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Chasing Clouds

By Jennifer Reed, staff writer

In eighth grade Cynthia Johns developed a hearing loss from an accident that knocked her unconscious. Although she would regain a portion of her hearing, she would eventually rely on hearing aids and lip reading in order to better follow what was going on around her.

After so many years as a hearing person, Johns found the transition into the world of hearing loss devastating. Her family, never having been associated with anyone with hearing difficulties, took no steps other than fitting her with hearing aids, assuming these “fixed” her. To further complicate her emotional turmoil, social situations became difficult. Because she missed words, she “was constantly lost in conversations so [she] faked it … a lot.” Between faking her understanding, needing to stand so close to another person during lip reading, and wearing bulky hearing aids that pegged her as different, she endured many misunderstandings and humiliating situations. The once outgoing social teenager became angry and depressed. She “felt trapped inside” and desired “to be the fun loving and outgoing ‘hearing’ person [she] once was.”

Today, Johns, who considers herself a “hearing-challenged person,” has come to a place of partial acceptance, but still struggles “with some aspects of [her] outgoing nature stunted by the loss." Although Johns is legally deaf, with properly functioning hearing aids and in an ideal “sound environment,” her hearing becomes close to normal. Of course, seldom are the circumstances adequate enough to generate the ideal sound environment. This frustration is what sparked the video. It is “about that gray area so many [of] us hearing-challenged people live in.” With the help of aids we can hear, but it is a struggle. The video also depicts the trials tinnitus creates; something Johns is all too familiar with.

Being a photographer and painter, Johns is not new to using art as an outlet to uncover the trials of hearing loss. She has now turned to video as she sees it as a powerful way to “use both audio and moving images to express a deeper understanding” of the complications brought on by hearing loss. “Chasing Clouds forces the viewer to actually experience the physical aspects of hearing loss with the use of sound. Such participation by simply viewing the video demands a ‘walk in my shoes’ moment. The video is geared toward the hearing audience.”

Johns encourages comments to express how her video has shed light on the struggles of hearing-challenged people.

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