Just here to write a little post about a little film called Sound of Metal.
Also, spoilers ahead.
If you’ve been paying attention, you know that I’m deaf in one ear. If you didn’t know that…surprise! I wasn’t ignoring you, or messing with you by enthusiastically responding “yes” to a question that was not a yes or no question. I just couldn’t hear you.
It wasn’t always this way! In the past I could hear in both ears. But now, just one.
I guess I’m better off than Riz Ahmed’s character in Sound of Metal, because he loses hearing in both of his ears as a quick fun little surprise one day when he’s minding his own business and organizing merch at one of his concerts.
Yes he plays a MUSICIAN that loses his hearing and it is HEARTBREAKING. Like I kind of couldn’t breathe the whole time I was watching the film because I had that “I’m just about to cry and I’m trying not to” lump in my throat from the moment his hearing cut out. Although my hearing is now limited, I can still hear a little, and the way that they sonically demonstrated his hearing “turning off” in the film punched me right in the stomach with sensory familiarity.
LIke, one minute you’re going about your life and you can hear normally, and the next minute…WHOOSH IT IS GONE. Your ear isn’t working and you can only hear vibrations and you’re like WTF.
At first he doesn’t tell anyone. I also didn’t tell anyone! It felt too scary to admit there was an actual problem. He tries to yawn and crack his jaw, like when your plane lands and you need to “pop” your ears. I did the same! It really felt the same as the ear popping thing. I guess mentally you associate not being able to hear with that feeling so you think yawning will solve it.
Yawning will not solve it.
By the time he goes to a pharmacy to see if they have any medicine that can help he is super stressed and freaked out.
I MEAN, SAME.
When he went to get his hearing tested in the little booth with the sounds I wanted to cry again. I still have nightmares about that. The frustration of knowing you can’t really hear what they’re saying and trying to guess and knowing you’re wrong and therefore deaf is the worst thing ever.
The hardest, shittiest thing to deal with is realizing that it CANNOT BE FIXED. In our modern first world lives we have all these doctors and all this medicine and any other time anything medically bad like this has happened it has been fixable. But this…is not.
They can’t fix it. There are certain kinds of hearing loss they can’t fix. I’m not a doctor but I know the kind I had could not be fixed, and it couldn’t be fixed for our pal Riz in Sound of Metal.
The really, REALLY sad thing is, he goes through the whole film thinking that it CAN be fixed. That if he gets an operation and hearing aids that his ability to hear sound will magically return and everything will be the same. Before I lost my hearing, I thought the same thing. Like, just get hearing aids, duh.
Which is what everyone always says to me, “Just get a hearing aid.”
DO YOU THINK I HAVEN’T THOUGHT OF THAT, YOU GUYS?
First of all, hearing aids are expensive and insurance is like, “not on our dime.” I’ve tried them on and tried them out before and they leave a lot to be desired. It doesn’t sound like real sound! It sounds like an echo-y, weird cave and it makes my head hurt. My head ALREADY hurts and I’m ALREADY trying to hear things, I don’t need to spend thousands of dollars to just feel…the same.
If I was deaf in BOTH ears, then yes, a hearing aid would likely be necessary for me to get through the world. And I would get it, just like Riz had to. But I also would be incredibly frustrated with the results and wander around Paris and feel sad and turn it off and then let the credits roll with my tears, as Riz did.
The scene when he first gets the hearing aids turned on and he’s like, “It sounds weird, can you adjust it?” and you see his face expecting it to just straighten out when the doctor finds the right frequency or something and then she’s like, “well that’s it” and his very soul is just CRUSHED and you can see it in his eyes….UGH YOU GUYS.
The hearing aid was not the solution. The sign language and lip reading and even the confidence he learned with his deaf pals – THAT WAS THE SOLUTION.
I WAS SO SAD WHEN HE LEFT THERE. WHY DID THIS HAVE TO HAPPEN?!
Speaking of his deaf pals, another thing I learned about when I went deaf in one ear is that there is a movement among deaf folks that includes being against corrective surgery and/or hearing aids. They encourage deaf people to use lip reading and sign language, as well as encouraging parents of children born deaf to not intervene with cochlear implants. Part of their concern is deafness being seen as something that needs to be “fixed,” as well as concern that deaf culture and deaf folks as a minority face a threat of being eradicated. I came across a pretty good article about it here, but first read about it in Andrew Solomon’s amaaaahzing book Far From the Tree.
I’m only deaf in one ear and it has only been for a fraction of my life so I don’t know if I’m qualified to have an opinion on this, but I will say that I obviously HATE not hearing and would do almost anything to hear again. BUT…I would want to hear again the way I heard before, NOT in the way that currently available hearing aids allow me to hear.
So I get it, the idea that sign language is a perfectly acceptable and fulfilling way to communicate and move through the world, because it is. And that was really driven home in this film, in a way I hadn’t thought about it before. Because I DO need to learn sign language.
In March it will be 8 years since I lost my hearing. 8 years since I went through some of what Riz Ahmed’s character went through in the film. And I still haven’t learned sign language. Perhaps I’ll have to go away somewhere for a while, and live among deaf folks and be forced to learn how to communicate. If I had endless time and money and resources I would definitely commit to this. Like why not? I guess I should to commit to it anyway and just watch YouTube videos and learn it on my couch.
Speaking of YouTube videos, I came across this one a couple of months ago:
I had NO IDEA there was a separate Black American Sign Language until I saw this. My mind was blown.
I guess I have to learn that now too.
Anyway, Sound of Metal was an incredible film. It was so very sad and tense and stressed me out, but it really hit home and I think they did a fantastic idea of telling a story of sudden hearing loss.
GO WATCH IT. DO IT.