Sunday, February 10, 2008

Okay, I Want It

Alright, so I wish I had started writing all of this sooner. I remember thinking, "I really can't forget things all that quickly, can I?" Apparently I can!

So, basically, I've decided to get an implant. The wheels kind of all got turning when I went to University of Washington's Hearing Sciences in an attempt to get speech classes. I ended up in an auditory class instead. My first class was Feb 6th. So they really couldn't help me with learning speech, and mostly were testing me on how much speech comprehension I had and everything. So thankfully, I have that information on file now! It will be exciting to have something for reference (before-after.)

Intrigued, I started researching early February.

I knew that I did not want it to be manifestly obvious- and hoped that the implant would have become smaller since 1989 (when I was born.) It seemed, upon research, that it had. I asked for information and the UW sent me an packet with a VHS tape in it that was produced by Advanced Bionics, as well as booklets with pictures and information in it. I know better than to take everything by its word, since implant companies obviously have an agenda, being a business, even despite the type of business they are (allowing people to hear again.)

I watched the video, which featured mostly older people who were NOT born deaf, but whose hearing just got worse progressively. The video was a bit annoying to me, since I couldn't really relate to any of the people. But the things they mentioned- being able to hear music better, being able to separate sounds in noisy environments sometimes, etc, really interested me.

Growing up, when people asked me if I would ever consider an implant, I said "No!" because I thought they looked strange and the surgery seemed extreme. (However, I always have said if I have a deaf child I am without question implanting them!) It seems odd to me, now that I've decided to get it along with all the implications of what it might bring me, that I would ever have been so concerned about appearances. What's some "weirdness" if you can hear? But then again, a big factor of deciding to get the CI was appearance, in addition to the benefits it could offer me.

I think so far, people seem surprised and don't really think I'll go through with this. But I will. I mean, when I decide to do something, I may seem to "rush into it." In actuality, however, I've thought about this and researched a lot. I haven't really spoken to anyone, if just because I feel my case is highly unusual. I also don't want to become discouraged by hearing things like, "I hated my CI!!"

I wear an Oticon hearing aid in my right ear. The right ear is my "preferred" ear for whatever reason. However, there are not any significant differences in hearing ability in either ear. I use this hearing aid basically all the time. The only time I don't wear it is while sleeping (and I sometimes do!!) and while showering/swimming. But I haven't had it for too long- perhaps only 6 months!

This is another reason I didn't want to talk to people about their experiences, since it seems like a lot of deaf people who were born deaf and then got an implant post-lingually didn't really like the noise. I refuse to commit to something like this and then "give up" just because I hate the sound. Okay, I'm deaf but I really don't go around with a 100% complete lack of sound at all.

I LOVE sound. I couldn't live without it. Right now I can hear the cars on the freeway outside my window, and my fingers tapping the keys. I think people really underestimate what I CAN hear. However, let's make it clear here. I DON'T understand speech. I underwent some speech classes and "hearing" classes growing up but never stuck to it for whatever reason.

Saturday, February 9, 2008



I'm 19 years old, as of March 22nd :)

I was born profoundly deaf in both ears, diagnosed deaf at 5 months old. The doctors didn't think I was deaf, but my mother had a feeling something was wrong because I didn't respond to loud sounds or any sounds at all.

She fortunately works at a company that has deaf employees and a great majority of the clients use sign language or tactile sign language (sign for the blind), so she knew some sign already!

I participated in the Parent Infant Program (PIP) in Seattle when I was 6 months old and continuing up to the age of about three. This program provides a parent-support group, free sign language teachers once a week for parents, and resources for parents with deaf infants. I met my (also fully deaf) best friend there, who is one month older than me! We're still friends 18 years later.

I attended school starting at about three years old, in accordance with the early intervention programs' recommendation for deaf children. My parents wanted to give me the best advantage possible. I went to an elementary school in Seatac, riding everyday from Federal Way (about a 30 minute ride, but made longer because of the stops to pick up other children.)

With the great participation of my parents (they posted signs on everything- for example "table" on table, and fingerspelled some words that could be signed, made sure the televisions were captioned, etc), I learned to read at three years old. I loved reading and some of my earliest memories are of reading and of my mom fingerspelling to me. It all just seemed like a puzzle to solve.

I recall realizing I could lipread when my Grandpa Herb was talking to me and I couldn't understand him. He then spoke slowly and said something like, "You should learn to lipread" and I realized I could understand what he had said. I was around three or four years old when I consciously began learning lipreading. It really helped that both my parents mouth words along with their signing, so I began consciously paying attention to that.

I was in an exclusively-deaf classroom until 4th grade, when I mentioned I wasn't challenged and my mother talked to the school and got them to mainstream me into a 5th grade math class. The school saw success in that and started trying to mainstream deaf students more. A lot of the deaf students including myself were put into a mainstreamed science class in 5th grade, but for the majority of the time I was in a classroom where all the teachers signed.

Although the elementary school went up to 6th grade, I left in 5th grade and transferred to another school district that was reputed to have a better deaf program. So, I entered a new elementary school in the last year of elementary school. This kind of sucked because everyone already knew each other all their years of elementary school. I was also mainstreamed (meaning I had an interpreter in regular classes) full time which I loved, because I was finally challenged. I was also required to wear hearing aids full time at school. I don't really recall my opinions on this, except that I didn't like it when I got scolded for forgetting my hearing aids. I also didn't like seeming "different" but didn't mind the sound much. I sometimes turned it off in the cafeteria because it was extremely loud!

Then, my best friend transferred to the same district for junior high. We attended 7th-9th grade at the junior high. I then decided I was tired of having to go out of district for school and that I wanted to escape the stigmas and preconceptions of deaf people in a school district that already had protocols for how to handle deaf students. I wanted to be able to go to school, period. (I was fully mainstreamed in junior high, however.)

So, I transferred to a local high school only 3 miles from my home! The first few months were ridiculously unorganized. I went a few weeks without an interpreter for some or all of my classes. So, I relied on paper/pen, others' notes, and lipreading (which isn't reliable especially when the teacher is teaching new material that you can't anticipate or when the teacher turns around or moves around!) but I have to admit, I enjoyed the sheer unpredictability of it all.

My mom and I interviewed the potential interpreters ourselves, for the school district! We interviewed several people before we met Bianca who is an AMAZING interpreter!! She interpreted by herself for the whole school day (!!), for my sophomore year.

Then, for my junior and senior years of high school I did running start (a program in Washington state where you can get high school credits while also earning credits for an A.A degree.) So I retained my amazing interpreter for those two years.

The fall after graduating, I went to Highline C.C to finish getting my A.A but also because I wasn't certain what I wanted to do. I've always wanted to travel but didn't want to move out of Washington state quite yet! So on a last-minute decision, I applied to the University of Washington among some other colleges, and was accepted. I started attending in December 2007 for winter quarter.

I made the decision to research/get an implant about 2 months before my 19th birthday, and I'm not sure when I'll get it! I'm undergoing the whole candidacy process right now but essentially, they've already kind of said it's obvious I'm a candidate. It surprises me how easy it seems so far.