Replay – Hello I am Deaf

Writing my blog, I have tried to have a focus.  Insanity of Motherhood is mainly about my journey as a mother.  It expresses the humor and frustrations of being a mom to three boys.

When I started my blog, I realized I had more to talk about then just being a mom.  Instead of staying only on the motherhood path, I decided to focus my blog on other important things in my life.  I also use my blog to talk about my midlife something and  education.

Educating others is challenging.  I prefer to think I enlighten people, about things they may not know about.  Writing in a way so people will listen, not react, is difficult at times.  I have learned how to make a point, but hopefully not insult everyone alone the way.

One of my most popular education blogs was about hearing loss.  I am hard-of-hearing.  I wear two hearing aids.  I also have a speech impairment.  Being hard-of-hearing is a part of my life, but not all of my life.  I do not know everything to know about hearing loss, sign language and hearing aids.  But people constantly ask me questions about the topic.  I wrote a blog to give people information.  It was well received.

Hello I am Deaf

Yesterday, I stopped by my local clothing store to look for a few things.  I went inside and found my items.  I went up to the cashier to pay, but I noticed something different.  Next to the cashier, was a small sign.

Hello. I am Deaf.

I glanced up at the young lady who began to ring up my order.  She motioned to me if I wanted the chocolate candy in my shopping bag or in my purse.  She spoke no words.  I told her with words and hand gestures to place the item in the bag.  I paid for the items and she did the sign language for thank you.

I walked out of the store with a big smile on my face.  It is the first time I have ever been serviced in any store by a deaf person.  This is particularly meaningful to me because I am hard-of-hearing.  I wear two hearing aids, one in each ear, to aid me with a moderate-to-severe hearing loss.

Seeing the small sign and watching the girl at work made me very happy.  It was good to know the store realized that not being able to hear, did not mean someone was incapable of working.

My hearing loss is a mystery.  Doctors think it may have been due to an undiagnosed high fever, that lead to inter ear damage.  My loss was first diagnosed at age two, but was not a severe as it is today.  Time and age have worsened my loss.

I also have a speech impairment, due to losing my hearing at about the time I was learning to speak.  Most people do not realize my speech is a result of a hearing loss.  People often ask where my accent is from.

As I walked away from the store, I realized how little people really know about the deaf and hard-of-hearing.  Today, with help from Wikipedia, I would like to share with you some of the myths of being deaf.  The more you know, the better you will be able to understand someone who is hard-of-hearing.

There are many myths regarding people with hearing losses including, but not limited to:

Everyone who is deaf or hard of hearing uses sign language

    • There are a variety of sign systems used by hearing-impaired individuals.
    • Individuals who experience hearing loss later in life usually do not know sign language.
    • People who are educated in the method of oralism or mainstream do not always know sign language.

I do not know sign language.  I was educated in the method of oralism.  I function well in the hearing community.  I would like to learn sign language and hope to do so in the next year or so.

People who cannot hear are not allowed to drive.

  • Deaf people may use special devices to alert them to sirens or other noises, or panoramic mirrors to enable improved visibility.
  • Many countries allow deaf people to drive, although at least 26 countries do not allow deaf citizens to hold a driver’s license.

All forms of hearing loss can be solved by hearing aids or Cochlear Implants

  • While many hearing-impaired individuals do use hearing aids, others may not benefit from the use of a hearing aid.
  • For some hearing-impaired individuals who experience distortion of incoming sounds, a Cochlear Implant may actually worsen the distortion.

People ask me all the time if I am going to get a Cochlear Implant.  The implant is recommended for only very profound loss.  It is a risky surgery and is not for everyone.  I now function well with my hearing aids. 

A lack of hearing correlates to a lack of intelligence.

  • A person’s intelligence level is unrelated to whether or not the person can hear.

All deaf/hard of hearing people are experts in Deaf Culture.

  • Deaf people may have a variety of different beliefs, experiences, and methods of communication.
  • This may be influenced by the age at which hearing was lost and the individual’s personal background.

I am not associated with the deaf Culture, but would like to be.  It is indeed a culture and many deaf people want to preserve it.

All deaf people want to be hearing.

  • While some individuals with hearing loss want to become hearing, this is not the case for everyone. Some take pride in their deafness or view themselves as a minority rather than a disability group.

People who can’t hear can’t use a phone.

  • Teletypewriters, Video phones and cell phone text messages are used by deaf people to communicate.

Everyone who cannot hear can lip read.

  • Only about 30% of spoken English is visible on the lips.
  • Lip reading requires not only good lighting, but also a good understanding of the spoken language in question and may also depend on contextual knowledge about what is being said.

Friends always think I can lip read at a greater ability than I really can.  Lip reading is very hard.  I do use visual clues to understand what people say, but I also rely heavily on my existing hearing.

Most deaf people have deaf parents.

  • Less than 5% of deaf children in the United States have a deaf parent.

A while ago, I came across an article in my local newspaper about graduating college students.  The article, Is College Worth It?  Local Grads Say Yes, by Pat Flynn, was published in the San Diego Tribune.  Below is an inspiring story of one of the students who is deaf.  His story is remarkable.

Isidore Niyongabo • SDSU

We found Isidore Niyongabo personal story of challenge and triumph so compelling, we asked him to tell us in his own words. His educational journey is no less remarkable; he is deaf yet knows how to speak and sign in several languages. Following graduation, the 29-yer-old plans to attend graduate school and study clinical psychology. He was chosen as SDSU’s 2010 Homecoming King.

“I was born and raised in Gasorwe, in the northeastern part of Burundi. I grew up in a loving and caring family, farmers but not poor. Although my parents did not attend high school, they led a lifestyle of educated people. During my childhood, I had maternal rubella and then kwashiorkor; both illnesses attacking me from age one through five. I started elementary school at the same time with my younger brother at age 7. Through that time, I would attend school half day and take care of our family goats and sheep in the afternoon, which I enjoyed the most.

My life was almost perfect until age 10 when I lost my hearing to spinal meningitis. This illness left me deaf but not dead, and changed my life forever. When I lost my hearing, I had no idea that I was going to become who I am today and be where I am. Everything happens for a reason. My family struggled to find a way for me to continue my education. When they found a school for the deaf in Gitega, central province of Burundi, my father took me there on his bicycle, riding together for 13 hours on a hot summer day.

This journey once again is unforgettable. While I was struggling to transition from hearing to deafness, the October 21, 1993, Burundi Genocide added tragedy by taking away my father’s life, leaving my mother and siblings in a displaced camp for years. Thanks to the generosity of many people, I was able to continue my education, attended mainstream high school as the only deaf student, and I eventually moved to the U.S. in 2005. I earned an Associate of Art Degree from Ohlone College in 2008 and was able to transfer to San Diego State University.

Being able to succeed at this level with my deafness makes me living proof that obstacles are not an excuse to not succeed, and “disability” is not “inability.” The world needs to shift their mentality in regard to people with disabilities and look at what we are capable of doing.

If I could compare deaf people and hearing people on a scale of 1 to 10, deaf people cannot do only one thing: hear; but, alas, we have sign language; if the hearing world would be willing to learn sign language as a second or third language, there wouldn’t be any disability in between.

Last but not least, it means a dream realized. I have not failed all the people who supported me emotionally, materially and financially. I will be able to get my family out from the misery that human hatred has left them.”

By the way, hard-of-hearing is the prefered term in the deaf culture for someone who does not hear well.  Being hard-of-hearing is part of my life, but it is not my whole life.  Like all people who have personal challenges, I have made adjustments.  Some things are easier than others.

The most important thing I can say about being someone who is hard-of-hearing, is to treat me like everyone else.  Sure, you may need to look at me directly to make sure I can understand, but yelling is not necessary nor is speaking slow.  I am like you…only I live with a whole less noise.