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Turning a Deaf Ear

Turning a Deaf Ear

Автором Allyson Raphel

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Turning a Deaf Ear

Автором Allyson Raphel

5/5 (1 оценка)
158 pages
2 hours
Jun 30, 2011


Despite spending the first three decades of her life in relative silence, Allyson Raphel’s strength and candor is tempered with a biting sense of humor. Not only is this her personal story of getting a cochlear implant but her perspective on being deaf and the roller coaster transition to becoming what some in the deaf community call a “hearie.”

It did not play out as inspirationally and romantically as one might think. Among other things, her marriage fell apart. While some of her tidbits are hilarious and enlightening -- she did not know, for example, that it made a sound when you went to the bathroom and her children’s voices made her want to run and hide -- she also discovered what she once considered a disability (the inability to hear) ironically became something she craved. Silence did become golden to her.

Allyson’s story is the first blunt and honest examination of going from living a full life as a deaf person to receiving the cochlear implant. Her perspective is also one of debunking the myth of this surgery being a panacea and equated to flipping a switch. The process is emotional and arduous, and the decision itself often results in the person being ostracized from the very culture in which she had always been accepted.

Her story, however, is not just for those yearning to investigate the pros and cons of getting the implant. It is an opportunity for even those who have complete hearing and/or sight to truly understand what it is like to have such a “disability” and perhaps realize how wrong their preconceived notions just might be.

Jun 30, 2011

Об авторе

Allyson Fleury Raphel, a profoundly deaf woman since birth, is a graduate of the University of Northern Colorado and had 35 credit of Master’s degree in Special Education from Wilmington University in Delaware. She has had a wide variety of experiences living in the hearing world by traveling to places such as Spain, Russia and Peru, and living in New York, Missouri, Colorado and now on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her work background includes being everything from a recreation therapist to a pool cleaner to a scrapbooking consultant to a furniture refinisher to a teacher’s aide to a jewelry stylist and now an Activity Director for Adult Medical Day Care. Her most important job is being a mom to her two sons. This is her first book. If she can figure out how to do it, she may write another.

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Turning a Deaf Ear - Allyson Raphel

Turning a Deaf Ear

By Allyson Fleury Raphel

With Kathleen Bambrick Meier

Copyright 2011 Allyson Fleury Raphel

Smashwords Edition

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1 – Poor Little Deaf Girl

Chapter 2 – Changes in Attitudes

Chapter 3 – Under the Knife

Chapter 4 – Can You Hear Me Now?

Chapter 5 – Life Goes On

Chapter 6 – 30-Year-Old Sound Virgin

Chapter 7 – What Not to Wear

Chapter 8 – Tune Ups & Rehab & Therapy…Oh My!

Chapter 9 – On the Road Again

Chapter 10 – The Sound of Silence

Chapter 11 – A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Happily Ever After

Chapter 12 – Dating…and Beyond

Chapter 13 – Boys Will Be Boys

Chapter 14 – That’s What Friends Are For

Chapter 15 – A Cultural Divide

Chapter 16 – Personally Speaking

Chapter 17 – Music to My Ears

Chapter 18 – Implants Vs. Aids

Chapter 19 – The Fine Print (a.k.a. The hazards and pitfalls of having something surgically implanted in your brain & a magnet stuck to your head)

Chapter 20 – The Bottom Line

Chapter 21 – In Conclusion

About the Author


About the Editor/Co-Author


When I was in first grade at St. Joseph's School for the Deaf, my friend, Brenda, brought a play doctor's kit to school. She was so proud of that kit because her father, a doctor, had given it to her. It was a rainy, miserable day so we were relegated to have recess in the gym instead of our usual outdoor swinging. I didn't mind, however, because I was so intrigued by her kit and begged her to play with it during recess. Of course, I wanted to be in charge and be the doctor. I was hell-bent on checking everyone's ears in an effort to figure out what was wrong with all of them. After all, we were all deaf. I grabbed the fake scope and peaked inside Brenda's ear. Oh, I said, There is definitely something wrong with it. Let me fix it!

I rifled through the rest of the kit in an effort to find the exact proper tool. Carefully yet confidently, I rammed the fat fake thermometer into her ear in an effort to fix it. I must have poked it in a wee bit too far causing her to yelp. One of the nuns went nuts upon hearing and seeing the commotion of my medical procedure. Brenda was immediately sent to the nurse's office while I was given a stern tongue lashing. I doubt I did any real damage to her eardrum, at least not any more than it was already damaged, but I supposed jamming anything in someone else's ear is not acceptable behavior. Sadly, I was only trying to help her; I was only trying to fix the problem...I was only trying to make her hear.


In the fall of 2000, I had a real doctor perform surgery in an effort to make me hear, and every day since then, everyone I know (and even those I don’t know very well) has been asking me about my cochlear implant (CI). I thought I should finally share my side of the story – the story of my last ten years since being transformed into a different person…not a hearing person…I don’t think anyone who receives the cochlear implant should call himself/herself a hearing person. It is not a miracle pill, and it’s not like flipping on a previously broken light switch. Surgery or no surgery, I will always be a deaf person…period.

Before deciding to get the implant, I read a number of books on the subject. Most of them give the impression everything will be wonderful and amazing. Aside from the complicated discussions of technology and how the implant actually works, everything looked like it would be so easy. I didn’t really care about the technological aspect -- I just wanted to hear. Nothing I read made me question the ramifications of the surgery. Once I decided to do it, I made an appointment without hesitation – the sooner, the better. I started the process in August, got the implant in September, and was hooked up the following month.

Every time I saw my mom after that, she would ask if I LOVED my implant. She genuinely hoped it would be the best thing that ever happened to me. Sorry, Mom, but it took me two years to just like it. While it seems everyone I’ve met or read about with the CI immediately loved theirs, I seriously wonder if they are telling the truth. Many of the stories I read are of people who had LOST their hearing at some point in their life and perhaps that makes a huge difference on its impact on a person. Certainly, everyone is different. All I know is that as someone who was born deaf, I struggled with its acceptance for a long time.

Looking back, I realized the books I had read gave no examples of the extreme rollercoaster ride of feelings I would later experience. They didn’t tell the whole truth. They didn’t paint a clear picture of the entire experience of getting the implant. I wanted the whole enchilada: the good, the bad, the ugly, the happy, the sad, the funny.

That’s what I intend to do with my story. They say hindsight is 20/20. I suppose this applies to hearing as well.

CHAPTER 1 -- Poor Little Deaf Girl

I am deaf. According to the scales used to measure hearing, however, I am technically considered profoundly hearing impaired which means I cannot hear sounds without use of a hearing aid. Hearing aids can only improve my hearing to the profound-severe level. In simple terms, hearing levels are expressed in decibels (dB) or sound intensity and explained in words related to severity of hearing loss (HL): normal hearing (0-20 dB HL), moderate hearing loss (40-60 dB HL), severe hearing loss (60-80 dB HL) and profound hearing loss (80 dB HL or greater). My non-aid hearing level is 98 dB HL, and thus, profound. Basically, with a hearing aid, I can hear the noise of a lawn mower, the sounds of people talking, a dog barking, and airplanes close overhead. I was born deaf (by the way, I personally prefer this term over hearing impaired) and the cause is unknown, although many instances of those born deaf in the 1960s and 1970s can often be linked to in utero exposure to Rubella (a.k.a German measles) for which we now have vaccinations.

I wasn’t diagnosed as deaf until I was about 15 months old. Obviously, my parents had their suspicions and concerns, but I’m sure it was hard for them to acknowledge their first-born child was not perfect. Over time though, it became more apparent I wasn’t like other children. Something was off. Born in 1968 in upstate New York during a time when there was limited testing, understanding and resources dealing with such issues, the doctors always just concluded I was slow or perhaps even mentally retarded. After much frustration and insistence by my Polish grandmother that I was deaf, my mom finally broke down and took the highly technologically-advanced approach of crashing pots and pans above my crib while I was sleeping. To her dismay, I didn’t move much less wake up. My grandmother was right, and almost immediately, my mom had me at an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist (ENT). The diagnosis was confirmed, but they still didn’t get much in the way of guidance. My parents had to do a lot of their own research, gathering and evaluating the best options for me.

My first school experience was at age 3 when I tagged along with my friend, Elisa, to a hearing nursery school. I absolutely loved it! I loved the bright colors of the classroom, the smell of the paste and crayons, the palpable energy associated with learning new things, and just playing with Elisa and her friends. One time, we were playing hide-and-seek, and I couldn’t hear them calling my name. Not one to easily lose, however, I stayed put and eventually fell asleep in my hiding place. When the teacher found me, she declared me winner of that round.

I’m sure in my teen years, when I was talking back and being fresh, there were days my mom second-guessed her insistence, but that woman was determined I learn to communicate orally, and that is how they found Rome School for the Deaf. While I honestly don’t recall many of my experiences at Rome, a few things do stand out. The first is having a crush on a boy named Jerry. Yes, at age 4, I was already boy-crazy. His thick brown hair and lovely writing made me swoon. The second, and perhaps most important, was my mom driving me one hour each way to school in her yellow Datsun 240Z. How I loved that little car and our rides together. She did this so I could have a proper deaf education without having to board there. I remember my favorite teacher at Rome was Ms. Sherry who actually invited my friend, Lauren, and me to spend the night at her house once. It certainly helped my confidence knowing I was a teacher’s pet. In her class, I recall learning to speak by acting out the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. We had to play each character, and thereby, practiced speech. I had difficulty saying one of the words so a teacher signed it for me – that was the first time I had ever seen sign language, and I was amazed. Every once in a while, my hearing friend, Elisa, would go to school with me.

During this period in my life, my mom posted word signs all over the house (i.e. light switch, lamp, floor, refrigerator, etc.) in an effort to encourage speech and help me pronounce words correctly. I also got my first hearing aid, and in those days, it was hard not to notice. It was huge and made me look like I had a third and much larger breast in the center of my chest. It was heavy and awkward and garnered a lot of attention from people. However, it was what it was…I was more annoyed by the size of it and not that it made me feel different. It helped me to hear, and that was enough for me.

In 1975, my dad got a promotion thus enabling us to move from New York. My parents chose St. Louis, MO, in great part because of a deaf school which offered the best in oral education. When I arrived at St. Joseph’s Institute for the Deaf, the teachers told my parents I was significantly behind in lip-reading and speaking and placed me in intensive speech therapy three times a week. Since I was new and trying to fit in, I remember giving other students answers whether it was for the right color name or the correct number or whatever. I was just trying to be helpful, not to mention I seemed to have an easier time with some of the material than the others. Technically, I was not the one cheating.

I was still in Kindergarten when Sister Joyce, the principal, came up and said she wanted to speak to me.

Great, I thought to myself, I just got here, and I’m already in trouble! To my surprise, she was moving me to another class…First Grade. Even though I was lagging in my speech skills, I was apparently advanced academically. I vividly remember that first day of First Grade. Sister Arlene, who had blonde hair and the face of an angel,

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