Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Deaf Label

Labels and I have never really mixed. Growing up, I was never the "in" crowd, but I wasn't an outcast either. Now that I have been diagnosed with significant hearing loss, things have started to get more difficult, not easier.

I grew up H/hearing but had many problems due to ear infections, which led to ear tubes, drainage, and scaring. I think this contributed largely to my hearing loss. In my Junior year of high school, they offered American Sign Language as a foreign language, so I took it and loved every minute of it. I was top of my class for both years in ASL and went on to continue my studies at Seattle Central Community College.

There is where I learned about Deaf culture and what the label of "deaf" meant. It seemed clear then. Today I sit and think about it constantly. I'm very proficient in ASL, to the point where when I get angry, I can't even speak anymore, I just sign. I have "deaf speak" among people that I know. But yet I fear that since I grew up H/hearing, I will always be seen as hearing. I know I'm not Deaf. But am I deaf? I can talk. I can't hear some things, and need aids. What makes me hearing? I've immersed myself in culture so deep, then found out I've got significant loss. Am I to suffer the same fate as those with CI's?

Please send me your comments, suggestions, anything. I really want to know what you guys have to say about my situation. Thanks.


Richard said...

Hi Dena: Came across your article while reading for the first time the Deaf Read. I feel the same way you do.One foot in the hearing world and one in the deaf world.
I lost some of my hearing while a toddler.Fitted with hearing aid for high DB loss I manage to make my way thru High School.
Out in the world as a young person most people took me for a hearing person till I bumped into one that either was tight lipped or a women with a high voice, then I had problem communicating.I found it hard to be social in fast talking and moving group.When the time came to go to college I went to Gallaudet not sure what to expect.I was in the second group of hearing impaired to enter this mostly deaf college.I learned ASL while in its early developement.
Today, I'm close to the deaf community and active in it.Its the communication available to me that works.Yes, the word hearing impaired seems to fit for the hearing people who demand that I "hear",however I say the hearing world is somewhat communication illiterate.

deafsingle said...

I am in the similar situation as you, SIMILAR FEELING

Rini said...

No matter what type of hearing loss you may have, you are still deaf because hearing people can never understand the experiences we have. That's one thing that bonds us all.

Abbie said...

I never paid much attention to labels and it wasn't until I completely lost my hearing that I called myself deaf. In other peoples eyes I was never deaf, I was never hearing, I was never in or out, up or down, fat or skinny.

I don't know what your fate might be since I am a CI user and I still trying to figure what people think of me.

Smudge said...

Hi Dena
If people ask me, I say I'm deaf. I'm not hearing so must be deaf! I've recently written about my deaf identity - http://funnyoldlife.wordpress.com/
It took me until I was about 18 to accept my own deafness and to feel that it is ok to be deaf. Now I have met other deaf people (with speech) and it's great, at last I feel I belong somewhere.
But at the end of the day, I'm me, whatever label anyone wants to stick on me.