Ashlee Rose: Tell us about yourself (Anything about yourself, hobbies, dogs, etc)
Kate: Hi, I am Kate. I was born with a moderate degenerative hearing loss. Today, I have a severe to profound hearing loss. After high school, I participated in two Americorps programs, the NCCC and the California Conservation Corps-Backcountry Trails. I earned two scholarships completing both programs to use towards school. I was fortunate to work for the Inyo National Forest and the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest on the Trail Maintenance crews with the Forest Service for a few years in Mammoth Lakes and Bridgeport, CA. I had a friend on the Trail Crew who brought me and a couple other trail buddies to the Kern River, where he rafted boats in white water on his days off. I fell in love with the river and participated in Guide School with Kern River Tours the following summer. I worked for KRT for 5 seasons. I was responsible ordering and restocking food for day and overnight trips. The manager was my roommate in Mammoth and connected me with this position because of my employment experience in produce, dry goods and cheese. I loved it. I also guided Class 2-3 trips the first two summers until I was confident. You have to keep in mind, I wasn’t able to wear my hearing aids on the water. I learned a lot by watching my peers and jumping on another river guide’s boat any chance I got so I could check off with a Senior guide. I studied how to read the lines and why boats maneuvered the way they did, and got used the vibrations of the loud roaring rapids under my feet. I had to work harder to prove I was capable of being a river guide and I succeeded. When I asked the manager, can I guide Class 4 trips? She was truly concerned. And said “I’m not so sure about that.” The owner of the Whitewater company said “I don’t care if you can’t hear your people in the boat, they need to hear you.” And he looked at the manager and said “Go ahead and put Kate on Class 4 trips.” That was the best thing I “heard.” “Heard” meaning I read their lips. ️ I guided trips on overnights in Class 4 sections for 2 and half more seasons after that. This is probably my proudest accomplishment to list, after my children of course. You could say I was a ski/river bum while I was growing up in my 20s and finding my own identity, while being in the great outdoors where I always felt at home. Currently, I am a stay at home mom of two, and I walk dogs professionally for four permanent clients full time. I love it. And my kids get to come with if they are on school break. Bonus: I am my own boss.
Ashlee Rose: How old were you when diagnosed with a hearing loss?
Kate: I was born in the mid 70s when hearing screenings were not offered. My mom had her suspicions but they were not confirmed until 5 months before my 3rd birthday.
Ashlee Rose:What approach did your parents take?
Kate: The family doctor advised early education, hearing aids (BTE-Behind the Ear) and speech. I started early intervention shortly after my diagnosis and attended school with other peers who had some type of hearing loss.
Ashlee Rose: How were your experiences in school while growing up?
Kate: I loved school at a young age, where I rode the short bus across town to attend a mainstream program with other hard of hearing and Deaf students. I also missed being close to home and my older brother. I asked to attend the same school as my brother in 3rd grade. The first two years were fun, minimal being picked on, until 5th grade when cliques formed. I was bullied heavily until I transferred to MSAD (MN State Academy f/t Deaf) early in my sophomore year. Middle school was a terrible experience for me. On top of being picked on daily, I was failing classes with no help of an interpreter. Being “hearing impaired” was finally catching up and I could only get so far with wearing an amplified telex/microphone and lip reading. I was exhausted, trying to keep up in my studies, trying to read lips nonstop, speech lessons, tutoring after school and I fell into deep depression and dreaded going to school. Sports became my outlet. I played volleyball, basketball and softball. In the summer after 8th grade, I attended camp held for Deaf and HOH teens like me for two weeks. After returning home from camp, I begged my parents to let me go to the Deaf school for over a year and they finally gave in.
Ashlee Rose: What device do you have? Have you experience insurance issues for the hearing aids?
Kate: I have always worn bi lateral BTE hearing aids. A few years ago, I received my first pair of Digital hearing aids and I dislike them. I’ll wear them on my ears for a visual aid to save a lot of trouble when I am out and about, but often times they are in OFF mode. I miss analog. Yes, I am aware there is an “analog” feature on digital hearing aids but it is not the same. Insurance does not cover hearing aids, no surprise. Fortunately, there are wonderful programs that will assist with new hearing aids. I’ve been fortunate to get assistance from the Hear Now Foundation, the Lions Club and Vocational Rehab. If you are currently employed and need assistance with new hearing aids, contact your local Vocational Rehab office.
Ashlee Rose:Do you use the telephone- how do you communicate with offices for doctor appointment, car situations, or anything in general?
Kate: I used to own a Caption Call phone but as the last couple of years progressed, my hearing has taken more of a decline and I found myself more comfortable with an app I installed to my smartphone and iPad. It’s the Sorensen Ntouch app and its a wonderful resource if you are fluent in ASL. I make doctor and any other medical, including dental appointments using our MyChart account or email. My children’s schools also use the Class Dojo app which is also another great tool for any Deaf/HOH parent. It alerts me if they need my attention.
Ashlee Rose:What is it like parenting to two hearing children? How are they doing with ASL?
Kate: I have a 6 year old and a 4 year old. They are both hearing and know American Sign Language. I started signing with my babies right away and their receptive skills are awesome. My son has special needs and using ASL was beneficial to him before he started talking. He may have some developmental delays, and at his recent IEP, they say his language is excellent. His speech is fine. Learning ASL has not stopped my kids from talking in their voices non stop. they also have been learning Spanish words often from their bi lingual (English & Spanish) friends/classmates in school. How cool is that? It’s mind blowing how young children pick up a second or even a third language naturally, if another language is being used in the home full time. I sometimes speak and sign, but now that my son is a little older, I do not use my voice as much. Sometimes I go a whole day at home without putting my hearing aids on. My children understand I cannot hear and are accommodating to my needs. For example, they come to me for attention, my oldest voluntarily signs with me all the time, or lets me know if someone may be at the door.
Ashlee Rose:Do you attend CODA events? If so, what is it like?
Kate:We attended a language play group offered for deaf, HOH babies ages 0-3 and for children of Deaf adult/s with Hands and Voices in Reno. After my son started attending Special Ed at age 3, we stopped going.
Ashlee Rose: Do you have a favorite quote that you would like to share with others? Also, what advice would you give to parents of deaf and hard of hearing children and individuals with a hearing loss?
Kate: I love mindful and solitude quotes, many by Thich Nhat Hanh, John Muir, “the mountains are calling and I must go,” and be kind quotes, “Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”
If anyone was to take my advice, I would encourage Total Communication, both speech, if beneficial long term, and American Sign Language with your child, peer, partner, family member, coworker... etc. It feels good as a Deaf individual to be in an environment where you understand what’s going on 100%. I am 42 years old and it took 36 years to have the first member/s in my family learn ASL fluently, my children. ️
Hearing Impaired single mother and teacher aide at a hearing impaired oral preschool program. An author of "Turn The Lights On, I Cant Hear You".