“Why don’t you get a cochlear implant?” I get that more frequently of late because of media attention to the wonders of cochlear implantation. I get that from random people from a sales clerk to a restaurant waitress to well-meaning staff at the doctor’s office. In more cases than not, they think they are kind to let me know in case I might not know about it.
Such questions are a form of microaggression, more specifically, a microinsult that suggests that I as a deaf person is inferior in one way or another (Laureate Education, 2011). As Dr. Sun (Laureate Education, 2011) explains it, the question – in my perspective -- “saps the spiritual and psychological energies of the person especially because it is cumulative in nature.” However, in the perspective of the people asking me the question, they believe they are being friendly and admire me for what I have done.
The question is very insensitive and ignorant toward me and represents the ignorance of the person asking the question. They might believe one of those or all of those: that my ears need fixing; that my life is limiting; that my life will improve with restored hearing. Truth be told, my ears do not need fixing, my life feels privileged to me, and I have a great life as a Deaf person. That is not something that most people will believe or understand. I do not understand how they would think that a piece of technology would make me feel whole, as if I do not feel whole in my body. As I would always say, “I am perfect in my imperfection.”
I would politely and firmly respond, “no thank you.” I bet that they would consider my response offensive or rude. Thus, I feel invalidated.
If you look around, listen to radio or news, or read, you will notice that Deaf people are not their own spokespersons. We are powerless to correct the constant barrage of misinformation about deaf people and their hearing “loss.” After detailing our hearing loss, they would proceed to outline medical solutions in which they have vested interests. It is an illusion that we must have hearing to accomplish in our lives. And more importantly, it is their internalized privilege to speak on our behalf.
Deaf people have to speak up more often to stop this microaggression of deaf people. Social media has been a boon to our effort to reclaim our signed languages and our lives.