“Oh, come on,” Rohan replies and throws out his hand. “You’re all telling me you don’t think her voice is annoying?”
That excerpt there comes from a chapter in my book. For some background context, I was at a party in high school when someone (Rohan) pointed out that they didn’t like the way my voice sounded. He was referring to my deaf accent.
People that grew up with cochlear implants or hearing aids often undergo intensive speech therapy (more on that in another post) to learn how to talk. Their voices sound very similar to those of hearing people, but there are slight differences.
Sometimes our speech will miss certain natural inflections or sound different because the way we hear speech through our cochlear/hearing aids is different from how a hearing person hears speech.
When I Realized I had an Accent
“Where are you from?”
Outside of my usual group of friends and family, I sometimes got asked that question. The first time it happened, I was doing a group project in high school, and my partner looked at me with an interested face and asked me where I was from.
At first I didn’t understand. “I’m from here?” I said.
He then asked me if I was born somewhere else, because my accent sounded unique.
I remember thinking to myself, what accent was this guy talking about?
After talking with my parents, and doing some online research, I realized he was talking about my deaf accent.
Growing up, I was surrounded by the same friends and family that always knew I had hearing loss, which was why the difference in my voice was never pointed out. When I moved to high school, and got introduced to a bigger circle of people, I was often asked with this question.
It made me feel very self-conscious.
How I Explained It
In high school, I never explained it. I treated it as a joke, saying I was from some exotic country somewhere. I played it off as if it was funny, but in reality, every single time someone pointed it out, I would feel ashamed.
When I was younger, I underwent intensive speech therapy sessions to learn how to speak clearly. I even practised on my own at night, reading books out loud to myself. I spent most of elementary and high school years trying to fit in, and trying to bring the least amount of attention to my hearing loss.
It was upsetting to know that every time I spoke, it gave away that something was not quite right.
I am not as ashamed of my deaf accent as I used to be, but I still get a little bit embarrassed when people bring it up – partly because I tried so hard to eliminate it when I was younger but I am more confident when someone points it out.
I stopped treating it as a joke, and now use it as a great way to mention that I have a hearing impairment.
It’s my voice, and my accent. If people from other countries can have accents, then so can I.