I have actually had this happen to me and I was even speaking to the person who said it to me. He was a customer who came in to my place of employment, a certain restaurant run by an unmentioned clown. I was running the register and I was signing with my supervisor (his family is made up of Deaf and Interpreters so he grew up with sign language) when he came in. I turned around to take down his order but I couldn’t see his mouth so I was really struggling to understand what he was saying. Then he told me he wanted one thing and when it came, said that it was really something else he’d ordered. Well, to make a long frustrating story short, the conversation ended this way:
Keeping a good attitude and deciding to make it into a joke, “I think you’re just teasing me” and I laughed it off.
“Well, I think you just can’t speak English.” He replied with a sneer.
Okay, now that story is out of the way, we can get to the real point of this post because it really isn’t about hearing people who are rude to me, it’s about my place and my feelings regarding Deaf Culture.
I started noticing trouble with my ears when I was seventeen and just entering an Interpreting program in my local college. I didn’t really pay it any mind immediately since I thought maybe that it was just me being silly and it was psychosomatic. I finished a year of learning sign language and moved on to a different college and changed my major. Three years later, I was still struggling, but my hearing tests always came back fine. I missed sounds quite a bit but it was mostly speech I struggled constantly with. I could be looking right at you and not understand what you were saying and if you weren’t facing me, then there was no way. The more background noise, too, the harder it was. It got to the point that I stopped even trying to communicate in the car where I was always in the back seat or in noisy environments. I didn’t know what to think anymore. The tests said my hearing was average but here I was, unable to understand the goings on around me. It was my mother that suggested that it may not be my ears at all but the way my brain was processing speech, an Auditory Processing Disorder. This wasn’t the tragedy everyone always seems to assume. I wasn’t sad that I was hard of hearing, I was happy. I had been taught early on in my hearing loss that there was a big culture that I was now a part of. I had the backing of thousands of people in my state. I wasn’t alone.
However, I learned rather quickly that even in the Deaf community, it wouldn’t always be peaches and butterflies. I fell into a very particular category. I spoke like a hearing person, I was raised as a hearing person and I could still enjoy music and other certain things. My family still saw me as a hearing person but I wasn’t and I didn’t see myself as one either. I wasn’t Deaf enough for many Deaf people but I wasn’t Hearing enough for hearing people. I was stuck in the middle and suddenly, I felt very very isolated. It seemed like I didn’t fit in either place. I felt very self conscious and for the first time I had the sincere wish that I could just be Deaf. I didn’t care about being hearing or music and I struggled talking on the phone to the point that I detested it. I loved my Deaf Culture and everyone in it and since I had started to lose my hearing, I had been far more comfortable signing than speaking. It wasn’t until I had grown a little more in myself that I realized that not all hearing loss is uniform. It takes all kinds of people to make up a community, a culture. I still have that fervent wish at times when I’m frustrated or feeling isolated but I’ve learned to be comfortable with my own hearing loss. So I will end our discussion, not by saying “I wish I was more Deaf”, but my saying simply, to all of those who may find themselves in my position,
“Hard of Hearing and Proud”. 🙂
- New bar for the deaf where you order drinks in sign language (standard.co.uk)
- Let’s Talk About Deafness (thewritersbay.wordpress.com)
- Auditory Processing Disorder (engagekids.wordpress.com)
- Could Your Child Have Auditory Processing Disorder? (everydayhealth.com)
- New Training Program for Auditory Processing Disorder (journeythroughthecortex.blogspot.com)
- Tips for helping children with Auditory Processing Disorder (engagekids.wordpress.com)
- Auditory processing disorder (APD): Schisms and skirmishes (journeythroughthecortex.blogspot.com)