We’ve all heard that statement at some point in our lives, or a similar one. It always means we (or something) are all the same but, we also have our differences. On a grand scale, we are all human beings but, our differences lie in our nationalities, history, race, gender identification, and much more.
How does this apply to those of us who are d/Deaf?
We are the same through the commonality of hearing loss. We are all d/Deaf to one degree or another. Maybe we’ve only lost 10% of our hearing, or we’ve lost 100%. We can identify as hard of hearing or d/Deaf which, again, is the same but different; different words meaning the same thing.
Our differences lie in how we became d/Deaf and our experiences during that process. If you were born deaf and raised in a hearing environment your experiences are vastly different than someone born deaf and raised in a Deaf environment. Personally, I am a late deafened adult. I cannot give voice to the experiences of a person born d/Deaf. I can tell you what it’s like to be hearing all through school and early 20s before realizing my hearing was going away.
Born hearing, I enjoyed the same things all hearing children did. As a teenager, I hung out with hearing friends, learned to play the saxophone, went to concerts non-stop, performed on stage in several plays, and could identify my friend’s cars by their distinctive rumble coming down the street.
By the time I started noticeably losing my hearing, I was married and living in an area with no resources for hearing loss. I sucked it up and started doing something we’ve all done, I faked it. If I couldn’t understand someone I’d just smile and nod and hope I didn’t just agree to help hide the bodies on a night with no moon.
As the years passed, and several moves later, my wife and I had two boys; I watched them grow, learn to walk, and talk then suddenly, I realized I couldn’t understand what my own children were saying to me. As someone who had been hearing, this was devastating. My hearing began going downhill quickly and I didn’t want to lose my children’s voices.
This led to finding an audiologist who prescribed hearing aids. God, I hated those. Yes, they worked remarkably well for about six months but my hearing fell off so rapidly they ended up not doing anything for me other than amplifying sounds. They did nothing for clarity or understanding. I felt I had spent $5000 for nothing.
Fast forward about five years and my wife and I were celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary in Paris, France. Without expounding in great length and detail about how wonderful Paris is, I’ll skip ahead to my “ah ha” moment. We were standing on top of Notre Dame when, as it happened, the bells began chiming the hour. I knew this because I could feel the sound vibrations of the bells. The ah ha moment was realizing I couldn’t hear them. Think about that for a moment, I’m standing on top of the bell tower with these huge melodious bells ringing the hour and I can’t hear them.
That moment sent me in the direction of researching and opting to have bilateral cochlear implants. This wasn’t a quick decision, I spent over a year researching and talking with my wife. I weighed the pros and cons, ultimately deciding to do it.
I am happy with my decision.
Are they the “be all and end all’ of my deafness? No. I will always be deaf, from this moment until the end of my life. But, when I have them on, they allow me to function as close to my old self as I can. Do I think all d/Deaf people should get them? No.
Hearing aids and cochlear implants, while the technology is great, are not for everyone. The decision to use HAs or CIs is extremely personal and should be researched thoroughly which brings me to the real point of this post.
We are all d/Deaf but how we got here is different. We should unite among ourselves; accept that each person has their personal way of coping with their hearing loss. Support each other in our decisions and educate those asking questions. If we can do this, without bias toward each other for our decisions, then we can truly make a difference in our advocating for the removal of communication barriers; a united front to caption movies, TV shows, and YouTube videos. Educating the public and private school systems in how to approach and use different teaching tools and methodologies when working with d/Deaf students. Carrying this advocacy to the business world to let companies know we are employable and valuable. We can do all this once we accept, we’re the same …
… but different.
Rob the Deaf Guy