Deaf culture

How Deaf people hear with hearing aids and cochlear implants?

In addition to another post "How Deaf people hear without ears", this focuses on how Deaf people hear with assistive devices, such as hearing aids. This post does not talk about the experiences of deaf people who are deafened, late-deafened, or some hard-of-hearing and deaf people who can hear and speak well with hearing aids or cochlear implants.

Many Deaf people choose not to wear hearing aids or simply turn them off. Even many Deaf people choose not to use their cochlear implants. There are a few cases where Deaf people decide to have their cochlear implants surgerically removed.

What's it like to "hear" with deaf ears?

One of ASL students asked the ASL instructor Peter Skarp a question, "Why don't you use hearing aids?" At first he found it a bit difficult to explain. But, eventually he figured out a metaphor as illustrated in the video below.

His version of an answer is interesting (and funny. He's a funny guy). For him, an approximate metaphor is like paper crunching, crumpling and crackling. Many deaf children, out of coersion or expectation, wear hearing aids just... well. His experience is not unusual.

Another, my usual explanation is that hearing sounds with hearing aids in my ears is like watching a static TV. Okay, that static metaphor is not that accurate. More like there are different moldable shapes and sizes of the static dots.

In these illustrations, you cannot see the images or make out the shapes, lines, and colors. Or, you just see broken pieces of words and letters flashing here and there like scattered pieces of a glass flashing and glittering all over the floor. That's what hearing with hearing aids are like for many, but not for all.

That's one end of the spectrum and the other end is clarity for normal hearing. There are some other deaf people who can understand some sounds to various degrees on the spectrum in combination with other ways such as lipreading.

Another aspect of hearing sounds with hearing aids for some Deaf people is something that prompt them to remove the aids from their ears. That something is grima -- it's like hearing the sound of fingernails scratching on the blackboard or chalkboard. But, perhaps more like, since there are all kinds of sound, it's more like a mixed sound of fingersnails, knives, balls, hammers, cottonballs, whatever you name, scratching, hitting, stomping on the blackboard. It can be headaching.

Not to mention that some Deaf people can sense vibrations more naturally without hearing aids.

Did you know that there is a technology?

It's not uncommon that Deaf people are asked. "Hey, did you know that there is a technology available that helps you hear?" Not only it's a naive, but it's also microaggression.

And, beware, asking this question can be culturally sensitive and offensive, depending on the contexts. If an ASL student naively asks an ASL instructor that question, it's forgiving. If a doctor makes a suggestion, ahem.

It's no surprise that some deaf individuals decide to get rid of the hearing aids and cochlear implants in response to physical pains, in combination with hearing oppression or audism.

Eyeglasses are helpful for most seeing people but not always for blind people. Likewise, hearing aids are helpful for deafened elders, but not for all deaf people.

Related posts

Explore the world of Deaf eyesight that is different from hearing people.

And, see how deaf people perceive the world that is different from hearing people.

New to sign language? "Where do I start?" or "How do I start learning sign language?" This ASL Rookie guide lists some selected links to the tutorials for ASL beginners to get started and keep rolling. It may be a useful review for intermediate-level learners and ASL students as well.

Some tutorial pages are a mix of free and premium versions. Access to premium content and links below are available in the PatronPlus subscription. More links/posts will be added from time to time.

Expressing needs and wants

  1. Making commands or requests

Talking about activities

  1. Frequency of time: how often?

Are you able to carry everyday conversations in ASL? Are you a student in the intermediate levels and beyond, who wishes to boost up your signing skills? You've come to the selected tutorial series. (Some premium content are available to PatronPlus membership.)

Stories, poems, performance arts, etc. in sign language.

This documentation project follows a child's language acquisition, literacy development, and phonological acquisition in sign language, specifically ASL, from newborn to age five in a natural native-ASL environment and visual culture.