I recently did a little mini-workshop on the lived experience of hearing loss for a few curious friends, all from technical fields and most of them graduate students around my age. I've been asked to share it so others can repeat it, so here's what we did, open-licensed CC-BY-SA, improvements and comments welcome. Aside from losing my hearing at the age of 2, I'm totally new to this stuff. Four participant responses -- a male engineer, a male graduate student, a female graduate student, and a robotics researcher -- are also available for reading.

The goal of this unit is to be exposed more to the experience of being medically deaf (unable to hear) without being culturally Deaf (part of a community of fluent signers, among other things) -- basically, living in a hearing world without being hearing.

You have 2 exercises and 3 readings.

Exercise 1: Sitting at home, get out your favorite portable music player and a pair of headphones/earbuds. Put them on, turn on some music so that it's loud enough to block out most external noise, but not so loud you're going to hurt your ears. Now go for a walk somewhere, preferably in a place with people where you don't go every day. Parks, shopping malls, student unions, etc. work well. Do this for at least 10 minutes, then sit down (still with the music playing!) and write down the things you notice happening around you. THEN, and only then, take off your headphones -- now walk around a little more and write down the new things you notice. What's the difference? What were you missing, if anything? What more did you see with music on (if anything) that you don't normally see?

Exercise 2: With headphones on and music playing, try to have a conversation with someone else. (You can, if you want, explain what you're doing -- but it may be more fun/interesting if you don't.) Bonus points if it's with a stranger. This will probably need to be a short conversation -- order a cup of coffee, ask for directions or the time, and so forth. Chronicle.

Readings: All three readings are short (the first chapter of Wired for Sound is the longest at 10 pages).

  • A selection from Wired for Sound, a book by a deaf woman describing her early experiences with a cochlear implant. Read all of Chapter 1.
  • Still in Wired for Sound, read the section of Chapter 2 that starts on the last 2 lines of page 57 and continues to the first line of page 61.
  • A blog post by a young deaf programmer, http://davidpeter.me/stories/being-deaf

If you want more, you can read some responses to David Peter's blog post. Here are a few, by other deaf and hard-of-hearing folks:

And if you're curious about my specific type of low-pass filter, my audiogram from childhood (it is now slightly worse):

Respond with notes and comments, and come to discussion prepared to talk about your experiences and impressions.