A Hearing Loss & Late Deafened Blog

Resources to Shine

In ASL, coping strategies, Deaf Culture, Deafness, Hard of hearing culture, Hearing Loss, Lip Reading, Partially Deaf, Sign Language, Support on April 30, 2014 at 8:21 am

by Michele Linder

For those not familiar with Switched at Birth, the show follows the Kennish and Vasquez families who discover that their teenage daughters were switched at birth. Their attempt to blend the two families in order to become reaquainted with their biological children causes much drama where class and culture often clash. To complicate things, one of the girls is deaf. The show very successfully brings to light the communication and ethnic issues that arise between deaf and hearing worlds.

If you’re a fan of Switched at Birth, you’ll remember the “not hearing loss, deaf gain” scene where Marlee Matlin debates the term “hearing loss” with her class of students at the deaf school where she teaches. This scene was talked up all over social media after the Uprising episode aired, and many tried to put into words the feeling they got from watching this scene.

The comment that best put what I was thinking into words came from CCAC (Collaborative for Communication Access via Captioning) and Lauren Storck:

“And for all again, we may be deaf, deafened, or have a hearing loss, yet we are not dumb, daft, nor dim. We are different. We salute different and multiple identities. For those with a deaf identity fully intertwined with sign language fluency, Marlee’s class is excellent. And for millions of others, 95% or more who do not use signing while so many think we do or “should” – it’s best to be clear on some important differences, so that all have vital supports and resources to shine.”

Lauren’s comment refers to the choices we make, and the tools we use, in order to navigate through life with hearing loss and deafness as “resources to shine” and I loved that reference.  So much so, that I borrowed it for the title of this post.

Truly, and understandably, deaf culture is proud and protective of their community, identity, and way of communicating — sign language. The deaf identity is where they live and shine. It’s what they know. Anyone who is happy and content with their life doesn’t see a need to change.

But, what if you weren’t a part of that community and identity simply because you were born to hearing parents? I think most parents want what’s best for their children, but what is best for one is not always best for someone else, and like deaf parents of deaf children, hearing parents seek to find solutions for their child’s deafness within the world where they live and shine — the hearing world.

Many of us grew up mainstreamed in the hearing world and we learned to communicate through speaking and lip/speech reading. I’m one of those kids. I can look back now and can see the benefit of having a community of support and a language all my own to make my life easier, but hindsight, as they say, is 20/20 and who is to say my life would have been easier or better? As it was, I learned to lipread at a very young age, even before I was diagnosed with hearing loss. I also learned a lot of good coping skills naturally as I grew and lost more hearing, and like the deaf community, I’m proud of how well I did in life; how I learned to shine.  Quite a feat, considering I had very little support from anyone but myself.  Though, honestly, if I had a child with hearing loss I certainly wouldn’t have wanted them to experience the same struggles and feelings of aloneness that I did.

Pride. It’s a very good thing, but can quickly go the other way when we look at our own unique experience and say, “The way I did it is the only way.”

No matter how we choose to deal with our deafness and hearing loss — and if you were a child when you lost your hearing the choice wasn’t yours — we all have a right to “vital supports and resources to shine.”  I’m as entitled to pride in my identity just as much as someone who has pride in their deaf culture and identity.  As Lauren says, “We are different.”

Yet, we are the same.  So, shouldn’t we lift each other up and honor each other’s differences and recognize that how we shine doesn’t really matter?  It only matters that we do.

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  1. So true, we can all shine. What a great post!

  2. Thank you for sharing! 🙂 I’ve often wondered what a child’s experience is if they are deaf or have hearing loss, but their parents are hearing. I look forward to looking around your blog!

    • You’re welcome, Valerie. I come across many people through SayWhatClub who began losing their hearing in childhood and were mainstreamed. I think back when I was diagnosed (the late 1960s) not a lot of information was out there for hearing parents and unless you had some other affiliation with the deaf community, or you were steered in that direction by a doctor or someone else in the know you really just had to figure it out yourself.

      I was diagnosed at my only doctor’s appointment in childhood related to my hearing loss and the fact that I had lost a good bit of hearing and was probably going to lose much more in the next few decades was never mentioned again. I simply just did the best I could and learned to really focus on what was going on, and I was good at figuring it all out… or my brain was good at figuring it all out, I should say. :o)

      Thanks for your comment!

      • That’s definitely a good point. Before specialists and support groups, etc were around, people did the best they could on their own (and with their loved ones, of course). 🙂

        A friend of mine’s youngest child (4 yrs old) wears a hearing aid (she said her hearing is around 60, when someone with no hearing loss scores around 10 and someone who is completely deaf is 100…not sure if you’re familiar with this or not) Anyway, she confided in me about how hard it has been because, other than the medical support and speech therapy, she has been on her own. She said that she has met other parents of HOH children at clinics but none of them are interested in teaching their kids ASL…they all just focus on learning to speak, which frustrates her. She would like to teach her daughter (and other children) some sign language so that they can all communicate better, but she isn’t getting the support.
        Any thoughts?

    • Valerie, after looking at your blog I see you live in Atlanta!! I lived in Savannah for 4 years and Atlanta for 13 years. I sure wish I had had the Internet and ways of being better informed when I was a young mom. I look forward to reading more of your blog!!

      • How neat! I’ve always wanted to visit Savannah…maybe one day!
        You know, the internet is a wonderful tool but it can also be information overload at times too. 😉

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