Being deaf and dealing with concentration fatigue

I went to a great conference today. It was riveting and I was hooked on pretty much every word. And then I got home and collapsed on the sofa. I’m not just tired, I’m shattered. I’ve had to turn my ears off to rest in silence and my eyes are burning. I’ve also had about 3 cups of tea just to write this paragraph.

Boo-hoo, so the Noon is tired, so what? True. People go through worse. But I do also think the fact that the impact of deafness doesn’t just manifest itself in communication is ever really that well understood. It’s about the energy involved in lipreading and being attentive all the day long. Processing and constructing meaning out of half-heard words and sentences. Making guesses and figuring out context. And then thinking of something intelligent to say in response to an invariably random question. It’s like doing jigsaws, Suduku and Scrabble all at the same time.

For deaf children and young people, especially, I don’t think this impact is as widely recognised as it should be. Advice to teachers on working with deaf children tends to talk far more about language and communication, rather than concentration fatigue.

And some deaf children and young people I meet haven’t been given the space to talk about what impact deafness has on them and to work out strategies to deal with it; like taking regular breaks and being honest to grown ups that they’re tired, without fear they’ll be labelled as lazy. When I was younger, I was a little embarrassed to be so tired all the time. I would force myself to go out and be busy and out there when really all I wanted to do was crawl under the sofa and nap for a hundred years. Nobody ever really told me that this was ‘OK’.

It follows though to when deaf young people grew up and become deaf professionals. It was a long while before I started to openly admit to colleagues that long or successive meetings are the enemy of me and that I would need extended breaks to be able to function later. And to get friends to realise that if I wasn’t saying very much in the pub, it’s probably cos I was too tired to think.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that deaf people can do anything and everything. We can change the world. But we might need a nap and a cuppa tea every once in a while, so don’t judge us.

10 thoughts on “Being deaf and dealing with concentration fatigue

  1. Hi Ian

    I’m just sitting here doing the evening NDCS Helpline session and your post below came through and it really strikes a chord today! We often get calls from parents whose child comes home every night tired and frustrated, often in tears – because it takes all their energy to concentrate on what’s going on. Often when the mum talks to the school about how the child is struggling, they just say “oh no, child is doing fine”.

    Anyway, I just thought I’d share. Enjoy your well earned rest.

  2. Hi Ian, love your blog. My 12 year old daughter Millie is severe/profoundly deaf and like you needs time out at the end of a busy day or after a restaurant visit with friends or family etc. It’s exhausting for her. Not that it’s stopping her from doing anything at all. She’s swimming the channel to raise funds for her school in August! Nice article in The Telegraph online today explaining it all.…to-raise-money-for-science-labs.html Best wishes Clare

    • Hi Ian,

      I’m a retired primary head teacher ( due to hearing loss) who has a profoundly deaf daughter (from age16).

      I have been loosing my hearing for the past 10 years but it is only now that it is really going that I truly understand how hard she had to fight to get by in school, university and now as a journalist! I wish I had had a better insight then. You blog so reminded me of her feelings. She would fall asleep in afternoon lessons, feel to exhausted to socialise and chatter with uni friends, doze off on boy friends in busy pubs and fall asleep at after her own dinner parties as her friends chatted round her!

      Thanks for a great blog!

  3. Hello there, I am a parent of two hearing imparied kids in South Carolina, USA. I really appreciate this post. Good and important reminder to me as a mom! thanks.

  4. Ian… loved your post… and it is something I explain to Mums and Dads on most of my visits out as a family Officer explaining why the child is so tired… and from my own experience wanting to crawl under a sofa and sleep for 100 years.. I feel like this everyday!!! 🙂

  5. loved ur post -im profoundly deaf too im the same at work I need a 20 min break after a meeting its exhausting lol x

  6. Thank you for this great article. I have been severely hard of hearing since 4 years old when the preschool told my parents to check my hearing. I was deaf up until then.The comparison of doing 3 games at once was profound. I found it uniquely explained what I experience daily. Back in the 1950’s you did not tell anyone you had a disability. All was hidden. My parents did not have any money for hearing aides. I got my first set at 50!! In 2000- The toilet sounded like a waterfall. I never knew people could actually hear the birds singing-WOW. I thought the toaster oven buzzer was the fire alarm. It surely is a different world for those of us with hearing loss. Thank you again-right on point!

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