My name is Savannah. I am a hard of hearing high schooler, and I use a cochlear implant and a hearing aid to help me in my everyday activities.
From birth, I was diagnosed with profound hearing loss in my left ear and moderate hearing loss in my right. I have always known that I was deaf, and this has been a fact of life for me.
My first memories of using technology were in pre-school. I wore an FM receiver in my right ear and the teacher would wear an FM transmitter. Now, this transmitter looked quite different than the transmitters commonly used today. It was a large box, clipped to their hip, with a thin cord running up their chest and a tiny microphone attached to their shirt collar.
My kindergarten teacher named it “Tina the Transmitter.”
I used my receiver, complete with a bright pink mold, all the time. My mother would tape it to my ear during karate practice, so I could punch, kick, and hear while feeling secure.
Then, in first grade, I got my first hearing aid. It had a giraffe pattern on it and I loved it. So much so that my mother fought tooth and nail for my audiologist to allow me to get one in my left ear.
Why was this an issue, you ask? Hearing aids amplify sound and sends the waves through your cochlea and to the auditory nerve. But my left ear, audiologists said, wouldn’t be able to pick up the amplified sound, and would therefore be a waste of time. Nevertheless, we persisted, and a few months later I had bilateral hearing aids.
Throughout my elementary years, my parents would sometimes ask me if I wanted a cochlear implant in my left ear. I would adamantly refuse – saying I didn’t want to be deaf but rather hard of hearing.
In seventh grade, my tune changed. Middle school brought new challenges and new experiences. I began debating the pros and cons of a cochlear implant. I still used my hearing aids as well as a newer version of an FM transmitter.
The summer before eighth grade, I got the surgery. It was such a rewarding experience. While I was definitely scared going into the operating room, that fear dissolved quickly. I knew that I had made the right decision.
Being turned on was really interesting. There were all these new gadgets and computer programs that controlled my head! My hearing rapidly improved from initial beeps to normal sound. While aural therapy was boring, it was worth every second to be able to hear new and exciting sounds. I learned a lot about sound booths and frequencies in that year!
Finally, I reached high school, where I use Cochlear’s Mini Microphone as an alternative to the transmitter I had once needed. Today, I am able to hold conversations at lunch and collaborate with classmates using this technology.
Being deaf is an important identity to me. I have changed a lot since the days when I rejected the very idea of getting implanted. While I may not understand everything people say to me, I can hear much, much more than I ever realized I could.
An interesting thing about being deaf/hard of hearing and using technology is that you live on the border between the deaf and hearing worlds. I really enjoy explaining to hearing people about my ears and my needs, and hopefully educating more people about my community and myself. But being on the border of my two worlds mean that my “people,” so to speak, are a select group of individuals. While I do try hard to connect with my deaf identity (learning ASL and deaf culture), and I try and integrate into hearing culture everyday, I have come to realize that my world is the border.
Being deaf is challenging. I have to deal with projects involving music and with watching videos without subtitles and with bad audio. Yet being deaf is rewarding as well! I have the ability to share with people my stories and spread awareness for deaf/hard of hearing people.
I even created an Instagram account, @mydeafjourney, that I use to share my everyday experiences with deaf and hearing people alike!
So, if I had the chance to stop being deaf, I wouldn’t take it.
Being deaf is who I am. And I don’t want to erase my identity.