My Connection to the Deaf Community: Guest Blog! - Hearing and Speech Agency

My Connection to the Deaf Community: Guest Blog!

As long as I can remember, I have not had any hearing in my right ear. At the age of 6, my parents discovered I had complete sensorineural hearing loss in my right ear after a school hearing screening. Throughout my academic career, my hearing loss separated me in many ways from other “mainstream students.” Upon entering elementary school, I was transferred to a public school once due to the lack of accommodations and resources at the private catholic school my parents had planned for me to attend. My hearing loss became a visible disability as I was forced to carry around a bulky FM system from class to class and have each teacher speak into a small microphone where the sound was transmitted. This difference from my peers was my normal until my freshman year of high school.  

In January of 2009, I temporarily lost all of the hearing in my “good” ear due to a suspected viral infection. There was concern that I would be Deaf for the rest of my life. After treatment with hormonal steroids, I recovered some of the hearing in my left ear and now require a hearing aid in my left ear. Throughout this painful time in high school, I dealt with frustration and anger. Having additional hearing loss reaffirmed my feeling of being significantly different from my peers.

This new life change added another layer of teenage insecurity as I was in the midst of losing most of my hearing and expecting to try to “find myself” as a young adult.

Like many children and adolescents with hearing loss, I struggled academically and often acted out in class. My communication was so inefficient that I often refused to participate in group projects. In hindsight, it is clear that I was engaged in a self-fulfilling prophecy of the low expectations that society has for people who have communication difficulties or hearing loss.

I never equated myself with “normal” hearing people but certainly never considered myself Deaf. I did not seem to fit in with any group of people my age. I only knew 1 or 2 other people with significant hearing loss. Most of my academic career, I had an FM system or a hearing aid.

Early in my college career, I jumped at the opportunity to enroll in an American Sign Language course. Almost immediately, I felt a connection to both of my teachers when I told them I was hard-of-hearing. I felt an unspoken connection to them/ the Deaf community (literally). Even though I had learned other World languages before, ASL was so aesthetically beautiful to me! I admired that Deaf individuals have created a tight knit community and had a sense of pride in something I was always slightly embarrassed about.

Although I may have moments of enlightening reflection, most of my hard-of-hearing identity is struggle. Many people see hearing loss as an intellectual disability. Often, hard-of-hearing individuals feel compelled to prove themselves in the workplace to compensate for a perceived lack of competence. My hearing loss is not normally understood due to the fact that the majority of people do not have a personal connection to hearing loss.

Living in a binary world (English and ASL) has helped me appreciate the hearing that I DO have. I am capable of communicating in two languages and have a connection to both the Deaf and hearing world.

The Towson Deaf studies program has offered me many opportunities to strengthen my relationship with the Deaf community. Additionally, the program has given me the skills necessary to work in the Deaf community and improve my sign language skills. In many ways, I feel like I found this program through serendipity, given my history and struggle to be proud of my hard-of-hearing identity. I got the opportunity to meet many hard-of-hearing and Deaf students. I also got the opportunity to do a great deal of course work at Gallaudet and other Deaf community outlets.

As I embark on my postgraduate journey into the professional world, I have the intention of using all the tools I learned at Towson University to be an ally of the Deaf community and to work for an institution that serves the Deaf community.

 

 

Eric Sugrowe is an intern at HASA and a student at Towson University.

 

Want to learn about what life can be like post-graduation? Check out this post by Social Media Ambassador Kelci.

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