Hearing Impairment

Murray, Les

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack
  • Date of entry: Dec-27-2001


Hearing loss? Yes, loss is what we hear / who are starting to go deaf. This humorous poem surveys the specific deficits and behaviors that people develop as they progressively lose their hearing. Eventually they reach the point of needing hearing aids and being "wired / back into a slightly thinned world / with a faint plastic undertone to it."

An especially disabling (and potentially humorous) aspect of hearing loss is the inability to decipher speech. The poem provides several examples of garbled interpretation. In the first stanza, "the sad surrealism of the deaf" becomes "dad's a real prism of the Left, " thereby giving a verbal and visual example of the meaning of the phrase. Another illustration: "Hearing Impairment" ends with the line "I'm sorry, sir. It's a red alert!" An urgent statement that earlier in the stanza the hearing-impaired narrator has understood to mean, "a warrior is a ready flirt." [50 lines]


This is an accurate and delightfully humorous account of hearing impairment from the patient's perspective. With regard to the examples of garbled language, the poet puts the correct phrase or sentence entirely in uppercase letters to indicate that the interlocutor is speaking very loudly, while the patient's surreal versions are in lowercase and simply blend into the rest of the text.

Les Murray is Australia's most popular living poet. Australia is the kind of country in which it is possible to have a "popular" poet. His poetry is accessible, eclectic, well crafted, robust, and affirmative;and in some ways he radiates the persona of a modern day Australian Walt Whitman. In the late 1990's when the federal government of Australia proposed adding a preamble to their constitution, the prime minister engaged Les Murray to help write the preamble.

Primary Source

Learning Human: Selected Poems


Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Place Published

New York