Monday, June 10, 2013

Why Isn't Your Son Deaf?

The other day I had a conversation with a person, who shall remain unnamed, and it left me wondering how many hearing people carried the same assumption. Now, mind you, I am not saying that everybody thinks exactly this way, but the underlying assumption is there.

Person: You have a son, right?

Me: Yes. I have a 9-month old boy.

Person: Is he Deaf? 

This is a very common question that I do get from people upon them learning that I am Deaf, and a mother. It does not bother me in the slightest. 

Me: No. Forrest is hearing.

Person: Will he eventually end up having some kind of hearing problem? 
Me: I am pretty sure it won't happen. I don't have any hereditary Deafness  in my family. I am the only Deaf person in my family that I know of. I am married to a hearing guy. His family has no history of hearing loss. Therefore, there's a very slim chance of Forrest ending up with some kind of hearing loss later in his life. He is more likely to be a carrier that carries a Deaf gene. 

Some children of Deaf parent(s) do end up with hearing loss, but in many cases, most of children of Deaf parent(s) do not end up with hearing loss. You'll more likely find a child with a hearing loss that comes a hearing family. Hereditary hearing loss is not the main reason for the child's hearing loss in the hearing family. The child could have a hearing loss that formed in the womb before birth, or during birth, a result of illness, or a result of an injury. In my case, I am sure that I became Deaf before birth or shortly after birth, and because of that, my brother may be the carrier of Deaf gene. Then again, he could not be especially if I became Deaf after birth. It applies to Forrest as well. 

Me: If we are going around to use labels, then I would say that Forrest will end up being CODA. 

Person: CODA?

Me: Child of a Deaf Adult. It's what Deaf people call their children since they are hearing, and  they are still a part of our culture. 

Person: I am confused though.

Me: What is confusing for you? I can help to clarify as best as I can. 

Person: Well, I thought Deaf people only make Deaf babies. 

Me: It is not necessarily true in all cases. Deafness isn't always passed through genes. Yes, there are cases with generations of Deaf families, and that is definitely hereditary/genetic. It's not very common. A lot of Deaf people are born to hearing parents in hearing families. 

Person: But that does not make any sense. Blacks have black babies. Chinks have chink babies. Mexicans have Mexican babies.  
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I sat there, wondering for a moment if this person was truly uneducated, and have good intention, but happen to phrase thoughts in, how shall I say this nicely, wrong way? OR...was this person being an asshole? It was hard to guess seeing that chatting on internet did not exactly give you good prediction of what the person might be feeling while he/she was typing. Typed words can be so easily misinterpreted based on our internal feelings.

I normally see the good in people. Given my experience, it is often that people don't know how to say things, and they come out wrong.

So I figured that it was the case for this person. I waited a several beats, thinking how I can explain this, and make sense for this person to understand. Then it hit me. I decided to run with the assumption that the person had.

Me: That is a general assumption that people have. Deaf isn't race, or an ethnicity. It is a culture. You know, not all blacks have black babies, not all Mexicans have Mexican babies, and not all CHINESE, not Chinks-okay....Asians people have Asian babies. Sometimes, you do come across to a couple that are together, and have different skin color, and their baby have that pretty mixed complexion. Their genes make up their children's skin color. With me so far? 
Person: Yeah.

Me: It is kind of same for Deaf people. You'll meet some Deaf parent, who happens to be with a hearing parent, and they have a hearing child together. Sometimes, it's a hard of hearing or Deaf child. There are Deaf parents that end up having hearing children, and not have any Deaf children while there are other Deaf parents that do end up with Deaf children. Just because the parent(s) is/are Deaf doesn't guarantee that their children will end up Deaf. It is a genetic gamble. It depends a lot on hereditary hearing loss, history of Deafness in the family, your partner's genes, your genes, and the cause of your Deafness that will impact on your children. 

Person: That does make sense.

Well, I was glad to be of some help for this person.  


  1. You are very patient. Seriously, "chinks?" I don't think I've ever heard someone use that out loud. Someone once made a comment about African-Americans in my store that bothered me mostly for the assumption that they thought I would agree, and when I voiced my dissent the man's wife told him he really should stop talking out in public. Guh. Good for you for possibly teaching someone something. Let's hope it sticks.

    1. I try to be patient. It is decades of dealing with people's questions. Most of people have good intention, and don't mean to come across sounding like they are ignorant. It is one of several reasons why sometimes people hold back from saying anything out of fear they may sound ignorant. Most of them, they don't sound ignorant while asking questions!

      However, in this case, I can't be too sure. At least I tried to clarify as much as I can given that I do not have biology degree, and not knowing in depth about how genes work. Ha ha ha.

      Yes, I know--some terms that are used can be mind-boggling! I don't know how some people think it's acceptable to say certain things! In your case, I am glad you spoke up, and said something!