Hearing the Words of the Deaf


“These people taught me a lot about deaf culture,” said Milligan, pictured on the far right her freshman year at Pioneer High School.

When the old car failed to start after a long day at work, Jasmine Milligan wanted nothing more than to go home. On that hot summer day, Milligan noticed that the noises surrounding her were getting quieter and quieter. After years of ear infections and hearing aids since the age of three, Milligan was finally pronounced profoundly deaf at the age of 22.

Because of her hearing impairment, from preschool through high school, there were things to help her along through school. When attending Bach Elementary School, teachers were equipped with a microphone to speak in while the sound of their voice would smoothly amplify into the ear buds,which resided in Milligan’s ears. Milligan was also provided with a note taker to help her keep up with her classes, and so that she could understand what her teachers were saying.

Attending Slauson Middle School sixth through eighth grade, after a long debate with faculty and staff about where to be placed, Milligan was able to go mainstream. This allowed her to be in a classroom with hearing unimpaired students instead of in class with students who also had a hearing impairment. At this time in her life, Milligan managed to get by in her classes by reading the lips of her peers and teachers, as well as wearing hearing aids to help.

Milligan wasn’t interested in learning sign language until a memorable encounter with an older man at a bus stop. Seeing the hearing aid placed in Milligans ear, the man assumed that she too knew sign language. After quickly learning that she didn’t speak the same language as him, it was clear to Milligan that the man was highly disappointed in her.

“I felt bad that I couldn’t understand him,” Milligan said. “He was kind of like me.”

While Milligan attended Pioneer High School, she decided to take a class with hard of hearing students. She had no idea she would make lifelong friendships and connections because of it. One of these lifelong friendships was with a young lady who has been deaf since the age of one. Her new peers taught her how to say phrases in sign language instead of her having to spell out each word while talking.

Even though she was hard at hearing, it didn’t prevent her from participating in extracurricular activities. Milligan had a voice in the school choir, as well as played on the girls basketball team. In high school, Milligan continued to play basketball her freshman and sophomore year, cheered her junior and senior year, and was actively involved in the American Sign Language club as well.

“Mrs. Vicky told me that I didn’t seem like I had a disability,” Milligan said. “She told me that I blended in with the other kids.”

The cochlear implant enables Milligan to her from distances away opposed to hearing aids that would only allow Milligan to hear things near her. Just by looking at her, you would have no idea that she has struggled with her hearing for the majority of her life because of this small complex electronic device that helps provide a sense of sound into her ear.