I have heard countless complaints over the years resembling the statement, "My boyfriend is a terrible listener."
Women say this simply to describe how irritating it is when their boyfriends zone out as they are talking about their day or when they simply stare off into space as they try and ask whether they wanna order pizza or Chinese. They may use phrases such as "selective hearing" or compare the likeness of talking to their boyfriend to "talking to a wall."
I must say that I can relate to these women but in a much different way.
My boyfriend is deaf.
I have to say that my boyfriend's deafness has never once been a roadblock for me. If anything, it made me more interested in him. I had zero experience when it came to his deafness. I had many misconceptions of his hearing ability in the beginning. But, overall, it was something that just increased my interest in this kind-hearted, goofy guy. As I started to date this person that sometimes can't help but not listen to me, I realized that his deafness had zero effect on how much I cared for him and how well we worked together.
Unlike some other members of the deaf community, my boyfriend has two cochlear implants. Fun fact: cochlear implants are actually frowned upon throughout the deaf community a lot of times. They are said to remove the individuality that comes with the deaf community and its members. However, and I will admit I am biased, I do not agree and neither does my boyfriend. Cochlear implants assist him in living his life, but that does not mean that every deaf person needs or wants them to live theirs—which is OK. They benefit this person that is very important to me, and that is all that matters in my mind.
While all cases of deafness and implant-users are unique to the individual, my boyfriend had his first implant surgery when he was just 2-years-old. Then, his second when he was 10. I knew cochlear implants existed before I met him, but I had no idea how they worked, which was soon very apparent to myself and him.
So, basically in the simplest terms possible, there are two magnetic receivers implanted in his skull. Then, there is the outer part that holds a circular magnet, a transmitter, and a microphone that magnetizes through his skull and to his actual implant. This, somehow, gives him the ability to hear, and to be fully honest I do not understand how they work. I probably never will. All I know is that he can hear me, which I did not know would necessarily be the case when we first met...
When we first started going out with each other, I definitely had many misconceptions about my boyfriend's hearing, misconceptions that he will tease me about to this day. For example, I thought that I had to look directly at him whenever I spoke. My mistaken logic was that he would have to read my lips in order to understand me. False. Wrong. His implants allow him to hear exactly what I am saying the majority of the time, depending on if he actually is paying attention and how loud I am talking. He can, however, read lips though, which he has to do any time he is not wearing his implants, or like when I knock them out of his head on accident... Woops.
I also, at first, had this hilarious belief that he wouldn't be able to talk to me on the phone. I thought this even after I knew he could hear me in person with practically zero difficulties. It wasn't until he was over at my place visiting me, and I came out of my room to see that he was talking to his mom. On the phone. Because he can, perfectly well. To this day, I cannot explain why I thought he wouldn't be able to speak on the phone. It was my stupid, stupid mistake, and my boyfriend still finds my naivete when it came to his hearing oh so amusing.
All of this comes to show that I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I have confessed to my boyfriend that I was self-conscious at times, simply because I didn't understand. I was terrified to ask the wrong questions and upset him, but then I came to find out that he makes deaf jokes that make me cringe, not him. I was afraid of yanking one of his implants out of his head on accident. I have multiple times now, and it has never once been a big deal. I was self-conscious about hitting a nerve, about something that not only impairs his hearing but his life as a whole.
There was one night, at the beginning of our relationship, where we just sat asking each other questions as new couples commonly do. The question was, "What is your biggest insecurity?"
His answer was his hearing. My answer was my body.
I discovered that there are always times where he will feel insecure because he isn't able to hear like everyone else. However, I love the fact that he isn't like everyone else. I sincerely hope that he realizes that.
But no, I will never be able to truly understand what it is like to be deaf, to have this life-changing impairment, and that's OK.
What I do know is that by dating my boyfriend I have learned this—everybody is insecure about something. Some are insecure about something as superficial as their looks like I am. Then some are insecure about something that affects their entire life, such as my boyfriend with his hearing. It has occurred to me that if my boyfriend can overcome something as life-altering as his deafness then I can overcome body insecurity and many other obstacles in my life now, thanks to him.
I have never met a guy as willing to listen to me and my minuscule problems as my boyfriend. I have never experienced problems in my life as severe as his deafness, but he always makes my problems, thoughts, insecurities, etc. feel validated. He is understanding and considerate. He is reassuring and has a heart of gold, and I continue to be amazed by him each day that we spend together.
So, yes, my boyfriend is deaf, but he most definitely is not a terrible listener. Not at all.