This blog is written by and for academics at all career stages with some degree of hearing loss. For this blog, we use the term ‘deaf/HoH’ to represent all deaf and hard-of-hearing people, regardless of the degree of hearing loss and preferred mode of communication (oral or sign). The goals of this blog are:
- To provide a forum to crowd-source methods of minimizing our challenges
- To share strategies for thriving in academia with hearing loss
- To foster a network of deaf/HoH academics who promote communication-inclusive strategies for academic institutions.
Why a blog?
Our experiences may differ, but as deaf/HoH academics, we have all continuously faced the challenges of succeeding professionally in environments designed for and by people without hearing loss. We have likely had markedly different access to resources and capacity for self-advocacy depending on our backgrounds and our current institutional organizations. Because hearing loss is often an invisible disability, we have seldom recognized each other and have consequently missed opportunities to learn effective strategies and solutions from each other. Through this blog we hope to reach deaf and hard-of-hearing academics all around the world, in order both to reduce isolation and build a community toolbox of resources and ideas. Hearing loss is variable and can affect us in many and different ways—but through this shared blog experience, we hope to provide something of value to all of those who visit and contribute to our discussions.
As academics we are involved in many activities that require continuous communication, often with hearing colleagues and students. We teach, present seminars, participate in committee meetings and grant panels, we moderate discussion sessions and lead group meetings, engage in outreach activities, and communicate with the press. Many of the challenges presented in these communication settings are unique to the academic environment, and the success of all academics, hearing or deaf/HoH, depends on mastering communication in these settings. However, deaf/HoH academics are often unable to find adequate solutions for these communication challenges from our audiologists, who don’t often have academic clients, or from disability services offices that are designed to serve the undergraduate student community. By focusing on the deaf/HoH post-graduate academic community, we intend to create a tailored resource that can help all academics who identify as deaf/HoH achieve our professional potential.
Why “The Mind Hears”?
The title of our blog comes from a letter written by Victor Hugo to the deaf educator Ferdinand Berthier. Hugo wrote:
What matters deafness of the ear, when the mind hears? The only deafness, the true deafness, the incurable deafness, is that of the mind.
This quote encapsulates the powerful idea that our potential to contribute to academia, knowledge, and society is not constrained by our ability or inability to hear sounds. The challenges that arise from working in hearing-dominated academic environments can be met with creativity and resilience, which are features of the mind. The tools that deaf/HoH individuals often use to facilitate communication—including sign language, speech reading, hearing aids, captioning, and cochlear implants, to name but a few—all illustrate the limitless potential of human ingenuity. Hugo’s declaration also mirrors our conviction that collaboration with our minds open to solutions, to new ideas, to inclusion and interest in those who may approach things differently can benefit us all. Whether we were raised signing in the Deaf community or have only recently been deafened, all of us with hearing loss who work in academia have developed ways to succeed. Sometimes we may see benefit from our deafness (e.g. Deaf Gain) and other times our deafness might become an unwanted burden. This blog is a home for all of these perspectives and experiences—we hope you will find this to be a rewarding meeting place of truly empowered, resourceful, and open minds.
Unless otherwise stated on the blog post, contributors to The Mind Hears retain all copyright to their own work. The Mind Hears thanks all our contributors as well as the UMass Amherst Office of Faculty Development and the National Science Foundation for support.