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AuthorIAmA writer who went deaf as an adult, then twelve years later regained my hearing. Now I’ve written a book about experiences of being deaf and deafened called ‘Sound’. Ask me anything.

May 11th 2017 by BellaBathurst • 10 Questions • 70 Points

EDIT If I am a bit slow, sorry - slight technical issues! Keep the questions coming! I started to go deaf shortly after I turned over my car on black ice aged 27. Eight months later, my hearing was down about 50% - and deteriorating continuously. I was issued with two hearing aids and tried to get on with my life. But while the hearing disappeared, it took my social life with it. To begin with, I hid my deafness. I wore my hair over my ears to hide my hearing aids and struggled through. Things got much better when I got a part-time job in a photographic lab. It taught me how to see people and read their body language. I also started to ask for help. There are 11 million people in the UK with some form of hearing loss, and on average it takes them a decade to do something about it. In 2009, I was rediagnosed. The deafness was a result of a genetic condition of the middle ear which is operable. After surgery on each ear, my hearing gradually returned. I felt lucky beyond imagining to be able to hear again. But I had no anger about the last 12 years. I had learned how rich the silent world can be, but I also learned to appreciate the miracle of sound. My book, Sound, is a memoir of my experience, and an exploration of science, music and silence. My proof: http://imgur.com/a/ULV8Q Sound is available at all good UK bookshops & online. https://www.waterstones.com/book/sound/bella-bathurst/9781781257753

EDIT Thanks so much for your interesting and insighful questions everyone. I really enjoyed answering them. If you want to find out more about the book, follow the link above.

Q:

Ms. Bathurst, I used to read a lot but my eyes have problems , I know this seems like a ironic question, but is your book available in audiobook format?

A:

Not yet - but we hope it will be.


Q:

Where can we get a copy of your book? I'd love to read your story!

A:

Hello! You can get the book in all good bookshops and online. It's published by Profile Books & Wellcome Collection. Putting link in description now!


Q:

Great! I'll be watching for it! And the title is simply "Sound?"

A:

Yes! Just 'Sound.' The subtitle is 'Stories of Hearing Lost and Found'. ISBN 9781781257753. I think that's all the info you need!


Q:

Did you self-identify as 'deaf' before you got your hearing back, or as someone with hearing loss - and what do you think of the identity politics around deafness?

A:

No, I didn't self-identify as deaf - I'd spent 28 years hearing, so I considered myself as someone deafened, not Deaf with a capital D. As far as I knew, the Deaf were an elite who used sign language and had their own communities, politics and history - those who had lost their hearing had none of that.


Q:

Ms. Bathurst, would you want your book to be made into a movie?

A:

I really hope it will be! In the meantime, it will be Radio 4's Book of the Week starting Mon 22nd May - hope that's a start!


Q:

Ms. Bathurst, what was the recovery like after Surgery?

A:

The two operations were spread a year apart. Briefly, the first op went wrong, so what remained of my hearing in the left ear just flatlined for a while. Long story short, but it gradually recovered of its own accord over a period of about two / three months. The second op - on the other ear - went absolutely fine.


Q:

What do you think your life would have been like if you hadn't got your hearing back?

A:

Hmmm. Good question. I don't know. I think I would have got better at compensating and at using my vision to fill some of the gaps in awareness left by sound. I guess it would have depended on how much hearing was left, and how much I'd been able to amplify that remaining hearing. If I had lost whatever remained, I would have had to make the leap from the deafened world to the deaf world and learned sign. I would have kept writing, definitely, and I would probably have adapted my social life to make things a bit easier. But I'm just not sure ... So much would have depended on what residual hearing I had, and how long that was going to last. Tricky!


Q:

Did you struggle with emotional issues as far as losing your ability to accept communications, listen to music, etc. as you had your hearing loss? Was it overwhelming to regain your hearing after living in silence for so long?

A:

Yes, definitely - to begin with, I certainly found it very difficult. I was 27 when I first started losing my hearing, and I didn't know anyone else of that age who had lost their hearing. Everyone tended to treat it as a bit of a joke. If you let it, it can isolate you - I fought it quite hard, and it wasn't until about five years down the line that I accepted it and began to find ways of compensating. And yes, it was totally overwhelming getting my hearing back - I write in the book about this amazing moment when I first heard real live music again.


Q:

What advice would you give to someone struggling with hearing loss?

A:

Find other people like you! There's lots of people out there, but at the moment it's difficult for them to connect. Because of the nature of hearing loss there aren't obvious ways of meeting or getting together, and the most likely points of connection are probably online, at least to begin with. There's good charities like Hearing Link, but the main thing is to realise a) there ARE other people in the same boat, and b) it's not a joke - the impact of hearing loss can be huge. So anyone who treats it as one ... ooohh!


Q:

What was the first piece of music you heard after your hearing had recovered and how did you react to it?

A:

The first piece of live music I heard was unrepresentatively classy. A friend had got tickets for the Berlin Philharmonic on the South Bank - they were playing Schubert and Haydn, neither of which I knew at all. How did I react to it? There's a postcard of all the people watching the original Los Alamos atomic explosion live. They're all blasted back in their seats and because they're wearing anti-glare glasses they look huge, wild-eyed, like an audience to something from another dimension. Think of that and then multiply it several thousand times.