I'll spare you a detailed explanation of my audiogram with concepts of decibels and frequency levels, but just know I'm really really Deaf.
The moment I open my mouth to speak, hearing people can't seem to help but exclaim, "But you speak SO well!"
I'll weakly smile and nod to acknowledge this sentiment, but inside I am cringing. Why?
My voice is a double-edged sword. The moment I speak, any conceptions of my Deafness and communication needs I've worked hard to acquire immediately fly out into the void with very little hope of ever coming back.
The very second I use my voice, in many hearing people's minds, I am no longer different. I am just like them. I speak, therefore I hear.
Well, yes. With my hearing aids I have developed sound awareness. What many people struggle to realize is that there is a HUGE difference between sound awareness and actual understanding.
Sometimes if the conditions are perfect, my brain can piece together these sounds paired with visual cues to allow me to get the gist of what's going on. But that is NOT reliable communication.
I'll ask a person to write, type or enunciate more clearly after realizing I cannot understand. Oftentimes, I discover the hearing person has already firmly established in their mind I am not different and finds it extremely difficult to accommodate my communication requests and needs.
All because I opened my mouth.
All because "I speak so well."
A lifetime of this frustration has taught me that sometimes it is just easier for everyone involved if I simply do not speak at all.
I am grateful to have learned American Sign Language later in life. ASL has opened up so many communication channels for me through sign language interpreters and video relay service for the telephone. I realize that the majority of hearing people do not know sign language, so signing isn't always an option. As a culturally Deaf person vouching for my peers, all we ask of you is to ACCEPT our communication requests and needs. We're all different and have spent our entire lives learning and fine-tuning our own communication preferences. It is not up to you to determine that. Simply accept us for who we are and we need, and I promise you there will be significantly less friction and frustration.
It is my job to educate, but your responsibility to respect and learn. So pass this along to others!