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.

Chella's implantsThe 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.

Hearing Cochlear Implants w/ open captions
Cochlear implant: simulation on 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.

Implants 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.

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Here is a link to Deafblindness support and information.
They are based in Western Australia and supported by Senses Australia.

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Hear For You web site

Vision Statement: “For all young people who are deaf to reach their potential in life.”

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