Shared Stories: Life Without Sound

Janice Collins describes the amazing success of her niece Lisa who was born deaf. Thanks to her knowledgeable mother, Lisa learned to read lips and actually speak herself. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center. Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns.


By Janice Collins

My niece Lisa was born deaf and it was noticed by her mother and father very early on when she didn’t respond to any type of noise or music.

She was a beautiful baby. Her mother, Marilyn, was a nurse so she was well aware of how to care for Lisa. She enrolled Lisa at a very young age in the Oralingua School for the hearing impaired near where they lived. Lisa began learning to touch spots on your throat lightly in order to feel the slight vibration you make when talking. She then would try feeling vibrations on her neck when she made sounds.

Some of the sounds she made when she became upset or irritated were quite unusual sounding and of course she had no way of knowing this. Marilyn worked very hard teaching her actions and sounds.

Lisa was taught to lip read. Being as intelligent as she was, she was able to put the lip reading and feeling of the throat together to come up with almost normal sounds. She also learned what loud and soft sounds were.

It is like a miracle to me that people are able to learn without hearing. Lisa’s mother even gave her violin lessons. Marilyn was probably hoping there could be a very high pitch of sound that somehow Lisa could hear. At any rate, Lisa would be learning that different placements of fingers and the bow meant a different pitch.

Lisa was taught sign language at the deaf school and was good at signing, and learning to read lips was a very usable asset. Once, while attending high school, she caught someone making fun of her so she immediately said, “I lip read.” That was much to their surprise.

After graduation from high school, Lisa began work at a nursing home where she was employed until she married. Lisa did marry, but the marriage didn’t bring her children. Her mother then suggested in vitro fertilization. That worked but Lisa did get fertilized very well.

Her babies, quadruplets, arrived nine weeks early. Being premature, of course, means that they didn’t weigh much. Some weighed only two pounds. There were three boys and one girl.
After giving birth, Lisa’s remark was, “I can see them with my own eyes, but my brain still isn’t registering that they are mine."

The babies were delivered by Caesarean section and all had a degree of respiratory distress, but they all came through fine.

Lisa’s father had cancer and died after his grandchildren were born. Later Lisa passed away from cancer also. Marilyn took over raising the children. The children’s father was no longer in the picture.  

Today the children are in their teens and Grandma Marilyn manages with all their needs. Eddie, Lisa’s brother, is a father figure for the four children, so it is all in the family.