Hear and now: PV needs a sign language class

PV sophomore has a hearing disability and believes a sign language class would be beneficial for many


Claire Barnhart

Sophomore Tara Healy wears hearing aides to combat her hearing disability. Healy is currently advocating for the addition of a sign language class at PV.

Tara Healy , Staff Writer

(Editor’s note: Tara Healy is a PV sophomore who suffers from hearing loss and wishes to tell her story in this opinion piece.)

When I was four years old, I was diagnosed with Enlarged Vestibular Aqueduct Syndrome. This means that the vestibular aqueduct in my ear is not shaped correctly, which resulted in my hearing loss. I am not completely unable to hear, which is a common misconception, but I can’t be classified as 20 percent deaf or 50 percent deaf either. I can hear different frequencies at different levels. For example, I can hear high pitched noises well, but I can’t hear low pitches at all.

When I was diagnosed at the age of four, I had already lived the first four years of my life lip reading because I was not supplied with hearing aids while learning how to speak. At such a young age, I didn’t realize that the way I was communicating with people was abnormal. No one around me knew either because my speech was perfectly fine, which is rare for someone with hearing loss.

Lip reading is a talent that I am forever grateful for, but it can get exhausting to have to intensely stare at people’s mouths and try to make out their words. Also, lip reading does not work in the dark or when people are covering their mouths.

Once I was diagnosed, I remember walking around my kindergarten classroom showing everyone my hearing aids. I felt proud to show them off, but at the same time, I hated feeling different than everyone else. As I got older, my hatred grew stronger towards my hearing loss because I knew that this was negatively affecting my education. Also, I could always feel people staring at my ears when I had my hair up.

One thing that is unique about my condition is that if my head gets hit too hard or I move it around too much, I could lose all of my hearing. It’s a scary reality that I have to live with and I often have to opt out of contact sports in gym because there is a chance I could get hit in the head.

Learning sign language has always been something that interested me because there is a chance that it could one day be my only option to communicate. However, it is difficult for me to find time in my schedule to take a sign language class. 

I recently started wondering why sign language was not a class at PV because I wish I could take it. A lot of people could benefit from a sign language class, including me. After all, some people rely solely on sign language to communicate.

Would you take a sign language class at PV?

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I took matters into my own hands and went and spoke with Mrs. Noemi Rodriguez, the head of the language department at PV. When asked about a sign language class, Rodriguez said they could make it happen if they knew that enough people wanted to take it.

“I need to make sure we have a large body of students that are interested in taking the course,” Rodriguez said. “And I also need to make sure that we can find a tremendously effective teacher to take on that new course.”

I showed her an email sent out last year by Natalie Bade, a former Pascack Valley student, with a survey polling interest in taking a sign language class. Sadly, it is unknown how many people answered the survey, so we don’t know how many students would actually take the class. Still, this shows that people are talking about the possibility.

PV senior Julia Veloso knows sign language and learned by teaching herself with help from her cousin.

“Sign language is something people don’t notice that is very prevalent,” Veloso said. “About one million people in the United States alone are deaf. Sign language is their only means of communication and it is not taught in most schools. I think it should definitely be an option.”

Today, I am proud of having hearing aids and I want to raise awareness. Growing up, I didn’t know many people with hearing loss but having the option to take a sign language class during school would have helped me feel more accepted.