Questions about Being Deaf (Part 2)

December 13, 2010

[ Here is Part 1 if you haven’t read it yet. ]

I was curious about your cochlear implants.  When did you get them?  How do you like them?  And anything else about them a hearing person might not get.  – E

It was 2006 when I decided I wanted to get a cochlear implant after talking to some of my closest friends who have cochlear implants. The biggest reason that convinced me to get it the summer of 2006 was the fact that the surgery would be covered by my parents’ insurance and if I waited until I graduated from college then it wouldn’t be covered. We found a doctor and immediately met with him in Arizona and after becoming a qualified candidate, we scheduled a date for the surgery which was July 12, 2006. Some deaf people are not qualified to have the surgery. It all depends on the hearing test, speech ability and if they would benefit from it.

Some deaf people choose to get two cochlear implants – but I chose to only get one and chose the worst side (left ear) because I wasn’t wearing my hearing aid in my left ear anymore. It is important when choosing which side because once the surgery is done, there is NO hearing left at all in that ear. I even tried putting my hearing aid in my left ear a few weeks after the surgery and I couldn’t hear a thing.

I could not hear immediately after the surgery because I didn’t have the device. The cochlear implant has two parts to it. The doctor surgically put one part of the device inside my head then in order to hear I have to wear a ear piece (sort of like a hearing aid) to hear.

A few weeks after surgery, I went back in to have my cochlear implant turned on. I still enjoy wearing it from time to time mostly when I want to listen to music. I am trying to use it more since it really benefits me when I’m at work.

I hear a lot better now in terms of sounds being more clear… like birds chirping outside, laundry machine when I am in another room…. but most people often think that this means I can understand people now which is not true. Understanding people comes with practice and it takes time.

Are there different sign languages you’ve come across (I’ve seen two-handed and one-handed signing), and what are the big differences? – Emily

Yes, there are so many different sign languages all over the world. I grew up learning Sign Exact English (SEE) which my parents believed was the best way to learn how to speak and write English. Manual signs are used in exact English word order with all the endings like “ing”. When I was in junior high school, I met other deaf people who used American Sign Language (ASL). ASL is known for having its own grammar syntax that differs from English. ASL is actually more animated than SEE.

There are some signs where it requires two hands and some others don’t. Sometimes we get lazy and sign with one hand usually when we fingerspell words out.

You mentioned your sister has the same hearing loss, but your parents are hearing.  Is the cause of hearing loss genetic? If so, what are the chances of you and Tyler having a child with the same hearing loss, presuming it works that way? – Robin

I wish our family had a formal research done to find out how this occurred and what the chances are for me and my sister in the future. As far as we know, I’m the first deaf person on both sides of my families. Also because my sister is deaf too, it is obvious that both of my parents have recessive genes (based deafness).

So Tyler and I don’t know if he has a recessive deaf gene as well and because of that, we don’t know if it’s likely that we’ll have deaf children or not. I think it would be a fun surprise as we really don’t care if our children are deaf or not.

Is it ever difficult for you to keep up with movies/TV? Like, do you ever find that by the time you’ve read the captions, it’s too late to watch the picture, too? – Suburban Sweetheart

Not at all, because I’m so used to it that I don’t find myself reading line to line. It’s more like reading the captions while watching the picture. I have never found myself missing anything on television. Sometimes the captioning will get in the way like if we’re watching the news and there are headlines on the bottom. Usually when that happens, we’ll pause the show to read the headlines without the captioning in the way. I don’t even acknowledge that I’m reading the captions if that makes sense.

I find it more annoying when TV shows or movies are not closed captioned.  Or even worse…when the captioning is scrambled up.

What is the one thing that you wish that hearing people would do to make your life easier? Talk slower? Enunciate more? – Hope

Talk slower but nnooottt……tttthhhiiiissss….sssllloooowww. Sometimes I find it helpful when people do the obvious gestures while talking to me. Normally I can understand people but it is harder for me to understand people if they’re not looking at me, cover their mouths, or have a mustache, or talk through their teeth. I’m not afraid to ask people to repeat or write down what they said. I appreciate it when people do make the effort to make sure I understand!

Were you ever ashamed of it, like your sister seems to be? If so, what got you to embrace it? – Stephany

I wasn’t ashamed of my deafness. Although I was embarrassed to be seen signing in public or have people realize I’m deaf and stare at me. My parents would sign to me in public and sometimes I’d catch someone staring at us so I would tell my parents to stop signing. I got so tired of it that I started to stare back at these people who were staring at me until they stopped staring at me. I realize that they might be fascinated by sign language or the fact that we’re deaf but still it’s not polite to stare or at least don’t make it obvious!

I grew up being immersed into both the deaf and hearing communities so I enjoyed having a balance with both. My sister on the other hand didn’t have the same experience as I did.

We moved to Arizona when she was really young so she pretty much grew up mainstreamed in a hearing school. I think she has had more frustrations as a deaf person and because of that maybe she wish she was hearing so life would be easier for her.

Have you ever had an encounter with a hearing person in which the hearing person became annoyed because of your deafness? – Megan

I used to work at The Gap in college for 2 months (seasonal job) and this was the perfect place for people getting annoyed with me.

One day while I was folding clothes and putting them out, I thought I heard something over the music that was playing in the store so I looked around me and there was a woman behind me. She looked frustrated and said, “Hello!?!?” with a mean tone in her voice. I was quick to apologize and explain to her that I was deaf and could not hear her and asked her nicely to repeat her question. She rolled her eyes and looked around and asked if there was someone else she could ask because she didn’t want to deal with me.

A common thing that happened a lot when I was in middle school was a lot of my friends or soccer buddies got annoyed with me when I’d ask them to repeat, repeat and repeat what they were saying because I just wasn’t understanding them. The annoying thing was that they didn’t realize how annoying it was for ME to not understand and have them get annoyed at something I can’t control. They never went out of their way to write down what they were saying and instead would just say, “nevermind… it wasn’t that important”. A lesson was learned from that situation and now if I need to, I will ask the person to clarify what they said by writing it down on paper.

I hope my answers didn’t confuse anyone. If you have more questions, please feel free to comment and let me know. I’ll be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.

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  • Reply Sarah December 13, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    hey – i’m interested to hear your take one this :)

  • Reply Hope December 13, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    Thanks for sharing, this was really informative!

  • Reply Emily Jane December 14, 2010 at 6:43 am

    Fascinating – I loved learning more about you, and thanks for such an informative opportunity to get to know you that little bit more :)

  • Reply emmysuh December 14, 2010 at 8:34 am

    This is really interesting, I love that you are so open and not ashamed about your deafness.

    I recently decided I really want to learn sign language! I don’t know why, I don’t really know any deaf people IRL but I think it’s pretty (Is that weird?!??! I’m a dancer, lol, it seems like dance talking!) and could be useful someday.

  • Reply Manderz December 14, 2010 at 8:57 am

    I’ve always wondered what I could do to help someone who’s deaf or hard-of-hearing to understand me better. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Kyla Roma December 14, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing miss! I was wondering if since you got your cochlear implant if you can voluntarily differentiate between sounds the same(ish) way as a hearing person can? I can kind of tune things in and out, even if they’re at the same volume but I’ve often wondered if that’s something you learn from hearing for a long time. :)

  • Reply Krysten December 14, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us. It’s so interesting to know more about you and the deaf community.

  • Reply Megan (Best of Fates) December 14, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    So interesting to read your perspective. I studied ASL in high school, and my teacher’s parents were deaf so he had strong feelings about cochlear implants and has us watch videos on it and write papers, but I’ve never come across a blog post about it!

  • Reply Chanel December 15, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    Great post! I enjoyed part 1 and 2. I don’t know much about SEE as when I took courses at the community college they only taught ASL. :) Great insight provided.

  • Reply Marissa April 8, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    So I realized I asked you like half of these questions in the last week- you should have been like, here’s my blog, go read it!

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