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Through The Lens of Our Hearing Friends

February 14th, 2015 by | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off

Happy Valentine’s Day! While Valentine’s Day is a day about love, I also like to think that Valentine’s Day is a day about appreciating friendship. Over the years, I have always wondered what it was like for my hearing friends to be friends with people who have cochlear implants. More importantly, I wanted to show a hearing person’s prospective on being friends with a cochlear implant user, and also for others to learn from them. I would like to thank my two good friends, Ryan F. and Maria R., for taking the time to write the articles. 

Ryan and I first met in middle school about six to seven years ago when I was living in Georgia. While we are 1100 miles from each other, we are still close friends. Every now and then we’ll see each other when I’m in Atlanta or through Skype.

This article is written for anyone who needs some help if they have a friend with CIs.

I met Jessica Chaikof in 6th grade, and I didn’t know it, but she had CIs. It was sort of difficult for her to hear some things I was saying, but it was never to the extreme that it was impossible. Dealing with a friend who has CIs isn’t as difficult as it may seem. You may think that since they have hearing troubles, you may offend them by saying something that you didn’t actually mean, or you may have to repeat yourself numerous times, but that is not the case.

Since I had a disability as well, Type 1 Diabetes, it was very easy for us to become friends. I knew from the start that meeting someone with a lifelong disability would be something that united us in friendship. And it surely did. I knew from the start that we had a connection, for we could always relate to each other’s disabilities and personal struggles.

Someone with CIs may not have the sense perception that other people do, but they surely have the spirit to make up for it. I may not know the true struggle behind having CIs, and probably never will, but I know that it takes a lot of effort to put up with, and that it’s not their fault for having it.

If you do have a friend that has CIs, be sure to just speak a bit louder so they can understand you. Also be sure to have open ears because sometimes they may speak a bit softer due to the way they hear themselves.

Having a friend with CIs or any type of disability for that matter is not a scary thing. Just be sure that you adjust to the way they speak and hear so that communication is more fluid. And be sure to support them in their struggles with CIs, for it’s always nice to have someone that understands.

Ryan and Jessica

Ryan and Jessica

Halfway into my sophomore year of high school, our chemistry teacher Mr. Bennett assigned Maria to become my notetaker. Little did we know that a friendship would develop between the two of us. While Maria and I are at separate colleges, we still stay in close touch. 

Being Friends with Someone with a Cochlear Implant

By Maria R.

I first met Jessica halfway through the year in my sophomore chemistry class. We had not officially met until I was designated as her note-taker, and because we were assigned to sit together at the same table, we became lab partners for the rest of the year. Before our first encounter, I had not paid much attention to Jessica, or the fact that she wore a cochlear implant. I was aware that she wore a device on her hip that trailed up to her ear, which I assumed allowed her to better hear the voice of our teacher, Mr. Bennett, who wore a special “microphone” around his neck to amplify his voice. However, besides this notable feature, I was unclear of what specific disability Jessica had and why she needed a note-taker, as well as oblivious to the challenges she had to face every day. I was in for a surprise unaware that I was about to enter and learn about an entirely new world I had never really known about, and on the verge of a truly wonderful friendship.

In my first weeks of sitting with Jessica at the same table, I was nervous to talk to her, and was not sure if she understood me well. It was a constant fumbling with the microphone, which I often forgot to use or switch on, and having a naturally quiet and muffled voice, I was forced to speak louder and clearer so she could better understand me. This took some time getting used to, especially making sure that I looked her directly in the eye when I spoke so she could read my lips more easily.

In regards to note-taking, I was fascinated by the double-sheeted notepad she gave me on which I wrote, and that all my notes printed on the page behind it so that we could have a two copies of them-one for her and one for me. I learned that it was difficult for her to listen and focus on the teacher’s lecture while also having to take notes at the same time due to her difficulty hearing. As the weeks went by, it became easier and easier for us to communicate with each other as well as work together on many chemistry labs. Having never been a fan of science, I often relied on Jessica, who was not only a chemistry star, but also a natural teacher who could help and explain to me challenging chemistry problems.

By the end of the school year, we had become quite good friends and planned to hang out as summer approached. I remember calling her one-day before a planned meeting, and although it was not very difficult to communicate, she asked whether it was possible to decide on our plans via text messaging, since it would be easier for her to understand me. When Jessica invited me to come over, I was nonetheless still a bit nervous and unsure of how to spend time together and communicate outside of school. She introduced me to origami and taught me how to make all different designs, and I was amazed by how natural it had become to converse. Especially being in her house, in a much quieter environment, it was much easier to talk to her and for her to understand me, and I could barely tell that she had a cochlear implant. It was like hanging out with any of my other friends, and I realized how wrong I was for initially thinking it may be different.

After that day, we began to spend much more time together and even scheduled to meet for lunch once a week at our school cafeteria with our friend, Terry. This tradition continued throughout the last two years of high school. Although it was significantly harder to understand one another in the cafeteria, as it was such a loud and busy environment, these lunches were always extremely nice and allowed us to see each other and stay in touch throughout the school week, despite everyone’s overwhelming schedule. Other classmates did not question our friendship or why we sat together, rather, when my friends, out of curiosity, asked me if it was hard to relate/communicate with Jessica, I clarified that it was not difficult at all. As the year went on and I invited Jessica to communal events at my house, it was really great to see how my other friends got to know her as well and, through such interactions, also came to realize that someone with a cochlear implant can hear fine and does not require hand gestures/sign language.

Today, Jessica and I are both in college and remain in close contact, whether over the phone, through Facebook, or home-visits, though it can be a challenge, as any long-distance friendship can be. We hang out when we have the chance to, and despite sometimes making sure we choose a place that is quiet and good to talk, our friendship is like any other. We chat about school, the past, our worries and hopes for the future, our college experiences, and anything else you can think of.

Though there are and will always be moments in which Jessica may need my assistance, such as repeating something someone has said, or taking down notes for her if we listen to a presentation together, there are just as many moments in which I rely on her, whether for school or just general life advice. This exemplifies what any true and supportive friendship should entail.

I am so grateful for having met Jessica nearly three years ago in my tenth grade chemistry class, and for the many wonderful memories we have shared together ever since. Not only did she open up a new world for me by inviting me to leave my comfort zone and engage in a friendship with someone who had a cochlear implant, but she also made me realize how valuable human connection and communication can be. We are all human beings, and often our differences and sometimes unfamiliar characteristics may unfortunately prevent or initially deter us from coming together; however, with an open attitude, sensitivity, and effort, you may over time come to discover an incredible bond with someone you may have never thought to talk to. Getting to know Jessica and learning about all that she accomplishes despite the many challenges she has had to overcome in her life inspires and motivates me every day to be a better person, and it has blessed me with a wonderful friendship. For that I am forever grateful.


Jessica and Maria at Senior Prom

Jessica and Maria at Senior Prom


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