Wednesday, 26 April 2017

‘Being deaf has shaped who I am’

Aidan Whitehead, cochlear implants, rowing, deafExamples of confusing images of deaf people abound, here is one.  It could be argued Cochlear Implants made him who he was,  but at least the d was not capitalised in the article heading.  Will medias or deaf people, EVER get it right ?

Although Aidan Whitehead was born profoundly deaf, he was fortunate to receive cochlear implants when he was two years old. Today, he is 19 and a first-year engineering student at the University of Stellenbosch. 

“Life with cochlear implants is sometimes very noisy and sometimes very quiet,” says Aidan. “I find that classrooms and lecture halls are a challenge – it’s often difficult to follow what’s being said because of the background noise. I know this can be difficult for hearing people too but it’s twice as hard for me. I have to sit close to the speaker or lecturer so I don’t miss anything.

“Being in a conversation with more than two other people is also a problem for me. I struggle to follow what is being said.”  To overcome this Aidan often has to guide the conversation or take charge, especially in group projects.   “Sometimes it also helps to position myself in the best place to hear, for example, sitting with my left ear (my stronger side) towards the conversation.”

‘I’m treated no differently’  “I don’t think I’m treated any differently,” says Aidan. “It helps that I don’t think of myself as being hearing impaired. I see it more as a part of who I am – a part of my personality. This has helped shape the way people treat me – they treat me as a fully functioning hearing peer rather than a disabled individual.”

Understanding cochlear implants

A cochlear implant is an electrical apparatus that is surgically implanted into the bone behind the ear. It is made up of a microphone (receives the sounds), a speech processor (selects usable sounds) and a coil (decodes and sends electric impulses to the electrodes). 

“Cochlear implants and speech processors have opened the world to me. They have allowed me to expand my potential far beyond what it would have been without them,” he says.