Marlee Matlin’s Scream

Marlee's Book, Photo taken from Jamie Berke's Site
Photo taken from Jamie Berke's Site

International Deaf Icon Marlee Matlin has recently published her autobiography “I’ll Scream Later”. She also guested at CNN’s Larry King Live which I failed to watch. (sigh)

Her book’s revelations about dealing with drug addiction at age 21 while receiving news of her Oscar nomination at the Betty Ford Center and being abused by her ex-lover and former “Children of a Lesser God” co-star William Hurt were shocking news. Mr. King threw two questions at her. One was about the reason why she wants to scream and the other was of course her turbulent and hurtful relationship with Mr. Hurt.

If I were also given a chance to ask her two questions, what would I tell her? Well, the first one is, “If Ms. Helen Keller has an Anne Sullivan, does Ms. Marlee Matlin have one?” I have always wondered at how she was able to “hear” and understand the hearing world. Keller was blessed by having Ms. Sullivan as her faithful mentor and best friend. She was both the eyes and ears of Helen. Was there a similar guiding angel in Ms. Matlin’s life?

My second question would be a bit controversial. “If a mother of a deaf child asks her advice on cochlear implants, what would she tell her?
I read from Brainyquote.com where Marlee said,

If I were offered a cochlear implant today, I would prefer not to have one. But that’s not a statement about hearing aids or cochlear implants. It’s about who you are.

I believe she has nothing against CIs. But if in the near future where technology became so advanced and almost a miracle that a profound deaf person can hear clearly, what would be her stand?

My first blog about Ms. Marlee Matlin in October last year became an instant hit. It was my all time top post generating more than 2,000 unique views. She has been my favorite and has always used her life as a role model for my deaf students.

Oh, how I wish someone would send me a complimentary copy of her book… I’m pretty sure it won’t be available in local bookshops here in the Philippines. I’ll add it on my wish list on top of my wish for her to visit the Philippines someday.

If Ms. Heather Whitestone was able to come to Manila and performed in front of the Filipino audience, why not Ms. Marlee Matlin? She would surely be a hit here. I was Ms. Whitestone’s sign language interpreter during her week-long stint in the country. It would also be a great honor and a dream come true if I would interpret for Ms. Matlin. I would then get a chance to personally ask those questions to her. 🙂

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Have you accepted that your child is deaf?


Writing articles about cochlear implants made me think about the hard decision families make that would affect the entire life of their deaf children. After reading all the comments made from my latest entry which has the most number of responses so far, I realized how great an impact selecting whether undergoing Cochlear Implants, hearing aids or even oral or manual method can be to their child’s future.

I remember a few years back, when I was faced with this serious question. The parents together with their five year old deaf child went to our school. Although MCCID only caters to deaf post-secondary or late teenager students, I didn’t realize that people like them would seek advice from me. The parents were probably in their late twenties, good looking and are both professionals. The mother was holding her beautiful little angel in her arms in order to prevent her from wandering around. She appears awed as she looks at the deaf adults through the glass outside the office frantically moving their hands. When they saw her smiling at them, they smiled even more and waved their hands to her. She was in her best mood.

Her mom and dad introduced themselves to me and told me about their situation. Their only daughter was barely one-year old when she had a high fever and they went back and forth to the hospital in order to save her. She was saved but at the expense of losing her ability to hear. The family were not aware at that time but as she was growing, they suddenly noticed something amiss with their child. She hasn’t uttered any word and she never turns around when they call her. The normal thing for them to do was to have her ears checked up. But the frightening announcement came to them. Their three-year old angel is diagnosed as severely deaf. They were devastated but they never lose hope. They said that their only jewel can hear and will live a normal life. So they did everything they could.

Fast forward to age five, the mother asked my opinion as to what to do with their child. She inquired about what I could recommend to them as regards her child’s education. Now, that question was tough. As I was gazing at their beautiful, long dark-haired angel, a question popped my mind. I then, asked the family,

Have you accepted that your child is deaf?

I backed up my question by explaining to them that their decisions and directions will become clearer once they resolved this feeling of accepting their child’s situation. As I was elucidating my point, the mother looked at her only child as tears running down her cheeks. She said that all these years, they never gave up on their hope that their child would be “healed”. She started to sob as she explained to me all the efforts the two of them did to save her hearing. They brought her to many specialists, a few churches and priests, famous divine healers and herbal doctors. No luck.

I told them it’s time for them to accept their child’s fate. Once they recognized her situation, its time for the family to move on to the next decision. The next question that I asked was,

How do you want your child to communicate?

If they selected the ability to speak, then I can recommend them to a famous oral school in our country, the Philippine Institute for the Deaf, where she can learn the proper way of using her vocal cords and produce words. But if they want their child to learn fast, then I can recommend them to few government schools that offer special education, including Philippine School for the Deaf, the oldest school in Asia (est. 1907). There their child can learn sign language.

When she asked about my opinion regarding what to choose, I did not reply directly. I simply told her to look around our school. Most of our Deaf students don’t know how to speak yet they have adjusted quite well and most of our graduates have landed in jobs that were seemingly unbelievable due to their disability. I left the decision to them and I hope they did the right one. I haven’t seen them since that day.

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How successful is cochlear implant?

My last post made me think deeper. Are cochlear implants proven to have a high success rate? The reason why I’m having serious doubts is when I was putting sub-titles on the video, I’m having a hard time listening to the speeches made by those two kids who have undergone the implant. So instead of deciphering what he is saying, I simply put [inaudible speech]. So I cannot consider that as a success.

I felt that the family of Angela might be pinning too much hope on the technology that might not work wonders on their child. Or I may be wrong. So I googled my query on the Internet. True enough, I found the question exactly the same as mine.

A certain “loloz32” posted the same question on Yahoo Answers. He asked:

How successful is cochlear implant? I am 32 years old. I have severe hearing loss from 12 years ago. I want to know if I can have an operation to fix a cochlear and how much does it cost? Can the American nationality cover it?

There were two readers who made opposing responses although the “asker” chose the one given by the hearing professional as the “Best Answer”. Well, coming from an audiologist, she can always claim that it’s highly successful. It is expected that she will side with the medical or business perspectives. But the other poster pointed out that the success rate is not that high.

Is there an actual study or unbiased research about its success rate? I believe having one would be a very useful tool for decision making on families and individuals who are seriously considering this very expensive and highly delicate surgery. Anyone out there who can point me to a link or a study made by professional researchers? 🙂

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On Cochlear Implants and 3rd World Country

I have been reading some of the posts at deafread.com website and most of the time, they are dominated by topics about cochlear implants. It’s either bloggers agree/praise the benefits of this technology wonder or they lambast and discriminate people who put themselves under the knife just so they can hear. I think there was even a post banning threat for those bloggers who support cochlear implant. This hotly debated issue even sparked protests in the US as advocates disagree on whether children are best off learning sign language or using hearing implants and aids to thrive in a hearing world.

Now, why don’t I share my insignificant opinion regarding this. But the thing is, I haven’t met a CI Deaf person in my entire 17 years with the community. How can I give my unbiased view about it? Well even if I haven’t seen one, that doesn’t mean that the technology hasn’t arrived our country. The Philippines, although some detractors consider as a third world basket case or an economic laggard, my beloved country can boast of achieving modest achievements in the field of technology innovations. I learned from the Internet that state-of-the-art hospitals here have already done this procedure successfully.

Still, I haven’t seen any Filipino deaf who has undergone this implantation. I believe the main barrier is the price. A family must shell out at least Php 1 million (USD25,000) in order to qualify for this surgery! That’s way too much coming from an ordinary Filipino family who only produces Php10,000 (USD250) a month! But it hasn’t stopped families from taking this expensive operation all for the love of their deaf child.

Here is a 5-minute YouTube video documentary of a very popular TV program in our country that tells a story of a family trying to see if their child can undergo cochlear implant. Hosted by Ms. Sandra Aguinaldo, I-witness is a docu-research shown in GMA-7 last June 2008. The entire program is 30 minutes long so I edited it and shown only the parts related to CI. The language spoken is Tagalog so I added an English subtitle for the benefit of our foreign viewers. 🙂

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