Hearing in a Deaf World
Hearing in a Deaf World
One of the most common questions people have asked me about growing up with deaf parents is how they could know we were crying or calling out for them in the middle of the night. The short answer is they both did and sometimes didn’t.
One of the tools that our parents had when my brother and I were babies was called a “Baby Cry Signal.” This device was basically a microphone next to our beds hooked up to a buzzer under my parent’s mattress and a light in their bedroom. When we cried or called out, it would wake my parents up so they would check on us. As I got older, if I woke up thirsty or scared from a bad dream, I would say “MA” loudly – hearing the buzzer and seeing the light from my parent’s bedroom. I considered it a magical device which would make my parents come to me.
Of course, there were instances when they couldn’t hear me call out for them. I recall a time when was around 4 years old. I was playing in the backyard alone on our swing set – my brother was at school and there was no one else around to play with that day. I imagine my mom checked on me periodically by peeking out our kitchen window. I suppose I got bored with the swings and started to walk along a line of cinder blocks my dad had lining the swing area of the yard. I slipped and my foot fell into one of the holes of the cinderblocks and got stuck. I remember panicking as I tried to get my small, sneakered foot out of the hole – not realizing that if I removed my sneaker, I could easily escape its grip. I cried and called for my mother over and over, but of course she couldn’t hear me. It seemed like an eternity, but was more likely a few minutes when I saw my mother walking quickly to the part of the backyard where I was and where she couldn’t see me from the kitchen window. “Donna! What happened?!” I told through my tears and my relief that I was stuck. She came to me and untied my small red sneaker and I immediately removed my foot from the cinder block. The hug that followed was a reassurance for both of us, I believe. There was no Baby Cry Signal outside, so I guess that incident was a learning experience for us both and was likely was a contributing factor to my ever-so-cautious nature going forward.
As we got older, the fact that our parents were deaf became more and more advantageous to my brother and me – particularly as teenagers. We were able to blast our music without our parents yelling at us to turn it down. We could have conversations with our friends and each other without worrying that our parents would hear what we were saying. This made our house one of the favorite hangouts among our friends. Well that and because my dad was fun and everyone loved him. We were more than happy to have this privacy that our friends weren’t lucky enough to have.
Hearing in a Deaf World. The Series.
Part 2 (This one)
More to follow.