One of my hopes with this blog is to broaden the awareness of deafness. I will be sharing what it's like being deaf. All opinions and experiences in this blog are my own, it does not reflect the opinions or experiences of other deaf people.
Throughout my life I have met many people curious about my deafness, most often these are people who have never know a deaf person or who have had only limited exposure to the deaf community. I encourage people to ask me questions, because I want to bring awareness of deafness into main stream culture. I hope you can learn from me and feel free to email me your inquiring questions!
Let's start with the background of my deafness. I was born with profound hearing loss with no history of deafness in the family. My parents, brother, grandparents, and relatives are hearing. I use simultaneous communication (sim-com) with American Sign Language and spoken English as my main communication method.
I was born in New Jersey so I lived there for the first few years of my life. When I was 6 months old, my parents noticed that I was not responding to sounds so they brought me to a doctor. The doctor stood adjacent to me and clapped his hands. Naturally I reacted by looking at him, he said “nope, she’s fine.” My parents brought me home with doubts in the back of their minds. When I was 9 months old, we visited family in Upstate New York. This is when they expressed the concerns to my aunt who was a student at Elmira College. My aunt scheduled a hearing test which this is where my parents were told that I am deaf. The people who did the testing did not want to commit to the level of my hearing loss so they suggested my parents schedule a testing with audiologist. My parents took me to an audiologist in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The audiologist confirmed my hearing loss but said the hearing loss was only moderate. I was fitted with hearing aids that suited that level.
My parents began to research schools for me to attend, two schools came highly recommended: Helen Beebe Speech and Hearing Center in Easton, PA and Summit Speech School in New Providence, NJ. Both of these had focuses on auditory/oral education. It was decided that I would go to Summit Speech School since it was 45 minutes closer to my home. I went there three times a week for 1:1 sessions. The staff worked with me to pronounce sounds.
While I attended Summit Speech School, they had suspicions that my hearing loss was greater than what my parents were told. They recommended to get another hearing test. My parents took me to Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, NJ. It was discovered then that I had profound hearing loss! I was fitted with another hearing aid that was suited better for profound hearing loss.
By the time I was 3 years old, my family moved to Upstate New York to be closer to family. My parents felt the stress and uncertainty of raising a deaf child so they wanted the support of the family. I went from Summit Speech School in NJ to a program at Elmira College. The only difference was that Elmira College used “total communication” - usage of both spoken English and sign language. This is when I learned American Sign Language (ASL). My parents had hesitancy about me using ASL because Summit Speech School told them that it was bad! Fortunately, I never dropped the speech part. My parents started taking ASL classes shortly after so they can communicate with me.
I grew up the majority of my life in a small hamlet town outside of Elmira, New York. I attended mainstreamed school in the Elmira City Schools District. I was the only deaf student with no pre-existing conditions. I had a support team that consisted of a Teacher of the Deaf, interpreter, and a note taker. A deaf community was nonexistence in Elmira during my childhood because all of my peers attended school for the deaf in Rochester, New York. Rochester was a 2 hours drive from Elmira. Before you ask why didn’t I go to the deaf school too… I promise a future blog post about it.
After high school graduation I attended the deaf college, National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID), at Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY. This is when I finally was able to be a part of the deaf community. Those years in Rochester probably were the most challenging time in my life discovering myself as a deaf individual. It taught me a lot about finding my place in this world.