Stories of Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) adults

Stories are powerful. If done well, stories not only entertain but they also teach us
This form of storytelling is called “narrative”. We are all wired for narrative; it is what connects us to one another.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) individuals with diverse languages, modes of communication, ages, education, and life experiences play an important role in the journey for families with children who are DHH. Knowing the tremendous value of narrative, California Hands & Voices conducted written interviews with DHH adults for families to explore each unique journey and benefit from the wealth of knowledge told through their stories.

You may find while reading these narratives, your thoughts take you in a direction different from the rest of the story. We may suggest that you stay with that thought, for it is that part of the story that will teach you something new about yourself. This is the power of story.

A note of appreciation. This important resource would not be available if it were not for Deaf and Hard of Hearing adults who agreed to share their experiences. Thank you for making a positive impact on the life of every family who will read your story. The interviews give families access to the wide range of opportunities available for their child. We thank you.

Resources to check out!

“Follow your instincts. That’s where true wisdom manifests itself.”
Oprah Winfrey


Irit Spektor

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.

Deb Martin with son

I self-identify as….

Hearing

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Cooking, paddle boarding, travel, exploring and adventure, music, friends, family.

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

I was diagnosed with mild to moderate loss in one ear, and moderate to severe in the other. As I got older, I went through countless tests with a pioneer in hearing loss - Dr. Maurice Schiff. I was also particularly susceptible to ear infections which had to be manually treated in Dr. Schiff's office. Very painful and uncomfortable. They did try to determine the genesis for the loss including testing for Rh+ blood factors, but that appeared to be negative. My Mom believes she had either an aunt or a grandmother with hearing loss that might have contributed, but I believe it was due to me being her first pregnancy at age 40. But honestly, no one knows for sure. My hearing loss deteriorated as I got older and my speech comprehension was terrible by my early/mid 30's. I was actually tested and qualified for an implant at age 39, but I waited 4 years to get an implant partially due to waiting on the constantly changing/improving technology and partially because I was having a hard time accepting how my life might change - better or worse -after surgery. I spent a lot of time researching and talking to people and staff from Cochlear and Advanced Bionics before making a decision (AB).

Michelle Hu with family

I self-identify as….

Hard of hearing

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I'm a new mom, my kids are 2.5 and 1 years old. They are hilarious to be around. They keep me pretty busy right now, but I’ve created a new Instagram account, @Mama.Hu.Hears where I share personal experiences and tips/tricks I’ve learned a long the way for how I live my life with hearing loss. I’ve been cooking a lot more at home, experimenting with recipes and this past summer I took up gardening.

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

I was 3 or 4 years old. My preschool teacher told my mom that I would go off on my own during story time. She recommended me to get a hearing test. I had mild hearing loss at that point but it worsened every few years due to Pendred/EVAS. My pediatric audiologist was Dr. Carol Flexer - she helped guide my mama to do what was best for our family. My family chose to continue spoken language since this is what we were already doing.

Neal Savage

I self-identify as….

Deaf

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I enjoy the outdoors and camping, as well as reading and watching YouTube videos in my free time. I am always on the hunt for more music and ways to entertain myself. Also, for several years in high school I volunteered and rode at an equestrian facility.

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

I was born completely deaf and my parents found that fact out when I was around 18 months old. At the time, in 1999, when I was born, newborn children did not receive hearing tests like they do nowadays, so it was a while before my parents found out about my deafness. My parents are not deaf so my deafness is not genetic, as was further proven by genetic testing. Also, I was born deaf. Between these facts, the cause of my deafness is not really known.

I self-identify as….

Deaf

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Reading, playing games, exercising, wine tastings

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

When I was 4 years old, I woke up one morning completely Deaf. My family didn't notice that morning until my school called them and told them something was wrong. I remember watching TV with my brothers after school and getting upset with them for taking the volume out of the TV. Just prior to this day, I had a high fever and I had fallen off a couch and hit my head. I was taken to the hospital where many tests were performed- for mental retardation. After several tests, the medical team realized I was Deaf (severe-profound loss). At discharge, they gave me a spinal tap to be safe. Years later, I had a cochlear implant and it was discovered that my cochlea was not fully formed and the doctor suspected i may actually have been born hard-of- hearing.