by José Paul Molina, Youth Community Member
I will sometimes find myself lost in a conversation with a hearing person over a word or sentence they say, so I would automatically ask them to repeat themselves. Dismayingly, they will utter one of my least favorite phrases as a deaf person with a cochlear implant (CI), “never mind.” Occasionally, they will say “I’ll tell you later,” which is even worse because they never do. When you are verbally engaging with deaf people like me, please remember that patience is key. Try not to express any frustration when we do not understand because that further excludes us. Please be mindful that it can be very painful for us to be confused and get left out of conversations despite our full attention just because we cannot hear them clearly. There can be numerous reasons why I, personally, cannot fully hear, such as noisy, crowded environments, heavy accents, fast speakers, or even face masks made common by COVID-19.
Some people, especially my family, will ask how come I cannot hear them since I have my CI. For that, I will say that while CI is an awesome piece of technology, it is not a miraculous cure for deafness. I am deaf without CI, I am still deaf with it, and I will never be able to hold up to abled standards. In fact, after 18 years of CI, I can only hear 80% of what is going on around me and that is only in quiet spaces, though the percentage varies for other CI users. It is, therefore, up to me to fill out the gap by relying on social cues and context, lip-reading, and pure luck, especially with less than ideal speakers and environments. So, next time we ask you to repeat what you said, I hope that you will be accommodating without any annoyance by facing toward us and allowing yourself to repeat or rephrase the statement at least once, or write it down. It only takes 5 to 10 seconds, but it is one of the great ways to develop an inclusive space for deaf people to thrive in a hearing world.