This deaf performer loves showing off hearing aids on stage
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Your hearing health care team
Your hearing health care team
January 28, 2020

What it is like being a hearing child of deaf parents

hearing child with deaf parents
What is it like being a hearing child in a deaf family?

Recently, a former classmate of mine, Austin Johnson, reached out to me to tell me that he likes reading the articles I write for HearingLikeMe. Johnson is hearing, so I found it interesting that he enjoyed reading my hearing loss articles. I envisioned the articles to be relatable for the hard-of-hearing community and informative for hearing people, but Johnson is closer to the deaf community than I imagined. He revealed to me that he grew up with two deaf parents and sign language is his first language. Children of deaf parents also known as children of deaf adults (CODA) have a different story to tell. Luckily for me, he agreed to take the time to answer some questions about what being a hearing child of two deaf parents.

Q: You said sign language is your first language. Was it difficult to learn spoken language? How did you learn it?

Sign language was my primary language since before I can remember. Learning to speak wasn’t difficult for me either, especially because I already had two older brothers who were also hearing. Which might also spark the question, “Well, how did your brothers learn to speak?”

Well, my brothers had spent a lot of time with my grandma and various other family members, and they picked up talking just as normal as any other child would. When they were home with my mom, she turned on the television with the volume up, so they were able to pick up a verbal language at home also.

Q: Though you are a hearing person, are you close to the deaf community? 

Even though I’m hearing, I’ve never felt like I wasn’t a part of the Deaf community. To be honest, I probably prefer Deaf people over hearing people! Actually, being a child of a Deaf adult is its own sub-culture, also known as CODA (Child of a Deaf Adult). So to answer your question, yes, I am close to the Deaf Community, very much so!

Q: What did your parents think when you were born fully hearing? 

My mom said that it never really crossed her mind. The only thing that truly mattered to her was that she had a healthy baby. Truthfully, I do believe that some part of her would’ve liked to have had a Deaf child. It would’ve been special and without a doubt a different bonding experience, but it goes without saying that she loves her three boys more than anything in this world.

Q: There was a girl in one of my college classes who was deaf and had a sign language interpreter. She made me think about learning sign language because I realized how hard it must be to make friends and feel connected in a society built for hearing people, and the majority of people do not know sign language. What is it like for you to be a bridge for that gap?

I get to be their voice, and I mean that very literally. It always was and is a very proud feeling when I could take something complex and translate it into something very clear, and understandable. I like to think that I’ve changed hearing people’s perspectives on Deaf people by helping them realize that the Deaf are normal people too, and the only barriers they have are the ones that are created by hearing people. Deaf people are capable of anything and everything. Deaf people are just that; they’re people.

“I like to think that I’ve changed hearing people’s perspectives on Deaf people by helping them realize that the Deaf are normal people too, and the only barriers they have are the ones that are created by hearing people.”

Q: What was growing up like for you?

Honestly, growing up didn’t feel any different to me. I didn’t actually notice how different I was until I actually moved out of the house. For example, I didn’t realize how often I would watch television with no volume and closed captioning. I’m still guilty of doing this. There are more things I’m sure, but that’s the main one that comes to mind.

Q: Were there any difficult parts of integrating the deaf and hearing worlds?

There is a constant struggle with blending both worlds. Without a doubt, there is an issue with accessibility. If I had the answer to a possible solution to this, believe me, the world would be a better place. I do believe it has gotten better but at a very very slow rate.

Read more: Celebrating the diversity of deafness

Q: Has being fluent in sign language helped you in other situations outside of the home?

Knowing sign language has benefited me in more ways than most people can imagine. In all honesty, I believe that my knowledge of sign language is actually more beneficial to everyone else. I love being able to help people wherever I go. Helping in ways as simple as placing an order or helping my mom out at a doctor’s appointment. I love helping people, and if I can do that with sign language, then I absolutely will.

Q: What do you wish more people knew about the deaf community?

I sincerely wish that people knew how much Deaf people appreciate the effort in attempting to communicate with them. I mean genuinely communicating, not just grabbing a pen and a piece of paper. I promise you if you learn simple things like “please” and “thank you,” it will make their day.

“I promise you if you learn simple things like “please” and “thank you,” it will make their day.”

If it is in a business setting, I can guarantee you that they will come back, and they will also tell their friends about your establishment. “Why?” you ask. Well, it’s as simple as this. They felt normal and respected. Lastly, I think everyone should know that deaf people are just like you and me.

Author Details
Hi! My name is Ashley. I am 24 years old and I was born with a sensorineural hearing loss. I have worn hearing aids since I was 3. Growing up, I struggled to accept my disability and feel good about myself because I felt like I was the only young person with a hearing loss. I wish that I had been able to connect with people who have the same hearing loss as I do, so that we could feel less alone.