Beyond the Ear: To Be or Not to Be

A paradox is it not? The famous words uttered by actor from Shakespeare’s own words – “to be or not to be”? The ultimate goal of Hamlet was to decide whether he would or not kill himself. In this he also analyzes whether or not there is life after death.

Take off the ‘deafness’ label and put your name on it. Own being deaf, let it immerse into your whole being.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_be,_or_not_to_be

This draft has been sitting in my box for three years.  Sometimes when one writes something, it will be difficult to express the thoughts. For me, it is an analysis process, requiring me to assess my thoughts, feelings and be able to express it in a manner that I sincerely hope is clear enough.

To Be or Not to Be…

As someone who is deaf all of her life and until she is with the wind, being deaf is not the whole of me. I own my deafness as a part of my personality, my biological make up and just simply a part of me. This small part is one of many primary parts that guide my journey throughout life.

I cannot imagine my life without deafness. I just cannot.

“Oh but what about sound? You must hear everything! How can you not stand not hearing anything?”

Sounds are just a small part of who we are as humans. Our senses are entwined with each other, that with a loss of one, we have gained more. I still can see, I still can feel (sounds are also vibrations, so essentially I am ‘hearing’ sounds) and I can taste and smell.

Helen Keller said once “Blindness separates people from things; deafness separates people from people.”  People love to repeat this, more so when they do not know, experience or understand either difference in life.

Society is the one that separates people. ‘Civilized’ people are the ones who separate people from one another. Nations are the ones that divide people within their own countries. Being blind will separate one from another person based on their experience. Helen misunderstood what communication really meant, again based on the times she grew up in. Languages mean more than just the words coming out of the mouths of people.

As a deaf person, being deaf does not separate me from people, it allows me to observe them, parody and provides an insight into how the world really works, throwing my rose-colored glasses to the ground and stomping on them until they are in absolute starry pieces.

I prefer my sepia sunglasses that I can hang on my glasses, thank you very much.

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Soapbox/Myth: Cochlear Implants and Reality

My first day of teaching high school, in four straight classes, there was a student who asked me about cochlear implants (CI). So I told the students the truth, the concept of cochlear implants is bigger than the technology. It can fail or succeed, we still have to look at the whole person, not the technology.  Am I personally in favor of it? No, not because of the technology. It is that people abuse the concept of CI to ensure “success stories” based on what the general population want TO HEAR.  To a few, being deaf is the ultimate evil.

For many of us being deaf is a blessing and miracle.  We get to live a life of our own making. Granted, not everything is accessible, we are further proof that humans cannot be static. Think Darwin and Wallace. We struggle, but what is life without struggle? Why deny that?  Our ‘limitation’ has made some of us strive in our fields of profession and in our personal dealings with the human race.

For that few who believe in that evil, they have the “power” of the spoken word which they share with the general population. What we have is a common feature of stereotyping.  Good stories are hard to get because they are hidden from “drama” that reporters love.  How many stories of common deaf people without CIs are out there? What aout the opposite? stories of people with CIs who have failed because they did not GET ALL THEY NEEDED?

Technology, as I said once before, is like the human body. It can fail, the question is that how do we adapt to the changes. Remember biology and chemistry is the beginning point of our lives, among a few other things.  So when biology or chemistry fails us, we supplement; however, we cry that if others do not follow through with the ‘supplement’ that their lives are forfeit to the whims of the ‘superior’ population.

Humans are not meant to be robots or to be defined by their technology but by their WHOLE. We cannot pick or choose but accept what we have within us and acknowledge that we have room to change and/or improve. The same can be said for those who choose the path that causes their downfall.

CIs are not natural. The technology is NOT a miracle.  It is JUST a TOOL. The WHOLE is more than the SUM of the PARTS, and CI is just A  part.  I can get past the CI and get to the point of the child by asking questions with behavior, language and education.  These are equally important as they are the foundation of the child as he/she grows up and go through the stages of life.

As a friend likes to say, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink it.”  One can choose implant self or another but do not expect a miracle.  I am sorry, this is a harsh fact.  There is a lot of work to be done on the WHOLE when you have only ONE part.

One cannot complete a puzzle with only one puzzle.

Beyond the Ear: Why Say No?

The title does not intend for the concept of no being permissive but a responsible and logical answer.

A deaf teen asks his/her parents and the parents answer:

Can I learn how to drive?  No  Can I learn how to do the dishes? No  Can I feed the dog? No… Can I, Can I and the ‘can I’s go on… each with an answer of ‘No’. Finally the teen asks, ‘Why are you saying no?’, the parents answer back, “Because you are deaf”.

So the power of No when it comes to doing what basically are daily life skills can be demeaning to a child or an teen who has been constantly told “No” all his/her life.  Why should being deaf or a person with a disability be a barrier to living life to its fullest?

What happens to this person when his parents passes away? Everything has been done for him/her and he/she is dependent on his/her parents to do the job that he/she needed to learn years ago. Not only is it essential, these daily life skills such as cleaning the room, doing dishes, taking out the dog for a walk or driving enables a person to be independent most of the time. What I mean by “most of the time” is that it is okay to ask for help when needed. Really, it is okay to let them live and learn and help when they ask for it. Really.

The word “No” often is a negative term and can act as a double stigmata when it comes to allowing people with disabilities to learn various skills, find their limits and create solutions to those limits. Often, ‘no’ is a discipline tool, intended to teach a lesson or provide a rationale to why an action should not be done; however, when it comes to people who are deaf or others who have disabilities, it is a barrier.

A barrier, yes. It is a barrier between this person’s ability to achieve to his/her fullest, accessing resources available in the environment and becoming who they are intended to be. It is also a barrier to the parents, they will not be able to see their child become independent. They will probably endure complaints about the inability of their child to function without their help.

It is astonishing to see that the children of ‘no’s can be found in nursing homes, group homes, in jails, in mental health institutes because they are unable or limited to skills that they have learned because of one single word that is pretty much a stigmata thanks to the medical field (the media holds some responsibility as well), ‘deaf’.

Being deaf is not whole of each individual. There are many parts to this individual, once you say ‘no’, you are saying no to the whole on basis of one little part.  Saying “no” is a huge responsibility, often with repercussions.

Go beyond the ear and see the person for the whole, who they are, will be and can be. Be responsible for their life and future.  Why say no?  Let them live their life with your experience and education, let them experience life on their terms with your support.

Beyond the Ear: Music

Music is universal; one does not need to hear to appreciate music. Not everyone likes music, so the concept that deaf people do not like music is stereotypical. Music is not just sound, as evidenced by Glennie’s presentation at TED: http://www.ted.com/talks/evelyn_glennie_shows_how_to_listen.htm

Music is like language; more creative than language and can encompass a range of musical notes as well as vocals including octaves, percussion instruments and many more. You have classics to contemporary or religion to rapping.

Sound includes vibrations. Practice shutting your ears off before going to feeling the music. Often deaf people feel the music, especially if there is bass or if their hands are on the piano, for example.  I like the classics, hip hop, operatic pop and even instrumental music. Not everyone will like what I like, there are even some people who don’t even like music and they are not deaf.

Just because we can’t hear does not mean we are unable to appreciate music. Note for teachers of the deaf and parents with deaf and hard of hearing children – keep music in their lives.  Let them experience what all children of various languages and cultures experience.  Music is a human quality regardless.

Here are a few more links:

Sean Forbes: http://www.deafandloud.com/

Rosa Lee and Russell’s video with Black Eyed Peas: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSVdZtWaSOg

Keep the music alive with sound, sight and touch!

Beyond the Ear: Myth: A Signer can be an Interpreter

Often people in the education, law and medical fields prefer deaf people to bring their family members along believing that someone who can sign can interpret.  While it is a noble idea and a cost saving one – there is a major issue with this approach, lack of quality information.  Quality information is critical when there is information that needs to be exchanged from one language to another.

A signer can range from a recent or current ASL student to a CODA (Child(ren) of Deaf Adults).  The difference is how language is applied in a communication manner, especially in professions where professionalism is a necessity rather than the norm.

Interpreters receive academic and practical training in colleges and universities. They learn the art of ensuring that there is full communication understanding in two languages (or three if you’re a native Spanish speaker – NEAT!), requesting clarification, being knowledgeable about the type of job, whether it be education, law or medical and impart a neutrality to the situation that signers do not have.

Let me give you a story: A father goes into a hospital for a planned surgery. He requests his son to interpret despite his wife’s objection that this is making this too personal for the family.  The son consents to interpret. Then came the hard part, the doctor requests to speak to the father with the son, while the other half waits outside the room. The doctor went into detail about the procedure, including the potential, side effects and what ifs that could happen on the slab.  Afterwards, the son spoke with the mother and admitted that he should not have been interpreting, even though he had experience and skill, because of the weight of responsibility as a son and as an interpreter.  He was nearly unable to control his emotions.

That is why CODAs need not be interpreting for their family members; not only is it emotional, it also can be a cause of misunderstanding due to missing critical information (intentional or not) or the terminology of the profession is unfamiliar to the signer.

Don’t get me wrong about CODAs, I have met some who are professional and attended college to gain more academic experience and training to become better interpreters – I applaud CODAs who do that.

Just because one knows a language and uses it socially or learns it academically does not qualify that person to become an interpreter. Everyone hurts from unqualified interpretation – from deaf/hard of hearing to businesses. Miscommunication that can cost a life, create mental health issues or produce malpractice events for businesses.

It is not only legal that the education, medical and legal systems must hire professional interpreters, not family members or signers – it also protects all parties from potential infractions leading to malpractices, misconceptions and future barriers in communication and partnership.

Beyond the Ear: Myths

I thought I would start doing a series-Beyond the Ear: Myths. This will cover aspects about being deaf that society and general populace thinks is true when it is a myth. Topics will range from hearing loss to education to technology as well as the culture in which we live in.

I encourage questions and discussions. I will try to put in a lot of links to the myths to provide validity.

I will say this straight out: people are limited to their viewpoints and often is restricted to the physical sense rather than the whole sense.  There are various paintings and stories that illustrate the hands boxing in the ear, what this means is that people’s views are limited to the person’s ability to hear (audism) rather than the whole person – who they are. Hence, Beyond the Ear: Myths series.