I am a wife and mother with a full-time career that requires travel. I am also deaf. I actually really like being deaf. In fact, I love it. It’s allowed me to be a part of a really cool community: the deaf community. Plus, think of all the stuff I do not have to hear — sirens, screaming kids, or loud construction.
It’s not that I don’t know what I’m missing, because I do. I lost my hearing at age six from spinal meningitis. To this day, I remember the sound of the waves crashing at the beach, paper crumbling, my church organ — but those sounds grow more and more distant. I have no memory of what voices sound like anymore.
Because I was hearing back then, I am able to speak. I have what I call a “deaf” voice. People sometimes think I sound funny, at first, but they soon catch on to what I’m saying. Personally, I think I do pretty well out in the world on my own: I have had a successful career in telecommunications, and am the Director of Business Development at the company I work for. My children are between the ages of 11 and 17 — three sons who can hear and a daughter who we adopted, who is also deaf. (I wrote about my journey of adopting her in my memoir, Finding Zoe.)
Still, I am constantly amused, but no longer surprised, from the responses and comments I get from people who can hear. Here are the top 10.
1.) “Where are you from? You have an accent. ”
I am tempted to respond saying, “I am from France” — because I think a French accent sounds romantic. But truthfully, I have no idea how a French person sounds. C’est la Vie!
2. “I’m sorry. I don’t know sign language.”
Come on. You’re not really sorry. If you wanted to learn badly enough, you would. So, why are you apologizing to me? Don’t apologize.
3. “You don’t look deaf.”
How does a deaf person look? Am I supposed to have giant hearing aids — or perhaps a missing ear? Of course I do not look deaf. I look like me.
4. “How do you live without music?”
I know, it’s amazing, but I am perfectly happy in my silent world. I don’t have a desire to listen to music. No, I probably do not know what I am missing — but that is just fine with me. Also, FYI, plenty of deaf people very much enjoy music. (See above.)
5. "My grandfather wears a hearing aid, and my dog is Deaf!"
People: comparing me to your grandpa isn’t cool. Your grandpa and I have absolutely nothing in common. I’m happy he wears a hearing aid, but that doesn’t mean he is on my buddy list.
6. "Do you know my friend’s cousin’s deaf neighbor?"
Not all deaf people know each other. There are about 30 million deaf and hard-of-hearing people living in the United States alone. How could I possibly know them all?
7. "Why are you ignoring me?"
Sadly, this is probably one of the greatest misconceptions about me — I pass you and you try to make conversation, or you try to get my attention while I am looking away — and I really do not hear you. I don’t always see you. I don’t have eyes in the back of my head. The old saying, “I’m not ignoring you, I am deaf,” runs true for me.
8. “Would you ask your mom if...”
This is one of my greatest pet peeves. When I am out with my children and you learn I am deaf but that my boys can hear, please don’t start with, “Tell your mom ….” My children are my children. They are not my interpreters. Talk with me. If I don’t understand you, we can use pen and paper. But, please, show me the respect and do not use my children to help us communicate.
9. “Wow, you talk really well.”
And ... your point is? Does it matter? Being able to speak or not has nothing to do with intelligence or who I am as a person. I know your intentions are genuine, but the sentiment comes off the wrong way.
10. "You are death."
I am an avid lip reader, and I evaluate my skills at the higher end of the spectrum, so I know I get this a lot — and it never fails to crack me up. I am not death, I am Deafff and very much alive, thank you.
Images: ABC Family