ASL University | Bookstore | Catalog | Dictionary | Lessons | Resources | Syllabi | Library

Late Deafened Adult:
Also see "Late Deafened Adult (2)"

Also see "Reflections of a Late Deafened Adult"

In a message dated 3/1/2003 8:30:47 AM Central Standard Time, a deaf person writes:

Subj: late deafened adult
Date: 3/1/2003 8:30:47 AM Central Standard Time
From: Michele B.
To: BillVicars


I recently found your website and am so glad I did! :o) I am a late-deafened adult. I became deaf at the age of 27 and I learned Sign Language at an enormously fast rate (I am now almost 30). I am now very comfortable with contact signing and I am familiar with ASL grammar, although I am in no way fluent in ASL. My question is that most places offer signing for people like hearies who don't necessarily NEED it to survive. But few places will help the deafie who knows basic sign, even intermediate sign, but now needs to move on to advanced status. I'm stuck between the hearing and deaf worlds. I am in no way hearing anymore and I know I am fully deaf. But d/Deaf people see my signing and don't think I'm deaf and hearing people hear my voice (which I rarely use) and can't understand I'm deaf. I'm isolated from everyone. I wish so much that I could be Deaf (culturally) and I hate it when I am at associated with hearing people, but I feel like I'm nothing at this point. I was hoping that, if I became as fluent as a second language student can be in ASL, I would be accepted as deaf and no more hassle. Is there any suggestions you can provide? Thanks for your time.

Michele B______

Hello Michele,

Sorry about the delay in responding to your email. (Lots going on, I'm sure you can relate.)

You asked for suggestions regarding being accepted as Deaf and fitting in.
I typed out 15 minutes of advice then there was a power blip and it was gone. Arrrghh. But I'm going to retype it and save more often this time.

You feel isolated, yet there are thousands of people who going through the exact same experience as you. I too went though a period in my teens when I couldn't hear what was being said and couldn't follow what was being signed. I felt alone in my own personal hell. I threw myself into my studies, carried a dictionary with me everywhere I went, and made up my mind that I WOULD get through this.

I recommend you get the book "Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty" by Harvey Mackay. It has some really good advice regarding social networking.

Also, I recommend you simply call yourself Deaf from now on. No need to worry about labeling yourself as "late deafened adult (LDA)." You are Deaf, period. There is no magic age, or decibel loss that qualifies a person as Deaf.

Sure, there are some laws or regulations like 30 dB for Rehab services 70 dB for certain college or financial support programs, but that is not the issue in the Deaf Community. It is an attitude.

It took me forever to get to the point where I decided I'm hard of hearing (HOH), period. Deaf people wanted me to be either Deaf or Hearing. I am bicultural. I'm a mix of hearing and Deaf and that's the way it is. Nobody has to like it or approve. I have a few good friends, bunches of friendly associates, and a huge number of general contacts. Some of my friends are Deaf, some are Hearing. I know that many people in the Deaf community will look at me as hearing. That is no different from putting you hand in a bucket of ice cold water for three minutes. Take out your hand and stick it in bucket full of water at room temperature. The room-temperature water will feel very hot to you. To someone who has had her hand in a bucket of hot water the room temperature water will feel downright cold. Who is right?

From now on, be polite and be self-assured. You don't have to justify a thing. Don't worry about fitting into the Deaf community. Instead focus on building relationships one at a time. At first you have to give more than you get back. Don't feel bitter about this process. Farmers plant many seeds knowing that only a certain amount of them will grow. They also know that some of the plants that grow will be weeds and will need to be cut off. But in the end, they harvest a great crop.

Like farming, social networking takes dedication and patience but will pay off in the end.

Regarding your signing skills. You might consider getting some videotapes with stories like "Bird of a Different Feather" (Ben Bahan) and others. Then practice retelling the stories. You could volunteer at your state's school for the deaf (or elsewhere) to go sign the stories. That would help you (eventually) develop a reputation as a great signer.

Take care,

Bill Vicars


Thank you so much for your wonderful reply. It was exactly what I needed to be told. Since becoming deaf, I have always preferred to simply call myself Deaf. I am not hard of hearing because I have absolutely no hearing (auditory nerves are severed). I despise the term hearing impaired, but that is my personal opinion. It's never been other Deaf people that I have felt the "need" to explain late-deafness to, it's always the hearing people, when they ask how long I've been deaf. The problem has been that I have felt I was required to use my voice (so as not to "inconvenience" hearing people) and it confuses everyone. I also cannot stand to speak simply because when I do, all I hear is a muffled Charlie Brown adult wah wah wah wah. It is the only sound I hear and it is awful! Grates on my nerves!

Anyway, I apologize for going on and taking up your time. I will look for that book and I will work on not worrying about meeting everyone else's needs all the time and give myself a little respect as well. Thank you so much. :o)

Michele B____

Subj: Just received your book Sign Me Up!
Date: 3/1/2003 2:20:01 PM Central Standard Time
To: WVicars1

Very good.  I like it.  I am LDA  (62yr.old gramma) &need to learn ASL.  Do not have any deaf friends, so I have no exposure...  Where do I go from here?.  I have enjoyed, locally, beginner's class  12-wk.sessions &1 lower level intermediate class of 12-wks. It was fun.  Did the beginner class twice just to stay involved. Hungary for more.
Nothing else is offered here (Archdale, NC).  How do you recommend for me to continue to learn ASL.  My desire is for personal communication, not certification.  How can I best benefit from your classes. 
Also q... (the disk you sent is good)  is it available on CD-ROM?  Can't use the disk on my computer @work.  Lunch hour is a good time to practice.
Thanx for any input.   Tootsie 

Hi Tootsie,

Sorry for the delay in getting back to you.  I don't use the WVicars1 screen-name much anymore.

I can make whatever you'd like available on CD.  I can even send you the whole website on CD. ($20).
From what you've told me, it seems like your best bet might be to get involved with a sign language club.  If there isn't one in your area, you might consider setting one up.  You might notice there is a section in my book "Sign Me Up!" that talks about hosting a successful sign language club activity.

You mentioned that you took some classes.  Perhaps the teacher would like a teacher's aid and you could be a practice partner for beginning students.  That wouldn't do much for increasing your vocabulary, but it would provide opportunities to practice and retain what you've learned so far.  Helping out the teacher will  provide access to him or her that you otherwise wouldn't have had. There must have been other students who took the intermediate class who would like to take more classes. 

Perhaps you could band together and hire the instructor to teach another "third level" class in someone's living room.  I used to do that for my students.  They'd pay $30 each and I'd go to one of their houses and we'd have a very nice hour-and-a- half class. I'd earn about $30 per session (which wasn't all that much when you consider gas, and driving time, but still it was enough to keep me interested.
If that instructor isn't interested, then you might just be able to hire a Deaf person to come and teach your little group.  You could use my curriculum ( for free.  The 50 lessons contain a thousand sentences you could use for practice...that would keep you learning  for quite a while I imagine.

You might even consider babysitting a deaf child if you can locate one.
If you are trying to locate deaf people to sign to, you could contact the division of rehabilitation services for Archdale and speak (sign) with the rehab counselor who works with the deaf clients.  You could give him your name and number (TTY?) and indicate that you'd like to hire a Deaf person as a tutor.

Good luck and take care.

Bill Vicars

In a message dated 3/17/2003 11:42:38 AM Central Standard Time, TootsieSign writes:

Thank you so very much for the suggestions. [A] sign language club might be in order. It just takes someone to make it happen. So thanks again for prompting me into action.

In a message dated 2/13/2004 7:17:41 PM Pacific Standard Time, ___________ writes:
Dear Bill,
I have a question maybe you can answer for me. I became totally deaf about 3 years or so ago. I am a 36 yr. old female. I lost my hearing from being abused physically from a previous marriage from my ex-husband.
I now wonder why it is that when I try to sign to my family or others who are in my life all the time act as if it is such a chore. I have tried just about everything to get them to try to communicate with me. Now this has created so many arguments from not only misunderstanding but also it really hurts me because if the shoe was on the other foot. I would do anything to help out. What can I do? What can help to at least get my husband and kids to sign. I almost feel they are ashamed of me. I once was told from my husband that I am the one that needs to constantly sign because that is how he will learn. I don't understand that because I am just learning too. Am I sounding unfair??
I hope you can help or offer me somewhere to go to get some help in this matter


You asked why your family thinks signing is such a chore.
The answer is that signing IS a chore for hearing people. It is hard work to learn how to sign when you are not raised with it and are not deaf yourself.
One of the things I do to get my kids to sign with me is I take them on no-voice dates. This is normally a visit to a restaurant where I bring some sort of conversational activity or game so that we have a reason to converse and a supply of topics. I also take my kids on no-voice immersion excursions. For example, I go to an amusement park with my college students and invite my kids to go but they have to follow the same rules as the colleges students and turn off their voices.
Here are some other ideas:
Introduce 10 new signs at each meal.
Take a class together as a family.
Hire a tutor to come to your house once a week and teach everyone.
Give your kids a dollar for each set of 20 new signs that they learn.
Give your husband "something" he wants for each set of 20 new signs that he learns.
Set up a "certification" program for your house wherein each of you "certifies" at 100 signs, 500 signs, 1000, signs and so forth.
Adjust your communication style. Instead of trying to have conversations with your husband via talking you could instant message him via the net.
Set up a sign language club and have it meet at your house. That way once a week you will be surrounded in your home by others who are interested in communicating visually.
Have a "deaf day" or "deaf evening" once a week wherein EVERYONE in the house communicates visually.
Develop some deaf girlfriends to hang out with and do things with.

The fact is, you are now a different person than you were growing up. Your options have changed. Think of it this way: suppose one day you woke up and your husband were suddenly "Chinese." Imagine also that he doesn't speak Chinese fluently, but rather he only speaks it at a pre-kindergarten level. You need to change your expectations. It is sort of like traveling to another country and finding out that your blow dryer (or razor, or whatever) doesn't match the electric system any more.

Realize though that if you don't put together a plan for your current relationships they will eventually weaken and dissolve completely. 

To keep your sanity, develop some goals that depend on you. Don't develop goals for your husband and kids. You can try everything, but you still can't force them to change. Instead, focus on things that you can do that will bring you joy and happiness as an individual.  Maybe an exercise program?  Maybe to go back to college, set up an ASL bookstore, join your state's Association of the Deaf, or volunteer at the local Deaf School or program. And don't forget your spiritual resources as well.



Dear Dr. Vicars,

I have read a lot of information on your site and have really been impressed, both the quality and quantity of the information, and the format in which it has been presented. I have not seen my problem or questions mentioned anywhere, at least not that I found, so I felt I had to write.

Just to explain a little, It was determined that I had MS back in 1987, but was handling things alright. Then about three years ago, after a bad bout of tinnitus and the normal treatment, with no results, I was sent to the ENT doctor, who also checked my hearing, and determined that I also had a profound hearing loss. As the next few months progressed, my MS worsened, and I had a lengthy stay in the hospital, and still have residual problems from that, including problems walking, but more significantly, not regaining any hearing. Sometimes with MS, a symptom like this will appear (although hearing loss is very rare with MS, which kind of threw us off track also), but even with the high dose steroids and time, it has not improved. I can move all my fingers on both hands, but not with the same dexterity I could before.

I have been struggling trying to find some help here in SW Louisiana as a LDA (age 49 now) with getting any help with sign language classes. In addition, I gave up driving, both because of my leg difficulties, and because I was afraid of trying to drive if deaf (although I know now that there are many people that are deaf that drive). It has isolated me much more, and my main interaction with the deaf is when I go to our Catholic Deaf Center for mass on Saturday evenings (which only gives me about 5 or 6 hours of interaction a week.) I have been taking a class at a local church once a week with a Deaf teacher and a few other ladies (all of whom hear, and most know more signing than me, actually primarily taking the class more as a social thing, because of their friendship with the teacher, and wanting to learn to communicate with her). I am the only deaf person, other than the teacher, and that really makes things worse. We are using the text, Signing Illustrated by Mickey Flodin. It is divided into chapters of different topics, such as family, foods, feelings, jobs, etc. We make basic sentences after each set of pages, as a practice, but it is nothing like trying to actually communicate.

I have tried studying on my own, with a variety of books, mostly having to order them because of a lack of resources locally, even though we do have the Books a Million. Your course is the closest I have found to really having true conversation. I was told by another deaf person to just sit and watch the other deaf to learn how to communicate, and for me to PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. I have to say that my practicing has not been much, not having anyone to practice with, nor any real kind of good guidelines on something to practice on or with. Repeatedly practicing groups of things like jobs and emotions and such just does not work. Plus, as your lessons indicate from the very beginning, there is a HUGE difference in the grammar of ASL and what I even attempt to try and communicate with those who will take the time and patience to try and converse with me use. Now I know why I was so confused by trying to watch the others sign and make sense of what they were signing. The few words I could catch now and then made no sense as far as what I understood as communication. I guess you have to more or less forget all your English (which is hard after using it for 45+ years), to try and not only learn a new language, but a new grammar, and basically a new form of alphabet.

With the MS, I know I will never be able to sign with the proficiency of those around me, but I would at least like to be able to learn to understand them. It looks like maybe, if I watch some of your sentences and conversations, I may eventually be able to pick up on it enough to follow them. I would also love to be able to attend some of the meetings and other things held here and even on TV, in which there is signing.

Here is my problem/question! I have bought some other things that had CD's, or just ordered the learning CD's through CMV, but they are either much too fast, (usually the case), but worse is that the greatest part of all of these CD's/DVD's for teaching ASL is that they are all made for people that can hear. They can hear what is apparently being said as the person signs. I have worked on my lip reading, but some people are impossible to lip read, and others will turn to the side to point something out or whatever, and that is lost. What I wanted to find out before I even try to order the free CD, is if there is enough of it explained, perhaps after the practice tests or whatever, that I would be able to at least try and see if I understood most of what you were signing. I looked over your site repeatedly, and it does not mention anything about being good for someone such as a LDA, trying to learn to sign, if they have at least a basic signing understanding.

I will say, from the very beginning, I see a tremendous help in the way that you do offer information about the sentences and grammar and also the changes such as in the possessives, and use of times such as before or after, or adverbs and such, and the difference it makes to the communication. However, it does appear that it is also geared to help those that want to make ASL a career, whether as a studies area, or as interpreters, so that they begin from the very beginning with the important details that will make them succeed as professionals. I do see some of it as kind of "over my head" as far as needing to try and converse with most individuals, not really having seen most such items ever even mentioned in most of the basic and even slightly advanced books that I have found.

I think that most adults too, as the years have gone by, have let their English grammar slip. I know that they learned "proper English" at the Deaf schools in the grammar school years, or the local high schools, but as I began conversing on the computer, by IM or Email, it did take me a while to get used to their choice of words and the order too. I talked with our local priest, who has been helping me from the very beginning. He has worked with the Deaf for many years and helps run our Deaf Center. He explained to me that many do tend to have a limited vocabulary, and that they tend to use mostly a limited variety of signs. When they write that word, what they mean may seem strange written to me, but to them it is their representation of our English word. I have learned that, slowly through my class, that the same sign may be a synonym for a variety of words, sometimes words I would not normally consider as synonyms.

I have always been someone wanting new challenges, taking on new crafts and learning new skills, all my life. But trying to learn sign language has to be the most difficult thing I have had to try and learn yet. I had gotten on the LDA chats, and it seemed that most LDA's either choose not to bother to try, or else they give up because of the difficulty. I was told to not even bother, but I felt that it was important, and my ENT doctor had encouraged me to also. I was beginning to feel like I was the "oddball" for wanting to learn, and began to feel out of place, so dropped the sites, at least for now.

Strangely enough, a few months ago, I was having vocal cord spasms which made it difficult to speak louder than a whisper, or at least it felt that way to me. That helped show me that my efforts at learning to sign, as slow as they may be, are still of benefit. I have also had a few medical emergencies in which I had troubles speaking and in each case, someone was available that understood signing, that could help me out.

I want desperately to really be able to communicate with my new Deaf friends. I have felt so lost since all this began. I have lost almost all of the hearing friends I had, mostly because I had no way to communicate by phone with them (although I now have VCO/TTY), and then had to also give up my transportation. I have felt kind of trapped, that I did not belong in the hearing group, and did not belong in the "deafies". I want to desperately improve, but I did want to learn more about your lessons, and the difference in the free one and those that you offer for sale.

I have to say that $100 is rather steep for me, as someone on disability, and I am especially hesitant to purchase something that I am unable to learn from because of the lack of captioning or some kind of explanation as to what was signed, a problem I have found in several things I have purchased or even observed. Everything is geared to trying to teach hearing people ASL. What about those of us LDA's? Have you ever had other LDA's use your lessons and give you any feedback? Would you like a "guinea pig" of sorts, if you have not had someone try? I am sure if you went to the the LDA site you would read more of the same kind of problems I have encountered as far as trying to find help.

There is some help in Louisiana, but it is only for those LDA's that either are employed and are in jeopardy of losing their employment, or an LDA that is seeking employment. They can attend the LA. Career Center for the Deaf and Deaf/Blind at the State's expense. But frankly, I won't even inquire as to the costs, because I was already told by someone who did receive services, that it is very expensive to attend. But for the regular individual that needs help, there are no resources available, not even something set up for fees, that I can find information about. There is help for the Blind, whether from birth, or later in life, but not the Deaf. I guess we are just supposed to "wing-it!"

If you have other suggestions on my situation, I am all ears, excuse the pun. Also, I would appreciate your thoughts on your program CD's and how they would work out for an LDA. As I mentioned, I do have the basics of the alphabet, numbers, the calendar parts, many of the basic things such as the questions, basic feelings, etc., etc. The biggest part has been to learn to have basic communications. I will be very grateful for any and all information you can share with me. I know this is a rather lengthy letter, and please forgive me for it, but I felt I needed to explain a few things as my case is not just a matter of wanting to learn ASL. It has a few more "twists" to it. I have enjoyed looking at your site, and reading your answers to others that have presented their difficulties or misunderstandings/questions to you.

I hope you don't mind the length and will take the time to answer my letter. I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Catherine S. F.

Hi Catherine,
The CDs do not contain voicing.  (Unless perhaps my kids were yelling in the background and I couldn't hear them.  -- A real possibility for sure.)  The CDs contain testing videos.  Thus they are not so much for learning as they are for testing what you learn at the free website.  Thus if you put in the time on the online lessons, then yes, the disks would be of use to you in helping you to test your progress.  (Plus the CDs have full motion videos.)
Dr. Vicars

Dr. Bill's new iPhone "Fingerspelling Practice" app is now available!   GET IT HERE!  

NEW!  Online "ASL Training Center!"  (Premium Subscription Version of ASLU)  ** CHECK IT OUT **

Also available: "" (a mirror of less traffic, fast access)  ** VISIT NOW **

Want to help support Lifeprint / ASLU?  It's easy!