Tag Archives: talking

no_asl

I often times speak out against how frustrating it can be to have people see my cochlear implants and automatically assume that I sign. This is annoying but an easy mistake for people who are not familiar with the difference between lowercase d deaf and capital D Deaf to make. What is infuriating to me is when I tell people that I don’t sign and they don’t listen and insist on trying to sign to me anyway, such as what recently happened to me at Human Village.

I’m realizing more and more as I talk to different hearing adults that they just simply don’t understand why I don’t sign and how I can still communicate with others without sign language. People are especially confused by how I managed to get through school and to survive in a hearing world without sign language. I want to use this blog post to try to clear up some of the confusion.

Here are 5 reasons why I never learned sign language. As you read through my reasons I ask that you remember that I am and have always been mainstreamed. I am lowercase d deaf meaning that I have significant hearing loss but I live in a hearing world. I have never been a part of the capital D Deaf community. I support Deaf culture and sign language and the capital D Deaf community, but this is not my world. My experiences are unique to me just as someone else’s are unique to them. What worked for me isn’t right for everyone and vice versa.

1. It Wasn’t Practical.

I was first introduced to sign language when I was five and in the process of enrolling in kindergarten at Oakview Elementary School. My speech teacher, Mrs. Smeltz, offered to teach me sign language. My parents asked me if I wanted to learn it. They were very supportive of it but ultimately allowed me to make my own decision. I decided against it because it didn’t interest me, mainly because I didn’t know anyone that spoke sign language. It seemed to me at the time that learning it would be a waste of time and not worth the effort because I wouldn’t really have anyone to sign to. My parents would have had to learn sign language in order for me to sign with them and any friends or loved ones or honestly anyone I’d want to communicate with would need to learn how to sign in order to talk to me. It seemed much easier for me to learn how to communicate in spoken English and to learn strategies on how to exist in the hearing world than it was to have everyone I wanted to talk to learn sign language.

2. Nobody Cares About Sign Language (Except the Deaf Community).

If you are capital D Deaf, you care about sign language. It’s very, very, very important to you. Sign language is your world, and I get that and support it.

But I’m not capital D Deaf. I am lowercase d deaf living with hearing loss in a hearing world where most people don’t really care about sign language. Some people might choose to study it for fun or as a hobby, but a lot of people don’t really take it seriously.

Unfortunately, this can make learning it very difficult, especially if you try to learn it later in life like I did.

I tried to take ASL in college as an elective at Rowan University, but at the time I was enrolled in undergraduate studies (September 2010 – December 2012), it wasn’t an option. I remember asking about this before and they said they weren’t offering because they didn’t have the money/funding for it and there wasn’t an interest. This is no longer the case…ASL is seen as being almost trendy now and there are classes (which I’ll get into in a later point), but that was unfortunately not the case when I was an undergraduate student there. One of the biggest problems with how people view sign language is they see it as a hobby rather than as an actual language. This is a problem because people lose interest in hobbies and pass them off to the side to forget about when they get bored. Languages on the other hand are seen as essential communication skills needed to survive in the world. ASL sadly is not viewed in this light by people outside of the capital D Deaf community.

I to enroll in a non-credit course at Gloucester County Community College multiple times to learn ASL. It was always cancelled though due to low enrollment. They couldn’t get enough people to sign up for it as a non-credit class to make enough money to pay the instructor I guess. People will enroll in ASL if they can get college credit. It’s often seen as an “easy” and “fun” class to take for credit. But when people aren’t getting something out of it for themselves (they don’t see learning ASL as being important, especially since many of them don’t know anyone who is capital D Deaf…), they don’t see a point in learning it.

3. Learning Sign Language Was Too Expensive.

I know what you’re thinking.

“This isn’t true.”

“My best friend’s cousin’s dog sitter is fluent in sign language and could teach you for free…”

“There’s YouTube!”

“Blah blah blah insert random noise/nonsense here.”

Okay, first of all when the concept of sign language was first introduced to me back in/around 1995, there was no YouTube.

As stated in my previous point, I didn’t want to learn sign language as a kid and could you blame me? A five year old usually has better things to do or other interests…

As mentioned in my last point, the non-credit courses were constantly cancelled due to low enrollment. These did cost money and at one point my family and I shelled out a few hundred dollars so the whole family could learn it together, but it ended up being refunded to us all after the course was cancelled.

The non-credit courses were about all that I could afford. With Rowan not offering ASL courses for credit my other option would be to take the classes at a local community college for credit but it wouldn’t be covered by my financial aid/loan and I couldn’t afford to spend that kind of money on a class that wouldn’t even count towards my degree.

Another issue with learning sign language for free – while people definitely mean well, the people offering to teach it often are not fluent or experienced in sign language. They may know the basics and a few sentences here and there but not enough to really hold full conversations in sign language, which makes it not entirely practical. Those who are really fluent and certified to teach sign language typically want to be paid for their services so they teach the college classes which I already stated I couldn’t afford to take. This isn’t true for everyone of course, but it is true in a majority of cases.

4. Learning Sign Language Wasn’t Worth the Trouble.

For some unknown reason, learning sign language was designed to be the toughest subject I could ever study or learn. I have been working to teach myself German recently and it has been a much, much, much easier experience than learning sign language which is just ironic.

Here’s a list of some things I think are easier to learn for me than sign language:

  • Mandarin Chinese
  • Amish quilt-making
  • Homemade cheese
  • Calculus
  • Quantum Physics
  • Flying an airplane

I’m serious. This has been made to be impossible for me to learn.

Backing up a bit, remember how I said that Rowan University *did* in fact get an ASL course after I finished my undergraduate studies?

Well, I tried to enroll in it as an elective as a graduate student. I tried to make my case that this course would be perfect for my graduate research since my Master’s thesis was a memoir on my cochlear implant/deaf experiences. The writing department and professors such as Dr. Drew Kopp were so supportive of this and really tried to advocate on my behalf to make this happen.

But it always comes down to one person who has a little bit too much power and is the final decision maker…

I don’t know who that one person is, but if you’re that person and you’re reading this now – just know I’m glaring at you from my computer screen. Yep. Glaring. Mad hard glare.

So here’s the shortened version of what actually happened:

Since I was a graduate student, under Rowan University’s policies I was not permitted to receive graduate level credit for what was an undergraduate class. I would need to do something more to have the work qualify as graduate-level work.

Okay, that makes sense, right? No problem. I was planning to use this course for my research for my MA thesis anyway. I would take the course as a form of an independent study and keep a research journal and check in with Dr. Kopp who would be my adviser of the project. I just finished taking his Core II course where I had to keep a research journal as I conducted research for my MA thesis anyway. This would be essentially a continuation of the work we’ve already started together.

But that one person who I am glaring at through my computer right now said that wasn’t enough.

Instead I needed a detailed description of what exactly I’d be studying and using for my research. I needed to create a very, very, very detailed research proposal about how I’d be studying students. I needed to explain what I’d ask students, who would participate, how their data would be used, and so forth. It was so much more than what I had intended to do. I wanted to learn the language, not how students used their experiences or what they thought of the course or whatever, but if it got me into the classes, I was willing to comply.

But of course it wasn’t that easy. Nothing in life is ever that easy – I had to submit a research proposal to the IRB and have it approved.

It took me several weeks that summer to put together my application for the research proposal. There were so many parts and it needed to be as detailed and specific as possible. I also realized I would need to hire an intern to help me with my research along with a videographer to film students. I would also need permission from the students. There were so many different loopholes and approvals I would need. Dr. Kopp worked with me every step of the way to help me in writing down the steps and just what I would need. We didn’t submit the application until the last minute when we were confident we had covered all of our bases.

I think I worked harder and longer on that application that I did in most of my graduate level courses combined.

And yet, the application was STILL denied for many, many, many different reasons. The overall theme was that they needed more specific information and more approvals from people involved.

I was tired and getting burned out and the class wasn’t even approved yet, let alone started.

After having my application rejected I decided not to move forward and just accept that I wasn’t going to learn ASL that semester (or even study people who would learn it). I accepted my next point…

5. I Wasn’t Meant to Learn Sign Language.

God’s ways are better than mine. Every time I tried to learn sign language he put roadblocks in my path that prevented me from learning it. Sometimes this seemed extreme, as was the case with the hardships I faced trying to take the ASL course in grad school. He simply did not want me to learn it. I will never know exactly why he didn’t want me to learn it until I am face to face with him in heaven and have a chance to actually ask him, but I do have a few theories.

Have I had learned sign language, my life would be very different. I may not have been mainstreamed like I am today and I may not have accomplished all that I have. I know that these is controversial and this statement may infuriate anyone from the capital D Deaf community who may be reading this, but you can’t deny the fact that it’s true:

Not being able to interact in the hearing world will hold you back in society. Is it right? No, it’s not. But it is the truth. 

If I learned sign language from an early age and made it my dominate language and chose to become a part of capital D Deaf culture, I may not have been as prepared for the “real” world because my communication skills may not have been as good. I wouldn’t have had to rely on lipreading as much and I wouldn’t have learned ways to navigate the hearing world because I wouldn’t have had to. I probably wouldn’t have went to mainstream school, let alone college, and wouldn’t have had the same experiences and may not have had as many job opportunities.

I know it’s not right, but the world is designed to operate for people who can hear and while it’s discrimination, employers get away with it. Most employers don’t want to hire someone who can’t hear, especially if they need a lot of accommodations such as sign language interpreters. These things cost money and people don’t want to have to pay for it and if employers aren’t the ones responsible for paying for it (ex – if health insurance or disability services cover it…I admit I’m not entirely sure how this works) it still won’t change the fact that employers will view it as a hassle that they may not want to deal with. Meetings will take longer, phone calls may go on unanswered, and work days may be less productive. Again, I’m not at all saying I agree with this. It’s horrible and it should not be this way, but you can’t deny the fact that this is how the world operates and even anti-discrimination laws can’t change the way people think and feel – that’s something only God can change.

If you want to get ahead in life, you need to be able to sell yourself and adapt to the outside world, knowing that a majority of people exist in a hearing world. This is similar to how a majority of the world speaks English (and most of the US). If immigrants want to get ahead and make a future for themselves in America, it is very wise for them to learn the language. We can and should support them by trying to speak their native language or becoming familiar with it and offer translators, but at the same time it is easy for them (and perhaps more practical) to learn our language then having all of our people try to learn theirs.

Have I had learned sign language, I may not have ever gotten cochlear implants. I know that this isn’t the right path for everyone to take, but it was the right path for me. My cochlear implants have opened a whole new world of opportunity for me and greatly improved my quality of life. If I had sign language then getting cochlear implants wouldn’t have mattered or been a priority for me and I would’ve missed out on so many amazing experiences (not to mention sounds!)

And yes, I did try to learn sign language post-cochlear implants. I am not sure why God still doesn’t want me to learn it, but I even have my theories about that, too. I am still training my brain to hear sounds and I imagine I will for the rest of my life since there’s always something new to hear. My hearing is fantastic now and “almost” perfect, but it will never be natural. I will always need a minute to think about and process what I am hearing. I’m never going to “just hear” – my body is not capable of that. If I would’ve learned and became fluent in sign language I may not have had the need to work so hard at hearing the sounds and training my ears post-cochlear implants. Simply put, I may have gotten lazy with my training and rehab.

Sign language is important and should never go away. I understand the point oralists were trying to make way back when and I agree that being able to communicate in a hearing world without sign language will help the deaf to advance in society. However, sign language is a tool or a strategy that works better for some than for others. For some people they may be the son or daughter of Deaf parents born into the capital D Deaf culture where sign language makes the most sense for them to use. For others like myself, lipreading and cochlear implants are better tools to help prepare us for the hearing world we choose to live in.

There are some people who absolutely need sign language, but I am not one of those people and I shouldn’t be made to feel bad or wrong about my decisions. As a child I was able to get by in school and society through lipreading, sitting in the front of class, reading a lot of books and text to gather messages, and relying on others to lend me their ears when in need. As I got older, cochlear implants gave me nearly perfect hearing. In either case, I managed without sign language and I regret nothing. I was still able to live a happy and fulfilling life and never felt cut off from communication.

Everyone has their own communication preferences, especially those who are living with hearing loss. It is important to remember that no two people are exactly the same and just because some individuals with hearing loss sign, doesn’t mean that they all do and it’s perfectly fine if you choose to sign or not to sign. It’s a personal decision and you should never feel the need to apologize for the way you wish to be spoken to. People should respect your decision and if they don’t understand it, they should take the time to ask questions and educate themselves so that they can learn rather than judging, speaking for or on behalf of someone else, or flat out ignoring someone’s requests or communication preferences.

 

Advertisements

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.


60635011_2011799962263738_4218503890150096896_n.jpg

Hey guys, so the name of this blog is Confessions of a Def Deaf Girl, right? Well, I have a confession for you all today:

I never went to my high school prom.

Overall, I have no regrets. I didn’t want to go to my prom back in high school because junior year none of my friends went and my senior year prom was being held in my former hometown that I wanted no parts of. I thought it was a waste of money to spend hundreds of dollars going back to the town I lived in for nearly a decade and didn’t enjoy, so I didn’t go.

I don’t care much about skipping my prom, but sometimes I do still wish I would’ve had a chance to get all dressed up and go dancing. Needless to say, when I saw that Human Village Brewery was hosting their first ever “beer prom” where attendees were strongly encouraged to dress up in prom attire, I jumped at the opportunity to go.

So I grabbed my prom date, Evan, and we both donned some of our formal attire (nothing too crazy – we were worried no one else would go through with it!) and headed to the brewery!

61546263_10219031178834013_4565934467717267456_n.jpg

Me with my amazing prom date and forever love, Evan. 

Human Village put on such a great event. They closed the brewery early that night to prepare for the prom (which took place during what is normally their after-hours/closing time). They went with a beach/nautical theme and decorated the walls with pool floats such as blow up dolphins, whales, beach lizards, beach balls, etc. The owners all got dressed up in prom attire as well. They offered the first round of drinks for free with the purchase of a ticket and also had free snacks such as Chick Fil A chicken nuggets (with their famous sauce!), Philly soft pretzels, a veggie tray, popular prom appetizers like cocktail hotdogs, and more.

decorations

Human Village did a great job decorating the place with a beach/nautical theme!

61757314_10219031180394052_4496906036803796992_n

Beer flights – because everything tastes good and decisions are hard.

Evan and I’s friend, Ian Goode’s band, The Collective Force, performed all night long minus about an hour where some crabby old person (or at least that’s what I assume) tried to call the cops on the event due to noise. They played some popular prom and beach themed songs along with popular radio hits that everyone recognized. At one point everyone at the prom even joined together to form a love train going all around the Brewery!

61499117_10219031181514080_3020174354907398144_n

The Collective Force Performs at Human Village’s first ever Beer Prom 6/01/2019

Evan and I danced to a handful of fast songs and just about all of the slow songs. We are always looking for opportunities to go slow dancing together, so we finally had our chance at the prom and he made waiting 29 years to go to prom worth it. He’ll always be prom king in my heart!

61680748_10219031179554031_5862312982431662080_n

Sharing a passionate kiss with my prom date and forever love. Fun fact: in addition to it being prom, it was also our 20 month anniversary!

Towards the end of the night, however, Evan left for about 10 minutes to use the bathroom and I waited at our table by myself. During this time two girls approached me and asked me to dance with them. I felt a little strange about it since I didn’t know them, but there was a family-feel to this event with everyone dancing with everyone all night long and I assumed they just didn’t want me to be by myself at the table so I joined them and kept thinking in the back of my head Evan, please hurry up and rescue me.” 

A few minutes in they asked me if I was deaf. I told them that I was. The rest of the conversation went like this:

Girl #1: *Points to Girl #2* We both study ASL at Camden County College.

Me: Oh, that’s cool. I don’t sign.

At this moment Evan finally came back from the bathroom and hugged me from behind, which naturally scared the crap out of me since I never saw him and the girls laughed and introduced themselves to him as well.

Shortly after Evan and I were reunited, the conversation with the two girls resumed.

Girl #2: So, like, you can’t hear any of this music playing, right?

Evan: She has cochlear implants.

Me: Yes, I can probably hear better than you can right now. I can hear everything. I have about 97% total hearing with my cochlear implants. I just can’t hear when I take them off.

Girl #1: Do you ever take them off when you don’t want to hear?

Me: Oh, yeah. All the time. Especially when reading. 

Girl #2: That sounds useful. I wish I could do that!

Me: Yeah, it definitely comes in useful. It helps me to focus and concentrate more on what I’m reading.

The conversation then died down with them a bit as Evan and I went our separate way and had our own conversation. It was getting towards the end of the night and things were wrapping up. We were saying our good byes to Ian and talking to the owners about some of our favorite craft beers and asking about what some of there upcoming releases would be.

As we were leaving the two girls said goodbye to us and then thanked me for talking to them about my experience with cochlear implants and being deaf.

There was just one problem…

They were signing to me. Instead of actually saying “Thank you” they signed it to me. Fortunately I knew what this sign meant, but I still couldn’t help but be annoyed since I literally just explained to them how I didn’t sign.

This is one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to people wanting to know more about the deaf/Deaf communities – people who aren’t from either community (meaning they have no hearing loss or real experience with those who do). People take ASL and automatically think it gives them a right to enter these communities or they think they know everything about what it’s like to be deaf/Deaf. But they have no idea.

Not everyone with hearing loss is a part of the Deaf with a capital D community. Not everyone with hearing loss knows sign language. I for example know hardly any sign language at all. Signing to me is highly ineffective as I won’t know what you’re saying. My preferred method of communication is verbal or text. In this scenario I could hear the two girls perfectly fine. I never once had to ask them to repeat themselves and I explained to them very thoroughly and clearly that I could hear everything perfectly fine – conversations, music, etc.

What bothered me the most wasn’t at all the fact that they tried to sign to me, it was the fact that they didn’t listen to me. Half of the problems in the world I think stem from people not taking the time to truly listen to one another. This causes miscommunication, confusion, and disconnects in how we converse with one another.

For those of you who are reading this in hopes of gaining a better understand of what it’s like to be deaf/Deaf or hard of hearing…for those of you who want to learn communication strategies for how you can best talk to those who are deaf/Deaf/hard of hearing my advice to you is short, sweet, and simple:

LISTEN.

Don’t just assume that every deaf/Dead/hard of hearing person you know automatically knows and prefers to use ASL.

Don’t assume that they are all verbal.

Don’t assume that because someone has cochlear implants they can hear perfectly fine (this is true in my case, but not true for everyone).

Assume nothing.

Ask everything.

Most deaf/Deaf/hard of hearing people will be more than happy to explain their communication preferences to you and to have a conversation and to educate you on their world, but if you choose our communication preferences for us and assume you already know everything, you’ll miss out on these opportunities to really get to know us and engage with us (and you may be completely rejected by us anyway if we can’t effectively communicate with you).

There is nothing wrong with being hearing and wanting to talk to someone who cannot hear, but there is everything wrong with choosing for someone else how to communicate with them and not listening to their needs or preferences. We have our own unique voices and HATE being silenced, so give us a chance to use our voices and sit back and listen to us before you speak for us.

 

 


I’ve written in the past about how my cochlear implants have improved my career and what it was like to have a job interview with them, but I don’t think I ever really discussed what it’s like to work in a busy, noisy city with cochlear implants. I have been working for Penn Medicine for almost exactly three years now and it’s definitely a big change from the smaller offices I worked for in the past, especially since my office moved from 3600 Market Street to 3600 (we sure do like the number 3600, don’t we?) Civic Center Boulevard, which is much closer to the hospitals.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about working in a busy city is this:

1. It’s Always Extremely LOUD!

One of the first things I ever “heard” with my cochlear implants was the sound of sirens coming from both police cars and ambulances. I was, after all, activated at Jefferson University Hospital which is located right outside of Center City and being a hospital has ambulances coming and going constantly. However, it took me awhile to really learn how to hear the sound of siren. At first my brain couldn’t recognize this sound because it was so high-pitched. When I heard it after being activated on day 1 my brain couldn’t process it at all and I didn’t even know it was a siren I was hearing.

Since receiving my first cochlear implant in 2014 (and the second a year later in 2015), I must have heard sirens a few hundred times. I live almost directly across the street from what was formerly known as Kennedy Memorial Hospital (which, ironically has since been brought out by Jefferson and is now known as such…) and my office is located right outside of several major hospitals — The Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania (CHOP), the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP), the Abramson Cancer Center (ACC), the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine (PCAM), and I am sure I am missing a few. Needless to say, that results in A LOT of ambulances crossing my paths and a LOT of sirens.

Unfortunately, sirens have become one of my least favorite sounds to hear because they are SO LOUD. Prior to receiving cochlear implants, I never understood how or why people would cover their ears when the ambulances would come by. I know people would say it hurt their ears, but this never really made sense to me because it never seemed loud enough to me to do any damage. Back when I had hearing aids it was the equivalent of hearing from a straw. Even if I was standing directly next to an ambulance with its sirens on, I could only hear enough sound being produced by it to give me the impression that the ambulance was about 5 miles away or so. The sound didn’t both me at all.

Now that my cochlear implants have given me almost normal hearing, it’s a whole different story. I am very fortunate to have been blessed with so much hearing especially after living so many years of my life in silence. However, no matter how good my hearing may now be it doesn’t change the fact that it’s not natural hearing. Every time I hear something, my brain needs to stop to process it. I have noticed lately that the louder the sounds are, the more difficult it seems to be for my brain to process it. My brain simply feels overwhelmed by loud noises, especially sirens. In my last blog post about graduation I explained how hearing the confetti poppers physically hurt me. Sirens are no different. In fact, especially when they go directly past me, they may be even worse. This leads me to my next point:

2.     It Increases My Anxiety.

I’m fortunate to have the ability to work in one of the safest parts of Philadelphia, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still Philadelphia and I need to be alert and aware of my surroundings.

Growing up deaf, I learned to rely on my other senses more to make up for my deafness. This especially included my eyesight. While I don’t have 20/20 vision (I always have to wear either glasses or contacts), I still have good perception and can sense something coming from miles away and I am also very sensitive to light. However, Philadelphia is still a whole different ballgame.

I have quite the commute some days to work, depending on which office I am working at (I work at 3600 Civic Center Boulevard on some days and 3930 Chestnut on other days given my unique role). On the days when I have to work at 3600 Civic Center Boulevard, my anxiety is usually the highest because there is SO MUCH going on. Most professionals these days would describe my experience as being a sensory overload. I am not sure if I am comfortable defining it as such, but I will say this: it is stressful, overwhelming, and anxiety inducing.

My day starts with a car ride of 20-30 minutes depending on traffic to the train station which is no big deal. The first train station in Patco in NJ and I take that from Woodcrest to 8th and Market. Again, no big deal. Then I switch over to Septa and take that to 34th street. Sometimes on the way there I grab a Lucy which isn’t too bad, but if I can’t take a Lucy then I walk the 15-20 minutes to 3600 Civic Center Boulevard. I also take the walk back home rather than the Lucy.

This walk is where the stress comes in. People say that NJ drivers are bad, well they must have never seen a Philly driver because I promise you this:

The. Cars. Never. Stop.

It doesn’t matter if you have right of way or not. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the cross walk. It doesn’t matter if the sign with that white man lights up. It doesn’t matter if the light is red, green, or yellow.

The. Cars. Stop. For. Nobody.

So being alert is now crucial. Because you have at least four places to look for the cars, which as we established, never stop for anyone no matter what. You have to make sure you won’t get hit by a car. The cars are also super loud as everyone is always in a giant rush and everyone is always very angry and constantly beeping their horn. It is difficult to determine why they are beeping their horns. My anxiety usually convinces me it’s all my fault and they are beeping at me, which further drives up my anxiety and causes my heart to race at the thought that I am in the wrong.

On top of being alert and on the lookout for cars, you also need to pay attention to your surroundings and the people around you. Keep a close ear on your surroundings. Don’t look anyone in the eye. Don’t talk to anyone. Don’t do anything that could increase your chances of getting murdered, raped, robbed, or jumped. Just because it’s a good part of Philadelphia doesn’t change the fact that it’s still Philadelphia.

Oh, and the ambulances are also never going to stop because it’s University City AKA Hospital City and you work for the healthcare system so you should come to expect that.

So you have the cars beeping at you, the ambulance sirens, the people being people.

And did I mention the lights?

I already mentioned how the cars don’t pay mind to the lights, but it goes much deeper than that.

Trying to determine when to or not to cross the street has absolutely nothing to do with the lights. Because when you have what you think might be the right of the way, given that the light just changed for you, there may be a traffic cop directing you not to go or they may tell you to go when you’re not supposed to go under normal circumstances.

Even though I can hear now, I still rely on my eyes for safety and guidance more than my other senses and probably always will. Have so many things thrown at me to look at and not being able to receive a clear signal or message or direction from any of the various things in my sight of vision just further overwhelms me.

By the time I get through all of the traffic to and from work I often feel completely exhausted and defeated and ready to end my day even if it’s technically only just begun. This in a way is similar to my next point:

3. It’s Hard to Focus.

This one is a little more for the actual office environment. We’ve recently switched to more of an open-office environment since we moved from Market Street to Civic Center Boulevard. This has more people closer together, which unfortunately has created more noise.

One of the things I have been struggling with the most since getting my cochlear implants is filtering out background noise and being able to separate it from other sounds or ignore side conversations. I do have settings on my cochlear implants to filter background noise which is helpful, but doesn’t always work especially if someone is having a conversation right alongside of me (but not with me).

Now that I am able to hear my brain is trained to pick up on everything it hears and to process it as sound. I hear everything, but I don’t always want to or need to hear everything. Unfortunately, I am not always able to pick and choose what I do or don’t hear.

This can make it difficult to focus at times. It is hard to read and concentrate on what I am reading when I keep hearing other conversations or especially if people are on the phone. I will often take my magnets off so I can better focus and concentrate when reading. This is an overall effective solution, but it doesn’t work for everything.

For example, with my work in social media sometimes I need to watch videos to work on YouTube or video marketing strategies. Other times I may be the one on the phone and struggling to separate outside conversations/background noise with the conversation I am trying to hear. My brain has to work extra hard to focus in on what it’s supposed to be hearing and separating it from the other sounds, which naturally causes me to feel exhausted by the end of the day. This leads me to my fourth and final point:

4.  It Makes Me Appreciate Being deaf.

This one might be a little confusing for some people who see my cochlear implants as a “cure” for deafness.

News flash: there is no “cure” for deafness; merely tools to help us to hear or better manage our deafness.

My cochlear implants are an incredible tool that I am very blessed and fortunate to have. With them, I can hear. But that’s exactly it:

With cochlear implants I can hear.

With my cochlear implants I go back to being almost completely deaf again, and at the end of the day, I am very fortunate to have that ability.

Hearing is exhausting, especially after working in a busy, noisy city all day long. I look forward to being able to come home and take my cochlear implants off and not have to hear anything. This is my way to unplug and unwind and to give myself “deaf time” where my brain doesn’t have to continue to work to process sounds.

I also like to have the option between hearing and not hearing. I can take my magnets off at any time in the day to unplug and to not hear. This, as previously mentioned, is one strategy I use while at work to help me to better focus and concentrate, and is a strategy that many have told me they are envious of.

All in all, working in a busy, noisy city is challenging and exhausting, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I am beyond blessed that I can do this now, because prior to getting cochlear implants I don’t think I would’ve been able to successfully navigate the city and the train systems and everything else I have become so dependent on. While it’s true that the constant noise causes me to be more anxious, not being able to hear and being conscious of my inability to hear would’ve been even worst for my anxiety.

God has given me these challenges for a reason – perhaps to keep my mind active and to help me to not become lazy with my hearing progress. For this I am grateful and determined to keep working through the challenges and to come out on top.

Or, at the very least, to make sure I don’t get hit by a car (That. Never. Stops!!!) in Philly….


maxresdefault.jpg

Image Credits: YouTube

This week I read 1 Corinthians 14 and it made me think a lot about the history of American Sign Language actually. In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul is talking to the church of Corinth about speaking in tongues. He acknowledges the ability to speak in tongues as being a spiritual gift from God, however, he strongly urges the church of Corinth not to practice the speaking of tongues unless everyone can do it. Paul explains this by stating, “He that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.” Men that possess the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues can use it to speak to God, yes, but they shouldn’t use it to speak with the rest of the congregation because they won’t be able to understand him. When we enter the church it should be to honor and glorify God and to help our brothers and sisters and Christ to do the same and to better come to know God and his words. If we can’t even understand what the members of the body of Christ are saying then how can we really come to know God and learn at church, let alone properly worship him in his home?

Paul went so far as to suggest that speaking in tongues could be the equivalent of just making noise without understanding what that noise actually means in verses 7-11. Here he states:

And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? For ye shall speak into the air. There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me (1751).

Wow, definitely a lot of things going on in these verses! Let’s look at the first part of this first, verses 7-8:

“And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?”

A deaf person may never hear the sounds of a pipe, harp, or trumpet. You could blow that trumpet as hard as humanly possible and that deaf person may never prepare himself to battle if that’s all he has to go on because he’ll never know. To him, the sound of a trumpet is completely meaningless.

For me prior to getting my cochlear implant, I missed out on many sounds. I’ve discovered many of them since getting my cochlear implants, but every day I am also still learning more and more sounds. It’s not uncommon for me to jump a little in class as a train goes by or someone talks or fidgets or I hear an unknown sound. I’m constantly trying to define the source of the sound and what it means. This is what the congregation must’ve been like back in Paul’s time when they tried to understand what the speaker was saying when he spoke in tongues that they did not understand.

I also relate this to ASL. The Deaf community needs ASL so that they can understand what is being said in the church. To them, the verbal communication means nothing. They have no idea what the pastor is preaching without the use of ASL. They will never hear the gospel or understand the message that day. The pastor might as well be speaking in tongues because they’d never know otherwise. Here, Thomas Gallaudet’s arguments for using sign language in the church makes sense.

But hold that thought…

Thomas Gallaudet and the manualists didn’t just think that the use of sign language in the church would help the deaf to better understand sermons; they took it a step further. Gallaudet along with the other manualists felt that sign language would bring the deaf closer to God. In Tracy Morse’s dissertation, “Saving Grace: Religious Rhetoric in the Deaf Community,” she quotes Douglas Baynton’s Forbidden Signs when she says:

For manualists, this view was interpreted in Protestant terms: sign language was an original language and meant “closer to the Creation,” not inferiority (Baynton “Savages” 98). However, for oralists, sign language was associated with lower evolution or “inferior races” (Baynton Forbidden 9). Oralists made arguments that deaf students needed to learn spoken English and lip reading or they would be viewed as animals or savages (Morse 51).

Now, let’s look back to the scripture and focus on verse 11 which states, “Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.

The word “barbarian” here is what stands out the most to me. Do you know who else really loves the word “barbarian”? Alexander Graham Bell who was NOT a manualist like Thomas Gallaudet, but rather an oralist that believed that the deaf needed to move away from sign language and instead learn to speak verbally and read lips and live in the hearing world.

So, what am I saying here? Do I think that this verse is saying sign language is barbaric? Absolutely not, but at the same time, it could be absolutely so. So it’s a yes and a no for me.

Here is what I think that verse is saying, or what the core message Paul has for the church of Corinth is:

We need to speak in a way that people can understand what we are saying in church so as to not cause confusion or anything that can inhibit man’s understanding of the gospel and man’s ability to honor and glorify the lord.

Back in the time of the church of Corinth, speaking in tongues was a barrier for people in the church because it might have benefited the person speaking it, but it did not benefit the church. Paul is calling for the unity of the church – everyone needs to unite as the body as Christ and work in a way that best serves God and not themselves and that involves speaking a universal language they can all understand.

What does this mean for the deaf in the church? Should they be forced to lip-read and practice the oral method? No. I think the deaf should have a right to hear the sermon in a way that is the most accessible to them. Many churches offer the hearing loop to help hard of hearing and deaf people to hear (depending on the degree of hearing loss of course). If a deaf person needs an interpreter, they should have access to it.

If the majority of church attendees are Deaf and rely on sign language, then perhaps that church should consider doing full sermons primarily in ASL, as that is what will benefit that church and help the attendees to learn and honor and glorify God the best.

We don’t have to worry too much about the speaking of tongues in modern day. 1 Corinthians 13:8 says, “Whether there  be tongues they shall cease”. People cannot speak in tongues today (I acknowledge that many claim they do – I have my own feelings on that but I’ll be nice and go the route of “no comment” on that…). I think that whereas the church of Corinth had to worry about the speaking in tongues today our issue is more or less about what language or what style/tone to use in church. I think it all depends on the congregation and choosing what is the most accessible to your church goers.

Going  back to the discussion on the deaf community…

In Baynton’s Forbidden Signs he explains how many oralists feared that by relying too heavily on sign language the deaf community would isolate themselves from the rest of the world. He stated:

Like their contemporaries in other fields of reform, oralists worried that the lives of people were diminished by being a part of such communities as the deaf community; they would not, it was feared, fully share in the life of the nation. The deaf community, like ethnic communities, narrowed the minds and outlooks of its members. “The individual must be one with race,” one wrote in words reminiscent of many other Progressive reformers “or he is virtually annihilated”; the chief curse of deafness was “apartness from the life of the world,” and it was just this that oralism was designed to remedy. Apartness  was the darkness manualists redefined for a new world (Baynton 32).

Sign language was (and still is) very different from spoken English or any spoken language, really It’s different from what the majority is speaking and when people can’t speak our language, either they or we miss out. Isn’t this the same as what was going on in the church of Corinth in a way? Paul wanted to see the church of Corinth come together to honor, serve, and glorify the Lord and to unite as the body of Christ. Speaking in tongues was something very few church members could do that caused a separation or divide between those who could speak and understand it, and those who could not. It became a distraction that kept people from coming to know God.

Is sign language a distraction that keeps the deaf from doing things in their daily lives? It is obvious that it causes a divide from the hearing and the deaf worlds. In the church, it can make things better for the deaf and I can see how it can strengthen their personal relationships with God, but if we only signed and didn’t speak spoken English, the rest of the congregation would suffer. I don’t see sign language as being a form of language that brings a person closer to God in the sense of it’s a superior or holier language than standard English. I think it’s just another language that for some is their primary and therefore the best and for others is just another language in the world that exists but one they don’t partake in or use in their daily lives.


1625991061

Image Credits: Advanced Bionics 

I mentioned previously that I got the AquaCase for my trip to Disney. However, I never did a review post on it. This post will be more of a first impression that a full-blown review, because I still have not had the chance to fully utilize it enough for a full review.

My first impression? I thought I would love it, but I really didn’t.

I didn’t realize how different hearing with the AquaCase would be verses hearing from my normal processor. The sound didn’t seem as loud or as clear. It reminded me a lot of how when I first had my cochlear activated, things sounded unnatural and unclear. No one told me  it would be the same thing again with the AquaCase.

I knew that the AquaCase would involve putting my processor in a little waterproof box-like case, but it was still really weird to me to have the processor in a box clipped to my shirt rather than resting behind my ear. I kept trying to touch my ear and feel it. It felt like something was missing.

Having the microphone inside my headpiece rather than on the processor was also very weird to me. I think this might explain why sound didn’t seem as clear to me.

1103080971

Image Credits: Advanced Bionics

Despite getting the AquaCase and making sure I had it set up for my Disney trip, I didn’t use it at all in Disney. On my first full day in Disney I initially had it on. I will admit I felt a little self-conscious with the wires. I knew my boyfriend wouldn’t mind at all. He’s already seen them. But I was also with my boyfriend’s family who wasn’t used to all of that and who didn’t know me as well and it did seem a little awkward around them. However, I probably would’ve kept it on if I could hear better out of it.

I tried to call my mom while wearing the AquaCase on the first day. It was not raining and I had no plans to go swimming, but I was in Florida where it is known to be hot and I was going to do a lot of walking and more than likely get sweaty, so the AquaCase seemed like a good idea to protect my cochlear from sweat and moisture. I had a problem with this when I tried to work out at the gym with my cochlear — all the sweat and humidity shortened it out and I had to send it out for repairs. This was exactly the kind of problem I was looking to avoid. However, I was extremely disappointed when I realized I couldn’t hear anything at all on the phone while wearing the AquaCase. I immediately switched back to my normal processor withoutthe AquaCase and was then able to hear every single word again.

That was it for me using the AquaCase in Disney. I always brought ti with me just in case it rained or just in case it got too hot (we were blessed with very nice weather while we were in Disney. We avoided the rain and the hottest day was just under 90 so heat wasn’t too big of a problem) or if we went swimming or on a water ride. None of those instances ever really came up.

I did however use the AquaCase when I went home, especially at the gym.

My first time using it at the gym was a little annoying. I think I may need a stronger magnet in the head piece. It has three magnets which is the same as my regular processor has, but I think the AquaCase calls for stronger magnets since the headpiece is a bit thicker. Also, as I got sweaty it seemed to cause the headpiece to become slippery and fall off a few times. The sound quality also wasn’t too great. I could hear sounds but I probably wouldn’t have been able to have a conversation with anyone. Sound still seemed extremely distorted to me.

After coming home from the gym that night I got a shower like I always do only this time I purposely didn’t blow dry my hair. I kept it soaking wet and used my AquaCase because I wanted to work on getting used to it more. I was able to talk with my family, but it definitely wasn’t as easy as it was with my normal processor without the AquaCase.

The second time I went to the gym with the AquaCase was a much better experience. Sounds began to sound more normal and I was able to hear people and voices and hold conversations better. I still did have a little bit of trouble getting my headpiece to stick on the whole time though. But I hated the AquaCase a whole lot less. I came to the conclusion that just like with my normal processor, the AquaCase is going to take some getting used to. I think my brain needs to train itself to hear with the AquaCase. I am not sure why that is, but one of my theories is that the microphone in the headpiece vs. having the microphone on the processor may play a factor in it. It was disappointing to me at first because nobody told me that I would have to adjust to the AquaCase or get used to it. I was under the wrongful impression that it would be the exact same thing as my other processor — just waterproof. I can’t blame Advanced Bionics or my audiologist for not telling me though. I honestly don’t think they knew and I am unsure if this is what everyone experiences with the AquaCase. This is just how I felt personally.

I think the more I use the AquaCase the more familiar I will be with it and the more used to I will get. I think my brain will learn to process the sound and it will sound more natural and I’ll be able to hear as well with it as I do with my normal processor. I think it’s just a process. I am very excited to go swimming with it on. Previously, I have never been able to hear while I go swimming because I’ve had to take out my hearing aids. I couldn’t really talk to people when I go swimming which can be a bit disappointing and frustrating. So being able to hear when I swim thanks to the AquaCase should be a whole new world for me and definitely a bit of an exciting experience and a true blessing!

Unfortunately, I had to send my processor back for repairs so I don’t have the AquaCase to work with at the moment, but I am hoping to get my processor back from Advanced Bionics soon so I can explore swimming with the AquaCase. Stayed tuned for a follow up post on that experience and how I progress with the AquaCase!


career

Image Credits: Cell Construction Limited 

Before I say anything let me just say my employer is most definitely an equal opportunity employer. They have always been extremely accepting of my hearing impairment and willing to work around it. My hearing most certainly never held me back at my job. I remember way back when I applied for a job in July of 2013 explaining to human resources how I couldn’t do a phone interview without a translator since I couldn’t hear on the phone. They were more than happy to email me a copy of the questions they would’ve asked me on the phone — this may sound simple, but trust me it’s something I have learned is extremely rare and unheard of from most other companies.

I was on a handful of calls prior to getting my cochlear implant. Ask anyone at my work and they will tell you my biggest strength at work falls into one core area — guest blogging/relationship outreach. Sometimes when I find these great opportunities the bloggers or companies want to set up a phone call to discuss different options first. While my hearing impairment made it so I couldn’t hear on the phone and do the calls on my own, I was always able to get a hold of a manager or someone else from my department to help me out and act as a translator for me — again, this is something I am extremely grateful and blessed to have at my current job since I know most companies wouldn’t do this for their employees.

I was never denied opportunities or promotions because of my hearing. My work always encouraged me to reach for the stars and work my hardest. I did receive promotions before ever getting my cochlear implant. This mainly includes being promoted from an Inbound Market to a Social Media Marketer. There has never once been a time when they told me I couldn’t do something because of my hearing. Instead they did everything they could to support me whether it be helping me with calls, speaking more loudly/clearly for me, slowing down and looking at me while they speak, or otherwise helping me.

When it came time to tell my work I was considering getting a cochlear implant, my boss at the time couldn’t have been more excited for me. Actually, excited may not be the best word to use quite yet. I kind of scared him at first. I told him I wanted to talk to him alone for a few minutes after having our weekly department meeting. This is not something common for me to say. I was always almost on the shy side and avoided confrontation at all costs. It wasn’t that I was shy or didn’t like people — it’s just that I couldn’t hear people well — especially my boss at the time, and trying to converse with them was often a difficult and awkward experience. But I have already taken a couple of days off and flex days and had many more coming with pending doctor’s visits, medical tests, and of course the actual surgical procedure and recovery period. I needed to talk to him to let him know what was going on and why I was suddenly requesting so much time off.

My boss was very supportive and understanding. He knew that even if I had to take some time off, I’d get the work done. I always do. I don’t know how much he understood about what cochlear implants are or how they work, but I told him if all went well I’d be able to hear and he was pretty excited about all of that.

As everything started to come together with my cochlear and it seemed more and more likely that I would be able to go through with it all, I began to blog about my journey right here in this very blog. My first entry was on October 27th, shortly after meeting my surgeon for the first time. I began to talk to my co-workers and let them know what I was going through and I shared my blog with them so they could follow along with my experience. I have received many comments on my blog of people saying they love reading about it and asking if I’d write a book (which is a big “yes!” from me!). I am very blessed to have such caring and supportive co-workers.

Recovery from my surgery was a bit brutal. In a perfect world I’d have a very easy recovery that wouldn’t make me sick or dizzy or sleepy and I’d be back to work within two days top. Unfortunately, that definitely didn’t happen. I was in a bit of pain. My medicine knocked me out. I got very very dizzy. Long story short, I missed a whole week of work post-op. But my boss understood and supported me and my co-workers joined forces to help me with my workload and fill in for me during my absence.

When I did return to work, it still wasn’t easy at first. Fortunately, my company was in the process of moving (talk about good timing!) so I was able to work from home most days. Unfortunately, the days when I did have to come to the office could at times be quite brutal. I had no hearing in my left ear at all for a month. When I was in the office it was “social media day” and we almost always had a meeting to catch every body up with what was going on. I couldn’t hear much in meetings before, and without even having a hearing aid in the air and little to no residual hearing left, I really couldn’t hear now. I couldn’t even tell when people were talking. It bummed me out quite a bit. I would talk to the social media managers (I was not a manager at this time — just a social media marketer) and ask them to send me any notes they had or IM me anything important since I couldn’t hear. They were more than happy to oblige.

That month totally sucked, but things got much much much better in time. A month later I had my cochlear activated and that is when I really got to see the benefits of my cochlear implant.

On the second day that I was activated (my first full day of activation), I had a job interview for a new position at my current place of employment. The position was for that of Assistant Project Manager (now called Assistant Digital Marketing Manager). This is a position I have wanted and have been watching out for openings for for well over a year. I couldn’t apply fast enough once I hear they were looking to promote from within for it. I remember legitimately dropping everything and sending my resume/applying the minute I saw the opening.

I applied in December back when we were still at our temporary office on Federal Street. When I had my interview I was so nervous. My hearing was better than it was on day one. I had a lot less of that “baby crying sound”. Voices were starting to become clearer, but a lot of things still didn’t sound natural to me. Naturally, I worried about how well I’d be able to hear my co-workers/future bosses who were conducting the interviews.

I hear every word. I only had to have them repeat something to me once. I knew without them saying anything that I was getting the job. When you know, sometimes it’s obvious. You just know.

Sure enough, my job offer came a few weeks later after we moved to our final location on Aquarium Drive. I couldn’t accept fast enough. My new bosses said they were both very excited to welcome me on the team.

Becoming an Assistant Manager was a big and exciting change for me. I finally had the direct constant contact/interaction with the clients I have wanted for the last two years. I think E-mail will always be a preference for me when it comes to contacting clients simply because it’s been my crutch for years. When you HAVE to rely on email because phone calls are not an option, you become naturally pretty good with them. But I had to do a lot of phone calls, too. Working as an assistant manager means that I work under a project manager and offer assistance to him and her. When we do calls, especially when I first started, the project manager is almost always on call and I do more listening than talking a lot of the time. This definitely helped me to become more comfortable and familiar with how phone calls work (don’t make fun of me. I never had much of the ability to hear on the phone — so yes, I am in a lot of ways learning how phones work).

I think sometimes I might have talked a little too much on the phone. I am still working to develop my listening and speaking skills. I am in a horrible habit of interrupting people. I think some of it initially was too that I was so excited to have the option to speak and get my ideas out in the option with the clients like that. But I am getting better. One of the project managers I work under heard me on the phone on my own a couple of months ago when a client called my direct number. He was fascinated with the way I was able to take the call (he knew it was something I could never previously do on my own) and he said I was much better than I was in my earlier days when I had weekly calls with one of his clients. It was a compliment that definitely meant a lot to me. Just as everything else with the cochlear is a process, so to is learning to use the phone.

Ever since I got my cochlear I feel like there has been so many big changes being made with my career. It is so exciting and I know that it all thanks to the grace and glory of God who has bestowed these blessings onto me. I have been getting more and more comfortable in my roll as an assistant project manager. Sometimes my project managers I work with aren’t available. They take a personal day or go on vacation or take a sick day. They can’t be there all the time. However, that doesn’t stop clients from having questions or calling. I have been able to take their calls and rely information to clients in my project manager’s absence. Once I was even able to gather information about a client who recently created an exciting partnership with another company and needed a new website made. This involved changing their contract around — which was a bit of an upsell from the business side of things. I was able to handle this and help make this all go through successfully on my own while my project manager was out. If it was not for my cochlear I wouldn’t have been able to make that call and help get things moving with this.

Today was an even bigger opportunity for me as an assistant project manager. One of the clients I am an assistant manager for came in for a client visit. Per their current contract, they receive a bunch of web maintenance and training each month to teach them how to make updates on their website. Today they wanted to come in and meet us in person for a training session. Of course, I was a little nervous. I mean I only ever met a client in person once before and this was a client that’s been with us for a very long time for a training session on something that is a bit of a weakness for me (Thank god for the web department at my work and the wonderfully talented people who work in it. I would be so lost without them). But I was far less nervous than I normally would have been. I knew I had nothing to worry about too much — I could hear! I’d be able to talk to them! It would be far less awkward than it would’ve been had this happened 6 months ago or so.

The meeting went very well. I didn’t have much talking to do since web maintenance is certainly not my area of expertise, but I was able to take very detailed notes on just about every single word that was said which I think will be extremely helpful especially for my project manager. And towards the end they asked us a bit about the social media audit we did. This was actually something I did as I am now a Social Media Project manager. I was able to jump in here and explain what Google+ was and how it differed from Facebook which helped them out a lot. It was a very exciting moment for me because I know just a few months ago I wouldn’t have been able to hear them at all. Sure, I had the knowledge about Google+ and Facebook 6 months back, but having knowledge isn’t always that helpful when you can’t even hear well enough to realize who is talking or if anyone is talking at all.

Thinking of social media, just two or three months after becoming an assistant project manager, I worked my way up to Social Media Project Manager as well. I am definitely still very much in the process of learning things. I have about 7 or 8 clients now. Not nearly as many as one of the project manager’s I serve as an assistant to, but my client list has been growing and I’ve been learning more and it’s been such an exciting journey being able to fully manage my own clients now. I set up my own calls with just me and the clients (I don’t have an assistant of my own). I answer my own calls. I manage my own team of marketers on the account. I now constantly have social media marketers at my desk asking for advice or questions about tasks for my clients. It is so exciting being able to converse with my co-workers like this. I always had to rely on my instant messenger or email in the pass which is so much less personal. I feel like now I can really connect with and get to know my co-workers for the first time.

And in the process I feel like I am finding my own voice as well. In September I will have been at my job for two years. Most of our employees have not been with us for 2 years, but there are a handful of people I like to refer to as “vets” who’ve been with me since I started and well before I started. It’s so cool to see things progress with my cochlear now.It’s like for years I seen these people in the office and I had many of conversations with them online, but now that I can talk to them in person it’s a whole new world and I think they feel the same way about me. I feel like a lot of people were under the impression that I was shy initially. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. I am anything but shy. I am the true definition of deaf and loud. I have a lot of ideas and thoughts and I can be very sarcastic and playful. But these sides of my personality often didn’t come out especially during meetings because I couldn’t hear and often times had no idea what was even going on in meetings. Now I am always aware of what’s going on and what’s being said. I can offer my thoughts and opinions and I can joke with my co-workers and engage in the occasional small talk. I am finally, after two years, able to connect with and really get to know the people I work with.

My cochlear implant has definitely opened many new doors for me as far as my career goes. It made some tasks easier for me and my overall work experience more enjoyable. I feel like ever since I got my cochlear implant my career has been steadily rising. And the best part of all? This is still only the beginning. It only goes up from here.