17 June 2013

Letter to a Teenage Girl with a Cochlear Implant

Author's note: This morning on my way back into the city, I was sitting across the aisle from a group of girls (about 14 years old or so) and their chaperones headed into Manhattan for a week of some kind of educational camp. One of the girls had a cochlear implant. She was obviously an oral success-- she was speaking with her chaperone and lipreading well-- but as I watched her out of the corner of my eye for duration of the trip I could tell she felt those teenagerly pressures, the unpleasantness of being "different" from all the other girls, exacerbated by her deafness. This is the letter I wish I'd given to her:

Hi there.
Sitting across from you, I noticed you were wearing a CI (hopefully you don't find that too creepy; I've got a radar for these things) and felt compelled to write to you. I'm Deaf too, and while I don't know anything about you or your family or friends, or what life is like for you, I do know what it's like to be d/Deaf and grow up in a small town, and I wanted to send you these words of encouragement.
Society so often thinks of deafness as a bad thing-- and sure it makes things harder, sometimes-- but it also affords us a unique perspective on the world, a way of seeing and thinking that's different. I don't know what your interests are, your dreams, but I do find that this creativity is an increasingly valuable asset in today's increasingly wonky economy, and that goes for nearly any field. Being a teenager, for everyone, is often unpleasant (in many ways) and can be intensely focused on fitting in. And that is, of course, a totally fine and normal desire, but know that at some point in the future, you'll probably want nothing more than to stand out! Life is funny that way. Luckily, you've got a little uniqueness built right in. Whatever it is that you want to do, you can do it, and the fact that you have to work harder to get there, to "prove" yourself to people will, I've found, foster an endurance and willpower that will only give you a leg up.
I know there are a lot of politics around these things nowadays, but if you haven't already, I'd suggest meeting a few other d/Deaf people if you can. Society has all sorts of ugly ideas about how the Deaf world can hold you back, and I was once afraid there was nothing there for me, but you may find within a community who understands and accepts that part of you fully something you didn't even know was missing. (I did.)
Plus, it never hurts to be bilingual!
Finally, you are absolutely not in any way broken. There are always people who just don't get it, but you're probably already a pro at dealing with the idiots by now :)

PS- Heaps of d/Deaf people love music; they make headphones with little hooks that are compatible with hearing aids/ CIs, and they're pretty cheap if you get them on the internet.


  1. I thought your letter was very uplifting. That kid has her whole future ahead of her and I think it helps to hear from a person who has traveled the road ahead of her. I am not deaf, but am hard of hearing and wear aids in both ears. I was intrigued to hear that there are headphones for us!! Thanks for the info and for the truly inspiring letter you wrote to that kid. And, thanks for sharing it with us.

    1. Hi Jacquie,
      We'll be sure to do a post on more technology like this in the future, but for now, here's a link to one of the headsets we were talking about; it works with the telecoil setting of your hearing aids!
      Thanks for reading Redeafined!