Audism


What’s audism?  It looks like I misspelled autism, but I didn’t.   In short, audism is a negative attitude – or an opressive one – towards Deaf people by deaf or hearing people and/or agencies or organizations through failure to accommodate them.

I remember years ago, in social work school, being aghast that a social work professor there forced his totally deaf child to be oral. He mainstreamed his son and totally isolated his child from the Deaf community.  That, to my mind, is full-blown audism. There are lesser forms.  For instance, refusal or failure to use sign in the presence of a sign-language speaker is audism – assuming you know how to use it, of course.

There is a belief the mainstream of society holds that all persons should be able to walk, talk, see, and hear – among other things – in order to be “normal” or “able bodied”.  Anything less is a disability.

In particular, members of the Deaf community are largely happy with themselves. Yes, life is a little more difficult when you have a hearing impairment, but (as my blind ex pointed out to me) it is a condition and not a disease the deaf will die from.

To those who have been deaf from birth, it is impossible to imagine what sound is, how it carries, and exactly why it is so important.  And, frankly, to some folks (like me) sound can be more of a hindrance than a help (at times) – and yes, I do enjoy sounds … at least some of them … when I am in control of the situation.  I’m in control of darn little when it comes to sound, though.

One of the only communities I know to have formed around a “disability” is the Deaf Community.  They share a language and a similar culture.  I know that anthropologically it isn’t “really” a culture, but we can save that argument for another day.

I can understand the horror of Deaf parents who are told to implant their deaf children with Cochlear Implants (CIs) . This is an indication to them that they are somehow lacking something – that their children are lacking something.  Which – actually – they are, that being hearing.

However, one can live a full and robust life without hearing. I hear the arguments that it is far easier to have a child introduced to a CI than waiting for them to make that choice as adults.  At the same time, I’m all too aware that this is a surgery with all the risks of any surgery in terms of dying from anesthetic or developing other problems as a result. It does involve boring into the skull.   There are deaths from bacterial meningitis that have been attributed to the CI.  The last I heard there were about 17 in total.  We hear 17 and think, that’s a small number.  Which it is, unless you are one of the parents who lost a child because of it.

It is far more common for hearing parents to get CIs for their children because they want their children to participate fully in the hearing world.  However, my impression is that they linger in the world of the Hard of Hearing (HoH).  They are neither fish nor fowl – not fully hearing and not fully Deaf.  I know folks with CIs and I wear a Hearing Aid and I’m not against any of it.   I might even consider a CI at some point – maybe. But I do think that we should stop and think about how important it is to attempt to impose our values – against or for CIs – on others.  Certainly, when kids grow up they have the right to get a CI even if their extended family is part of the Deaf Community.

Gallaudet University has a FAQ on Audism I’d like to recommend.  (Click Here for FAQ)

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7 comments

  1. I recently got a CI. I’m getting used to it, but it’s different than I thought it would be. I have only been deaf in one ear for a year, and the other ear is very HOH. I have Meniere’s so the HOH ear fluctuates.
    It made it a pretty easy decision for me to get a CI, I do not know ASL. I tried taking a class, but just cried and cried at not understanding. The class was for the hearing to learn ASL, not for someone who cannot hear.
    I do know some sign language, and so does my husband, we can communicate if I’m “unplugged” or if I’m having an attack. (very important)
    I envy people who feel comfortable in the Deaf world and in the hearing world. Right now, I’m more comfortable in the hearing world, but I’m not completely comfortable in either.

    Before I got my CI, I thought a child should get a CI before language development. (I know a woman who got one later in life and still cannot speak…it bothers her…so I took my cue from her.)
    I never knew that children who get a CI are discouraged from signing. That’s just dumb. It takes so long to understand anything with the CI, and if you’ve never heard before it would be so confusing. I think, if you are going to give a child a CI, you should also allow him or her to be involved in the deaf society….they should have every way to communicate that they can.

    Thank you for the post on this.

    1. Dear Wendy,

      Thank you so much for visiting and for your post. It means a great deal to hear of your struggles. I commend you for your efforts.

      First and foremost – don’t give up on ASL. It a language. It takes time to learn. Some parts of it make sense. Some do not. You learned English as your first language and it was more or less effortless. You got it in your pablum, just like I did. Now, just like going to therapy to learn to use your CI, you get to learn how to use your hands and eyes to communicate too.

      Make it a game. Download apps on Baby Sign. Get comfy there. Get good with finger spelling. Go to ASL meetups. Get together with people from meetups. We even have potlucks at times. Go to ASL pro and other websites for ASL. If you have an iPad or tablet or smart phone download ASL apps. I have one that shows the signs in slow motion or in continuous loop. Each sign you learn is something new. Then you’ll forget it if you don’t use it. I know, because I do. Be compassionate with yourself.

      Find places you can watch signing. I found out there are 12 step meetings all over Mass. where there are interpreters. Find some open meetings and watch the signers. There are churches with signers. Get in touch with voc rehab in your state and get on the list of things to do if you are Deaf or HoH. Go and watch sign. Find instructional videos on YouTube – ignore the songs – they sign too fast.

      You will learn ASL by being there and doing it. I belong to a meetup group where we sign again and again or write it out until someone gets it. It’s not something anyone gets right away unless they are a CODA (Child of a Deaf Adult). Give yourself a little space to learn, give yourself the right to forget and re-learn, and understand that it is possible to transition into a Deaf Community as at least an ancillary member if you want to do so.

      And I agree, a child with a hearing problem “should” have maximized exposure to everything possible to learn language. I’m not sure I’d do a CI prelingually, but I’m a grandma – I don’t have to make that decision. 🙂

      Keep in touch – follow CI blogs – understand that you are not alone.

      Best,
      Marsha

      1. Thank you for all the information. I haven’t given up. But I must say that class was disheartening. I’m doing better on my own. I finger spell well. I learned that and some signs as a child, as I had a friend who was deaf in my neighborhood. So I get it much faster than my hubby does. But he tries too. Each morning he asks in sign when I wake up if I’m dizzy or if I have a headache or if I’m hungry. (he should know by now, I’m always hungry when I wake up. : )

        I went to a meet up here and even though the description on line said everyone was welcome, hearing, HoH, or Deaf. They also stressed that you didn’t have to know any sign. But when I got there they were really only open to people who could sign fast. Another person and I felt very left out. I found another group but it’s farther away, that’s hard for me because I can’t drive because of my Meniere’s and MAV. (Migraine associated Vertigo)

        you mentioned Burn Out for Meniere’s on my blog. I’ve been told that I’m pretty much where mine is going to be, except I’ll probably lose more hearing in my right ear. The vertigo is rarer now, but he said it can always pop up. I used to have signs that I was going to have an attack, and I could get somewhere safe. So I still drove. Now it hits out of the blue. So I won’t take the chance. Perhaps I will again sometime, but probably not alone in the car. And that’s the biggest thing I miss, just going places alone. But that’s ok. I really enjoy my hubby’s company! haha

        I promise I won’t give up on the signing. It has taken a bit of a back seat recently because of the auditory therapy for the CI, but I’ll get back to it, I promise. And I will use your suggestions!! Thank you!
        wendy

  2. Hi Wendy,
    I’m sorry that you ran in to a meet-up where you needed to know more sign. We have enough folks at our meetup that the fast signers sign to each other and the slow signers work with the host or other signers to learn the sign. After all, that’s the point of it all (IMO).

    Consider a class at a place such as Deaf, Inc. (I think they have them in most states) where it is for those with virtually no signing skills. I know even those can be rigorous, though. Also, see if you can communicate with folks through video phone/facetime/skype where you’ve got someone who will sign with you on your level. I try to always work with neophytes. I’m not a fast signer either, mostly because of a physical limitation with my hand from an old injury.

    Yes, the burn out took a lot of my hearing with it, but I no longer live with the swirlies. I have not had Meniere’s vertigo for about 30 years. Sometimes just a hint of it, certainly a lack of balance now and then – and I’ll never ride a bicycle or motorcycle again, but that’s a small thing.

    Maybe we can FaceTime or something sometime 🙂

    1. We are going to be spending the winter in Tucson, and we did some research about what they have available there…..I think I am going to find much more to help me there.
      They have a whole scene dedicated to people who are late deafened. Work with sign language and audiotherapy for people with CI’s.
      I’m very encouraged by what we found.

      I don’t think I’ll ever be able to say I’ve gone 30 years with no Meniere’s vertigo. Just can’t see it. Especially since I’m 49. : )
      Of course, I’ve talked to a number of bilateral people who have gotten bilateral CI’s who said the vertigo stopped after that….I should be getting my second one next year….so who knows.
      The dysequilibrium gets me more often than the vertigo a lot of the time. Or just feeling like I’m on a boat. I often feel like an attack is coming on….but I take a valium and it goes away….most of the time. : )
      Thank you again, for all your suggestions and help!!

      I’ll get there, I know I will, slowly bug surely. : )

      Oh, funny thing today….I turned on the TV and they were signing on the show that was on. They were talking about getting a hearing service dog….I was shocked….and happy. I’ve been looking into a hearing dog myself. Even with all my technology, I can’t hear the phone, or the door bell, and I’m afraid at night I wouldn’t hear the smoke alarm. It would also help me to know when someone is behind me in the store and wanting to get around. I thought of making a T-Shirt that says….I’m not Rude, I’m Deaf.

      hope your day is happy
      w

  3. Very negative, I am a surgeon who has implanted over 550 children and everyone does well and there are no complications- come on, you can die when you drive and yet you do! Let us not pretend to not know the truth!

    1. We are all entitled to our views. You have your own views as a surgeon. You get paid to implant CIs and this is your world. I suspect you have little to no contact with the Deaf Community or with Deaf Culture and therefore you are dismissing their concerns. I’m not a part of the Deaf Community, but I have empathy for those in it.

      As to people dying in automobile accidents, they do not volunteer to have them, so the analogy is baseless. The next time I volunteer to be in a car wreck I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes.

      I wonder, however, how many of your patients have “normal” hearing. I’d hazard a guess the answer is: None. They have hearing that is synthesized by a computer – it is not “normal” hearing. I agree that for those who want to hear this is better than not hearing. However, an infant can’t make a determination as to what s/he wants to do – and during those months waiting for the implant they are being denied language because they are not taught sign language.

      I personally have no problem with individuals being bilingual in oral language and sign language, but I have concerns about cutting naturally Deaf individuals off from the Deaf Community. And I understand the horror of the Deaf Community regarding their children being implanted with CIs when it would remove their children from the Deaf Culture.

      I know individuals with CIs and while they hear, it is not “normal” hearing. In fact, I know a non-practicing attorney with a CI who uses Video Phone and a phone with captions because she can’t hear adequately on the phone. I’ll be interested to see if the CI using audiologist who sometimes posts here has anything to say.

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