The Sounds of Culture
When Kamen’s parents moved to the United States from Bulgaria, they brought as much of their culture with them as they could. Bulgarian art hangs on the walls of their home. They bake fresh Bulgarian bread and share it with neighbors. They speak the Bulgarian language at home as well as with their family back in Europe. Keeping their heritage alive connects them to their home country. When their first son, Kamen, was born, they intended to raise him with all the Bulgarian traditions that form an important part of their identities. But when their baby was diagnosed with profound hearing loss in both ears, they were afraid they wouldn’t be able to share one of the most meaningful aspects of their culture: the Bulgarian language.
KAMEN’S PARENTS ARE TEACHING HIM BULGARIAN, THEIR NATIVE LANGUAGE
At first, the hearing loss diagnosis devastated Kamen’s parents, Teodora and Vassil. No one in their immediate or extended family had hearing loss. Would their son be able to hear the music and take part in the traditional New Year’s Eve dancing they loved? Would he be able to develop a relationship with his grandparents who only spoke Bulgarian? What kind of life could they expect Kamen to lead?
As Kamen’s parents weighed his possible communication outcomes, they thought of their family back in Bulgaria: the grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends who already loved their son deeply. They wanted to give Kamen the opportunity to communicate with them in their native language. Culture is shared through language. It is an expression of who we are as a community and it’s the way we pass along our values from generation to generation. With Listening and Spoken Language (LSL), they learned Kamen would be able to speak multiple languages, including Bulgarian, and connect more closely with his cultural heritage.
"BEFORE KAMEN WAS DIAGNOSED, WE DIDN’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT LISTENING AND SPOKEN LANGUAGE. NOW, IT WORKS REALLY WELL FOR US." —Teodora, Kamen’s mom
Soon after his diagnosis, Kamen began wearing hearing aids, and at 18 months, he received cochlear implants. Teodora and Vassil took the advice of their Early Interventionist and incorporated LSL activities into their daily routines. Kamen’s rapid listening and speaking progress took their breath away. They committed themselves to the LSL journey.
Now a curious and adventurous four-year-old, Kamen is the master of his hearing technology. If the external receiver of one of his cochlear implants becomes loose while he’s splashing in the pool of their apartment complex or tumbling in his gymnastics class, Kamen expertly pops it back into place. No help from Mom or Dad required. Vivacious and outgoing, Kamen makes friends easily at his preschool, the ice rink, and playground.
"I WAS AMAZED TO SEE HOW OUR BULGARIAN TRADITIONS RESONATED WITH HIM. " —Vassil, Kamen’s dad
But most meaningful to Teodora and Vassil is Kamen’s ability to connect with their native culture. Last New Year’s Eve, Kamen joined them in dancing the horo, clasping hands with their Bulgarian community, and throwing himself into the syncopated rhythm of the music. Now, he’s learning Bulgarian, so that he can sing along with his people and speak to his loved ones around the world.