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.
Hey guys! I’m sorry it took me so long to update this blog. I’ve had a few ideas and have been meaning to post for awhile, but what can I say…life happens.
I spent most of my summer working only one job and not focusing on writing (I probably should’ve focused on it at least a little bit, but I really needed that break!). I wanted to spend as much time with Evan as possible before I had to go back to school. As a result, we grew closer and our love for each other is stronger than ever. He’s such a gem. There’s definitely a few stories about our adventures together in the works – so stay tuned!
What I want to talk about today though is my current cochlear implant book project and the genre I am writing in. As you guys all know I have been working on a memoir about my cochlear implant experience. Writing a memoir has been a no-brainer for me and strongly encouraged by my professors, mentors, and peers. Memoirs are reflective pieces of non-fiction that draw largely on a person’s memories which is exactly what I have been doing with this project – discussing my life before cochlear implants and the memories I have with hearing loss, talking about how my life has and is still changing since being implanted, and reflecting on what it all means.
But am I limited to writing just a memoir, or do I still have other options? That is the question I find myself asking now and I believe the answer may be “No.”
This semester as I finish up the last two classes I need to earn my MA in Writing, I will be working on a special project in my Creative Non-fiction class. I had my first class on Tuesday night where I met with my Professor Joe “Sam” Starkins. I was honest with him and talked to him after class explaining how I already finished my Master’s project (which confused the heck out of him and well honestly it confuses the heck out of the entire department, from what I’ve been hearing) but still want to work on my project since it remains largely unfinished. I explained how it was a memoir about my cochlear implant experience and asked if it would be okay if I continued to work on it and to revise it.
To my surprise, while Professor Starkins did not necessarily say no, he also didn’t exactly say yes. He explained how the class was a workshop and as a workshop would work better if I presented an entirely new project.
“Can I write a book of devotions? I do have an idea for that. I know it’s a kind of weird idea but it’s something I’d really like to explore,” I said.
Surprisingly, he said yes and actually seemed kind of excited about the project.
So, here I am. Initially my idea for the book of devotions was to write using all bible verses that focus on hearing the word of God and listening to what God has to say. Verses like Isaiah 35:5 and Romans 10:17 came to mind.
I took my first stab at the idea of writing a book of devotions when I revised my in-class exercise. The exercise was simply to write a scene in class for 15 minutes without stopping. My memoir came to mind first (I didn’t know at this point in class that I would be discouraged from working on that project) so I had to think back to what parts of my memoir I didn’t already have written and/or what needed the most work. The scene where I met Sherry in Miracle Ear came to mind first, probably because I have been thinking about it a lot lately as it happened almost exactly four years ago to date.
To revise, I had to condense a lot of the scene and focus on only the most important parts and then expand it to at least 500 words. This scene in particular I don’t think quite fit in to the idea I had of focusing the book on verses that relate to hearing God’s word and listening to what he has to say, but it did fit in nicely with trusting the Lord, so I pulled from Proverbs 3:5-6 (my life verse) as the main verse and also referred to Psalm 27:14 and Jeremiah 29:11 for reference.
Whether or not I stick with my initial plan of writing a book of devotions about hearing the word of God and listening to what he says or if this becomes an entirely different book of devotions focused more on hearing loss and my cochlear implant process is to be determined, but I’m super excited about this project and proud of what I’ve done so far. I’d like to share it with all of you, so please see the very first devotion posted below.
I welcome your feedback and critique, but at the same time please keep in mind this is my first time dabbling with this genre. I have read many books of devotions but am still learning what the form/style is (side note – if anyone can recommend a craft book on writing devotions I’m definitely in need of suggestions!) So please read, enjoy, and leave a comment letting me know what you think!
Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all thy heart and lean not onto thy own understanding. In all of your ways acknowledge him and he will make straight thy paths.”
“Is there anything else I can help you with today?” Sherry asked as she handed me back my left hearing aid. She had finished cleaning both of my hearing aids and changing the plastic tubing on them. I placed the old, yellowed ear mold inside of my ear and swung the processor around my ear. I smiled, happy to finally be able to hear some sounds, even if it was limited and even if I didn’t always know exactly what those sounds were.
I looked up at Sherry who was sitting on the other side of the table in her office chair so that I could read her lips and make out what she was asking me. “No. I’m good,” I said.
“Actually, if you don’t mind there’s something I’d like to ask your opinion on,” Mom said. I looked at her, puzzled. Every month or so I visited Miracle Ear to have the plastic tubes changed on my hearing aid since they would get moisture in them and harden and shrink, making it difficult to hear. While this was my first time meeting Sherry and attending the Turnersville Miracle Ear location, the appointment itself was nothing out of the ordinary, just the same tried and true routine.
“Sure,” Sherry said.
“We’ve been saving up for these new super powered hearing aids. Kim has been seeing Mindy at the Cherry Hill location and she says they’re supposed to be great. But back when she was seeing Greg at Deptford he said the same thing about the ones she has now and to be honest I never thought they were that great. What’s your opinion on them? They’re very expensive and I guess I’m just wondering, are they worth the money? Will they really help her?”
I let out a sigh and rolled my eyes, hoping my mom didn’t notice my natural reaction. Dad asked Mindy all about the hearing aids at my last appointment and Mindy told us about them and even let me try on the model they had on hand. I felt like I already knew everything there was to know about these hearing aids. They were not only the best option for me at the time, but my only option. Or so, I thought.
I looked back at Sherry as she inhaled deeply and held her breath for awhile before slowly exhaling.
“You don’t have to say a word, your expression says it all,” Mom said.
“I don’t mean to say the hearing aids aren’t good.” Sherry explained, “But what Kim really needs is clarity which no hearing aid, no matter how good, will ever be able to give her.”
“Okay, so then what do we do?” Mom asked as I listened, unsure of what to expect.
“Have you ever considered getting a cochlear implant?” Sherry asked.
Mom and I both looked at each other before saying no and explaining how we were previously led to believe that cochlear implants were a dangerous form of brain surgery that would likely not work anyway.
“Oh no, not at all. You guys need to go home and do your homework then let me know what you think,” Sherry said.
That night Mom and I began our cochlear implant research process. I turned to social media to look for real cochlear implant recipients and what their experiences were while Mom looked for more academic sources and articles. Together we shared notes and our thoughts. We didn’t know what would happen, but we knew that if we put our faith and trust in the Lord he would walk with us and show us the right path to take.
Psalm 27:14; Jeremiah 29:11
Hey guys! Hope all of my East-coast friends are staying warm and dry in this crazy snow storm!
I don’t know if it’s the snow or what, but I received an incredible surge of inspiration and had a major Eureka moment in regards to the opening chapter of my memoir. I thought a better opening would be something more reflective in which I show what is going through my mind moments before I received my first cochlear implant tied in with flashbacks on my life before I was implanted and the time when I was first diagnosed with profound hearing loss (the yellow brick road chapter).
This needs A LOT of work still, obviously, but I’m pretty happy with the first 1,000 which are the new words that I added today. I am also in the process of interviewing my mom for more details with the original yellow brick road chapter. She said she’d need some time to think about many of the questions I had as she tries to remember, but I’m hoping to get some answers from her soon to better flesh out that chapter/add more details.
Regardless, I hope you enjoy the revised opening chapter. Feel free to leave a comment on this post letting me know what you think!
Entering Into a Technicolor World of Hearing
I’m lying in a hospital bed at Jefferson University hospital in Philadelphia. There is an IV inserted in my right arm and Mom is standing to my left. Dad, who has never been a fan of hospitals, is outside in the waiting room. Everything looks like your typical hospital setting except for two things:
- I am not sick or injured.
- I cannot stop smiling.
My journey begins now. Today I will receive my first cochlear implant, and if all goes well with the surgery and recovery, next month I will be activated and Lord-willing, hear, like a normal hearing person, for the first time in my life.
If this works, my black and white and sometimes sepia world will become technicolor and I will not just hear the sounds I’ve always heard, but I will be able to understand what those sounds are and hear them the way they are supposed to sound. Conversations will sound like actual conversations (without me needing to exhaust myself by practicing heavy lipreading). I’ll know when music is playing, and it will sound like actual music. I may even be able to hear what a flute sounds like. I’ll be able to go to the movies without having to awkwardly ask for a pair of caption glasses which A. The ticket salesman won’t understand, or B. won’t work anyway. After the movies, I may be able to go out to dinner with my friends or a date and order my own food without awkwardly staring at another person as if to say, “Please lend me your ears, I can’t hear a thing the waiter is saying.”
If this works, my world will forever change, hopefully for the better.
If this doesn’t work, I risk losing the approximately 7% total residual or natural hearing I have left in my left ear. This residual hearing is currently being amplified by hearing aids.
Amplify [am-pluh-fahy]. Verb. – Increase the volume of (sound).
Notice how it doesn’t say anything about clarity or being able to understand or comprehend what those sounds are. That’s what’s missing. Hearing aids amplify sound, but they don’t give me any clarity. My cochlear implant is supposed to fix that. But if it doesn’t work, I’ll lose my ability to even amplify sounds. I’ll be left with absolutely nothing in my left ear — silence.
I made a list of the things I want to do post-cochlear implant activation, should this work. It looks like this:
THINGS TO DO POST-COCHLEAR IMPLANT ACTIVATION
- Get caught in the rain.
- Experience church in a whole new way.
- Watch movies without captions.
- See a movie at the drive-in.
- Hear a flute, bell, violin, and any other instrument I couldn’t hear before.
- See an orchestra.
- See a play.
- See a ballet.
- Listen to Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” in its entirety.
- Talk on the phone.
- Order food out on my own (restaurant and takeout/Dunkin).
- See a concert (preferably Good Charlotte).
- Hear my cat meow.
- Listen to the radio.
- Hear a cricket chirp.
I didn’t even want to think about what my life would look like if the cochlear implant didn’t work. Would I be forced to learn ASL? Would I join the Deaf community? Could I manage to get by with the remaining, un-implanted ear? Thinking about what would happen if the cochlear implant worked was fun but thinking about the alternatives was terrifying.
I had faith and trust in God that the cochlear implant would work. I prayed constantly and attended church as much as three times in a single day. For the weeks leading up to this day I had both Gloucester County Community Church and Washington Baptist Church praying for and with me and even met with the deacons and deaconesses at both churches.
“God is going to give you an incredible gift. Now it’s your job to figure out how you can use it to serve the Lord,” the deaconess at whose name I cannot recall told me as I met with her in the chapel at GCCC.
I was so excited to begin my new life as a hearing person that as the date of my surgery came closer, sleep became more and more difficult. I’d stay up for 20 or more hours at a time, keeping myself busy by binge watching all 9 seasons of How I Met Your Mother and when I got bored of that, I’d clean everything in sight. I no longer had any concept of time.
“Do you really have to clean your toilet at 3 in the morning? I’m trying to sleep and all I can hear is your toilet flushing,” Mom complained.
“No more cleaning. I don’t wish to smell all of your chemicals first thing in the morning,” Dad pleaded.
Last night, I could hardly sleep at all. The Patriots played the late night 8:15pm game against the Colts.
“Don’t stay up too late, you have a big day tomorrow. You know the Patriots are going to win anyway,” Mom warned.
“Oh, let her stay up. She’s just going to sleep through the surgery anyway. Does it matter if she’s tired?” Dad said.
I stayed up for the whole game and then spent most of the rest of the night in bed, browsing Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram on my phone. By 5:30 AM, I was wide awake, dressed in my brand-new button down fleece pajamas (mom said there was no sense in wearing real clothes, I’d be better off being comfortable and I’d need to wear button downs to avoid pulling shirts over my head post-surgery anyway), and ready, a full two and a half hours before I was scheduled for surgery.
Now the day is finally here. Dr. Wilcox just came in to tell me everything would be okay and to instruct the anesthesia team to begin. I have a plastic mask on my face, covering my mouth and nose. I can hardly keep my eyes open anymore as I feel my body surrender itself to the anesthesia.
When I wake up, I’ll be a cyborg.
In another month, I’ll be activated, and I’ll finally be able to hear, Lord-willing.
If this works, I’ll be able to hear for the first time in my life, or at least, the first time since my mother discovered I was deaf at the mere age of two.
When I was two, Mom would call out my name, but I never responded. When she mentioned it to my pediatrician during my next checkup, the pediatrician thought it was just a phase or a case of the “terrible twos”.
“No, I know my daughter. She can’t hear me,” Mom would argue.
When my mom clapped behind my back and I didn’t flinch, she knew something was wrong. Against my pediatrician’s advice, my mom took me to see Miss Terri, an audiologist at Cooper Hospital in Camden, New Jersey.
After performing a series of hearing test, Miss Terri confirmed what we already knew: I had hearing loss. What we didn’t realize was how severe my hearing loss was. Miss Terri explained that my hearing loss was profound, meaning the only sounds I could hear were those that were at a volume of 90db or higher such as airplanes, helicopters, firetrucks, and possibly a lawn mower. Hearing aids were recommended to amplify these sounds, but my ability to hear and comprehend sounds, even when amplified, would always be a challenge.
After being diagnosed with profound hearing loss, I made the journey to Camden once every two weeks for speech therapy lessons. Mom and I would drive from our small condo in Washington Township to the big city every other week. On our way in, we’d pass endless food and street vendors selling everything from hot dogs to pretzels and even random t-shirts. It amazed me how at 9 o’clock in the morning people would still be out selling lunch foods. Everyone always had a smile on their face and seemed happy to be working.
“Mom, I want to live here one day. I love the city,” I said on our way in for my appointment.
“That’s because you don’t understand what this city is really like. It’s not safe,” Mom explained. I’d understand it more when I got older and would see individuals hauled off by police for God knows why on more than one occasion. But as a child, it was a magical place with audiologists and speech therapists that thought the world of me and were helping me to hear and speak well.
Cooper Hospital had many departments and was easy to get lost in. Fortunately, they developed a system to help speech and audiology patients find their way around. By placing strips of yellow tape on the floor, patients could simply “follow the yellow brick road” to their appointment. Every time I had an appointment I knew to look down at the floor for that yellow tape and I’d sing along and skip to the tune of, “Follow, follow, follow follow follow the yellow brick road!”
Since speech and hearing worked so closely together, my appointments were run by both my audiologist, Miss Terri, and my speech therapist, Miss Vicki.
Miss Terri would always start my appointments by testing my hearing. She would lead me into a gray, audiology testing booth that was no more than 50 feet wide while my mom waited and watched outside in the hall. Miss Terri would then crookedly place a special pair of headphones over my ears and hook some wires up to my hearing aids and hand me a button.
“First we’re going to test the beeps. Push the button whenever you hear a beep. We’ll start with your left ear first before moving to the right,” Miss Terri explained.
I’d smile and nod and occasionally give a thumbs up to let her know I understood. I loved pressing that button. It felt like I was playing a video game where hitting the button was the equivalent of shooting the monsters and bad guys and freeing the victims. I never even noticed that the button didn’t get pushed half as often as it should have.
Once that portion of my hearing test was completed, I would be given a series of words that I’d have to say back.
“Say the word hot dog,” Miss Terri said.
“Hot dog,” I answered.
“Say the word baseball.”
“Say the word airplane.”
“Say the word ice cream.”
“Terri, I’m sorry but I have to stop you,” mom interrupted.
Miss Terri and I both looked up. I was doing so well with the words, what could possibly be wrong?
“She’s not actually hearing you – she’s reading your lips,” said mom.
“I can fix that,” Terri said as she grabbed the sheet of paper with her word list.
“I’m going to cover my lips now. I want you to focus on what you hear, not on me.” Miss Terri said. I was nervous, but knew I had no choice but to try my best. I nodded in agreement.
“Say the word kite.’
“Say the word chair.”
“Say the word sub.”
“Say the word third.”
“Say the word ran.”
I didn’t know what Miss Terri was saying, I could only guess, but I knew I was wrong.
When Miss Terri finished with the hearing test, it was on to either Miss Vicki for speech therapy where we would do different activities. One of my favorites involved using what I liked to refer to as the “magic mirror”. It was a long, oval-shaped mirror that rested in a tan wooden frame on wheels. There was nothing actually magical about it; it was just a regular mirror that I was allowed to draw on with magic markers, but I always loved this activity. I was never allowed to draw on the mirrors at home. I thought that this mirror was special since I could draw on it and the markers would wipe right off when I was done. As a two-year-old, the only logical explanation for how this could work was that it must have been magic.
Before I could draw on the mirror, Miss Vicki put me to work by having me practice my speech.
“Okay. Let’s practice our “Sh” and “Ch” sounds,” she’d say. “We’ll start wi“Sh!” I said. It was easy for me to think of the sound as a syllable, as if Miss Vicki was the teacher and I the student, getting yelled at for talking.
“Very good!” she said. “Now, I’m going to give you a word. Can you say “choose”?
“Shoes!” I said.
“No, not shoes like on your feet. Choose like when you choose something to eat,” she said.
“Shoes!” I said.
“No, look in the mirror. You want to move your tongue up a little bit and touch your teeth,” she said.
“Tooze,” I said.
“Try again. Remember, you only want to touch your teeth a little bit, not a lot.”
“Choose?” I said.
“Yes, that’s right! Very good! Want to take a break and draw on the magic mirror?” she asked.
I nodded yes and reached for the bucket of magic markers, choosing the pink one first, my favorite color. I drew a big heart on the mirror with several smaller hearts for arms, legs, and even eyes. My little heart person, my favorite thing to draw.
When I finished my masterpiece, Miss Vicki would continue with our lesson.
“Okay, Kimmy. We’re going to play a game now,” Vicki said.
“You’re going to take this ball and throw into the trashcan across the room. But as you throw the ball, I’m going to give you a word to say and I want you to imagine your voice going with that ball. As you throw the ball you’ll want your voice to get louder. Got it?” she said.
I nodded. I wasn’t sure if I really understood, but the idea of throwing a playing a game sounded like fun. The game sounded like basketball, a game I’ve always enjoyed watching my dad play.
“Okay. Your first word is suitcase,” she said.
“Suitcase,” I whispered as I threw the ball.
Vicki threw the ball back to me. “Try again,” She said. “Remember, Mr. Loud Mouth. Your voice travels with the ball.”
I took the ball back from her and paused as I remembered Mr. Loud Mouth. “SUIT CASE,” I said.
“Very nice! You got it!” she said.
Being a toddler with profound hearing loss was easy. Nobody asked any questions about my hearing loss or questioned anything that I did or didn’t do. My parents couldn’t have been more supportive and understanding of my hearing loss. My sister paid no mind to it. And my audiologist and speech therapists couldn’t help me enough. I was a toddler without a care in the world. The only thing that made me different from any other toddler in the world was the fact that I couldn’t hear. I was able to live my life in black and white or sometimes sepia. My world was full, but not always beautiful or complete. The older I got the more I realized that living as a deaf girl in a hearing world was a lot like living in a world without color.
Hey guys! I’m back! I apologize for the lack of updates lately. I have been meaning to make this post for a couple of weeks but I’ve been crazy busy with writing my book, God Granted Me Hearing (which yes, is based on this blog and my cochlear implant experience!) :). Also, I haven’t had a whole lot of news lately. My 2nd cochlear implant has been progressing well. I saw Alyssa at Jefferson around a month ago and everything was good but she didn’t test me again so there’s no update on that end.
I do have something else to share with you all today though — what it’s like to get caught in the rain with a cochlear implant. I’ve written in the past about how getting caught in the rain was one of the things I was most looking forward to doing after getting my cochlear implant and I also wrote about what it was like to go swimming with a cochlear implant, but up until a few weeks ago, I never actually seriously got caught in the rain with a cochlear implant.
First let me say this was completely UNPLANNED. I live in Washington Township and I love to take walks. I knew that a thunder storm was on the horizon, but when I first headed out for the day the skies were still clear. It was one of the first days of spring so for once the weather was warm. I didn’t want to walk to the gym like I normally do because I thought it might be too far of a walk and I wasn’t sure if I’d make it back in time to avoid the storm. Instead I decided to take advantage of the fact that all of the basketball courts at the high school I live across were empty. I’ve always loved to play basketball but I don’t get the opportunity to play nearly as much as I’d like. So I grabbed my bag with a couple of bottles of water, my jump rope (don’t ask…), my basketball, and headed out.
I wore my aqua cases for this trip. I didn’t wear the aqua cases just because of the pending storm, but to protect against sweat as well. I made the mistake when I got my first cochlear implant of going to the gym without the aqua case and almost broke it from all of the sweat and moisture I got in it. Ever since that incident I’ve made a point to wear my aqua cases every time I go to the gym, work out, or even go for a walk or do anything that could produce a sweat. I’d rather be safe than sorry.
It took me awhile to cross the street that afternoon. Traffic was busy in Washington Township, as always. When I finally managed to cross the street and make it to the highs school I took out my jump rope and began using it. I’ve had my jump rope for over a year and never used it before. I heard it was good exercise which is precisely why I bought it, but I always shied away from using it fearing I’d look like an idiot, which I totally did, but it was okay because no one was around to laugh at me. I still didn’t have quite enough magnets in my headpiece on the cochlear for my right ear. I think the placement for that one is different than on my left which makes it not stick as well. When I used my jumprope it kept knocking my headpiece off until finally I gave up on it and took it off and put it in my bag.
I only jumped rope for about 5 minutes or so before switching to basketball. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you haven’t done it for 20 years, jumping rope is really intense! Plus I noticed the clouds were beginning to look a bit heavy so I wanted to stop and make sure I got plenty of basketball time in before it rained on my parade. I put my cochlear back on for this. It works out better for me than the jump roping did, but it still kept coming off my head whenever I jumped so I ended up taking it off again and putting it in my bag.
I played basketball for about a half hour or so before the rain began. I think this was my first time playing basketball with my cochlear implants. I noticed I was much more relaxed. I didn’t have to worry as much about whether or not any cars were coming by the parking lot or if there were joggers running through or someone trying to talk to me. I was able to hear everything around me (and also there wasn’t many people around anyway). It was very peaceful and fun.
After about a half hour I felt a raindrop hit my head. “Okay, that’s my signal to pack it up”, I said to myself. Within seconds of saying that, I found myself in a torrential downpour. The rain came down at the speed of light. I ran to my bag to check my cochlear and put it back on my head and to check that my phone, which was in my bag, was still working. Everything seemed good. Then I grabbed my bag, my ball, and headed on home.
But I couldn’t simply go home; I had to walk back which meant walking through the torrential downpour and trying to cross the dreaded intersection again. It also meant having to pass a bank and drug store while sporting soaking wet clothes and hair and dribbling a basketball. That’s not something you see everyday…
IT. WAS. FUN. SOOOOO MUCH FUN.
This is something I could never do before with my hearing aids. My hearing aids would have broken in seconds and I would’ve been having a major panic/anxiety account over getting caught in a torrential downpour with them. And my mother would want to kill me for destroying my $3,000+ uninsured devices.
But with my aqua cases on, my cochlear implants were 100% waterproof. I had nothing at all to worry about.
I dribbled my ball through the rain until it began to fill with the water and become too heavy to bounce. Then I carried it. I watched the people flee the bank to their cars as if they were afraid the rain might make them melt. As I waited at the crosswalk by the drug store I noticed the people in their cars looked at me like I was some kind of a freak because I was standing at a crosswalk for a busy intersection with soaking wet hair and clothes, a basketball, and the biggest smile on my face.
I didn’t care about being wet. I didn’t care that my clothes felt like they weighed 1,000 pounds from the rain. I didn’t care about my basketball session being cut short. I didn’t care about the fact that I was getting pretty cold. I didn’t even care about the fact that my contacts were getting blurry from being drenched in rain.
I was ecstatic. I was having one of the best days of my life.
When I got home I didn’t have to worry about anything being broken. I did take my cochlears off and put the aqua case parts and those specific batteries in the dryer just to be on the safe side, but I didn’t really have to. There was no panic attack. I didn’t have to take out the hair dryer to try to air them out and to get them to work or nothing at all.
I simply did what any normal person would do…I changed out of my wet clothes, got a hot bath and made a hot cup of coffee to warm up, and went on with my life.
You don’t realize how much these little things in life like getting caught in the rain can really mean to a person until they get to not just experience them, but ENJOY them without any kind of fear at all, for the first time ever. It’s surreal.
Getting caught in the rain with my cochlear implants may not have been everything I hoped it would be. Larry and I have been broken up for over 6 months now. There’s no one new in my life to give me that Notebook-style kiss in the rain. I didn’t even have anyone there to have a conversation with or to go puddle jumping with.
But you know what? It wasn’t what I wanted it to be because it was BETTER.
It was all my joy for the taking. It was all on me. It was all about me, having my moment. I didn’t need anyone else to be there for me. I just needed that rain and to be off in my own little world.
It was one of the best days of 2016 thus far.
I can’t wait to get caught in the rain again sometime soon.
This weekend I realized something for the first time.
I will never again use a hearing aid.
I haven’t worn a hearing aid in more than 2 months since I broke the one for my right, unimplanted ear and every backup I had (the battery compartments snapped on them both awhile back, preventing me from closing them and causing them to whistle incessantly). But this realization still felt weird to me.
I have been wearing heads since I was 2, meaning I’ve had hearing aid audiologists since I was 2. It is weird to think I don’t need them anymore.
I’ve gained (and am in the process of gaining) far more with my cochlear implants that I ever had with my cochlear implants. I have my own audiologists for my cochlear implant. Still, I feel kind of bad about the fact that I won’t be seeing Sherri at Miracle Ear anymore.
If it wasn’t for Sherri, I never would’ve gotten my cochlear implant.
Sherri was the one hearing aid audiologist that was different from the rest. Whereas all of the others just wanted to sell me their hearing aids and didn’t really care about what was best for me, Sherri was the exception. Sherri was the only one that was honest and told me that no hearing aids, no matter how good they were, were ever going to give me the clarity I needed. The only thing that could give me that clarity was a cochlear implant.
Sherri told me that cochlear implants weren’t dangerous or anything to be afraid. She told me they weren’t the brain surgery that I thought they were. Sherri encouraged me to do more research and to seriously consider getting one or more.
If it weren’t for her, I never would’ve seen and learned of all of the benefits with cochlear implants and I certainly wouldn’t have ran out to get not only one, but 2.
My days of being a hearing aid patient of Sherri’s are over now. It’s kind of sad in a way. Breaking up with my hearing aid audiologist, Sherri, feels harder than breaking up with my boyfriend was. She doesn’t know yet that I’m getting my second cochlear implant, but I will have to call her soon to let her know. I know that she will be happy and excited for me, but I’m sure she will be sad to lose me as a patient, too.
But this isn’t goodbye, it’s just “I’ll see you later”.
Sherri may be a hearing aid audiologist, but she still does a lot of work with cochlear implants as well. Who knows, maybe I’ll have the opportunity to see one of her presentations or attend an event with her one day.
If there’s anything I learned from all of this it’s that when God closes one door, he opens another.
He’s closing the door to my hearing aid journey and opening up the door to my cochlear implant journey. And what a journey it’s been so far!
Ever since I got my first cochlear implant I have wanted to get my second ear done. Getting my cochlear implant is the best thing I’ve ever done. Read pretty much any of my past entries on this blog and you’ll see why. It’s given me many new opportunities that I never had before. I can enjoy music like never before, I can call my boyfriend when he’s on the road, I was able to take on a new role at work as a Digital Marketing Manager where I’m making calls to clients on a daily basis, and I can even hear while swimming for the first time ever!
Some people end up going bilateral all at once. This is especially common when it comes to young children. However, more often than not people get one done at a time. This is what my surgeon recommended to me. He recommended waiting at least a year before getting the second one done so that I’d have time to get used to and fully adjust to my first implant and hearing all of the sounds. Well, we are coming up on a year now…
This past weekend I was talking with my mom about my upcoming appointments. I knew I had one with my audiologist, Louisa coming up. I originally thought it was in October, but it turned out it was actually not until December. We still felt like we were missing something something, so we decided to call and find out when my next appointment with my surgeon, Dr. Wilcox was. Turns out, there wasn’t one scheduled. Initially, we made the appointment for the same day as my appointment with Louisa in December, but I ended up moving it up a bit.
My appointment is on Wednesday, September 16th. This is a very important day. It is my grandfather’s birthday, so that right there feels like a positive sign. It is also the one year anniversary of when I first met Dr. Wilcox for my initial consulting appointment where I asked him 244353553 questions about cochlear implants. Wow. What are the chances of that?
My mom did a little research already on my health insurance. When I got my first implant I had Horizon insurance which covered almost the entire cost of the procedure. My work decided to switch health insurance providers a couple of months ago to Aetna. This will actually likely benefit me since it is a new health insurance provider that hasn’t already covered this surgery. Also, my mom found in her research that Aetna is known for being a big supporter of cochlear implants. It sounds very likely that they will cover the cost of me going bilateral.
I have a very good feeling about going bilateral. I really think I’m going to go through with it and it will be successful. I think it will be much easier than my initial surgery was. I know that I am a candidate, so I won’t need most of the testing I had to go through the first time around. I know I definitely won’t need a CT Scan and likely not an MRI either since I can’t get them done with my cochlear. I will probably just need a basic checkup with my doctor and blood work done. Other than that everything should be pretty smooth sailing.
Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I begin my journey into going bilateral. Yes, I’ve gained so much with my one implant. Some people ask me, “Why would you want to go through with the surgery and all of that again when you’ve already gained so much with just the one?” Here is my answer: two is better than one.
Imagine if you only had one arm and one hand. Yes, you could get by. Maybe that hand would be phenomenal for you. Maybe you’d catch and be able to hold things better than anyone could ever imagine. But would it still not be better to have two hands?
What if you were blind in one eye and could only see out of the other? Try this now: Close one eye and keep the other open. Try to perform a simple task like typing a sentence on your computer. You might be able to do it and do it well. Maybe you even have 20/20 vision in that one eye. Now, try it again with both eyes open. Chances are, you performed the task much quicker and more successfully.
Two is better than one.
I have been doing great with my one implant, but I can’t even imagine how amazing it will be with a second one.
I still wear a hearing aid in my other ear, but it’s as good as useless. Sometimes I forget to wear it. And when I’m swimming, I go completely without it. I never miss it. I don’t notice much of a difference without it.
However, not having my cochlear is a complete tragedy. I can’t hear a thing. There is practically a 100% difference (definitely 90% or higher) difference with having the cochlear vs. not having it.
God gave us two ears for a reason. Mine might not work the way they are supposed to, but through technology I have been given the chance to correct it and make them like new again. My new, bionic ears.
Why wouldn’t I want to seize that opportunity?
If you’ve been following my blog, then you’ve undoubtedly heard me speak a lot about my relationship with my boyfriend. It probably sounds like a fairy tale romance, right? Most of the time that’s exactly how it feels, but like any other couple, we face our own obstacles, too.
Prior to meeting my boyfriend, my dating life was pretty rough. I had 3 failed relationships between 2011-2013. My first boyfriend was abusive and would scream at me all the time. He was not at all supportive of my hearing loss. He would tell me I’d never be a mother because of my hearing loss and always make me feel guilty for my hearing loss, something I could not change. Sometimes he would make fun of me for not being able to hear or talk behind my back or use my hearing loss against me. I left after 5 months. It may sound like a short-lived romance, but it was definitely 5 months too long.
My other two relationships also did not see much success. My 2nd boyfriend was extremely supportive of my hearing loss and is a good friend of mine to this day. We broke up because we were in different stages of our lives and in our relationship and it just wasn’t working for us. He was 10 years older than me, so that probably contributed quite a bit to it all.
My third boyfriend was the strangest relationship and the hardest breakup yet. It was long-distance with a much older man (apparently I didn’t learn my lesson from failed relationship #2…). One day he was my boyfriend and the next day he wrote me out of my life without giving me any explanation for 7 months. A year later I discovered he cheated on me. Pretty easy to see what went wrong there…
All three of these relationships ended ultimately for different reasons, but they also all still had things in common: they proved that dating a deaf girl can be a challenge. Some handles it better than others, but it never changed the fact that it was a challenge.
I wrote about how I had a bit of anxiety prior to getting my cochlear implant already. Combine the anxiety from my hearing loss with first date jitters (or any date jitters for that manner) and you got anxiety on steroids. Dating with hearing loss is HARD. That’s why it’s so common for deaf people to date other deaf people. They even make dating sites for deaf people to find each other. Some deaf people completely swear off non-deaf people from dating because they feel a non-deaf person could never relate.
I never dated a deaf person before, but I can definitely relate to that way of thinking. You can’t exactly make a non-deaf person feel what it’s like to be deaf. You can tell them what it’s like, but it’s not exactly the same.
A typical first date for me with any of my exs (or even my current boyfriend) was a lot like this:
- Text or FB the person constantly because I couldn’t hear on the phone
- Spend way too much time coming up with a good place for said first date
- Change my mind about the place 10,000 times because I declare it “too loud to hear anything”
- Finally settle on a place to have dinner
- Smile, say “yes” a lot, and nod because I have no idea what my date is saying at dinner
- Stare at my date hoping he gets the memo to translate everything the waiter is saying to me because I can’t hear the waiter
- Go to see a movie without the caption glasses because caption glasses are awkward and annoying and I don’t feel like dealing with that on a first date
- Stare at a movie screen trying to figure out what the movie is about since I can’t hear
- Glance at my date every couple of minutes to try to read his facial expressions to see whether or not he thinks the movie is good
- Agree with him and try to say some generic comment about why the movie was or wasn’t good
- Wonder if there will be a second date and if there is wonder why because I’m not exactly the greatest date in the world on account of the fact that I can’t hear.
I have to say though, 100% honest, things with my boyfriend now, Larry, were a lot different. Our first date was at Nifty Fifties. I know I definitely didn’t hear every word he said, but I did okay. Our first date was actually on Labor Day, so that probably helped. Nifty Fifties was not very busy that day. If my memory is correct, there was only about 1 other family there. We were relatively alone. And I was super duper duper nervous prior to our date. I changed my outfit about 10,000 times that day. But as soon as I saw him all of my nerves went away. I think when you meet someone really truly special that you’re meant to be with, that’s just the way it works.
This picture was taken moments before meeting my boyfriend for our first date. I spent over a week over-analyzing what to wear for that date…
My relationship with Larry has always been a bit intense. That’s one of the best ways to describe it. When I first met him I didn’t have my cochlear or any plans to get a cochlear implant. I just had two hearing aids that really didn’t benefit me all that much. He definitely got to see the before picture.
Not all of our dates were as easy as Nifty Fifties prior to getting my cochlear. I couldn’t always hear him that well, even if he was just over my house talking to me alone. Some days I just couldn’t hear or understand him that well (in all honesty, sometimes Larry has a tendency to mumble or not speak very clearly, which made it a little more difficult. Shhhh. Don’t tell him I said that though…).
I remember our second date was a bit of a challenge. For our second date we went to eat at The Smash Burger and then went bowling. I couldn’t hear anything at all at The Smash Burger except for the milkshake machine thing. Smash Burger makes excellent hand-spun milkshakes……..but when you’re hearing impaired and trying to hold a conversation with your soon-to-be-boyfriend, they become a little less awesome. The bowling alley wasn’t too much better. We had to wait awhile to get a lane, so to pass the time we played a few rounds of pool. I’m pretty bad at pool, so Larry tried to help me. Except I couldn’t hear him well. This was our second date. Yes he could and did show me what to do a bit, but it was still slightly awkward at times since we weren’t yet a couple or anything yet. Looking back at it now though, it was pretty adorable.
There was also that time we went to Frightland just before Halloween. It was dark and there were long lines to wait to get into the different attractions. Everyone was talking with their friends to pass the time. Larry and I tried to talk and play music. Except I couldn’t hear the music on his phone at all and I couldn’t hear him well enough to speak, either. We were actually trying to play a game, but we gave up because games become much less fun when it takes you 20+ minutes to hear what the other person is saying. When we gave up on the game, Larry looked at me with very sympathetic eyes, gave me a hug, and said, “Wow. You really can’t hear.” He genuinely felt sorry for me. He knew I was going through something hard and difficult that he could not fix or relate to. He did something no one quite did before: showed love, and compassion for me despite my hearing loss. I never forgot that night.
You don’t have to hear to smile and take pictures. He’re a picture of us at Frightland. It was so cold!
Of course it would have been great to meet Larry when I had my cochlear. I always tell people that the biggest mistake I made with my cochlear is waiting this long to get it. However, I’m extremely thankful that I met Larry before getting my cochlear implant. I’m glad he got to see and know me before getting my implant.
When you love someone, you love all of them. Every part, even the parts that can be hard for others to love or accept. Larry loved me even when I couldn’t hear. He accepted it. It was never a problem for him.
Larry always supported my decision to get my cochlear implant. It’s not every day that a girl tells her boyfriend “Hey I’m getting a major life-altering surgery” within the first two months of them being together — but that’s exactly how it was with us. He was so happy and excited for me and he enjoyed learning about it from me.He would outright tell me, “I want to learn from this.”
When I went through everything with getting my cochlear, Larry and I’s relationship was still very much new. A lot of people would say things like “Does he realize when you get this done you’re going to have a magnet on your head? Is he going to accept that and be okay with that?” I always said yes. But at the same time, I was never really sure. I was definitely still in the process of getting to know Larry at the time, and there’s no saying how a person will or won’t react to change or something like that. I mean, when I first got together with my ex I didn’t think he would go on to be abusive towards me, but that’s exactly what ended up happening, unfortunately.
When Larry said he’d stand by me and support me, he definitely wasn’t kidding. He couldn’t actually be at the hospital the day of my surgery due to hospital rules that prohibited non-immediate family members from being there, but the next day he was there with flowers and gifts to help cheer me up and make me feel better. When I was taking strong pain medication that knocked me out and made me loopy, he still loved me. When I had part of my head shaved, a ton of stitches and extra greasy hair due to not being able to watch it for 10 days, he still said I was beautiful.
There were actually days when I looked much worst than this after my surgery and Larry would still say I looked beautiful — and he meant it.
The hardest part of the cochlear implant process was definitely the month after my surgery. During this time I had to wait for everything to heal before I could be activated. I had no hearing in my left ear and only what my hearing aid provided (which was hardly anything at all) in my right ear. I couldn’t watch movies. I couldn’t watch TV. I couldn’t hear music. I didn’t want to leave my house much because I couldn’t hear people outside at all. So we stayed inside and played games and cooked and hung out at my house for a month. I was probably pretty boring and lame, but he always enjoyed spending time with me and never once complained. He stood by me and supported me. When I got upset and frustrated over not being able to do anything, he reminded me of how soon I’d be able to do everything and it would be more than worth it in the end.
We played a lot of Rummy when I was healing from my surgery…and I always won. 🙂
Once I was activated, Larry couldn’t wait to talk to me, to share music with me, and to finally, for the first time ever, get to talk on the phone with me. I explained how my cochlear would take time and it was a progress to learn how to hear things, so he made it his mission to work with me. Within the first week of activation, Larry discovered he could sing to me and I could actually hear him. Singing to me became his special thing, and I loved it. The first night he did it he held me in his arms for two hours in his car outside of my house under the stars and sang Brad Paisely’s “She’s Everything” and I not only hear every word of it — I felt it. I felt that I was his everything. I felt so much closer to him that night, just being able to hear his voice like that for the first time ever.
Our first post-cochlear implant activation date to Smithville. Everyone says I look like I have a crown on in this picture. Probably because I’m the Princess…Larry’s Princess (totally not a Christmas tree in the background or anything…. :-p)
Now I demand that he sings to me. It’s my favorite thing in the entire world, and he enjoys singing to me, too. Music has always been something very special for us that has a way of pulling us closer together. It helped bring us together before my cochlear through sharing our favorite songs, going to the News Boys concert for one of our first dates (also the date where I came home and told him I was in love with him…), and even just discussing it, and now that I can truly hear music and he can sing to me on the phone, it’s brought us even closer together.
One of our first dates… The News Boys concert. We look so different now!
The ability to talk on the phone has opened whole new doors to us that we didn’t even know existed. We can talk more on a daily basis now. Larry is a truck driver, so before our communication would sometimes be limited since obviously he can’t text and drive. However, with modern technology such as his radio or headphones, he is able to make his phone hands-free and talk to me. We prefer talking on the phone to texting now because it’s so much more personal. Last week I got sick and wasn’t able to speak well so we couldn’t talk on the phone. We both missed it so much and agreed it was much better than texting. I missed the sound of his voice. I missed his singing. I couldn’t hear his voice that well and he didn’t really sing to me prior to getting my cochlear.
My cochlear implant journey is a journey that Larry and I have been able to share together. He’s been with me every step of the way. He’s been with me before I got implanted, when I was implanted, and now that I’m activated. He’s supported me throughout it all and learned about it all with me. It’s opened many new doors for us and definitely strengthened our relationship. We are teammates that support each other through thick and thin, and he’s definitely been an MVP during this journey.I’m so blessed to finally have found a man that can handle me whether I can or can’t hear, because Larry knows that regardless of how well I can or can’t hear, it doesn’t change the person I am. He loves me with and without my ability to hear. (However, of course we both prefer it when I can hear…definitely makes the communication thing a bit easier and more enjoyable. ;)).
My cochlear implant journey has been a long, yet quick process all at once. It’s been a roller coaster ride even more intense than Kingda Ka, and I know he’ll be first in line to see the next thrill it brings us. He’s been one of my biggest supporters and fans, and I’m very thankful to have him in my life and blessed to see how the cochlear has helped us to grow even closer together.