Author: Rabab Elbaharia
The first time I heard the expression “Deaf Gain” I did not understand it. When I asked various people to help explain the phrase, I received answers such as “you can talk while your mouth is full by using your hands,” or “you can chat from a distance in a very loud room”. Deaf gain is a term to counter the idea of being deaf as a ‘loss’. Instead, there can be many benefits to deafness such as improved visual abilities and also important contributions to society in different fields (science, sports, medicine, arts etc.)
Today, when I reflect on my family, I find the deaf gain expression very much resonates. We are a new family of immigrants and 2018 marks our third year in Canada. My daughter Salma was born with left microtia and moderate to severe deafness on the left side.
Our first deaf gain experience was probably our connection to the Guide By Your Side program (GBYS). As a mom exploring all the mixed feelings that came with the news of Salma’s hearing difference, I was very happy to learn about the program and that I would be connected to a parent of a child with a similar hearing difference. With the first call I received from our Parent Guide, I felt security in knowing we wouldn’t be navigating this new situation alone.
More blessings arrived as we started early intervention services. We loved going to the early intervention agency which was a home away from home to us. From early on, our family has been involved in many of the programs offered through the centre, and not only did our involvement help our hard of hearing daughter, it helped the whole family to feel connected to the new community we had chosen to live in.
Being new to Canada with very limited friends and no family members around, I can say that our involvement in the programs and activities has really protected us from experiencing the social isolation that can come with being immigrants. It gave us an invaluable chance to connect physically and emotionally with other parents who we consider today as true friends. With our involvement came the opportunity for us to get to know the deaf/hard of hearing community and to see how amazing a deaf person can be in every aspect. As a mother of a daughter with single side deafness or unilateral hearing, I had always asked myself “what if she loses her hearing on the other side?”. Now I am not particularly concerned after getting to know how capable a deaf person can be.
In regards to deaf gain, I also must mention the number of activities and positive experiences that we as a family now look forward to every year, such as the Hornby island family camp, three days of fun filled activities every August (Mingle and Play), and lots of gatherings, outings, and picnics throughout the year. These mean a lot to us as a new family trying to build connections with our new community and create that very important feeling of belonging.
Although it may sound funny, I have to say attending the groups and activities with Salma were ice breaking opportunities. They allowed me to test my language, feel that I am safe, understand people around me and be understood.
The deaf gain is not only a blessing received by a person who is deaf; in our case it was an enormous benefit that extended to include my whole family.