Deaf teens: 7 things I would tell my teenage self
Now that I am in my 20’s I look back at my teen years and wish I could tell myself a few life lessons to remember. Especially when my hearing loss brought me challenges I had to overcome.
Here are the top seven things I would go back and tell my teenage self.
1) Love and accept yourself
Cliché, I know. It really is the foundation of being the best version of yourself whether you have a hearing loss or not. Realize that you have been given a unique opportunity at this beautiful experience called life. Your world with a hearing loss is not any more or any less than anyone else’s; it is just different and that is pretty beautiful. You might have one weakened sense but I bet you have some other kind of superpower to compensate for it!
2) Be kinder to people who just don’t know
When I was younger, I used to get offended/impatient/turned off if someone spoke to me obnoxiously loud, over-enunciated, or spoke to me like I was very dumb and not just hard of hearing.
I used to let it eat me up because it made me feel very small or insufficient. Sometimes I would react with a bit of an attitude or feel vengeful in making them feel like they just made me feel.
As I got older, I realize that these people just DON’T KNOW. They might be really great people who think they are helping us by doing these things. If they have never experienced talking or getting to know someone who is hard of hearing or deaf, they will not know how to speak to you the way you want them too. Instead of letting my insecurities bring up walls, attitudes, impatience, sadness, anger or any of those emotions, I give them the benefit of the doubt. I now assume they are not aware of what might be best for us instead of assuming they are just ignorant and rude.
“I now assume they are not aware of what might be best for us instead of assuming they are just ignorant and rude.”
If this ever happens to you, try to kindly let them know you prefer something else. Inform them that the way they are interacting with you might not be ideal or make you feel very good. If they listen and change their ways, that’s amazing! They just gained knowledge about this experience and will probably feel more comfortable talking to you. If they do not change their interaction methods, praise yourself for handling it in the best way possible and in a kind manner.
Read more: 10 Misconceptions about Hearing Loss
3) Your hearing loss is what you make of it
In the world of ‘disability,’ and the world of sound we live in, a lack of hearing may seem like a negative thing. We are not perfect; our methods of communicating change, we may miss out on that wide spectrum of sound, we wear assistive devices in our ears, we use captions when we watch TV. These are things that may not conform with ‘normal,’ or the majority of society but that does NOT mean that having a hearing loss has to be ‘disabling’ in any way.
A hearing loss is what you choose to make of it. If you make it a big deal, it will be a big deal. If you make it the worst thing that ever happened to you, it will be so. If you make it the BEST thing that ever happened to you, it will be so. If you accept it as who you are, it will be YOU. If you choose to let it stop you from living your dreams, that is your choice. If you use it to propel you towards your dreams, that is another choice.
“A hearing loss is what you choose to make of it.”
You will project what you are reflecting inside. If you have a lot of animosity towards yourself because of your lack of hearing, people will see that radiating from you. If you are confident and love yourself because you are so perfectly imperfect, people will also see and feel this.
We have one life to live and it is extremely short. It is too short for dwelling on your hearing loss or wishing you had something different. In the end, you cannot do anything about it except take it and run with it. Make the best out of everything you got and you WILL live a rich, full life.
4) Be grateful for those uncomfortable situations
If I had a dollar for all of the uncomfortable situations I have been in due to my hearing loss, I could probably fly to Hawaii right now. But you know what? I wouldn’t change any of it because I learned in every single situation. I learned how to deal with those situations after many trial and errors. I learned something about myself in those experiences. I learned the limits or the limitless possibilities. I learned what reactions of mine worked or did not work. Most of all, those experiences made me stronger because my knowledge expanded, grew and matured.
“I wouldn’t change any of it because I learned in every single situation.”
These situations might be painful, difficult, discomforting at times but remember that it is essential for you to grow and learn. Remember that you are not alone either, that everyone has these uncomfortable moments but how you choose to deal with them is up to you.
5) Don’t waste your time or energy on detrimental people/things
Those uncomfortable situations might be because of a certain person or thing. Maybe someone has made fun of your hearing loss in some way. Or maybe there is a meme on the internet that makes fun of HOH/deaf people. There are some unpleasant people out there and hopefully, you never interact with them but sometimes we are not so lucky.
The biggest thing to remember is that these people are making you feel bad because they ultimately feel bad about themselves. Once again, very cliché but so true. These people have their own issues that they are projecting onto you for whatever reason.
“The biggest thing to remember is that these people are making you feel bad because they ultimately feel bad about themselves.”
If this happens, try to remember that you are wonderful the way you are. Try not to waste your time or energy thinking about the things this person said or did. It is normal to feel hurt by something someone might have said or done but don’t dwell on it for too long. Remember that these people have their own insecurities, imperfections or issues that they are dealing with. They are not worth that fantastic energy of yours. Walk away from this person and go on about your life. Take offensive internet content (totally meaningless anyway) with a grain of salt (unless you can actually help the situation by taking action) and move on.
6) Allow people to help you but be independent
It is important to realize when you need to ask for help and when you can take care of something on your own. Whether you are fiercely independent or pretty dependent, that happy medium can be very validating.
For me, I probably err on the side of strong independence. I do not particularly like asking for help. Sometimes I choose pride over help or participation. I also, sometimes choose to stay silent about my needs over voicing them. This usually means I will miss out on important information and ultimately I might not be making the most of a experience. I have been learning that speaking up and letting people know what I may need helps me avoid exclusion. This usually results in a richer experience!
“I have been learning that speaking up and letting people know what I may need helps me avoid exclusion.”
Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you really need it, like making a phone call, understanding crucial speech from someone ineligible, asking someone to repeat themselves, taking extra safety measures when necessary. On the flip side, being too dependent on other people can be hindering your ability to be self-sufficient. If you ask for help before trying or exploring other options, you might not be utilizing your fullest potential!
7) Reap the benefits
Since we are classified under the ‘disabled’ category of people in many situations, I try to use that to my advantage. For example, I can fly with my dog because she is my service animal. I can pretend to not hear someone if for any reason I wanted to avoid communication. People will most likely remember you more because you are so unique. Sometimes trains, ferries, places will have discounts for disabled people.
“People will most likely remember you more because you are so unique.”
I can avoid jury duty because I most likely wouldn’t be able to understand/hear the entire trial. I can sleep through my roommates’ parties. I get to see the world in a way that most people won’t experience. I had people seek me out in college for newspaper or class interviews regarding my hearing loss, which was very flattering! Take those advantages when you can!
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