Do You Hear What I Hear?

Baby "hears" for first time

“Hearing” for the first time

Happy or Horrified?

Happy or Horrified?

Two Photographs:  Happy families watching their infants “hear” for the first time. The Media loves these stories. So wonderful that these children can now lead ‘normal’ lives and dodge the deafness bullet.

A recent personal experience caused me to contemplate Cochlear Implant surgery and the effect it may have on the babies who do not choose it.

Following routine surgery to have my cataracts removed, I spoke with my surgeon during the follow-up visit. Two weeks post-surgery, I described my concerns to him. I even drew pictures so that he could better understand. In my peripheral vision, I could see the sides of my new and improved implanted lenses. Around these curved lines, my vision was blurry. Strange lights extended like spokes through every light in my visual field.

My doctor listened to my concerns and proceeded to use a variety of instruments to test pressure, placement of lens, and all that was happening deep within my eyes. Air was blown and the brightest lights in the galaxy were shone into my eyes.

His conclusion?

From his perspective and following a thorough examination, he concluded that my eyes were “perfect.”  From the outside looking in, he was very happy with the results of his work.

“But, from MY perspective, I’m not seeing correctly” I explained to him.  “I wish you could SEE what I SEE so that you could understand.”

His solution?

“Your brain will adapt eventually and filter out the distractions. This is what happens with MOST people. In the meantime, try to focus on what you are trying to see, and try to ignore what you see in your peripheral vision. Your brain will learn to adapt.”

My thoughts?  I guess if I had never seen before, I would believe what I am seeing is “normal.”  And… do I clearly explain what I am experiencing?

Following this conversation, I considered how my experience might be compared to Cochlear Implant surgery.

We see the reaction on the baby’s face. We know they are experiencing something new. But……there is no way for us to know the truth of that experience.

Loud?  Clear?  Scratchy?  Harmonious?  Pleasant or not?   We cannot possibly know.  We cannot know because this infant cannot tell us. This child has never experienced what we call “normal” hearing.  No frame of reference and no way to communicate anyway. Not yet.

I believe this is why many suggest waiting until a child is older and can choose for himself / herself.  An older child or an adult with the ability to remove the device if it is painful due to the device itself or due to the sounds reaching the brain.  An older child or an adult who can use sign language to communicate “no thanks” and then proceed to thrive in their beautiful, silent world.

Just a thought. Thanks for listening. I am now going to work on training my brain to filter out distractions….like that’s ever worked before!



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About Evelyn

Evelyn Hunter is a SODA with years of experiential study in Deaf Culture. She attended Gallaudet University to immerse herself in this unique deaf world while working for the University and studying sign language to hone her skills. Evelyn has served in training, relationship sales, and marketing -- always seeking to expand awareness of Deaf Culture and the unique challenges the deaf face on a daily basis. The Sign Language Company has recently established a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and a website with a blog, as Evelyn coordinates the marketing and outreach efforts for the agency. Her goal is to attract new clients seeking exceptional service, while maintaining optimal relationships with clients who have selected The Sign Language Company for over 20 years.

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