Sound and Silence: a Deaf perspective

Hearing people tend to view Deaf people as silent and their language as silent. Silence typically is associated with sound. Traditionally, sounds used to be "owned" by hearing people who made a definition of sounds (e.g. noises, burps, etc.). This post deconstructs and redefines the concept of sound and silence.

deaf sleeping through noises
Source: Internet.

But, Deaf people aren't silent. They do make sound noises as well as visual noises. They do sense sound/vibrational noises and visual noises. Hearing and Deaf people perceive noises in different ways.

Scenario 1: Three Deaf family members and one hearing in-law sat at a table in a Boston Pizza restaurant, waiting for their food to take out. The hearing in-law's phone vibrated on the table. The Deaf mother and her Deaf daughter immediately noticed the vibration but the inlaw didn't respond (not heard sound nor felt vibration) for seconds. Then the daughter informed the in-law by pointing to the phone. It was an urgent, expected call. [2019]

Scenario 2: A hearing partner sometimes left the house by closing hard the main door on the main floor, thinking that his Deaf partner didn't hear on the second floor. But, upstairs on the bed, the sleeping Deaf partner sensed or "heard" the vibration, knowing her partner left for work. [2011]

Scenario 3: The hearing partner closed the toilet lid by simply flipping it instead of gently closing it in the bathroom, which alerted his sleeping Deaf partner and baby next room. The Deaf partner asked her hearing partner please to be quiet next time. Her hearing partner didn't really believe and did it again. [2010]

A few Deaf artists explore the domain of sound and silence to redefine them. In one of some examples, a deaf artist Christine Sun Kim created sound arts to reclaim a concept and meaning of sound.

Video above by Christine Sun Kim, A Selby Film

And, enjoy the translation of the Zen parable "Sounds of Silence" (2001).

Translation: Four monks agreed to meditate silently without speaking for two weeks. On the first night, those four meditated in silence and the candle began to flicker and then went out. The first monk said, "Oh, no! The candle is out." The second monk said, "Aren't we allowed to talk?" The third monk said, "Why must you two break the silence?" The fourth monk laughed and said, "Ha! I'm the only one who didn't speak."

Hearing people in general view sound as non-visual, non-tactile -- something that is required by ear. On the other hand, Deaf people see sound as a vibrational form that ear is not required. Both hearing and deaf sense sound/vibration in their own mulitsensory ways.

Related posts

You may be interested in perceptions of Deaf people, The Sound of Silence: a video art.