3/09/2018 Katie E. Machen

The World Perceived With and Without Sound

“You are the only person on this planet who hears yourself the way you do.” So started actress Julianne Gold Brunson, an original Broadway cast member of “Children of a Lesser God” and an Emmy Award winner. She is also a clinical psychologist for the deaf and hard of hearing.

In a talk at Franklin & Marshall College titled “Listening to Your Bones,” Brunson, who is deaf, addressed an audience at the March 8 Common Hour, a community discussion held every Thursday classes are in session.

“There are two ways of hearing,” she said. The first is inside our heads. The second is through bone conduction that allows sound to reverberate, which is why our voices sound different on recording than inside our heads.

  • “When signing, you communicate in the form of a story, like a movie. It’s so visual,” said Brunson. “[As deaf people], we tend to think more holistically. I think, ‘How am I going to express a thought?’” “When signing, you communicate in the form of a story, like a movie. It’s so visual,” said Brunson. “[As deaf people], we tend to think more holistically. I think, ‘How am I going to express a thought?’” Image Credit: Deb Grove

“Hearing people have a hard time knowing about perspective,” Brunson said. “Sound is overwhelming and all-consuming.”

She gave the example of camping and enjoying a campfire. “The fire, like sound, draws your attention — it’s like a gravitational pull,” she said.

In this way, many fear losing their hearing. But Brunson explained that without sound, there are other ways to experience life, as well as other ways to navigate the world without sound.

“When you have no campfire, you can see things that have always been there, like the moon reflecting on the river. You just didn’t notice them before.”

Brunson was born deaf and learned to speak through speech therapy. She also learned to sign and lip-read.

“There is this fallacy that if you learn to sign, you won’t learn to speak — it’s ridiculous,” she said. “You can have every tool in the bag and pull it out when you need it.”

Among those who lose their hearing, there is a high rate of depression, Brunson said. To combat feelings of helplessness or disconnectedness, audiologists should focus on not only hearing aids but all kinds of technology that assist in comprehension, like caption glasses at the movie theater, assisted listening devices, and closed captioning while watching television.

“When signing, you communicate in the form of a story, like a movie. It’s so visual,” she said. “[As deaf people], we tend to think more holistically. I think, ‘How am I going to express a thought?’”

“The amount of information you [as hearing people] know just from eavesdropping is extraordinary,” she said. 

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