Deaf Me and Hearing Me
Did you know that...?
- 360 million people worldwide have a hearing impairment. (World Health Organization)
- 48 million people in the US report experiencing some degree of hearing loss, and only 2 million of that 48 million consider themselves deaf, using sign language as their primary method of communication. (Hearing Loss Association of America)
- Traditionally, people associate hearing loss with people of an older age, but the commonness of hearing loss is actually the reverse. The larger part (65%) of people with hearing loss are younger than 65 years old! More than 6 million people in the US between the ages of 18-44 experience hearing loss, and almost 1.5 million are school age. Hearing loss impacts people of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds. (Better hearing institute)
I've created this Venn Diagram to visually represent where I'm at currently and where I hope to be one day. Since I was mainstreamed (was only surrounded by hearing people) growing up, the only other people I saw or knew with hearing aids were 'old' people. Because of that and until recently, I never really thought there was anyone else like me. Since joining the US Deaf Women's National Soccer Team, I've been exposed to a whole new world, one that I'm still not sure I really belong in. What I mean is that even within the deaf/hard of hearing world, there are subgroups: those that are deaf and use sign language as their primary form of communication, those that use hearing devices and only speak, and that small group who use hearing devices but can speak AND sign. That's a rare breed that can communicate with all parties and one that I aim to be a part of. I've started taking ASL classes, but this is only one small stepping stone into this other community.
I identify with both, hearing and non-hearing worlds. I, personally, don't fully identify with one or the other and feel there can be a bit of a disconnect between the two communities, but I keep thinking there's a way for both worlds to coexist together.
I think part of the reason I love traveling so much is that when you travel to another country that doesn't speak the same language as you, there is already a communication barrier; so for someone like me who is self conscious about not always catching what someone says, this is almost a clean slate. BOTH parties are struggling to communicate, and instead of judging one another, you can actually empathize with one another. My hope is that throughout my travels and connecting with hearing, deaf, and hard of hearing people, I might gain some insight into bridging the gap between the two circles and help others to bridge that gap as well.