October 14th, 2013 by Contributor | Tags: CI User Story, Cochlear Implant, Listen to Your Heart, Movie Review | 2 Comments »
Written by Crystine Kim
“Listen to Your Heart”, an award-winning independent film, presents a tearjerker and romantic storyline and a deaf character who eventually receives a cochlear implant. Watching the film makes me cry, laugh and smile. While the depiction of the deaf character may not be realistic and does not represent all people with hearing loss, I feel so emotionally connected to the story because the deaf character’s life resembles so closely to my life growing up.
The movie begins with a hearing man working at a restaurant in Manhattan, Danny, who is very passionate about music and songwriting and longs to record his own music. Because he struggles financially, he works long hours at a restaurant to earn substantial amount of money for music equipment. One day, Danny lays his eyes on a beautiful deaf woman who comes from a high-class family, Ariana, for the first time when she comes to the restaurant for lunch with her mother, Victoria. In spite of communication barriers, as Ariana has no amplification and can only read lips and write, she and Danny still show real love for each other at first sight. However, unfortunately Ariana’s mother is truly not impressed by her daughter’s attention toward him and tries to keep them apart.
Danny and Ariana meet up for the second time a few days later, and they fall in love in more deeply. However, they face complications while being in a relationship because Victoria wants to control her daughter by not only keeping Ariana away from Danny, but also completely sheltering her from society, music and the world of sound. In spite of Ariana’s controlling mother, Ariana still fights to be with Danny, become an independent woman, and acquire a cochlear implant. Ariana has been longing to get a cochlear implant because she realizes that she has so much potential in life such as learning music, but her mother has been preventing her from getting the technology.
Ariana eventually leaves her mother and receives a cochlear implant on her own. In the midst of the film, a very devastating life event strikes Danny and their love for each other becomes even more passionate. Many scenes in the film make us think about enjoying every moment the world has to offer to us. In spite of tragic events, happy moments also occur.
Ariana and I are so similar in many ways. We are both deaf and grew up with similar family situations. I grew up with a very abusive family, which impacted my life greatly. I was born with severe-to-profound deafness and started using hearing aids at age 4 when I first arrived in San Francisco from the Philippines where I was born. I attended an oral deaf program at an elementary school where I had the fondest memories of my childhood and I felt safe. Living at home was difficult and unsafe because I experienced various abuses such as emotional, verbal, psychological, and physical.
Like Ariana’s controlling mother, my parents prevented me from getting a cochlear implant and integrating into the society. I remember when I was younger, my school teachers often tried to convince my family to get me cochlear implants. My teachers also introduced the cochlear implant to me. However, my family always declined their recommendation.
My audiologist even brought up cochlear implants too when I was about 15 and half years old. As much as I really wanted the cochlear implant and even though I was a candidate, I still could not receive one because my family said, “No.” My family had the power to decline it because I was a minor. Control was important to them. I know it’s hard to believe, but it was true. I struggled to understand my family’s own bizarre behavior for several years. I always questioned why my family would not openly discuss cochlear implant with me. When I was about nine years old, I finally asked my family why I shouldn’t have one. My family told me that I didn’t need it because they believed that I could hear fine with hearing aids. However, as few years passed, I became very frustrated with life because I was not able to perform well with hearing aids. My listening and spoken language skills became more delayed, and I was heavily relying on lip-reading. I knew that the cochlear implant would improve my quality of life, and I never stopped thinking about getting one.
Then when I turned 18 years old and my family no longer had the power to say, “No,” I had another evaluation for a cochlear implant. However, I was rejected by the hospital because I fell into deep depression because of my relationship with my family that impacted my well being. Because I was always told that I was never good enough for anyone and I am not even smart, I was put in a vulnerable position where I felt absolutely no hope. After the evaluation, I no longer had any motivation to get the cochlear implant procedure done.
Right after the second cochlear implant evaluation, I started attending college. My freshman year was tough because the family issues have been interfering my studies. As I was dealing with the personal issues, a friend of mine suggested me to watch “Listen to Your Heart.” The film inspired me to reconsider cochlear implantation. With the support of my friends who told me that I should never give up hope, I pushed myself to recover from depression.
At the age of 19, I had my third cochlear implant evaluation, and I was finally able to really pursue it. Like Ariana, I pursued cochlear implantation on my own without support from my family.
My first cochlear implant was activated on July 12, 2012. My life was changed forever on this day because I realized that I missed out so much during the first 19 years of my life. My cochlear implant helped me fully realize that I have been in a toxic relationship with my family for too long, and I needed to gain greater freedom. My life changed overnight on August 18, 2012 when I had courage to disown my family and finally escape from my home by taking a seven hour bus ride to Los Angeles from San Jose.
I have a happy ending like Ariana who enjoys the world of sounds with her cochlear implant at the end of the film and finally attends a music school, as Danny inspired her to pursue her love for music. Today, I am currently a third year student at California State University, Northridge to earn the Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with the hope of becoming an academic counselor for college students and people with disabilities. I received a second cochlear implant on June 13,2013. Being a bilateral cochlear implant recipient is amazing! I feel incredibly lucky because I am now in a safe place where loving and supportive people surround me, and I have the opportunity to go to school and be the part of the world of sounds. I love my cochlear implants because they give me so many opportunities that I didn’t have when I was younger.
I just said to myself, “Wow, I have really come so far in my life.” I am enjoying a better life today because I allowed myself to make my own choices. It takes lot of courage to make changes and we have to learn to know what’s healthy for us or not. Facing hardships in life make us stronger. The most important to have in life is support and love from others because it influences us. I now feel more optimistic about my future.
Crystine Kim is a 20 year-old bilateral cochlear implant recipient. She was born profoundly deaf and received first cochlear implant at age 19 and then a second cochlear implant at age 20. She was born in the Philippines and raised in San Francisco Bay Area. She is currently a 3rd year college student at California State University, Northridge and majoring in Psychology with hopes of becoming a disability service counselor . She uses her voice to communicate and is fluent in American Sign Language.