Saturday, October 1, 2011

Deaf Girl Hears for the First Time?

There has been a lot of buzz online about this video, now gone viral.


Let me begin by saying that the news and bloggers are correct, this video is touching. I love her reaction!  Whatever her past hearing issues have been, she's obviously thrilled with the results of this Esteem implant, not to be confused with the more widely-known cochlear implant (CI), that has just been activated.  (This link explains the differences in implants for those who might be interested.)  I'm happy for Sloan because a: she's 29 and has every right decide to pursue an implant like this.  b: the implant is doing exactly, if not more than what she expected it to do.  It's fun to watch her and her heart-felt joy is sweet.

Did you guess I'd have a problem with it, too?  You were right!  Here's my problem with the video.  I hope that when she's interviewed (her video has over 2.5 millions hits, so I'm thinking the news stations will pick this up), some of my questions will be answered.  I may be proven wrong, but here's my assessment:

The title itself is misleading: Deaf Girl Hears for the First Time.  No way.  Sorry, but there's no way.  If she's never heard, how can she understand the technician ask, "Can you hear me?" when her eyes are covered? I've met many people, quite a few of them friends of mine, who have gotten CIs.  They say they could hear instantly upon activation, but had no clue what the sounds were.  Leaving the audiologist, they didn't know if the sound outside was a bird or the big air conditioners.  Sounds are learned over hours and hours, months and months, years and years of training.  This girl has to have some past hearing experience.  Her original video title on You Tube is "29 And Hearing Myself for the First Time."  Maybe she could hear other's voices some, but not her own?  I'm not sure.

I'm also blown away by her speech.  If she's truly been profoundly deaf since birth, never able to hear speech sounds, then her speech therapist should be famous right now.  Again, I have many Deaf friends who have very good speech.  My own husband has never heard speech in his life and he can certainly talk.  But her speech is SO very clear, it just doesn't match up with someone who is hearing "for the first time."  There has to be more to this story.

So maybe Sloan has heard speech with her hearing aids.  It seems that this implant has improved how she hears to an amazing degree, but the video is misleading and that's what bothers me.  This video will continue to mislead the general public into believing that a deaf person can simply be "cured" by getting an implant.  It will give false expectations to hearing parents of deaf kids and that is what bothers me most.  The truth is that implants are giving hearing to people who never would have heard before.  It's up to each person to decide what technology to use or not to use.  Sadly, the media will eat up videos like this, using incorrect terminology and leaving out critical parts of the story.  After all, "Girl with profound hearing loss has great results with new implant" doesn't make for viral videos.  Stories like this also promote the idea that all Deaf people want to hear and should be "fixed."  And that's why I have a problem with this video.  I hope to see her interviewed so the video will make more sense.

(The way I feel about this movie reminds me a little of some sentiments from the Black community regarding the movie "The Blind Side."  I get it.  And I loved that movie.)

11 comments:

  1. Totally agree with you Sarah!

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    1. Agree completely. Not knowing much, only taking asl in college now and with my limited exposure to this topic, you are right on target. Her speech is impeccable, the formation of words, very good. AND, and you say and I have had many many Deaf people tell me that when you 1st hear, you just hear sound, and your brain cannot understand these sounds as words. So, yes its touching and I am happy for the young lady, but hmmm??

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  2. Joy, I have tried hearing aids, and have tried cochlea implant. I would prefer being Deaf for tooooo many reasons to list!! God made us this way, and we serve Him and His purpose- if someone is led to be wanting to hear- that has to come from God. Vice Vesta. My famous quote(which was printed in the newspaper) is "Deafness to me is a blessing!! I have experienced, by the grace of God, so many things a normal hearing person would not experience." I love the silence, it makes you appreciate your other senses and the finer things in life. Again, too many to list- but I hope I opened your eyes that there are some successful Deaf people out there that have tasted the world of sound and rejected it. :D :D You can see more of me at www.lancesdeaforphans.com (Sorry for the thread hijacking, Sarah)

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  3. nice post. Thank you for your input. I have not watched the video yet though. I will try to log into my youtube account and post a comment with a link to this blog!!

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  4. ok watched it. Weird. She had perfect speech like amazingly. NOT….and her eyes were really completely covered. I wonder if it was a set up to try and promote implants. I don't buy it. I think you were too gracious Sarah.

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  5. It's interesting... When I first watched the video... Wednesday? Whenever we talked about it, there were only 151,000 views. But as I was reading the comments, people were commenting so quickly, I'd have to skip two pages and click on the third page just to keep up.

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  6. Number one: this implant is NOT a cochlear implant. It is a new implant that is less invasive, and not all deaf can use it. It is called an Esteem. I too hate it when they say "hear for the 1st time." You know that can't be true as she must have used hearing aids before. She was on the Anderson Cooper show today and I sort of cringed. They were interested in doing a segment on deaf parents loosing custody until they learned that one particular case has a gag order on it. Not fair. They have essentially dropped their investigation. Maybe you could get their attention, Sarah. Yeah!

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  7. I am new to your blog but want to say I already love it! I am hearing but I am going to school to be a Deaf Education teacher as well as getting an ASL minor. Your blog is helping me get more insight of the deaf community, and for that I thank you. As far as the video goes, I saw another "full length" video and in that video she described being able to hear from only one ear. So I'm guessing all sound was cut off from the other? I'm not sure, but that would make alittle more sense as far as being completely deaf because her speech is better than I would have thought.
    Best wishes to you and your beautiful family!

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  8. Here's a video about her.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVasnb1vbcU

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  9. Here (http://thestory.org/archive/the_story_013112_full_show.mp3/view#.Ty4FHDQ8Yxc.blogger)

    is a long interview where she talks about her entire experience. She describes having a low level of hearing prior to the implants (she gets one in each ear, and has a video for each on youtube). Unlike many of the commenters here who are part of a strong Deaf Community and culture, she doesn't talk about having been part of a Deaf Community and always dreamed of technology enabling her to hear at a higher level. It is a beautiful story, but the problems you have mentioned are definitely true, in terms of it not clearly representing the larger issues of implants for the Deaf Community.

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  10. There's one more thing wrong with this video that no one has noted: no subtitles. Why is it that most of these implant activation videos have no subtitles? How the heck are other deaf people going to benefit from them? I sure can't. I find it illogical that people who post implant videos do not provide captions. In the vernacular: FAIL.

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