Monday, March 2, 2009

Hiding Your Deafness = Being Ashamed??

After translating into Italian Karen Putz's post: Are You in the Deaf/Hard of Hearing Closet? I received a response that I really liked. I wanted to re-translate it into English just to give you a better idea of how experiences are universal.

The gentleman who responded, Giovanni, wrote the following:

I read this woman's experience on Jodi's link and the insensitivity of teachers - especially Music teachers- never ceases to piss me off. Trying to teach a deaf person music even when the person has access to amplification is like trying to put Maradona in a wheelchair. Had I been the mother of that girl, I would have strangled the teacher.

Speaking with regard to the specifics of the subject and thinking about my own experience, what can I say? Over thirty years... it's impossible to hide one's own deafness, moreover it is counterproductive. If someone calls you and you don't respond, that individually rightfully thinks that you are ignoring him. But as soon as you say, "Oh, I apologize for not responding. I'm deaf."- everything is okay. This has happened to me a million times.

And thinking about what the others were saying regarding when I don't hear something and someone responds, "Nevermind," or regarding the difficulties associated with group discussions- I can't tell you how many times I get pissed off when I can't understand or follow a discussion with three or four participants (the cochlear implant isn't a miracle, even though it does help) and so I throw out a "what'd you say?" and people respond, "NOTHING!" Always that damn, "NOTHING!" And I am left curious and frustrated.

I have never hidden the fact that I am deaf (to hide would be the same as feeing ashamed, Jodi?) if someone looks at me in such a way that I realize they are waiting for "an answer," I have no problem telling them that I am deaf. Maybe because I accepted that fact that I am deaf so many years ago, perhaps also because I know I am not alone: in Bologna there were about 200 of us and when we went out, no one was embarrassed to sign, even when people looked at us as if we were aliens.

I don't know if this was the point of your blog post, but this is my experience.


"To hide one's deafness = Being ashamed, Jodi?".

Good question. I'll respond from the perspective of a mother of a deaf child. Hiding Jordan's deafness would not have been a fair choice in respect to him as an individual. I WANT the people surrounding him to know that he IS DEAF, so they can better meet his needs. When people see his ci processor, they realize that he may have difficulty in a noisy environment. If his teachers see his processor, it will remind them that they need to concentrate on maintaining less of a chaotic classroom situation. And if, by chance, some sort of accident happens and I am not by Jordan's side, whomever rushes to his aid will see the processor and know that he is deaf.


I have never hidden his processor using the "long hair" method, because I want my child to be conscious of the fact that I am not in the LEAST bit ashamed or embarrassed by the fact that he is deaf. Then, when he grows up, he will make his own choices as to how to live his life.

The more we speak about issues in deafness by means of internet and television - the more awareness there will be in such matters, so that people will always have less fear, less questions and less absurd reactions.


Anonymous said...

Obviously that person is clueless about deaf/hh people who do use their amplification (hearing aids) or cochlear implants to enjoy music. Since I am a Ragtime pianist myself I know that kids with hearing loss can be taught music and for them to learn, grow and enjoy or even to become professionals in music.

Direct that person to my ragtime piano site. There are a few videos of kids with cochlear implant and hearing aid playing the piano.


Dianrez said...

As someone who lives totally without hearing, I fly both ways...letting people know I'm deaf or "passing" as hearing whenever it's easier.

There are people who will pull me aside to wait for special treatment or to give extra time, and frequently I don't want this. So I enter situations along with other people, anticipate questions, have information ready, and breeze on through.

At other times, I'll let people know right up front that I'm deaf in order not to get passed over or left out of the loop. This doesn't seem to come up too often, (and often doesn't work out when the other person forgets.)

It isn't a matter of being "ashamed" but more of expediency.

MM said...

Dianrez: It isn't a matter of being "ashamed" but more of expediency.

Exactly the stance many of us take, albeit not a 'Deaf' and PC statement to make :) If we cannot follow we say so, if we can't we make ourselves known ! Politics is for online debate not the street....

Unknown said...

Oooh, I liked this one:
Politics is for online debate not the street....
Mike, going to check out that site- thanks for posting it!!!
Dianrez- Every time I try to post on your blog, I have difficulty because I can't figure out how to create a damn account!!!! Any suggestions??

MM said...

In CONTEXT Jodi ! it is wasted time trying to put the politico message to people you meet on the street, they couldn't care less. We'd just look like whining. They respond better to a trier than a moaner.

Online debate seems to be the place, simply because across the pond here in the UK it is the ONLY place it IS discussed, we aint had a march or serious campaign for 7 years of any description, about anything.

Charities do them, but we don't agree with charities because of their almost 100% medical message (If you look at blogs via the UK they are unanimous opposers of deaf charity), so...

One other advantage of debating political deaf issues online, is, we can't strangle each other.... :) The main problem is nobody knowing how to sepeerate culture from basic care and access, of course charities are 'supposed' to be non-political by default here (Not that it happens !).

Dianrez said...

Love to see you on my blog! Sign on as "anonymous", fill in the blanks, then go to the bottom and type the funny word that you see in the box. That's all. (Ignore the "minis.")

Anonymous said...

Well I missed Karen's original post, but as usual you've put your finger on a rather hot topic--especially among the late-deafened. Everyone knows the first and most difficult hurdle of accessibility is self-disclosure. (more on that later) How can people possibly accommodate your hearing loss if they don't know you struggle to hear?

I'm not sure I agree with either Mike or the guy that said deaf people can't enjoy music. Some do, some don't. It's as simple as that.

I still go to the opera, but not for the music, though I can hear some of it well--especially the baritones. I used to play piano-- had perfect pitch. I can no longer stand playing the piano when it takes me into the upper octaves. I hate ragtime for that reason. And yet, I still enjoy lots of music. Not long ago I posted a link to musical instruments where the bulk of sound fell in the low tones (where I hear best) There's still a LOT of music I hear well. There's also a LOT of music that makes me nuts because sound is so distorted once it gets into the higher pitches, and because I was born with perfect pitch, flat sounding distorted music is tortuous to listen to.

Because Mike loves ragtime I have to wonder if his hearing is more of a reverse curve loss-- the opposite of my type of loss? Many with reverse curve prefer high tones over low tones. People with flat tone loss seem to dislike most music. People with cook bite loss can have an odd taste in music. . . and so on. . .

Some people seem to enjoy music with a CI more than others too.

It's impossible to generalize about any D/deaf person's ability to hear this or that because as soon as you do you'll find an exception.

Anonymous said...

kim (faceme),

I hear all octaves and notes on the piano. I play some classical. And whatever music I may play. I play Ragtime because of the syncopated beat and not about because it plays in the higher octaves but the lower one's as well for the "oompah oompah" left hand stride-like beat.

I take offense to people who are clueless among those who think that deaf/hh cannot learn and be able to play music. Even to the point of really enjoying what they do whether it's a piano, saxaphone, drum, violin, cello, xylophone, flute or oboe.

"Trying to teach a deaf person music even when the person has access to amplification is like trying to put Maradona in a wheelchair. Had I been the mother of that girl, I would have strangled the teacher."

That person obviously never met me or many others who are indeed musicians and have a hearing loss. Some wear cochlear implants while others have hearing aids.

Anonymous said...

It's best to take your cue from the D/deaf person what they can and cannot do. If someone says they aren't interested in music or can't hear it, we have to accept that-- just as we can accept a Deaf person who claims to hear music and love it. The ear is a complicated organ. Because I have good hearing in some pitches and I'm deaf in other pitches I understand how a Deaf person can enjoy music. We don't all hear the same. Even among people with "perfect" hearing, I suspect some hear differently than others, which probably helps to explain taste differences in music.

Ragtime sounds like a bunch of noise to me, but there was a time I could hear it well even after the hearing loss started. At one time I was able to hear those pitches with hearing aids, but I'm deaf to them now, so the sound I hear is flat and unbearable.

Anonymous said...

My daughter and I hear music differently. Because she had higher quality access to music at a younger age than I did, she's able to understand and sing along to lyrics being piped through noisy restaurants all the time. I'm astounded every time. Sometimes, I don't even realize there's music playing, all I hear is the din of the combined chatter and music and can't differentiate them.

I'm totally in agreement with Jodi about disclosure. My daughter wore ponytails and braids growing up and everyone knew she wore hearing aids and then a cochlear implant and now two. We've always let people know that we have a hearing loss, they need to face us, to slow down, not cover their mouths, whatever the situation required for easier communication. To cover up your hearing loss or not tell someone when you're having difficulty understanding is only hurting yourself. We like to hear everything, the joke that precipitated the laughter, the sarcastic comment, the daily pleasantries... we want to hear it all. If a deaf person signs to another deaf person and misses something, wouldn't they ask for a repeat? Having said that, I don't think non-disclosure of your hearing loss is equal to being ashamed of it. There are lots of reasons why someone doesn't want or feel the need to discuss it.

Going to look for Karen Putz's article. Link, anyone?

BTW, I posted "10 Random Thoughts About Growing Up Deaf" yesterday at HearingExchange. Would love to hear some of yours. :)

Anonymous said...

Paula, here's the link to my post:

Jodi, thanks for sharing that comment. It's hard to believe I wasn't comfortable when growing up, because I'm such a different person today. My three deaf and hard of hearing kids are growing up much differently than I did, although I still see bits and pieces of what I went through-- such as my eleven year old now choosing clear ear molds instead of the colorful ones. But my kiddo said to me, "Mom, I'd rather have my friends see ME, not the earmolds," so I guess that's a healthy enough attitude. :)