Life Before and After a Cochlear Implant:
Heather Artinian visits ESU campus to
discuss her experiences living in the
deaf community

By Amy Lothian
Staff Writer

Sixteen years ago, the film “Sound and Fury” documented Heather Artinian and her family as they struggled on the decision of whether or not to allow Heather, and her siblings, to receive cochlear implants.

A cochlear implant would allow Heather and her 2 brothers, who were all born deaf, to hear for the first time.

ESU’s Sign Language Club and National Student Language Association connected with Artinian, who visited the university this past week to talk about her experiences in the deaf community and how the implant has changed her and her family’s lives.

Artinian recalled her experiences as a child; specifically her interactions with other children.

Growing up in Long Island, Artinian, who describes herself as a “people person,” had a difficult time interacting with kids in her neighborhood.

“I wanted the implant to be able to talk to whoever I want,” she said.

Her social life changed quite a bit when her parents decided to relocate the family to Maryland, where they lived in a predominately-deaf community. It was there Artinian said she found herself.

Though her family was comfortable in a community that accepted and catered to them, the hearing world they lived in made life a little more difficult.

She remembers a time when her father was denied a promotion at work because of his deafness and notes it as one of the key experiences that fueled her desire for the implant.

At the time of “Sound and Fury,” her family was very much divided about the matter.

It caused tension among not only her parents and grandparents, but aunts and uncles as well. The film ends with 6-year-old Artinian not receiving the cochlear implant.

In 2006 “Sound and Fury: Six Years Later,” a follow up to the original film, showed that Artinian eventually receives the cochlear implant at age nine along with her brothers.

She says the implant changed her life.

In high school, she became a lot more confident in her deafness and her struggles with speaking.

Through the help of considerate and supportive friends, teachers and especially her speech therapists, Artinian excelled at school.

She not only participated in over 6000 hours of speech therapy, but was recruited by Princeton for basketball, and graduated with a perfect GPA.

Artinian went to Georgetown University.

“I knew it was where I wanted to be the moment I stepped foot on campus,” she says.

Her advice to others who live with deafness is to always have thick skin and never feel sorry for your self.

She encourages self-advocacy, “Being open is the way for people to see you as more than just ‘ the deaf person’ and most people are surprisingly receptive,” she says.

Her personal motto is “Show, don’t tell.”

Responses from the deaf community differed after the release of “Sound and Fury.”

Artinian, who says she still receives hate mail, is often accused of ‘backstabbing’ the deaf community.

On the other hand, she also receives positive feedback about how watching her story has educated and encouraged others to try the cochlear implant.

Currently a law student at Harvard University, Artinian says she would be a “totally different person” had she not received the cochlear implant.

After Harvard, Artinian says she hopes to be in a position where she is helping people.

“I love to work with the constitution and the government, and maybe later I would like to serve the public, maybe become the governor.”

Email Amy at:
alothian1@live.esu.edu

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