Social Question

dpworkin's avatar

Deaf or Blind?

Asked by dpworkin (27005points) August 21st, 2009

@lefteh asked a question about losing a sense about an hour ago. I’d like to hear a discussion about a more difficult choice. If you had to give up hearing or seeing, which would you choose, why, and how do you think you would feel? I’ll tell you what I think after I hear some opinions.

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31 Answers

filmfann's avatar

My wife is deaf, and she functions quite well in the hearing world. Closed captioning, text messaging and lip reading combined for her success.
I have been temporarily blind, and wouldn’t want to repeat that.
For that matter, I have been temporarily deaf (the three days following an Eric Burdon concert, where I stood 4 feet from a speaker), and got thru it. (great concert, btw)

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar


I’m colour blind as it is, and I’m a musician, you can see where I’m going with this….

no pun intended

sdeutsch's avatar

I just answered over in the other question, but I’d definitely have to give up my hearing. I’d desperately miss being able to listen to music, but not as much as I’d miss seeing the world around me…

augustlan's avatar

I would give up hearing over sight. I learned the ASL alphabet at a very young age because doctors thought I might end up deaf (I did not). My hometown has a very large deaf population due to the Maryland School for the Deaf being located there so I have lots of experience communicating with the deaf. Loud noises (or just lots of different noises) really bother me. I love to absorb new things through my eyes… reading and the written word are a huge part of my life. I know there is braille, but a big part of the experience for me is seeing the words.

augustlan's avatar

@pdworkin Am I remembering correctly that your girlfriend/wife is blind?

Blondesjon's avatar

What? Who said that?

sdeutsch's avatar

@augustlan I learned the ASL alphabet when I was really young too (they actually taught it to us in first grade, I’m not sure why…) I’ve always wanted to learn more, but there’s not a huge deaf population here, so I was never sure what I’d do with it – I’ve just always been fascinated by ASL.

I agree with what you said about your sight – so much of the experience of reading is actually seeing the words, reading braille just wouldn’t be the same…

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

Deaf. I went to schools that had programs for the deaf and learned they are able to feel and also hear a lot, they danced and listened to music. I could give up the sounds of voices and nature to still feel it and see it.

dpworkin's avatar

@augustlan She’s blind. That’s why I wanted to see some different opinions before I answered.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

Music is a huge part of my life and I would become terribly depressed if I could never listen to it again, but of the two… I think I would rather be deaf. Why?

I guess, mostly, because I don’t know what I would do or how I would feel if I could never see the people I loved again. Even not taking into consideration those I do love, I would severely miss seeing people hug or kiss, watching a child’s face light up as they laugh, scenery that stretches as far as the eye can see, the stars, etc.

drdoombot's avatar

In studies, scientists have found that visual stimuli almost always beat out the other senses. We remember things we’ve seen better than things we’ve heard, it grabs our attention more, etc.

And in the end, if I have to decide between holding a book and listening to an audiobook, or looking at a painting or listening to music, or watching a movie with subtitles or just listening to the dialogue, sight wins everytime. I’ll miss music very much, but I’m more into visual than aural art.

Sarcasm's avatar

I’d rather be deaf.
Human life relies much more heavily on visuals than it does on noise.

And I wouldn’t have to hear “Congratulations! You’ve been selected to win two free iPod Nanos!”.

Grisaille's avatar

The world is more so tailored for deaf people than for blind people, in my opinion. Granted, there are clicks from the street lamps when they change color, there are announcements on the subway when the train is coming into the station, but these things can be seen before they are heard. You cannot hear something before it makes a sound. Conversely, you can see an object in the distance before it is near.

Those are petty examples, but my point is this: we have not mastered audio clues and handicap software for blind people. In the unlikely scenario that I would have to choose between sight and sound, I would choose sight, as it would not affect my ability to read – and, therefore, my ability to access the internet.

It sounds ridiculous, assuming the web to be important. But when you consider it, the internet is a vast series of tubes informational reservoir that is always at our fingertips. If I am blind, how am I to read text on a screen? We, unfortunately, have not yet created a “braille monitor.”

Losing my hearing would rob me of the beauty of music (I, too, play instruments), spoken word, and the sound of the environment around me. Losing my sight would mean the loss of mass inter-connectivity, opinion, literature, on-the-fly-news and, most of all, Fluther.

Can’t happen. I can always sharpen my brain if I have the ability to read. I choose access to opposing ideologies over music.

I’m falling asleep here, I hope that made some sense.

dpworkin's avatar

I have been terrified all my life of losing my sight. It seemed to me that it would be horribly isolating, like being in a dungeon. No more colors, flowers, faces, paintings (my whole life has been based in the art world.)

I still find the idea unpleasant, but after being with Vicky for 7 years it’s no longer terrifying. I see her every day, being part of the world, and treating her blindness as an inconvenience. She has long ago mourned the loss of her vision; I am not yet done grieving (such as when I wish I could show her pictures of my parents, or of myself as an infant, or a drawing that one of my kids made) but she is cheerful about it.

So I guess I would choose to be blind, knowing what can be accomplished, but I hope I never ever have to choose.

Grisaille's avatar

I can just imagine the heartache. The little things, like momentarily forgetting when you want to show her something.

Breaks my heart. I feel for you, @pdworkin.

cyn's avatar

Blind. I could see with my ears.

dpworkin's avatar

@Grisaille it is a mourning process, as with every loss. Eventually you get over it. I’m nearly over it (although I got a twinge the night of the Perseid Meteor Showers.)

AstroChuck's avatar

I pick Blind by the Talking Heads. Although I also like Mos Def.

Grisaille's avatar

the dude’s a great actor, too

@pdworkin Yeah. That’s exactly what I’m talking about.

And it’s amazing that she is in such high spirits. You two must love each other to death. It’s bittersweet; in my mind’s eye I can very vividly picture the meteor shower scenario.

Much lurve to you, good sir.

dpworkin's avatar

I am just a very lucky man. She has changed my life so much for the better. I hope I die first, because I wouldn’t want to live without her.

Grisaille's avatar

Ooh, now there’s a dilemma.


evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

Hearing. A guy I knew years ago had a big loud booming stereo in his car, and he was stone cold deaf. He rocked to the vibrations, but he could still see to drive.

I could survive without my hearing, but without my sight? I would be quite heartbroken to never see another sunset, or to see a plant poking up through the snow in the spring, or to see my wife’s smile, or my dog’s antics, or any of the other million things sighted people take for granted everyday.

I’ve already lost part of my sense of smell, and with it, part of my sense of taste. I’d like to keep what I have left, thankyouverymuch!!

Darwin's avatar

My father is losing his vision currently. While he loves to listen to music (and really enjoys the jukebox on the unlikely-named site “”), reading, writing and accessing the internet are his life. He spends much of his time caring for my mother and so cannot get out and about for intellectual stimulation, and he is very worried about losing his sight.

He did lose his hearing for several years, so he has already experienced deafness. He mourned the loss of music and was delighted when his doctor was finally able to diagnose the fungal infection that had prevented him from hearing. Thus he has experienced deafness and is currently slipping into blindness. Of the two, he hates losing his sight the most.

Personally, while I would also mourn the loss of music, I would hate losing my ability to read easily and to navigate the world with my eyes. Thus, I’m with my Dad. I would prefer to become deaf rather than become blind.

OTOH, my childrens’ guidance counselor is blind, with some very limited vision, and he seems to have adapted well. His major regret is no longer being able to drive. The school and the public library both have machines that will “read” printed matter with a computer-generated voice, and he uses voice-activated software, so he can still do his job quite well. Because he has some slight vision he does not seem to be blind except when he uses his cane to find his way around.

hearkat's avatar

I’d prefer to go blind. This often surprises people since I know some sign language and the treatments and technologies to deal with hearing loss. However, I am also very aware of how crucial our hearing is.

Most people consider vision our most vital sense, but consider this… our ears begin functioning in the first trimester in utero! We are hearing before we are born, and we are hearing 24/7 – even when asleep, our ears are our link to the world… alerting us to potential danger. Our ears are the ‘eyes in the backs of our heads’, feeding our brain a 360• auditory impression of our surroundings.

In addition to safety, hearing is crucial to communcation. Learning sign language or even fingerspelling only help if the person you want to communicate with also knows those modalities!

I see many people who allow their hearing to get progressively worse get embarrassed, and their friends/family get frustrated because they don’t her well. They will avoid the activities they enjoy, and slowly withdraw from social outings. They also become dependent on others to accompany them to Doctors or other vital appointments and decisions, to ensure that they really understand everything.

And as much as a person might claim to be a homebody, we still are social creatures, and isolating onself often leads to depression, which does correlate with memory and cognition problems. It’s sad to see :((

hearkat's avatar

I’m falling asleep as I type… I forgot to mention that I LOVE music, and can’t imagine living without it!!

kyanblue's avatar

Deaf. As a compulsive reader & writer, being blind would cripple me. Reading has been my one true love ever since the heady days of first-grade youth…

But this is a difficult choice, because white noise calms me and I’m constantly looking up lyrics to my new favouritesongoftheweek. When I hear exceptionally good music it’s like my brain is prickling awake.

Bluefreedom's avatar

I would never, ever want to lose my eyesight. That would be very frightening and probably frustrating too. As much as I like to listen to music and hear sounds, I could do without hearing more than I could do without seeing.

jamielynn2328's avatar

I would rather be deaf. I think that it is a bit easier for people who have no hearing to function in society. I would miss music, but I have a friend that is deaf and he can feel the music in his body. I could not imagine not watching my children grow up…

fathippo's avatar

If i was deaf, then there’d be no music, and man i dont know what would keep me alive, or at least from lying in a dark room feeling almightily crap until i die… and when you hear music, you can see in a different way like what it creates in your mind that world…
But if I was blind, I wouldnt be able to draw/ do art stuff in the way i do now, or see it at all. That would be bad too because i think i’d break after a while not being able to express yourself in that way kinda thing… or put out of your head what music is putting into it or whatever i mean.
So i guess i really cant decide both sound awful…

Aethelwine's avatar

If I had to choose I would give up hearing. I love to take pictures, watch snow fall, look up at the night sky, stare at a bonfire, watch a beautiful sunset, take a hike during the fall with all the beautiful colors and look at the smiles of my family. It would be very hard for me to live without these things.

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