Rhianon’s Story

April 7th, 2009 by | Tags: , | 2 Comments »

Rhianon and I met each other at the Cochlear Celebration, and we hung out at the Disneyland together along with several other cochlear implant users.  She grew up with hearing aids and then received a cochlear implant when she was 18 years old.  She is a recent graduate of Chapman university where she studied filmmaking and has aspirations to be a documentary filmmaker!  Here is Rhianon’s story:

I was born a hearing child.  When I was about two years old, my mother noticed that I wasn’t responding to her when she didn’t face me.  She took me to have my hearing tested, but I passed the tests because I trained myself how to watch the movements of audiologists and respond when I saw their hands move.  A lover of cinema, I always watched actors express themselves onscreen so I started to mimic their movements and lip motion, teaching myself how to lipread in front of any mirror I could find.  “Boy, she sure likes herself,” my dad said.  I was training myself for a life that would be spent looking at faces that I would grow to respect and love.

After I got a CAT scan, it was determined that I had a hearing loss.  Many tests were done, yet the cause still remains idiopathic. My hearing loss first started off as moderate.  When I had the choice to either hear or sign, I looked at my mother and said, “Mama, I want to be like everyone else.  I don’t want to use my hands.  I want to talk.”  I was four years old.  I was outfitted with my first pair of hearing aids then and went through several different brands over the years, along with adjusting to a loss that progressed to profound.  I had the help of a speech therapist so that I could pronounce words correctly and work on my hearing.  I succeeded in school and athletics to a point of where my deafness was secondary.  It was only a part of me and I rarely discussed it.

I wore hearing aids until I was eighteen, when I decided to get the cochlear implant so that I could have a more successful career in the film industry.  My confidence was at an all-time low when I got the implant.  I really wanted to be able to keep up with the fast-paced, eager crowd.  It took time to get adjusted to the implant, bringing a massive emotional awakening with it.  I had lived with four senses, and now I had to learn to live with five.  I loved the sound of the crickets chirping and of Cat Stevens strumming “Where Do the Children Play?”  I didn’t realize that I had been missing those sounds all these years.

Since my implantation in September 2006, I’ve grown as a documentary filmmaker and screenwriter, even writing a screenplay called “Static Voices” that detailed my experience with receiving my first cochlear implant.  I have also traveled to Central and South America and have emerged as a leader in the disability rights movement, advocating for those with intellectual and physical disabilities in Orange County, the Inland Empire, and abroad.


Judi Taylor

April 7, 2009 at 11:48 pm

Hi. I discovered your website through my Twitter page. I have my hearing, but I love to watch people sign. I think its a beautiful language. I returned to college at 46 and will be taking begining sign language this Fall. I’m very excited. i’ve wanted to learn sign language for a long time.
This story was wonderful thank you for sharing it. I love your website.
Judi Taylor
@jazzcatj on Twitter.


April 8, 2009 at 12:34 am

Dear Judi: Thank you for your comments, but you’ll see if you read articles throughout this site that most of the stories featured here are of people who, though profoundly deaf, have learned to listen and speak with the help cochlear implants and Auditory-Verbal Therapy or Oral Deaf Education. Most do not use sign language and communicate through listening and talking just like any other person in the mainstream.

As you’ll see when you take your sign language courses, American Sign Language is a language of its own, completely distinct from English. Over 95% of deaf children are born to parents with typical hearing who do not know sign language. Many of these parents choose AVT as a way to teach their child the family’s native language (here in the US, usually, but not always, this is spoken English) instead of learning a whole new language, like sign, which very few people outside of the family and signing Deaf community will know. I’m glad you found Cochlear Implant Online. Please poke around the website to learn more!