Please note that everything on this blog is my opinion, based on my experiences. They are not necessarily those of the rest of the Deaf Community or those of other CODAs.
I am a CODA, a Child of a Deaf Adult. This is the term used within the Deaf Culture for hearing adults who have deaf parents (the term for children who have deaf parents is KODA, Kid of Deaf Adults). The term is used even if only one of the hearing adult’s parents is deaf. Since my subsequent posts about my childhood will inevitably include information about my parents, I thought I’d dedicate this post to the common questions I get about my parents.
Q: How’d you learn to talk?
A: How’d you learn to talk? No one lives in a vacuum. My parents are the only deaf people in my family, we lived in an all hearing neighborhood, went to a church with both hearing and deaf people, went to the grocery store, watched TV, etc. Truth is, some CODAs do live in a more insular Deaf community and have to have speech therapy. I didn’t.
Q: So you know sign language?
A: Yes. In fact I know a combination of ASL (American Sign Language, the most commonly used form of sign language in America), Basic Sign (an older form of sign language), and “family signs” (signs made up within my own family). Basically I use pidgin sign (kinda like the sign language equivalent of Spanglish).
Q: Sign something for me.
A: No. I’m not a performing monkey. There are plenty of YouTube videos out there for you to look at.
Q: Can you teach me sign language?
Q: What’s this Deaf Community thing you keep mentioning?
A: Deaf people have a unique culture all their own. If you are a part of that culture, you are part of that community. You consider yourself Deaf (with a capital “D”, indicating you are part of the culture), not just deaf (with a small “d”, indicating the physical inability to hear). You can find out more here.
Q: How’d they become deaf?
A: My family does not have the genetic form of deafness. Because medicine was not up to today’s level when my parents were born, we’ll never really know why my parents are/were deaf (my mother is no longer living). Here’s the best guess as to why they were born deaf:
My Mom: My maternal grandmother had chicken pox while pregnant. My Mom had no usable hearing at birth. Subsequent tests over the years found that she could hear at the very extreme ends of the sound spectrum (think squeals and very deep, deep bass).
My Dad: My paternal grandmother had surgery during the early months of her pregnancy. Apparently back then they didn’t routinely test for pregnancy before surgery. My father was born with enough hearing to use hearing aids for the first decade or so of his life. But his hearing eventually faded to unusable levels. If you stand right next to him and yell into his ear as loud as you can, he can tell that something happened, but he can’t tell you what or what was said.
Q: Are they allowed to drive?
A: Are you allowed to drive with your radio cranked all the way up?
Q: Was your house really quiet growing up?
A: Actually it was the opposite. My parents couldn’t tell if they were making noise when they were closing cabinets, walking heavily, opening packages, singing to themselves (yes, my Dad sang to himself all the time), and so on.
Q: Do they talk out loud?
A: Yes. Neither of my parents were mute. My Dad actually talks really well, probably because he had some hearing as a child. He doesn’t sound like you or me because he can’t regulate his tone or volume like you or me. My Mom never talked as much as my Dad because she was shamed about her voice as a child.
Q: Why aren’t you an interpreter?
A: Because I choose not to. Many CODAs do become interpreters. I didn’t.
Q: I’m soooo sorry.
A: Really? For what? They just couldn’t hear, they weren’t under some awful curse.
Q: What about those implants they’ve got nowadays. What do you think about them?
A: I have mixed feelings about them but I’m not going to talk about them in this post since my blog is not about that kinda thing. If you really want to hear about my feelings/thoughts on cochlear implants, leave a comment and I’ll devote a post to them.
Q: How do you talk to them on the phone?
A: There used to be a device called a TTY (or TDD depending on the technology used), which was basically a machine that used computer code over the phone lines to another TTY/TDD. If you were hearing you could call up an interpreting service that would type your words into the TTY/TDD then read what the deaf person said back. These days there are videophones which work like Skype™. Again, you can use an interpreter if one of you is hearing. And then there’s Skype™ itself. My Dad doesn’t use Skype™ because he’s a bit of a technophobe.
Q: Can they read lips?
A: My Dad can a little. My Mom was never very good at it.
Q: Can they work/live normal lives/etc?
A: Yes. As the former president of Gallaudet University (the only all-Deaf university in the US), I. King Jordan, said “Deaf people can do anything, but hear.”
Have I missed anything you want to know?