Deaf anxiety: Triggers

The term "Deaf Anxiety" associates with people who are Deaf/ Hard of hearing (HOH) while living in an abled world, and who are triggered as a result of their inability to hear. Deaf anxiety was first coined by Deaf activist, Artie McWilliams. To directly put how deaf anxiety triggers us, I will tell you why I write this article. This is in no way to draw sympathy for myself. Its purpose is to show you how my Deaf anxiety is triggered and to bring awareness to the issue.

As I have iterated before, I grew up lip-reading and learning to talk, and while trying to manage and store my hearing aids in a world full of abled people. I have grown up blending into the hearing world, carrying the weight of burden on my shoulders, while people are so reluctant to change and accommodate our needs. As other students are excited to catch up with their friends, I would be nervous to start it all over again. While other students choose their seats carefreely, I would have to pick a seat where I could see the lecturer/ teacher's face and other student's faces in the classroom. No one likes to turn their back to see when the person behind them speaks. I would rather sit comfortably and strive my best to engage with the class.


This is in no way to draw sympathy for myself. Its purpose is to show you my Deaf anxiety triggers and bring awareness to the issue.

In some instances, the professor or lecturer being late, the other students would talk and some would be on their phones. I would have to be on high alert, in case someone calls my name or give out some vital information. There were moments when I had to stand in front of the person who called my name so I would not have to miss out on anything, which would leave us both frustrated. While others take down notes, I’m on high alert to catch every word my lecturer says and rapidly analyze, and process it. In the end, it leaves me tired, but I would compensate my everything to catch up with my studies. But I worry that it might not be sufficient. Typically, social events are a noisy place. We, as Deaf people, do not do well. Since social events are noisy, I fret if the person I am speaking to could understand and hear me. As I have emphasized before, I would have to keep a lookout to determine if I can interact with that person comfortably. I do not manage well at social events. When I meet an unfamiliar person, I always worry if she/he could understand me. I constantly worry if there would be a moment of frustration where we both don’t either understand each other. For the sake of my mental well-being, I would withdraw myself from the situation or not attend it at all.

Finally, I felt validated and accepted. Finally, the thoughts that have been ringing through my mind has a name.

Being on high alert is exhausting, along with the background noises and undistinguishable sounds that hum in my ears. I constantly use my observational skills to catch what my ears would miss. I worry that if I miss something or do not answer back when someone asks me a question, as they might see me as rude or not incompetent to work with. You may think that after 25 years of wearing hearing aids, I would be comfortable to say, “can you repeat it? Speak a little louder? I do not understand you.” I alone feel the responsibility on my shoulders to make sure that the conversation moves smoothly and does not leave both of us frustrated. These are the thoughts that run through my mind every day. Every morning I wake up and it starts all over again. There is not a moment where I can sink and relax and have some time for myself, especially in a school, university, hostel, and social events. Even when I go to sleep, I wonder what the next day would bring. As I drift off into a deep sleep, I forget all the challenges I have to face every single day. Sometimes I wonder if I am overthinking and fretting over nothing, but I just can’t shut that nagging voice.

Deaf mental health is not a topic that is widely known about. As I watched Artie McWilliam's video on Deaf anxiety, where he talks about the challenges we both and countless other Deaf people face, I wonder if that was the frustration and the anger I felt in my pubescent years. Finally, I felt validated and accepted. Finally, the thoughts that have been ringing through my mind has a name. For me, these situations trigger my Deaf anxiety. But please take note that other deaf people’s triggers might be a little different from mine, depending on their situation.

I wished that as a child, while I was learning to lipread and learning to store my hearing aids, that they could have taught me how to cope with mental health stress.

Every weekend, I go to the Audiologist Office for speech therapy and other cochlear related activities. I have always seen magazines and broachers advertising the recent version of hearing aids and their stunning features. A few newspapers to keep the people entertained until their turns come. But never once I have seen a magazine or medical journal discussing the mental health issues in deaf individuals. The audiologist office would be an excellent space to address the issues deaf people face in their daily life. Since countless Deaf people are going through that every day, why is nobody talking about it? Instead, we should be creating an accessible world where people’s awareness of the issue would help us ease some anxiety that we as the Deaf community face every day.

As a child, I grew up hearing that I was quiet and introverted. But I wonder if the deaf anxiety made me self-conscious of my own thoughts. I wished that as a child, while I was learning to lipread and learning to store my hearing aids, that they could have taught me how to cope with mental health stress.


 

#Deaf #HardofHearing #DeafAnxiety #lka #SriLanka