Possibly easy to say when you aren't !
Saturday, 21 July 2018
And the fight back.... Is the 'worm' turning against the cultural activists? Increasingly, more of us are expressing concerned that the pursuit of culture is damaging the needs, support, and well-being, of other deaf people, by constantly re-creating a 'them and us' situation....
On the deafness scale of mild, moderate, severe or profound, I am profoundly deaf. With the help of cochlear implants, I am able to “hear” and speak. The devices are complicated to explain, but basically, external sound processors, worn behind the ears, send a digital signal to the implants, which convert the signal to electric impulses that stimulate the hearing nerve and provide sound signals to the brain.
The implants allow me to attend my middle school classes with few accommodations, but I’m still quite different from people who hear naturally. When my implant processors are turned off, I don’t hear anything. I regard myself as a deaf person, and I am proud to be among those who live with deafness, yet I often feel rejected by some of these same people.
My use of cochlear implants and lack of reliance on American Sign Language (I use it but am not fluent — I primarily speak) are treated like a betrayal by many in the Deaf — capital-D — community. In the view of many who embrace Deaf culture, a movement that began in the 1970s, those who are integrated into the hearing world through technology, such as hearing aids or cochlear implants, myself included, are regarded as “not Deaf enough” to be a part of the community. People deaf from birth or through illness or injury already face discrimination.
I wish we didn’t practice exclusion among ourselves. But it happens, and it’s destructive.
Those in the Deaf community tend to think of deafness as a defining factor of who they are and how they live. Many have never heard anything and have never communicated by speaking. That is a different experience from mine, but, in the end, none of us can hear without assistance. I think much of the tension between the Deaf and the deaf stems from this inability to completely experience each other’s lives. Many Deaf people, and hearing people, think of cochlear implants as a “solution” to deafness. It isn’t.
The technology simply helps me live with my deafness in a certain way. My parents decided to get cochlear implants for me when I was a year old because they felt that I would have an easier life with them. Whether this is true or not I’ll never know. But in making the decision, my parents debated many pros and cons of cochlear implants. It is a debate that tens of thousands of parents have had since the implants became a practical option in the 1980s. My parents felt that the implants would give me more opportunities, but they worried that my having them would close off my access to a Deaf identity.
They worried I would be rebuffed by Deaf people who did not understand what it’s like to live with cochlear implants.