What’s it like to be deaf – especially to be someone who lip reads, so a lot of people don’t even know you’re deaf? This Elizabeth’s story.
Tell us a bit about yourself!
I’m Elizabeth, a twenty-something from Texas, but we’re about to move far away to New England so I can attend law school. I have an amazing toddler daughter and a brilliant (also deaf!) husband. Before buckling down and making plans to go to law school I worked in HR, then ran a photography business. For fun, I love pottery, sewing, reading, and traveling (but who doesn’t?).
What caused your deafness?
I was born with a bilateral sensorineural profound hearing loss.
You read lips rather than use sign language. Why?
My parents found an amazing oral deaf education program and enrolled me when I was a baby. I’m eternally grateful that they made this choice for me so early.
It has absolutely affected the way I interact with the world, and, for me, it has made being deaf nearly a non-issue Often, friends and family forget that I am deaf because we interact so seamlessly.
I’m sure there are many things that hearing people assume deaf people can’t do. What are some things that deaf people can do that might surprise us?
Talk on the phone–doctors told my parents that I’d never be able to talk on the phone, but here I am! I’ve won speech and academic competitions, graduated from college with honors, and will be attending a top law school this fall.
I also have a hearing child. A lot of people assumed she would be deaf too, but she appears to have extremely keen hearing.
Has being deaf ever affected your career?
I don’t think it has, but you could argue that it has driven me to succeed in some ways. I can’t stand being told that I can’t accomplish something, so I took every opportunity I had to blow that sentiment out of the water.
Do you take part in capital D Deaf culture?
I don’t. I have friends who are actively involved in Deaf culture, but I feel like I became separate from it the moment my parents made the decision to immerse me in the hearing world.
I understand and support the need for Deaf culture because it’s true that resources for many deaf people are lacking, and having people who understand what you need can be invaluable. It just hasn’t been something that I was exposed to, so it was never a part of my life.
How do you feel about cochlear implants?
I think they’re amazing. Look up some YouTube videos of people getting theirs turned on for the first time–some of them are beyond inspiring. I don’t have one, but if I thought it would help, I would get one.
I’m still holding out on some stem cell research–I was just talking with my doctor about this, and it will be fascinating to see where we’ll be in the next decade.
Do your friends ever ask you to lip read across a crowded room?
ALL the time! Also, “You should join the CIA so you can spy on people across the room!” That’s a popular one.
What advice would you give to someone who is dating or friends with a deaf person?
Well, I’m married to a deaf person. Be very aware of the ‘good’ ear, and try to be considerate of where you sit relative to that ear. My right ear is my good ear, so it helps when people sit and walk to my right.
I’ll often remind people, but it helps when people just remember. You don’t always have to talk louder, but make sure you’re talking directly to him or her so your lips can be read. That’s generally a good life practice anyway! Above all, just ask what the deaf person needs. Most people will appreciate that.
Thanks so much for sharing, Elizabeth! Do you have any questions for Elizabeth?