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.)