Deaf Musician - David Jonsson

I was chatting with several people in a deaf chat room and came across David Jonsson, a deaf musician.  Like me, he also recently came to understand that he is deaf, not hard of hearing.  His descriptions of how he hears sound are so familiar:

"Hello, My name is David Jonsson. You can find me at Thank you Cindy for asking me to guest blog.

I play acoustic guitar because I can feel the vibrations of it against my body. This helps me to sing with it harmoniously. I have tried electric guitar, but I doesn't do justice for my personal experience of enjoying the music. I need to feel the music. I have an electrical pickup in the sound hole of the acoustic to amplify it when I am performing in public. The problem with electric guitars is that I can only hear it as it comes out of the amplifier/speaker, and I need to feel it directly from the source (guitar itself). I cannot feel the secondary amplified sound waves in the same way. It does not work for me.

Because I am a skilled at speaking and I can hear somewhat when lipreading someone speaking directly at/to me, I have been accused of being merely Hard of Hearing.  So, I have been experimenting with identifying as Deaf. Because in fact, some frequency ranges I clearly do not hear, as testified by the abuse I have gotten over the years as people expect me to act hearing, and I fail, hard as I try, to no avail. I was mainstreamed. I was never allowed to be deaf. I didn't know how to Be Deaf. But I AM DEAF!

So this relates to my identity, which I was forced to embrace as a result of my upbringing and enculturation. My parents did not accept my deafness, nor did they understand it, I feel. They were brainwashed by the audist establishment. My brother however, did the hearing loss simulator and seemed to understand my predicament. In fact, it was he who got me to embrace my Deafhood by reminding me of who I am a couple years ago. I have become more whole as a result. I am concerned about the future generations of Deaf being victim to genocide and epistemic violence as perpetrated by CI's and stem cells. We need to know who we are. We need to know how to communicate and not be denied access to sign language. We need to be allowed Deaf peers and Deaf mentors. AGBell is the enemy and so is Dr. Karl White. Anyway, my parents are still audist, until they prove themselves otherwise. I still love them. And for what it's worth. I used to be audist, too. I didn't know otherwise.

I am adjusting to my new identity very well. I started learning ASL. I joined a local Deaf Club and the NAD (National Association of the Deaf). I finally have some Deaf friends. I am very comfortable with them, even though I don't understand ASL totally yet. I have hope because I CAN learn it. But I CANNOT learn to listen. I have discovered a condition known as Noise Sensitivity Recruitment related to Deafness. Briefly, it means words rhyme to me (can't discriminate consonants - I mostly only hear vowels). Also, due to missing hair cells on cochlea, when noise comes into my ears at the frequencies I can't hear, my ear recruits neighboring hair cells to convey the sound waves to my brain. The problem is that the sound is perceived from 2 to 8 times louder because more hair cells are vibrating. So essentially, speech is quiet and sounds mumbled, while machines humming, like fans and motors, are too loud.

Now, relating to hearing mostly only vowels, and back to my musicianship, you can imagine this would influence my songwriting. Indeed it has, and does, and will. There is an interesting term called Semantic Satiation which means that when you repeat words over and over, they lose their meaning. When I listen to music with someone singing words with it, I feel the words for how they sound. Words to me have no meaning in terms of content, but rather only as a musical melody. So I use words likewise. I repeat a short line of words over and over. Essentially, my songs are pretty much just choruses with no verses. I don't really like the pretentiousness of heavily lyricized songs. To me, it demonstrates audism in that the function of language is in the meaning of the words instead of the melodiousness of the vocalizations. To me, some words sound better because of how the vowel resonates with a certain note.

Musicians who insist on the value of songwriting being in the meaning of the lyrics presupppose some degree of insightfulness or intelligence. I'm seen as more cerebral and gutteral, perhaps. Acoustic punk is my style. I play very rhythmically, strumming hard. I also play slow love-style songs, but the common theme in my music is more about the feeling of the sound than the meaning of the words."

Check out David's music here:


Jeffrey Swartz said...

He's my brother from another mother. I love his blog and music.

Kym Bozarth said...

I really like his blog...he is really inspirational.

Karen Putz said...

Kudos to you for your honesty on this journey!