Kirsten Pribula on What It’s Like to Be Deaf


[ambient noises] Being deaf feels like you’re at peace, really. Because I can just take them off and be able
to focus on myself. I was actually born hearing, but I lost my
hearing when I was three. That was caused by auto immune hearing loss. That just means that if I hear fine one day,
and then the next day it’s going bad, so it’s a back and forth thing. Implants is not a cure at all to deafness,
it’s not. I want to clarify that. Because when I take them off, I’m still deaf. The very first day my implant was activated,
I had to go to the bathroom, and I never heard myself go to the bathroom before. And it actually scared me. People sometimes do pick on me because I’m
deaf. Like here on campus, one time, I was walking
to class and somebody – they were trying to get my attention, but I didn’t hear them because
I couldn’t hear them from behind me. I dropped something that was in my backpack
and didn’t realize I dropped it. So they ran after me and they got mad, and
that person was like, “Are you deaf or something?” And I’m like, “Actually, I am deaf.” I feel isolated sometimes. I’m trying to get to know people here on campus,
but most of the time they just feel really, really awkward talking with me, because of
the communication thing. If I say something to them, they’ll be like,
“Oh wait, what did you say? Are you OK?” They’re trying to be like, gesturizing. [ambient noises] Reading lips was hard because I have to like,
memorize people’s lips. And I have to kind of like, look at it and
see how they talk. Because, say for example, there’s someone
with a beard. And sometimes people with beards, they cover
their mouth and it’s really hard for me to see it because their mouths are covered. I do really, really well with one on one. Because it’s a lot easier for me, it’s just
one person that I have to figure out who I’m talking to and understand what they’re saying. When I’m in a group conversation with friends,
in a quiet room – it’s a little bit easier for me to understand what they’re saying. In a room with background noise, that is a
huge problem for me because I can’t see people in background noises. It’s really hard to read people’s lips in
a dark environment, so you always have to like, squeeze your eyes and look at the lips
and try to read it in the dark. And it won’t work most of the time. So deaf people always need light when talking
to someone. [ambient noises] If I’m in a dark room, I can actually see
a little bit in the dark. It’s easier for me to figure out where things
are. I have to give my eyes a second to recalibrate. I also have a strong sense of smell. Deaf people can do anything because we have
a deaf person who works at the white house. We have a deaf chef who works for a really
good restaurant in I think Washington, DC. A lot of them don’t think we can do specific
jobs, but we can. They just have to think about it for a minute.

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