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ThunderTree

ThunderTree
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ASL Advocate
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Culturally Deaf Womin Atheist Deaf Advocate Hashimoto's; Fibromyalgia;Multiple Chemical Sensitivities; Chronic Fatigue; ADHD - and a broken toe. Advocate for the earth, clean air, clean water, clean soil, protecting animals from unnecessary extinction; Rewild; Urban Scout; permaculture gardening; Avid Scrabble player; Derrick Jensen supporter; dream analysis; Tarot reading; aura cleanser; rubber stamp art-kind-of-ish.

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Salon.com
FEBRUARY 19, 2009 3:44AM

Why I refuse to wear a hearing aid or cochlear implant.

Rate: 1 Flag

I'll be answering this person's feedback: 

"refuse to wear hearing aids or become robotized by having cochlear implanted in my skull"

More on this would be helpful. People have pacemakers put in their hearts, which is also artificial, so what's the core difference? Also, hearing is an important sense, obviously one can live nicely without it, but it is harder, and in a few cases can be even dangerous. "Hey watch out!" from someone out of eyesight etc. Finally, what Thomas said -- if you are talking about the deaf person's immediate community, sure. But, the world? On that, I guess first, we should learn Spanish and a few other languages (including Chinese), given the number of people speaking them.

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Here are my reasons for refusing to wear hearing aids or cochlear implant. I truly do not need it.  A person with a weak heart that can result a premature death, depends on that pacemaker to enable hir to live longer. 

As for deafness being dangerous; ironically, we're a lot more aware of our surroundings than you'd assume. For  one example, over and over, various research have proven Deaf drivers are safe drivers and I'll let this excerpt explain itself: 

Like you, a lot of people feel that the hard of hearing cannot be as good or as safe drivers as others.

Yet research carried out in New Zealand into the causes of more than 30,000 accidents showed deafness was not responsible for a single incident.

In the USA, almost all licensing officers consider deaf drivers to be quite safe -- indeed safer -- than average.

But there is a reason for this though. These drivers are so well aware of their disability, and of the prejudices against them, that they take more than average care when driving.

They concentrate more on the job.

(http://www.independent.ie/health/questions-answers/checkup-deaf-driving-fears-1484912.html)

****************************************************************

Our eyes are highly sensitive and we often pick up tiniest details that most hearing people overlook.  Too many times I've had to explain in lengthy details of certain objects far away and it'd take a hearing person about 2 or 3 minutes to finally notice the same object.

We also feel vibrations (max trucks or a motorcycle whizzing by) and a lot of time combine common sense and intuition - we notice our surroundings much more viligently.

Hearing aids does not means I can hear exactly what a hearing person hears; I thought I did for 22 years of my life when I wore them until a hearing counselor fluent in ASL and understood Deaf Culture explained that my reasons for daily struggles with hearing folks in everyday interactions only amplifies certain sounds and pick up other unnecessary sounds that interfered with my listening. 

I thought I was hard of hearing until I met a Deaf woman who labeled herself "I'm technically hard of hearing." I asked her what did she mean by that? She explained, "I function like a hard of hearing with these hearing aids; but once they're off I'm stone deaf." Later she got an implant. I went through denial instisting I was 'lightly' hard of hearing until a Deaf teacher who taught Deaf Studies taught me that how to tell if one is deaf is to see if the person without lipreading, sitting close to a speaker will only understand 20% of what they're uttering. Hard of hearing will understand about 60%. Flashbacks of my mother screaming at me where my hearing aids were (I'd often forget to wear them on holidays after I returned from the Deaf school); and my family would get extremely agititated if I could not understand them 95% of the time. We'd have yelling matches as they'd scream to get my attention and I'd yell back "What?!" They got upset that they had to walk to the end of the house where I was sitting at to communicate with me. (Talk about lazy) 

Once my hearing aids batteries died in this very hot humid summer weather at my cousin's party. I instantly became, understandably anxious and anti-social by sitting on a couch and reading some novel ignoring people, hoping they'd not notice my sudden change. My second cousin angrily tapped me hard on my shoulder to get my attention pointing her sister wanted to talk to me. Abruptly, I got up and walked up to my oldest cousin who nearly shouted me sarcastically, "My GOD you're Deaf!" Everyone around us chuckled and I angrily snapped back, "Just now you realized that?!" My cousins looked at me disapprovingly. 

Later, my second cousin who was sitting with other female friends, relatives and my mother were talking and I decided to join despite not being able to understand whatever they were talking about. Suddenly my cousin in a very loud voice while gesturing by pushing her nose upward exposing her nostrils joked here comes her snobby cousin. Everyone at the table laughed, including my mother. My heart sank to the floor. Ever since then, I move 3,000 miles away and never looked back.  I deserve better treatment than that. 

I'm among the 60% of the Deaf population who has some hearing in that I can hear enough loud man-made environmental sounds - such as trucks, train, neighbor's dog barking or an airplane flying over my neighborhood, etc and I wish I didn't hear them! It's ugly sounds in my opinion. Having ADHD makes it even more amplified where external noise pollution distracts me needlessly. 40% of the Deaf population are profoundly DEAF and still some complain how 'noisy vibrations' bugs the hell out of them - so it is not all peaceful as most people are led to believe. 

Funny story: once, I remember once I lived in an apartment with a (profoundly) Deaf roommate and one day I felt/heard some weird humming sound. I could not figure out where the sound/vibration were coming from. For three days in a row,  I'd obsessively check various spots and narrowed it down to the kitchen but still couldn't figure out where exactly came from. 

My Deaf roommate came home and asked why I was peeved - when I explained a 'new' noise suddenly appeared and can't figure where it came from - we both felt all of the kitchen's appliances - I with my head pressed close to everything trying to hear/feel and he pressing his hand - we'd take turn asking "Is this it? No... Is this one? Nah..."  After 10 minutes of wasting our time, we gave up. 

Few days later, when I arrived home, my roommate had a proud look on his face and I asked what was up. He beamed claiming he knew where the noise came from. Curious, I demanded where?! He pointed the refrigerator. I didn't believe him and he swore it was true and showed me where to feel its surface. Sure enough, there was that distinctive vibration that matched to what I thought I actually heard but wasn't too sure of. 

People sometimes think in extremes - completely deaf or completely hearing. Hard of hearing people are sorely misunderstood and often get blamed "You only hear what you want to hear!" from a lot of confused impatient hearing folks. Later, I realized it didn't matter what level Deafness people have - when a demanding rigid hearing family refuses to accept their Deaf child/ren (young or adults) - sadly, as I've witnessed too much, including my own - there is a constant distressing strain between family members. They cannot, for some odd reason, understand how exhausting for me to tap dance constantly searching clues to make sure I stay on top of every single word they're uttering. They don't understand how emotionally draining it is to exert defensive emotional shielding every time I say "Can you repeat that please?" about 5 or 6 times. Some people cannot understand if I don't understand one word in a sentence that throws the entire message off.... until I understand that one word, only then things will make sense to me. I am tired down to my bones in overcompensating to make sure I catch up in a race that I always lose. 

I want to remind everyone whatever we hear, we many not always UNDERSTAND what we're picking up. I once had a hard of hearing friend whose hearing would literally fluctuate! Talk about confusion. 

Just like any other people, danger is all around us. A hearing child can face the dangerous risk of being hit by a car just like a deaf child would. Ever notice how lots of hearing children often 'appear' to be deaf as they ignore their parents or caretakers' demands to stay away from a road or avoid touching a hot stove? Just recently I saw some clip from Brad Pitt's documentary about advocating cochlear implants and its trailer emphasized how a deaf child ran across the street without looking as she chased a ball that bounced across it.  I feel it's an exaggeration and overlooking our greatest assets that compensate what we do not hear. 

As far as I could remember - I've always been hyper-aware of my surroundings due to my non-signing impatient hearing family who didn't understand I was Deaf until I was 5 years old. They had no experience or knowledge nor understanding of how to raise a Deaf child properly. So, what I couldn't hear but surely felt those pounding foot steps behind me would have me instantly spin around and flinch in terror as I got smacked across the head. To this day if anyone flicks a knuckle or finger on my head - I get serious flashback of that abuse. Do you consider yelling, intimidating, humilating, hitting an innocent Deaf or hard of hearing child who does not understand as an effective communication method? I do not. 

My father confessed our family were confused of my deafness because they knew I could hear music at the restaurant whenever the jukebox was played. But they didn't understand why I could not hear anyone talking to me. I lived in a languageless world and it was dangerous to live with ignorant people who punished me constantly due to my inability to understand what I was hearing or did not hear, depending what the sound came from. 

I don't need cochlear implant for the same reason why I refuse to wear hearing aids. They do not cure my deafness nor do they cure communication barriers. 

My brother once snapped at me stating how 'We're all hard of hearing once in a while if the wind blows the opposite direction carrying our voice the other way." This arrogant statement proves me the irony of how people are aware how we all can have difficulty UNDERSTANDING a person from time to time; what they forget is that we, Deaf or hard of hearing people misunderstand on daily basis, 24/7.  It's exhausting to put up with impatient, angry hearing people who rudely snap, yell or bawl us out. 

I refuse to add more machines that pollutes the earth. I got too much junk already as it is...I have TV only because I use it for videophone calls with Deaf or hearing friends who uses ASL. I'm soon to sell my cell phone as I can't bother with that junky-gadget that kills song birds every year to extinction from ugly towers raping beautiful landscapes. 

Why is it so hard for people to understand that we all can be multi-lingual? Are we getting lazy? I think so. Some people don't know how to teach a foreign language; so find someone who does. 

Communication is a bridge that helps people to understand each other better.  My means of communication is through my hands, my face, my body, my emotions, my laughter, my tears, my eyelids... I communicate perfectly in a language that is EASIEST for me to use to convey my thoughts and feelings. 

I can't hear - a hearing person can. Why are you asking me to use something that isn't 100%  dependable? ASL is 100% effective for me and the person who knows how to use/read it. My ears are not 100% reliable nor are hearing aids or cochlears. I've met quite a few deafies who tossed out their cochlear implants after years of oppression and audism. 

I'll always remember when I was a new student at MSSD (Deaf high school) - walking on campus on a fine sunny day and saw tons of Deaf kids outside conversing with each other in ASL. I'd pass by each groups marveling to myself, "I understand them. I also understand them. I understand those people too." And I literally halted walking and amazment struck me as I stood there nearly crying happy tears - for the first time in my life, at 16 years old, I could finally understand EVERYONE around me.

That NEVER happened in a hearing family holiday gathering or parties or at a hearing classroom or hearing Slumber party or hearing children's camp, etc. I was always LOST - I was always scrunching up my face (these all with the hearing aids!) - I can't tell you how many times you see my childhood pictures with the infamous "What?" look. I used to drive my hearing family nuts what was going on with the TV programs or movies. 

In fact, when I finally learned about closed captions for TV - I had to BEG my mother to get me one. She couldn't understand how easy it was for me to understand with written text. She assumed that my hearing aids cured my deafness somehow and everything was all bed of roses.I thought so too until I was proven wrong. I never knew how much I missed out - how could I know if I didn't hear what I should have heard and so what's to miss? 

A lot. 

People often compare deafness with blindness. Helen Keller stated if she had a choice, she'd prefer to be blind than deaf. Blindness cut her off from things while deafness cut her off from people. 

That struck me so hard and it showed me what is wrong with the overall picture. Is it a deaf person's fault if s/he is cut off from their own community? No. A million times no. If you can use made up hand signals to train your dog or horse or whatever your favorite pet is - why cannot you train yourselves to pick up more similar signals for your own Deaf human child/friend/co-worker?

All family and friends of a Deaf member of a community should be fluent in ASL (or whatever sign language your country uses).  Hearing Native American Indians used to sign with other when attending to annual trading gatherings in order to overcome language barriers. Why are they willing and today's hearing society not?

To my delight, in Italia (Italy) - when visiting my hearing Italian relatives - so many of them use the traditional Italian gestures that is used like about 40% of the time in Italian sign language! So it made learning Italian sign language bit easier (plus it helped I was raised in an Italian household). In America, many hearing folks here are practically non-gestural and non-expressive with their faces. Except for first few generations of immigrants in America and if the bi-cultured children (young or grown up) continues to honor the traditional gestures - it's often hidden or downplayed. It's not "cool" to gesture it seems - unless one is a stand up comedian, mime performer or an actor -etc. 

I am totally relaxed when I do not wear hearing aids. I am no longer burdened with worrying about care taking ridiculously expensive hearing aids and the damn batteries with such short life span.

Impatient hearing people no longer can dictate me to turn up my hearing aid volume and pay more attention. I no longer have to worry about diving into a swimming pool and freaking out that I just drowned and getting electroceuted. (Okay, kidding on that part).

I no longer have to wince every time abnormal polluting & unnecessary sound interrupts my chain of thoughts. I no longer have to worry about suppressing my smile so the damn things will not whistle every time the air gets sucked inside my ear canals.

I no longer have to worry about people gawking at me "What are those things sticking out of your ears?" I no longer have to defend myself when hearing people assume that I have hearing aids means I'll always understand them perfectly each and every time. 

Remember how thousands of generations before despite all the oppression of banning use of sign language managed to pass it along and I vow to continue to pass ASL along to the next Deaf generation. 

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Comments

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Great post. My cousin, her husband, one of her children and her son-in law are deaf. She is in her late 60's. In my youth, her condition was pretty much untreatable. Later both she and her son used hearing aids (much better results for her son....she prefered not to wear them as well)
2 stories I think you will enjoy.
We shared a blind cousin (interesting family mine lol) who took the time to learn ASL. Watching him with my cousin, apparently tickling each others palms and collapsing in furious laughter (both had great senses of humor) changed my notion of communication forever.
Many years later at our common uncles funeral, I watched her speech capable daughter having a heated argument with her deaf husband...and I was no less embarrased than if to speaking people were screaming at the top of their lungs in a similar scenario.
Wear em, dont wear em, it's up to you. In an important way they change nothing.
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