Verbal wearers of cochlear implants and digital hearing devices are largely invisible in mainstream media, with a real lack of role models for young people who identify as such.
Young people need to be seen on TV, enjoying mainstream life and talking with their families and friends, thanks to digital hearing devices and infant education strategies.
Outdated Stereotypes On TV
When the (deaf) actress Genevieve Barr filmed BBC TV drama The Silence, she had to learn to sign for the storyline despite being raised verbal. Was this a cultural expectation?
Or were the BBC TV producers misinformed about the diversity in the deaf population? Cable stations in the US show similar tendencies, with Switched At Birth a case in point:
Alanna Kilroy: Hidden In Television – A One-Sided Portrayal Of Deafness
Switched at Birth (SAB) contributes to the apprehensiveness hearing individuals exhibit towards deaf people due to the very one-sided portrayal of the deaf community — deaf and signing.
Kilroy would like SAB to stop influencing “SAB viewers that, we, as cochlear implant users, automatically know ASL, associate only with deaf people, and attend deaf schools.” Not the case today. There’s a whole social group that media people don’t (or won’t) see. Instead, producers retain the romantic view of signing deaf culture as the default for all deaf people.
Today’s Digital Hearing Identities
With cochlear implants, identities have changed. Back in 1998, three Harvard-educated deaf students who rejected deaf culture featured in The Harvard Crimson. Today,deaf children and students have digital hearing identities and find their personal identity, once given the freedom to do so (Heather Artinian spoke about this process in a TEDx video).
In 2013, US journalist Lisa Stein wrote a stinging critique of the book ‘Far From The Tree’ by Andrew Solomon, for its one-sided depiction of deaf people and no word of cochlear implants as a disruptive technology. In today’s world, there are different ways of being deaf, and equally diverse digital tools to support entrepreneurship and access to workplaces.
Celebrate The Diversity In The Deaf Population
Any internet search will return posts and video clips with happy, well-adjusted young people who wear hearing devices and are achieving in their own way. The Sound Advice team simply asks public media channels to prioritise regular, positive reports about hearing issues, with sensitivity to the rapidly changing diversity in the deaf population, and for appropriate representation of these population segments in reports and news coverage.
Today’s deaf youngsters should not have to explain themselves or their identity to new people they meet in mainstream schools, colleges or social groups. Diversity needs valuing in our modern world, with the beneficial aspects and insights each person brings to their friendships, teams, work and social relationships – everyone needs the freedom to be themselves, without having to conform to a societal perception of ‘how they should be’.