Irit Spektor

Irit’s Story

I self-identify as….

Hard of Hearing / Deaf

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Dance, reading, music, art

Please tell us about your earliest years of life related to your hearing, identification etc.

My parents didn’t find out about my hearing loss. I was compensating throughout my childhood and was a great student, so no one suspected anything. It was a friend in high school who noticed. She saw me miss important information in the classroom. She always had to tell me when a test was coming up. I learned everything from books. I finally took myself to a first hearing test when I was about 21 years old. I always knew that my dad had a hearing loss. Years after my diagnosis, we discovered that my siblings are also HOH as well as 2 out of my 3 daughters. Our hearing loss is genetic.

Irit SpektorPlease share about your relationship with your family and inclusion tips that you have found helpful.

The home I grew up in was not deaf friendly. But I try to make my children’s home deaf friendly. When we are having a conversation, we limit background noises, take turns while speaking, face the person we are speaking to, get their attention before speaking. If a word is not clear we write it down or fingerspell. We put captions on everything we watch on TV! Learning ASL and using it was a great decision. Exposing my kids to deaf culture, meeting other deaf kids and adults, help them feel included and relate to other people. Technology made it so much easier for the DHH to communicate with extended family. I remember my parents handing me the phone and asking me to say hello to my aunt. It would be so humiliating and frustrating not to hear over the phone. Today, everyone can send a text message or email to stay in touch. Encourage your kids to communicate in a manner that is suitable for them.

Please share a little about your education placement & extracurricular activities as a youth.

I was unidentified and completely mainstreamed. I was an excellent student in one of the most prestigious and challenging high-schools is Tel Aviv. I worked much harder than anyone without realizing it. I was also a youth counselor for younger children. I served in the IDF and later on earned an LLB (law degree) from TAU. I had no services and no accommodation. I actually hid the fact that I had a hearing loss because I thought it would get me kicked out of the IDF and the university. Once I was at the university, compensating and learning from books was not enough and my grades were not very good. But I passed. I also started dancing flamenco and quickly became a professional and toured with a flamenco dance company. I currently teach flamenco for people of all hearing levels.

Please tell us about your relationships with DHH peers as a youth and how they impacted your life.

I did not know any other DHH kids in person. I was always enchanted by and attracted to Sign language. When I was in Junior High, there was a Deaf boy and I asked him to teach me and a group of other kids some ISL. It was fun but unfortunately didn’t last longer than a couple of classes. The only deaf person I knew in person was my dad, but he had no deaf friends, culture, sign language, etc. I did feel very close to him and he understood my frustrations on a subconscious level.

What type of technology, apps or products for Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals do you use?

I use captions on every video I watch. I use hearing aids and recently bought a pair that has bluetooth technology (love it!). I have a caption service on my phone (innocaption) for phone calls and an app called Otter for transcribing.

Can you tell us a little about your college experience and how did you prepare for college? Any tips?

I grew up with no deaf identity. I didn’t realize I could ask for support. The unspoken message I received in childhood from my HOH dad was to hide my hearing loss and try to fit in as much you can. I did not get any services. In the first year in Tel Aviv University, I was trying my best. Sitting in the front row, and listening very hard. My notes were all question marks. I then began focusing on learning from books and asking for copies of notes from friends. That ruined my friendship with some people who thought I was lazy and just using them. One semester I didn’t show up to school at all and I was in fact traveling in New Zealand. There was just no reason for me to be in class. I received my passing grade and was happy to be done with this horrible experience.

Please share a little about your career and any tips for someone considering a similar career?

When I moved to the USA I began working in a law firm. I was already aware of my hearing loss. They were very accommodating because they saw I was smart and hard-working. They did not expect me to take phone calls. I would work mostly alone at my desk and occasionally meeting clients in person. I always loved flamenco dancing and never stopped dancing. After realizing that I am unhappy in an office doing paperwork, I left the law, and opened my own dance studio where I teach. I am happy to be surrounded by art and music and to be creating constantly. My tip to DHH youth is to find a job that makes you happy. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and cannot do!

Please tell us about your relationships with DHH peers as an adult. When meeting a new person what script have you found helpful when telling them that you are DHH?

The first thing I notice about a person is if they wear a hearing aid. I can spot someone signing from a mile away… (exaggerating of course) – I am a friendly and open person and I would often introduce myself and identify as HOH right away. I used to take ASL classes where my kids would meet other DHH kids. I recently took part in the Bay Area International Deaf Dance Festival where I met some fantastic Deaf artists. I am working towards creating a flamenco deaf dance group by the name “DeaFlamenco”.

Most DHH children are born to hearing parents. This question may help parents see the world through their child’s eyes. Please tell us about your day to day life experiences as a DHH adult.

I was not the only HOH person in my family, but I was the first in my family to take action, get a hearing aid, learn sign language etc. I feel like I grew up in an emotional and social void. I do not want my kids to have the same experience. I do not want them to hide who they really are. This is why I encourage them to embrace their deaf identity, meet other deaf kids, learn about deaf culture etc. The past few months have been extremely challenging with everyone wearing masks. I try to bring awareness everywhere I go and educate people about hearing loss. I want my kids to be in the same position: rather than fearing what others might think of them, take charge and help others change their perspective.

What accomplishments are you most proud of in your life?

Building my own business, working in a job that makes me happy, having hearing students seek my help and teaching THEM how to listen and interpret flamenco music. I am proud to be speaking 3 languages and signing another language. I am proud of my kids thriving in school and life.

What tips and strategies do you have for communicating with a DHH person?

Just be open and explain your challenges. Try to get the other person to write instead of speak. Ask yes/no questions.

Favorite quote? Final comments?

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows.” (Helen Keller)

Let’s go out with a bang! Complete this sentence to debunk a misconception about Deaf or Hard of Hearing people. “People may be surprised to know that I…..”

have a perfect sense of rhythm!