I was not born deaf. I lost my hearing in first grade when I got meningitis and encephalitis. It was a long and difficult journey to defeat this virus but my family and I won and I was soon implanted with cochlear implants and went back to school in second grade. It wasn’t easy getting reintroduced back into school. Kids were just as afraid as I was. But I had lots of support, teachers made sure I heard their lessons, and kids made sure I was included in their conversations. My family had pressure to move me into a deaf and hard of hearing school but we refused. Even though it would be harder to stay implemented into a public school we pushed forward and kept our place in my school district.
I continued throughout the school system. I had certain actions I had to remember to take, like sitting at the front of the classroom if I could not hear the teacher, and asking my teachers to write the assignments on the board so if I did not hear them being said I could just check the board. Sometimes it was a pain and a bit embarrassing but worth it, because I thrived in school.
There are some benefits to being deaf, like if my parents are yelling at me, I can just take my implants off and say “Sorry what? I can’t hear you”, which of course only makes them more angry with me, but at least I sort of have the upper hand in that moment. I also don’t have to wait in the hearing test lineduring the school required checkup every year. I get walk by all my classmates and return their death glares with a wink. Plus, I get to listen to music without anyone knowing using the Bluetooth that is built into my implants, pretty handy if you ask me.
Being deaf isn’t all that bad at all. My favorite thing, is when teachers or my peers ask me about my hearing loss. Sometimes teachers offer me a chance to further explain to the class exactly what it is to be deaf. In AP Psychology, my teacher asked if I would be willing to do a short presentation about implants and my case during our lesson about the auditory vestibular nerve. Of course, I was more than happy to educate my classmates.
While requiring a cochlear implant to hear has its benefits, it also has its downsides. Teachers are always asking if I’m hearing alright, and when people find out I’m deaf for the first time, they immediately switch the way they’re talking to me and start talking in long, exaggerated, and emphasized words, and they almost always say “oh…CAAANNN…..YOOUUU…HEEARR….MEEEE?”. Which is rather humorous considering usually there’s a whole conversation prior to that, which I had no problem hearing. There’s also programs that are school related that I can’t participate in because I have a “disability”. ROTC in particular, is a program I cannot be a part of. I also have to have a meeting every month with people who help make sure I’m on track and advocating for myself. I don’t particularly enjoy these because it does make it seem like I am disabled, but I don’t see it that way.
I see being deaf not as a disability, but as an opportunity. It’s my opportunity to educate my peers, it’s my opportunity to empathize with others in similar situations, it’s my opportunity to blow people away with what I am capable of. I will never let being deaf get in the way of my future. I have been taught by the schools I have been in that I can do anything I want, which is rather cliché, but I believe it. I know that if I work hard and make good decisions, I can achieve anything. So I plan to do exactly that. I plan to take my education and rise to be the best I can be.