Being Deaf has never been visible for me, until now…by Leah Coleman

Leah and Robyn

Being Deaf has never been visible for me…until now.

Typically if my hair is down, no one can see my cochlear implant. I pass as the typical hearing person on my daily routine, but I’m still Deaf.

I’ll sign with friends and get asked if I’m an interpreting major. Even better, I’m Deaf!

People will ask me if I’m actually profoundly deaf because my speech is so clear and pronounced.

Yes, regardless of how I use my voice or hands, I’m still Deaf.

It’s an identity that I’ve carried with me since birth, and everywhere I go, I’m spreading more awareness about being Deaf and what the Deaf culture is like.

Now I have a cochlear implant on my right and a hearing dog on my left.

Her name is Robin and I just got her over the summer. I submitted my application two years ago. She absolutely already owns all of my heart.

Leah II

Everywhere I go, I take her. Everywhere she goes, I am there.

She meets all the requirements that a service dog needs, but the both of us are currently working together to train her on certain sounds. She is trained to alert me to a series of sounds, like my alarm clock for example. One of my favorite things to do is to sleep through my alarm clock, which physically shakes my bed to wake me up. It’s definitely not my parents, or my friends, or my professors’ favorite thing. But now I don’t have an excuse anymore after training Robin to ensure that I wake up to my alarm. Who doesn’t love waking up to a dog?

She snoozes through my classes, making me and several other students jealous. And somehow she always knows when the day is done. She hops up by my side with joy because there are no more classes. I don’t know how she does it, but she always makes me smile and laugh.

Having a dog by your side is much more visible than a cochlear implant hidden by your hair. Her vest has a patch that declares “HEARING DOG” and now everywhere I go, I’m creating awareness for service dogs and hearing dogs. I can’t even begin to count how many people have tried to pet her without asking for permission, but now all of those people walk away knowing that if they come across another dog with a vest on, to always ask to pet.

I’ve only had her for a month now, but I don’t remember what life was like without having a dog at my side. I’ve had teachers joke about how she’s an extra student and the people I work with call her our co-worker as well. One of my friends just put in her application for a hearing dog from Canine Companions for Independence as well, after seeing how well Robin and I work together.

-Leah Coleman