Linda G. Hill

Life in progress

Hearing world – #AtoZ Challenge

39 Comments

Deaf people have to survive in a hearing world. This is a fact. If there are such things as Deaf stores, and Deaf hospitals, I don’t know of them. There are, of course, Deaf people working in public service positions–my bank has a Deaf teller–but it’s uncommon.

As the parent of a Deaf child who is growing up and will one day, hopefully, be independent, the fact that my son will out alone in a society that views him as different, is a concern for me. Alex is at a disadvantage, having not grown up exposed to his first language as most children are. Immersion into American Sign Language didn’t happen, and so by the time he reached the Deaf school that he now attends, he was years behind many of his peers. But at the same time he has an advantage. He’s already learned how to communicate, somewhat, with the hearing. He has an innate understanding that he needs to demonstrate what he wants without being able to verbalize. He has adapted.

On the flip side, I remember a story that my ASL teacher told us when I was in my third year of classes. He was the only Deaf member of his family. He told us of family gatherings and dinners when he was a child and through his teenage years when he would sit and eat, and no one would talk to him. They were all busy yammering away; he said he felt completely isolated. Consequently, he moved away–right out of the province–and had stayed away since. I can’t say he hated his family, but he seemed extremely bitter.

I fear this happening to Alex. I try my best to translate for him during dinners, but it’s difficult. First, keeping up with the conversation in ASL when my vocabulary isn’t up to par, and second, signing with a knife and fork in my hands. Despite this, he seems well-adjusted. I do what I can to make sure he’s included, at least in discussions that concern him. It’s more difficult when I’m talking with someone about something that doesn’t – with hearing kids, boring adult talk is naturally tuned out. Again, he’s at a disadvantage – if he was part of a Deaf family, he’d know to ignore it without having to be told it doesn’t concern him. On my end, I’m constantly saying to him, “It’s nothing.” I can only hope that he can tell by my body language and facial expression that I’m being sincere, and not just dismissing him as unimportant.

Alex, 2009. His usual charming self.

My A to Z theme concerns the joys and challenges of being the hearing mother of my Deaf son, Alex. To learn more about his beginnings in life, click here to go to my first A to Z entry.

Author: LindaGHill

There's a writer in here, clawing her way out.

39 thoughts on “Hearing world – #AtoZ Challenge

  1. Alex is sooooo cute! Sounds like he could use one of those handheld devices that he can type into and it says the words for him, as long as others are willing to have patience and respond back by text or writing.

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  2. Pardon my ignorance, but is lip reading not an option?

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    • In what circumstance? Generally, yes. However, at the dining room table, it’s hard to read the lips of someone who is talking and chewing at the same time. Out in public, at a store for instance, I’m sure lip reading is handy to find out how much you owe, but it’s a one-way conversation for someone who can’t speak. So asking a question is out of the question. It takes a lot of training for a person who has been Deaf since birth to learn to speak. Think about trying to explain to someone who can’t hear, the difference between pronouncing a “B” and a “P.” πŸ™‚ It’s easier for those who are deafened.

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  3. I have been reading your posts on this for the past few minutes… I did not know this about your son and I respect both of you for your strength and positivism without letting go of reality. I am looking forward to reading more on this.

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    • Thanks, Praj. It’s a challenge to be sure, and one I can’t escape. My philosophy in life is that if it’s necessary, I may as well have fun with it. Easier some times more than others, but I do my best to live that way, and to teach my kids to as well. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  4. the only advantage i perceive is that he’s spared the noisy shit of this uselessly, stomping, noisy era. for the rest, he’ll need be strong.
    ah, second line of your article – “in pubic service positions”: i don’t think you meant that adjective. it’s more of my style than yours, eheh πŸ˜‰ ciao linda!

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  5. I can’t imagine how difficult translating a conversation in sign language is but translating one from English to German and the other way round I have ample experience with. Its tough and even though it is nice to be a “bridge” between people its ne of the most restaurants exhausting things I’ve ever done :-).

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  6. I can appreciate how hard it is to try to make Alex feel part of the conversation. I took a class in ASL a couple of years ago. I can relate to how it is not that easy to learn. I realized that I would need a lot of practice to get it. It is like trying to learn a foreign language. During the class we did watch a film about the controversy over cochlear implants. There is a deaf culture and some deaf people are against the implants because they like being the way they are. It was also great to see a little girl in the film who did get the implant and how she was able to become part of the hearing world. When I worked in a hospital we had a young patient who was deaf. I remember her friends coming in and there was a definite attitude toward me as a hearing person. It was like they had their own language, which they did, and they liked that I could not understand them.

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    • It’s a foreign language and more, because it relies completely on sight. It also brings eavesdropping to a whole new level, which might have been why you were getting funny looks at the hospital. They have no way of knowing whether or not you can sign… just like any other language, really. πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing, Deborah. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      • In this case, I am sure they knew I did not know. Because I would have tried signing with the patient. I had to just talk to her and hope she could read my lips. They were signing with each other though. πŸ™‚

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  7. I have a friend who is 27 year old. She was not always deaf, but after the meningitis attack she lost her ability to hear words. She speaks but she can’t hear. It would have been lovely if her eyes were working properly. She can’t read with her eyes anymore, she is partially blind. I will share her story someday on my blog. It frustrates her that she is now deaf, living with deafness in a hearing world is a big challenge.

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  8. I don’t mean to make light of this, Linda, but I can’t get the image of singing with silverware out of my head. Still, I am more moved by the effort to make Alex comfortable and the bond that I think I see existing between you two.

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  9. Signing with a knife and fork – isn’t that like talking with your mouth full? Ha! Helping him to integrate into a group is a high level activity. I lived with a French woman for 15 years and we would have holidays at her family’s home in Northern New Brunswick. They only spoke French and I only spoke English (I had some basic French but that means nothing at a dinner conversation full of slang and with local dialects and 5 people talking at once , very fast). I have to be honest, as much as they treated me like royalty and the food was to die for, I still felt uneasy visiting because i understood so little. I wish you the very best in helping Alex with that one – although I have to say that the very fact that you want to try sends a positive message to him.

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    • Yep, my ex is French. Most of the time they spoke English when I visited, but not all. I understood a lot of the French, though I wasn’t able to contribute to the conversations. It’s because of this I can relate to how he feels. Not uncomfortable, but sometimes left out.

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      • Hm, that’s another wrinkle, isn’t it? What if someone at the table speaks a foreign language that you don’t understand? How do you translate that to Alex?

        Sounds like you’re doing the best you can as the mother of a deaf child. They all should be so lucky as to have a mother like you.

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  10. I’ve just now noticed this article and I have no words. You’re a strong woman. I wish you and your son all the best in this world πŸ™‚

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    • Thank you, Natalus, for your kind words and your encouragement. πŸ™‚ One thing I do for Alex when I can, is crank the Buck-Tick tunes so he can feel the beat. πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜€

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  11. It must be really hard trying to make sure Alex is included, but also trying not to bore him when you are talking about stuff that wouldn’t interest him!
    It sounds like you are doing a great job, Linda, trying to get the balance right for him πŸ™‚

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  12. That is a very thoughtful point, something that I had not fully considered. The isolation (and perhaps resentment) a deaf individual feels in the hearing world – especially if the family doesn’t make an effort to constantly engage and include.

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  13. Bless him!
    Linda, with you by his side Alex will flourish, you wait and see 😊

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