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Where is Heather Artinian today?

August 17th, 2011 by | Tags: , | 9 Comments »


PHOTO CREDIT: Photographer, Josh Aronson

PHOTO CREDIT: Photographer, Josh Aronson

I had the pleasure to interview Heather Artinian from an Academy Award nominated film, Sound and Fury.  As many people saw in the follow up film, Sound and Fury: Six Years Later, Heather received a cochlear implant at the age of 9 years old.  I imagine that many people including me are wondering where she is today as an adult, who just graduated from high school and is about to head off to college.  Heather updates us on what she has accomplished so far in her life as a cochlear implant recipient and provides us some in sights on her thoughts on the film as an adult today.

Now that you’ve had your cochlear implant for nine years, how do you feel about having it today as an adult?

Oh wow.  I never really thought about it. Just turned 18. I guess I’m now an adult. I guess I feel a bit nervous because I’m going off to college where the  the student population is hearing. I’m glad that I have it with me definitely, that it’ll be such a great asset and helpful tool to get me along in the world. I’m also nervous that people aren’t going to understand me or I won’t understand them – in situations that really matter now (as a adult ).

Since you’ve been in a high school where most of the students are hearing, why do you feel more nervous about being with hearing students in college?

The students at my high school have been with me since I was 13, they know that I’m deaf and they know that sometimes I’ll make mistakes or sometimes I’ll misunderstand them. They have come to accept it. Whereas at college, I still have that fear of them not understanding the fact that I’m deaf.

How has your cochlear implant made a difference in your life so far?

It definitely changed everything. I came from being solely in the deaf culture, to being in both. I learned how to communicate with hearing people. I was able to take on leadership positions at school, well- because of the CI, I was able to go to a hearing [school]  district. I’m more prepared to take on the hearing world. I feel as if I am a deaf, and a hearing person.

Which leadership positions were able to take at school?

I was President of DECA, a business and community service chapter.  I was President of my Junior Class.  I was Captain of volleyball, basketball and lacrosse.

In these leadership activities, do you mind giving some examples of activities that required you to be able to use your hearing and speaking skills?

For DECA, I had to run a meeting for 130 something members every Monday, run an “officer meeting” for 13 people every Friday.  Also, I engaged in conversations with business people and the people that we’re helping.  For junior class, I had to engage in meetings with my officer team and run meetings in front of the junior class. For captain, that involves speaking to the refs and my teammates. As for deca, i couldn’t have done it with the best advisor in the world, Mrs. Pearsall.

What has Mrs. Pearsall done for you? I imagine she was the kind of person who was very understanding of your hearing loss?

Mrs. Pearsall treated me like I was her daughter.  She just absolutely motivated me when i needed motivation, and she cared a lot about me.  I felt very comfortable speaking around her, as if she was my best friend,  She was very understanding as well and always told me not to care so much when i make a mistake and just repeat it.

Did you face any obstacles in any of these leadership activities because of your hearing loss?

I wouldn’t personally call them obstacles.  I’d just call it an “oh well” situation. It’s always what I say.  Sometimes many people will be talking at once, and I won’t know what just happened.  Or, at meetings I’d still be talking and a bunch of the members would be talking andi didnt know so Mrs. Pearsall would stop me for a second and wait for them to quiet down. I don’t personally get sad about it because it’s just a part of my life. and I have great friends that tell me what happened afterwards

Do you remember what your cochlear implant activation day was like?

Only a piece of it.  I remember walking out of the building, getting in the car and saying, “whats that noise?” and my grandma said that’s a car honking and I’d just have the biggest smile on my face.  Everyone was pretty emotional, but I was pretty happy.

Do you have any memories of why you wanted to get a cochlear implant?

At five, I dont really remember it, but in the movie I said it was because I wanted to hear a car crash happen in Florida, but at 9, to be honest, it was because my brother said he wanted it and I couldn’t let him get it before me.

Now that you’re an adult, I’d imagine you’d view the film, Sound and Fury, differently from what you saw at the age of five. What are your thoughts of the film as a grown young woman?

I’ve never really watched the film, other than once.. I’m embarassed watching it. But because of the conference in Massachusetts, people have come up to me and told me how much of a difference I and the movie made in their lives, [and] so even though my family was obviously arguing all the time and a lot of emotions were involved, I’m glad, because I feel like we made a difference.

There are still some controversy on both sides of the deaf world – there are some who are still against cochlear implants and some who are against using sign language. How do you feel about this controversy?

As a person who uses both sign language and the implant as a big part of my life, I think they’re dumb, for lack of a better word.  I just think its a person’s own business what they want to do.  If that makes sense.

Do you feel that there is a lot of misinformation on both sides?

Sometimes, but for those who are big advocates of either are usually very informed about their specific reason…ONE side, and not the other. I feel that there’s a lot of prejudice and lack of compassion.

Going back to your involvements in high school, I see that you’ve been very involved in sports. Can you describe your experiences in playing sports as a cochlear implant recipient?

Sports has always been my way “in” with the hearing world. I love playing them, so I always practiced. I’m not trying to be cocky or full of myself, but because I was good, my friends, at 13 or 14 saw past the deafness.  There have been incidents where the refs would not let me wear it, or when I’d get a penalty for moving before the whistle blew but they’re rare. And I learn from it. When one falls down, one falls back up.

I know that high school is a busy but an exciting life for many people. Can you share some of your best memories and accomplishments in high school?

I have to say, hanging out with my friends, going out to dinner and parties, [and] going to DECA conferences.  They were the best, and the most fun!  I walked out of graduation with 9 awards, tons of friends, amazing teachers. and I felt recognized for what I’ve done in the high school regardless of my deafness.  High school was simply the best 4 years of my life thus far.

Did you use any accommodations and if you did, what did you use?

I used an interpreter for my classes and speech services at home.  Extended time on my tests if I needed them, usually not though.

I know that many teenagers did not enjoy having speech services because they found it to be not fun and it was taking away some time from other activities, but what made you keep going with the speech services?

I can totally relate with them.  However, my speech teacher, Betty has been such an integral part of my life.  I want to have the best speech as I can.  So, even though it did take away from some other activities, I am extremely grateful for speech and for Betty.  Without it, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Heather Artinian, today, at the age of 18 years old

Georgetown.. I stepped on campus and that was it.  I just knew that it was the school I wanted to go to.

And yes I do [have plans to get accommodations].  I have been in talks with their academic resource center about getting an interpreter and they have been awesome.

I heard from those who listened to your speech at Sturbridge and said that you said that your family moved to Rochester and you stayed with your grandmother in New York.  I imagine it was a difficult decision, right?  What made you decide to stay in New York with your grandmother?

Actually,  my parents knew that I’d have wanted to stay because I was just finishing junior year and I had worked so hard to get to the positions at school. So they just said you can stay and that was it.

I’m so glad to hear that you had very supportive parents. I noticed in the movie that you seemed to be very close to your grandmother. I imagine that she along with Mrs. Pearson and Betty were important people in your life?

Betty, Mrs. Pearson, grandma, Aunt Jeanette, Uncle Jay, my parents, everyone I consider to be important people in my life.  They all have in some way gave me some kind of support and encouragement.  [And] my best friend, Alison.

What are your goals and any aspirations for the future?  Where would you like to see yourself in the next ten years?

My goal is to graduate from law school, become a lawyer of some sort.  I’m not sure which area, maybe constitutional law.  And to come out of school with the least amount of debt possible.  And in 30 years, be a supreme court justice.






August 20, 2011 at 5:18 pm

It was wonderful reading this story. I watched the first program when she was five and the sequel. It’s heart-warming to hear how well she is doing!


August 22, 2011 at 6:36 am

Thank you for this interview – I just watched the first documentary and was so touched by the family’s struggle, and learned so much about deaf culture. I was curious how things worked out for Heather, and am glad to know she’s doing well!

Mary McLaren

October 2, 2011 at 1:06 pm


My son attends a school in Washington, D.C., and is considering applying to Georgetown University. He would love to contact Heather to find out how she likes Georgetown and how “deaf friendly” it is. Please let us know if there is anyway he could get in touch with her. Thank you very much.



October 24, 2011 at 2:38 pm

I loved reading about her success as she has grown up. Thanks so much for the update, and it confirms what I had suspected at the end of the movie– that she would thoroughly enjoy and appreciate the CI.

January 23, 2012 at 10:46 pm

[...] recently found this interview with Heather Artinian, who is one of the children featured in the film. I found Heather’s [...]

Anita Johnston

April 15, 2012 at 3:25 am

Thank you, Heather, for sharing your story. We all love you and you are so inspiring to the world. I wish you tremendous success. I’m
wondering if you have ever used CART services or plan to when you are in university. (Communication Access Realtime Translation) You have certainly evolved to a very beautiful young lady. I recall your goals were NBA, lawyer and actress. I hope you can squeeze in acting in your already hugely busy schedule, but if not — well, we understand.

Anita Johnston

April 15, 2012 at 3:26 am

So glad you are having great fun with your friends too.


October 8, 2012 at 2:36 am

Heather is so articulate and smart. I hope that all of her dreams come true. :)


November 9, 2012 at 7:33 am

I’m taking ASL currently, and we got to watch the documentary, and yesterday the sequel. I was astonished by how well it worked! It was… Inspiring? I think that is the word in looking for. Seeing the developments and such was a really cool thing, and I literally was anxious to see the sequel. I’m glad it worked out for you heather, you’re so inspirational!