Student Reflection – Sounds of Silence (5.1)

By Carol Ashley

It had been my plan from the beginning of the class to use new media as a mode of expression for my disability/theme of being Hard of Hearing (HH). Since the class was brand-new, we were given leeway with the projects concerning themes, so long as we used the medium we were working with and related it to the class in some way.

While the class was in the first workshop experimenting with Audacity, I had the idea of using the medium of sound to express the frustration that a day in the life of a HH person. My original idea was to do a sound piece involving silence and linking it to being hard of hearing by showing how much I don’t hear. I originally planned to use Audacity to muddle the voices of the people I recorded to give the listeners a sense of how it is for me. What ended up happening was that I vented my frustration through sound, specifically how overwhelming it can be. I started with the idea of recording different versions of “silence”. I thought to call it “The Sounds of Silence” while using the meaning literally. As a sense of irony, I planned to use the song, but realized it was not on my iTunes. To remedy that, I recorded myself singing the song. I did use this song in the end of my final project as a tribute to my original idea.

I decided to use the sounds of the cafeteria to show a little bit of how frustrating crowded and noisy places are for conversation. What I didn’t plan on was the frustration taking over the piece. I began with amplifying the sounds of the cafeteria to show how overwhelming it is. To give further understanding of my situation (or at least a common one) I recorded myself reading aloud a quote from the book Between a Rock and a Hard Place that pinpointed exactly each of the steps many deaf and hard of hearing people go through when it comes to social activities.

The sound after the quote is my hearing aid squealing. I wasn’t planning on using it, but it ended up being a central sound because it is one I hear every day whenever I take them out or put them in (although they are not extended like the piece). After this sound I brought in my roommate, Heather Meadows, and asked to read the common words one hears when getting their hearing tested. I find these words quite annoying considering I have to repeat them every 6-12 months when I get mine retested. I used repetition with this sound because I wanted to portray the monotony of the experience as well as the frustration with the end of the quote from the beginning.

The final sound I used was another quote, this time from the book Orientation to Deafness by Nancy Scheetz; this quote lists the grades of hearing loss with the emphasis each level has on spoken language. I used this quote because I think it’s important for hearing parents to know how the hearing loss will impact language, which is more important that what exactly their child can or cannot hear. I tried to end it on a thought-provoking note to try and make up for the personal venting of a dinner table situation that has happened to me before.

As a whole, the piece was created to give others a glimpse into not only my life, but into those of others who are HH and to educate them on how frustrating such a life often is.