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There Are Some Sounds I Hate, Like a Flushing Toilet and Motorcycles

An extended interview with deaf filmmaker Austin Chapman—who can now hear

For the full story on filmmaker Austin Chapman from our February print magazine, click here.

Austin Chapman’s favorite sound is still silence. He says he feels bad for hearing people because he can turn off his hearing aids—and often does—but people can’t turn off their ears. And he much prefers sign language to spoken English.

“I feel like I know four languages. First is the written word. I can read and type without thinking too much, it’s natural. ASL is also very natural to me. When I’m thinking, it’s a visual language. And the last one is speaking English, which is the hardest. I have to first think of the written word and then think of how to say it, whether I can pronounce it, and then I can say it.”

“There are some sounds I hate, like a flushing toilet and motorcycles. For the most part, people sound like what I expected but one of my friends has this really low voice, like a mountain man. He should be carrying around an axe. I’m getting better at recognizing sounds as well. Birds, cars—things that I hear often—are easy to identify. But if someone came around with a monkey I wouldn’t really be able to understand what it was if I couldn’t see it.

Another difficulty has been learning to separate sounds that overlap. For example, concerts are difficult for him to enjoy because of the crowd noise. Chapman’s favorite method of listening to music is to have it transmitted directly to his hearing aids which eliminates background noise. “The only problem is, I can’t really feel the bass that way, so sometimes I play the same song through my car speakers at the same time. So I am hearing it through my hearing aids but I can feel the bass through the speakers.”

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