The Child of a Deaf Adult with a Cochlear Implant
(Overland Park, Kansas)
I am a CODA.
My mother was born deaf in 1964, to an unwed mother who contracted German measles while pregnant with her, and was subsequently put into foster care due to being neglected. My mother spent most of her childhood being angry at everyone because of her inability to communicate (she was forced to learn lip-reading first and did not learn ASL until she was 10 years old), and was mostly behind in school, graduating a full year later than her hearing counterparts. I was born three years later, the result of an unplanned pregnancy. My mother did not raise me herself, but left me in the care of her foster parents, who kept her as their own daughter, and who I considered to be my grandparents. I did not become truly fluent in ASL until I had to move in with my mother and stepfather (who was hard of hearing) when I was 12 years old.
My mother began to progressively lose her hearing after having me. I'm not sure if it was a result of her pregnancy or if it just happened, because she isn't very good at communicating at all, but by the time I was 13, her hearing aids no longer helped her at all and she stopped wearing them entirely.
When I was 15, my mother decided she wanted a cochlear implant, and was able to have the procedure covered by her health insurance, and got it done at the beginning of December of 2002. By New Year's Eve, she had had her implant activated and could hear at least somewhat. I remember that it was very confusing for her at first. She often thought rustling noises were things like mice, or that I was talking when I wasn't. She still has problems like that sometimes, and often she will turn it off at the end of the day just so she can have some silence for awhile. The upside of the implant is that she is able to really enjoy her music again, even if she still needs an interpreter for everything.
I am now 24, and after many urgings from my mother, have decided I want to go to school to be a speech pathologist for the deaf, and also to become a licensed ASL interpreter. (My mother told me when I was a teenager several times that I would be a good speech pathologist because I often had to teach her how to say words and I was good at it.)
I don't know if this is a path I will be able to pursue, however, because I am starting to think that I might be experiencing hearing loss myself. (I can barely understand what people are saying if there is a great deal of background noise.) If I do actually go deaf, I don't know if a CI will be the answer for me or not. I don't know if I would want to embrace a new identity as a deaf person, and take part in the Deaf culture that I barely have an understanding of (my mother and I have never been very close, and I do not actually know any other deaf people at all), or if I would want to make an attempt at continuing to be a full member of the hearing world.
When I have children, I do not think I would get them a cochlear implant unless they chose to get one. I would want it to be fully their decision, and I don't want to choose for them as an infant.
I think a CI is a great thing for those who want it or need it, but it isn't for everybody, and I think parents of deaf children should probably wait until their child is old enough to decide for themselves.