At first glance, you wouldn't think I'm a slight rebel. I'm actually quite a stringent rule follower. I give my wife a hard time whenever she goes over the speed limit. (Thank God she’s never kicked me to the kerb or left me on the freeway!) However, all my life, I’ve had to break down preconceptions of others, regarding my hearing loss. Trust me, I know what my limits are, but I decide them, not you.
I know folks mean well when they ask: "how can you possibly write songs, since you can't hear?" I try to explain that my hearing loss has got nothing to do with music; it's always been about the words. I'm profoundly deaf, was born hearing, and I’ve had a lifetime of people putting limits on me. Sometimes I fight back to prove them wrong, but mostly I do my own thing and walk away.
By the time I was in primary school, I needed hearing aids. And I wasn't the only one. 5 kids in the family, all born hearing; 4 of them deaf by the time they were 5. Parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins are all hearing. So our family was a bit of a freak of nature. Dad was a singer back in his day, Mum played the piano. We all had to learn how to lipread and a lot of people told my parents to ship us off to Deaf School where we'd learn sign language and be around our “own” people. Mum declared "Over my dead body" and mainstreamed us. And by fuck it was hard!
And it was the right call.
I smile when people’s brains explode a little when I explain how deaf I am, because I actually speak quite well, yet can't hear a bloody thing without my hearing aids. I'm THAT deaf. Like ten percent hearing left deaf, but I don’t sign. When I wear hearing aids, I probably hear only half the volume you do. That's why I don't jump or react at a loud noise. My hearing loss has reached a point where I only hear deep sounds in one ear and high sounds in the other. By wearing two hearing aids, it creates a balance and full tone for me.
Being deaf is physical disability as much as a social one. We each went through our individual battles of our hearing loss, self acceptance and finding our place in the world. It's been a lonely road and I'm fortunate to have a handful of friends who 'get' me.
When I was a teenager, I unwittingly lost a chunk of my hearing when I had to jump off a diving board for high school swimming class. This caused some pretty vicious tinnitus for 2-3 years (which hid the newer hearing loss). I retreated into myself, confused and devastated at something I would never get back, all from one incident.
I don't sign, I mean, I don't need to. In the audiology world, I'm considered a "high functioning deaf person'. #rollshereyes
I played the piano when I was a kid, (not very well, being lazy at practice), and taught myself the guitar (as a lefty) from around the age of 18. The piano is my favourite instrument to listen to and that's where the "Baldwin" comes from in my name. I love Baldwin pianos and I cannot logically explain why. Recently I purchased a digital piano and discovered the musicnotes website. Right now, my credit card is not impressed with me :)
As a teenager, I was so desperate to fit in, that I'd study lyrics from a monthly magazine called Smash Hits for hours. Remember, this is before the internet, where you’d wait weeks for the next magazine on the shelves. After my Saturday job in horticulture (to save up for cheffing school), I'd park my arse in front of the tv and watch videos on the VHS repeatedly (cough, that’s my age showing!!) to learn the lyrics, muttering to myself, in hopes that it would help me make friends in school.
But little did I know, that all that reading and memorising was the universe subconsciously training me to become a songwriter, which didn't kick in for another 20 years.
So if you ever wanna know about my hearing loss or understand it, just ask. I’m happy to share funny (true) stories about it, including the dark times and challenges that I still face. All I ask is that you don't call me an inspiration. I'm nobody special. I'm just me and I write songs. That's it. And I hope that you'll like them too.