We Are Not Language Deprived
A diverse group of teens, adults, and older children who are deaf, and communicate using listening and spoken language -- not sign language -- speak out about the misrepresentation of deafness in the media, and the importance of language choice for families.
This is in response to Nyle DiMarco's misleading and divisive rhetoric claiming that deaf children are deprived of language if they do not learn American Sign Language (ASL). [1, 2]
We write as a diverse group of adults, teens, and older children who are deaf but communicate using listening and spoken language. All of us were either born deaf or lost our hearing later. With the help of modern hearing technology, such as cochlear implants and hearing aids, we hear well. We do not use sign language, instead choosing to communicate via hearing and spoken language. Because we use spoken language, we consider ourselves to be participating members of not only the deaf community but of the entire world. We disagree with Nyle DiMarco's claim that we have been deprived of our natural language. On the contrary, we have been raised to fluently speak the same language(s) as our families.
We are successful, happy, and healthy individuals who have taken full advantage of the opportunities we have been afforded as a consequence of being able to hear and speak. We attend or have graduated from mainstream schools and universities and work in mainstream settings. Many of us have gone on to pursue higher education and have graduated with honors and awards.
It is not uncommon for us to have learned one or more foreign languages, traveled extensively, studied, or worked abroad. We play musical instruments, sing in choruses, and appreciate all kinds of music, whether listening on our phones, the radio, or at a concert. We have been cast as lead characters in plays, taken dance classes, and enjoy the performing arts. Many of us enjoy public speaking, sometimes addressing large audiences. We have become nurses, engineers, journalists, public servants, physicians, educators, and more, successfully working alongside our hearing colleagues.
Today's cochlear implant and hearing aid technologies have greatly changed what deafness means to our generation (and those younger) in that learning spoken English is no longer a struggle. Never once has any one of us felt deprived. As a matter of fact, we consider ourselves fortunate to live in a time when scientific advances afford us access to oral communication, and we are grateful every day that our parents made the choice to raise us in the mainstream to use listening and spoken language.
The ability of children born deaf to learn to hear and speak will only continue to improve as technology continues to advance, and the ages of diagnosis and implantation continue to drop. We would like to point out that those of us signing this letter represent only a small percentage of the deaf individuals who have found great success using listening and spoken language. We are not exceptional. There are thousands more of us who utilize technology to listen and speak and who are leading wonderful and fulfilling lives.
There are also many recent scientific, peer-reviewed research studies whose findings support what we have experienced with regards to language acquisition and use.
Parents of children born deaf today need to know they have choices regarding speech and language. Families in the signing Deaf community consider ASL to be the 'birthright' of their deaf children and believe that their choice should be respected. Since 95 percent of deaf children are born to hearing parents, these families should know that raising their children in whatever language they themselves are fluent is a very viable option, and that their choice of listening and spoken language for their child will be accorded the same respect.
Angelica Arredondo – Age 21 and deaf at birth. Implanted at 5 and 17 years old and currently a student at Regis College majoring in Nuclear Medicine. Plays college softball. Fluent in English.
Barbara J. Baer – Deaf from maternal rubella. Born too early to have a CI, wears hearing aids, learned spoken language at a private school. BA in humanities. Functions well in the hearing world using spoken language.
Hannah Barrett – Born with profound hearing loss in both ears, received first cochlear implant at age 2 1⁄2 and went bilateral at age 20. Has won multiple awards for writing and research. Fulbright Scholar 2012 and disability advocate working in the technology sector.
Lily Barrett – Born with profound hearing loss in both ears and received a cochlear implant for the left ear at age 2 1⁄2. Works as a software developer and, in spare time, runs creative writing group for locals.
Jenna Bartlett – Age 20. Born profoundly deaf, received cochlear implants at 2 1/2 and 10 years old. Currently a junior at Georgia College studying Environmental Science. Competitive sports since age 4, region championship team as well as the state runnerup team for softball in high school. Works at a job that requires many phone calls and has no problem communicating over the phone. Fluent in English.
Alana Bichutsky – Deaf at birth, implanted at 11, received Distinguished Honors in high school with 4.0 GPA, student at Rochester Institute of Technology, college business competition winner, plays piano and saxophone, N.J. State Certified EMT, currently working at local fire department, fluent in English and Russian.
Zane Bloom – Age 20. Born profoundly deaf with Waardenburg Syndrome, implanted at 18 months, Mainstreamed since kindergarten. Attended Rochester Institute of Technology before transferring to Ohio University to major in nutrition/premed. Aspires to be an interventional cardiologist or radiologist.
Elizabeth Bonagura – Age 32. Born with hearing loss, hearing aids from 18 months until a cochlear implant at age 22. Top student and AllState athlete in high school. BA from Duke University. Masters of Nutrition from University of Louisville, now completing surgical residency in Obstetrics & Gynecology, where I serve as Administrative Chief Resident. Fluent in English and conversational in Spanish and Italian.
Benjamin B. – Age 15. Profound bilateral hearing loss at birth. Cochlear implants at 1 year and 5 1/2 years. Fluent in English, conversational in Spanish. Enjoys environmental science, biology, writing, reading, skiing, swimming, biking, and hiking.
Robert Charles "Chase" Brannan IV – Hearing loss at birth, implanted at 5 and 14, Associate of Arts with high honors, Dean's List UF, pursuing BS in Agricultural Education and Communication (Dean's List) and a MA in Agribusiness Management, UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Ambassador, fluent in English.
Jonathan Brilling – Born profoundly deaf, implanted at 5. Graduated from Riverside Military Academy and currently a student at Gwinnett Technical College pursuing a degree in Business Marketing and Sales. Fluent in English.
Abby Brimhall – Age 29. Deaf at 10 months, hearing aids at 11 months, implanted at 11 and 21 years. Bachelor's and Master's from Utah State University and Washington University in St. Louis, School of Medicine with full-ride scholarships. Listening and Spoken Language Deaf Educator of three years.
Callie Daniels Bryant – Deaf at 18 months, implanted at 4 and 14, graduated with journalism degree from the University of Mississippi, currently a senior managing editor at a local online publishing company, fluent in English.
Channing Gordon Cantrell – Severe/profound progressive hearing loss, implanted at 8 and 24, Honors high school graduate, graduate of the University of Alabama, received ESOL endorsement in Spring of 2016, fourth year teacher of third graders at Georgia Elementary school, fluent in English.
Stacey M. Carroll – Deaf at birth, implanted at 27, summa cum laude with undergraduate nursing degree, Ph.D. in nursing from Boston College with highest GPA in class and distinguished dissertation award, full-time nursing professor, parttime nurse practitioner, editorial Board Member of scholarly nursing journal, fluent in English.
Jessica Chaikof – Age 21. Deaf at birth, received first cochlear implant at 15 months, youngest child in the U.S. at the time, Chemistry major, member of academic high achievement college program, currently studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark, fluent in English.
Rachel Chaikof – Age 29. Deaf at birth, cochlear implant at age 2 in 1989, Peace Corps Volunteer in Africa, summa cum laude college graduate, master's degree University College London, fluent in French in addition to English.
William Cummings, Jr. – Born profoundly deaf. Used hearing aids until cochlear implant 12 years ago. Mainstream education. Graduate of Moravian College and West Virginia University Law School. Currently attorney specializing in environmental law. Also worked as attorney for OSHA. Former Vista Volunteer in West Virginia.
Jordan Del Dottore – Deaf at birth, implanted at 8 and 18, attending the Vigamus Academy in Rome, Italy, for a degree in Communications, specialization Video Game Technology, fluent in English and Italian.
Larissa DePamphilis – Age 21. Born profoundly deaf. Implanted at 19 months and age 9. Mainstreamed throughout her school career, currently a rising senior at The College of New Jersey studying Mechanical Engineering with no accommodations. Consistently on the Dean's List, Bonner Scholar, and a member of a select dance group performing regionally.
Samantha Downton – Born profoundly deaf but not diagnosed until age 2. Mainstreamed without assistance. AuditoryVerbal graduate. Wears a hearing aid and a cochlear implant. Graduate of the Art Institute of Atlanta with a degree in Graphic Design. Currently working as Marketing Coordinator of a nonprofit in Atlanta. Fluent in English.
Rachel Dubin – Hearing loss at birth, deaf since 5, first cochlear implant at age 24. Phi Beta Kappa and cum laude graduate of Goucher College. Master's Degree, George Washington University. Fluent in French, Russian, German, English, and Hebrew.
Lucy D . – Received hearing aids at 2 months, cochlear implants at 6 months and 8 months. Taught herself to read at 3 1/2 years of age. Mainstream education.
Sarah Dyess – Received hearing aids at 11 months, bilateral cochlear implants at 18 years. Graduated high school in the top 5 with an advanced diploma. Graduated from college with a degree in graphic design. Has managed her freelance design business for over ten years while also caring for four young children. Fluent in English and studied Spanish and Latin.
Cassandra Eidson – Age 30. Hearing aids at 18 months (1987) then cochlear implant at 12 years. Graduated from college and currently teaches special education in public school.
Sinead Evans – Age 35. Profoundly deaf individual with bilateral cochlear implants. Graduated from mainstream high school and two mainstream universities, Boston University (BA2006) and the University of Leicester (MA2012). Attended Oxford University as part of BA degree. Grew up using Cued Speech and now wholly oral with improving listening skills.
Kara Faraquharson – Born with a progressive hearing loss. Received hearing aids at 14 months. Graduated public high school with high honors. Currently majoring in biochemistry at RIT doing undergraduate medical research with sepsis.
Lisa Goldstein – Age 43. Born profoundly deaf in both ears, Received hearing aids upon diagnosis at 14 months, implanted at age 32, B.A. English Literature, Classics Minor, Skidmore College; Master's of Journalism, University of California at Berkeley, freelance journalist, fluent in English.
Drew G. – Age 9. Born with profound hearing loss, bilaterally implanted at 8 months of age. Mainstreamed, currently in 4th grade. Enjoys playing baseball, basketball, football, lacrosse, ice hockey and golf. Also sings in the church Carol Choir.
Teddy Haddow – Age 19. Deaf at birth, hearing aids at 8 weeks, implanted at 14, graduated high school with honors, dean's list Wheaton College MA, pursuing B.A. in American studies and Theatre, musician and actor, fluent in English.
Christine Halvorsen – Deaf at birth, implanted at 9, first deaf student accepted into Episcopal School of Jacksonville, Multisport athlete, captain of basketball team for two years, Coach's Award for basketball and JT Townsend Award, currently playing women's basketball at Millsaps College, first speaking deaf woman in NCAA basketball, fluent in English.
Amanda Hamlin – Deaf, implanted at 3 1⁄2 and 3 years ago, straight A student, honors and AP in high school, Bachelor's and master's degrees, starting first job as a teacher, fluent in English.
Megan H. – Age 15, passed newborn hearing screening. Diagnosed at 18 months and attended the Clarke School. Implanted at age 3. Mainstreamed by kindergarten. Currently on the Honor Roll, in the National English Honor Society, a cheerleader and taking Spanish in public high school.
Dylan H. – Age 14, failed a newborn hearing screening and received his cochlear implant at age 2. Attended the Clarke School, mainstreamed by kindergarten, and currently plays basketball and on the Honor Roll.
Stephen Heitman – Cochlear implant at 2 1/2 years old. Went to mainstream schools preschool through college, Bachelor of Science in computer science and currently a software developer for an up-and-coming software company in Portland, Oregon. In spare time, loves playing all kinds of sports, especially basketball.
Jared Hill – Age 19. Hearing loss identified at birth. Hearing aids at age 3 weeks. Cochlear implants at 18 months and age 10. Graduate of College Prep High School. Overcame additional challenges of dyslexia, dysgraphia and a rare endocrine disorder. Avid community volunteer. Plans to attend university and open own business. Fluent in English.
Jessica Hill – Age 22. Hearing loss identified at 8 months. Hearing aids until cochlear implants at age 2 2⁄3 and age 10. Fluent in spoken English and studied Latin in high school. Graduated from high school with an Advanced Diploma. Graduated from college cum laude. Accepted into one of the Top 20 U.S. physical therapy schools to pursue Doctorate of Physical Therapy beginning Jan 2017.
Julianne H. – Age 15. Hearing loss at birth. Cochlear implants at 8 months and 6 years. A rising high school sophomore pursuing an Advanced Diploma. Highest academic average in her class and honors for U.S. History and Honors English. Fluent in English and currently an A+ student in Spanish. Received a Bronze medal in Pentel International Visual Arts competition. Five school records in Cross Country and Track & Field and AllState in both sports.
Carly Howard – Age 20. Dean's List and in the School of Nursing at Molloy College (ranked #1 in the United States for Nursing). Cochlear implant at 18 months. Graduated from a Public High School where involved on sport teams and Secretary of the National Honors Society. Current Secretary of the Molloy Nursing Student Association.
Hunter Jackson – Deaf at birth. Began AuditoryVerbal therapy at 10 months. Implanted at 13 months and 8 years. Gifted student in Elementary and Middle School. Recently graduated high school and is heading to college to study Sports Management. Fluent in English.
Caitlin Johnson – Deaf, first implanted in 1993, Dean's list at Georgia Institute of Technology (B.S. in biomedical engineering), Inducted into Delta Omega Public Health Honor Society, recently received M.H.A. from University of North Carolina, currently a healthcare senior consultant, fluent in English and conversational in Spanish.
Valorie Johnson – Age 34. Born with moderate-profound hearing loss due to Microtia/Atresia. Currently using BAHA implanted at 32. MA in Early Intervention in Deaf Education from Fontbonne University. Fluent in English.
Dmitry Kashlev – Age 32. Severe to Profound hearing loss at birth. Implanted at 20 years and 27 years. Born and raised in Russia for 7 years. Fluent in spoken English and Russian. S.B and M.Eng in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science at MIT. Currently working as Software Architect at Eargo, a hearing aid startup.
Alanna Kilroy – Age 21. Deaf at birth, implanted at ages four and nine, graduated high school in the top 10%. Boston University student, finance major. Currently studying abroad in London, England. Fluent in English.
Erica King – Age 20. Hearing aids at 11 months, cochlear implant at 3 years of age. Mainstreamed public education, outstanding attorney (2 years) and outstanding witness at mock trial competitions. Always on the Dean's List and will graduate with a Bachelor's degree in only 2.5 years.
Jaime K. – Age 17. Hearing aids at 4 months and implanted at age 2. High school volleyball and cheerleader. Mainstream education and postsecondary student while in high school. Will complete her undergraduate degree in under 3 years.
Emma Kirsch – Born Hearing. Deaf due to meningitis at 18 months old, Implanted at 22 months. Mainstreamed K12, Student at Rochester Institute of Technology studying Biomedical Science. Swimmer, dancer, and successful competitive equestrian. Started a charity to help individuals with cognitive, physical, emotional, behavioral and psychological needs so they are able to afford therapeutic horseback riding lessons. Fluent in English.
Jonah K. – Age 10. Hearing aids from age 1 month. Simultaneous bilateral cochlear implants at age 11 months. Mainstreamed in private parochial schools in first grade. Released from all speech therapy at age 6 and has had no IEP/IFSP since Grade 2. Straight A student. Great athlete in football, basketball and baseball. Frequently speaks on panels related to hearing loss. Enjoys swimming with aqua ears.
Elliot K. – Age 15. High School freshman. Mainstreamed. No modifications.
Oliver K. – Age 10. Implanted at 6 months, Elementary student, studies Latin and enjoys reading Tolkien.
Paulina Lee – Age 19. Deaf at birth, implanted at 18 months, graduated high school with honors. Dances in traditional Chinese dance, hip hop, and lion dance. Fluent in English and Mandarin, learning French, Japanese, Taiwanese, and Korean.
Michael G. Lefkowitz – Age 21. Deaf at birth, implanted at 17 months, varsity golf, debate and Model U.N, Dual High School and IB diplomas, freelance sports journalist and public speaker, currently a Junior majoring in Political Science at Tufts University with plans to study abroad in Madrid in the fall. Fluent in English and conversational in Spanish.
Phoenix L. – Deaf at birth, implanted at ages 2 and 5, mainstreamed in public school, cast as lead in several videos (Scholastic and Penguin Books) and with local theater companies, will attend private school focusing on the arts and digital editing, received a bronze medal for wrestling, fluent in English.
Julia M. – Deaf at birth, implanted at 4, studying journalism in college, Interning in Sydney, Australia, this summer with advertising agency responsible for Sydney Film Festival, fluent in English.
Sam Mellert – Deaf at birth, implanted at 11 and 12, graduated from high school with high honors, currently a student at Bates College, varsity golf, third degree black belt in TaeKwonDo, fluent in Spanish and English.
Carolyn Ryan Murin – Diagnosed with severe to profound bilateral hearing loss at age 4, with only one side aided. Mainstreamed through school, graduating 6th in my class with a full honors courseload. Received my degree in Political Science from Colgate University and a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania, all with no support services. After a fulfilling professional career, I am currently raising my two children, ages 14 and 12.
Miranda Meyers – Age 19. Deaf at birth, implanted at ages 2 and 18, graduated from a mainstream, public high school with honors, in the Honors program in college, consistently on the Dean's List. Played tennis and softball throughout her childhood and played on high school teams. Fluent in English.
Nikki Pendleton – Deaf since age 7, implanted at 9, graduated magna cum laude, aspiring audiologist.spare time.
Susan Abrams Pollack – Profoundly deaf from meningitis at age 8, first child in Pennsylvania to receive a single channel cochlear implant, at age 12. CocaCola National Scholar. Honors graduate of Carnegie Mellon University. Master's degree University of Maryland University College. Received newer cochlear implant at age 28. Has worked as a writer, editor, researcher, digital communications specialist, instructional support specialist and designer.
Ruben Ramanathan – Born deaf, implanted at ages 2 1⁄2 and 11. Student at Purdue University majoring in Supply Chain Management and minoring in Spanish and Product Life Cycle Management. Maintains a 3.5 GPA while working multiple jobs including: student ambassador for Purdue University, administrative assistant for a nonprofit organization, photographer and tutor. Fluent in English.
Mary Reed – Deaf since birth, implanted at 31, B.A. in Anthropology, Emory University, fluent in English, mother of 11 year old son, deaf since birth, implanted at 11 months, winner of Math Jeopardy at his school, mother of five month old daughter, fitted with hearing aids at 4 months.
Benjamin Reiser – Age 21. Born with severe to profound bilateral sensorineural hearing loss. Hearing aids at three months. Graduated with honors from a public high school and named the top student journalist in the state of Connecticut. Dean's Honor List senior at Georgetown University. Leader of many student organizations and longstanding intern on Capitol Hill. Currently aspiring to law school. Fluent in English and conversational in Spanish.
Matthew Reiser – Age 18. Born with severe-profound bilateral sensorineural hearing loss. Wore hearing aids until receiving a cochlear implant at age 4 1⁄2 . Award-winning automotive photographer whose work has been published and exhibited in museums. Entering senior year at a public high school with plans to attend college after graduation. Fluent in English and conversational in Spanish.
Noah R. – Age 9. Cochlear implants age 15 and 16 months old. Mainstream school since age 3. In accelerated Math & Language Arts.
Tyler R. – Age 15. Implanted with first CI at 5 years old, bilateral at 8 years old. Rising junior in high school. Honors student and participant of the Talented And Gifted program (TAG). CoEditor in Chief of the yearbook Participant of the B'nai B'rith Youth Organization. Has danced in company since the age of 6.
Julie Rosenthal – Implanted at 6 and 11, Dean's List student at University of Miami, former Campus Engagement Intern, featured in public service video Back to the Hearing World formerly displayed at EPCOT, fluent in English.
Paula Rosenthal – Implanted at 36 and 41, B.A. in Political Science, Emory University, J.D. Pace University School of Law, self-employed business owner for 25 years, founder of Hearing Exchange, syndicated writer, national speaker and advocate, fluent in English.
Nicolas Sambar – Deaf at birth, implanted at 2 and 11, graduated high school in the top 10%, member of four honor societies, winner of two writing competitions, Dean's list student at University of Miami, Vice President of HearUs Teens, fluent in English and Italian.
Anna Blair S. – Age 16. Rising high school junior. Hearing aids since diagnosis at 15 months. Implanted as soon as eligible at age 4, bilateral at age 8. Mainstreamed since preschool. Honor student in Gifted curriculum4.0 GPA. Currently in numerous honor societies and leadership positions at school. Classically trained ballerinaSenior ballet company member.
Sophie Scott – Age 21, deaf, implanted at 2.5 and 17, civil engineering major.
Sandra Seiler – Born deaf with progressive hearing loss. Hearing aid user and first mainstreamed student in Long Island, N.Y. Received B.A. from Boston College. Implanted in mid40s. M.B.A. from Florida Atlantic University, Self-employed business owner of accounting services and Founder of Focus Tutors. Fluent in English.
Marti Rose Shanker – Deaf at birth, implanted at 18 months and 8, graduated high school in three honor societies, Recipient of National Scholastic Art and Writing Gold award, Dean's list and Presidential Scholar student at Fashion Institute of Technology, fluent in Spanish and English.
Jessica Siskind – Deaf at birth, implanted at 18 months and 12, graduated high school with honors, in a 5 1⁄2 year Physician Assistant Studies program at Hofstra University, Dean's list student, currently becoming certified as an EMT in NY, fluent in English and can speak Spanish.
Conner Svetly – Deaf at birth, implanted at 2 and 13, top 10% of high school class, National Merit Commended Scholar, Chancellor's List at Chapman University, Selected SCIAC Conference All Academic Team, currently volunteering in Estili, Nicaragua with Global Medical Brigades, fluent in English.
Joseph Svetly – Deaf from birth, implanted at ages 3 and 16, several Academic Honors at Scottsdale Community College, volunteered in Israel with Masa Israel program for 5 months, will be attending Arizona State University majoring in Computer Science/Computer Security, fluent in English.
Christopher Tucker – Age 23. Profound hearing loss. Bilateral cochlear implants. Graduated from University of Georgia with a degree in Economics and a minor in statistics. Job with the Air Force as a civilian.
Daniel Vasilew – Deaf, implanted at 22 months and 12 years, graduated from high school with honors, currently a student at RIT majoring in New Media Marketing, fluent in English.
Reese V. – Age 11. Diagnosed with severe hearing loss at age 3.5. Received cochlear implants at ages 9 and 11. Uses listening and spoken language: Speech and language are within age appropriate norms. Plays soccer and basketball, is an active Boy Scout and cannot imagine a life without hearing and speaking.
Julian W. – Age 17. Diagnosed at the age of 8 weeks (before newborn screening was in place). Received cochlear implants at ages 12 months and at 7 years old. Has always attended mainstream schools. Currently a sophomore in High School. Speaks fluent English and understands Spanish.
Olivia Williams – Age 20. Became deaf at age 3. Implanted at ages 5 and 12. Attended and graduated from a prestigious college preparatory all girls school. Currently a junior at Stonehill College, Psychology major, Fluent in English.
Mardie Younglof – Profoundly deaf from birth. Graduate of Syracuse University, paralegal certificate from Georgetown University. Received two cochlear implants as an adult. Former medical technician. Currently a website manager/editor.
Callie Z. – Age 14. Born profoundly deaf. Implanted at 12 months and age 4.5. In a mainstream school without assistance and on par with hearing peers. In an Intensive French language program. Competitive gymnast who recently brought home gold and silver medals from the Western National Championships.
Lexie Z. – Age 12. Born profoundly deaf and implanted at 12 months and age 3. In a mainstream school without assistance and on par with hearing peers. In an Intensive French language program. Honor Roll student. Competitive gymnast who recently won medals at Winter Games and multiple competitions.
 Polus, Sarah. A 'Dancing With the Stars' Contestant Is Vying for a White House Correspondents' Dinner Invite. Reliable Source. Washington Post, 28 Mar. 2016.
 DiMarco, Nyle. What Did You Think of Our Freestyle Dance to Disturbed's Sound Of Silence? Nyle DiMarco. Facebook, 24 May 2016.