Monday, October 15, 2012

Stuck Between Two Worlds: Hard Of Hearing
Last night I watched a really fascinating documentary about four Deaf folks dealing with assorted issues such as job obstacles, Deaf issues, Not being Deaf enough, and oh so many more. Out of four Deaf people that the crew followed; TL, a woman pictured in lower right corner above, struck me the most on a personal level because I was able to relate her very much so. The only difference between her and I was that she was hard of hearing and me Deaf. 

She struggled with trying to fit in the Deaf world, not being Deaf enough, and not being a native signer. Her signing was very clear that she was not a fluent signer and that she learned to speak first then learned to sign later. Her mannerisms leaned to being more hearing than Deaf-like. That I understood and related completely. 

During the filming, TL lamented about categories and labels that our society had put on ourselves. She did not understand why there had to be an emphasis on being Deaf enough. Sure, she was able to speak clearly, was trying to pursue her career as a singer, and have some hearing, however, she still viewed herself as Deaf.   TL did not like the concept of being "boxed" for Deaf people--there was a box for hearing people, a box for HH people, and a box for Deaf people. Instead, she stated that a spectrum was a better concept to explain the Deaf culture. 

In Deaf culture, we get to meet people from all different paths of life; some have more profound hearing loss compared to others, some can speak well and some can't or choose not to, some are heavily ASL singers and some aren't, some can lip read better than others, some have hearing aids like Cochlear Implants, hearing aids and some others forego wearing them, and ... you see the point here. To put everybody in Deaf culture into neat little categories does not work. It causes a lot of animosity in both Deaf and Hearing worlds.  

It made me think about my HH friends and mainstreamed Deaf people. Mainstreamed Deaf people have a slightly advantage over HH people. Mainstreamed Deaf have a tendency to be accepted by Native Deaf folks quicker while HH people have to try prove themselves a bit harder to be completely accepted. 

Some hard-core Deaf folks look at HH people and reject them. Their reasoning? Well, HH people don't get it. HH people can talk and hear with help of their hearing aids. They secure jobs quicker. They don't have any problem communicating with hearing people. Some of them don't sign well or fluently. They seem too hearing. Because of all this, they can't understand Deaf issues. They don't experience obstacles and pain that us Deaf people go through. 

To a degree, I can understand that despite me being on the "not deaf enough" spectrum. Being able to speak and hear does have its advantage. A person who can speak and hear tends to get things done quicker compared to those who can't. Sure, my HH friends do seem to have things easier than I do. See, the key word here is "seem". Then I remind myself.....

 To a greater degree, I think it's also just bull. Let me tell you why.

I look at some of my close friends, who happen to be HH, and see their frustrations as well. Hearing people automatically assume that since they have hearing aids and can speak well then they should not experience any obstacle with communication. Well, guess what? Hearing aids isn't perfect. Some information do still get lost in the translation. Sometimes, words get misunderstood or misspoken. Then whose fault is it? Of course, my HH friends are at fault because they don't try hard enough to understand or speak clearly, right? 

The attitude in itself from some Deaf people and hearing people can be exhausting for HH people.

The label alone of being HH can affect them. Some Deaf people look at the label and automatically say, no you are not Deaf enough, sorry. Then the hearing folks look at this label and say, have a hearing problem and you are not really one of us either. 

What both Deaf and Hearing people don't realize is that they have to work harder to continually remind themselves what this or that sounds like, how this or that should be pronounced or spoken, and sometimes hearing things give them headaches. For some of my friends, by the end of the day; they take their hearing aids off or turn their CI of, and their world suddenly goes quiet. This leads to an identity crisis. Well, am I hearing because I can speak and hear well for most part of time, but when I turn my hearing aids off then I can't hear at all or hear that well anymore then does this mean I'm Deaf? 

As one of my good friend, who is HH, had once said, "Where do I fit in? I don't know, honestly." 

Sure, many of my friends, who are HH, do feel more comfortable in the Deaf world. Many Deaf people are accepting and willing to embrace them. Unfortunately, when it comes down to issues of employment, and having easier access to the hearing world; HH people are reminded that they are not ... well... Deaf enough. And this is hard on them because all they want is to be accepted and not to be judged by their hearing status by both Deaf and Hearing folks...which is something everybody want, to be fit in, accepted, and loved for who they are, right?