She learnt how to sign before she could talk, but the nurses just called it ‘double babble’. Worried about being the ‘eldest ear’ in the family, Serena Cobb, shares what it’s really like growing up with Deaf parents

I’m Serena and I’m 14. I live in the quirky Cotswold town of Stroud, with my younger hearing brother and sister, Frazer and Jovita, both 10, my Deaf parents Reg and Yvonne, and our gorgeous springer spaniel, Victor who I ADORE!

Having Deaf Parents was always normal to me. I never knew any different growing up. It was only when I spoke to other CODAs (Children of Deaf Adults) or went around to other hearing friends’ houses that I realised I lived with a different culture. 

I started to notice things about myself when I was around other hearing people. Like, it bugs me when my friends don’t put subtitles on whilst watching the television. I HAVE to put subtitles on even if I am alone! 

I also noticed that I like to have eye contact with people all the time when I’m talking to them. A lot of my friends talk to me looking the opposite way, which really frustrates me!

Obviously the best thing about having Deaf parents is being able to play music as loud as I please. But even more than that, living with Deaf parents means that you get to experience two different cultures and worlds. 

It’s made me more open-minded about the variety of people in the world. I’m so lucky to have learnt the skill of sign language too! I could sign before I could talk (even though the nurses said I had ‘double babble’). Now, I’m hoping to do my British Sign Language Level 3 soon. I know this will be beneficial to my career aspirations in pursuing medicine one day. 

Sometimes it’s been hard. Having Deaf parents can have downsides. When I was younger I felt embarrassed because I thought people at primary school would judge me. But that soon faded when I found real friends who didn’t care! 

I also used to feel worried about the responsibilities I might have, being the eldest ‘ear’ in the family. But my parents have been really supportive, ensuring that I never have to interpret for them, and that they have all the equipment they need to care for my siblings without my help. I think I have grown up faster because I have made myself aware of responsibilities I may, or may not have.

We have so much fun together. We’re lucky enough to be surrounded by fields where we live, so going for a walk or having pizza in our ‘favourite spot’ by the canal, is normally number one on our list for a Wednesday evening. 

But we never have the same weekend! From watching my dad compete in triathlons and run races, to helping my mum sell yummy foods for her Yumma business, or simply watching a play and going shopping,
we have an active social life!

My advice to other young CODAs is to be yourself. I know it’s easier said than done, but don’t worry about what other people think of you. If they’re worth knowing, they won’t judge you. And don’t be afraid to be open with your family, as the saying goes, ‘honesty is the best policy’. If something is on your mind just say it – it’s always worked for me!

So what’s the deal with? Questions people always ask me

Can your brother and sister hear? Yes... ‘Oh! That’s such relief!’

Can your parents drive?

Can your parents talk?

Can you teach me to sign?

Is your home silent? ‘Not with me around it isn’t!’

How did you learn to talk?

Can your parents have children? Um...Hello?!

Published in BDN September 2014 issue