Friday Speak Out!: The Gift of Writing: Breaking the Silence and Finding My Voice

Friday, December 22, 2023
By Claudia Marseille

I am a painter by profession; writing came to me as a gift late in life. In my late 60s, many of my friends are dealing with the impact of mild, age-related hearing loss and complaining about obtaining hearing aids. Repeatedly they tell me, “Now I know what it was like for you growing up with hearing aids.” And, as sympathetic as I am to anyone dealing with hearing loss, I say to myself, “Oh no you don’t, you really have no idea!” These comments are largely made by people with mild hearing loss and have made me reflect deeply on the impact that living with a severe to profound hearing loss has had on my life. Their experience is completely different from mine.

At age four, in the 1950’s, I finally received my first primitive, clunky analog hearing aid, nothing like the sophisticated digital aids of today. I had to learn to hear, lip read and speak along with ten years of speech therapy. I faced painful social isolation and loneliness as it was difficult to participate in group situations, both socially and at work. I couldn’t understand what was said in movies, on TV, in restaurants, parties, and until recently, I had great difficulty using the phone. Additionally, I had a complicated relationship with my German refugee parents, a disturbed psychoanalyst father, and Jewish mother, survivor of the Holocaust. They were too pre-occupied with troubles of their own to fully advocate for me and so I had to navigate my way largely on my own through the substantial challenges of being mainstreamed in public schools.

My friends’ comments motivated me to write journal entries of my early childhood of experiencing no sound, and then of learning to hear and navigate within the hearing world. Initially a poet friend mentored me, and so my first vignettes were poems. As more memories surfaced, my excerpts became longer and more poignant. I became more serious about writing and went on to complete several writing classes. By now I was flooded with material and I switched to prose. Although it was not my initial intention to write a book, my memoir, “But You Look So Normal: Lost and Found in a Hearing World,” turned into one, and to my delight, it was picked up by the publisher, She Writes Press. It will be released May 14, 2024.

The process of writing has been an unexpected blessing. For so many years in my childhood, as speaking came late and words were elusive, I lacked the means to articulate my feelings and my struggles of overcoming loneliness and isolation. Writing and coming out with the full truth of my experiences, many of which I suppressed deep within me, has helped me find my voice. It has truly been a transformative process of breaking my silence and expressing my authentic self. Through the written word I have found solace and peace.

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photo by Anita Scharf
After earning master’s degrees in archaeology and in public policy, and finally an MFA, Claudia Marseille developed a career in photography and painting, a profession compatible with a hearing loss. She ran a fine art portrait photography studio for fifteen years before becoming a full-time painter; her paintings are now represented by the Seager Gray gallery in Mill Valley, California. She and her husband live in Oakland, California, and have one grown daughter. Learn more about her writing at
 Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!


Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Congratulations on writing and finding a publisher for your memoir. What a story! One of my son's friends had profound hearing loss at a very young age. I witnessed his struggles as an observer and will keep your book on my radar.

Claudia Marseille said...

Thanks so much Sue -- that means so much to me, especially as I am just coming out with all this. You can, if you wish, pre-order the book now on Amazon, or other places that books are sold, like Barnes& Noble. Here is the Amazon link to the book:

thanks - claudia

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Thank you, Claudia!

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