Feb 2018 Them
Chella Man, a 19-year-old deaf, genderqueer artist, documents his journey transitioning on testosterone. At the age of four, I began to lose my hearing to a cause that is still unknown.
I was told I would most likely lose all of my hearing eventually. This led me to savour all sounds, from music to the soothing sound of my mother’s voice. I used to wake up to the sound of birds in the morning, but one day that just stopped. By 13, I was severely deaf and struggling to uphold any conversation. I constantly needed to concentrate on reading lips to interpret sentences. The perpetual focus began to weigh me down. I needed help, so I decided to look into getting a cochlear implant.
I was 14 when I received my first cochlear implant, and 16 when I decided to get a second — for my other ear.
The outcome of cochlear implant surgeries differs for each recipient; each user’s quality of sound is unique. I consider mine to be successful due to my adequate comprehension of sound and ability to carry on a conversation. However, cochlear implants do not completely restore one’s hearing.
So, what does the world sound like to me?
I have found that the videos below most accurately portray the way I hear speech and music.
It took months for the world to sound tolerable to me again after having the devices implanted.
But today, my mechanical hearing has become my normal. I love being able to sink into silence whenever I choose by taking off the external processors. I enjoy walking through the bustling and often chaotic Times Square, engulfed in complete silence. I sit in coffee shops for hours at a time, watching New Yorkers run around me — I hear nothing; I see everything. I find that my other senses are heightened when I remove my implants. I can feel the vibrations of footsteps as someone approaches, or notice them through my increased range of sight.
I can blast music and feel the beat fill my body. Once, someone threw something away behind me, and I noticed due to the vibrations the object created when it hit the trash can. I find comfort in silence; I am thankful to have the choice to experience the sound behind the vibrations. Although my days are more arduous than that of a hearing individual, I don’t resent what enables me to experience the world from my unique perspective.