Kulick: Why being ‘half-deaf’ hasn’t stopped me making music

Rising pop-rocker Kulick was born half-deaf, but in picking up the guitar and singing about his journey, he’s silenced the doubters and the bullies, in the process becoming an exciting new voice in the alternative scene…

Kulick: Why being ‘half-deaf’ hasn’t stopped me making music
Kulick, speaking to Jake Richardson

I refer to my hearing impairment as being ‘half-deaf’, because if you’re hearing the TV at volume 20, I’m only hearing it at 10. I was around four years old when I first got a hearing aid, and it was always a battle getting me to wear them; they were so big that it made me self-conscious, so for the most part I kept them in my pocket.

I experienced bullying when I was younger, but it was more of an indirect link to me being half-deaf than strictly because of it. By the time I started high school, I had new hearing aids that were a lot smaller, so people didn’t notice them, but the fact of having them in made me introverted, and that’s what people picked on me for. Part of the introspection came from the fact that I realised my hearing aids had Bluetooth, so I could go around listening to music through them without anyone realising – I specifically remember walking around school and sitting in classes while listening to A Day To Remember, and those experiences definitely informed who I am today. The other reason I became more closed-off from others was that when I would first meet people, they’d think I was being rude, when in reality I often just couldn’t hear them properly, so I wouldn’t respond how they were expecting. That’s when the introversion and the bullying really kicked in.

When I was feeling introverted, I’d write in my journal, and all my songs have ended up coming from my journal, where I turn what I’ve written into lyrics. It’s a very liberating feeling, and working in that way because of my hearing means I get to explore myself a little more than most people do.

Because it was more acceptable for me to zone out and not pay attention to things, it meant I was able to dive into music that much more when I was younger. People ask how I’m able to sing, play guitar and mix songs with my hearing impairment, but the thing is, the way things sound to me is all I’ve ever known, so I’m used to working that way. That said, I can definitely hear the difference when I put my hearing aids in. I guess you can hear the impact of the way I hear things in my music, because the songs I make are, for the most part, loud and in-your-face, and that’s because I love music you can really feel. I love screaming music because of that, and in general, I just want things loud – I much prefer a wall of sound than something really sparse.

In terms of writing about my hearing impairment, that’s not something I’ve ever explicitly done, because I’ve never wanted to use it as an excuse. However, I do think it’s important for young people to hear the story of someone doing something that seems like it shouldn’t make sense, which is what I like to think I’m doing with my music. I write a lot about mental health, and some of my experiences with that are related to my hearing, so there’s a link there as well.

For anyone out there who’s been born hard-of-hearing and is struggling with it, I’d really recommend pushing yourself to do things that avoid shutting everyone out and closing yourself down. Telling my story to Kerrang!, for example, is something I’ve had to push myself to do, because my anxiety was really telling me not to do it. Afterwards, though, I always feel better. So, do the opposite of what your fears are telling you to do, and you’ll be a better person for it. You’re capable of more than you think.

Kulick’s album Everyone I Know Will Die is out now

READ THIS: Of Mice & Men's Aaron Pauley: Why creativity is important for mental health

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