The purpose for today’s blog is to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about deaf people. These five questions came from the most searched terms related to the keyword “deaf” according to SEMrush. Please note that I am answering based on my own personal experience as a lowercase deaf individual who has profound hearing loss but has never been a part of the Deaf community.
1. Can Deaf People Drive?
Yes, and I just ran over the last person that asked me that question.
But seriously, why wouldn’t a deaf person be able to drive? If you’re deaf-blind then okay I can definitely see why you wouldn’t be able to drive (no pun intended), but this question specifically calls out deaf people, not deaf-blind people. While being able to hear things like sirens would certainly be beneficial for driving, it’s not actually a requirement so long as you can see.
Did you know most deaf people actually have really strong perceptive vision? My boyfriend is always amazed by my ability to spot a car coming from miles away because I can always see the lights out of the corner of my eye. Since deaf people can’t hear, they rely on the eye sight to make up for it. What this means in terms of driving is that deaf people will always be alert and aware of their surroundings and they will be able to see the flashing sirens, even if they can’t hear them. Some may even argue that BECAUSE deaf people can’t hear they will actually be more careful and cautious drivers. That of course is up for debate. I’ll let you know the verdict on that one once I receive my license. 😉
2. What language do deaf people think in?
Seriously? This question is so dumb it makes my brain hurt.
Deaf people think in the same language(s) they speak in. This goes for all deaf people including those who are deaf with a lowercase d, those who are culturally Deaf and use sign language, and those who are non-verbal. Just because you’re deaf does not mean you lose your ability to think or that the way in which you think is any different from that of a hearing person.
Also, those who are non-verbal may still be able to understand spoken and written language and will still very much have a native language (or maybe even more than one). I think that one thing that most people get wrong about deaf people that are non-verbal is that they assume that because they are non-verbal they must be dumb. In actuality, most deaf people that are non-verbal choose not to speak with their voice because they can’t hear themselves speak and it’s a self-conscious thing or not something they feel comfortable with. Some of them may not have had speech therapy, so they may be aware of the fact that their pronunciations may seem strange to someone who is hearing which may make them feel uncomfortable. Others may have limited hearing and not like the sounds of their own voice. Whatever the case may be the important takeaway here is that even non-verbal deaf individuals can be highly intelligent and most often are.
Similarly, some people may be under the wrong impression that culturally Deaf individuals that are fluent in sign language must not be able to think in that language since sign language is a non-verbal language. This assumption is also false. I could be wrong, but I have a hard time imagining deaf people thinking in terms of signs. Rather, I think they think like you and me do in their own native languages.
It’s important to note here that sign language is not a universal language; there’s actually many variations of it. American Sign Language most closely resembles the French written language, but there’s also British Sign Language, South African Sign Language, Afghan Sign Language, and hundreds others even including Jamaican Sign Language! While not a verbal language, they still hold many of the same structures as verbal and written languages do including having verb tenses, parts of speech, subject-verb agreements, etc. When deaf people think I believe that they are thinking in terms of these sentence structures even if they aren’t actually hearing spoken language.
3. Can deaf people talk?
This kind of goes back to what I was saying in my last answer. Generally speaking, the answer is yes nearly all deaf people are CAPABLE of talking. However, some Deaf people may choose not to talk with their voices.
It’s important to note that many Deaf people, and even myself as a lowercase/non-culturally deaf individual hold the belief that you don’t need to use your voice or to speak to communicate. “Talk” means to say something verbally, but “communicate” means to simply share or exchange information, news or, ideas. There are many ways in which a person can communicate. Many Deaf people prefer to use sign language to communicate, but even that isn’t their only option. For me personally I prefer to communicate via social media, E-mail, text messages, and hand-written notes.
4. How do deaf people think?
With our brains, duh.
This bothers me though since so many people think that deaf is synonymous for dumb or learning disabled. Yes, some deaf people have other disabilities including learning disabilities or lower IQs, but as with all things in life, this doesn’t mean ALL deaf people have learning disabilities or low IQs.
In fact, there are many deaf people who are highly intelligent. Some of the smartest deaf people include:
- Laurent Clerc – The first deaf teacher in America who founded the very first school for the deaf in North America. He was extremely influential in showing that not all deaf people are “deaf and dumb”
- Thomas Gallaudet – a teacher whom Gallaudet University is named after; he co-founded it with Laurent Clerc
- Heather Whitestone McCallum – The first, and quite possibly to this day only, deaf Miss America. She is an influential advocate for deaf rights and she also served on the United States’ National Council on Disability in the past.
- Juliette Low – The founder of Girl Scouts in America
- Rush Limbaugh – An American talk show host and Republican political commentator
- Alexander Graham Bell – Inventor of the telephone
- Vinton Cerf – the “Father of the Internet”
- Thomas Edison – A famous inventor
- Helen Keller – The first deaf-blind woman to earn a bachelor’s degree. One of the most famous women in US history.
Deaf people think in the same way that non-deaf people do. I know it may sound strange, but like I said earlier, you use your brain to think…not your ears.
5. How do deaf people date?
Girl meets boy.
Boy meets girl.
Girl likes boy.
Boy likes girl.
Girl asks boy out.
Boy asks girl out.
Girl and boy live happily ever after.
Boy and girl live happily ever after.
But no, seriously. Dating is dating is dating is dating. It really doesn’t matter if you’re deaf or hearing, it’s all the same.
With that being said, some deaf people only date other deaf people. This may be due to them having a lot in common with their hearing loss and being able to relate well to one another. Those who are capital D Deaf may choose to only date others who are either capital d Deaf or even lowercase d deaf because it fits in with their culture. These individuals use sign language as a primary language and likely attend a Deaf school and exist in Deaf world. They may have limited access to mainstream society, so this is probably what they are most comfortable with.
In my own personal experience I’ve only ever dated people who are hearing. It’s not that I am against dating another deaf or even Deaf person, it’s just that I never really met one that I was romantically interested in and now I have found my forever person who happens to be hearing. This is likely because I’ve always been mainstreamed and lived in the hearing world. I do not know any sign language and I am not a part of the Deaf with a capital D culture. Dating a hearing person comes naturally to me and is what I am comfortable with.
Just as non-hearing people have their preferences and likes and dislikes and turn ons/turn offs and deal breakers and makers, so do deaf people.
But when it comes down to actual dating, it’s pretty much the same. Deaf people still like to go out to eat, watch movies, go bowling, go golfing, go shopping, etc.
Some deaf people may prefer to go to places that are quieter so it’s easier for them to hear. Well-lite places may also be helpful so that they can see and read lips or see signs more clearly if they use sign language as a primary means of communication. But for the most part, deaf people are just looking to have a good time the same way hearing people are.
I hope my answers to the five most commonly asked questions on being deaf helped to shed light on what it’s really like to live without hearing. The most important thing I hope you take from today’s blog post is that the deaf can do anything the hearing can do except hear. We all want to be treated the same as a hearing person would be treated because we *are* the same. Our ears don’t work but we still have the same needs, desires, passions, interests, and lifestyles for the most part.
Reasons I need to come up with a new nickname for Larry: “Knight in Shining Armor” is too long to use for bowling….
My boyfriend, Larry swears we’ve been bowling since I got my cochlear. But I know, for a fact, that he is wrong (“I know for a fact” is my catchphrase by the way :)). I double checked this blog — nope. No mention of going bowling with a cochlear implant. I also know, for a fact, that that is something I would’ve blogged about before if it happened.
Actually, come to think of it, if you consider what we did during our Disney vacation at that cool McDonalds to be “bowling”, then Larry would be right..but nope, that doesn’t count (sorry, Larry).
Sorry, Larry…this was a lot of fun, but it doesn’t count as “real” bowling…
Anyway, back to the point. My boyfriend and I went bowling together on August 9th. Larry comes from a family of bowlers. He is a huge bowling nerd and I love to make fun of him for it. He’s one of those guys with his own shoes (which are actually broken…), bowling balls (yes, that is plural…one of those he managed to break as well. Larry…what’s wrong with you? Breaking all of your equipment…), the whole 9 yards. Yet, despite him coming from a family of bowlers, we don’t really go bowling all that much. I blame it on the fact that bowling’s gotten a bit expensive over the years and also Larry’s a truck driver — he’s home about twice a month, max, which doesn’t leave a lot of room for us to see each other, let alone bowl together.
My boyfriend is my best friend. Not only is he my best friend, he’s pretty much my only friend right now. Or at least, my only “real” friend that I make an effort to see in real life instead of just talking to on Facebook or Twitter (I know that sounds kind of sad, but it is what it is). When he’s not home it’s not like I go out with other friends and do things like bowling.
When you’re the best of friends having so much fun together…
So, prior to us going bowling on August 9th, the last time we went bowling was before my surgery. Actually, to be precise, it was November 15, 2014…two days prior to receiving my implant.
Bowling with Larry is always fun. Like I said, he is a bowling nerd. I get a kick out of just watching him bowl. He’s got the whole “old school grandpa” form and everything. I like to tease him and tell him it looks like he’s dancing when he’s bowling because it really does.
Unlike Larry, I am not blessed with impressive bowling skills. Actually, just the opposite. If I bowl a 60 then I’ve had a great time. 35 is about my average. The sad part? I actually took a college course on bowling…
The few times we went bowling before Larry always tried to help me out, but it was difficult. First, as we already established, I really suck at bowling. Second, bowling alleys are VERY LOUD. Naturally. You have the balls, the pins, the music, people talking, the workers on the loud speakers, everything. Prior to getting my cochlear, everything just sounded like loud noise. I couldn’t distinguish any of it.
Larry and I really couldn’t have a conversation at the bowling alley prior to me getting my implant because I couldn’t hear him at all. If he wanted to tell me something he had to text me even though I was right there with him (and yes, that did get very annoying). When he tried to help me out with my bowling he had to rely a lot on hand singles and using his body to show me where to stand, how to hold and throw the ball. Yes, he’d have to do this even if I could have heard, but not quite to this extent. I never learned sign language, but this was like Larry and I creating our own form of it as we went along.
I think it’s safe to say that bowling with my cochlear implant was much more fun that bowling without it.
None of these problems with noise were prevalent at all, and we went on one of the loudest possible nights to go bowling…not only was it a Saturday night, but it was actually National Bowling Day. Just like any normal bowling alley would do, the one we went to (Brunswick in Turnersville) had quite a bit of a celebration for it. To be more specific, they actually decided to throw a bowling party that night.
National Bowling Day goodies that we won from cheating because of course…
When we went in to buy our games and get our shoes I had a nice conversation with one of the workers. He was an old guy and I’ve seen him there many times before. I always thought he was a very nice guy. I was amazed at how well I could hear him despite all of the background noise. I don’t think I have ever actually really been able to hear the people at the bowling alley like that before. I pretty much always just told Larry my shoe size and any other information I needed ahead of time so he could answer for me. This time I could hear the guy well, but he couldn’t hear me. It was pretty weird being on the flip side of it. The guy told me that he lost some of his hearing and couldn’t hear very well since he had a stroke. I explained to him that I was born hearing impaired and have lived all my life without hearing so I understood what it was like. Conversations like that are always nice to have with people.
After I got my shoes and Larry got his on and his bowl out we were able to get started with our night of bowling. One of the first things I noticed was that I could hear the music. I always knew that bowling alleys played music of course, but it’s been many many years since I’ve actually been able to hear that music and understand it, let along sing along with it. The last couple of times that Larry and I have went bowling today I remember feeling a bit jealous because he could hear the music and understand it and I couldn’t. He didn’t try to make me jealous, of course, but I couldn’t help but feel that way. He was sad for me. He would point out which song was playing or say how he liked it and would ask me if I could hear it but the answer was always “no”. It felt so nice to be able to hear this night and enjoy it. It was the first small victory of the night.
He’s smiling like that because I was tickling him…and then he started to tickle me…so we ruined this picture too.
When we got our shoes the people at the counter gave us a sheet of paper with some questions on it for National Bowling Day. They were having a contest that people could enter to win some prizes. The contest was really just a little quiz with some questions about bowling like “How long are bowling lanes?” and some questions about basic bowling terminology. Larry knew the answer to most of them, and of course we cheated and googled the ones we didn’t know. It was a lot of fun working through it together. As we discussed the questions and our answers together I paused for a moment and said, “Wow, I can hear you. I don’t think we’ve been bowling since I got my cochlear”. Larry said we have, but I knew we haven’t (and I was right so HA!). It was a nice feeling!
It took us way too long to get this normal picture…and I almost kind of ruined it by laughing.
Larry was able to “help” me with my bowling quite a bit too. And I say “help” because I am beyond the ability of being helped when it comes to bowling lol. He definitely tried though and it was a lot easier since I could hear him. I didn’t have to constantly say “what?” or say “I can’t hear you”.
We were at the bowling alley for several hours so we ordered a pizza to split for dinner. That was another interesting experience for me. Not only was I able to hear the worker taking our order, but I could hear her far better than she could hear him. I’ll be honest and admit that I actually was getting frustrated with her for not being able to hear me. I hate when I get frustrated at people for not being able to hear me especially since I know all too well how mad I used to get for not hearing people and then having them get mad at me for it. It was definitely an interesting feeling to be on the opposite side of that though…I never thought I’d see that day come.
I don’t think that bowling is something many people think of as needing to hear for, but you’d be surprised by how much more enjoyable it is when you can hear. Not only that, but it’s more enjoyable when you can hear the sounds for what they are and distinguish between them all rather than just hearing a bunch of loud noise. It’s yet another activity I can add to the list of things that have been more enjoyable since getting my implant.
Happy Cochlear Implant Day! On this day 58 years ago French doctors performed the very first cochlear implant surgery. Since then, the procedure has been performed on thousands of other children and adults, giving them the beautiful gift of hearing. I am lucky and blessed enough to say that since November 17, 2014, I am one of these people.
As of today I have been activated for 2 months and 8 days if my math is corrected (I was activated on December 17, 2014). This is the best decision I have ever made in my entire life. I have been making fast progress and hearing many sounds for the first time in my life. I’m so thankful and appreciative for this new technology and for those French doctors who took the step of performing the very first procedure back in 1957.
It’s been awhile since I last updated. I have been continuing to make great progress. I actually met with my surgeon, Dr. Willcox today for a checkup. He was very happy with how everything’s been healing and the progress I have made so far. He seemed especially impressed by how well I’ve been doing with the phone. He said with his patients being able to use the phone is pretty hit or miss with about 50% of them being able to use them successfully. He also kept saying my mom’s a great mom and I couldn’t agree more.
Every week my mom works with me to help me to train my new bionic ear. She’ll look up words on the internet or make up her own for me to repeat. When I got bored of them she discovered a computer program I could use called Angel Sound. Angel Sound was actually created by Advanced Bionics, the makers of my cochlear implant, to help patients like me to train their implanted ear. There are many different programs including male and female voice recognition, common household sounds, animal sounds, music, consonants, and more to go through. There are also different levels to go through with each level becoming increasingly harder. So far I’ve been having the most trouble with the music (many instruments especially flutes and pianos and sometimes horns sound the same to me) and consonants (I tend to hear the ending of a word but can’t always distinguish between the beginning). But the more I go through the programs the better I get.
My boyfriend has also been working with me a lot even though he’s still off on the road completing his truck driver training. We’ve been talking on the phone whenever possible. This past weekend actually his trainer had off, but since he lives in VA and Larry lives in NJ, Larry couldn’t go home. He had to just stay at a hotel in VA. During this time we spent hoursssss on the phone. I was catching everything he said and loving it. Gaining the ability to hear on the phone has been a true blessing to me especially now that he’s away. I never noticed until now how much more personal and intimate it is. I feel like he’s right there with me most of the time. He also sings me to sleep whenever we talk on the phone. I really love it when he sings to me. We are both huge music fans and he is always subconsciously singing when we’re together. After I got my implant, he jumped at the opportunity to sing to me at the end of our dates before he said goodnight to me. It is probably my favorite thing he does for me and now I beg him to sing to me whenever possible on the phone. Sometimes he helps me in other ways, too like by playing rhyming games with me. I thought it was silly at first when he asked me to give words that rhymed with his words, but when he explained he was working with me and trying to help me so I could get better at distinguishing between the similar but different sounds, I understood.
One of the biggest accomplishes I had with my cochlear was this past weekend. My dad’s birthday is coming up and there is one specific, unique item he really wants. I called the store this past weekend to see if they had it. This was the first time in my entire life I ever called a store to inquire about a product. It was a noisy store but I was able to hear every single word. It was so exciting. I texted my mom who was at work at the time and told her the news. She said she had goosebumps she was so excited. It’s so amazing what kinds of doors my cochlear has opened for me.
I will continue to work through my programs and train my ear to hear the different sounds. My next big goal is that I’d like to be able to hear on the phone without having to use my headphones. I think I am almost there. I answered the phone for a few seconds when Larry’s called to tell him “Hold on, gotta get my headphones” and was able to hear him say things like “Hello” and “Okay”. The next time we talk on the phone I will try it without them and see how they do. It can’t hurt to try, right?
When I saw my surgeon today we talked a bit about the possibility of me implanting my other ear. I’m definitely a candidate for it. My dad is hesitant about me doing it because he fears that if the external equipment fails I’d be screwed with no hearing aid to fall back on. However, my mom and I are pretty for it, especially me. My cochlear can’t compare to my hearing aid. It’s completely different and better. If I have my cochlear on without my hearing aid I can get by just fine. However, if I have my hearing aid but no cochlear, I feel screwed. Dr. Willcox recommended I implant the other ear. He said it was my choice but it would definitely be highly beneficial. It would be a lot easier the second time around, too since I’ll know what to expect and I’ll have 1 implanted ear to fall back on (having no hearing in 1 ear and relying just on my hearing aid for a month after I was implanted with the first one was completely brutal). I’d just have to see if insurance would cover it. I hear from a lot of people that it only covers for the first one, but my mom thinks they might since there’s well documented evidence proving my need for one. But we’ll see. If I do go forward with a second implant it probably won’t be for at least a year. I’d definitely want my first one to be well adjusted and trained first.
Overall I’m extremely happy with my cochlear implant and the progress I’ve made this far in the game. The only regret I have is not getting it done sooner. It’s been truly amazing and I feel so blessed that God has given me such a beautiful gift.
Hey guys. It’s been a really long time since I last updated. I apologize for that. I’ve just been crazy busy lately especially with my new job as an Assistant Project Manager at WebiMax. I’ve now been activated for a month and 10 days and I’m doing amazingly well.
I’ve been talking on the phone on an almost daily basis. With my new role as an Assistant Project Manager, this is pretty important. Getting this promotion really could not have possibly come at a better time. I’ve done at least 4 client calls with my Project Manager’s so far. Most of them have been through a conference speaker phone and I’ve been able to hear very well. I’ve been able to even offer consulting and have actual conversations with my clients — something that wasn’t possible just a few short weeks ago. Today pretty much everyone in the office was working from home due to the Jersey snow, but my Social Media project manager Mat and I were still scheduled to have a weekly phone call with one of our clients. We were still able to set up a conference call via WebEx. I had to use my cellphone rather than the conference phone and I couldn’t look at Mat or anyone else to rely on for translation of anything. I did really well on my own though. The client said they didn’t notice I was on the call for last week’s call actually. They thought this was their first time speaking to me and they loved my ideas and I feel like I made a stronger connection with the client and like my comments/ideas are going to help this campaign move forward and make a difference for the client. It felt so good because I know this is something I never could have done in the past. When the call was over our customer service rep whom was also on the call instant messaged me to tell me I did a really great job. That really meant a lot to me.
I’ve been calling my boyfriend a few times a week as well. He’s actually far from home now as he participates in training for his new job as a truck driver for Werner Enterprises. He’s going to be gone for a long time so these phone call suddenly got more frequent and more important to me. I didn’t think I was going to like talking on the phone when I first got my implant. I thought it would be too weird for me — a really big change from the texting/instant messaging I’ve been used to for the past few years. But I’m loving it. Actually, I’m not sure how I went so long without being able to do this. I feel like it just opened a whole new window with my relationship with Larry and it allows us to get even closer with each other. Phone calls are so much more personal than text messages. When I call him and can actually hear his voice it’s like he’s right there with me. Which, considering how we normally only see each other about once a week (He lives about an hour away from me) and he’s now in training far from home for about the next month or so, this is pretty important and a huge deal for us. Larry’s really excited about this too. He’s been so amazing supportive throughout the whole process with my cochlear implant and I love seeing him get so excited about things like this with me.
On the 17th I went to my first concert with my cochlear. Larry and I went to see Danny Gokey perform at Higher Places Ministries Church in Vineland. For those of you who don’t know Danny Gokey was a past finalist on American Idol and he’s currently a successful Christian musician. The concert was really great. I could hear him so well. Live music sounded so much clearer than it has in years for me. One of my favorite parts was when Danny introduced the different members of his band and had everyone play a bit of a solo on their instruments. It was cool to get to hear the drums, piano guitar, bass, and guitar all separately and distinguish the difference between the sounds. For years I always thought a bass guitar and an electric guitar were one in the same. Now I can really hear distinct difference (I prefer the bass by the way). And I can hear the different parts of the drum for the first time too. The drum head, cymbals, and foot pedals all have such different sounds. My favorite is by far the cymbal. I never noticed how much I love that sound. It’s honestly one of my all time favorite instruments.
This is my favorite Danny Gokey song. It’s called “She’s Better Than Gold” and it sounded amazing live with my cochlear!
Last Wednesday I had my second mapping and my first appointment with my audiologist since getting activated. She tested me and I did phenomenally well! I’m actually just barely below normal range with my implanted ear! I was also surprised to learn that I actually retained my residual hearing in my implanted ear. It’s gotten worst, naturally, but it’s not all gone which made me feel a little bit better. I’m pretty sure I never had a hearing test anywhere near as good as that. She didn’t test my speech recognition because she thought one month post-activation was too soon, but I can tell that’s improved as well. She also changed the settings a little bit but not much. I have four programs now — 1 is normal, 2 and 3 are for crowded environments, and 4 is for music. While only a slight change I noticed a big difference. Everything is a lot louder and clearer and music sounds fantastic on setting 4. Thinking of music, Louisa was surprised by how well I could hear and understand it. Most cochlear implant recipients don’t do well with hearing music. She said they are actually doing a study on that. I told her I’d love to participate in it if possible.
Here’s a picture of my most recent audiogram. The S’s are my implanted ear. Blue is my left ear without the implant (I still have some residual hearing) and red is my right ear. What a difference! Almost in the normal range!
This is the last audiogram I got before getting my implant. I was barely even on the chart…
I have some exciting news to share as well…
I’m going to Disney in May! (Well, so long as I can save up the money. I’ve been doubling up on my freelance work for extra cash to help make this happen). My boyfriend and his family are actually planning a vacation to Disney World in May (Don’t worry — it’s the one without the Measles outbreak. The one you’re thinking of is Disney Land…the one in California. This is the one in Florida). My birthday falls during their vacation (May 8th) so they invited me to come along and just pay towards my plane ticket and the park passes which isn’t too bad. I’m really really excited for this!
Image Credits: Walt Disney World News
I asked my audiologist, Louisa, if it would be okay to go to Disney with my cochlear and she said it should be fine. She just warned me that I may feel a little more dizzy than usual after roller coasters and that I should take off my processor which I already knew. She also said to let the people at the airport know about it and don’t put it through the airport belt thingy. I expect it will set off the alarms. When I went on my senior trip to Disney in 2008 my hearing aid batteries alone set it off lol. But other than that everything should be fine. I’m going to look into getting the Aqua Case for it too so that I can go swimming with it on. We’ll see about that though.
In an unrelated note, Louisa also gave me the okay to go to a shooting range. She just said it would be best to not wear my hearing aid/cochlear at all for that and to wear ear protection of course. So fellow CI users/gun lovers, take note! You have word from a licensed audiologist that there’s no reason why you can’t shoot so long as you take proper precautions. 🙂
I had Louisa put in an extra magnet for me since mine kept falling off, too. I believe I have three magnets in their now and it’s been sticking a lot better. I still have trouble keeping the processor on sometimes but usually only if I’m laying down or something. It’s still been much much better and it hasn’t caused headaches like I feared it might. It’s been a lot better so far. I also noticed the magnet is significantly stronger…and I’ve had way too much fun with that. I was sticking my head to the magnet and putting more magnets on top of mine lol. What was really funny though was the last time I saw my boyfriend. As he was leaving he was kissing me good night and accidentally knocked my cochlear off. It ended up only coming off a tiny bit but we were right outside of his car and the magnet managed to stick. It definitely made us both laugh a bit!
Well now it’s about time I wrap this up for dinner and to prepare for another day of work tomorrow. Keep tuned for more updates on my wonderful journey into the world of hearing!