Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Difference

Occasionally, people with little experience with hearing loss will make a hearing-related comment or ask a question that sounds absolutely ridiculous and stupid to someone who has dealt with hearing loss his or her entire life. It's easy to jump on these people, and write them off as ignorant of hearing loss and possibly even people with disabilities as a whole. What I've learned is that rather, it's how these people react after you try to educate them that demonstrates that they're either willing to learn and open-minded, or indeed ignorant. I've been putting off sharing these stories on my blog for a little while now, but they truly demonstrate the polar opposite reactions I've faced when trying to educate people about hearing loss. I'll split this up into a few posts- one story has a happy ending, the other with an unresolved and leaves-a-bad-taste-in-your-mouth feeling.

A while back I shared that I had gotten into a program at my school that's medically oriented with lots of hands on and observational experiences in medicine. It was a big deal to me because the program requires applying, getting recommendation letters, and an interview with the teachers of the class.

The interview required getting dressed up in formal business attire. Before the interview, I weighed the pros and cons of disclosing my hearing loss. While it seemed like it would be easier to be honest and upfront, I also didn't want deafness to be the topic of the entire interview, which would be short anyway. In addition, when people hear the word "deaf", it's easy for them to jump to conclusions based on their minimal experiences with other deaf people. Rather than focusing on my qualifications, I was afraid that their minds would instead start racing about the possibilities of things I *couldn't* do.

It was for those reasons I decided it would be best to wait until *after* I was accepted into the program to tell them about my CI's and hearing loss. My only concern was that one of the (two) teachers had visited with some students taking the class to tell us more about it a few months prior to the interview. She had been given the FM to wear, so I wasn't sure if she would remember that I was the one that gave it to her. I figured I'd take my chances, and if she said mentioned anything about it I would simply say that I used my FM to deal with noisier situations, but that I hear pretty well most of the time. It was true, and it seemed to be a good way to avoid talking about hearing too much.

So the interview came, and I got all dressed up and was so nervous. My sister (who took the class) told me not to shake their hands since one of them is a slight germaphobe, but someone else said it would be rude not to. Should I extend my hand, or just see if they extend theirs? What if I misheard their questions? What if I said something stupid?!  In the end, they only asked me one question, and then spent a couple of minutes talking about my sister. At the end of the interview, the teachers told me "Your grades are great, you have outstanding recommendations and a flawless attendance record. I think we know everything we need to know!" and asked if I had any questions. I took that as a good sign (since those were the assets they listed as the most important to get into the program).

So I was relieved that I was done interviewing on the first day, since the teachers were there over a course of two days and some people wouldn't get interviewed until day 2. That night I had tons of homework and tests to study for. I barely got 4 hours of sleep, and I don't even think I had time to shower (that's not a regular occurrence, just fyi, haha!). That morning I was running late, so I pulled my frizzy hair into a messy bun, threw on an oversized T-shirt and jeans, and ran out the door without a touch of makeup on. I usually wear very little  make up regularly, so it wasn't a really a huge deal except for the sunken in dark circles around my eyes. It was just one of those days where I looked (and felt) like hell!

With this mental image in your head, you can no doubt imagine the shock that came over my body when I arrived to medical science and the teachers came out and called my name and stated they "needed to talk to me." My heart and mind began racing. What could they possibly want?

To be continued...


  1. remember,do ANY deaf person deserves to be treated this way? do signing deaf deserve to be treated as a person who is incapable?. sure, they shouldn't treat you as you can't hear but i just dont think it is fair for them jump into conclusions at all.

    they should allow deaf use whatever reasonable accommodations they need.

  2. OMG! You're so good with leaving us with a cliff hanger! I'm dying to know what happened next...

  3. No, it isn't fair that we have to constantly be on guard and wonder if people will jump to conclusions when we tell them that we are deaf. But that's the way it so often is, so I can either mope about it or work to change it and educate other :)

    Thanks Rachel! Hope you enjoyed the rest of the story.


All comments are screened before approval. I will publish any comment as long as you keep it clean and it's not spam!