Tag Archives: telephone

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.

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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….