Tomohiko Sugino

Declaration of handicap acquisition

Record of my hearing starting from the end of 2023 starting from Movie work《Declaration of handicap acquisition》

《Declaration of handicap acquisition》Video translation

I’m deaf. Suffering from sensorineural hearing loss since the age of 3, I began playing the piano and violin at the age of 5. Currently, I’m active as a composer.

My hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the inner ear or deeper central nervous system. Hearing never returns. Furthermore, my hearing is such that I would not be issued with a disability certificate. In other words, according to the system,  I’m neither able-bodied nor disabled. My own situation, which straddles the spectrum between able-bodied people and people with disabilities, is suitable for raising questions about hearing by constantly confronting it.

I made several discoveries through my own research. One of them is that there are sounds that can’t be heard. I use hearing aids and can live my life as a normal healthy person without any difficulties. Therefore, I could’t inconceivable that there were sounds that could not be heard. When composing as a composer, the fact that there are sounds that can’t be heard is a fatal problem.

Once again, I use hearing aids all the time. Hearing aids collect sound with a microphone, amplify the collected sound with an amplifier, and finally transmit the sound to the eardrum with a receiver. The amount of information conveyed to ears varies depending on the performance of microphone, amplifier, and receiver. Typical hearing aids are compatible with frequencies from 100Hz to 10,000Hz (depending on the model) and are equipped with noise canceling and automatic volume adjustment functions. In other words, the sounds heard through hearing aids are not real sounds, but processed sounds.

Since I was 3 years old, hearing aids have been an essential part of my life, and I thought that it was because of them that I could continue to play music. However, starting from my research into hearing, I realized that almost all the sounds I have heard so far have been processed by hearing aids.In modern times, many people listen to “processed sounds” through web services. Even in popular music, it is considered a type of “processed sound” because it is played through microphones and speakers. However, in classical music, live sound has traditionally been emphasized. The biggest benefit for listeners is that they can go and listen to the live sound.Am I qualified to continue playing music because I have continued to do so only through “processed sounds'”?

So, when the hearing aids I was using broke, I decided to stop using them. Hearing aids are said to have a lifespan of about 5 years, and the one I’ve been using is in its fifth year. I would like to sublimate this experience into some works, such as how long I can hear with live sound, whether I can understand it, whether I need hearing aids, and whether I can continue playing music.

My goal through this activity is to share with as many people as possible about the uncertainties of hearing. I would be happy if the way we hear, listen to sound, and recognize sound changes as a result. The accumulation of these efforts may lead to alleviating the difficulty of life related to hearing for people with hearing-related concerns. This work reflects I determination to confront my hearing problems throughout my life.