In running this section, I’ve had a pretty complicated relationship with articles that discuss personal experience. It’s all very well using personal challenges as evidence in an argument, but the best pieces here, in my opinion, always fuse vivid personal experiences with interesting research. It’s this recipe that makes Comment such a valuable section in this paper. That said, if you’re like me, and generally find pieces purely based on personal experience sanctimonious or frustrating... just give me three more minutes.
My unique challenge in running the section stems from the fact that I’ve got hearing loss and wear hearing aids. That in itself is pretty unique: just 50 000 children and young people in the UK have a hearing impairment. It’s even rarer at Russell Group universities: hearing impaired students attend these institutions at around half the rate regular students do. I hide my hearing aids pretty well, but university is still intimidating if you struggle to hear your mates.
Deafness can be hard to accommodate. The James College team, on hearing I was deaf, retrofitted my room with a serious red light, a loud alarm clock, and a hefty vibrating pad under my pillow to wake me up in a fire alarm. The decor more resembled an earthquake shelter than a first-year room by the time they were done, but it’s a measure of how far universities go to suit the requirements of their students.
Accommodation becomes a bit harder in social situations. Hard-of-hearing kids generally lose the ability to distinguish well between language and white noise, and that means that loud pubs (or Nouse editorial meetings) are extremely difficult to talk in. I also need to lip-read a lot of conversations, so having your mates shout louder in a dark bar doesn’t always help. Deaf students are presented with a choice: go out and try your best to hear, or stay home and watch Net-flix (subtitles on, of course.) I can’t blame not going out on my deaf-ness completely, but it’s certainly a factor, and it’s not always easy to explain to people.
I’m loud too. When you lose your hearing, you lose a certain awareness of how much you’re yelling. That gets worse when I’m drunk, and also when I’m trying to talk about something off-topic in seminars. The problem is essentially that deaf or hard-of-hearing kids that hide their disability, like I do, generally lack the confidence to explain why they don’t understand something, or why they’re being particularly obnoxious on a night out. Isn’t the point of having tiny hearing aids to hide them?
It’s not all bad, of course. I took the room closest to the front door in my student house, because I can’t hear people when they come in. The sound of my housemates going at it doesn’t bother me, and you can crank Avicii as loud as you want in my flat. That said, if my experience explaining my disability has taught me anything, it’s that often outlining our personal circumstances to others at university isn’t always easy. Everyone comes to York with baggage from their life that they’d rather not discuss, and that’s fine.
Being deaf has made me more understanding of personal circumstances, and that’s fed into my work as a writer and an editor. This section is a fusion of personal circumstance informing political and social views, and no one else could have written the pieces you’re reading today. I’m proud that Nouse gives these pieces a platform, and I hope that it gives people with interesting stories the confidence to share more. Not Avicii, though. Keep that to yourself