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10 Ways to Know You Grew Up With a Deaf Mom

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Growing up, my family was unique because while my dad could hear, my mom was deaf. She wasn’t just a little hard of hearing, she was profoundly deaf, which means we could shout behind her back and she would not hear a word. Not that my sisters and I ever tried that…

My mom used a combination of sign language and lip reading to communicate, but her speech was so good that often people didn’t believe she was deaf.

When people ask me what it was like growing up with a deaf mom, I always answer that it felt pretty normal to me because I didn’t know anything else. Aside from a few assistive devices, such as flashing lights to indicate the phone or doorbell were ringing, a TDD and a specially trained hearing ear dog, our family operated just like everyone else’s. As a kid, I naturally learned to make accommodations for my mom. I don’t remember being told she couldn’t hear or that I needed to look at her and talk slowly; that’s just what I always did. I knew she couldn’t hear me calling from another room so if I needed something, I had to go and find her. I learned sign language and interpreted for her in situations when lip reading was impossible.

While I was aware that people viewed my mom differently because of her deafness, I always assumed I appeared the same as my peers. I figured no one would ever guess I grew up with a deaf mom. Over the years, my husband and kids have pointed out that this assumption is not exactly true. Apparently, there are some things I do that are obvious remnants of being raised by a deaf mom. I thought these quirky habits were unique to me, but recently, I found out there is a name for people like me, who grew up with deaf parents. We are called CODAs (Children of Deaf Adults), and it turns out many of us have had similar experiences and even developed some of the same habits.

Here is my list of 10 ways you know you’ve been raised by a deaf mom .

1. You are patient — with people who ask questions about deafness.

Can your mom read? Yes.

Do deaf people drive? Of course!

Does your mom know Braille? No, that’s for blind people.

Can deaf people have children? Well, she is my mom.

2. You can curse like a sailor in sign language, and no one ever suspects that you are swearing.

You might even get comments on how beautiful sign language is.

3. You always let someone know when you are going to take a shower. 

This was a requirement at my house — otherwise my mom would call for us and when we didn’t go to her (because we were soaking wet and naked), she would get worried. My kids picked up this habit too, and I don’t think they even know why they do it.

4. You wave goodbye using the “ I Love You”  sign, and you teach your husband and kids to do the same.

Your family looks like a bunch of groupies at a rock concert when someone is leaving the house. Rock on!

5. You always watch TV with the captioning on, and you can’t stand it when people cover their mouths when they talk, even though you can hear just fine.

jennifer and her mom

6. You catch yourself using sign language to count or spell a word out loud, to emphasize your point or to sing along to music on the radio.

(Oh yeah, and refer back to #2.)

7. You forget you can call to your children from another room, and instead you flash the lights on and off to get their attention, just out of habit.

8. You teach your kids sign language and use it to discipline them discreetly in public.

9. You still mispronounce some words because that’s how your mom said them.

10. You proudly use your story of having a deaf mom for party icebreakers, college essays and even for blog posts…

You know, it’s a topic that always gets people asking questions.

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Originally published: May 2, 2016
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