Don't say: "What?" Say: "Pardon?"

I was ten years old when I discovered I was deaf in one ear.


You would think it would be easy to discover deafness; perhaps playing Chinese Whispers with siblings and realizing I was rubbish at it. I suppose I was too young for a guy to whisper sweet nothings and not appreciate his compliments. Instead, it was a routine hearing test at school that picked up it.


There we were, told to queue up outside a room, neatly attired in our grey uniforms. Once inside the room, I was asked to sit down at the desk and put on a pair of large, red tin-can headphones. I was also asked to pick up the drumstick that sat on the table.

I guess I must’ve looked pretty cool. Drumstick in hand, headphones on, youngest female drummer about to start gigging!

I sat, and waited. The woman across the desk peered at me over her half-moon spectacles. “Can’t you hear anything?”

I shook my head. “No, nothing.”

She looked at her colleague, a concerned expression written all over her face. I saw her twiddling the buttons on the equipment. “What about now?”

“No, nothing,” I shrugged again. I could tell I was going to flunk this test completely.

She gave me a small, folded piece of paper and asked me to hand it to my teacher.

Being the curious little child that I was, I sneakily opened the paper and read it on my way back to the classroom.

“Rose McClelland is completely deaf in her right ear.”

One tiny little piece of paper, containing such a small amount of words, that would change the trajectory of my life immensely.

I wonder how many sweet nothings I’ve missed out on. There’s nothing worse than, in the midst of a romantic gesture, to have to blurt out, “Sorry, wrong ear, what was that?”

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