I am as I am, Deaf and Proud – Rebekah’s Story
Growing up deaf back in the 70s and 80s, it was the Great Sound Barrier era but no one really understood deafness or people like me. I was bullied at school for having a funny speech, not being able to ‘hear’ properly and for not being able to learn like other students in the classroom.
I was seen as the dumb deaf girl, it was hard and very isolating. Many people thought if they touched me, they will pick up some kind of germ or become deaf. People used to tell me they rather be blind than be deaf because they were scared of losing their hearing. Because no one really talked much about hearing loss which is why it is very important to me that we make this campaign successful.
My parents were told not to sign with me when I was 7 and raised me to be a ‘hearing’ person but I never was able to be ‘hearing’ because I was born profoundly deaf. I could never really understand speech and could not hear anything with my old analogue hearing aids. My family were very musical and it was a huge loss for them to have a child born profoundly deaf.
I used to spend hours every day at speech therapy and I hated it so much. It was so boring and always blowing a feather or paper. It was the same thing over and over even I was able to learn to ‘speak’ almost as good, I still hated it.
I would rather have a normal childhood, grow up with communication and be a kid without being ashamed of who I was. I grew up isolated and deprived, which turns me into a very angry person for a long time. My family didn’t understand and couldn’t help me then.
My ‘auditory’ skill got worse over time, I developed full on 24/7 tinnitus and suffer from severe vertigo which can last up to six months at a time. I couldn’t lip read anymore and became too tired to ‘hear’. I am glad I am as I am today, Deaf and Proud because life is much easier when I have my language, Auslan and my identity as a deaf person. I no longer feel resentment, angry and I no longer have to hide in shame.
Today I am a mother of 3 deaf children and 1 hearing child, I want to change the future for my children. I want my children to experience life in a positive and understanding perspective. To me, it is very important for everyone to see and to understand that hearing loss is not just an ‘ear’ and ‘speak’ issue. Hearing loss affect families, friends, employment, education, social and society. People with hearing losses experience many things such as isolation, deprivation, audism, surdophobia, mental health, identity and most of all, lack of access to services.
My youngest daughter is a bilateral cochlear implant child and people still expects her to hear and speak 100% but she cannot and she never will be able to hear like a hearing person. Cochlear implants are not a cure but a wonderful powerful technology and my daughter loves her implants. Yet she does gets frustrated when people assumed she can ‘hear’ everything.
It impacts all of us whether we have a hearing loss or not and we need to be able to change that so we all, with a hearing loss matters. It is important for me to see diversity among all of us with hearing loss united for the future of our generation and people around us.
I do not want my children to say “Why didn’t I matter? Is it because of my hearing loss?”. I want them to feel included and to access life as everyone else. They matter, we, with hearing losses matter.
Not one of us with a hearing loss are the same as the next person with a hearing loss.