It’s amazing how often I actually get that specific statement “Deaf people can’t speak!” or “You can’t be deaf, you talk!” This is sorely a myth. Only 20% of the deaf population rely solely on signing, never saying a verbal word in their life. The remaining 80% of the deaf population do, in fact, speak. My preference in communication is verbally with my voice.
You can clearly hear me speaking in even my video on reviewing the Britzo hearing aid system in which I’m speaking using a crappy microphone. I’m deaf and have been deaf since very early in my childhood. Granted initially school administrators thought I was literally just retarded and put me in special ed initially in kindergarten only for the special ed teacher to inform them “This kid isn’t retarded, he just can’t hear.” Thus the speech therapy classes were started that would last for 7 years from that point.
I can speak well and articulate my words with proper enunciation and often focus on what I’m saying so I don’t “sound deaf”. I have a problem in which I am personally always worried about how I sound. Generally this results in me not speaking in a lot of cases unless I absolutely have to.
And yes, I am able to sign, it’s not my language of preference though. I was mainstreamed, and most of my friends including even my husband are all hearing or hard of hearing. I don’t bother teaching them how to sign unless they ask me how to sign something specifically, with the exception of this one roommate who wants to learn to sign for reasons of having a second language and being unable to find a class nearby.
Generally, though, I find things more accessible to me to speak using my voice. There are rare instances in which I’ll go mute, but to save on confusion I don’t sign in those cases. What I do instead like when I go into a gas station by myself, I’ll type on my phone in a note that reads, “I am deaf, I need $20 in gas on pump 3.” and communication problems averted.
Every so often, I run into someone working that knows basic signing. Enough to tell me my total and say thank you usually. In some very rare cases, I run into someone I can call fluent in signing and they bust it out. Some hearies think it’s offensive to just suddenly start signing when they learn someone is deaf, but trust me, it’s really not. It’s no different really from having a hispanic customer with limited and broken English and you suddenly just speaking Spanish to help the customer out.
Well, I say there’s no difference, but the difference in reality is I do know English. So why do I go mute from time to time? Even with hearing aids, communicating verbally with someone is very stressful, and it’s exhausting over extended periods of time. So it’s literally easier on me mentally to not have to pay that much extreme attention to detail just to communicate with someone when I can get by with less stress just passing my phone back and forth if I absolutely have to communicate in those cases.
It doesn’t mean I can’t speak. The problem, though, with using my voice isn’t just me worrying about how I sound. It’s also that ugly myth that keeps rearing it’s ugly head “Deaf people can’t speak”. People learn I’m deaf and assume that I can’t be deaf because I can verbally articulate what I want to say. I know this myth comes from two different sources. Popular entertainment media and Deaf Culture. In Deaf Culture it’s taboo for a deafie to use hearing aids or to have cochlear implants and it’s just as taboo to use your voice even if you know how to with or without a deaf accent. You’ll be “Not deaf enough” for that crowd. So that group itself perpetuates the myth. “If you speak, you can’t be deaf” because those involved in Deaf Culture insist that deaf people don’t speak and must rely solely on signing.
Just don’t believe the myth is what I’m getting at. Just because someone can articulate and enunciate well, doesn’t mean they aren’t deaf, they very well could be. They could’ve had low hearing and gotten worse with age, or they were deafened later in life for some reason (and there are multitudes of ways you can go deaf, by disease and by accidents and on purpose).
At The Rim (ATR) responded even to my blog post on listening to music as a deaf person titled “Falling on Deaf Ears” and you can read that on his blog. He was deafened later in life, he can speak and sign (BSL) and has much the same issues I have with Deaf Culture across the pond in the UK. In his response to my “Falling on Deaf Ears” article, he states, in brief here, that he was deafened later in life, knows what sound and music is and all its intricacies (so do I as a vague memory in my youth) and now avoids things like sound systems and equipment because it’s stressful and depressing. We’re not all alike and this is worth mentioning.
My point is, I’m not the only deaf that can speak. There’s actually a lot of us that can and do. Even the deaf YouTuber Rikki Poynter speaks with her voice when she’s not trying to cozy up to Deaf Culture that hates her guts for the crime of using her voice.
Rikki Poynter has a deaf accent when she speaks. I do not. She can’t hide in plain sight, I sure as hell can and have for a good long time.
But at least, now you know. Coincidentally, I can also sing.