A Woman with a Hearing Loss: The Inner Struggle

I’ve been doing alot of thinking lately about me, who I am, what I want for myself and what my future holds.  Without a second thought, what seems to pop up in my mind is my hearing loss.  My hearing loss is the first thing I think about when asked “who are you?”  My hearing loss shapes almost everything I do in life these days.

Although I grew up in a hearing world, lost my hearing at the age of 19, resisted wearing hearing aids until I was 42,  focused working the majority of my professional career in the field of deafness, Deaf, and hearing loss all chosen without really much thought, unconsciously because of my own loss.  I learned to sign because it was the only “thing” available to help me communicate with other “deaf/Deaf” people and make an attempt at finding another social life outside my hearing world.  A Sign Language Interpreter was also the accomodation I asked for when I needed to know what was being discussed in large staff meetings at work.

My problem was, I just did not fit in with the deaf/Deaf community.  I wasn’t comfortable.  It wasn’t my world.  I was trying hard to be a deaf person, not a hard of hearing woman when in truth, I was and am a woman with a hearing loss who lives in a hearing world.  I was very comfortable in the hearing world and I’m very proud of the fact that I became extremely skilled at reading people. ASL taught me to be very aware of body language, facial expressions, the movements of the mouth and of course, the eyes tell me a great deal about a person as well as what they are saying to me about the individual.

It wasn’t until closed captioning and CART came along that I finally stopped to really think about who I am?  Most recently, CART and closed captioning has given me a great deal of hope and  brought me closer to accepting that I have truly found my comfort zone.  I became more involved with SWC (SayWhatClub) and met many people like myself over the years.  Then, I recently became involved with CCAC and realized that between these two major groups,  hearing impaired individuals really do have a culture of their own.

According to Websters dictionary, the definition of culture is: ” the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; also : the characteristic features of everyday existence (as diversions or a way of life} shared by people in a place or time <popular culture> <southern culture>  the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization”

Hearing impaired and late deafened people share so much common ground that we can almost predict what the individuals’ experience has been whether it’s buying a hearing aid, going out to a restaurant with friends, or feeling isolated and lonely because hearing people don’t understand hearing loss.

CART and captioning and the English language are my form of communication (receptively and expressively).  My comfort level is with hearing and non hearing people whether Deaf/deaf or hard of hearing.  However, I do not belong to the Deaf community and once I accepted that and stopped fighting to be in the community and  denying my being a woman with a hearing loss who needs CART or closed captioning for meetings and entertainment purposes, I felt my world opened up.  Of course we also need hearing people to understand hearing loss better in order to communicate with us. 

The Deaf community is a wonderful place but its not my home. I was not born into it. ASL was not my first language but I am happy to have the skills to explore the culture and ethnicity of the Deaf community. My friends once told me, if I ever lost all my hearing, they would learn sign language for me.  I felt so lucky when they told me this.  However, I now realize that my friends will do whatever it takes to keep us together and communicate and I’ve decided, if I should lose additional hearing, we will do our best with whatever it takes to communicate.  Afterall, I am who I am, a woman with hearing loss.

0 thoughts on “A Woman with a Hearing Loss: The Inner Struggle

  1. Pingback: Deaf Village
  2. ??? Deaf people are human. Treat them as you would treat any hearing friends. There are plenty of deaf who have something in common with you so don’t put up a barrier because you don’t care too much for their language and the culture built around that language. ASL came into existence so there would not be any barriers between deaf and even hearing…so we could interact each other about anything.

  3. Thanks for this blog and mention of the CCAC. Very nice. CCAC welcomes all and has one theme – inclusion of quality captioning universally.

    Text is primary for literacy, translations, language learning, global exchange, search online, and more, and yes, for 1 in 7 people globally with hearing loss or deafness.

    CCAC has free membership and is all volunteers. Find us online. The Collaborative for Communication Access via Captioning.

  4. @deafa, please do not think I do not care about the language. I do very much. But it’s not my language and it’s not my culture. My culture is Judaism and the yiddish language. That was my first language and will always be my first language. As with the deaf culture, there are many people in the religious jewish cultural sect who worry that their language will fade out. But I do NOT expect others to communicate in yiddish. I have learned sign to communicate with others but I cannot use sign with people who are in my enclave. So I need a method of communicating that they can use with me when in meetings, social events and so on when oral communication does not work for me, and for me, sometimes that is captioning, CART or even writing on paper.
    For me, there are very few barriers between the Deaf as I can get away with my crappy signing. I never said I didn’t care for ASL so please do not turn what I am saying into something negative. ASL is your language and thats great. It’s your cultural existence and you should be proud of it. Just as I am proud of my culture.

  5. I really connected with what you said here. I think the late-deafened, hard of hearing culture is in its infancy and maybe evolving more now that we have organizations like HLAA, ALDA and CACC that look out for our interests. Like you, I strongly feel connected to the culture of my birth. Growing up in a musical home, it’s hard to shake off that memory and say, “Well I’m deaf now, so I’ll just forget all that. . .” I still remember the joy of hearing and of communicating easily. I share in that joy with my hearing family and friends.

    I like that you specified your culture as Jewish and not ‘hearing’ There is no ‘hearing culture. My culture is not hearing. It’s just mainstream Protestant, middle-class American. Not glamorous, but a culture I am proud of none-the-less. Some of my earliest hearing memories are my dad singing me to sleep, listening to Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring on our hi-fi with my ear almost pressed against the speaker because it was so beauitiful, doing the twist to Elvis Presley with my grandma, and feeling like I had an epiphany the first time I heard Dave Bruebeck’s drum solo in Take Five. I cannot extract these experiences from my mind and I don’t want to. That’s why I’m different from people who were born Deaf.

    I love ASL.

    I will never be fluent in it, and I’ve made my peace with that.

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