Jane Swift

Jane’s Story

Jane Swift

I self-identify as….

I introduce myself as hard of hearing. Previously I would identify as hearing impaired. I feel like when I say hearing impaired, I am taken more seriously.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I am an extrovert. I love planning social gatherings, events and spending time with my family and friends.

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

I was born in 1979 and they didn’t have new born hearing screening tests at that time. As a toddler I put something in my ear and it got stuck and I was taken to the doctor to have it removed. We all assumed this is how I lost my hearing. In elementary school I remember wearing hearing aids but the amplification was so loud that it was better to not wear any aids at all. What I did know is that my hearing loss was on one side only. I knew this because I couldn’t talk on the phone on that side and my parents and friends would ask me why I kept turning one side of my head towards them when they spoke. I spoke well and you could not tell that I had hearing loss, because of that it was ignored by most and I struggled immensely throughout school. As an adult I got tested and come to find out I have single sided deafness.

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

I did not have any services throughout school. Each year I was told to sit in the front of the class. I was tested in 2nd grade and because I was functioning within normal range the only services, I got was an audiologist and speakers in the class which was very short lived. I got all D’s and F’s in middle school and high school and thought that I just wasn’t very intelligent. My freshman year in high school my grades were so bad that they put me in a continuation school where all the troubled kids went. I didn’t fit into that category but this is where I excelled so much. The classrooms were 6-8 kids maximum, no background noise and many teachers, aids and security. My main goal was getting an education whereas most others could care less so I got so much one on one attention. This is where I got most of my education. To get high school credits I had to attend a regular day of school, occupational school and adult school. I went to school every day until 7pm. On the day of my high school graduation, I cried so hard because I worked harder than any hearing kid in that entire school.

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

As a child I related more as a CODA (Child of deaf adult) as I did as hard of hearing or hearing-impaired. Both of my parents are deaf and I would watch the adults when they used ASL and I would read their lips. I didn’t meet my first DHH friend until college. She was my very first DHH friend and it was amazing. We had a different type of friendship. She was patient with me because she was fluent in ASL even though I wasn’t.

Please share how you/your parents prepared for a new school year and any Tips for Teachers that worked for you.

I did not have any support in preparing for upcoming school years. Everyone including my family was in denial of my hearing loss. The only support I had was from my 2nd grade teacher. Her argument was discrepancy. If I was within the normal range of my auditory challenges, just think what I was potentially capable of doing. All these years later, she still wishes she could have made it happen.

Did you attend your IEP meetings? What memories do you have of your IEP, goals and services?

I came across old IEP documents and they were disregarded at a certain point. I did not have any services at all as a child and wish someone would have noticed and fought for me.

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

As a family with 2 hard of hearing individuals we ALWAYS have captions on TV, movies, videos and default to texting. I prefer video communication as well so I can read lips and see facial expression. For work I inform the group ahead of time in meetings that I am hard of hearing and position myself where I know I can see everyone’s face and hear out of my “good” hear the best I can.

Can you tell us a little about your college experience and how did you prepare for college? Any tips for DHH youth who are considering a similar career?

Because I did not have any services during Elementary, Middle and High School I also did not have services in college. I didn’t identify as a person with hearing loss until I had my 1st child in my 30’s. I met a very good friend in one of the few college classes I took who was deaf. I watched in awe as her interpreter sat right in front of her and she didn’t miss anything that was being said in class. I found myself watching the interpreter more that the teacher who was speaking. I feel like if I had services, I may have had a better opportunity in college. I had such a hard time especially in lectures where the teachers talk so softly and with no expression.

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

I am an Event Coordinator at a publishing company producing conferences and trade shows. I enjoy this job because it was very high energy and most of the duties are logistics of floor plan placement, revenue reporting, website updates and marketing. The accommodations I had were placing my cubicle in the far-left hand corner where there was no one beside me so I could hear everything on my right side.

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?

I have 1 DHH friend that I met in College. All the others are my parent’s friends that I grew up with. I began to meet more DHH peers when I began attending the California Hands and Voices Inland Valley Family Camp. Our family attended 3 years in a row and made some amazing friendships.

What were some of strategies that your parents, teachers or DHH role models taught you that helped you to be a confident independent person?

I did not begin to advocate for myself until I became an adult. It took a lot of time to gather up the courage. Now I openly announce that I am hard of hearing. If I say I am Hearing Impaired I tend to get a better response. I let people know that I am completely deaf on my left side and if they are trying to get my attention and I don’t respond I am not being rude or ignoring them I just can’t hear them.

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 am considered a CODA, which is Child of Deaf Adult. Both my parents are deaf and I am hard of hearing. My parents signed to each other in the home but not to the children. They were oral. I picked up lip reading and took ASL classes as an adult on my own. I basically taught myself ASL by taking classes and watching others.

What accomplishments are you most proud of in your life?

My 1st accomplishment was graduating high school. I struggled so much in school that when I hit that milestone, I knew that I could do anything! My 2nd accomplishment was my career. I was promoted both times within 1 year to an office manager for 8 years then an Event Manager for 11 years.

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

As an adult I am still learning to advocate for myself. Many people don’t understand deafness or hearing loss. Try not to get defensive when people question why you sign and don’t read lips or why you don’t sign and only read lips/oral. I don’t hide it now and make sure everyone knows ahead of time that I am hard of hearing and it makes things so much easier.

Favorite quote? Final comments?

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. ~ Hellen 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…..”

regardless how well a DHH person speaks they still have hearing loss and are not faking the severity of it. Even though a DHH person is looking directly at you while you are speaking it does not mean that comprehend what you are saying.

Jane Swift and family
Jane Swift
Jane with family