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The half hour “What would it be like to live without sound” Experience

What might it be like for people who are born hearing and become deaf?

Not many people are aware of a group of people who lose their hearing later in life.  This is known as acquired deafness and the term used to describe a person who loses their hearing later in life is, “Late Deafen Adults”.   According to The Association for Late Deafen Adults, “Late–deafened usually means deafness that happened post–lingually, any time after the development of speech and language. Often it means after the age of adolescence (13 and above).

This sudden or even gradual hearing lost will eventually cause the person to alter their way of daily living.  From finding new ways to answer their telephones, looking out for wayward cars, ordering coffee in the coffee shop to engaging family members around the dinner table.  The loss of hearing is profound and life changing.

So, what would it be like to experience such an occurrence?  What would you do if you were impacted by a sudden loss hearing?  In our challenge we are asking you to join in for 30 minutes of no sound in a busy environment and then share your story with us.

Please note, everyone on the SIGNING Basics team is D/deaf including two late deafen adults.  We are fully aware that a 30 minutes’ experience will never give you a full understanding of what real deafness is like.  Even so, we value your observations and look forward to receiving your unique experience as you live for 30 minutes not relying on sound.

The sound off Challenge

To begin, find ear plugs that really work to block all sound.  Then, leaving your home, apt or dorm visit a place that is busy with people.  Select something from a menu and ask the server what comes with the order etc... or visit the library and ask for a book about a topic that requires back and forth communication with the librarian.  The idea is for you to purposely interact and engage people for 30 minutes and share your experience.

Please post on the add comment button below.


18 Comments to The half hour “What would it be like to live without sound” Experience:

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Krista Tudisco on Tuesday, February 07, 2017 5:30 PM
I began my deaf experience as I was buying earplugs at Lowes. A gentleman helped me find the correct isle. The moment he realized I was deaf, his whole body language changed. He was very kind and accommodating, leading me to the item I asked for. (I had covered my ears like I was hearing something really loud and he understood I wanted earplugs.) While at Lowes, I needed another item and couldn't find it on my own. An older man offered to help and I had to act out a drain being clogged. It was difficult to not let on I could hear, both men would talk to me as I was "asking" for what I needed. I could sense both were a bit uncomfortable. Now, the real experience was to begin, earplugs in (I bought the highest noise blocking plugs I could find), I began the experiment. My first stop was Trader Joes, but not much contact with people there. I did walk away from that store realizing I normally talk to a lot of people while I am grocery shopping. I usually say hello or excuse me, or offer my assistance when I can. Today none of that occurred. Without me initiating communication, I realized people just go about their business. Unless I made eye contact with someone and smiled, I didn't exist to them. I felt very alone. Next, it was on to Whole Foods. While there I asked for assistance in: dairy (if they had a case of yogurt so I could get the discount. They did not, so I asked if I could make a case from what they had on the shelf. With a lot of hand movement, my point was received and a case was made for me); the meat department (here, I had to write on paper what I needed and was able to ask for another item without paper and pen)and again, discomfort; the deli (paper and pen were needed again. At one point, I wanted to tell them I would be right back, but their backs were to me and I couldn't get their attention); I bought a mocha in the coffee section (again, paper and pen). My last communication was with two young men at the check out. After they knew I was deaf, I could sense a difference in them. At one point, I had my back to both men while I was unloading my cart. I faintly heard one ask me if I wanted ice with my cold items. I just kept unloading my cart like I didn't hear them and I could faintly hear them talk to each other about the fact I was deaf. I was asked a routine question by the young man bagging, then he realized I couldn't hear him, uncomfortable shift in his body. They both were very nice and again, like the others, accommodating but somewhat uncomfortable. I really embraced this experience. It did take me a while to fully engage. At first, I felt like I was lying and being disrespectful to the Deaf community. I had to keep reminding myself this was an experiment and it was okay to "fool" these unsuspecting people. I walked away from these few hours of being deaf with a glimpse of what being deaf in a hearing world must feel like. Lonely and misunderstood in more ways than just the language.
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Cynthia rivera on Thursday, February 09, 2017 1:49 PM
My deaf experience happened at Walmart with a friend of mine. Before I went inside the store, I put earplugs in and everything went silent. At first, I felt comfortable because I wasn’t disturbed by any noise, but when I started talking to my friend I couldn't really hear him. I could see my friends lips and he looked like a poppet moving his lips without making a sound. My friend made a sign at me to lower my voice. When he signaled me to hush, I was caught by surprise, because I didn't notice I was being loud. After that, I noticed I was talking loud, because when some people passed by us, they looked at me with a face like she’s too loud. When I was in the line to pay, I was looking every where because since I couldn't hear anything I paid more attention to everything around me. Before We left my friend and I went to the subway in Walmart. When I went to make my order, the person who was serving asked to take my order. I I was confused and didn't know what she said. I point to my ears, and I said to her I can’t hear, when she thought I was Deaf she looked surprised, and I think, she was thinking,’she can’t hear, but she can talk?’. I can’t say it was a good experience. At times I felt desperate because I couldn’t hear nobody around me. I went anxious for more than an hour. Now I know a little of how a Deaf person feels. I can't imagine how difficult it is for Deaf people to live without hearing.
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Brenda Rosario on Thursday, February 09, 2017 10:23 PM
Brenda Rosario, Thursday, February 9 2017. At 8:58 PM. My first Deaf experience, was at my house when I decided to show my family that this could be part of my life as I grow older. I have a hearing problem that was detected at the age of five years old, this happen when the teacher of kindergarten call my mother and explained to her that it seems that I don't understand when she is explaining the exercises we need it to do in class as a group but as well she notices that I spoke laughter than the other kids. Well my mother took me to my primary and I was diagnosed with a hearing problem, especially on my left ear. Moving forward, my family felt very uncomfortable with me not understanding what they were asking me or engaging in their conversation. For this time I tend to be isolated from them and when I looked at them I was attracted to read their lips to make sense of their conversations. This experience has made me think a lot of my life situation if I end up loosing my hearing, who will understand me or what strategy will I'll be able to used around my family. Deaf community has come along with how they are able to express among each other and others that have the same or similar diagnosed. Feeling alone amount others is very scary and sad. Now my respect to the Deaf community is even greater due to the challenge they face in the every day life and see how it takes a big effort to part of at vocal world.
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Kirsten Mattson on Thursday, February 09, 2017 10:29 PM
This experience was interesting, eye opening, and unforgettable. It was also very challenging, I wanted to get the full experience. I used foam earplugs as well as ear muffs for this sound off challenge. My public event was attending my brothers wrestling meet. This was interesting to me because I have been to many wrestling meets. This experience was different but not as different as I thought it was going to be. As it turns out, I seem to have a knack for reading lips. Not being able to hear very well was actually relaxing in this environment. I wasn’t really able to hear the cheering or the other kids smack taking like I normally do. I was just able to focus and watch my brother wrestle. The most challenging thing was trying to explain myself to everyone as to why I had earmuffs on indoors. The hardest part was trying to have a conversation with multiple people. Normally this isn’t an issue but not being able to hear everything I found myself trying to focus on just one person. This really put into perspective all the things I take for granted because I am hearing. I knew I had “hearing privilege” but I was unaware of all the little things that I overlook every day. This exercise has made me grow as a person and gain a new understanding and perspective for those who are Deaf
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Ivelianisse Morales on Saturday, February 11, 2017 8:50 PM
I decided that the best way to do this experiment was while babysitting. I told the children about it and they found it interesting and also wanted to participate. I toke them to Burger King and boy was this difficult. Three kids all under the age ten and going a mile a minute while talking and jumping around and me trying to decipher what they wanted and ordering it, asking the cashier to repeat it to me (over and over, they were helpful but clearly irritated as were those in line behind us) and we have food allergies so confirming that everything was as should be, I was ready to give up. We get our order and the rest of lunch goes smoothly. I knew this wasn't going to be easy but when you have no other choice... you have to be strong and patient. The kids then wanted to try so each got a chance to yell at each other to see how those who are Deaf feel. At first, it was funny but they sobered up realizing that it's hard not being able to do things that they did daily; playing video games without the sound and watching movies with just the substiltes. This experiment was very educational and made me really look at the things I toke for granted. Many people in my family eventually go deaf and well this was a good prep for when that time comes.
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Sara Beltran on Sunday, February 12, 2017 3:25 AM
Tonight I participated in the 30 minutes sound off challenge. I wore ear plugs to a birthday party of a friend of a friend going on across campus. When I first walked in it was fine because I greeted people with waves and they waved back, easy form of communication. But then as the party continued it was a little weird having to dance since I didn't know what kind of music I was dancing to. The first time someone realized I couldn't hear them was when someone offered me a confetti popper but I couldn't hear them so they tapped me on my shoulder which startled me a little bit but once I explained to the person that I couldn't hear she wrote what she wanted to say on her phone for me to read which made things simpler. The scariest part of my 30 minute sound off experience was when the party got too crowded and the Resident Advisers came to break up the party. I began to get a little nervous because I could not tell if people were getting written up, if we were supposed to leave, etc. I asked the people around me and some ignored me but a few responded by just gesturing to me that we should leave by motioning with their hands.Even though the Resident Advisers did not get anyone in trouble for having a party, I couldn't help but wonder how scary it would be for someone who was deaf if for some reason they were somewhere where the cops showed up. I imagine it would be very scary and confusing. Overall, writing and hand gestures was the form of communication that I relied on during this experience.
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Ainsley Murdock on Sunday, February 12, 2017 12:53 PM
30 Minutes of Silence This experience was quite interesting. My thirty minutes without my hearing were spent in a tattoo and piercing shop. I had two of my friends with me and I had told them what I was doing. The reason we went there was because I am planning a tattoo but I wanted to know the cost of it. My friend also wanted to get a tattoo. We walked in the store, out of my peripheral vision I could see my friends laugh. I tried to understand him when he talked but since I couldn't hear him, and I suck at reading lips, it was hard to understand. I told him that I couldn't hear him so he took out a pen and paper to write his responses. I felt like I was missing something, my favorite thing about these places is the colorful language and the interesting stories, but I didn't get to hear any of that. He was very understanding and nice to me. I was there for a few hours though, so when the 30 minutes were up, I told him that I do actually have my hearing, that I was doing an assignment for school. I got to join in with the interesting stories after my time was up. I was thankful that he was super nice while I could not hear, especially since that was my first time at that specific place.
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Amanda Hilario on Sunday, February 12, 2017 2:53 PM
My deaf experience came with some unsettling feelings of others. On Friday I needed to do a couple of errands and I figured that this would be the best time to do my “Deaf experience”. It started at Wal-Mart, I was alone, walking down isles and couldn’t hear anything. This was defiantly different for me. As I was shopping I was reading labels on the products I wanted to buy then suddenly I was nugged by a young man to move over because I was in his way of getting a product. I felt embarrassed and said, “I’m sorry”. After saying that the words felt funny, like I had a lisp and I said it way too loud. He looked at me with concern and he walked away. I continued my shopping trip while being extra cautious. No one tried to talk to be, that I know of until I had to go pay. I placed all of my items on the belt and was watching the young lady ring my ideas and bag them. Then came the questions that I couldn’t hear exactly, “How would you like this bagged?”, which I thought she said was, “Would you like this bag?”. In my head I was thinking, ‘I don’t care what bag you use; they’re all grey and the same!’ So, I just replied with a “sure” and her face looking a little bit confused and then she asked again “How would you like this bagged?”, finally understanding, I replied and it seemed like with a lisp and again a little too loud. The young lady seemed annoyed, so I explained to her that I can’t hear. As I was about to pay I remembered that I wanted to pay half in cash and half on my card. So, I needed to explain that to her and at this point she did seem a little annoyed still. As I was explaining myself, which for some reason seemed to take me a little bit longer, with her annoyed face looking back, I just hurried up and paid. As I was leaving Wal-Mart, the greeter waved and what I think she said was,” Have a nice day!” I waved back. My experience at Wal-Mart was certainly surprising and a little unsettling. I know that some people are more patient than others but two out of three people weren’t the nicest; if you even want to count the greeter. On Friday I experienced that everyone’s life has many challenges, some more than others and I got to experience what 30-40 minutes of walking in a store may be like for a deaf person. What I learned is that not everyone is going to be nice and patient, this isn’t the first time I have learned that (won’t be the last) but it came as a shock to me.
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kayla brodeur on Sunday, February 12, 2017 8:05 PM
During my first Deaf experience, I had encountered many uncomfortable stares. I also experienced the whispers and giggles of multiple people as my back was turned to them. Although I had my ear plugs in, I still heard bits and pieces of these gestures. I went to the Holyoke Mall with a a couple of friends and proceeded to talk to them as if I were hearing, but had trouble understanding what they were saying to me. I went into many stores, and asked many associates where I could find certain items. Most of the employees were very helpful and didn't look to my friends to try to explain anything to me. They treated me like I were a normal person who could communicate with no problem. I did go into one store where an employee could not communicate with me and asked another employee to try to help me with what I needed. I felt very discouraged didn't really want to continue to ask the other employee my original question. I just walked away and went on with my 30 minute experience. Overall I thought this experience was very eye opening. I enjoyed playing this roll and getting to feel the experience of playing the Deaf roll.
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Lex Saunders on Sunday, February 12, 2017 9:19 PM
I took the sound-off challenge over the weekend. Unfortunately, it was not an easy task for me to find a very successful way of blocking noise out, as I have really sensitive ears and am allergic to many ear plugs. I found some ear plugs that did diminish sound quite a bit, though I was still able to hear some. It was also interesting taking the challenge, given that I already do have some hearing trouble. For me, it's worse sometimes than others, but it means that I need to be face to face and looking at someone's mouth to hear them, which was something that felt even more important when I took the challenge. For my challenge, I chose to go to the bookstore and interact by asking various employees where I could find different books. I was able to understand for the most part with little difficulty. A lot of what I noticed, was that I felt more in my own head throughout this experience. The ear plugs made everything I said and did seem louder. I was hyper aware of the way the I sounded. I also realized throughout this experience, that I will often avoid asking for help when I'm out and about in the world, which I think is true of a lot of Americans. Though I frequently avoid asking for help in public situations, if I have to, it's mostly an easy experience. Whereas, for a deaf person, this simple conversation could present a variety of troubling issues. After the thirty minutes were up, I took out the earplugs and noticed there was music playing and a lot of other noise that I didn't expect, and frankly could have done without! I believe There is sometimes far too much emphasis placed on things that can be heard.
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Marina Blanusa on Sunday, February 12, 2017 11:07 PM
I started my 30 minutes without a sound challenge by taking my daughters earplugs (she bought them when she started her nursing job and needed to block noise when sleeping during the day). My husband and I decided to go to Big Y first. I have to admit that driving my car to Big Y without music felt very different. I realized how much I depend on my habits. While at Big Y, I asked a young gentleman to get a bottle of seltzer from the top shelf for me. When I was pointing he asked me the question (I read his lips saying “what flavor”). I pointed to my ears and gave him a sign that I could not hear. He seemed surprised and uncomfortable. After he gave me a bottle of lime flavored seltzer I thanked him and went to deli department. There, I attempted to ask for a half pound of cheese. I was very proud to be able to sign cheese that I learned at my silent pizza event that I attended a week before. The girl in deli department had no idea what I was asking for and seemed to be getting frustrated with me. She mumbled something to another girl that I could faintly hear and sounded like “idiot”. At this point, I was getting angry. I grabbed for my notebook and wrote ( “half a pound of Swiss cheese”) and handed it to her. I wanted to give her piece of my mind and tell her how insensitive and disrespectful she was but I decided to move on with my experiment. After paying for my groceries my husband and I decided to go and have lunch. I almost got hit by I car when I was walking across the parking lot because I could not hear a car coming my way. When we got to the restaurant I ordered my food by pointing to the menu. The waitress was very nice and smiled constantly. I had to grab my notebook and write down that I wanted my steak well done. She nodded and went away. This experience gave me a new perspective on how important hearing is, and how challenging it is to live your life without this gift. It became clear to me that deaf people live their lives confused, judged and misunderstood. They face obstacles on daily basis. If more people learned ASL this world would be the happier place not just for deaf people but for hearing people as well.
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Alina Schultz on Monday, February 20, 2017 6:50 PM
I did this 30 minute without sound challenge over the weekend. I am hard of hearing so all I had to do was take my hearing aids out, so that I could not hear anything. I usually have my hearing aids in when I am out in public, but on occasion the battery will die and I have none to replace. I have experienced some of the difficulties of not being able to hear and trying to communicate a few times before. When I did this challenge, I started by driving to the grocery store (without the music on.) I needed some yogurt that was in the fridge section on the highest shelf. Usually I would just climb up to get it, but since I was doing this challenge I decided to ask someone for help. I showed that I could not hear when he asked "what kind?" I then had to write it down because I could not think of a clear way to tell him I wanted blueberry. I then proceeded onto the deli section. I again, wrote down what I wanted, for this was the clearest way to get my message across. Everyone I came in contact with was very helpful and patient, but seemmed to be uncomfortable. I believe that everyone should take this challenge to see what it is like to live without sound. This would give hearing people a better understanding of the difficulties in the daily life of a deaf person, and may make them more comfortable and understanding.
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Alicia Parzych on Monday, February 20, 2017 8:00 PM
I began my challenge today on my way to the grocery store. I put the ear plugs in right before I left my house. I got in my car and realized how different it was to drive without listening to music or hearing the sounds of other cars driving by. I found myself being much more attentive to my driving. After about five minutes of driving, I found the silence to be quite relaxing. Walking into the grocery store made me really start paying attention to my surroundings. I had to use only my sight to look for cars and people when crossing the road. For the most part I found shopping for groceries to be enjoyable in silence. The only time I interacted with someone was when I was cashing out with the cashier. She said hi, and I nodded with a smile. I kept looking at her to see if she was communicating with me because I didn’t want to be rude by ignoring her. She told me the price, which I saw on the screen. I cashed out, and smiled and waved to say thank you. Losing one of my senses definitely put me out of my comfort zone, but helped me understand what it would be like to live without hearing.
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Luz Dejesus on Monday, February 20, 2017 8:46 PM
Today I decided was the right time to participate in the thirty minutes sound off challenge, since I was around my family. Before I started I had advised them on what I was doing, and most of them already knew I was taking an ASL class so they were very cooperative. We did our usually family time things, and I noticed that it was very difficult to read lips and I really couldn't hear much of what they were saying. For the little bit of time that I had experimented I tried to put myself in the same shoes as a Deaf person and realized how hard it must be for them to go through this on a daily basis. We can never fully grasp what they have to go through, but this little experiment did teach us something.
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Carlos Valdes on Monday, February 20, 2017 11:34 PM
Yesterday was the perfect time for me to do the challenge because I was on my way home from work. I do not have a car, so those who take the bus know how busy it can get especially when you're downtown. It usually takes me about 30-45 mins to get home. I put on my headphones to make the time go by with music but I decided to put my old work ear plugs. They block out all sound usually and boy was it tricky. Within those 45 mins of traveling I was stopped twice for the time, I ordered and smoothie from Dunkin, and I also tried to have a conversation with a friend of mine. Ordering the coolata was the hardest and I am in no way a lip reader. It was too the point I took off one ear plug because I could not hear the employees question with all the commotion around me. After that I got on another bus home and a older man had been trying to get my attention because my backpack was in his face while I was standing. I would agree it's very challenging to an extent and for sure gives you a sense of what the challenge is all about and what some people go through in their everyday lives. I enjoyed participating.
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Chanly Duong on Tuesday, February 21, 2017 12:37 PM
This morning I experienced my challenge in a Dunkin Donnut at 8.30 am which is the busiest time in the store I believe. People are getting in line and seem to be in hurry for their orders. I decided to get my order in store, not drive through and not forget to plug my ear phone as tight as possible. Though, I was able to catch very tiny and small sounds around me. At first, when I got in line and someone behind me tried to cut the line. She probably said "Excuse me" many times before she cut the line but I didn't know she asked so. When the one in front of me turn back to look at me, by that time I knew something happening behind me. I think they didn't know my ear was deaf but because of my earphone. I could see some weird look at me. When my turn to order, I tried to say mu order and it could be so loud cause I could see people from other corner was caught attention. I didn't hear what the waitress said exactly but I could read her lips movement and guess what she was trying to talk to me. sugar? cream? how many? and how much? ect... By that time, I guess some people might realize the abnormal ability of my hearing and they seem to look calm and patient to wait until I finish. All sounds I heard was tiny and small but I could guess what people try to communicate with me through their lip movement and facial expression. It must be easier for me cause in this challenge, I did in the common conversation and it didn't take for long time. But I can image how difficult if we suddenly become deaf and couldn't hear people around us. After this challenge, I feel so sympathized to people becoming deaf and also people try their hard to work well with deaf people. I really enjoy this activity and I believe I have learnt a lot from that too.
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Michelle Gordon on Wednesday, February 22, 2017 12:54 AM
Working in the hospitality industry since there's a lot of construction going on on 91 North I was able to obtain earplugs from my job. I had to travel to New York after ASL class on Thursday night because I had to attend my grandmother's funeral that weekend. That Friday when I had a lot to do I decided to do my 30 minute challenge. It was a hard challenge. Morning I woke up place the air plugs into my ears and walked around that now again the air plugs did not give me the 100% experience and although I could hear people speaking to me it sounded very muffled so I initiated other ways of communication. I am just getting familiar with ASL so for the family members who are around me who do not understand I carried around a paper and pen with me. Everyone was talking around me and it was very hard to actually understand what they were saying. I could not read their lips because they were speaking so fast so if it was anything pertaining to me I ask them to write whatever they needed to relate to me down. I had to go to the store to pick up my dress for my grandmother's funeral and I went and some Burlington Coat Factory. Once I was ready to make my purchase I didn't realize that the register number was flashing because I wasn't looking in that direction. Another Shopper tapped me and pointed in the direction of the available cashier. Upon getting up to the cash register the cashier was talking to me and I put my merchandise down but then the cashier realize that I was not responding and I decided to take the paper and pen out so we could communicate. Unknown to me there was a Cota or a child of deaf adults something I just recently learned about and they were able to communicate with me. I did let them know that this was an exercise for my class and that I am taking ASL and they were more than helpful. Although it was just a half an hour it was actually a pretty hard half an hour. For my family members to understand how to communicate with someone who is deaf they found it hard. I could see they were frustrated because they have to communicate through pen and paper. Like myself I told them that it would be very beneficial for them to maybe take a class in ASL. I feel many people would learn so much more.
Reply to comment on Saturday, July 15, 2017 5:48 AM
In our routine life we can get many experiences with different situations. Ladies are very strong because they can face many problems in their life. They are sincere about their family. They care about family and their children and help their children also in studies.
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