Posts Tagged ‘deaf culture’

Savannah: My Deaf Journey

May 30, 2017

aid photo


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.

Master ear

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.

<3 Savannah


Deaf: Not a Four Letter Word ~ Helen Cotton Leiser

December 12, 2013

My  oldest daughter Ashlin was identified with profound hearing loss when she was  18 months old. The news knocked us off our feet. It was completely unexpected.  No one in our family has a hearing loss, nor did anyone we knew. Until I became  involved with Hands & Voices, I carefully used the term ‘hearing loss’ when  it came to both my girls. My involvement with Hands & Voices meant opening  my vocabulary to include such words as “deaf.”

In  my opening comments at our first statewide conference this past spring, I  admitted for the first time how difficult it was for me to use the word “deaf”  when it came to my girls. I was personally surprised by how emotional and  meaningful that one little word was to me as I admitted out loud to a roomful  of strangers, and for the first time, that I didn’t like saying “deaf.” Deaf.  For some, it’s just a word. For many it’s who they are. For hearing parents,  this one little word can be scary: not just new to their vocabulary, but a  reminder that their child is different from them. The word brings us face to  face with the unknown. My saying “hearing loss” felt less foreign to me, easier  to my heart and I find that when I use the word “deaf” in public I get a more  pitied look from the person I am talking to. Deaf to me meant a world I didn’t  know, a community that might not accept our choices.

Deaf.  Both of my girls are deaf. They are also smart, funny, silly, caring, generous,  snuggly. Oh, and they have cute little girl butts! Deaf. Why is it that this  part of them stands out the most? Why is it that this one word raises so much  controversy, so much angst? And if I really want to talk about controversy,  then I just need to mention the words “cochlear implant!” The use of hearing  aids amongst hard of hearing individuals doesn’t seem to entice such  controversy. Why is that? But cochlear implants can bring hostility—the  eviction of someone from the Deaf community.

At  the conference, former H&V board member Janet Johanson stated that her  bilateral cochlear implants are a “tool,” similar to using the myriad of other  technological tools available to deaf/hard of hearing individuals. As a parent,  I have always looked at cochlear implants as a communication tool that can help  my daughters be with and part of the greater community. They are still deaf.  They just have this incredible technology that let’s them talk and sing and  hear birds sing. Blind people don’t seem to have such an exclusive culture or  so much emotion put into their sensory loss; why does deafness cause so much  emotion?

I  wonder how my girls will feel about deafness, the Deaf culture and community in  the future. Will they feel like they are part of the deaf world or hearing  world? Or, because they were implanted at young ages, and attend school with  hearing kids and kids with hearing loss and are part of the H&V community,  will that line become blurred for them? Will it matter? No one can tell me what  life will be like for my kids since only in the last few years have children been  getting implanted so early.

Question:  Should they define their life as being deaf or hearing? Or should they define  their life by the type of women they are going to be, the role they will play  in our community, and in the world? Call me naïve (and I very well might be  when it comes to this!) but as their parent I want their lives to be defined by  the human beings they will grow up to be. I want them to do amazing things with  their lives. I want them to make a difference. I want them to be happy, to  believe, to have depth in their character. My girls get to experience the  beauty of quiet and of sound which I think can give them a unique perspective on  things, and I think it will make them better women, and will make them more  attuned to the world.

I  know their deafness has made me a  better person and I thank them for that. I have been able to meet really  incredible people from around the world because of them.

My  girls are deaf. I am grateful. They are healthy, they are smart, they are fun  to be with. As some incredible deaf adults have told me, I am making too much  of this. Maybe I am. But as I meet more parents and deaf individuals, I come up  with more questions. My experience with deafness is limited; I have more to  learn and I am grateful that I get to learn more.

Deaf.  I no longer feel threatened by this one word.