I was born with inner-ear deformities, so I have dealt with hearing loss my entire life.
In school, I struggled to hear the teacher. As a result, I was viewed as intellectually challenged. I was also punished for failing to follow directions that I never heard or that I misunderstood.
I couldn’t explain to the adults in my life what was happening. I didn’t understand it myself. I didn’t know the other children were hearing things that I missed.
For me, I think the saddest part of growing up with a hearing disability, is believing I was stupid and that I would never succeed in school or in life.
The documentary Sound and Fury discusses the pros and cons of cochlear implants in young children and infants.
Most hearing people believe children born deaf should receive cochlear implants as soon as possible and then raised as hearing children. That allows them to function in a hearing world.
It’s not so clear in the Deaf community, because they have their own language and unique culture. Cochlear implants are keeping children born deaf from learning that language, the history of the Deaf community, and the cultural beliefs that go along with it.
I understand both sides of the debate and I feel torn by the issue. I was born with inner-ear deformities that required numerous surgeries throughout my childhood and most of my adult life. I now have a moderate hearing loss and function well with hearing aids.
As an adult, I studied American Sign Language, Deaf history, and Deaf culture. I was fascinated by how the Deaf community interacts with each other and the importance they place on their language and culture.
Since I grew up in the hearing world, I will never truly be a part of the Deaf community. I wish I had a chance to be a part of that community. I long for the closeness and understanding felt among the members.
However, I am also glad to be a part of the hearing community. I know I will have more opportunities in this world, as a hearing person.
I hope the hearing community doesn’t allow cochlear implants to destroy Deaf culture. Maybe we can still teach children that are born deaf about their unique culture, even if they receive the cochlear implant as infants.
I was in CVS and a women tapped me on my shoulder. She pointed to my hearing aids and asked if I was deaf (using sign language and her voice). I responded back (speaking and signing), “No. I am not deaf; I am hard of hearing.”
The lady told me about her granddaughter. The child was born with a hearing impairment and the women was afraid of how it would affect the child’s life. She asked me about my hearing problems. If I was able to go to college and if I was able to work.
I told her I was born with an inner ear deformity that caused me to lose my hearing at a very young age. I had a series of operations to help fix the deformity and to prevent anymore loss of hearing.
I told her I did go to college, I have a Master’s degree, and a good job. Basically, I did well even though I am hearing impaired.
I gave her information on local resources that could help by teaching the family sign language, provide assistive hearing devices, finding professional speech therapist, and anything else they may need.
The women thanked me and was in tears when she left the store. I believe she felt hopeful for her grandchild.
I believe that little girl is achieving her full potential today.