Before going to Gallaudet University, I did my research and found that many students and faculty alike did not like cochlear implants and anyone who had a cochlear implant was damaged or lacking in cultural understanding. This immediately scared me. Would I be able to make friends at Gallaudet or would I be rejected by my peers for using my cochlear implant?
I decided early on to stop using my cochlear implant when on campus for several reasons. Now before people start beating me up and criticizing my decisions, remember they are MY decisions. I do not walk around suggesting that people stop wearing their cochlear implants nor do I walk around suggesting that people who don’t have one get a cochlear implant. The decision to get/use a cochlear implant is EXTREMELY personal and should be respected by anyone and everyone.
The reasons I decided to take my cochlear implant off were understandable only after you’ve lived on Gallaudet University’s campus.
Number 1: I was a new signer and all the research I had done had told me the best and fastest way to learn ASL was to completely immerse yourself in the community. Many hearing people had gone so far as to buy ear molds that muffle sound and make it unintelligible to improve on their signing skills.
Number 2: Contrary to popular belief, Gallaudet University is a LOUD campus. Slamming Doors, Music that shakes the walls, Screaming and banging are just a few sounds I hear on an every day basis. It was distracting and annoying to have to listen to those sounds and fortunately I had the ability to turn it all off.
Number 3: When the campus is quiet, it is REALLY REALLY quiet. Imagine you’re in a room and there is no sound, no whispering or the low hum of voices. When the campus is quiet, all I can hear is the sound of pencils tapping, paper rustling, keyboards clacking and the AC running…Again…fortunately I had the ability to turn it all off.
Number 4: Last but not least, I was a little intimidated by the people who did not have cochlear implants. Were they judging me? Was my signing not good enough or something? Did my having a cochlear implant make them uncomfortable? Did they think that I was stuck up? All these questions wracked my brain my first and some of my second year of college.
These reasons were mine and mine alone. I started noticing throughout my years at Gallaudet that a lot of people had cochlear implants! A LOT! Some used theirs and some didn’t. I never felt it was my place to ask why people decided to use their cochlear implants. I should mention here that many people have reported to have had negative outcomes with their implants whether it was because the quality of sound was bad or the surgery was botched. Some people like me just felt more at peace and comfortable without wearing it.
Throughout the years after meeting my fiancee and making more friends, I became more comfortable with using my implant however one question I hate and still hate to this day is “OH you have your CI on? why? what for?” OR the alternate “Where’s your cochlear? Why aren’t you using it now?” Again like I said, my reasons are mine and mine alone. I have become more comfortable using my implant, I also enjoy listening to certain sounds. Sometimes a TV show will be on and I just want to hear the character’s voices. Other times I couldn’t care less if I heard something. I have noticed that in the past year, I have used my cochlear implant more often when I go to job interviews or to conferences because I do not want to always rely on an interpreter. I do not think there is anything wrong with those who need to rely on an interpreter or feel more comfortable communicating through an interpreter but that’s just not how I grew up. Going to school and sporting events, I never had an interpreter with me. Now in certain situations, I may request for an interpreter for clarity purposes but other times, I may use my cochlear implant for the feeling of independence and my own comfort.
I now know which situations I would rather be using my cochlear implant and in which situations I would rather not be using my cochlear implant. I have used my cochlear implant much more often in the past year or so than I have in a long time. It is still not daily but it is frequent enough that I am happy. When I get the second one done, I am fully aware that I will need to use them both in order to relearn how to hear and to successfully go through the therapy but like I have mentioned, it’s my decision and I am proud of the decisions that I have made.
In related news: My first appointment with the ENT surgeon is coming up VERY soon and I can’t wait!