Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I speak well. 

I didn't always, but after many years of speech therapy, I'd say that if you didn't know anything about my hearing ability, based on hearing me speak, you probably wouldn't suspect anything. Occasionally I don't fully enunciate the /s/ sound, but I've been told that after I got my CI's my speech improved... Anyways, that's  not really the point of this post..

I don't think a person's speech should matter, as long as someone's speech is intelligible, what difference does it really make? Some (hearing and ignorant) people, though, think that the way a person speaks reflects his intelligence. Some people think it's okay to make fun of another person's speech just because it doesn't sound the same as theirs.

This has caused me to be stuck in the middle of some extremely awkward situations. I've realized that:
1)Many people don't think of me as deaf
2) Some people are complete idiots
Looking back on some of these incidents,  I definitely wish I had spoken up.

When I was in middle school, a group of girls who I was acquainted (but not particularly friends) with were sitting at my table gossiping before class started. I listened without actually saying anything. The conversation topic soon turned to a girl who was deaf that went to our school, who one of the girls at the table had gotten into a fight with. They began rattling off all the things they disliked about this girl.

Then, one of the girls gossiping says, "Have you guys ever noticed the way she talks?"

I cringed but didn't look up.

They all laughed and nodded in agreement with the girl.

Then, they all took turns pinching their noses in amazingly ignorant attempts to imitate her voice. I was horrified, but didn't say anything since I wasn't actually involved in the conversation. The girls were very outspoken, and I was certainly on the shyer side.
There was another incident that occurred within the last couple of months. In my Health Sciences class, we have vocabulary quizzes are administered orally every couple of weeks. Our teacher had been out sick for the last couple of days, and there had been a substitute teacher in her place. He was a really chill, friendly guy.  He was always smiling, but was originally from somewhere in Africa (I can't remember anymore) and had a very thick accent. I usually do okay with accents, but I honestly could not understand a single thing that came out of this guy's mouth, so I just smiled and nodded whenever he said anything (we were doing group projects, so he wasn't actually teaching us, just making conversation).

Knowing that I could not understand this man, I was concerned about the impending quiz. Since I didn't have that class until later in the day, I asked some friends who had Health Science in the morning if we had the same sub administering the test. When they said that we had a new sub, I admitted that I was relieved because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to understand the previous sub. One friend said she felt the same way, and assured me I would be able to hear the new sub just fine.

Then, another girl (infamous for her tendency to speak *way* too much,) chimed in.
"Yeah but the new sub talks funny. It's really annoying"

My friend glared at her. "That's so rude! Don't say that!"

"Ugh but it was so annoying," the girl said, and then turned to me. "Her voice was really weird."

To be honest, I was completely confused as to what she could possibly mean. I figured the sub had a lisp or something. 

Alas, when I got to the class, the sub introduced herself. She explained that she had hearing loss and her hearing aids were broken, so we'd have to get her attention before speaking to her. Her speech was completely intelligible, by the way (and I aced the quiz). 

I had pretty much forgotten about what the chatty girl had said. I figured it was a moment of poor judgement, and just kind of shrugged it off. But then I saw her that evening at some sort of school function. We were making small talk when she suddenly blurted out,
"Wasn't I right about the sub? ugh Her voice just like bothered me so much." 

Then she laughed. I shrugged and then did my best to escape from the conversation.
I feel cowardly. The voice inside my head was yelling all sorts of not-so-nice things, while my actual voice remained silent, pretty much implying agreement.

I really need to get over the whole "quietness" thing. I always regret not saying something, yet I never learn. So frustrating!


  1. i am born profound deaf and wore hearing aids. I did go to public school in middle and high school like you do. It was something I dealt with all the time. soon as I speak, they all start laughing at me. Now, I warn parents if they send their parents to public school, be prepare of the harsh treatment of hearing students. Then again, maybe they will be fine.

  2. I think it's hard to speak up sometimes, especially when you're still a teenager. The fact that you recognize how wrong and insensitive these girls are is important, and as you gain confidence, you'll speak up more about issues that are important to you like this one. You are absolutely right though - the way a person speaks, so long as he or she is intelligible, should not matter. And people should be sensitive (and know - it's just commom sense after all) to the fact that it takes deaf and hoh people much more effort to master clear speech than typically hearing people. It's all about putting yourself in another person's shoes for a moment - no matter if that person is hoh blind, nonambulatory, etc.

    Regarding the ability to understand thick accents, I think that can impact typically hearing people as well. However, I'm sure the impact is much greater on CI users and hoh hearing aid users. When I was in college, I had a very difficult time understanding my economics professor, who had a thick Korean accent, and I have very good hearing. So go figure.

    Anyway, great post. Hope your summer is off to a fantastic start!


  3. Conflict is always difficult and most of us try to avoid it when possible, especially those of us who are naturally shy. I too look back with regret on lots of occasions when I should have spoken up about something and didn't. I've gotten braver (or more foolhardy) in my old age, on the premise that the risk of speaking up and doing it poorly and looking foolish (which is what usually held me back) paled with the risk of not speaking up and regretting it, so what the heck. Doesn't make it any easier, though.

  4. I don't feel like its fair to say that a student has hearing loss is more likely to face bullying in the mainstream. People who are rude/ignorant enough to bully others will find a reason to bully someone if they want to, whether it be the way they talk or walk, being too tall, being too short, being too fat, being too thin, having freckles, having different religious beliefs, etc. Those are all "low blows", but if someone wants to, they absolutely will find *something* to make fun of.

    Certainly other (hearing) people has trouble understanding the accent as well. I suppose I'm just slightly more paranoid about it :)

    I am definitely somewhat reserved and don't always speak what's on my mind (instead, I come home and type about it. Ha!) I just hate those "gosh, I wish I had said something!" moments. When I get nervous (ie, when I'm speaking up about something) I stumble over my words and get embarrassed, so I definitely fear making a fool of myself, although it's probably worse in my head than it is to everyone around me.


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