Hearing loss may result from genetic causes, complications at birth, infectious diseases, chronic ear infections, drugs, exposure to excessive noise, and aging. The U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, reports that 30 million Americans have hearing loss in one or both ears.
Almost half of Ms. Simmons’ relatives are deaf or hard of hearing. Both of her parents were deaf. Similarly, Ms. Simmons’s brother and his wife are deaf. Smith added, “Of my uncle’s seven children, four are deaf, and one is hard of hearing. Most of their 25 grandkids are either deaf or hard of hearing.”
Charline Smith worked as a secretary before being credentialed through the Texas Board of Evaluation for Interpreters in 1995. Employers are required by law to have interpreters for their hard of hearing or deaf employees. Describing her job she said, “I am a community interpreter. I attend medical appointments, job interviews, and job trainings with clients. I also work as a video remote interpreter. This allows the deaf or hard of hearing to communicate with a hearing person via videoconferencing.”
Does being deaf limit opportunities? Smith explains, “Many of my relatives cannot speak or hear, but they have had full, rewarding lives. One of my cousins was Ms. Black Deaf Advocate, another cousin is an engineer.”
Smith’s two adult daughters are also proficient sign language interpreters. Smith said, “Of course, they had to know how to communicate with their grandmother.”