Deaf, Personal

The current debate …

I, Racheal, am Deaf with one cochlear implant and one hearing aid, whom is bilingual in spoken English and Auslan (Australian Sign Language).  First of all, I would like to say thank you to my parents for doing their best with the upbringing by trialing all methods available including speech therapy and signed English. They did their best with the information they has back in the 1990’s, which was very limited.

As I am writing this blog entry, I have been watching the debate across all perspective from the two documentaries that was aired in the last few weeks although many assumptions had been made.

Deaf Teens: Hearing World –

Sunday Night: Hearing for the first time –

Deaf Teens: Hearing World
Lets start with Deaf Teens: Hearing World.  There should be a disclaimer that the show is about Deaf Teens in United Kingdom. Also the show itself is unbalanced and should be split into 3 to 5 series focusing on each aspect like social life, working life, school and university.

Social Life
I liked how they showed what the social life is like for deaf teens especially at Sencity, it was well thought out although it needs to be elaborated further.

Mary Hare Grammar School was featured in the documentary and always has focused on oralism. This is stated on their website:

All teachers are both subject specialists and qualified Teachers of the Deaf and teach using an auditory/oral approach, without the use of sign language. We put great emphasis on the development of English using pupils’ residual hearing through speaking and listening, lip-reading and writing.

It was interesting to watch Mary Hare Grammar School and their teaching styles.

It would have been nice to see few different schools with different communication methods, like for example, mainstream school and preferred communication methods, and deaf school with sign language.

As for my schooling, I was taught in mainstream school in Rockhampton (Central Queensland) with either teacher of the deaf or teacher aid therefore a completely different environment to oral-only school.  Also I had speech therapy from preschool to grade 7. Means I was brought up in a bilingual environment of having both spoken and signed English.   People have their own experiences in terms of schooling.

Working Life
It was good to show the student getting work experience to determine the future of her career. This student was doing work experience with a Deaf organization called Remark in UK, and very interesting environment to see. Although it reminds me of my work experience in a science lab at Central Queensland University and getting the first handed experience in the career that I was considering.   I would have liked to see deaf student experiencing a hearing work environment to have a taste of what it is like.

There was two students attending university – one was fully deaf and relies on support to do her study and other was undergoing cochlear implant with no support.

Lets start with the fully deaf student, a trail of chicken jokes was created after the note-taker stated that she was only booked for an hour, not 2 hours and she needed to take her chicken to the vet as the chicken is ill.   Also the deaf student was uncertain about her university studies for a number of reasons.  She decided not to continue her studies, which is her decision.

The second student was undergoing a cochlear implant surgery few weeks prior to starting university and no support during her study.  One part through the documentary was when the light went off in the lecture room and she wasn’t being proactive by asking for light on the lecturer face to lip-read. Very odd environment and made me angry as a deaf person.

These two scenarios had made me thinking, did they actually discuss their needs with a disability officer prior to starting university? If yes, was the lecturers informed? And few more other questions based on those scenarios and how those students were accessing support at university.

In Australia, we are pretty much proactive and I was lucky that I attended Tertiary Experience Day when I was in grade 10 and grade 12 to have an insight into what university is like and what support is available.  We all have varying needs in terms of support required to successfully complete our studies.

I have completed a Bachelor of Environmental Science with honours and Master of Environment. With my bachelor degree, I had tutor for first year, Auslan interpreters and peer note-takers throughout my undergraduate degree.  For my Master degree, I only has Auslan Interpreters.  I am very happy with the support that I have at university and the lecturers are very supportive of my learning as well.

The documentary was very unbalanced and it should have been done better as well as demonstrating a wide range of perspectives of Deaf Teens.  Also a number of parents with deaf child had raised their concerns about their own child accessing support at university.  I had to re-assure them that the documentary is based on deaf teens in UK and it is very different to what we have in Australia.

Sunday Night: Hearing for the first time
I would like to say congratulations to Tim and Natalie for starting their journey with their Cochlear Implant. This documentary has sparked a lot of anger and assumptions surrounding cochlear implant.  This reminded me of when I first announced on Facebook that I was getting a cochlear implant – lots of people made comment about the cochlear implant and why it wasn’t good for me.  Not many people respected my decision.

You have to remember, getting a cochlear implant is not an easy decision to make and there is a long process involved with cochlear implant.   Cochlear implant is just another technology and doesn’t take away your identity. Cochlear Implant and Identity are two different issues.

1st Assumption: Cochlear Implant will remove sign language
No it doesn’t. Cochlear implant is just another powerful hearing aid to help people hear.  I have cochlear implant and it doesn’t stop me from using Auslan. My partner is fully deaf and I don’t force cochlear implant on my partner either.

Also it is not ok to accuse the parents who decide to give their own child cochlear implants or the individuals for making their own decision to have a cochlear implant.  Really it is their decision and there is nothing you can do about it.

It all comes down to what information is being disseminated and how the professionals deliver the information.   For instance, at almost every audiologist appointment I have been to, always asks “Are you interested in cochlear implant?”.  It may sound innocent however annoying for us deaf people because we don’t need this type of pressure. It feels like a salesperson trying to sell the best television there is in the store.

How did I decide to have a cochlear implant?  Well, the previous audiologist before this one was a very good audiologist and never asked me the question regarding the cochlear implant.  I was very happy with her and she does her job well.  It was the last year before she went on leave, I asked her to provide me with information about cochlear implant and she guided me through the process.  I was very happy with the service she provided.  I then got a cochlear implant and became very happy with it and to me it is just another powerful hearing aid to aid with the speaking and listening as I work in hearing work and I am deaf person who can switch between being oral and signing.

As for the parents, you have to remember, being oral is the first language they know and majority of them never experienced deaf culture or sign language before. Also as most parents has told me, the first moment they find out the baby is deaf, they are bombarded with information about hearing aids and cochlear implant and assistance available for their deaf babies.  There is no information being provided about communication methods or techniques to assist with speaking, signing or language development.

You cannot judge the parents for the decision they make so don’t go making them guilty because being a parent is hard enough.  That including deaf parents who decides to give their deaf child a cochlear implant. There is no right or wrong decision.

After all cochlear implant is just another powerful hearing aid and it doesn’t remove sign language. Its more about how can we disseminate information about communication methods such as language development, signing and bilingualism available to parents.

2nd Assumption: Individuals with Cochlear Implant is not part of deaf community
You are making the individuals with cochlear implants isolated from the deaf community based on a technology in their ear.  Don’t exclude them for having cochlear implant.  Embrace them and include them in the deaf community. Teach them and make them comfortable in their own skin regardless of what is in their ears.  I know what rejection feels like as I have experienced it first handedly for being oral deaf.  Just don’t reject others for being oral or having cochlear implant.

3rd Assumption: MRI with Cochlear Implant will cause electric shock to the brain
Umm… No. Pacemaker and cochlear implant are different.  We can have MRI with 1.5 tesla and if we need to have a MRI with 3 tesla or more, the surgeon will remove the magnet from the cochlear implant and then we can continue with the MRI.  The electrodes will stay in the cochlea so no damage there.

4th Assumption: Cochlear implant surgery will cause severe damage
The risks are very rare and can happen. You are informed of the risks when you see an ENT specialist. I was given a 10 pages document on the cochlear implant surgery including possible risks. Very rare.

5th Assumption: Cochlear Implant is a quick fix
When people asked me about cochlear implant, and often I say it is not a quick fix.  The process is a very long process of doing lots of auditory training and mapping appointments over a period of 12 to 24 months. Really it is not a quick fix and you really have to have the right attitude to work with your brain and to work on auditory.  It is not easy and it can be very exhausting at some stage.

Do your research before you make assumptions about cochlear implant and it is just another technology. It does not remove other capacity to communicate whether it is signing or speaking.  Although, I am a strong supporter of bilingualism, oral and signing regardless if the deaf individual wears hearing aids or cochlear implants. Please shift your focus away from cochlear implant and start focusing on how you can disseminate information more efficient about communication methods and technique including sign language, language development and other methods.

5 thoughts on “The current debate …”

  1. Well explained, outlining some aspects. Thank you.

    Over in the European Deaf community, there’s a Youtube clip making repeated claims of CI = damage/death, hence its global exposure, which was long ago debunked worldwide (CI external batteries no more than 4.5v, and you don’t drop dead if you toss a flash-light into your bath. Or play with defibrillator pads with that torch or CI processor against your head -outside the bath, of course!). Hence Racheal felt it necessary to address this point, so this is some background info for those not in the picture.

  2. You did a great job addressing the cochlear implant debate. My son has Down syndrome but has normal hearing. In the Down syndrome community, we have our own debate about sign language versus relying solely on the spoken word. As for us, we give our son every imaginable support for communication we can, speech therapy, spoken word, and lots and lots of sign language. If he would rather not use sign language down the road, he can drop it himself. For now, I just consider that we are giving him all the available tools, because how he communicates is not the issue, any communication in any form is a positive thing.

    Best wishes,

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience. I am glad you are able to do everything to communicate with your son. 🙂 I would like to hear more similar stories.

  3. You are fantastic. I hope you are going well my parents are .. you are wonderful im spreading this because it is what I am trying to explain to everyone 🙂

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