Sunday, February 10, 2008

Hearing's Desire to Become Deaf

Remember that the CODA Brothers made a joke in their vlog about CODA Implants? It was so hilarious! In reality, it is a no joke for those who wanted to become Deaf. Read on... Quicktime

Hello! I would like to share this article when I read for pleasure and was surprised that made me said, “WHAT?”. It was really a mind-blowing topic, “A Compelling Desire for Deafness” written by David Veale that was published in the summer of 2006 in the Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education. I found it intriguing about how the article described the cases that focused on Self-Injured Behavior (SIB) and one of them identified a group of hearing people who wanted to become deaf. It allowed me to analyze difference cases that described how hearing wanted to become deaf as there were different ways.

For example, there is a hearing woman who wears a cotton wool dabbed with oil then placed it in her both ears so that noises can be prevented and it allows her to focus on learning signs easily. It is rationale for one to do it in order to focus on signs without the interference of noises. I recalled my former student teacher putting cotton wool in his ears that he wanted to focus entirely on signs and not to be distracted by noises so that he could learn signs better. It made sense to me but for this woman it was a different case since she wanted to become deaf. A psychologist in Great Britain who studied this case that a woman who wanted to become deaf concluded that the reason was because she wanted to gain her identity for herself so that she could be accepted by the Deaf community. Now here are several interesting questions to think about: Will those who are recognized that their desire to become deaf be labeled as one of the mental disorder cases? Or will it ever be acceptable for hearing patients to be offered an elective surgery to meet their needs?

Normally, there are different cases for the Deaf who want to become hearing (as in their attitude) as they desire by wearing assistive technology devices such as hearing aids, cochlear implants, etc. are not classified as a mental disorder case that the society perceives this as a normal case. However, for the hearing individuals who want to become deaf were identified as abnormal.

Now allow me to tell you in depth about these SIB cases that had actually happened indeed. Remember that long time ago when transsexual came in the picture, people perceived it in a very negative way and labeled as one of the mental disorder cases. It seems to me now this is much more acceptable whereas elective genital change or to remove the sexual parts is allowed that is now offered by the medical society. There is another case that where a group of individuals who wanted to contract HIV so that they can share similar experiences with their partners who have it. Again, there is another case about amputees who wanted to continue to remove their limbs. These are the examples as an elective surgery that they get to make their own decisions what they want to do with their bodies.

Now this case about a 36 year old woman who felt trapped like a Deaf person in a hearing body never felt right about it. She has a normal hearing and reported high sensitivity to sounds, not that she has a problem with tinnitus that means ringing in your ears. She just feels that sounds are associated to anger, irritation, aggravation that she wanted to do away with that with no sounds to hear, she feels peaceful. But she continues to struggle that she has a great difficulty to deal with background noises. When she got to learn British Sign Language (BSL), she finally felt like home. It is just like when a gay person comes in a gay bar and feels like right at home. That how was described in the article. Interesting!

This woman joined a group called, “Deaf Wannabes” where there is a group of hearing people on the internet sharing their desire to identify themselves as a Deaf person. Even there is a case that some of them wear hearing aids in their pictures that were posted on the Web that they are fetish with hearing aids and some of them focus on signs only with no use of voices and shut down their hearing. Most percentage of that group tend to wear hearing aids.

Anyway, back to this woman, she did receive therapy session not that she wanted to get help to overcome her desire to become deaf but to discuss about her desires to become deaf. She still continues to wear cotton wool that is inserted in her ears. She inquired about getting a surgery to help her to become deaf. Most (actually all) of them turned down her request. It was not the purpose for her to desire to become “disabled” so that she could receive disability checks. She wanted to become deaf so that she could feel comfortable with her identity. Remember, she has no tolerance with noises that she doesn’t feel physically comfortable with sounds. She even offered to pay for the surgery from her own pocket but the medical society had a hard time to decide whether or not if this would be allowed by offering surgery for those who want to become deaf.

Apparently, it is considered as a new case to them. It looks like that for those who fought to undergo gender reassignment surgery succeeded eventually that they were recognized just like those amputees who fought to have more limbs removed got recognition. However, for those who wanted to become deaf were turned down. Interesting! Does it mean that society viewed those who wanted to become deaf is so negative and unacceptable? Or if there are more demands for those who want to become deaf will eventually be accepted? What is your opinion?

Note: This was pre-taped in January. It happened before the CODA Brothers joked about it so speaking of the devil!


LaRonda said...

Hi Barb. Good to see you vlogging again. Very interesting story. A lot of folks ask me why I haven't gotten a CI. I try ti explain that even though I was once hearing, I have come to know and love myself as a Deaf person. I like to sign deaf on my heart so people understand the identity I have.

Thanks for sharing this unique story.

~ LaRonda

JD said...

It was mentioned in ASC's blog last year. When I first read it there, I did find it very interesting.

GalaxyAngelz said...

wow, *speechless* I don't know how can I expression my felt ache about Hearing person who really truly felt like "Homey as Deaf Community" I would say.. wow, Amazing if person really desire become Deaf person. Welcome them part of Deaf Community.

I'm not surprised surgeon refusal approval whoever Hearing person want become Deaf and removed the sounds.. any name it.

So why can't accept that?
Doesn't make sense Doctor recognized other kinds: Transgender, amputee removal, and much others.. except not Deaf!

Oh my gosh! That discriminate Doctor's pov!

Thank you Barb Digi bring this up!

Bill said...

It seems to me like she might be a little unstable. Not that I don't understand this:

"sounds are associated to anger, irritation, aggravation that she wanted to do away with that with no sounds to hear, she feels peaceful"

I totally understand that, being the guy who always has the TV on too quietly (How can you hear that, my family says). I can get irritated at other noises too. And I am constantly being called a mumbler, probably because I hear myself so loudly.

But to change that, to become deaf for those reasons, seems to me like an attempt to escape something that may need to be dealt with.

But the CB's did get me thinking about getting some Bose noise cancelling headphones, as hearing loss aids :)

Brian Riley said...


That's a very interesting vlog. It reminds me of the story, I think it is true, that a hearing female pretended to be deaf and enrolled as an undergraduate at Gallaudet. I think maybe the late 1960's or 1970's. She would always go far from the campus to make any telephone calls, but eventually she got caught. How strange! Professor Mike Kemp at Gallaudet told this story in class, and if I remember accurately, I think he said it was a true story.

People need to accept who they are, how they were born and how they grew up. Somebody might develop an interest or a love of another culture, which is great, but no one can turn back the clock to grow up to be someone else. I think it shows really, deeply rooted psychological problems. Some people have extremely low self-esteem and they feel they have to find some group to join. How sad.

Candy said...

BR, interesting. Maybe it's the same hearing female I met who happens to be an interpeter. Small talks, revealed that her whole family is deaf and she herself is hearing. Her father would not accept that she is hearing, he fought and convinced the deaf school to enroll her as HOH. She eventually attended Gallaudet. I asked her how she felt about it and she said she grew up feeling so much part of deaf world that it really didn't matter. She is hearing! How's that for abuse? Strange.

Gallyjeepboi said...

Hi Barbi,
You sign "transgender/transexual is wrong. Ask someone to show you right sign for TG/TS.

Thanks, John

Anonymous said...

Wow - pickin' up my jaw from the floor.

I never knew that there are hearing people who really wanted to be Deaf.

Learn something new today!
Thanks for sharing.

Kelly -

Anonymous said...

Hi Barb --

Off the point.

Please go to the Expatriate's blog. I have several questions for you. I have learned a lot about the conversation between you and Patty.


BTW, congratulations on your deafread awards. My boy, Casper has been taken care of your baby bat. He decided to name him Voldemort from Harry Potter's book series! ;-0)

White Ghost

mishkazena said...

Someone sent me a link to a blog where a woman suffering from a severe disorder of self mutilating actually damaged her ears, causing permanent deafness. She didn't want to hear, but it wasn't because she wanted to be deaf. It was like she was removing a sensory organ, one at a time, as a part of her disorder It was hard reading her blog : /

Barb DiGi said...

Hi LaRonda..actually I am not that back on my feet since my vlog was pre-taped last January. Just releasing bit by bit haha. Thanks for sharing your POV and I am really glad that you have embraced yourself as a person who happens not to hear.

JD: Thanks for bringing this to my attention and for providing the link.

Galazy Angelz: Yes, it is really an unique situation but I wonder how many others are there since I just learned that there is an internet Deaf Wannabe group. Yes, it is mind boggling that other kinds of changes are allowed but turning deaf is not.

Bill: I guess every hearing individual has their level of sensitivity when it comes to hearing sounds. So since you mention that for those who want to become deaf signals for the need to escape from something, does it apply the same for those who want to undergo gender change?

Hi Brian: Thanks for sharing your story. I can't help but wonder if this college student pretended to be deaf so that she could be better accepted by the Gallaudet community?

Candy: Who knows? Perhaps it may be a bit common to pretend in order to be accepted. It is sad that it has to be this way especially when parents don't accept the way their child is, deaf or hearing or any other "different" characteristics.

Gallyjeepboi: Ahh, really? I happened to learn this sign from a gay Deaf person. Please do tell how to sign it. Perhaps its a regional thing?

Kelly, I know it amazed me when I read the article and thought it was be an interesting topic to share.

Hey White Ghost, thanks! I hope I have answered your questions, smiles. Glad to know that you have learned from us as I have learned from Patty as well. What a relief to know that your Casper took care of my bat!!

Hi Mishkazena, I am curious what blog was that! Yes there are independent cases of SIBs intending to injure themselves to the extreme. Gross!

Jarom said...

I personally knew one person who really wanted to be deaf due to some reason that I don't remember since it has been years since I talked or seen him. He would wear hearing aids... I mean functioning hearing aids even he have perfect hearings. He has done some bizarre things to his ears like putting some chemical with intention to damage his hearing. I have to say that I was disgusted by those people because I am deaf person and I have two cochlear implants. I strive to hear and function in the hearing world with what I can hear while those people's actions contradict my attempts. I strongly believe that the people who would commit self-inflicted injuries are in needs of help because NO person in their right mind would do that! When I read about those people, I get little pissed off because I had to go through 4 cochlear implantation surgeries to get where I am today.

By the way, you signed transgender/transsexual correctly but there is other sign that is like "beautiful on the heart" I use both and I am gay man *winks* You works at RSD right? My partner works there too.

Jean Boutcher said...

I believe in your story because I eyewitnessed a hearing man who stared at me everyday in the dining room. I was residing in a boarding house with my hearing roommate. I asked her why that guy was staring at me intensely. She said that even though he was an oddball, isolating himself from peopled and living in the dark basement with no window, he was son of the Secretary of Navy. Big name! That guy sensed that I was talking to my roommate about him. True enough, he got up and came to my table, looking at my hearing aid. He asked me if I could turn my volume off whenever I desired. I said yes. He said how lucky I was for being deaf. He said that hearing a sound made him so neurotic and jumpy he wanted to be deaf like me. I did not know what to say. I knew immediately that he must have some HEARING disorder.

So I suspect that there are some hearing people like the guy aforementioned or like the ones you read in the journal. Something malfunctional in the ear.

While he suffered about his hearing disorder and needed aspirin daily, I do NOT need any medication for my deafness. Deafness, to me, is normal. Therefore, I am puzzled when hearing people feel sorry for deaf people. Our deaf ears do not hurt us at all. Oh, well. :-D

Ella Mae Lentz said...

fascinating post...and the concept of SIB...thinking that to go thru the CI surgery can be framed as SIB as well... it shows that it's all in the society's mind! Deaf to Hearing Glorified, but Hearing to Deaf..a big NO NO in the medical field, but in the Deaf community, I would imagine the Deaf people may raise some brows briefly, then if the person's attitude and behavior are just fine, then, they re on board! Thought provoking information. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I remember when I was a little girl, my neighbor girl often said that she wish to be deaf. I thought that I felt strange for a hearing person to say that. Then later when I grew up, I read about recarnation. I think maybe this girl had been deaf in another life before she came this world. This neighbor girl seemed to know what's like to be lonely, and she kept me company.

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh, I had to type in DEAF WANNABE'S and here is the results of my search:

After finding these I scooped my jaw off the floor,,
Some time back the issue of CI in children was brought up, and some one vlogged what if I took my hearing baby to the doctor and say DOC IM DEAF I WANT MY KID TO BE DEAF TOO,, of course no doctor in his right mind would DEAFEN a child would they ??
But these adults or whoever they are are looking on deafness as having erotic and fetish qualities,, it boggles the mind,,

Jodi ( an American Deafie in the Netherlands )

( can't seem to access my google acct grrrrrrr )

Squ65 said...

Where I worked, I was told there is a male patient who blinded himself (with an object but not sure what) because he didn't want to see plenty violence during the Vietnam war. Again there is another female patient who destroyed her hearing by using the knitting sticks because she was hearing voices. How interesting.

Squ65 said...

Again I have heard about this .. Last year or so, I watched the 20/20 or Dateline about this. I find this very interesting. I don't think there is nothing wrong with that. Some people want to feel comfortable and secure.

Anonymous said...

It is really amazing story. It sounds like a biazzare but still interesting how hearing people feel that way for their own reasons. I feel they should make their own decision to go ahead to have surgery...same with people want to have comestic surgery. Some people want their faces like leopard. Why cant hearing people want become deaf? I hope they can find out from gential change went through and made a success that medical approve. Good Luck.

Anonymous said...

Hi Barb,:)

Rats, I just typed you my comments a minute ago and it disappeared!

Make this short, well said vlog of yours.

Best wishes,
Ms. Katrina

Anonymous said...

Hey Barb...

I read your vlog about Hearing desire to become deaf. That lady isn't the only one. So is my darling hearing daughter. She is 13 years old. She kept on telling me she wanted to become deaf. I thought I just wanted to share it with you. =)

Anonymous said...

I think it's VERY dangerous to compare this stiuation to transgendered people's journey. Transgerendered people are seeking to harmonise their gender identity and sex (biology), they are not running away from their original sex. This woman is NOT seeking to harmonise a cultural identity so she can immerse herself into the Deaf world, she is running away from sounds. They are not comparable.

To me, there is also a HUGE difference between Person "X" running away from a world of sounds through SIB and Person "Y" seeking to join the Deaf community through an informed surgical choice.

"X" is a nutbag; "Y" is... a different breed of person altogether.


Anonymous said...

...just an additional thought to my last post.

Trying to think of more appropriate example of someone wanting to be part of a diffent cultural group (given we accept that the Deaf community is held together by a culture) -- transgendered community and self-harming groups don't count. Perhaps a crude analogy is white people wanting to be black, and immersing themselves in the black world -- can they ever really be black, even if they sound, act and look (dye skin?) like black people? Hearing impaired people who gravitate toward the Deaf community can become "Deaf" people -- but would Deaf communities around the world truly accept a hearing person who has harmed themselves to be little-d-deaf in the hope that they will eventually become big-D-Deaf? Hmmm... not so sure that would happen.


Barb DiGi said...


I understand what you are saying but it seems to me that this woman is not just running away from sounds but wanting to be a part of Deaf community. I explained the part that she feels right at home when she learned British Sign Language so it is a part of identity issue as well.

Barb DiGi said...

Speaking of acceptance, I know that there are certain interpreters and CODAs who are easily accepted by the Deaf people because of their excellency in signing skills and attitude so my answer is it all depends on the personality, attitude and skills of that person in order to be accepted.

Anonymous said...

HI barb digi

This is so fascinating, it's got my head spinning! Let's imagine a world where "aural reassignment surgery" was a legitimate option. Would the medical establishment want candidates to be offered options on what kind/level of hearing loss? S/he might want profound loss in both ears; or profound in 1 ear, severe in the other. Would there be choice for adults opting for this surgery?

Would Deaf parents be allowed to select this surgery for their hearing children (as hearing parents select CIs)?

Mmmm: Would any CODAs opt for this surgery? Imagine the socio-cultural research THAT would illicit.

The mind boggles at the "frontier" type of thinking and discourse it would take to ever see such a world!


Anonymous said...

HI Barb,
I read an article about a few people are "amputee-wannabes." They wanted to have a part of their body amputated so that they could "fit" in among the amputees.
Psychologists think it is more of a case of identity disorder.
Other example of identity problem is someone wanting to stop using the language and culture they grew up with and take up another language (spoken) and move to another country.
Do you see a parallel here with a "Deaf-wannabe?"
I have met several hearing people who are like that. Clearly, in my mind, is based on a deep-rooted psychological problem.

Claire said...

So sorry to have found this post so late, but I just had to comment, even now. The desire for a physical impairment (ANY physical impairment: deafness, amputation, paralysis, blindness) is known as Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID). Noted behavioral neurologist VS Ramachandran (Google his name) is studying BIID and has found that BIID is very likely neurological in origin and is probably due to a problem with the part of the brain that processes body image. You can learn more about it at There are a couple people who need to be deaf who blog at They are Dante and Marie. I welcome you to read their posts and ask them (sincere) questions on the site.

Anonymous said...

It was extremely interesting for me to read this blog. Thanx for it. I like such topics and everything that is connected to them. I definitely want to read a bit more soon.

Kinnery said...

Hello all.
Sorry to post so very late... just wanted to share my views.

I've never admitted it to anyone before, but I have a profound desire to be Deaf (and deaf, or at least HOH).
I have always interacted with the world visually, and while noise does not make me uncomfortable, I have trouble associating with noise. I do love music, but as long as I could still feel the bass shaking the floor, I would be fine without it. Besides... I can sing in my head. :) I lipread, not out of necessity, but because it's easier for me to understand visual cues than auditory cues. I need something to be written down, or in some other way visualized, before I can understand. Phone conversations are difficult for me, because I don't have visual cues. I don't have a hearing problem; I just prefer the visual world.

It's really uncomfortable wanting to be "disabled" (although I do not consider deafness a disability). A lot of people think that Deaf Wannabes are unappreciative, or mentally ill. To hear someone compare this desire to transsexualism is quite refreshing. I feel so much more comfortable communicating visually, using ASL, and being part of the Deaf world. When I picture the dream world, I am Deaf (or HOH), attending Gallaudet, with both Deaf and hearing friends (and CODAs and HOHs and every other thing), and happy.

I could be crazy, maybe I'm trying to 'escape' the hearing world. But that's not how I see it.

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