Until recently, most people probably thought a CODA was the concluding passage in a musical score. But since CODA‘s three wins at the Oscars, Child of Deaf Adult has become part of the mainstream lexicon—an exciting boost of awareness for the Deaf community.
But when discussing the film with my children, they were confused. “We’re not CODAs, right?” they wondered. “You have hearing loss, but you are not Deaf. You don’t use sign language.” My children have a pretty nuanced understanding of the distinctions between Deaf, deaf, and hard of hearing given all my advocacy work, but most people probably don’t see or understand the difference.
“That’s right,” I answered. “So what should we call you?”
“We are children of a hearing loss adult, so how about COHLAs?”
“I like it!”
People with Hearing Loss Have Different Needs
People with hearing loss and people who are culturally Deaf have many things in common.
- We have trouble hearing some or all sounds.
- Visual cues help us communicate.
- We can feel isolated and unsupported without communication assistance.
- The world is not always prepared to support our communication needs.
But in many ways, our life experiences and struggles are different.
People in the Deaf community choose sign language as their primary form of communication, while most people with hearing loss communicate orally, using technology, speechreading, and other skills to remain engaged with the hearing world.
For communication access, the Deaf community relies primarily on sign language interpreters. For people with hearing loss, sign language interpreters are no help. We don’t understand the language. We need captions, hearing loops and other assistive technologies for communication access.
How to Educate Others about Hearing Loss?
As we celebrate CODA‘s wins and the boost in mainstream awareness of the Deaf community’s needs, how do we make sure our needs are highlighted as well?
While hearing aids and speech-to-text apps may not be as visually pleasing and emotive as sign language, they are the tools that the vast majority of people with hearing issues use to communicate. We must raise awareness about these things too. Here are some ideas.
Share our own experiences
When friends reach out to discuss CODA or celebrate its wins at the Oscars, I tell them how much I enjoyed the film, but I also highlight how different the movie is from my lived experience. Each time we educate one, over time, we educate the many.
Watch and share ‘We Hear You’
While most mainstream media focuses on the Deaf experience, We Hear You is different. By shining a light on the lived hearing loss experience, it strives to build awareness, community and a more inclusive world for all. We Hear You is available for rent or purchase at Vimeo on Demand.
Include hearing loss in mainstream content
Are you creative? Make your own video to explain your hearing loss life and share it with others. Write a blog post for a mainstream outlet reflecting on your experiences. If you make creative decisions at your job, include characters with hearing aids in your next book, play, television program or advertisement.
Hearing loss and Deafness can be a bit like apples and oranges. It is up to us to help explain the differences.
Readers, do you use CODA as a way to discuss your communication needs?