Rebecca-Anne Withey: I wish I’d embraced ‘being different’ earlier

Posted on December 12, 2016



I came across the below post on the Internet. It wasn’t aimed at someone who’s deaf but they mention being “different” and I could instantly relate.

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It’s the type of advice I wish I knew about when I was younger. So I didn’t go through my teenage years trying to hide my deafness or the fact I felt like “damaged goods.” I wish I embraced how different I was earlier.

I wonder if my daughter will be the same. I’ve been thinking about her future a lot lately.

My son – who is hearing – won’t have all this to come. But my daughter will. Her hearing is “different.” She’s totally deaf in one ear and totally hearing in the other. So is she classed as deaf or hearing? Well actually… Neither. So is she partially deaf or partially hearing? I have no idea… She’s just – my girl.

It’s getting pretty awkward when people ask me if she’s hearing or deaf. She isn’t one or the other. Medically speaking, she can use her one ear to access speech and language and she can hear the world around her. She passed all her hearing tests by depending on this one ear; so she listens, responds to verbal instructions without signing and turns when her name is called.

But as she has no hearing in her left ear, she does not always know straightaway where sounds are coming from. She may be affected in the future by background noise. We don’t know for sure as neither of us have uni-lateral deafness, both parents are bilaterally deaf. So our daughters experience with deafness is bound to be different to ours.

Our deaf friends have asked us “well, if she’s deaf where’s her hearing aid?” and “would you consider a cochlear implant for her?” But due to her unique deafness type, there wouldn’t be any point aiding a totally deaf ear which wouldn’t pick anything up and her hearing ear doesn’t need any amplification. Cochlears are a conversation we don’t need to have. It’s different.

Saying that, her sign language skills are outstanding. Whilst she may only be verbalising the words mamma and dada, she has conversations in sign language, making herself understood and her needs known.

She joins us at deaf events and she signs to other deaf people confidently and she knows they understand her. She knows they’re her tribe.

At hearing play groups she enjoys herself and she understands what people say but she often gets left out or ignored because they don’t understand her signs. So I’m her Mother/translator too.

I get asked if her signing is due to her deafness but our audiologist insists its not; they state that she has full access to speech and oral language but she simply finds it easier to express in sign.

Whether or not her sign language aptitude is because of her deafness, there’s no doubt that possessing sign language has enabled us to give our daughter a head start in language development and a vocabulary that allows her to feel heard.

My parents who are hearing and non sign users have delighted at learning from her. Signing songs, role play, signing games, all at the age of 18 months, I rest assured that regardless of how her deafness affects her as she grows older, at least she has a language.

Yes, it’s “different” to Spoken English that most people have as a first language, but it’s her language. It’s her voice.

I’ve already started to ignore the sympathetic comments I get from others when I say my daughter’s deaf (in one ear!) and when deaf people remark “that’s so strange!” at her one sided deafness, I just shrug and smile. Because the truth of the matter is that she isn’t damaged and she isn’t weird. She’s just different.

And I hope she reads those words above when she’s older and takes pride in her differences. Owns her language and her uniqueness. And refuses to let anyone make her feel less than what she is. Which is very worthy, very loved and absolutely good enough just as she is.

Deaf ear and all.

Read more of Rebecca’s articles for us here.

Rebecca Anne Withey is a freelance writer with a background in Performing Arts & Holistic health. 

She is also profoundly deaf, a sign language user and pretty great lipreader. 

Her holistic practices and qualifications include Mindfulness, Professional Relaxation Therapy, Crystal Therapy and Reiki. 

She writes on varied topics close to her heart in the hope that they may serve to inspire others.

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