HEARING LOSS IS ONLY ONE PART OF MAYA’S STORY.
Paintings, drawings, and awards cover the walls of Maya’s house. The seven-year-old artist loves expressing herself with crayons and paints. She loves expressing herself with words, too. But when she was born, her parents didn’t think they would ever hear her speak. Maya was born profoundly deaf to hearing parents.
An original painting of a butterfly by Maya.
The shock of the hearing loss diagnosis gave way to anger for Elsa and Teney. “We were just angry at everything,” said Elsa. “I would get very defensive if I thought someone was looking at us the wrong way.” Protective and conscientious parents, they felt judged by strangers and even blamed themselves for Maya’s hearing loss although there was nothing that could have prevented it. Connecting with other parents of children who are deaf and hard of hearing changed their perspective completely. When they realized they weren’t alone on their journey and learned that anger is a common response to a hearing loss diagnosis, they moved through the grief and took action.
"WE HAD TO CHANGE OUR MINDSET. WE HAD TO LEARN THAT SHE’S DEAF, BUT SHE’S A FUNCTIONING, NORMAL KID." —Teney, Maya’s dad
After understanding all the possible communication outcomes, Elsa and Teney chose Listening and Spoken Language (LSL) for their daughter. “We wanted her to be like us. She comes from a listening and hearing family and I wanted her, my kid, to be like her parents, her siblings, and her extended family,” said Elsa. “There’s nothing wrong with any other choices, but the bottom line is that I wanted my kid to be as much like our family as she can be.” At four months old, Maya received her first hearing aids.
"I WISH I HAD KNOWN THAT I DIDN’T NEED TO BE ASHAMED." —Elsa, Maya’s mom
Now, the high-spirited and creative little girl has cochlear implants and communicates fluently with her parents, little brother, and extended family in spoken English. She even speaks a few words of the native Indian language used by her parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. “We communicate in more than one language in our family,” said Elsa. “I want Maya to have access to that. We’re from India. I want her to be proud of that. That’s part of who she is, too.” Her hearing technology and LSL have helped Maya explore her Indian culture and connect with her family around the world.
“When she was really young, I introduced her as ‘this is my child with hearing loss. Her name is Maya.’ That was my leading information and I thought that was the most important thing about her,” said Elsa. “But as I’ve become educated and as I’ve gotten to learn about her and hearing loss, I’ve realized that this is Maya and she has a hundred things about her and hearing loss is only one of them.”