My friend, Lori Krakora, directed me to an article about Jillian Szenderski, a little girl in Florida with cochlear implants: Born Deaf, A Pinella's County Girl Starts School and Hears the School Bell. The short article celebrates Jillian's progression of speech and her ability to hear sounds through her cochlear implant.
The statement that caught Lori's eye and started a round of emails was this quote by Sarah Wilson, a speech language therapist:
"Unfortunately, people who have hearing aides only, really can only get
to a fourth grade reading level," said speech language pathologist
Sarah Wilson. "You can't get very far in school with that reading
level. Research has shown people with implants can go in regular
classes, graduate from high school, go to college. So, the impact on
education is humongous."
Because you see, Lori is profoundly deaf and she wears hearing aids. She definitely has a reading level beyond fourth grade and she once was a manager for Blockbuster before quitting her job to raise her kids.
As a deaf mom to three deaf and hard of hearing kids, I researched and considered cochlear implants for myself and my oldest son. All five of us in our family wear hearing aids. Because you see, it's not about what you can or cannot hear, it's about attitude.
I've seen it happen time and time again-- kids and adults get measured in life by their ability to hear. The fourth grade reading level that is quoted is often attributed to the degree of hearing loss-- if a kid can't hear, well then, there is an assumption that they're going to struggle with reading. Nothing could be further from the truth-- the truth is, if you don't provide access to language in a way a kid can understand it and access it, well then, the kid is going to struggle through life and reading might be a tough battle. If you knock down the barriers to language and communication access, then the kid has the ability to develop into what they're capable of. The world is filled with deaf folks who can't hear a darn thing, but they can read and write far above that ill-fated fourth grade reading level. Heck, some of them score in the 99th percentile.
So let's stop measuring people by the squiggly lines on the audiogram and instead, let's celebrate the diversity of being deaf and hard of hearing. It's not about what you can or cannot hear-- it's about attitude.