My Kids Aren’t CODAs, They’re COHLAs

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?

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Book: Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss

13 thoughts on “My Kids Aren’t CODAs, They’re COHLAs

  1. I grew up with a mother who had profound hearing loss in both ears by the age of 25. I was born when she was 28, so I always knew to get her attention before taking, speaking clearly, not rambling on, etc. It helped me with my radio show when I was in University. My mom was afraid to call people on the phone. I understand that now, but I have caption for my phone & my hearing aid streams directly not my head.. Mom’s didn’t. She didn’t have the luxury of caller ID. She was very happy to get an answering machine so she could screen callers. I do the same on my phone. If it’s important, they will leave a message or text. My mom & her older sister both had early hearing loss. They weren’t aware of their mother’s hearing loss till she began to get dementia. The men don’t seem to have genetic hearing loss. And my only female on that side of the family refuses to wear hearing aids. I’ve even shown her mine &, a few years ago, when I used domes, I put a clean one on & had her try it out. She both loved & hated it. She could hear lots more, but she could hear TOOOO much! So far, her husband puts up with her HOH. If her 2 ears are going bad as quickly as mine are, she will be deaf in about 5 years. I’m deaf on my left side from inner ear surgery to remove an acoustic neuroma/ vestibular schwanoma. My “good” ear is getting more towards the profoundly deaf than moderately. While I enjoy my quiet world, I also like hearing too.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Thank you for sharing your story.

  2. Enjoyed CODA… very helpful…
    last weekend I missed a family gathering in another town partially due to my hearing… I chose to just stay away rather than find ways to cope… I missed so much…
    Today I realize that I need to go toward the problem rather than walk away… find ways to make things work…
    the rewards are many…

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      That is great. Thank you for sharing this change of heart. Best of luck to you!

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Thank you for your comment.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Thank you for your comment.

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