November 5, 2010

Q & A With the "Funny Talking" Hard of Hearing Woman

I was doing an informal "Ask the hard of hearing woman anything about deaf and hard of hearing stuff" Q & A with an elementary class.  I said, "Ask anything. This may be your only chance for a long time to ask someone with a hearing loss questions. No question is stupid or insulting."

It was going great. The kids asked interesting questions. "How do deaf people learn sign language?" "How does a deaf person buy groceries?" "Is your hearing aid implanted to your brain?" "Does it hurt to take out your hearing aid?" "What is your favorite book?" "Do you like music?"

And then one kid asked, "I don't mean to be rude. But, why do you sound funny?"

He was just being honest and really wanted to know.

I smiled and said that he asked a great question and I explained how my hearing loss affected my speech and how I have a "northern" accent according to some people. I also mentioned that my mother is from New Jersey, and that maybe she played role in it. I also added, "Instead of asking, "Why do you sound funny?" I would ask, "Why do you sound different?" It just sounds a bit nicer."

Then the classroom teacher and interpreter stepped in telling me that they think I don't sound funny and that my speech is clear and understandable. I think the teacher even went so far to say that my voice is beautiful. Well, I don't know about that! They were really offended by the question. The teacher seemed embarrassed. I assured her that it was no big deal.

Most adults don't pick up on my unusual accent, unless they are speech pathologists or extra sensitive to how people talk. Most kids, especially here, notice it immediately. I think a lot of it has to do with being in the south where most people they have encountered have southern accents.

The rest of the Q & A presentation went really well. These kids learned so much. Maybe they will go home and talk about it with their family. It produced interesting discussions and questions. It got them thinking. Some of them left wanting to learn more. It helped dispel a lot of myths and misunderstandings (all deaf and hard of hearing people are excellent lip readers, sign language is universal, deaf people can't drive, hearing aids restore hearing, etc.). Also, my hard of hearing student became somewhat of the celebrity that day. They wanted to learn more about her hearing aid. They thought that her pink hearing aids with stickers on them were cool. They asked her and her interpreter questions about sign language. Last year, she could barely mention to anyone that she has a hearing aid. Now, she is confident enough to talk about it with others.
I recommend that if you are deaf or hard of hearing to please take the time to visit a classroom and talk with kids about what it is like. It is a wonderful eye opening experience!


  1. I would, if I could understand those questions they are asking. I volunteered for the school so many times...and even with my CI, I can't understand a word they say. Kids are hard to understand.

    Yes, people have told me I sound funny or asked me where I'm from.

  2. LOL I've done this in the past for my mom's teachers.. I love talking to little kids and teaching them some basic ASL. They always get so excited when they see me visit my mom.

  3. What a great topic! When my son entered mainstream for half days in elementary I went to the classes before to talk about it with the students.

    I started out by telling them he was deaf and didn't talk. Talked about the interpreter and how to work with an interpreter. I basically introduced the things that are different about my son.

    Then I talked about his interests. I mentioned Legos and asked them if they liked Legos. Half the class raised their hands. I told them he loved pizza and more hands shot up. I listed off things they all had in common.

    Then I asked for questions. "Does he like football?"........

    when he came to class that day he was greeted with excitement.

  4. Kids! Love to talk to them, they're so upfront and so honest! I know, some things are like, so unexpected. I think I would probably be more offended if adults said these things to me, with kids, ahh.. they are sooo excused. ;)


  5. I too enjoy talking to kids about my life as a deaf person. I accept every invitation and answer every question. When I was a kid myself, other kids ALWAYS asked me why I sounded different or funny.

    I've heard SO many different ways of describing my voice or speech. Some have said I sound like I have a cold, or "froggy." some asked if I was from Germany or another foreign country. My adult friends think I sound like a telephone sex worker - you know, the 900 numbers or whatever they are. I guess it's because my voice is breathy. My hearing friends in the education or speech field tell me my voice is beautiful and my speech is perfect. Oh please. that's nice to hear but far from the truth. they're just trained listeners, that's all. (but thanks anyway!)

    kids can ALWAYS tell that my voice isn't normal, and they ask about it. another group of people who can tell right away are foreign born people who are learning English as a second language. I think it's because those two groups have not yet been exposed to all kinds of accents or ways of speaking, so anything not mainstream or standard sounds "funny."

    I live in a large metropolitan area that has a lot of deaf people, including a state school for the deaf. the hearing people who live and work there are familiar with deaf customers. Very often, as soon as I open my mouth, a cashier for example knows that I'm deaf. Or even before. I asked one once how she could tell before I said a word, and she said it was because I didn't respond to her greeting. And I thought I was watching her every minute so I wouldn't miss anything she said. heh.

  6. Thank you for sharing this story.

    People always ask me where I'm from. They might guess East Coast, even though I grew up in California, but I'll usually say that I'm from the Hard of Hearing Planet. ;)

    Whenever I hear myself recorded either on video or audio, I absolutely cringe at the way I sound. Lucky for me, I don't hear the cringe-worthy aspects when I talk, otherwise I would probably speak a lot less than I do. :)

  7. Kids are curious that's for sure. I agree that they are not insulting, they just want to know.
    I once got a compliment from a 5 year old boy I babysat once. For example:
    Boy: what are those things on your ears?
    Me: I explained that they were called hearing aids and that they help me hear the world etc.
    Boy: my friend at big school has those. they're cool!

    Hehe gotta love kids


Keep it civil.