Monday, May 23, 2005

Scared to deaf

I've been feeling sad and frustrated lately, reading one of my deaf mailing lists. A member of the list has been approved by her American insurance company for a CI - a rare enough occurrence, as I understand it - but she is hesitating. She is not profoundly deaf and is afraid of losing the residual hearing in the implanted ear (which is a certainty; the implant will destroy any residual hearing in the implanted ear).

While I was completely deaf when I got the implant - no residual hearing to lose - I really, really understand the hesitation. Every little scrap of sound is so precious when you are deafened, and voluntarily trading that in for potential complete loss is terrifying.

But what is really frustrating me is the way that the deafies and near-deafies on the list are "piling on", discouraging her from getting the implant. One related a conversation he'd had with some anonymous third person, a CI recipient, at a Wal-Mart of all bloody places, who described the CI as "the WORST decision he'd ever made" and who said that it was "useless". "But wasn't hearing your wife's and children's voices a wonderful emotional experience?" our correspondent fluttered - as he knew people and media flutter about such things - and was told that listening to the wife and children's voices was also a huge disappointment because "everyone sounded the same" anyway. The most telling part was relating that the man said that there was nothing his family could say to him that couldn't be said better with their hands, anyway.

It frustrates me because some people on the list are describing worst-case scenarios and almost ... gloating about them. It feels at times as if in relating these stories they are gleeful that those who are... uppity enough to leave the deaf fold are punished by failure in return. God forgive me for thinking it, but it is almost as if some deafies use scare tactics to keep people from leaving "deaf culture".

Part of the problem, I mused out loud to Husband tonight, lies with implant recipients. The most successful of us are all too ready to flee like scared lambs back into the world of the hearing as soon as we "hear" again. Pretend it never happened, pretend you're not deaf, and whatever you do, don't mix with "those people" lest their deafness prove to be contagious and undo the miracle of the implant. That leaves the deaf community largely getting only one side of the implant debate - the negative side.

Some of us gotta start building bridges. Some of us gotta keep learning and using sign language, and keep showing up at deaf events, and keep our membership in deaf organizations, and stay in communication with our deaf friends. Some of us gotta self-identify as deaf people and claim our right to have and share an opinion on deaf issues and insist that our experience is part of deaf culture and legitimate, too.

I emailed the potential recipient... didn't say much, didn't want to be another apostle preaching a position. I just told her I'd had an implant two months ago and if she wanted to talk to someone who'd just had the surgery I'd be happy to talk to her and answer any questions I could.

She hasn't replied :(



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