If a Tree Falls in a Forest and No One is There to Hear it, Does it Make a Sound?

In a lot of ways I’m keeping this blog for myself. I haven’t been very successful keeping a personal journal, but I’ve been a lot better about updating this blog so far (compared to my other blogs). I think it’s because I get rewarded for it with your comments! 🙂

I’m just trying to record thoughts I’ve had over the last few years that I never took the time to write them down. The reason why I’m blogging a lot is because I actually have time! I’m trying to take advantage of this time while I can.

Anyways, one topic that I have thought about is how I view sound as a deaf person. I’m going to just give a couple of general examples here. Maybe I’ll expand on it more down the road as I think of it. Growing up I always thought that everything that moved and/or I could feel made a sound. I’m not quite sure how I came to that conclusion when I couldn’t hear the noises, probably because I was either told or I saw how people reacted to it.

So, what did that mean? In my mind anything that I couldn’t see or feel didn’t make a sound. I had the hardest time grasping the concept that someone could hear me from a different room when they couldn’t see what I was doing. For example, if I couldn’t see or feel someone in another room coughing then, to me, no one could hear it. I thought if I coughed in my room that people in another room wouldn’t be able to hear it. I did know that if I yelled from my room or if something crashed in my room that it made a sound loud enough for people to hear. I think that’s because it creates more of a vibration than some other sounds and I always got a reaction out of those sounds (parents or friends from another room would come in to check on me if they heard me yelling or if they heard something crashing).

It’s pretty difficult trying to explain something I’ve never experienced fully to people who have experienced it every second of their life (“it” being sound). So, I’m hoping that you’ll be able to follow my line of thought. If not, maybe you can help me out. 🙂

One example would be me jumping on my bed as a kid, a big no-no. I didn’t realize that even if the door was closed that noises could travel through the walls. I would wait until my parents were down at the other end of the house or downstairs in the family room to jump on my bed and I could NEVER understand how they knew when I was jumping. I thought they had extra eyeballs or magical parent powers. It wasn’t until a couple years later when I read a book about a boy who got caught jumping on his bed because his dad heard him. It then clicked that wow…sounds do travel through walls.

Even to this day, I have a hard time remembering that even if a door is closed it doesn’t mean that sounds can’t travel out of the door. Sometimes when I would just hang out in my room I would get IMs from my roommates in their bedroom saying “bless you” when I sneezed. I almost always looked up thinking that the door was open and they saw me sneezing or something. I then had to remind myself that I experience sound in a different way than they do.


The above question is probably the best way that I can describe how I experience sound compared to how hearing people experience it. If I can’t feel it or see it…does it make a noise? Visual and vibrations represent noise to me.

I know that noises can travel through walls, hallways, etc. However, my first reaction is that if I can’t see it and I can’t feel it then it must not make a noise. If the doors are closed then how can a noise travel through the door if I can’t see or feel it? That was something I couldn’t quite understand growing up. Another example to try to clarify this a bit better.

You remember how in elementary school if there was a class walking down the hallway, the teacher would usually close the door if it was too noisy. I would get distracted by kids walking down the hall, because I would see them. Seeing them walking down the hall was how I experienced the noises they were making. The more disorderly they were (out of line, flapping arms around, skipping, etc.) meant they were more visually distracting to me. The more visually distracting they were, the more noisy they were to me. So, when the teacher shut the door it was all quiet to me. I couldn’t see them therefore they weren’t making noises. It always threw me off when interpreters would tell me they could still hear kids out in the hallways when I had already forgotten about them because I could no longer see them.

Did anyone follow this at all, lol? It’s okay if you didn’t, because I got all confused writing this! 😉

Dear Restaurants and Fast Food Joints

Just thought I would write about some of the negative situations I have encountered in restaurants/fast food joints as a deaf person. The majority of my experiences eating out are good experiences. I have had waiters/waitresses wanting to learn a certain sign or they’ll practice their fingerspelling skills with me.

Some of the things I mention in this post are what I refer to as deaf tendencies (for lack of a better term at this time) that we do joke about with each other.

I also want to add that some people who are deaf prefer to order their food verbally, some gesture, some write it down, and others will point it out on the menu. I typically don’t order it verbally because I cannot tell how quietly or how loudly I’m talking in a noisy place. I always either whisper it or everyone in the place turns around because I’m talking too loudly (a bit embarrassing).

Dear Restaurants and Fast Food Joints:

If you ever see a group of deaf people coming into your place, I strongly recommend the following tips:

–Immediately remove all condiments in breakable containers from the table, it’s possible they’ll get knocked off the table with our hands flying like crazy through the air.

–Tell your waiters/waitresses that if they want a nice tip from us to please actually serve us.

–Invest in deaf friendly tables which are round tables. We love round tables, because we can see everyone all at once. Rectangle tables are okay, but avoid seating us at the bar when possible. Bars are the most unfriendly deaf tables possible. If I’m sitting between 2 people who are having a conversation at a bar, I’m going to get whiplash from looking back and forth between them while following their conversation. It’s almost like being the poor person in the middle in a keep away game.

–If your waiters/waitresses/hosts are going to mock us signing have them do it where we can’t see them. That’s a sure way to lose any tips.

–Most groups may only come in for an hour, brace yourself, we will be there for 3 hours. It’s not often we get to hang out with people without having to deal with communication barriers. Oh yes, we go by DST (Deaf Standard Time) which has about a 2 hour delay compared to the rest of the population.

–Your centerpieces are very lovely but they will immediately get put on another table or on the floor. We can’t really see through your beautiful centerpieces while signing with each other.

–Have a pail of water and towel nearby. There’s a good chance a glass of water/pop will get knocked over while someone’s telling a dramatic story.

–We may be deaf, but that doesn’t mean we’re quiet. I can guarantee you that we’ll be the loudest table in your restaurant. We like to hit the table to get each other’s attention and to make a point when telling an intense story. There will also be oodles of blackberries and sidekicks vibrating every 5-10 minutes.

A couple of tips to be shared with fellow diners:

–We’re not there for your entertainment. We don’t like being gawked at and gossiped about. Don’t huddle up into groups and stare at us for 20 minutes nonstop.

–I’m not trying to steal your food, I’m just checking to see if it’s mine. I can’t hear them call the numbers/names out. Please don’t give me a dirty look and yell at me…I’m somewhat a picky eater and I’m sure I won’t want your food.

A few tips to share with your employers:

–When I ask for a piece of paper and pen to write my order down, don’t go and get your fellow co-employer and supervisor for backup. It’s really not necessary to have 3 people waste 10 minutes just to take one order.

–I know you’re trying to be helpful, but we can’t read Braille.

–If I call to place an order do not hang up on me the first time, second time, or third time. If you actually don’t hang up, remember the relay operator will let me know everything they can hear on your end including unkind jokes/comments about my call in the background.

–I see you asking everyone else if they want a medium, large, or extra-large order. Why do you assume that I want a specific size without asking me? I may actually have an opinion on which size I prefer to order.

–There’s a reason why the drive-through was invented and I would like to take advantage of that reason. If I pull up to a drive-through and you refuse to take my order without me having to go inside then you’re going to lose a customer.

–When I hold up 7 fingers and point to the combo menu, that means I want combo #7 not combo #3. It would be nice if your employers took a crash course in how to count fingers.

–Relax. We won’t bite, I promise. We’re not as scary or intimating as we may look.



Why Genetic Counseling?

What is Genetic Counseling (GC)? That’s a question us GC people get often. Just to make sure we’re all on the same page I’m going to paste and copy NSGC’s (National Society of Genetic Counselors) definition here. I’ll probably elaborate on it more in future posts.

” Genetic counseling is the process of helping people understand and adapt to the medical, psychological and familial implications of genetic contributions to disease. This process integrates:
* Interpretation of family and medical histories to assess the chance of disease occurrence or recurrence.
* Education about inheritance, testing, management, prevention, resources and research.
* Counseling to promote informed choices and adaptation to the risk or condition. (nsgc.org).”

Anyways, why did I choose to go into genetic counseling?

I’ve always been interested in science and took a genetics class my junior year in high school. It wasn’t an easy class, but I loved it. We didn’t have textbooks, instead the teacher used current events to teach us about genetics (the best way to teach). I found out from one of my high school interpreters a few weeks ago that this teacher passed away from cancer over the summer I was disappointed because I always wanted to tell him that I ended up in the genetics field.

Anyways, when I graduated from high school I still hadn’t decided on what I wanted to do when I “grew up.” I could not decide between genetics, education, or psychology. I decided to just start working towards my B.S. in Genetics just because I had to pick a degree. I figured that out of those 3 possible careers I might as well as pick the one that would be the more challenging one for me. I’m not saying that the other 2 careers are not challenging, they are in their own ways. I’m just saying that out of those 3 careers, genetics was the more challenging one for me.

Anyways, I had it in my twisted way of thinking that it would be much easier to start off with the more difficult degree and if I changed my mind down the path…it would be easier to switch from a more difficult degree to a less difficult degree than switching from a less difficult degree to a more difficult degree. I also took a few psychology classes and enjoyed them. I worked at a daycare and enjoyed that also. Time went along and I could not decide what I wanted to do, I put off officially declaring my degree for as long as I could (until either the last semester of my junior year or first semester of my senior year when we were supposed to declare it by our junior year).

Over a period of 4 years I tried to take into consideration which career would I be more likely to get a job as a deaf person? One thing I did consider and many people pushed me to consider was to work in a lab. That sounded like a great idea to me since I liked science and it wouldn’t require much verbal communication with hearing people within the lab. I tried working in 4 different labs and hated it. I hated sitting in the same spot all day, I hated not interacting with a living and breathing object aside from drosophilas (aka fruit flies). You can’t hold a conversation or interact with dorsophilas. I kept trying to convince myself that I just needed to find the right lab and the right project. I worked in 4 different labs and found out that I just did not have the attention span or patience to work in a lab.


Wow, the eyes are a bit creepy in this picture!

Remember, this is the person who actually tried to make a pumpkin pie with 2.5 cups of salt. I somehow managed to read “1/2 teaspoon” as 2.5 cups. I even reread the directions 3 times because I thought 2.5 cups was a bit much. Turns out I combined 2 lines of instructions into 1 sentence. I can be very detailed and very good at following directions except when it comes to these kind of directions.

This is also the person who managed to drop a PCR gel (nongenetic people-you basically amplify DNA samples on these) on her bare foot the one time she wore flip-flops to lab (in my defense I had left to let an experiment run for several hours and changed into flip-flops. I just had to take the gel out and take a picture of it, that’s all). I also managed to have a little crisis when making gel for a PCR. I had put the liquid mixture into a beaker and put the beaker on a stirring plate while it was too hot….liquid flew out of the beaker EVERYWHERE and solidified EVERYWHERE. Oh yea, I also accidentally set a lab bench on fire (thankfully, I wasn’t the only on in our lab who did that!).

Anyways, I kept forcing myself to try the whole lab experience because it seemed so perfect in terms of communicating with hearing co-employers and it would be easier to get hired as a deaf person. I wouldn’t mind working in a lab part-time but could not handle working in a lab full-time.

During my whole 4 years of undergraduate, I kept trying to talk myself out of becoming a genetic counselor. How would I get a job in a field that requires so much verbal communication? I could never fully talk myself out of it and I kept coming back to it. I finally realized that I needed to stop trying to force myself to fit into something and choose something that fit me even if it may not seem like the most practical idea at that time.

What is it about genetic counseling that I enjoy so much?
I love the balance of interacting with people and research/independent work.
I love how it combines more than just one disciplinary (genetics, psychology, education, etc.).
I enjoy the non-tradition part of genetic counseling where I can branch out into other fields such as bioethics, public health, etc.
I enjoy educating people and learning from them (it’s a 2-way process).
It’s always changing.
There’s always something new to learn, it keeps me on my toes.
It’s a field where you truly have to have a passion for learning.
I enjoy interacting with a diverse population.
I like being able to help people make informed decisions.
It’s a challenging and a rewarding field.

I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you all for now 😉

Deaf Adventures #4: Are You Deaf?

Ok, so every once in a while I will have people come up to me and ask if I’m deaf. Usually they turn out to be ASL students and want to practice their sign language skills or they’re deaf themselves. Which is great.

During my time in NYC I had a few random people come up to me and ask if I was deaf for no apparent reason.

One day I took the subway into the city and had gotten off at a stop. I was walking upstairs while a guy was walking downstairs. It wasn’t busy and was just the 2 of us at that time. My hair was also down and he couldn’t see my hearing aids. I wasn’t doing anything to suggest that I was deaf. It’s not like I walked around the city signing to myself. 😉 He didn’t make eye contact or anything with me. Right after we passed each other on the stairs, he tapped me on my shoulder. When I turned around, he verbally asked if I was deaf. When I nodded my head “yes,” he just turned back around and kept walking down the steps.

Another example was at a NSGC conference (not this year’s conference) where someone was watching me and Ashley signing. She walked up to me and signed “Are you deaf?” I replied, “yeah.” Then she just turned away and walked away.

And even to this day it still bugs me who she was! It’s one thing to come up to me and strike up a conversation with me after asking if I’m deaf. It’s another thing to just randomly walk up to me and ask if I’m deaf and then leave me hanging. Maybe it’s just me, but I find it a bit odd.

Deaf Adventures #3: You Need a CI

Sarah reminded me of this story. It’s a pretty short story because I don’t remember all the details.

Sarah, you may need to jump in here and correct me or make additions.

Sarah (one of my roomies at that time) and I had gone to the laundromat to do some laundry (obviously). Some random woman saw us signing and walked up to us. She started telling us about her niece/nephew or someone she knew who had just gotten a CI. She was talking about how amazing it was (although I’m pretty sure she was ignorant about it and was one of those people who view CIs as a “cure”), then she started talking about how I NEEDED to get one.

At that point I gave up on trying to lip-read her, because I don’t exactly like when strangers walk up to me and tell me that I need to be “fixed.” Or when they try to give “friendly” advice and have no idea what they’re talking about. Luckily for me, I had to go and get my clothes out of the washer. Unluckily for Sarah, she was stuck talking to this lady for quite a bit while I moved my clothes from the dryer to the washer.


Just wanted to let everyone know that I’m enjoying all of your comments. I’m trying to figure out if there’s a way to reply to comments directly (anyone know?).

I do hope that when people read my entries that they also read other people’s comments. A lot of the comments have been great to read and I want others to read them too! 🙂 I’m learning stuff from you all!

Edit: I might have figured it out, so I’m going to reply to your comments. If you don’t get a notification saying that I replied….please let me know.

My Hearing Aids History. Cochlear Implant-Why Now?

Ok, so why am I considering a Cochlear Implant (CI) at this point of my life?

CIs were not FDA approved for children when my parents found out I was deaf. Back then, the operation procedure was more intensive than they are today. Today, most patients go home the same day they had surgery and the incisions are smaller. Also, CIs were a new thing and people weren’t sure what the long-term effects would be. Taking into my consideration my personal situation and my personality, I am glad that I didn’t get a CI at a young age back in the 1980s. Knowing my track record with speech therapy and audio training with DASL II (Developmental Approach to Successful Listening) as a kid, lol. I don’t think I would have been one of those success CI kid stories.

Anyways, I did wear several hearing aids on and off growing up.
Hearing aid #1: Ages 2-5 (body aid)
Hearing aid #2: Ages 5-7 (plus FM system at school).

I couldn’t really hear much with these 2 aids. Since then I have only had frequency compression hearing aids. They’re totally different from hearing aids that just amplify sounds. Instead of amplifying sounds, the hearing aids actually moves sounds in the high frequency range into the low frequency range. Since I have a very small window of residual hearing in the low frequency range it really compresses all the sounds into low frequencies at the dB level that I can hear them at.

Hearing aid #3: Ages 8-11 (I was one of the first ones in America to have a frequency compression hearing aid). It was more of a body aid where it was a big box that I had to wear around my hip (similar to the old versions of CIs back then) and it used to make horrible feedback noises if I didn’t have it on my hips just right. Besides it just wasn’t cool to wear in middle and junior high school, so I took a break from hearing aids!

Hearing aid #4: Ages 15-20 (They finally came out with a behind the ear version, about the same time that CIs did too).
Hearing aid #5: Ages 21-current (digital version)

Basically, I was getting the same benefits from these type of hearing aids as I would have from a CI back then. I was more than satisfied with them. CIs have improved so much in the last few years though and might be able to provide me with more clarity than my current hearing aids do.

I’ve been exploring all different possible options besides CIs and was able to try 2 different types of hearing aids recently to see if they helped me any more than my current hearing aids do. There wasn’t that much difference to make me consider getting different hearing aids.

I started seriously considering a CI my junior year in college. It’s been 5 years now and I am still considering a CI. Why haven’t I gone through with a CI yet? It is a surgical process for something that is non-life threatening. I think also I felt like I had to be comfortable with being deaf before I even considered going through with a CI.

I grew up in 4 different towns and the attitude towards my deafness varied in each town. For the longest time I did view my deafness the same way that the hearing world viewed deafness in general. I had limited exposure to Deaf culture until high school. It was a negative experience at first. I didn’t want anything to with Deaf culture at all, but over time I have came to embrace and appreciate it. In college, I was still unsure as to what my roles were in both the hearing and deaf worlds. I felt like I had to choose one over the other and didn’t want to do that. Then in graduate school, I had to reevaluate my roles and I finally realized that I’ll always be stuck between the 2 worlds and to embrace it.

I used to ask myself this question growing up:

“If you could take a pill and become a hearing person overnight, would you?”

Elementary school, middle school, junior high school:
I would always answer this question along the lines of, “Oh, of course! Who wouldn’t?! Where are those pills?!”
High school: “Oh, I don’t know. I might.”
College: “I don’t know. Depends on my mood when you ask me.”
Graduate school: That first year “Yes, please!” Second/Third year: “Nope. I would take them only if they wore off after 6 hours, I don’t think I could tolerate being able to hear and understand everything 24/7. I prefer to be deaf, because that is who I am.”

That’s the point I wanted to be at before further considering a CI. I feel like I needed to accept who I am as a deaf person and embrace that person. I don’t view getting a CI as something that will make me “hearing.” I view it as a tool that may help improve my communication abilities within the hearing world.

I know it’s a bit ironic that I waited until I was more accepting of my deafness before I considered getting something that will help me “hear” a bit. There has been some discussions about older deaf kids and adults undergoing psychology evaluations before getting implanted. Getting implanted will affect how a person is viewed by the Deaf community (they’re far more accepting than they were back in the 1980s/1990s) and how that person views himself/herself. Your perspectives of yourself as a deaf person and as a deaf person with a CI can affect how willing you are to work with a CI.

Plus, there’s always the chance (very small) that I may not like a CI and that I might be unable to wear a hearing aid in the implanted ear. So, I need to be comfortable with the idea of not benefiting from a hearing aid or a CI in one ear.

Next Genetic Related Post

I have had several topics in mind for the last week about what I want my next entry related to genetics to be about. I will probably address all of these topics at some point but can’t decide which one to focus on first (hence the reason why the last few entries have been a bit pointless). So, let’s vote!

1) How do I interact with hearing patients? How do they react to me? Does it affect their decision making process? If so, how and is it in a positive or a negative way?

2) Hearing patients vs Institutions (how their perspective on a deaf genetic counselor student has differed)

3) What is the sign language interpreter’s role? How do I invent signs for genetic terms (there are almost no established signs for genetic terms)?

4) How might I counsel a hearing patient differently from a deaf patient. Even more, how might I counsel a hard-of-hearing patient differently from a culturally Deaf patient? Should I even counsel them differently?

5) As a deaf person do I have an unspoken responsibility to the deaf community?

6) How can I show people that there is a need for a deaf genetic counselor. Why do they always focus on the negative things? How can I turn those assumed negative things into positive things?

7) I’ve struggled with this question since the day I started applying for undergraduate colleges. When I apply for something, do I tell people from the very first second that I’m deaf or not? It’s not something that I’m trying to “hide” or anything but I don’t want to be rejected before they even check to see if I’m qualified.

8) If I do become involved with the deaf community through genetic counseling how will that affect my ability to socialize within the deaf community during my post-GCing hours? The deaf community is small and everyone knows everyone.

9) Suggestions?


Deaf and Sports

Oftentimes sports is one way for deaf people to interact with hearing people on the same level. It’s easy to gesture and spoken communication isn’t always necessary.

You would think that it would be no problem trying to play sports as a deaf kiddo.


People often don’t know what to do when they meet a deaf person for the first time so they usually just ignore that deaf person or make a big deal out of nothing.

I participated on several sport teams growing up (although I never really stayed with one sport long enough at a time to get good at it). Track, gymnastics, indoor soccer, volleyball, and basketball. I wanted to join karate but had to choose between gymnastics and karate…gymnastics won. I also wanted to do dance but for some reason I thought that regardless of what kind of dance class I took (I wanted to take something like hip-hop) I would have to take ballet in addition to it and there was no way I would be caught in a pink tutu during my tomboy stage.

I was lucky to be able to participate on a lot of sports teams growing up through the Y.M.C.A. (cheaper) or free after-school programs. Anyways, I never really improved as much as I could have after being on a team because coaches would never coach me. I don’t think my track coach even looked at me once or even knew my name. They were too uncomfortable around a deaf kid to bother coaching me. I actually got cut from one team literally because the coach didn’t think a deaf kid could be a good teammate player also how would I hear the buzzer/whistle (like that really makes a big difference in how good a player is?)

Now, you would think that the one sport that I would have had the least issues with would be gymnastics. After all it is more of an individual sport and there are no buzzers. Nope, I always had problems at gymnastic meets. It was ridiculous and is a classic example of how people make a big deal out of nothing. The floor routine is performed to music (see how that could be a problem). I could learn how to keep up with the music through practice and learning the beat in my head (although I always got nervous during meets and would speed up through it). The only thing was that I needed someone to tell me when the music started. Hearing aids + gymnastics = flying hearing aids. So yep, I never wore my hearing aids during gymnastics.

Now, the general rule in gymnastics is that if your coach assist you in any way whatsoever you get points deducted. My coach would always try to explain to the floor judge that she would just signal when for me to start and for me to slow down if I got way off from the music. Simple enough right? Judges oftentimes wouldn’t even let her. So, she would either risk getting into trouble and try to give me a secret signal for me to start or if the judge was watching her my teammates would try to give me a little motion to signal that the music was starting. I never knew who would be giving me that signal or what that signal was, so I was always unsure as to if I was actually starting with the music or if someone was just scratching their nose because they had a itch.

Sometimes I feel like people just like to create situations out of nothing just for the heck of it.