Faces Behind the Screen: Lena
Lena’s was our last interview at Boston University, where we sat and spoke with a handful of Deaf and hard of hearing (HOH) students and staff.
Lena is a sophomore health science major and public health minor who is hard of hearing. She’s not sure exactly what she wants to do with her major just yet, but what she does know is that she likes to dance and travel.
So, you’re not sure exactly what you’d like to do, but you know right now that you like to dance and travel?
Well, I do like exploring, to the point where my mom is worried.
Because, I just walk and explore without much help. I mean, I’m good. I know self-defense, but my mom is like, “oh, you should take a friend.”
…I do a lot of Latin dances. I joined the salsa club here freshman year, September. And now I’m the vice president. And teacher.
…But I dance salsa, meringue, bachata. I’m taking up tango. I know a little bit of swing. I want to learn flamenco next year, because I realized, that, oh, yeah, that’s a thing. I can do that.
“I’m the only person in my family who is either hard-of-hearing or deaf. So, my mom didn’t know what to do [when I was younger]…”
Do you ever encounter any instances of miscommunication because some people might think you have full hearing?
Yeah. A lot. I’m the only person in my family who is either hard-of-hearing or deaf. So, my mom didn’t know what to do [when I was younger], but she caught on, because I was born without hearing in my left ear.
She realized that I was slurring my words at two, or three, or something. So, she went and had them [my ears] checked. And she was like, “oh, hey, she doesn’t have hearing in this ear. Let’s put tubes in…”
The tubes didn’t really work. […] So that has been interesting. Then I didn’t even know what to call myself. I didn’t even know there was a term, hard-of-hearing, until I got [to college]
“I didn’t even know there was a term, ‘hard-of-hearing,’ until I got [to college].”
Your hearing loss started when you were very young but only grew worse gradually. How seriously did you take it growing up?
After I started moving school systems, I kind of forgot about that. I mean, it was just like, oh yeah, I have a hearing problem. Nobody really knows.
My parents were like, “just make sure you tell people.” I don’t tell people, because, I don’t know, it always felt weird being different in that way, especially since I just ignored it a lot.
“I mean, I consider it fun being hard-of-hearing, honestly.”
Now that you have all these resources available to you at BU, how do you accommodate your hearing loss and are you involved with the BU HOH community at all?
…I came here, talked to them, because I was like, what services do I get as a hard-of-hearing person, because I honestly cannot hear. I realize this now. You know? What do I do? And they’re like, oh, this is what happens.
Then I took one sign language class to understand more of the culture, right? I mean, I’m probably not going to pick up on sign language that quickly anymore, but it’s now kind of nice to know what I am and there are more people. And you know, I’m not just like the only weird person that is hard-of-hearing. So, yeah. I mean, I consider it fun being hard-of-hearing, honestly.
“…She made a Facebook post that said, “I’m aware of you, my hard-of-hearing unicorns.” And it was like, oh, my god.”
Do you use captions and subtitles when you’re watching videos on the internet?
Usually, I have the volume maxed out, because I want to make sure I catch every word. Because, I listen to a lot of foreign music. I listen to K-pop. I listen to Romanian pop, Chinese pop, Japanese pop, K-hip-hop. I listen to a lot of different languages.
…I loved how my favorite YouTuber just started using captioning in her videos. Lilly Singh, Superwoman. And it’s like, oh, my gosh. You’re using captions! I even posted to Facebook– “oh, my gosh. She’s using captions.” And she made a Facebook post that said, “I’m aware of you, my hard-of-hearing unicorns.” And it was like, oh, my god.[Before the captioning] I got about 70%. I mean, she had an accent. Well, sometimes, she’ll turn on her accent. So, I watch it over and over to make sure I catch it more. But even then, it’s kind of like, eh. So, captions are good. Captions are really good.
You mentioned your hearing loss got worse fairly recently in life…[It was] the jump from, “oh, you’re hearing’s pretty OK” — from elementary school to high school — to “oh, you’re hearing is bad.” I should have known. I should have worn more hearing protection, because I used to fly planes.
…I was really into that because I wanted to be an astronaut. So, I was like, oh, my gosh. I want to be an astronaut. I want to fly. Let’s do that!
My mom was like, sure, and put money into flight lessons, ground school, everything. I was ready.
And then it was like, nope.
“You have to talk to people. And you have to let people know, this is my disability.”
What advice to you have for other people with hearing loss?
Just have fun, you know?
I went to this meeting with all the other people with disabilities on campus. And they were all mad about the disability, about people questioning the disability, about people, not accepting that– well, you know, not coddling their disability. You know, like, “oh, why can’t everybody on campus understand this?”
…You have to talk to people. And you have to let people know, this is my disability.
…That’s my wisdom. Stay happy.
NOTE: This page was originally published on 1/24/2017 and was updated 1/12/2018.
We want to extend a huge thank you to Boston University and the Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground for hosting this series of interviews.