Best of Both Worlds

Someone asked me today if I enjoyed being deaf, or would I rather just be able to hear like everyone else. I was also asked if I would go back and not get cochlear implants. I’ve never really expressed my opinion about this until I was asked this. This is my own opinion taken from my own experience so this may be a little long but bear with me.

Yes, I know I’m different than everyone else. I never mention to anyone how I have to work twice as hard in everything I do. It’s become second nature and it’s not so much that I enjoy being deaf but I couldn’t imagine not being deaf. It has taught me that its ok to be different.

I do have a cochlear implant that allows me to hear. For instance, I turn on my cochlear implants during the day and then can’t imagine sleeping with them at night. Even at 20 years old I still think it’s creepy hearing noises throughout the night so I sleep completely deaf and couldn’t imagine otherwise.

So I am able to live in a silent and hearing world by the snap of a hearing instrument called a cochlear implant.

I am the person that will tell literally everyone I meet that I am deaf. I tell them so they know that if I miss something thats said it’s for a reason. Yeah, I also say it because I’m extremely awkward and I need them to know that if I just nod my head and say “yeah” there’s a good chance I have no idea what you said, so I will own up that. But mainly I tell them because I always crack jokes about it and I’ve found people respect confidence over everything. I have come to realize that I am the only who can make anyone aware of my deafness.

Here’s a little background:

When I was born, I was a healthy baby but months went by and my parents sensed something was off. I was not reacting to their voices or to noises.  At eleven months old, my parents went to a number of doctors who continued to say that I was fine, ultimately; the last doctor discovered that I was born severe to profoundly deaf in both ears. My parents decided to get me hearing aids and I had them until preschool, but those devices did not do anything for me. To this day, I still do not know how I survived with them.

Finally, my parent’s began to learn more about an upcoming hearing device called the cochlear implant. A cochlear implant is a device that is surgically implanted behind the ear that allows a deaf person to hear.  At four years old, I became a candidate, one of the first people to receive the cochlear implant, for my right ear and went through with the surgery.

Cochlear implant

The doctor’s opened the back of the ear and implant an internal cochlear implant device that connects to the outer device. So whenever someone speaks to me, the outer device connects to the internal one and sends signals to my brain within seconds. After receiving the surgery I went through years of intense oral speech therapy.

By doing this I have been fortunate enough to be mainstreamed in all aspects of life. From  my education starting in elementary all the way to now, in college.  I never once took any type of help; I wanted to be considered “normal.” 

My grandmother used to tell me the story of one particular time we were outside playing and I had received the cochlear implant. I  finally heard the sound of the wind and I was in awe so I asked her what that noise was. She always used to tell me that was one of the most amazing moments, that she was able to witness someone hear something for the first time. Growing up I was able to adjust to my surroundings while going to speech therapy three times a week for years. I could not be more thankful for my parents for all of this. 

When I was thirteen I wanted “stereo hearing,” which means having the chance to hear from both ears. I was your typical teenage girl who got frustrated with her friends but mainly because I couldn’t keep up with the conversations. I decided to do something about it and received my cochlear implant surgery for my left ear. At last, I was able to hear from both ears, which in scientific terms is called “bilateral hearing.” I went ten years only hearing from one ear and the minute the left one turned on it was a whole new way of hearing.

Don’t get me wrong, when I was four years old it was an amazing experience to hear for the first time but I just don’t remember it clearly. When the implants get turned on for the first time, the sounds are not normal since the brain needs to get adjusted to hearing from that ear. As soon as my left one was turned on, everyone’s voices sounded like Disney animation cartoon voices. No exaggeration.

So the summer before my freshmen year of high school, I had to go through one of toughest times in my life by going a whole summer of just listening to voices like this to adjust to the “new ear,” which means not wearing the right cochlear implant that I had been so dependent on after ten years. It was not easy as I had to see the positive in it every day as I struggled to keep up with conversations and life that whole summer but going through all this has allowed me to finally hear from both ears.

I have learned “patience is a virtue.” I have to go to audiologist appointments every year to adjust the devices, the audiologists have to check my frequencies by having me sit in a sound booth and repeat countless words and sentences to see if my hearing has improved. Therefore, I have never looked at my hearing loss as an impairment, but rather an advantage. 

Many people in the deaf community are against the cochlear implant, but I disagree. I have the choice to turn sounds from anyone or anything on or off at anytime which is, in my opinion, a blessing.

Existing in an oral world has taught me that I have the ability to show others that anyone can overcome obstacles. By taking advantage of my “disability” I can remove my cochlear implant in time to shut out the voices of my screaming parents telling me to clean my room. Basically having the choice of “selective hearing” as my parents call it.

Luckily, I have also been able to teach my friends and family patience; numerous times my best friend will finish saying a sentence, notice my reaction, proceed to laugh and say, “Did you hear anything I said?” and repeat it for me. I’ve learned to joke around with it and use my abilities to my advantage.

Because of speech therapy, I can lip read extremely well and even read people’s conversations from across the room; if I hadn’t gone through everything I have, I would never be able to do that.

So to answer that question no I would not want to hear like everyone else. Who wants to be like everyone else, yes I know a cliche.  I wouldn’t have become the person I am today without being the way I am. I love shocking people with how far I’ve come and helping others go through the same things I went through. People under estimate how much someone who is deaf have to go through in their life, some of us are proud of being deaf and others are frustrated with it. Either way, it’s something that can make or break your life.

One of the most significant things I’ve learned is how important it is to give people the benefit of a doubt. If you see someone that is struggling give him or her a chance. The amount of times I’ve struggled and encountered rude people who have looked at me like I’m dumb is unreal. It aggravates me so much so of course when this happens  I never miss a chance to tell them why I couldn’t hear.

No I don’t tell them them so they can feel sorry for me, it just gives me a great feeling when I see the look on their face and have them realize what they did.  I’m not saying everyone is like this but I’ve had people tell me since I’ve said that to them that they’ve stopped judging so hard. I would never go back and not get cochlear implants, no it hasn’t been easy but I’ve been blessed to live and experience two different words. 

All in all, I have learned that being deaf gives me a completely different worldview from other people and that only makes life more interesting.

Please share!

But I don’t want to grow up.

As an upcoming Junior in college it’s hitting me pretty hard that I’m growing up. It’s scary even thinking that within the next ten years I will be in the real world with an actual job, in a new city(or old one), possibly married, paying my own bills, etc…I’m getting anxious just typing this.

And so I was getting ready for a recent family party and was preparing myself for all the questions that I knew were coming.

How’s college?      

Said: “It’s great, and so much fun. I could not be happier where I am.”

Thinking: “It really is great but it’s also extremely stressful. I’m trying to balance my social life, academics, and struggling trying to figure out what the hell I really want to do with the rest of my life.”

How did you do this semester? 

Said: “I’ve been improving slowly as I adjust so I did much better then I have before.”

Thinking: “You don’t even want to know…”

What are you finally studying? What do you want to do with it?

Said: “I’m studying Journalism but I want to do a little bit of Public Relations with a minor in Legal Studies. I’d love to do something that will allow me to travel.”

Thinking: “Yeah I’m studying Journalism because I couldn’t handle changing my major to marketing with all those math credits because then I’d never graduate. I’m more focused on getting a job Public Relations/Marketing with Social Media, yeah I might not make a ton of money and may have to live like a hobo but maybe I’ll be happy. And I put Legal Studies as my minor because I love Criminal Justice but I don’t want to be a lawyer but my parent’s are pushing me to focus on it so I can work with the FBI. They think I could do wonders because I read lips perfectly…yet I have no idea what I want to do with any of it.”

Are you working this summer?

Said: “Yes I got an internship this summer regarding PR/Marketing”

Thinking: “I’m praying that I don’t fail at this.”

Do you know what you want to do after college?

Said: “I’m not really sure I know I want to travel so hopefully a job that will allow me to do that for the first few years.”

Thinking: “I have no freaking clue.”

And the more I came to prepare myself for these questions the more I started to psych yourself out. Hell, every time some one asks me what I want to do with my life I change my answer. I’m 20 years old, I’m no longer a teenager but nor am I completely an adult yet…I’m allowed to be indecisive. I’m going to college, getting an education, and slowly trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. You’d think that’d be enough right?

So many nights I have found myself laying in bed wondering what in the world I’m going to do with my life. It’s always in the back of my mind. It scares me when people know exactly what they want to do with their life and have their lives all planned out. I question if I’m doing something wrong. But there are so many things I want to do, and I’m more scared that I will never get a chance to do many of those things.

So I’ve learned that it’s okay to be anxious and nervous about the future. It’s normal and actually exciting but scary at the same time. In two years, you could be exactly where you want to end up or you could end up doing something completely different then what was expected.

And to be honest that makes it all worth while.

So here is to two more years of college and experiencing it to the fullest.