who have lost it.

It is worth taking the time to recognise the challenges that certain parts of our community face. I certainly recommend taking on the Silent Leadership Challenge as it may profoundly challenge many of your perceptions about daily life in the deaf community.