Monday, February 15, 2010
Shanna's Lip Reading Life: My Culture
Q: What would you call yourself—hard of hearing, hearing impaired, Deaf, deaf, a person with a hearing loss, etc? Why?
A: I consider myself hard of hearing. I am halfway between the hearing and deaf worlds. I was raised in a hearing family, and my hearing loss was diagnosed at the age of 27. Thus, I identify most with the hearing world.
Q: How did you lose your hearing?
A: The cause is unknown, although I have a family history of hearing loss on the paternal side of my family (an uncle, aunt, two cousins with profound hearing loss). My loss was diagnosed in 2001 after the birth of my first child. I had developed a persistent ringing (tinnitus) in both of my ears and went to the doctor for a hearing test. Progressive hearing loss was diagnosed.
Q: What has been the biggest challenge for you with your hearing loss?
A: Initially, I had a fear of the unknown future. Would my hearing loss make work and relationships difficult? Would I be able to understand my young children’s delicate voices? Currently, my greatest challenge is knowing when to shut up about hearing loss awareness! I am on a mission to inform, educate and inspire people about what life is like with a hearing loss.
Q: What bothers you about your hearing loss?
A: I have difficulty with speech comprehension in most phone conversations and in noisy face-to-face situations. In a perfect world, everyone would speak clearly, with strong articulation, and would come with a closed captioning device attached to their foreheads so I could understand them completely.
Q: Does a hard of hearing community exist? Who are the people within it?
A: I think it does with my tight circle of hard of hearing friends. The people I’ve met through the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) have become my hearing loss community.
Q: What is the Deaf culture, and what is the hearing culture? Where are you, and why?
A: The Deaf culture is a community of people who consider American Sign Language (ASL) their first language. The hearing culture includes people who have normal hearing and have been raised in a predominantly hearing family. In some rare instances, hearing children are born to deaf parents. Would the children be part of the Deaf or hearing cultures? It would be up to the family to decide.
Q: In what ways have you dealt with the positive and negative aspects of your hearing loss? Give specific examples.
A: I have written extensively about the highs and lows of my hearing journey. I have written Lip Reader, a novel about hearing loss. I blog about hearing loss. I speak to large and small groups about my hearing loss. Anyone who has the time, I will share, through the written word or orally, what being hard of hearing means to me personally.
Q: Can you name an instance of when you were ashamed of your hearing loss?
A: When I misunderstand a waiter, cashier or stranger and bluff my way through the conversation—only to be told by the person that I bluffed—that is embarrassing.
Q: How do you want to educate others?
A: I want to write, speak, perform my writings, and advocate through organizations, such as HLAA, about hearing loss awareness.
Q: What does advocacy mean to you?
A: It means asking people for what I need to function and thrive. It means asking someone to repeat a question because I couldn’t understand them due to my hearing loss. It means suggesting that a place of worship provide Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) or other hearing assistive technology during its services. It means teaching my three children that they shouldn’t make fun of people for wearing hearing aids, being unable to hear well, or being “different.” It means modeling to my family, friends and those around me that hearing loss is best handled with acceptance and grace, not shame and fear.